By Christopher Jewels-Booth, Director of Admissions
1. You are not expected to be an expert.
If you were an expert, then you wouldn’t need or want additional training, right? So don’t doubt yourself for a perceived lack of knowledge. A) You probably know more than you realize, and B) Use what you know as the foundation for new knowledge.
Also, give yourself grace.
The only person you are in competition with is yourself. Do your best every day and know that what you are capable of changes every day. The harshest critic you’re going to encounter as an artist is yourself. What you have to do is push past this inner critic, push past all the noise in your head and outside of your head to find what I call your “zone.” Part of finding your “zone” is giving yourself grace in the search of said “zone.” If you keep working at applying a good work ethic to develop good habits, you will achieve this “zone.” The key to the “zone” is to understand that it is not a destination but rather the journey itself.
With that being said…
2. Be willing to learn.
Any form of artistic training will at some point ask you to let go of and/or grow beyond your previous knowledge or skill set. And that’s okay. We have to be humble and open enough to accept this new teaching. As both a teacher and a student, I always remember this axiom. It’s the job of the teacher to teach and it is the job of the student to learn.
That leads us to…
3. Have a game plan.
One of my first acting teachers (Paul Sills) told me to give myself a “to do” list for each class and for each class day. You could also view this as a goal sheet. You don’t need to share this with anyone. Give yourself three “to dos” or three goals to achieve: one that can be accomplished today, one that can be accomplished in a week, and one that can be accomplished in a month. These can be as small as “be more present,” or “read playwrights with a different life experience than mine.” Not only are you learning in class but you are also actively working towards personal goals. The game plan also extends to your career.
With that being said…
4. Be flexible and be willing to throw away your plan.
Another way of looking at this is: don’t let your ego get in the way of growth. If someone inspires you or encourages you to change your plans, goals, or “to dos,” be willing to part with them. Your goals are to be steps toward success, not weights in an ocean of possibility.
5. You’re going to work harder than you think.
A life in the arts is a lot harder than you may realize. There is a reason that the tired old axiom of “if you can do something else, then do so” gets thrown out so often. However, it is seldom explained. You’re going to hear “no” more than “yes.” And you have to be willing to work hard to get a “yes.” No one is handed a career. Yes, there are people who, through financial or personal resources, may be further along in the journey than you; however, if you are willing to work hard and be kind, you will find “success.”
6.Define “success” for yourself.
I often ask students, “what do you want out of this? What is your goal?” And their response is “to be a working actor.” You have to truly define what that means for you. What does “success” in school look like, what does “success” in this industry look like…to you? This is closely related to “have a game plan.” If success is a door and you’re looking for the key to unlock it, you have to know what kind of lock you’re looking to unlock. Also know that your idea of success is going to change and evolve, and that’s okay.
7. You are going to “fail,” and that’s okay.
A friend once told me, “there is no such thing as failure…there is only feedback,” when speaking about their work. You have to be willing to take risks to be successful in the arts. And with risk comes reward and feedback. Think about your “failure” as the fertilizer for your success.
8. Read. Read some more. And when you’re done reading, read some more.
For actors, the words on a page are one of our most powerful allies. And don’t just read plays and screenplays that you think you would be good in. Read anything and everything. Read work that has nothing to do with you. Read work that you will never be in. Learn to appreciate writers. The niche writer today could be the A-list writer/director of tomorrow.
9. Watch TV, watch films, and watch plays.
This is your industry. Devour content. Go down rabbit holes, expand your mind and your artistic taste. Especially in New York, you have a wide variety of entertainment. Experience it. It will not only inform your soul, but your art as well. Neil Pepe, Artistic Director of Atlantic Theater Company says, “do five things a day to further your career.” These can be anything from going to the gym, reading a sonnet, watching an episode of that TV show everyone is talking about, or sitting down and writing a goal list.
10. Be the first one to enter and the last to leave.
I can’t stress how far a good work ethic will take you. The best piece of advice I ever got from an agent was, “if you show up early and know your lines, you’re going to work.” It’s simple; however, you will be surprised how many actors do not do either of these things and are then surprised that they don’t work. This goes back to the idea of working harder than you realize. I have both gotten gigs and lost gigs because of when I arrived. Setting the standard to always be early and leave late is going to give you time to center yourself and be able to fully present in the moment.
11. And a bonus note… have fun!
… because that’s why we do this! Being an artist, and specifically an actor, is a joyful exercise and experience. There will be tough moments and days but do remember to have fun.
Christopher Jewels-Booth (AEA) is an award winning actor/ comedian/writer/ illustrator/ storyteller living in NYC. Along with projects that he has written for Spike TV, the Travel Channel, and NPR, Chris has been seen on stage both Off-Broadway (Awesome 80’s Prom) as well as in various self-written one person shows including The Bowhead Whale, BaBoom!, and The System. His radio play War of the Worlds: Mosaic was performed live on NPR affiliate WJFF in upstate New York. Chris has almost a decades experience working in admissions with the last five years proudly being at Atlantic. You can find mostly illustrations on Chris’ Instagram @thechrisbooth.