By Allen Levin
Isn’t it funny? We have our own codes. Most of us never crack them, and therefor we don’t book the quality of acting roles we deserve. We think we know what makes us tick. We show the audience ideas of who we think we are, but we are unwilling to face the truth. We can’t find the real code so we act from a locked position. We need the code to unlock, let loose, and create our truth. How do we crack our own code?
With some of us, we’ll simply be able to operate truthfully. “Some” is approximately 1% of us. With those lucky few, they just can act. Immediately we can see their commitment to the truth. These are the lucky ones. Most of us, need to train and learn how to unlearn all of our blocks and earn the code that we seek. This article isn’t for the 1%, although, you may gain something from reading this as well. This is for the rest of us. I fall in the 99% as do…. well 99% of us.
How do we find our code? It’s going to take patience and you’ll need help. You are going to need the right community of artists that aren’t trying to screw you (literally, figuratively, financially, spiritually, etc) and truly want what’s best for you as an artist. Most places aren’t this. Lifebook is a place you can trust. There are a couple others in LA, but truly maybe 2 other places. Shout out to the good coaches. You know who you are. Land at one of these places and get involved. Create. Rehearse. Bring the best of you each time you hit that stage and be open to change.
Being open to change is a must for any actor. Last week I had to put on of my actors on a “tough love” program. I have a couple at Lifebook right now on this program that are kicking ass. I assume when I put someone on this program they will quit. This actor quit immediately. He said, “Stop trying to change me!” I admit I was absolutely trying to change him. In his current position no one will work with him. People don’t want to do scenes with him. He certainly can’t get a professional booking. His attitude is terrible. Why would he want to study with me if I wasn’t going to modify his behavior so that people could stand to be around him enough to hire him? Can’t win them all. Happily I’ll stand by my winning ratio. Honestly, it always hurts when someone quits (and does so unhappily). I wish I could have cracked his code in a way that he would have been receptive.
Be open to change. Be flexible. Allow for growth.
These are some of the keys that will lead you to one of the digits of your code. If you aren’t a people person. If you can’t find love for people, people won’t love you. You will not be awarded roles.
Love people. Take an interest in others. Listen. Learn.
Don’t be a diva. This isn’t about you showing off. It’s about you being a part of a community. When you show off you are actually taking. You are taking attention. You are taking the spotlight. You upstage your partners. This might have worked in PoDunk MO, but it won’t work in LA. You should be interested rather than “interesting.” You should love people. Rather than tell them all about you, listen to them. Get interested in them. That will give you far greater success than trying to force-feed them information about you (spoiler, they are very busy people – and they don’t care that you were the best Pole Vaulter in Michigan…. ok, bad example, that’s actually really interesting. They don’t care that you ……. insert nearly anything). You should care that they are an avid hiker, or that they support a rescue organization. You get information. Don’t feel the need to give it. Silence is mystery and power. Get them speaking. Pay attention. When you see them again, enjoy revisiting the information you took in when you were allowing them to speak. “How is that horse you were trying to break? Tucker was his name, right?”
Give. Participate. Help.
Create a community of your own. You need an artistic family within your creative family. Can you host a play reading or a screening of a movie? Can you host an improv night (no critiquing, just playing)? How about creating a play or a web-series? What about a TV pilot? How about a short film? Can you get people together and create a real family where you love and care about each other and you don’t take from each other? No borrowing. No lending. No sex. No drugs. Just caring. Listening. Crying together. Understanding. Creating. Can you do this? Can you take your eyes off of what you’d like to take, and rather give? Can you give someone a ride to LAX (or better yet, pick them up from LAX — not during your class-time, though!)? Can you do these things with zero hope for being paid back in any way? Get yourselves to a place where you give with no expectation of reciept.
Ironically, these are the moments that will help you crack your own code (when your eyes aren’t on the code). As you become a real part of our community, people will want to offer you opportunities. Part of cracking your code is getting yourselves into positions to use that code where people are receptive to your gifts.
Use your own life.
Most actors want to hide from the truth of what they’ve experienced. Been in jail? Play a jailbird. Professional athlete in life? Play that on stage. You are a cop? Play cop roles. Let’s break in with our own lives. It’s the easiest path in. Use your life. I hope you’ve never been raped. If you have been, play a rape victim. Expose the truth. Who better to do it than someone who knows? Use your lives. Don’t hide from anything. The exception to this rule is that a few of you really can’t go there. If you can’t, don’t, for now. Perhaps later you can get there. Be open to it as it comes. Don’t force yourselves into things that will have you quit, or worse, hurt yourselves. If you can crack that door open, use it. Nothing is more important than art. Nothing.
Patience. Persistence. Tenacity.
This is going to take at least 8 years of struggle. Are you strong enough? I know you are. Can you change the topic when your family is being un-supportive? You can. “Are you losing weight? You look great! Sorry to interrupt, but I had to say something. Wow!” This tends to work! Don’t let people shit on your dream. Protect it. Understand that you won’t always struggle. Know your worth. Know that real dues (particularly rehearsals) need to be paid before we get paid. Stay calm. Stay focused. March up the mountain.
As you make it part way up. Enjoy the new view! Don’t rest there too long, but celebrate. Do something for yourselves you wouldn’t ordinarily do. Stamp your passport. You are at the next level, love. Be proud of yourselves and excited to get even further along! Have that piece of cake. You earned it! Foodgasm. Yum. Now onwward and further UP.
If you’ve committed to your dream, your code will be more readily available. If you are wishy-washy about this thing, it will evade you. You won’t really give your all. You won’t let go the pretense and showyness. You’ll be stuck “schmacting” instead of acting. Rehearsals with people you trust will get you where you need to go. Schedule one right now. It’s a beautiful day to move forward with your dream.
Create a routine. Stick to it. Log your hours. Keep score and celebrate at 100. 1000. 10,000!! At 10,000 hours – you are a master. You will already have created a real body of work. This is you. This is your life. It doesn’t matter who else agrees. You only need one person to believe in you and that’s you. Read, write, rehearse. Do these things every day. You will most definitely unlock the code for mastering money, commercial acting (this code is by far the easiest and pays well), acting on television, acting in film, acting on stage. You’ll learn how to use yourselves well. You’ll spot the best conflicts and moments and you won’t push anything. You’ll open up and allow them in. You’ll be affected.
You will have your code. You will harvest this dream.
Why would we want another life? Let’s succeed at what we love, rather than possibly fail at what we can’t stand (or nearly as bad, spend a life succeeding at something we don’t love).
Work consistently with those you trust. Together we can find our codes.
Let’s crack our own code. Let’s take the work.