One of my most successful actions over the years is to simply show up. This has worked in a variety of fields and occupations, including acting and directing.
Let me give you a few examples of what I mean.
When my teacher, Milton Katselas, directed a play or a scene, I was the first to find out about it and the first to show up at the “closed” rehearsals. He’d look at me with a glint in his eye and ask how I found out about it. I’d shrug. He’d tell me the rehearsals were closed and I’d leave, then show up again the next rehearsal. He’d smile and shrug, and let me come in and watch. I’d volunteer to help with sound or lights or whatever he needed. Over the years, I got invaluable lessons in directing by watching him work on over two dozen productions.
Ultimately, my showing up led Milton to cast me as the lead in two of his plays. Both were rare experiences I will never forget. All because I showed up.
Another student I know auditioned for a major theater company. He was too inexperienced, so he didn’t get the part. Rather than slink away, he asked if he could intern or even sweep floors. The director liked his ambition and agreed.
Throughout the run, in addition to his intern duties, the student learned the lines and blocking of the lead role, as a sort of quasi-understudy. The director didn’t mind. As it turns out, the lead couldn’t do the performance one night and this student was the only one who knew the role. After a few hours of rehearsal, the director decided to let him step in and perform rather than cancel the show. And he did. All because he showed up.
One time my teacher told me to show up on movie sets and studio lots and just walk around. When I did that, the bridge between where I was in my career and where I wanted to be became very short — it was no longer some vague dream. Walking around and watching movies being created made my dream very real — attainable. And soon after, it was me that people where watching perform on movie sets.
While doing pick-ups for my film, several students volunteered to help out. They were night shoots, so the students drove to the location and stayed up all night, lending me a hand. It was incredible. I believe they got many benefits just from being there, but I will also remember them if there’s a part in my next film.
Stephen Spielberg wanted to be a working director at Universal Studios. His way of showing up was extreme. He snuck onto the Universal lot, found an empty office and established it as his own. Everyday, he would walk around and watch productions. We all know where his career went.
The simplest things in life are the most powerful. Showing up is one of them.
So show up.
Find a way to go on movie sets. Just be there. Lend a hand. Volunteer. Meet people.
Go to screenings. Get on studio lots. Be involved somehow, even if you’re not acting.
It takes many things to be successful as an actor. It takes all the departments of a full fledged organization to succeed. Talent is just one department — there are many others.
And these areas need to be known and addressed.
But at the top of it all is the person in charge, and if there is one quality that distinguishes successful people from the unsuccessful, I would say it’s “desire.” Some people push their way to the front of the crowd, others are content to sit idly in the back.
Which one are you?
If you have desire, you will pursue the knowledge necessary to be successful. You will hone your talent. You will push your way to the top.
And one simple thing you can do is grab your body and make it show up where the action is — on a regular basis. Whether you feel like it or not. If you do, you will build confidence, you will learn things, you will meet people and your career will start to move faster than ever.