Is Your Dream To Be A Movie Star???…..Then I Hope You’ll Read This……

Final Version*_HDR_editI get about 10-15 emails a week from kids with stars in their eyes or parents who think the world has been waiting for their child to be born just so that they can be in the movies! Because I believe in the “Golden Rule,” I write every single one of them back to try to help them with their quest though the information I deliver, isn’t what they usually expect to hear. However, I’d like to think that what I give them instead, is more valuable even as it may disappoint them because years of time and lots of money can be wasted on a hollow pursuit like fame which is fleeting and brings no true fulfillment in life. And there have never been more hucksters out there happy to try to fleece people thirsting for fame into all sorts of scams these days. So I thought I would feature a blog posting of a typical letter I receive along with my response, in the hope that it can help someone either reading it or someone with whom they can share it to help provide a more useful perspective from which to view this subject. Feel free to share with whomever you feel could benefit from it. Here’s the letter and my response below:

“Hi my name is (name withheld) and I am currently trying to get into the film and TV industry. I would love to act in films and TV shows whether it be a main character, a supporting chapter, or an extra. And I was wondering if you would be able to help me in my endeavor to become an actor. I am 18 years old with a youthful appearance of someone a few years younger. My whole life people have told me that I will never achieve my dreams and never become more than the “nobody” I am. But I have had enough and I will do anything to prove them wrong and become the “somebody” that deep down I know I am. All I am asking is if you would give me a chance and help me as I can ensure you that I will not disappoint and I will work harder than anyone else as I want this so much. I know I can be a star! I do hope I hear from you soon and I hope you decide to give me a chance. It’s time to introduce the world to (name withheld)”

Hello (name withheld),
I’m happy to help you find out whether a career as an actor is what you’re really looking for or whether it’s to “be somebody” because the two aren’t necessarily the same thing depending on your definition! No one who has been successful as a long-term, career actor, set out to be a “film or television star.” That can indeed happen to actors but it’s the pursuit of the art of acting that is the “main course” and sometimes “stardom” is a by-product or “the dessert” …..if you follow my meaning. And being famous doesn’t mean you’re “Somebody”. Being a “Somebody” can only come from the inside-out. You’ll always find people who disagree on your value if you leave your self-worth in the hands of others to decide for you. And doing so will continually leave you on very shaky ground in life! And to prove that it really comes from inside, consider that there are many people who after becoming famous or successful, still saw themselves deep down as “nobody’s” no matter how many people idolized them!

The truth is, the VAST majority of working actors might strike you as “nobody’s” if you were standing next to them. They’re not big stars or even people you’d recognize on the street. They populate towns all across the country and many of them have day jobs besides! I work primarily with THOSE actors! And those actors are the ones who do the primary amount of work in this country! That may surprise you because it may seem like you’re seeing the Tom Hanks’s and Tom Cruise’s of the world and not hearing anything at all about the Allen Galli’s or the Tony Doupe’s or the Louis Hobson’s or Bobbi Kotula’s of the world. But the truth is that while Tom Hanks and Tom Cruise may make about two pictures a year, Allen Galli, Tony Doupe’, Louis Hobson and Bobbi Kotula (actors in the market in which I primarily cast, now) work on about 4 plays a year, about 20 industrial films for companies like Microsoft and Amazon and about 5-6 films besides maybe 3 or 4 commercials. And you seldom see their names in credits on most of the things they do. THAT is the REAL life of an actor!!! The people you see on TV who get chased by paparazzi and end up on red-carpeted award shows make up only about half of 1% of all the actors in the world! And all those big stars all started out the way the Allen Galli’s and Tony Doupe’s, Louis Hobson’s and Bobbi Kotula’s do. Their goal isn’t to be a big star by any means!! It’s to plumb the depths of the human psyche to truthfully convey and portray the human condition as artists.

Now in the pursuit of that noble endeavor, they may find themselves known to many people. But it’s nothing they have any control over and they don’t make their choices as artists based on whether or not they will end up on a red carpet getting interviewed by Entertainment Tonight or even get recognized at the grocery store by someone who may have seen them on a TV commercial so that those people will think they’re “somebody!”. And being famous doesn’t make them any better as actors than when they WEREN’T famous! Winning a statue usually results in the actor feeling greater pressure to rise to that occasion over and over! Here’s Cameron Diaz with some quick and valuable advice about fame!

