Acting : With Luck On Your Side by Stephen Anthony Bailey

Stephen Anthony Bailey

With Luck On Your Side

I have been thinking a lot lately about luck. What is luck? Is it something we make up in our heads as this invisible element in the ether that lands on certain people like a kind butterfly to justify the random chaos that is the human experience. “Easy Aristotle.” Right. I won’t get too heady here. But it is something that I feel like writing about and analyzing just a bit. I’ve been living in Los Angeles for over 5 years now and working in show business for about ten I have heard and probably just about said it all. The cliches! “Your career will go through ups and downs.” “It’s all about who you know!” and also “You need hard work, a whole lotta talent and a little bit of luck.” The last phrase there makes it seem as though the Judd Appatows and Tom Cruises of the world were just lucky. You can’t tell me these guys didn’t work hard. It makes me look at my own career and wonder if I’m not as lucky as they are or if I’m not working hard enough. If they are luckier than I am, that’s out of my hands and I can do nothing to change that except pray a bit more. Maybe make sure I catch the Sunday service a few more times. If it’s work…I work damn hard. But a mentor of mine used to tell me, “Work smarter, not harder.” So even if I work as hard as Tom Cruise or Judd Appatow I may need to get a little smarter where I put my time. And you can never work hard enough. You can never do enough. And I’m not talking about “making it” here. Making it to me is being able to pay your bills doing only what you love. So, if what you love brings you 40k a year…Congratulations! Because in my book you’ve made it. Everything else is just gravy. You don’t need a million a year to have made it. If you think you do then please re-evaluate your life and outlook on it. Luck seems to come when I’m doing the most work. But also when that work is coming from a healthy place. When I do things to try to “jump start” my career I get aggravated and feel like I’m spinning my tires in the mud and nothing happens. One mistake you can make in this industry is to think that you may get discovered or that you may become an overnight sensation. That’s called Powerball. This isn’t the lottery. It’s your career. And to win Powerball is luck. To work on your career as hard as you possible can is common sense. I saw a meme post the other day that said something I thought was full of truth. “Please don’t envy me. You have no idea how many long nights, early mornings, broke days, empty refrigerators, repossessions, bus stops, overdrafts, negative account balances, dollar menus, “No’s” and tears I’ve gone through to get here” This is the truth of what it’s like to become an overnight success. So I think the best thing I can do is take luck out of the equation altogether. At least in my day to day. I just can’t think about it. I will end up resenting those that “get lucky” instead of being proud and happy for them. I will wonder why I wasn’t chosen. Instead of just sticking to my work, enjoying what I have the opportunity to do and be happy in my everyday life. Some of it is just circumstantial. I hear actors all the time talking about how their agents/managers don’t send them out. Then I look at their online profiles and it’s a mess. No demo reel to be found. It’s barely legible. And they have no idea what’s actually on the breakdowns. (If you can get the breakdowns, do it.) They will break your heart everyday when you see, if you’re honest with yourself about what you can play, just how few roles are really out there for your reps to even submit you to! Let’s do some fun math. There are roughly 100k union actors in LA. This number is growing every year by the way. With the SAG-AFTRA New Media Contracts it’s basically an open union. So if there are 100k actors let’s say you’re me. I’m a 20′s white male with blond hair and blue eyes. Blue collar boy next door type. (If you don’t know how to brand yourself check out my vlog on youtube.) So let’s say half of the union actors are men, that’s 50k actors. Let’s say half of those are my age range. That’s 25k actors. Let’s say half of those are white dudes. That’s 12.5k actors. Let’s say half of those are right for the same role down to the minute details. That’s about 7k union actors right for the same role. If only 4 roles go out on theatrical breakdowns that I’m right for I’m competing against 7k other actors for an audition. If I get an audition THAT IS THE LUCK! From there comes my talent to do justice by the material. But even then…no guarantee. I still compete with between 5 and 15 actors and even if I am the best actor I might not book the job because the producer liked the actor that looks like his nephew. LUCK! But that’s not for me to worry about. The only thing I can control is my marketing materials and my talent. The thing to think about is potentially going to a different/smaller pool like Atlanta or Vancouver or Austin or Chicago. Even NYC has less actors than LA. But in those areas there are less roles being cast as well. Double edged sword. You need to figure out what city you want to live in and not base it on audition frequency. You have to enjoy your life day to day. And if you live in a city you hate it’s going to make it that much harder. Matt Damon said, “You have to think of your first few years in the industry as a long camping trip.” Basically you will be roughing it. And if luck doesn’t look your way you have to find a way to still enjoy the journey. Trust me. Forget about luck. Perhaps that will make her want you more.

Tomasz Mieczkowski

Well said, Stephen. Odds do sound crazy when you write it out like that. :) Yet still if you're driven by passion, you don't think about the odds. Just look at the guy who said Never tell me the odds - sometimes you might end up being that guy who looks like the nephew.

Jonah King

you had alot of good points, but one thing was incorrect. the saying is... work smarter, not harder. i learned that saying playing football, but it can apply to anything. you always want to make sure the choice/action you are doing is the 100% best way to go about doing it. think of many different routes/options for your career, then only do the most effective .

Jonah King

^ i thought of a couple of examples: If your looking for work, would it be better to do 100 interviews with strangers, or 1 with a good friend of yours? If you were looking for an old friend or relative... would you rather go door to door, or just go on facebook?

Tomasz Mieczkowski

Not sure I see your point, Jonah. :) I'd do 100 interviews with strangers when looking for work and go on facebook when looking for a relative. It's good to know and make friends with filmmakers, that's why a platform like Stage 32 exists to allow you to collaborate with everyone, but when looking for an acting job, your friends may be unable to help, especially if you're in a union.

Jonah King

I was simply saying you have to work smarter in life, dont just bang your head against the wall. your more likely to get a job from your friend then strangers.... That is why we network... that is why your site is helpful. Gets the client in touch directly with directors and producers... The Smarter way to go about looking for jobs in the film industry.

Craig D Griffiths

In the 60's there was a golfer called Arnold Palmer. A journalist said "you are the luckiest golfer in the world". Arnold replied "the more I practice the luckier I get".

Tony Fisher

"you reap what you sow"

Tomasz Mieczkowski

Haha, I hope Arnold didn't patent this saying, because I'm gonna use it each time someone says that to me from now on. :)

Michael Wearing

In life you make your own luck. You may walk through life and only see loads of closed doors, or you can walk through life and see loads of opportunities. Each person you meet is an opportunity. How you deal with every interaction you make whatever the setting will set the tone for how you are perceived in the future. The places you go will determine the people you meet, so don't leave that to chance, chose places where you will meet people who will help achieve your goals, and that doesn't mean they can immediately help you, just that they might be able to. Be prepared consider what you would say if you met a "name". You might have different conversations lined up depending on who they were and their role with in the industry, but be prepared. Know who people are, their functions and how they can help you. Use every occasion to raise your public profile. Importantly be positive and helpful to others.

Other topics in Acting:

register for stage 32 Register / Log In