I have taught actors in their 20s and actors in their 80s—from Academy Award winners to novices. I’ve noticed some patterns with the under 25 crowd that are cause for concern, and some of these habits need to be broken before they rob you of your moment.
1. Notice what others in your generation are doing and do the opposite. Making a grand living as a name actor sounds extraordinary, right? It is. As a director in Hollywood I’ve seen it up close and personal. But you won’t become extraordinary by mirroring the habits of ordinary people. Enough cat videos already. Less Facebook. Burn your DVR.
Read plays. Rent classic films from the library for free. Be intentional with what you view. Stay off your “smart” phone. It’s making you dumb. Facebook is for publicizing your acting successes to your professional network, not for giving and receiving envy. And texting? You’re an actor. Open, verbal communication is key.
2. Learn to take notes from your director/coach. I know that many teachers are not masters. But odds are, even the worst teachers are onto something during their critique. So listen. You can reject what does not fit later. Take it all in. I didn’t start consistently working in this business as a director until I stopped getting defensive when faced with feedback and started listening. Get past that.
3. Leave your wimpy acting class. If it is not the toughest class you have ever taken, ditch it and challenge yourself. Helicopter parents or our lackluster education system likely prioritized your self-esteem over true achievement.
Sometimes you should be angry with your teacher. If it’s always a love fest, it might not be helping you. I’m not saying go into an abusive situation. Not at all. When I teach class I am invested in my students’ success. So, as kindly as possible, I will call them out in no uncertain terms. Your acting class should be a rite of passage—a trial—and a place where you will earn real self-worth through hard-fought victories.
4. Learn how to have a meaningful conversation. You can’t have your phone in your hand when you’re having a conversation. New rule. Use this precious time to practice your charisma. You have to dazzle with wit and charm too. Being attractive will not get you through a meeting with a dynamic and intelligent director (meaning a good one). And does anybody ever book a dream part without meeting the director first? No. Personally, if I can’t connect to an actor in a conversation they are out. Next!
5. Lose your sense of entitlement. That inner participation trophy may ruin you. Embrace the fact that you are not owed anything by this world. Work for it. Push yourself. The world may be getting softer and softer but in case you haven’t noticed, showbiz is still tough as hell.
If you are not a millennial and you made it to the end of this article, I have a question for you: Did I say the things you’ve been meaning to? Mentor a millennial actor. They are great. They just need a little more grit. Maybe we all do these days.