What does it take to make it in the industry?
I've been asked this question so many times by students, friends, interviewers and my own concerned parents. As artists we periodically ask ourselves this question when we reach the inevitable plateau in between the ups and downs in the life of a professional actor.
The truth is there is no finite answer. There is no magic formula to follow step by step in order to brew a successful career. Like so many other things in life, it's so much more about the journey than the end destination. In the entertainment industry this journey is as unique as the people who are a part of it. Your individual talent, look and work ethic will make a gap for you to fill within the industry. The problem comes when you expect to be found by waiting for work to come to you. Multiple times I have heard from my mentors that the best thing you can do is to keep performing. Yes, get an agent and audition. But more importantly, collaborate and create work that allows your talents and skills to grow. There you will be 'discovered'. Becoming an overnight success takes a lot of effort, time and motivation. The wonder of it - It is worth every drop of sweat. For those of us destined to perform, the reward of making a career from something you are passionate about is greater than we can explain. I know that there are a lot of worries about making a living out of acting and in South Africa you might not only be an actor but also a teacher, producer, writer, technician, or have any other job that helps you pay the bills. However, you never lose your first love. Performing, whether in theatre or on film, remains the driving force of a life in the industry.
So here is my advice. Work hard and take every opportunity to learn something new. Make friends with people in your own field and every other field related to the industry – camera and sound operators, writers, make-up specialists, designers and others who, like you, are creating a career. You will need them and they will need you. Remind yourself every day of why you want to do this and never, ever stop. The way you spend your days will be the way you spend your life.
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