To be successful, you gotta do the work no matter who you are or what you do. Ask me and I will tell you that I am no exception. My recent, painful, personal experience in just a minute but first something I repeat all the time in classes and workshops.
I say it all the time, dancers dance, painters paint, writers & poets write, a musician not only tunes his instrument but rehearses, and an athlete that wants to compete at a high level not only eats right & practices but also exercises. All of them share something, they take part mostly daily in what is needed for their professions and crafts. Many actors on the other hand, wait until they have something on the line before they do their work. Hmmmm. Think about any great, even Michael Jordan, they practice their craft. MJ practiced daily and warmed up before every game – he didn’t wait until the game was on the line – and it’s because of all the work before those last seconds, he had the confidence and ability to execute consistently at a high level. Who’d like to be the greatest at what they do? I know I have that desire.
I debated whether or not to share my recent poor performance experience. Why not let others grow from my pain? After all I do teach, collaborate and mentor. Here comes my reality check, humble pie, or whatever you want to call it.
I was recently asked to send in an audition for something. Getting back into auditioning and working has been something I have wanted to pursue in the New Year. I thought, “Great! It’s coming early so definitely yes.” It was a simple request, “put a piece of material on tape and send it to casting for consideration.” Easy enough, I picked a piece, was planning to add a few tweaks for what they were asking for, now I just had to tape it and get it to them. Simple right? That’s what I thought.
Full disclosure, since I came back to Chicago to work in casting in 2014 I haven’t auditioned or self-submitted since leaving L.A. That’s been years. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the process, a very good working knowledge of the craft and an abundance of love and enthusiasm for the work and teaching. So I thought I could just knock something out. The camera I used to use was somewhere in the closet. I’ll just get it out, turn it on and tape something good enough to give casting and idea of my skills as an actor. You might see the problem coming, I didn't. I have not been doing the work myself. I've not been in the gym myself as an actor. Sure, I demonstrate exercises and give examples to people how to do "the work" but that is a different muscle. My expectations for what I wanted to do exceeded my ability to execute at current. I haven’t danced like a dancer, I haven’t been writing like the writer or poet, I haven’t been paining my paintings, I haven’t rehearsed with the band and I haven’t been going to the gym and making time to practice with the team. The desire to hit the game winning jumper was there, but the legs weren’t.
I sent something in. Was it my best work? No. The work I aspire to do? No. The work I am capable of? No. Mirror mirror, show me where I am. Out of "acting" shape. Ugh. I was able to only share the work that I was able to do at the time, proportionate to the amount of time I have been putting in which has not been much. I started when it was on the line. The race was already over. Every year I get calls and emails when people finally have an audition they care about, and it's the same kinda thing. The good news is we can do something about it, out own personal acting gym can be open 24/7. We can go when whenever we want.
I know we are our own worst critics but that doesn’t dull the blade any less. Especially, when you know you are the only one that can do the work for yourself. The experience did have some great takeaways; I got an opportunity to grade and assess my own work. I found a friend that I can trust in the work and with my work at a vulnerable time for feedback and critique. And technically I figured out in my new space things like better lighting and staging and a much easier way to self-tape. All of these things can only be improved upon by doing. Maybe, and most importantly, I found inspiration to get to the gym and work more often and harder at my own personal craft. Every great had found their inspirations to work hard and improve the work they do. Michael Jordan did. Picasso did. Mozart did. The Joffrey Ballet dancers do. I am no different. I am no better. I take pride in my ability to coach and work with other actors but that skill set has gotten a lot more attention. I have to take responsibility for my talent and I hope that you are too. We have big aspirations and dreams but it takes a willingness to work that gets you there.
Be kind to your artist self moving forward but also give yourself the tools you need to be successful. Hope this finds you all well. Best in your journey to be your best.