As a child, I was an anti-social and nervous individual who had trouble at school. It didn’t help that I had learning difficulties and did not do well in a classroom environment. As well as that, the family moved regularly for my Father’s work which meant that we weren’t settled for a chunk of time. This led to a string of bad reports and worsening behaviour at school. It was clear that something wasn’t right. I won’t lie in telling you that part of the issue was my pretty intolerable attitude towards authority but that is for another book.
My academic issues had nothing to do with intelligence or ability. I believe it was because I struggled to perform the way that school expects you to. That word perform is important to note because it is one that I feel is appropriate for how we are conditioned in formal education. Kids are asked to sit exams and behave appropriately as if putting on a role. There is not a child in the world that – if left to their own devices – would sit still in a classroom for hours at a time staring at a board. Teachers reward children who have the characteristics of the ideal “student.” Those students that exhibit those behaviours and goad, tease, ignore and punish those that do not.
I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs, run till my legs gave out and see the funny side to life. I had not learnt that in our lives we often have to play roles to make interactions run a little smoother. We have to play games in order to rationalize our behaviours. In our families, we are the smart brother, the funny aunt or the strong father. In our working lives we have bosses and if you’re lucky you will have people who answer to you. This starts in school where you are expected to be a student and respect the adult in front of you playing the role of the teacher.
The reason this is vitally important and something that every Actor understands is that we are constantly playing different roles and “Acting” every minute, every day and year of our lives.
The role that I fell into at school was just that – a role. I was treated like the joker so I acted like the joker. I acted like the rebel so I was persuading myself that “I am a rebel!” Once I realised that I didn’t need to play that role anymore then I started to get better grades, behave better and lead a much more productive life. All of that happened because I was introduced to the Art of Acting.
I will go into more depth about why those personal circumstances were important. However, let’s not get carried away… for those people reading this I want you to ask:
- How does Acting benefit my life?
- How does Acting benefit me as a person?
- How does Acting benefit others around me?
If you can start thinking about these questions then you will go a long way into understanding whether this career is right for you. If you are answering those questions and having dreams of fame, money and ladies in jacuzzis then you aren’t in it for the right reasons… more on that later. My point is that for me the Art of Acting is much more than just making money or appearing on TV it genuinely benefits my life in many facets. The best Actors share that in common.
The first time you meet
There are people that you meet at work or on public transport that you have a polite chat with and then never see again. There are colleagues you study with or work alongside that you might have known you for years but are no more than acquaintances. There are probably immediate family members that you only see at Christmas and are perfectly happy to never speak to on any other occasion. That isn’t a judgement on their character or on yours. These people aren’t necessarily boring or useless they just don’t impact you greatly. It is inevitable that the vast majority of people you meet are completely inconsequential to you.
Then there are some people who have such a monumental impact on your life that there is a distinct difference between the person you were before you met them and the person afterwards.
The example that instantly springs to mind is when you fall in love. It’s as if you have been introduced to colour after being in a black and white movie. It’s like putting on a pair of prescription glasses and realising that you’ve been walking around half blind for your entire life. It’s not that the world has changed it is simply the way you view it that is revolutionised.
For some people, it isn’t a person that makes you see the world differently it’s a mindset, a discipline or a craft. Albert Einstein didn’t just love mathematics because of trigonometry, it informed the way he lived his life and his beliefs. Leonardo Da Vinci didn’t just love painting because of the finished product, the study and the science made him one of the greatest thinkers of the Renaissance. Great leaders and artists delve deep into a craft that springs life lessons and a comprehensive worldview. The same goes for Business people, Politicians, Teachers and Religious figures.
Ultimately those people that fall in love with the craft of Acting are those people that gain more than just satisfaction from applause or fame. The truly great Actors, not necessarily the most famous or wealthy, are those that have a deep connection with the craft because it gives them satisfaction in multiple areas of their life.
My moment of first meeting the craft of Acting was when my parents enrolled me in a Saturday Acting school. The reasons to do so were obvious: my bad grades, my poor behaviour and my lack of self-confidence. It’s wasn’t unheard of to enrol struggling children into Acting classes. A lot of people see Acting as a good way to improve people skills, public speaking and emotional intelligence. My parents were no different.
For most people, they enrol in classes, gain some knowledge and leave it there. Family and friends might comment on how talented they are but the majority of people don’t see Acting as a vocation. If I’m perfectly honest I thought I would be one of those people.
Little did I know that it would end up becoming an obsession and a profession.
The people reading this who can relate to that are the ones who will make this a career. It has to first be a calling and then become about paying the bills, getting supporting jobs and keeping up your craft. No one should go into showbiz for the money. There are much better ways of earning cash with much less stress attached.
The reason I haven’t jumped straight into the technical side of Acting (History, technical jargon and practitioners) is that they are all secondary to the original reason you get into an Art. In this instance, I have given an anecdotal description of my situation getting into Acting but for me that story is essential. Acting was a way of getting out of myself. It was more than something I “wanted” to do it was something I “needed” to do.
Some people take it a step further and haven’t got formal education or real-world skills. I have many friends in the Art world that are useless human beings in every other aspect of their life apart from their craft. They tell me stories of skipping breakfast, turning up to rehearsals late and then absolutely mesmerising people with their talent. A lot of Actors, artists, musicians and dancers struggle for years because they simply don’t function in normal jobs. They have one thing that they excel at and because of that single-mindedness, everything else suffers.
Is that a good thing?
Is that you?
I am acutely aware that I am not one of those people. I run a business, I have a career and Acting is something that I take seriously but it is not the be all and end all. I am not the true romantic artist who is willing to spend nights out on the street because I refuse to work for anything but my art. There are those that would and many that do that because that is their all-consuming passion.
If Art is the only thing you value and the only thing you are good at then you have no choice but to excel in it.
There is something to be said for not being a jack of all trades and there are days when I wish that I could be a person that is master of one.
Acting doesn’t need to be something that consumes your life but because it is so competitive it is only the most committed that make it work. Often those people who can’t do anything else grind it out after all those people who give up and move on to greener pastures.
I don’t want to labour this point because this whole book could turn into a self-masturbatory rant but you should try to question how much are you willing to sacrifice for this?