The currency I see most actors spending their time on is their looks. They spend 10 to 15 hours a week in the gym but never see a play. They spend thousands of dollars on products and clothes, but won’t pay to watch every movie that’s nominated for an Oscar. They’ll spend countless hours updating social media but have little time to read screenplays or work on their own materiel.
I, at times, have been “guilty” of all of it. I dislike using the word guilty. The word itself perpetuates the idea that I wasn’t doing the best I could with what I had. I most certainly was. And so are the actors that I see doing the exact same thing.
It’s easy to get caught up and lost in creating your image and being liked. Drive down any number of famous Los Angeles streets and you’ll feel it. I did. I desperately wanted to be a part of it and didn’t know how. So I set out on a mission to control the one thing I could, me. Clothes. Image. Style. Friends. Did I love acting at this time in my life? Yes, more than anything. Was I taking steps to build currency in that direction? Very little.
When I look back at myself twenty years later I can see what that twenty year old couldn’t. It was easier to live in my potential than to actually take the risk and fail. Potential can last a lifetime and failure wasn’t an option. This is what I see now when actors spend all their currency in the gym, or on things that make them feel good on the outside because I understand the alternative.
I can remember the day when the ice cracked and I started to see things differently. It was actually quite simple. An actress that was not famous but who was making a living from acting came to speak to an acting class that I was in. She spoke about what it meant for her to show up with her pants on. We laughed. She went on to explain what that meant to her. What her day looked like. What she spent her time doing. How she lived her life. All the things she did to simply have the ability to wake up and know why she was putting the pants on. She knew herself. And the ice cracked. I didn’t have a fucking clue of who or what I was.
Now that you’ve had time to think about currency, which way are you building yours? I’m not saying that you need to be a saint. But this industry works off of currency. But not just gym currency alone. I realized that I preferred creating and helping actors tell stories. So I stopped pretending to be an actor and started earnestly showing up for myself. And to be as cheesy as possible I cashed in a few of those potential chips, for a real opportunity to fail, and fail I have, time and time and again. Each time I got back up I built a little more currency.
There are those who catch amazing random breaks. Good for them. They are the exception not the norm. It may appear that many actors have found their success out of nowhere but if you do a little digging you’ll find the mountain of work and currency that has gone into their success. You will eventually build enough currency for the industry to trust you. But first you must learn to give that trust to yourself. Once you realize that acting is a journey, you’re going to learn more from your failures than from your successes.