Now even though you’ve never heard of Allen Galli or Tony Doupe’ or Louis Hobson or Bobbi Kotula before I sent you this email, I can assure you, they are all “Somebody’s” along with many, many other names I could mention beyond their’s! They’re respected by fellow professionals like myself and the other actors with whom they have worked who also respect the talent and artistry with which they approach character construction and creative vision in the roles they inhabit on the projects they do every year. And it doesn’t matter to them whether there are 30 people in the audience or 3 million in movie theaters across the country, they’ll do the project anyway, provided it’s fulfilling to them as artists. And if I was writing you this letter about 15 years ago, other “nobody’s” in the market would have included Ana Faris, Chris Pratt, Paul Giamatti, Jim Caviezel and Brendan Fraser among others! And this was 25 years ago, the list of those “nobody’s” I worked with when I was in Los Angeles would have included Jennifer Aniston, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Bryan Cranston. They were all just local working actors there before they became stars but that wasn’t what they were seeking. They were pursuing the work and the expression of their art and happened to become known and famous. And if simply being famous is your unfortunate idea of being a “somebody”, consider that many people like the Kardashians don’t supply any art to anyone’s life and are famous just for being “famous”! I hope you’ll agree that this is a questionable criterion for being a “somebody”! And what usually happens to people who don’t really have anything long-term to offer the world, is that they fall quickly out of the public eye and occasionally end up on a “Where are they now?” show….Otherwise, you never really hear from them again after their fleeting moments of fame.

So I hope that whatever you do with your life whether it’s acting or insurance sales or teaching school or being a gardener or a librarian or WHATEVER…..that you do it well and to the best of your ability and that you live your life with integrity. Because doing THAT, will always make you “SOMEBODY”!!!……no matter what anyone else tells you!!! And if you’re really interested in being an actor, take classes and prepare yourself.  And try working in theater first so you can find out if it’s something you really want to do as the stakes are usually much lower for the people who hire you on smaller theater productions and you have more time to experiment to figure out if you’re right for the part.  Here is another blog posting I created for parents about our children’s naive attachment to fame and Here is a series of FAQ’s I designed to help people like yourself who send me about 15 emails a week about these same subjects. Here is a VERY illuminating video of celebrities talking about fame and wealth and fulfillment. I hope they’re helpful to you in determining whether you really want to take on the noble work of an actor truthfully portraying the human condition, or just want to be famous! Good Luck, Stephen Salamunovich

 

 

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About Stephen Salamunovich CSA

Stephen Salamunovich CSA is a 31-year veteran, award-winning casting director who cast somewhere around 4000 projects in Los Angeles and the Pacific Northwest before leaving the profession in 2016. You can find his biography in the "Stephen's Bio" tab of the "About" button of this website.

3 Comments

  1. Well said. I’m not sure anyone who is or has been highly successful set out to be so. They set out to pursue what they loved. Because in the end, when you’re gone, everyone else gets your stuff.

  2. Hi Steve,
    Great article. So good that I am compelled to comment and add a little of my experience which is in concert with the wonderful response you provided.

    For the young person who wrote to you, I will first say, “Good luck and good for you for identifying something that you feel you want to be successful in! It is great to have ambition, desire and to aim high in areas that interest you but it is also good to temper aspiration with grounded information and solid introspection. As a person who is also already a “somebody” pursuing an acting career in L.A., I believe you did yourself a solid favor by reaching out to Stephen and trust me, he gave you spot on, honest and caring advice.”

    I started acting at the age of 30 in community theatre in Boston and it was there that I discovered that I had some talent and an undeniable passion for acting. While still working as an Information Technology professional, I continued my acting career after moving to Seattle (though not knowing it was a career at that time) and I added film acting to my craft when I got involved in the quality, indie film scene that Seattle was (and still is) becoming increasingly known for (I also met Steve on a commercial he was casting that I booked).

    Stage acting is my first love and I continue to learn so much about the craft by doing it – largely because there are MANY seasoned, talented actors who work in theatre at many levels. Also, in theatre, there is tons of rehearsal and generally more time to examine the craft artistically when doing stage shows and as Steve said, the stakes are often lower than with big-budget, time-constrained TV or Studio film projects. With that said and speaking from my experience only, I would also recommend getting involved and starting to audition for community theatre shows as well as taking an acting class at a quality place that isn’t just in it for the money. These are great ways to “test the waters”, so to speak, and to see if acting is something you really want or want to take a good stab at.

    At the age of 44, I chose to move to L.A. in 2010 to enhance my pursuit into professional acting. As Steve said, there are definitely other markets to live and work in but it was my and my wife’s choice to move here because we worked hard to be able to and it was simply my personal desire on where I wanted to seek professional opportunities. I still have to work a day job to pay the bills but over the past 5 years here, I have gotten representation and have “booked some work”- with and without my agent. I’ve done industrial videos, cable TV, sketch work on Jimmy Kimmel Live, commercials (union and non), live theatre, independent films, AFI and USC film theses, video game voice overs (“Fallout 4” coming out next week 😉 ) and finally after many auditions, I booked and shot my first Prime Time TV job – a co-star role for CBS’ “Criminal Minds” that aired on Sept 30 of this year. I’ve been in for many other prime time shows as well; some of them multiple times, which means I’m doing something right when I audition as they have had me back months, sometimes years later but booking is another matter altogether. Here is more sobering information on the L.A. Prime Time T.V. market (as relayed to me by many local CDs): The 4 line co-star (small supporting) role I booked and most all co-star roles like it typically have 1,200 – 2,000 submissions of “represented” actors! Of that, depending on the show, Casting Directors will only bring in 10-15 to read and from that, 3 or so are sent to producers and the network for a decision and approval. Lot’s of hurdles –even for these one day jobs – and in the end, the only thing an actor can do is to do their best work at the audition and that’s it.

