Today we’re going to address one of those unspoken challenges that lurks in the minds of many an aspiring actor:
I’m worried about what people will say if I pursue my dream to study acting. There’s a wonderful show streaming on Stan right now called Rise, which is about a high school theatre director who’s staging a student production of the musical, Spring Awakenings.
In his team of actors is a leading football player who comes under no end of criticism for being a part of the show.
There’s also a young man whose parents don’t want him to be in a production with questionable values.
There’s a young woman whose single mum is just scraping by and in order to help the family, she is asked to miss rehearsals in order to work to help pay the rent.
There are numerous other characters whose participation in the show is also challenged by others.
Although it’s just a fictional story, if you want to become an actor, you’ll find there are people out there who don’t think as highly of the profession as you do.
People who think you should have other priorities and who think you are making a very big mistake.
Some people will think you’re silly for wanting to become an actor.
Some will even say it to your face.
Some people will tell you to “go get a proper job” or do something that’s more worthwhile with your life.
Some people will tell you you’ll never make it, and it’s all a fantasy.
So you’ll need a comeback.
But what do you say to the people who criticise you?
Here are a few tips:
Say, “I’m training for it.” Say you’re investing time and money into your training to maximise your chances of “making it”. Say you know it’s a competitive marketplace out there, and that’s why studying acting is important - so you get all the skills you need to start your career on the right foot.
Say, “The creative industries are hugely important to the Australian economy - and I’m going to be a part of them.” Did you know the creative industries bring in $91 billion a year? Of course, “creative industries” is broader than films, television and theatre alone, but as an actor, you’re part of the creative industries. You will be a contributor to this massively important part of Australia’s growth.
Say, “My skills enable me to be an actor - but they also apply to a whole range of other employment opportunities.” The skills of an actor can also be used in other fields of endeavour. Soft skills like empathy, team skills, creative thinking skills, and good communication skills are what employers are looking for nowadays. Recently a survey of managers at Google found that these skills were more important to their company than being tech-savvy. You can tell your naysayers that the skills you’ll get from drama school give you an advantage in the employment market, whatever you choose to do when you graduate.
Say, "You know that film/TV program/Netflix show you can't wait to see and can't stop talking about - actors made it what it is." Sometimes people are totally unaware of the significance entertainment has in their lives. People love to 'binge watch' whole series in a weekend and become immersed in the lives of fictional characters. People easily get caught up in the hype around the latest Avengers movie and follow it on social media closely, watching every little trailer or behind-the-scenes snippet. People will even flip the telly on when they're home alone, to keep them company, and watch any old thing that's on. Actors are the ones making all these stories come to life. It's worth pointing out to your critic that actors are actually a big part of their life - they just hadn't noticed.
Say, “Actors tell stories that help us address important human concerns.” Actors are essentially storytellers. As an actor you contribute to both local and global culture. Play a significant character, good or evil, which challenges society’s failings - and you can open up important conversations around the big issues of life: gender equality, racism, injustice, poverty, class, and more. This is the great power of the actor. You can choose the roles you play, and choose to make a difference by the stories you tell. Actors have a significant role in society in terms of showing us our deeper selves, our human weaknesses and human strengths.
Say, “This is what my heart wants, whether you understand it or not - all I ask is that you respect it.” Tricky - you’re laying it on the line with this one. If you say that becoming an actor is what you really want to do, you’re making yourself vulnerable. But sometimes wearing your heart on your sleeve will earn people’s respect - and sometimes it just won’t. You can’t please everyone in life, but at some point, you have to make choices for yourself and gently assert where you stand on the issue. The truth is some people will never understand - and worse still, it might be those who are nearest and dearest who “don’t get it”.
So as you embark on your journey to become an actor make sure you also have friends who do “get it”, who do understand what it’s all about, and can offer you support and encouragement when others can’t or won’t. In time, you may find that some of the naysayers are won over - once they see you perform on stage, or see a film you’re in, and they find themselves inclined to admit... you’ve been on the right track all along!