WHAT ABOUT TALENT?
by Bob Fraser
I recently got a letter from a young actor in Kentucky. She told me that an agent in Atlanta had said that she was definitely cut out to be an actor. That she had “the look.”
But that she would need classes and pictures which the “agency” would provide – for a fee. Then, a friend of hers, who has been acting “for years” told her that she wasn’t very talented and that without talent she would waste a lot of time and money chasing after a dream. That talent was the main component of successful actors.
This young actor got two pieces of bad advice.
The first piece of advice was from a scammer (IMHO). The second was mean spirited, uninformed and just plain wrong.
Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary defines ‘talent’ thusly: 1. a gift committed to one’s trust to use and improve; from the parable of the talents, in St. Matthew; hence any natural faculty, ability or power. 2. a special, superior ability in an art, mechanics, learning, etc.
While I agree in theory with Webster – there is a common misconception among some ‘helpful’ agents, teachers, and talent managers that somehow there exists a “natural” actor gene – or in Webster’s definition “a special superior ability.”
Since most human beings act — behaving, emoting, reacting, listening and slipping in and out of attitudes every day (all skills of a professional actor) — why is it that these “special superior abilities” are rarely quantified nor explained?
The idea that some people should just forget it because they aren’t talented or that others should go ahead because they have “the look” — needs to be dispelled by those of us who know the truth about what it takes to have a professional career.
I never address the question of whether someone is cut out for the business of acting because I have learned through long hard experience that I don’t know who is and who isn’t going to succeed. I don’t really believe that anyone can say. There are just too many variables.
As William Goldman put it, “Nobody knows.”
This much I do know, I have seen actors who were clearly ‘talented’ end up teaching second grade and people with little or no discernible ability, go right to the top.
Telling a young (or even not so young) actor that it’s all about “talent” or “looks” is not only not correct, it’s not very kind.
When I first decided I wanted to be an actor, I couldn’t act a lick.And I’m far from a babe magnet. But I’ve made millions in this business.
My point is simply this: Any “reason” to go ahead or give up should be questioned thoroughly – from all angles.
Common sense tells us that if acting were all “natural” ability there would be no need of acting teachers, coaches or “acting tracks” at colleges.
Of course, acting is not an easy business. It is more difficult than most professions because it sometimes takes years to establish a career. But the gap between ‘talented’ and ‘not talented’ is so slim as to be indiscernible — that’s a fact.
As everyone knows, who reads my stuff, I try to make it very plain that this is really hard work. Few achieve stardom. More actors can achieve a career, but it is still a small percentage of those who think they’d like to act. Not all of the successful actors on screen and stage are “natural talents” or good looking. Some are just better at the business part or they manage to stay at it longer than others.
As I point out in my book, there are specific steps you must take to have any hope of success. And the first step is to rid yourself of all the “walls” you build up — or allow others to build – that keep you away from your dreams.
As with all dreams (whether it be sports, music, architecture, medicine, poetry, dance or having the biggest ball of string in the world) it won’t become real without action on your part. If you believe that there are “reasons” you will or won’t succeed, you won’t do what needs to be done.
That’s why — You Must Act!
Don’t accept “reasons” to pursue or give up your dream without a complete “investigation” into whether those “reasons” are real or someone else’s illusion of reality.
The truth is: REALITY IS NOT OPTIONAL.
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