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He Booked It: An Acting Student’s Journey from the Classroom to L.A.

The Road to Success

Five months ago, Leighton Maxon entered our Intro to Acting Class at our Jacksonville, Florida, Studio. He had no prior experience or training; however, what he did have (and still does have) is an unwavering dedication to learning, growing, challenging himself, working diligently, and becoming a skilled craftsman. Like any trade, acting is hard work, and it’s not for everyone. It’s much more than memorizing lines and expressing emotions; it’s learning how to do those things in the harshest environments. Film sets and backstage are not friendly; they’re emotionally stressful, distracting, and volatile. Directors screaming, crew staring at you, people are upset, tired, and unfriendly, there are last-minute changes to scripts, directions, other actors being replaced, etc., on top of the pressure to perform and expectant audiences staring right at you.

What it Takes

Making it in this business is both being lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time and having the skills to win. You have to be both lucky and good. We have no control over our luck, what films are being made, whether or not we know about the audition, or whether we’re the right type for the part. The only variable we can control is our skill and ability to succeed in demanding environments. Anyone can hit a layup, but very few can hit guarded by four other players with 1 second on the clock and thousands of people screaming at them. Anyone can hit a home run under the right circumstances, but that doesn’t make them a home run hitter; in the same way, anyone can say lines with conviction and emotion, but sometimes it doesn’t make them an actor. What matters is consistency and how well we can do it under pressure and under conditions where most other people would fail. The only way to cultivate that ability is by training.

Training is Important

Let’s face it. Training sucks; it’s expensive and not enjoyable. It’s work, whether hitting the gym, reading a long book, or enrolling in a class. We do these things not for the immediate pleasure they give us but for the long-term benefits they offer. We do them because we’re driven by the desire for better opportunities: improved health, better mate selection, higher status, and wealth. Similarly, in acting, training is not enjoyable; it costs money and time, and we must sacrifice doing other things to attend class. However, we do it because of the opportunities it affords us.

In a conversation with Rebecca Thompson, our esteemed studio owner, acting coach, and casting director, she dispels common misconceptions about trying to take shortcuts in the industry.

“Unfortunately, there are a lot of incorrect assumptions about acting and the things needed to start booking. For example, people say, “I need headshots first!” Actually, no. Not true. It would be best if you became skilled first. I know I can speak for every casting director and director by saying that we care more about your ability than a glossy headshot. Our studio founder, Keary McCutchen, booked his first gig using a headshot I took with his cell phone in front of my garage. That’s not to say that you will not eventually need a headshot or that they don’t have value. But, you MUST have something to bring to the table if you want to do this job.”

Rebecca Thompson, Studio Owner, Acting Coach, & Casting Director

Focus on Giving Not Getting

Regrettably, many young actors prioritize “What can I get?” over “What value am I bringing to this project?” This mindset overlooks the importance of skill and ability in acting. Simply having a polished headshot won’t guarantee bookings; worse, if you do happen to book it and can’t deliver on set, it will adversely affect future bookings. It’s a small world; people talk, and your work on set speaks for itself and once on film, it lives forever. For this reason, investing in honing your craft through classes and training is essential. You’re essentially a business as an actor, and your acting ability is your product. Ask yourself: Is it worth investing in? Everyone who works with you asks the very same question. Are you worth investing in? Is this someone who makes things better or worse?

It Takes Time

Furthermore, much like music or dance, you cannot expect to do it once and become extraordinary. Nor can you stay extraordinary without practicing if you want to stay sharp and competitive. Like most things, if you do the work, there will be a reward. If you want to succeed, you have to be willing to work hard. Half an effort won’t get you far, no matter your dreams (or headshot). There is no “right” path, and the journey isn’t the same for everyone. However, there are some key things you should be able to do and a few items you should have in place if you want to start booking paid legitimate productions.

If You’re Not Going to See It Through Don’t Start

Leighton Jacksonville Acting Student on Set in Hollywood

Decide. Then, commit yourself to that decision. No one can do anything for you. You have to be willing to do this for yourself. You have to start. We cannot tell you how many calls we get from people who say they want to become an actor and even sign up for a class and never show up. You have to be willing to walk in the door. Then, you have to be willing to commit yourself to the work. Consistently. There are only 24 hours in a day. Acting will take up your time. Not just with coming to class but also with the work you’ll have to do outside of class to hone your skills. That means that something in your life has to be sacrificed to do this. Maybe acting means you no longer have as much time for TV or friends. Perhaps it means you must wake up earlier than usual to make it to class. The point is, if you want it badly enough, you will make the time. If you don’t, you will always find an excuse. It will be an easy choice if you are genuinely passionate about acting. And one that you will continue to choose because of how incredibly fulfilling and rewarding it can be.

How to Get From Classroom to Set

Some of the steps our students have taken to go from classroom to set:

  • Start training and working hard (inside and outside of the classroom)
  • Get involved and soak up as much info as you can on this craft and the industry
  • Start building your resume and (eventually) get your headshots
  • Start auditioning, gain experience, and focus on doing good work (not just on credits)

Take the First Step

Contact us and let us know what your needs are. We’ll be happy to help!