A big black monolith
I want you to imagine a huge black monolith in the desert. It’s made of polished black granite. It’s the size of a football field and five stories high. As you stand in the desert looking up at its immense polished surface, you cannot see a crack anywhere. No doors, no windows. No handles or buttons. Just endless, shiny, hard surface. When you press your ear against it you find it oddly cool, almost cold. You hear the faint pulse of a bass. There is a huge party going on inside. The party in this large monolith made of impenetrable stone is being thrown by the entertainment industry. You are standing in the desert outside of this huge stone monolith and your mission is to find a way inside. Welcome to show business in the twenty first century.
Whenever I hear actors complain about how difficult it is to get into the business, I always say the same thing; “Shouldn’t it be?” Shouldn’t it be very difficult to get into? It’s the type of job where you make more money in a shorter amount of time than most people on Earth. Strangers will want to buy you dinner. Policemen will forget your illegal U-turns, especially if you take a quick “selfie” with them. When you get your car washed, the guy will throw in a free spray wax. Someone will name a sandwich after you. People will fawn over you and you’ll get the best seats in restaurants. This should be an easy gig to get?
This would be like confronting the fellow who sold you your losing lottery ticket and saying, “Hey! I bought a ticket and I didn’t win. What gives?” Making it in show business is a long shot. Breaking in to the black granite monolith is incredibly hard. I’m not saying this to discourage you. On the contrary, I am saying this to encourage you. Because if you have any chance of making it into the party, you’d be best served to fully understand what you’re up against. Better to mentally and physically prepare for a marathon instead of a sprint. Frigid water is less likely to stop your heart if you know it’s freezing before you jump in.
Getting into the industry truly is a case of survival of the fittest. It’s not just about your talent. That’s only part of it. You also need the talent of perseverance. You need to persevere. The timing of success has nothing to do with timetables. Success can suddenly happen now, or just as suddenly happen never. Make plans for the long haul but, if it happens tomorrow, swell. You are still a warrior artist because you prepared for a long, perilous journey. Your planning, preparation, and attitude were rewarded with immediate and advance placement – otherwise known as overnight success.
Just like an animal living in the Serengeti, you constantly need to survive, adapt and thrive. Aspire to be the fastest cheetah, the giraffe with the longest neck, the most ferocious lion. Try not to be the little gazelle with the wounded foot. These are the actors who always complain about how unfair the business is. They make a hobby of constantly discussing the bad cards life deals them. They are just like the little wounded gazelle on a nature program, the one that was left behind by its herd because it was slowing them down. Darkness is falling and the lions have heard its lonely brays. We wish the cameraman would save the little hurt gazelle but the cameraman can’t do that. This is the wild kingdom and it’s the natural order of things. He’s not to interfere. Besides, the lions need to eat something.
Avoid being the wounded actor. The story doesn’t usually end well for them. Accept the fact it’s not supposed to be an easy mission. Develop an unrelenting stick-to-it-iveness and turn perseverance into a pleasure. Look out at the horizon and begin a focused trot, crack the code, break into the party, and get on the team. Make a focused and unwavering commitment. Be a champion, an Olympian. You’re in it to win it, and you will figure out the way.
Look up at the Monolith and know there is a point of entry. A weak spot, a way to get in. There is a hidden button, a crack, a panel that you move, a phrase you say at a certain spot, a place just six inches under the sand. It is meant to be difficult, but the riddle can be solved. People solve it in all sorts of ways. Be determined to be one of those people.
The industry will try its mightiest to wear you down. It’ll tease you by giving you countless jobs – ALMOST. It’ll taunt you by giving coveted roles to your most untalented friends. Short-necked giraffes and impossibly slow cheetahs will be allowed into the monolith. And if that isn’t enough, you’ll hear about a gazelle with two hurt feet that just got a three-picture deal.
The industry is cunning in the way it will challenge your resolve. It will go after your vanity and sense of worth. It’ll parade people into the party right past you who in your estimation have no right being there. Just at the moment you are finally going to walk in, someone else will be allowed to cut in front of you. The door will disappear shut and you will once again be standing in the dessert looking at a big block of black rock.
It’s nothing personal. It’s just that there are a ba-billion people who want the same job. Lots of people would like disproportionate paychecks and the free waxes. Everyone ends up rushing the gate claiming they’re best suited for the job. This creates such a feeding frenzy that a way must be found to thin the herd. They do it the old fashion way. They wear you down through attrition. The scarcity of income, opportunities, food, hope, and livable life can get to some actors.
But here’s the brilliance. Since you know this, you can focus on figuring out how to be the fittest survivor. You can engineer how to adapt, survive, and thrive while the masses are being distracted by the impossiblity of it all. You accept the challenge that being a working actor isn’t just a talent competition. It also involves figuring out a six-digit combination that changes every two days to a safe that can’t be found in a place that is off limits. Besides, it’s closed. Your invitation is in the safe.
If you look at every challenge and hurtle as an opportunity for you to test your resolve and prove your mettle then there isn’t anything this industry can do to you that you won’t benefit from. Don’t be the sucker who sits around like a sad sack lamenting about the unfairness of it all. This industry doesn’t owe any of you anything. When you’ve proved your worthiness, and have figured out how to showcase your salable talent for the world to see, that’s when you’ll be invited to sit at the table.
Until then, be willing to be the last one standing. Learn the art of joyful perseverance. Figure it out. Crack the code. Prove your mettle. Be an artist warrior. It takes a lot of work to get a sandwich named after you. Earn the honor.