From Waiting to Action!

November 16, 2012

“The Waiting Place…Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite or waiting around for a Friday night or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil, or a Better Break or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants or a wig with curls, or Another Chance. Everyone is just waiting. No! That’s not for you!” –Dr. Seuss, Oh the Places You’ll Go!

When Picasso felt inspired, did he reach for a trumpet? When Mozart got the itch, did he grab a typewriter? No. So why would an actor even consider writing his or her own project–or learn how to grip, shoot, man the boom, or produce? After all, actors want to act, right? While it makes perfect sense to focus singularly on the craft of acting–and the efficacy of that approach is undeniable–the reality is that 99% of the time, film and television require a considerable team to get the job done. And conditions have to be just right. The financial situation needs to be sound, the players need to be available–heck, the stars themselves need to align! In other words, it’s often quite an enterprise just to get a project off the ground.

I’m sure there are many actors out there full of inspiration and vigor, poised to attack his or her career on this very day. This is good! But so often, that enthusiasm is squashed by the dreaded Waiting Game. Waiting for an agent’s email, waiting to be called in for auditions, waiting to hear if you booked a project–and even when you land the role, waiting to see the finished product, to find out if you made the final cut, and waiting to see if it will be released. That can represent some serious down time.

To keep the ball rolling, many actors have opted to pick up a pen and write a short film or feature-length screenplay. Sylvester Stallone, Matt Damon Ben Affleck, and Billy Bob Thornton didn’t allow the waiting to get them down–or worse, to stop them from pursuing their dream. Instead, they wrote projects starring themselves! Granted, actually producing a project can be a truly humbling experience for the novice, so it’s probably wise to start small. But doing so can help you fully appreciate the duties and work ethic you see on set. You’ll come to understand how valuable the grip is, how important it is to have that perfectionist, nagging UPM, and you’ll see first hand how vital the caterer is for crew morale. In other words, you’ll come to appreciate every member of the team, and the wonder of harmonious teamwork. You’ll have to forgive everyone for all their mistakes and hope they forgive yours right back! You’ll be growing in experience, challenging your work ethic, and accumulating contacts. Isn’t that why we all got into this line of work: for the action?

Certainly, your agent will learn something new about your dedication and passion when you refuse to simply wait for roles to come your way. And most importantly, you’ll be empowering yourself in oh so many ways. Instead of feeling frustrated with the waiting game, you’ll be busy making decisions, solving problems, being creative, and living your life as a working actor.

You may or may not choose to submit your finished work to a film festival, or post it to Vimeo or YouTube. Either way, with all you acquire along your journey (and every finished project has grand war stories behind its existence) I venture to say, regardless of its failure or success…it will be worth it!