I just returned from my second convention in three weeks. They both were exhilarating and taxing at the same time. What affects me the most at these conventions is the sadness of the contestants that believe they are losers. I want to personally console and then assure each and every one of them that they are winners just by being there.
But I didnʼt win anything…
Every one of us at one time or another will experience both sides of this coin. We will be winners and losers. The great salesman, Napoleon Hill, once said that in order to sell one encyclopedia you had to knock on a hundred doors. That means ninety-nine failures out of a hundred tries. I believe that salesperson will cut down the number of failures if that salesperson learns something new with each door that opens.
Before American Idol and all the other contest shows currently airing on television, there was a show called Star Search. I had a personal connection to Star Search as I directed the actors in the acting segment of that show. Here is a list of some of the Star Search losers. Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Alanis Morisette, LeAnn Rimes, Christina Aguilera, Destinyʼs Child, Rosie OʼDonnell, Drew Carey, Ray Romano, and the list goes on. Can you honestly call any of these wonderful talents, losers? I doubt if any of them labeled themselves losers, either.
A little clarity may be needed…
I believe the beneﬁts of these conventions is not the winning or losing it is the experience itself. These conventions are a microcosm of the real world. You learn from the experience. You are reminded of your strengths and weaknesses. You learn what you need to work on in order to guarantee your future successes. Sure itʼs wonderful to walk away from any event with a prize in your hands. Itʼs a conﬁrmation that you have done well in the eyes of others. However, I have frequently thought the person who won didnʼt deserve it as much as someone else. Did the winner deserve the award any less? Of course not. No matter how much I wanted someone else to win.
The great statesman, Winston Churchill said, “True power is an individualʼs ability to move from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”
Where would Oprah Winfrey be today if she allowed the fact that although she tried her best she never even made it into the Miss Black America ﬁnals? By not making it into the ﬁnals meant she loss before she even had a chance to lose. Now thatʼs losing.
Lisa Kudrow auditioned for the role of Roz on Fraiser. She believed it to be the role of a lifetime and was devastated when she lost out to Peri Gilpin. She believed her career would never take off. She was a loser. A few weeks later she audition for and got her real role of a lifetime on Friends. She didnʼt lose Roz, she won Phoebe.
Why do we lose if weʼre doing our very best?
There are many reasons we lose, and a fair amount of these reasons are out of your control. They prefer a tall person and you are short. They want a soprano and youʼre an alto. Those reasons and others like them are not and cannot be your concern. There are other superﬁcial reasons that may play a part in any competition. You may not have enough money to buy the best clothes or pay for the best haircuts and makeup. If this is true my advice is in the future is to be tasteful and inventive with the little you have. However, in the real world it is quality of talent, not your clothes, that gets the role. Put your energies into correcting what you can control.
Is your body what the industry expects? If you are a leading man or woman you need to make sure your body is in great and healthy shape. You can do whatʼs necessary to make that happen. Exercise and watch your diet. If you are a character type make sure you are healthy looking. If not, do something about it. Work hard on your vocal and dance skills, voice and movement play a major part in any actors career.
Develop your talent so it is working at full potential and at the level the industry expects. This should be your main concern…and should be attacked immediately.
Letʼs take a moment to deﬁne talent. Talent is composed of wonderful instincts that must be expressed, and the determination to achieve the goal of that expression. When these elements are combined and married to a craft, a successful result is inevitable.
Let me simplify here. That gut feeling you have that you can be an actor, along with your imagination; combined with the need to express those feelings is not enough. What you need to know is how to make that happen. This area of eduction, the development of craft, is too frequently ignored by wannabe actors. Donʼt be a wannabe. The more knowledge you have the more competitive you become.
“Stages,” (info available here) consists of my interviews with actors at different levels of experience and success. It explores what they do to remain competitive and successfully move to the next stage of their careers. The ﬁlm speaks clearly of the issues I just mentioned.
What lessons are to be learned from any competition or audition?
I hope youʼll learn how to be professional; to be all that being a professional requires.
Begin with these questions. “What qualities do I admire in successful actors that I wish to emulate? What is it I need to do to accomplish those goals?”
Detractors: If there are those out their that wish to discourage you from your dreams just remember many a famous person had their detractors. A magazine listed the ﬁve male actors they believed to be the best ﬁlm actors of the past ﬁfty years. Two of those actors attended the Pasadena Playhouse and were in the same acting class. Both were
voted least likely to succeed by their fellow classmates. Those two Academy Award winning actors were Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman.
Sometimes we discover that the profession we thought was right for us isnʼt. For those I wish the best of luck. The world is a big and wonderful place ﬁlled with joyful and rewarding professions.
If you still believe that the world of theatre is the one you belong in attack it with the ferociousness of a hungry lion.
If you were at either of the conventions I attended or at any other convention; if you are currently auditioning and not booking the jobs; if you walk away from these experiences “empty handed:” you are not a loser. You will only be a loser if you donʼt acknowledge that every experience in life is there to make us better if we will only take advantage of what weʼve learned and move forward.