Well-meaning coaches everywhere are telling actors to treat their careers like a business. We’re told to be the “CEO of our own Company”. We’re expected to spend a minimum number of hours working hard at our business. But working towards a bottom line “at all costs” is a prescription for anxiety and depression.
Here’s what this prescription neglects to include: Acting careers don’t exist without both the business and the art, plain and simple. They are two inseparable sides of the same coin. While most actors intuitively know this, they still believe that the only way to get work is by sacrificing and grinding away at marketing, networking, and self-submitting 24/7. Look back – haven’t we all gotten some good gigs just from doing our art? Work begets work, as the saying goes.
When I was just out of Conservatory, I worked hard “doing the rounds”, checking in personally with every office on a regular basis. It paid off with auditions and jobs by the end of that first year. But I also experienced the fun work of doing theater (often for free) that got me auditions and jobs as well. (I still do it.)
The key to living in our art and thriving in our business is not balance, but harmony. When we try to force balance by scheduling times and assigning days for either art or business, we muck it all up. Balance is natural. The idea that we can control desired career outcomes based on time spent, is an illusion. The business (and life) impersonally shifts, but we insist on taking it personally. When finances are low, we experience anxiety, guilt, shame, and when our creative skills go unused, we become depressed. The pain lasts as long as we distrust the natural ebb and flow of life. The pain deepens when we think we’ll never get out of anxiety (no money or job) or depression (no artistic fulfillment).
Ebb and Flow.
An actor’s life is filled with so-called good years and bad years. This is a constant. While we know the thrill of getting that big check from an acting gig, we also know the pure bliss of doing creative, ensemble work with no pay at all. Yes, the possibility of that dream job — both financially and creatively fulfilling — always exists, but once we see the natural ebb and flow of things, we begin to trust and allow it.
Instead of trying so hard to live up to soul-killing standards of being a business first and an artist second, just notice the obvious thing to do. You know when your business needs marketing. You know when your art needs a Viewpoints class. We are just so bombarded with outside voices telling us how to be a “successful actor” that we’ve stopped listening to our own voice.
You are genius. You are wise. Listen to your own voice.