Do You Have an Acting Mentor?
How having a mentor can help you save time, money and your sanity
(by Jim Webb)
You already know that taking acting classes can help you improve your acting skills. They can help you build your confidence as an actor. They can even help you get connected with a good agent or manager.
But there are some things – nuggets of information and tricks of the trade – that are not taught in a classroom. Those lessons come from the school of hard knocks. They come from the “streets”; from word of mouth.
That’s why, one of the best ways to improve your chances of success, especially if you’re a relatively new actor, is by having a mentor. Having a mentor is akin to having a tour guide when you visit a new city. Sure, it’s great to have a GPS or a good, old fashioned map.
But you need a tour guide to tell you which roads you shouldn’t travel down. A tour guide can tell you the short cuts to take to get to your destinations. A tour guide can teach how to survive and thrive in your new city.
Having an acting mentor can have a similar impact on your career. Without a mentor, you could spend years – YEARS – making easily avoidable mistakes.
A mentor can show you the roads to avoid
It’s easy to travel down a “bad road”, if you don’t know any better. For example, it might be tempting to sign with a talent agent, after months or years of trying to get one.
What you may not realize is that some agents are crooks. Some agents will keep your money rather than paying you, after they have collected it on your behalf.
Other agents are just too new, too small or too dysfunctional for you at this stage of your career. Signing with them would do more harm than good.
If you have a mentor, there’s a chance he or she has heard of that agency. They can advise you to avoid that agency like the plague, because of all the horror stories they’ve heard about them.
In following your mentor’s advice, you could save yourself a year or more by not signing with that agent. That’s a whole year traveling down the right road instead of wasting time on the wrong path.
A mentor can show you the shortcuts
Another way a mentor can help you is by showing you some of the shortcuts you may not be able to discover on your own.
For instance, you might find a headshot photographer on Craigslist who can shoot your headshots for a bargain basement price. Looking to save money, you get your headshots taken with the Craigslist photographer.
But, as the old saying goes, “You get what you pay for.” If those headshots are sub-par, you could spend months, perhaps years, using ineffective headshots, wondering why you’re not having success.
But what if you had a mentor to guide you? They can teach you the importance of having quality headshots, even if they are a bit pricey.
Now, instead of wasting years with bad headshots, you are, instead, booking jobs and building your career with good, albeit expensive, headshots.
If you can’t find a mentor…
Can’t find a mentor? No problem! Just be more inquisitive. When you go to auditions, or to acting class, ask lots of questions of the other actors you interact with. Pick their brains as much as you can. You can ask things like:
*Who’s your agent? How did you meet them?
*I love your headshots! Who took them? Do you get lots of auditions from using them?
*What acting classes are you taking? Are you learning a lot?
*How many jobs have you booked this year? Did you find those opportunities on your own or through your agent?
Using books as your mentor…
You can also find a mentor from afar, in the form of a book. You can read books from successful actors and actresses who have already been where you’re trying to go. Through their tips and insights, you can learn which steps to take and which missteps to avoid.
There’s lots of things you don’t know about this business. Why waste years trying to discover that information on your own, when all you have to do is leverage the vast experiences of your mentor(s)?
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Morgan Freeman’s Advice to Actors