A Practical . . . and Spiritual . . . Success Guide for Actors
by Acting Intuitive Jill Place
I just don’t get it! Or, as Howard Beale shouts from the rooftops in the movie, Network, “I’m mad as h^ll and I’m not gonna take it anymore!”
Two actors showed up for back-to-back branding sessions at my house one recent Sunday. One had co-starred in a much-lauded HBO movie. And the other was a regular recurring character on a prime-time kid’s show. I guess I’m mad as h^ll because both actors were divinely well-equipped in craft and type to do big roles right now. But neither had much clue about who they were on a deep soul level. Both appeared steeped in the “Please-Want-Me” syndrome. Y’know, that place where you forget about who you are and try and figure out what everyone else in ShowBiz wants.
ER$#%@*+*! WRONG ANSWER! Both these actors have good credits on their IMDB pages. And brushes with near-fame more than once. Yet one of them just can’t get it together to finish a screenplay which is a shoo-in for him to sell. It is THE vehicle . . . THE project that could make him both a working writer AND a star. The main character also happens to resonate deeply with him. And yet he is “procrastinating”.
I’ve helped a lot of actors brand themselves over the years. And was flabbergasted to find that many are terrified of the process. It’s a given that the clearer you are about your acting, not only in craft but in essence and purpose, the better chance you have of being successful. But many actors aren’t any of that. And . . . even though it makes me mad as h^ll . . . I think I know why. Many actors are terrified of once and for all tapping into and exposing their souls. In other words, they’re terrified of finding out that that’s what acting’s really all about.
A wonderful older actress took one of my very first branding classes. During lunch, when we were sharing about ourselves, she matter-of-factly reeled off an impressive list of Broadway credits, including playing Gertrude to some big movie star’s Hamlet. We were all in awe of her.
Yet, when we got to the part of the workshop were we were to state our purpose for acting, she was the one who freaked! And almost left the room. I wouldn’t let her run from herself; I stood in front of her and challenged her to tell me why she wanted to act. Quite effortlessly, an eloquent, succinct purpose popped out of her mouth. I sighed and said, “you’ve got it, now sit down”. Here was a successful actress terrified to name and claim her reason for acting. Now what was that all about?
The down-and-dirty is that our soul is the only true thing we actors have to display. No training, film tricks, marketing, 8 x 10 glossies or any other artifice will take its place. Brian Bates describes the soul in The Way of the Actor as “the part of the self that exists independently of the body . . . Klaus Kinski, for example, talks of the ‘soul to soul contact’ between himself and film audiences, a concept which for him expresses a level of communication he hopes to achieve, a realm beyond the mere ‘interpersonal’. Liv Ullmann talks of the truth of acting as the ‘discovery of the soul of another human being’ . . . the interesting thing about the soul as a concept is that it allows an image of an aspect of one’s nature that is not bounded by physical notions of existence.”
If the soul is such an ephemeral thing how do we know it’s there? Well . . . wonder why some actors with seemingly tiny talents become superstars? It’s my theory that something in their souls resonates with the majority of souls out there. It’s beyond charisma. Perhaps it’s that “soul to soul contact” that Kinski talks about. It’s the part of acting that goes beyond talent or craft.
So how do you tap into your soul? First, you’ve got to know it’s there. If you’re an actor, you probably have more than an inkling. William Hurt considers the “role of the actor as a psychic explorer . . . You get power from the freedom of experience . . . You just jump from a higher place. But you have to jump.” Some of the great training techniques, like Method, improv and Grotowski work, have parachute soul-training built in. I began my own soul path with acting training.
Being connected to your soul also helps at auditions. One of my actors considers auditioning a job . . . you go, you do, you go home. It’s practically also a numbers game . . . the amount of times you book goes up the more you audition. But if you know WHY you’re there . . . and it’s not just to get the part . . . you’ll be a whole lot more comfortable with the process. Auditioning from a soul level not only helps you “jump” but keeps away the nagging negative noises in your head that may sabotage you. You may also eventually surrender and love the process. That’s when it really gets interesting . . . you start making soul-to-soul relationships . . . and start booking more and more.
The other actor who came on that Sunday had extraordinary headshots; she said she had created a character for each of them, dressed them, made them up and then worked with the photographer to get just the looks she wanted. They were some of the best headshots I’ve ever seen! But they weren’t helping her get called in let alone get booked. The first thought I had was that she wasn’t in synch with her own soul. Or that the headshots, as wonderful as they were, didn’t quite reflect it. She got a big break with one of her first L.A. auditions. Perhaps it was because her naïve soul was more evident.
Hey, it’s tough out there! We can lose perspective at any given minute. And begin to believe our bad press . . . or lack of it. As Bates says, “the extremely high risk, freelance natural of the work is something few people could survive happily. That actors do survive it at all, and manage to remain in the profession, is a sign of great commitment and emotional stability in the face of debilitating circumstance”. If you can’t keep reminding yourself why you’re doing this . . . and it can never be frivolous . . . or be just for the money or the fame . . . you won’t stay in it. It’s a delicate balance . . . both shielding and exposing your soul at the same time.
What I’m trying to say is that if you first find the soul connection to your performing path . . . or consciously search for it throughout your acting journey . . . your path might be paved with roles instead of hot coals. If you don’t get it, they won’t get you. You also have to have an anchor to stay sane in crazy, chaotic ShowBiz. As well as stay happy and balanced in your life. And that anchor can be that soul connection with yourself, your ShowBiz relationships and your audience.
So tend your soul in whatever way works for you . . . from religious practice to acting practice. Perhaps with a medicine wheel or a shofar thrown in for good measure.
Leave Your Comments About I’m a Soul . . . Man? Below
What do you do to tend your soul? You do feel you soul shines though in your acting? In your headshot?