“A friend is someone who many years ago offered you his last $300 when you broke your pelvis. That friend is Gene Hackman.” –Robert Duvall

Think of your acting buddies. Are they solid? Do they get it? You know what I’m talking about. Pursuing the dream of a successful acting career can be a tough road to hoe. It’s not for the faint of heart, and only a select few reach the highest levels in the industry. If this is the dream to which you aspire, you’re going to need all the support you can get.

But how much do quality friendships really matter when you’re pursuing a career in acting?

Consider Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Close friends since childhood, they co-wrote and starred in Good Will Hunting, and since have gone on to appear in many films together. Affleck says their friendship is now as strong as it’s ever been, and they have a slate of films they plan on developing together.

The films of the seventies had a raw, violent quality, but they were also heartfelt, and spiritually intense. Films like The French Connection, Marathon Man, and The Godfather dealt with the bonds of friendship and the importance of loyalty. Three actors who worked constantly in that revolutionary decade of filmmaking are also close friends and comrades in arms. Robert Duvall, Gene Hackman, and Dustin Hoffman were honing their crafts and looking for work in the highly competitive New York film scene when they met and became fast friends. Duvall and Hackman actually roomed together at one point when money was tight. The three encouraged and helped one another, and often participated in elaborate practical jokes to keep their spirits light.

While playing Monopoly, Nicholas Cage encouraged his friend and struggling musician Johnny Depp to become an actor. Cage introduced Johnny to his agent; the next day, Depp auditioned and got a part.

In your career, you may discover that finding such supportive friends is not always so easy. Somewhere along the line, you might notice that you avoid telling a certain friend about your awesome auditions or when you land choice roles because you sense he or she might not be entirely happy with the news. Indeed, if you are really serious about your acting career, there will likely be times you’ll want to consider avoiding certain counter-productive people and colleagues–and instead surround yourself with people you admire, who motivate you, and with whom you can talk openly about the sacrifices you’re making in pursuit of your dream.

Having good friends who share your values is important in any career. Some would argue they’re especially valuable when pursuing acting because the field is based on raw emotions and expressing vulnerability. Sometimes simply having someone to read your lines with, or someone to drive you to an audition can make all the difference. And when someone refers you for a part or to an agent, that can make a real impact. When you find such friends, it’s something to appreciate fully.

Most importantly, do your best to be a genuinely supportive, encouraging friend to other aspiring actors as well. Celebrate when they book a role. Share helpful acting advice. Don’t hesitate to make the first move toward friendship. Despite the competitive nature of the entertainment industry, it is ultimately a people business chock full of collaboration. The quality of your relationships are of utmost importance–and they enrich your life.