    So, there is no “real formula” to become the type of actor Steve describes except to work on your craft (I love improv classes and also do scene study and auditioning classes), be persistent, have a plan to sustain yourself and to check in periodically and ask yourself honestly if this is what you really want. Time and rejection have their way of eating away at desire and that is not a fault or something to be ashamed of but merely the human condition. How we respond is the key here and that response should always be a matter of personal desire and what we value most in our lives

    Again, congrats to the young person who wrote to Steve because they obviously have a goal that they are targeting and asked for help to achieve it. Best of luck to you! Maybe the best news is that you are young and have a lot or runway in front of you. In the end it is YOUR decision to do what you want with your life and you will be fine if you set your goals, continue to seek sound advice, be honest with yourself and work hard. Provided you do the best you can at these, your heart should be able to do the rest. 🙂

  3. Hi Steve,
    Great article. So good that I am compelled to comment and add a little of my experience which is in concert with the wonderful response you provided.
    For the young person who wrote to you, I will first say, “Good luck and good for you for identifying something that you feel you want to be successful in! It is great to have ambition, desire and to aim high in areas that interest you but it is also good to temper aspiration with grounded information and solid introspection. As a person who is also already a “somebody” pursuing an acting career in L.A., I believe you did yourself a solid favor by reaching out to Stephen and trust me, he gave you spot on, honest and caring advice.”
    I started acting at the age of 30 in community theatre in Boston and it was there that I discovered that I had some talent and an undeniable passion for acting. While still working as an Information Technology professional, I continued my acting career after moving to Seattle (though not knowing it was a career at that time) and I added film acting to my craft when I got involved in the quality, indie film scene that Seattle was (and still is) becoming increasingly known for (I also met Steve on a commercial he was casting that I booked).
    Stage acting is my first love and I continue to learn so much about the craft by doing it – largely because there are MANY seasoned, talented actors who work in theatre at many levels. Also, in theatre, there is tons of rehearsal and generally more time to examine the craft artistically when doing stage shows and as Steve said, the stakes are often lower than with big-budget, time-constrained TV or Studio film projects. With that said and speaking from my experience only, I would also recommend getting involved and starting to audition for community theatre shows as well as taking an acting class at a quality place that isn’t just in it for the money. These are great ways to “test the waters”, so to speak, and to see if acting is something you really want or want to take a good stab at.

    At the age of 44, I chose to move to L.A. in 2010 to enhance my pursuit into professional acting. As Steve said, there are definitely other markets to live and work in but it was my and my wife’s choice to move here because we worked hard to be able to and it was simply my personal desire on where I wanted to seek professional opportunities. I still have to work a day job to pay the bills but over the past 5 years here, I have gotten representation and have “booked some work”- with and without my agent. I’ve done industrial videos, cable TV, sketch work on Jimmy Kimmel Live, commercials (union and non), live theatre, independent films, AFI and USC film theses, video game voice overs (“Fallout 4” coming out next week 😉 ) and finally after many auditions, I booked and shot my first Prime Time TV job – a co-star role for CBS’ “Criminal Minds” that aired on Sept 30 of this year. I’ve been in for many other prime time shows as well; some of them multiple times, which means I’m doing something right when I audition as they have had me back months, sometimes years later but booking is another matter altogether. With all that, I am hardly “making a living” off the craft (yet) and some of my peers “in the same boat as me” go out more than I do and sometimes will book. However, I keep doing it because I like the challenge of it all and LOVE being on set or on stage of a good project.
    Here is more sobering information on the L.A. Prime Time T.V. market (as relayed to me by many local CDs): The 4 line co-star (small supporting) role I booked and most all co-star roles like it typically have 1,200 – 2,000 submissions of “represented” actors! Of that, depending on the show, Casting Directors will only bring in 10-15 to read and from that, 3 or so are sent to producers and the network for a decision and approval. Lot’s of hurdles –even for these one day jobs – and in the end, the only thing an actor can do is to do their best work at the audition and that’s it.
    So, there is no “real formula” to become the type of actor Steve describes except to work on your craft (I love improv classes and also do scene study and auditioning classes), be persistent, have a plan to sustain yourself and to check in periodically and ask yourself honestly if this is what you really want. Time and rejection have their way of eating away at desire and that is not a fault or something to be ashamed of but merely the human condition. How we respond is the key here and that response should always be a matter of personal desire and what we value most in our lives.

    Again, congrats to the young person who wrote to Steve because they obviously have a goal that they are targeting and asked for help to achieve it. Best of luck to you! Maybe the best news is that you are young and have a lot or runway in front of you. In the end it is YOUR decision to do what you want with your life and you will be fine if you set your goals, continue to seek sound advice, be honest with yourself and work hard. Provided you do the best you can at these, your heart should be able to do the rest. 🙂

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