Mistakes that turn your acting career into a money pit

Kimberly JurgenA Texas actor called me recently, asking for advice. He’s been studying acting in a group class for almost two years and working weekly with a private coach, yet he isn’t getting callbacks. Despite his lack of booking success, his agent encouraged him to sign up for their showcase for LA and NYC agents – for this opportunity, he paid them $2000. My heart went out to him and I shared a hard truth.

His career had become a money pit and he had become so eager for success that he was scammed by someone he thought he could trust. How to turn it around?

  1. Don’t put the cart before the horse. You wouldn’t hire a PR firm before you have something to talk about. And you don’t need to work privately with an acting coach each week when you are still developing the foundation of your training. If you get a break and land a big audition, yes, hire a coach to help you prepare. Otherwise, trust your teacher and commit to your training.
  2. Know when it is time for a second opinion. If a doctor treated you for years and you were still sick, wouldn’t you ask for a second opinion? Likewise, if you’ve been working with the same acting coach for years and are not seeing tangible results, then you need to consider getting a second opinion. Doesn’t mean anything about either of you beyond the fact that, for whatever reason, you are not responding to what they are giving you. Sometimes you simply need to hear critique from a new voice for the lightbulb to turn on.
  3. Accept that there are no shortcuts. Every now and then, life gives us a Candyland slide and we jump ahead a few spaces. And it is amazing. But the reality is that if you want to play in the NBA (which is the level of excellence demanded when working in a top market like LA or NYC) then you had better be finding success at the college level. If you are getting appropriate auditions for your type but not getting callbacks and bookings, then you need more training, experience and confidence before you are ready for your “NBA tryout”. And if someone tells you they have magic beans that will grow you a career overnight, just say no.

No matter what market you are in, there are ways to fulfill your desire to act, host or do stand-up; there are networking opportunities and training options. The key is to remember that this is a business. The people reaching into your pockets are focusing on what is best for their business. And you must have the level head of a savvy business person, making smart choices.

And amplify your bs-radar so that you can recognize a snake oil salesman when they promise miracles.