I believed in this maxim for many years because almost all of my acting teachers in Los Angeles were failed actors. As I sat in their classes a little voice in my gut kept asking, “if what they are teaching really works, why aren’t they working actors?” I eventually learned that many of the things they taught just weren’t useful in the real world of professional acting.
I spent years spinning my wheels trying to figure out the “secret” to success as an actor. All of the failed actor teachers focused on their particular approach to the craft of acting: Stanlislavski, Meisner, Strasberg, Method, etc. They would emphatically state that becoming a successful actor was only a matter of becoming a “better” actor. They were wrong.
Through years of trial and error and lots of wasted energy I finally figured out the essential elements that actors must possess to have long-term success in this career. I mastered these elements and watched my career take off. But even after having great personal success it did not occur to me to teach others how to do the same. The reason? I couldn’t shake the idea that only those who can’t, teach.
A personal tragedy helped change my mind. Several years ago my dad passed away. He was a master craftsman who could build and fix anything. I, unfortunately, did not inherit any of those skills. At my dad’s funeral person after person stood up and shared stories of dad helping them. He fixed their cars; built porches on their houses; patched leaky roofs. As they spoke it became apparent dad had made their lives better. I was in awe at the impact dad had on the lives of his neighbors and friends. He used his talent to help them. What he did touched them. I felt ashamed. I had spent the past ten years in L.A. helping no one but myself. I vowed to start helping people the way dad did. So, the very next week I began to offer my assistance to neighbors when they needed help fixing their cars or repairing their houses. It only took a few months of this for my very kind neighbors to tell me they really didn’t need my help. Since I didn’t have dad’s mechanical skills I often made their problems worse.
Then it dawned on me. Dad helped people with what he was really damn good at. I needed to stop trying to help people the way dad had and start helping people with what I was really damn good at. That day I started reaching out to new actors and coaching them on how to book professional work as an actor. When these new actors started getting callbacks and booking roles in television shows and films I felt so much joy. This eventually led me to start teaching formal classes when I was on break from filming.
I am writing this blog to reach more actors so they can learn the strategies, skills and mindset they need to become professionals. I am doing it because it brings me joy to see actors achieve their dreams. I am doing it because I feel it honors my dad’s memory. I want to impact others the way he did.
I am no guru. I am an actor who has figured out one path to success and I love sharing that path. You should talk to lots of successful actors and find out their approaches. But do your due diligence! Research ANYONE who offers you advice on how to become a working actor. Look them up on www.IMDb.com. If they aren’t successful actors, casting directors or directors, take what they say with a grain of salt.
As you read my blogs, do not take what I write as gospel. Cross-reference it against what other successful actors say about the same subject. But please don’t email me saying the extra on set with you last week had a very different approach to becoming a successful actor. That is not to say that their advice is wrong, but it certainly hasn’t proven to work in their own career.
Each week I intend to cover a different subject that actors need to know. My goal is not to make you a great actor. It is to make you a working actor.
You can find my credits at www.imdb.me/mccullough. Feel free to email me at mark@FortArgyleFilms.com with any questions or suggestions for future topics to cover.