Question from an actor, living in LA, after reading my post about living out of my car in NYC for 18 months to start my acting career:
"...I know that you mentioned that you never quit, but there had to be a time where you wondered if it was worth it. How did you overcome it?..."
When I first decided to go all-in on the acting career and chose to commute back and forth between Toledo, Ohio and New York City, I had to give myself an honest time frame to work within. I told myself, when I first took the leap of faith, that I was going to give it three years.
Success is relative. To me, entering the world of acting, out of the blue, at the age of 43, there is a smaller window of opportunity than a 20-something. I understood that, like starting ANY new business (in acting, you ARE your own company and you need to understand that and run it like one), there is going to be a loss at first. That loss is inevitable and is includes money, time, emotion and it includes a lot of rejection and learning. You have to embrace this loss and make an honest determination, ahead of time, how much loss you can honestly handle.
For me, I decided that I would give myself three years. At the end of the three years (which is March, 2016), that I need to be a full-time working actor. I need to see that there is potential and I need to have the ability to survive on my acting career alone. It is not a situation where I feel as though I need to be an A, B or even C list actor at the end of three years. I just feel like I needed to see that it is possible and that I make over $30k a year from acting, at least, so that I could survive heading into the next three years. These were some of the items on my "Goal Sheet".
Thankfully, for me, I was able to cross off every single goal by the end of the second year and form a new five-year goal plan. That being said, however, the first year was really tough. I mean really tough. Living out of my car, working 80-90 hours a week driving for my buddy's, Steven George limo company, dealing with rejection and a massive learning curve, was all brutal.
There was a turning point in my career and that day is very distinct and memorable.
In December, 2013, I was in NYC for a 2-3 week stretch, living out of the car, parked on Riverside Drive in Manhattan. I had been in the city, on this trip, for weeks and was running out of money. My checking account was basically overdrawn and I wasn't going to get paid for the week of driving until Saturday. It was a Thursday and I had some canned food in the car and a bottle of whiskey (gotta heat up from the inside at 10-degrees).
I had an audition for a paid theatre gig at Ripley Grier Studios, which is on about 37th and 8th in the city. I went down to the audition, keeping in mind that this is still the learning curve phase, and decided that I was going to attempt to WOW the director and not bring in any sides. Ugh.
"SIdes" for those non-actors, is the script that you will perform during the audition. Many times, you receive these ahead of time. When you get them ahead of time, you want to try and be "off book" (have it rehearsed and down as best you can), but you ALWAYS bring the sides with you as a back-up. This is not a memorization contest.
Needless to say, I tanked HARD. It was borderline embarrassing. The director was like "...NEVER walk into an audition without the sides the rest of your career." Duly noted.
As I walk out of the audition, discouraged and pissed at myself, I head to Penn Station to get the subway back up to where the car is parked on 110th street. I get to the entrance to the 1-2-3 trains and swipe my Metro Card...."insufficient funds". I was exactly 25-cents shy.At this point I am just spent. I had only booked a few smaller gigs so far in my career and I hadn't booked a gig in a couple of months. The one movie I was cast as the lead character, Bar Chronicles with Todd Bridges, was in a holding pattern on filming. In addition, I was pissed that there is seemingly an insurmountable amount of learning to be done and I was feeling like I didn't know if I was making the right decisions.
Too proud to ask anyone for a quarter (I did look around on the ground, not gonna lie), I walked back up the stairs onto the corner of 34th and 8th and walked to my car. It was about 10-degrees, snow everywhere, hungry and broke. I walked 76 blocks (15 blocks to the mile) to my car. It took about an hour and a half. When I got to my car, I ate a can of tuna mixed with a can of corn and washed it down with some Evan Williams.
I could see the line in front of me that night. That line where the average person would quit and give up. I could see where someone would justify throwing in the towel right then. I could see where someone would walk away and justify it.
That night was a gut check. I told myself, literally, that I am not the average person. I reminded myself that I am the toughest person that I know and that I am not afraid of anything. I reminded myself who the fuck I am and that I am not afraid to fail and that losing is the BIGGEST part of winning.
I finished my drink, got into my sleeping bag, and recommitted myself.
The next morning, I received a call that I was cast in another lead role in a commercial to be the spokesman for Delta Dental. Four separate 15-second commercials that run on TV in NYC, NJ and Connecticut. A month later, I was called by Dan Slottje to play the role of the main character in the upcoming film Family Business (out in 2016). That month started the current streak of 24 straight months where I have booked a lead or supporting role for paid gigs (I don't work for free and I do not do background work).
We all get to that point. You have to be selfish. You have to be proud and you have to be relentless. You have to sometimes beat your chest and stick your chin out and be proud of who you are. This is not just about acting. It is about life. Know what you deserve. Know that you can handle anything that comes your way.
What are you gonna do when you are faced with this kind of adversity? Cry yourself to sleep every night? Fuck no, man. You are gonna double your efforts and cut your path.
Do. Be. Live.