How Going to Fiji Will Make You a Better Actor

Sep 23, 2010 by     No Comments    Posted under: Attitude, Three Actors

I’m writing this post from Champaign, Illinois, a city about 2 hours south of Chicago. Now you are probably thinking that I’m here to see the birthplace of REO Speedwagon, but you are sorely mistaken. It turns out that my former college roommate goes to law school here, and his lovely girlfriend and I had been plotting for me to come out here and surprise him for his birthday. The surprise went off without a hitch, and as an added bonus I got to spend most of last week experiencing again the wonders of the city of Chicago, and see fellow blog writer Mr. JVB himself.

So what the hell does this have to do with acting? Great question. (You readers are so friggin’ smart!) You see, every time I go out of town, I have a little mini-freak out. Every time I leave the comfort of smog and jam-packed highways there is a tiny part of my brain that says something to the effect of:

Ben, you’re throwing away your career. This could be the week that you get the big break. You just signed with a new commercial agent and they’re going to hate you. You’re not going to book a pilot in Illinois you idget. Why do you think those mattress tags are so damned adamant about staying on the mattress…?

And I know that I’m not alone. I’ve had myriad conversations with fellow actors about the difficulty in choosing to go out of town. I know actors who haven’t even gone home to see their families in years for fear of missing that one big audition (and those are actors with cool families, not those lame we-only-give-you-underwear-for-Christmas families). So why is that? Why are we so afraid to go visit an old friend for the weekend?

Well, for starters, there is a seeming randomness to our chosen career path. It can often seem like there’s one day in the next 15 years, fated specifically to make your career, and if you’re not in that bank line behind Aaron Sorkin then you missed your one chance at making it. The truth, though, is that it takes patience and commitment to build your career. Those 15 years are not a random smattering of random events; they are bricks that stack on top of each other in order to build the wall of your career (yeah, crappy analogy…deal with it).

So, yeah. There’s the randomness thing, but if you are taking the long view that fear subsides a bit. Knowing that you’re going to be pursuing your career for decades lightens the load on tomorrow’s events. If you don’t believe me, then take it from Jenna Fischer (Pam Beesly on The Office):

AND, don’t stop your personal life for your career. I know a lot of people that wait to do things – visit family, friends, have relationships, get married – because they are waiting until they “make it”. Or, they don’t go to a friend’s wedding because they might “miss something”. Life is too short and it’s not worth it in the end. I always took off and did that stuff and it turned out fine. I was often anxious and worried in the process but I did it. I believe that in order for my professional life to move forward, I have to keep my personal life moving forward as well.

(Taken from Jenna Fischer’s blog. The original post is definitely worth reading.)

All About Balance

I do think there is a balance here, and being consistently unavailable is definitely not a good thing. It might also be smart if you’re planning a trip to check with your peers/agents about when might potentially be a better or worse time to be gone from the city. That said, I’m rather convinced that it’s always slow and never slow in LA. Especially for actors towards the beginning of your career, I don’t feel like there are really any “seasons”. Just know that the more you’re available in the city the better, so long as you’re actively pursuing your career while you’re here. Sitting on your couch doing nothing can be done just as easily in Pensacola as it can here.

Book Out

If you do have representation, be SURE to book out with them. Let them know when you’re going to be gone as far in advance as possible. There’s nothing they hate more than finally getting you that elusive audition only to find out you went on a 3-day bender in Darwin, Minnesota and are passed out at the foot of the world’s largest ball of twine…no bueno.

Final Thoughts

Do it. Book that trip to Fiji. Hell, do an entire cruise while you’re at it. But be sure to really take the time off, and don’t fret if you get an audition while you’re gone, it probably would have turned out to be Gigli 2: Return of the Suck anyhow. If you really can’t stand to take total time away from your career, then bring some acting books. Work on a monologue. Study the aging couple playing Bingo on the third deck…there’s a good chance you’ll be cast as them later on in your career. Whatever you do, take your time away to relax, reset your mind, re-energize yourself. It can be tough to be in this career for the long haul, so be gentle with yourself. Oh, and bring me one of those hula girls for my dashboard.

Ben Whitehair is the Los Angeles contingent of this blog. Find out more information and view his materials on his website, or read the rest of his blog posts.