5 Ways to Make It as an Actor

On the recent “Friction” episode of his excellent podcast, Akimbo, Seth Godin was asked by a listener (and I’m paraphrasing): How do you find success as an actor?

(If you decide to listen, this part of the episode starts at the 17 minute mark.)

Seth’s answer surprised me. Essentially he said that there are four ways to make it as an actor:

1- Be distinct.

2- Have a following.

3- Be famous.

4- Make your own work.

While this list may be accurate, it is incomplete.

I was surprised because Seth somehow missed an answer that requires significant emotional labor to execute (a key focus of his work). And I was even more surprised because the missing answer is Seth’s superpower. So (without his permission), I’d like to amend Seth’s list.

5- Build a community.

Acting, whether it is on stage or on screen, requires other people. It is a collaborative art form.

Some people commoditize their collaborators, getting what they want out of the one-time transaction, then looking for the next thing and moving on. Those people build networks.

But other people, (“people like us”, as Seth Godin would say), view collaborators as those with whom we wish to work over and over and over again. People like us build networks and then turn those networks into a community.

So, let’s look at 11 ways to build your community.

1- Know what you are about. Find your Why and share it so that like-minded people can find you.

2- Pay attention to the landscape. Who is doing great work? Find them.

3- Reach out to people who are doing great work, whether or not you know them personally. Tell them their work matters to you.

4- Recommend actors, directors, designers, writers, etc for jobs. Help people find each other.

5- Expand your network by asking your like-minded collaborators to introduce you to “people like us.”

6- Celebrate other people’s successes. A rising tide lifts all ships.

7- Say yes to projects that you believe in. Say no to projects you don’t.

8- When someone says “If you love this, then you must know so-and so.”, instead of simply answering, “No,” say “Not yet. Will you introduce us?”

9- Reverse the situation above and offer to make the introduction.

10- Use your website as a platform for your ideas rather than as a commercial for your resume. You are looking for collaborators, not buyers.

11- When you have a great experience working with someone, tell them. And let them know you want to work with them again.

At JWS, we focus quite a lot of energy on teaching technique. But more than anything else, we pour our passion into our community. Our studio members are constantly recommending each other for roles, introducing each other to creatives, offering resources to help each other find and book work, lending emotional support when the business gets tough, and strengthening our collective belief that the work we are doing matters. We build each other up. We do not tear each other down. We share our knowledge. We don’t hoard it. We practice inclusion. We reject exclusion.

And it works.

In 2019 alone, our studio members have appeared in 24 Broadway shows. That’s 24 Broadway shows in less than 8 months. That doesn’t happen by accident. That happens on purpose.

Success in an acting career not only requires a mastery of the craft of acting. It also requires a mastery of the art of community building.

A quick note about the community Seth Godin has built:

Because of Seth Godin, this blog exists. Because of Seth Godin, my podcast exists. Because of Seth Godin, my partnership with Peter Shepherd exists. Because of Seth Godin, every time I travel to a different country to deliver a keynote, I meet up with a fellow AltMBA alum for a meal. It doesn’t matter if we have never met before. We are part of Seth’s community, and that is enough. Because of Seth Godin, I have the guts to make a ruckus and write about Seth Godin.

If you want to learn more about Seth, the work he does, and his amazing community, visit sethgodin.com.

Thank you Seth.