The Push Strategy vs. The Pull Strategy
What if you, as an actor, didn’t wait for the market to demand your acting services?
(by Carmichael Phillips)
“My career began the day I left my waitressing job.”
When is the right time to “take the plunge”, or “make the leap”, or “go for the gusto”, or whatever cliché you wish to use? When is the right time to eschew your survival job and become a full-fledged, full-time actor, determined to earn most, if not all your doe from acting work?
That is a conundrum that most serious actors confront at some point. There are two main ways of thinking about:
The Pull Strategy
The most popular way for actors to become full-time actors is to work hard, build an impressive résumé and wait for the work to become so plentiful, and so lucrative, that the actor no longer needs their survival job. The income from their acting work makes working a survival job unnecessary.
In marketing terms, this might be called a “Pull Strategy”, or Pull Marketing. A brand goes out of its way, through marketing and advertising, to create demand for their products and services. In time, consumers are “pulled” towards the brand.
An example of a “Pull Strategy” would be Procter & Gamble introducing a new cleaning product, heavily advertising it, and then, ramping up production as more and more stores see the need to add the product to their shelves to meet customer demand.
Likewise, actors build enough demand for their acting services that they become a “name” in the industry. Suddenly, they no longer go from audition to audition as a nameless, faceless actor. They are now requested by casting directors and producers. Sometimes they don’t even have to audition at all. They have now become an “in demand” actor.
This is the normal course of business. But there is another, more risky strategy.
The Push Strategy
What if you, as an actor, didn’t wait for the market to demand your acting services? What if you boldly declared that you will no longer wait tables or drive for Uber or work as a temp to pay the bills? What if you decided, today, that you would only accept work as an actor?
Sounds frightening, right?
Well, that’s why most actors never do it! But, it’s not unheard of. Some actors are brave enough to try it.
In marketing terms, you might call this a “Push Strategy”, or Push Marketing. In this case, a brand doesn’t wait for customers to demand its product be placed on store shelves. In this case, a brand boldly “pushes” their product onto customers, often introducing their products by going directly to consumers.
An example of a Push Strategy would be a company spending huge sums of cash to give out free samples of their product, seeking to sell their products to the customer once they’ve had a chance to try it.
Could an actor do this? Could an actor simply “push” their services into the marketplace; confident that once the industry sees their acting talent, they will become an in-demand actor?
The “Push Strategy” seems to have worked out well for one actress: Melissa Leo. Leo, the Academy Award winner for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Alice Eklund-Ward in The Fighter (2010), simply decided, quite boldly, that she was an actress, that acting was her profession and that she would make acting work her sole means of support.
“My career began the day I left my waitressing job. I made a commitment to myself that I was an actor. And when I worked, I would work as an actor,” said Leo, in an interview.
She went on to explain further how she did it.
“I could go without. I didn’t build a big credit card debt and get things that I couldn’t afford to have. I lived without, and I lived with friends who fed me. That determination, that singleness of purpose, is the thing that for me cracked open the door and still cracks open the door.”
Push or Pull (or a blend of the two)
Obviously, a “Push Strategy” wouldn’t work for most actors. Accepting income from acting work alone would lead most actors to starvation and destitution. But there is a confidence in having a little bit of a “Push Strategy” in your overall strategy. There is a confidence that comes from not thinking of yourself as merely an “aspiring” actor who mostly waits tables but, rather, a professional actor, who only waits tables to stave off starvation.
It’s the kind of mindset-change that might cause you to think of your career as less of a hobby and more of a life or death struggle. How hard would you fight for success if you thought of your acting career as a life or death struggle for survival?
Ponder that for a moment.
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