At the time of this writing, 2016 is coming to a close. The new year is already beckoning with aspirations of second chances and making changes. You may already be plotting your New Year’s resolution as an actor: “I’m going to do this professionally!” Do more shows. Get paid to act. Quit my day job and pursue full-time acting. Move to New York or Los Angeles. Get an agent. One or all of these.
Do any of these sound familiar? Have any of these been on your to-do list for years now, without notable success?
We look at those factors and consider them to be the litmus test for whether or not we are professional actors. I propose changing our definition of—and by extension, our mindset toward—professionalism.
It all starts with the literal definition of “professional”, in which we find the word “profess” – to publicly vow. You profess your religious faith. You profess your love to a spouse. When you profess, you make it known that you will not let yourself be swayed from doing what you claim to do. For rich or poor, in sickness and in health.
I’ll let three professional creatives lay out the application plainly for us (and in big bold text so you know how important this is!)
“Professionalism is a frame of mind, not a paycheck.”
– Cecil Castle
“Professionalism is knowing how to do it, when to do it, and doing it.”
– Frank Tyger
“A professional is someone who can do his best work even when he doesn’t feel like it.”
– Alistair Cooke
Can we now relieve ourselves of the self-inflicted pressure to call ourselves professionals only if the paycheck is big enough, the schedule busy enough, or the resume long enough? The reason those are so popularly considered indicators of professionalism is because they are quantifiable—dollars, hours, a degree, number of gigs, etc.–they are obvious. What is not obvious to the onlooker is the labor, the homework, the research, the practice, the coaching, the late hours, the downright determination to do something difficult and grow, even if it doesn’t pay a bill. Without considering yourself a professional in mindset, it’s easy to make excuses for not taking the necessary steps to develop as a professional.
So, this New Year’s, if you are into making resolutions, resolve to consider yourself a professional. You might work profession-ally for years before your first acting paycheck. You might have to keep your day job. But as long as you consider acting your “hobby,” that’s exactly what it will be.