3 Reasons Actors Fail and How to Avoid That

Reasons Actors Fail, and How to Overcome Them

3 Reasons Actors Fail, and How to Overcome Them / Photo: JD Hancock

I hope that by now you already know how competitive entertainment business is. We made it a mission to dedicate an entire chapter to reality check in our handbook, because there are a few budding performers who are still delusional about this career path.

Becoming an actor is not easy, and the likelihood of you becoming a failure instead is quite high. That is if you don’t keep control over your choices.

Many, many actors come to London or Los Angeles to become the next big thing, and more than half of them will normally fail. Some realize how tough the business is and give up within 6 months, and for others, it can take a decade or two. Let me list three reasons why actors fail, and means of how you can prevail over these pitfalls.

RELATED: Acting for Beginners Guide

This post will either make you happy (because you’ll realize that you’re better than the industry standard), or turn up the heat on your life of struggle (and hopefully give you a kick in the bum to start working).

3 Reasons Actors Fail and How to Avoid That


1. Callousness and/or lack of talent

Believe it or not, majority of “actors” that constitute this business are truly here for the “show.” These are wannabe movie stars who love the romanticized idea of “being an actor” but couldn’t give a damn about working on the craft itself. They lack talent (or skill), and are often Entourage-inspired thespians who are here for the glitz, glamour and complaints.

Granted, there’s also a good bunch of aspiring performers who appreciate the craft and are eager to sweat over acting techniques, but there’s always this little bit that’s missing within their work. These actors try hard, but they’re still not… good… enough. At least not yet. This type of actors has the perseverance and desire, and they might or might not make it in the end.

Is that you? To avoid falling into this pitfall, spend some time soul searching. Are you in this for the right reasons? Will making a living from acting alone – without red carpets and movie stars to brush alongside – be enough for your happiness? To me, it sounds perfectly reasonable. If so, continue to work. Remember the importance of acting training, respect the craft.

Everybody defines success differently, but I’m here to suggest that it’s paying bills when doing what you love. Everything else is just icing on the cake.

2. Avoiding business side

It’s difficult to imagine that this still needs to be explained, but actors continue to be hard pressed to comprehend the importance of marketing and business skills. I appreciate your desire to consider Acting the art form beyond anything else, and if making small plays forever is what defines your success – great! However, most budding actors are in this for the bigger picture.

Is that you? Regardless of how much you hate calling yourself a businessman or an entrepreneur, you are one. You’re selling a product and a service – yourself, and your acting skills. This cannot be avoided, so you might as well try to get better at it.

Marketing yourself is an entirely different set of skills to acting, and more often than not, a chunk of bad actors achieve greater success (or get there faster) due to their ability to network, make connections, create new opportunities for themselves and act upon them. Aside from being a good actor (a good product), you must also know how to sell yourself (adopt a pretty packaging and show it to the world).

3. Lady luck

Fortune is the last and, quite frankly, the most prevalent reason why so many fail (or succeed). Marlon Brando once said that anybody who doesn’t use a word “luck” when discussing their careers is a liar, and this couldn’t be more true.

You can be the worst performer ever, and through no fault of your own find yourself doing a movie with Richard Linklater next week, if you get lucky. Or you can be the most talented actor who knows how to market yourself, but you break a leg and your career stops for several years, if you’re unlucky.

Is that you? Truthfully, it’s all of us. Some of us are luckier, and others are less lucky. Fortune doesn’t need to be explained, nor does anybody need to believe in it. It’s simply a term for a sequence of events and unpredictable outcome. None of us can control it.

Your job? Focus on the first two points from this list – develop a good set of skills and market yourself well. If you get unlucky, at least you’ll be able to retaliate. And if you get lucky? Well, I’ll let you daydream on this for a while…

In the mean time, watch this amazing video below with a Los Angeles based working actor Bill Oberst Jr. This is a perfect eye-opener and reality check for all aspiring thespians out there, whether you’re looking to start a career in Los Angeles, London, New York City or somewhere else.