THE STAR’S CREED
by Bob Fraser
“I’m an assistant storyteller. It’s like being a waiter or a gas-station attendant, but I’m waiting on six million people a week – if I’m lucky.” ~ Harrison Ford
This is one of my favorite quotes because it contains three of the most important elements you must understand in order to become a successful actor.
First, Mr. Ford tells you what the job is. Storyteller. Then he tells you how he thinks about his audience. He wisely considers them customers. Finally, he reveals the secret to becoming a big star – have a lot of customers.
In other words, if you want to be a successful actor, you must build your customer base. You must attract an audience.
This is just a fact of life in our business. Entertaining the audience is what you will get paid for. Whether you ply your trade anonymously behind a microphone, appear in Broadway musicals, act in commercials, sing for your supper, do your thing in sitcoms or soaps, make independent films, or interpret Shakespeare in the park – your primary focus (as a business person) should be the audience – the paying customers.
Understanding the “butts in seats” part of your acting career is crucial to your eventual success.
ATTRACTING THE CUSTOMER
Too many actors lose sight of this fact when they get caught up in the “inside” stuff. “Who’s my agent? How do I get the casting director to notice me? What do you think of my headshots? Maybe I should get my nose fixed. How can I get into the union? Should I go to New York or Hollywood?”
Believe me, our customers don’t care about any of that. Not one customer in a thousand can name Harrison Ford’s agent. It’s unlikely that you know who it is and you’re in the business. I doubt that any casting director has ever asked to see Harrison Ford’s headshot or resume in the last twenty years. And try this experiment; ask 100 civilians what union Harrison Ford is in. Be prepared for some blank looks.
Every successful actor I’ve ever met (or know about through reading biographies) has accomplished that success by one method. They’ve attracted an audience. Their focus is on the audience – the customers. They’ve worked hard at building their customer base. The other stuff is grunt work. Sure, it’s an important part of taking care of business – but none of those things will make you more successful.
It’s like a plumber spending a lot of time picking out his wardrobe. “Look, I don’t care about your outfit. Just fix my toilet.”
Is it easy to build a customer base? Even a plumber knows the answer to that. If it were easy, everyone would be successful. Is the method a deep dark secret? Not really. All you must do is concentrate your efforts on your audience skills.
Believe me, if your only goal is to entertain an audience, your success in the business is assured – when you treat them like customers and run your business as if your income depended on it, because (not to put to fine a point on it) it does.
Agents, casting directors, managers, other actors, & network vice-presidents of talent are not your customers. They are co-contractors. They are only helpful to you if you already know how to “fix the toilet.”
IT IS NOT REALLY LUCK
Many will argue that success in the entertainment business is a matter of ‘luck.’ It is. But look closely, Harrison Ford’s definition of ‘luck’ is doing your job for the audience and hoping they like it well enough to pay the admission.
If your definition is that anyone can get to the top by getting lucky – like it’s some sort of lottery – well, if you believe that, I know about some beach front property in Bagdad, you can buy cheap.
Some will even say that what counts is who you know. Again, that’s almost true. The reality is this: What really counts is who knows you. The more people who know you and want to see you perform – the larger your success will be.
Then there are those actors who believe that there’s a short cut. Get the right agent or manager. Find the “magic” monolog. Make friends with casting directors. Go to the right parties. Network until you find someone who will help you ‘make it.’
DO YOUR RESEARCH
I urge you to read the biographies of successful actors. You will not find a single instance of these sorts of tactics leading to the promised land of stardom.
If you still believe that actors are being discovered at the drugstore or the gas station – well, that Bagdad beach is beckoning … and I can get you a rock-bottom price.
It all boils down to this: any business person who does not consider the customer the most important element in the enterprise, is doomed to failure.
Becoming a successful performer is a matter of performing in front of an audience as much as you possibly can – serving your customers until you are doing what Harrison Ford is doing – “waiting on 6 million customers a week.”
It’s all about the audience. Customers make careers – not door keepers.
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“Reprinted from ACTOR’S TOOL KIT, the email course just for subscribers of Show Biz How-To — The Free Actor’s Monthly. Get your own free subscription by going to: showbizhowto.com. Copyright Â© 2006 Bob Fraser Productions All Rights Reserved”