Bitterness leads to paralysis, which is career death.

Steve Braun

We now arrive at the most sensitive of topics and a real scourge in our industry. No amount of fame or money can help here. A good director friend of mine always says that your industry longevity is decided by your attitude about the industry. For the record, I totally agree with him. The reason why your attitude is irrevocably tied to your longevity is that it colours your attitude about the work. We’ve said several times previously that a love of the work is everything. But the industry is something that you will have to work within for your entire creative career. Therefore, if you can create ways of focussing and loving the work for its own sake, you will be able to make it during your lowest ebb.

To fall out of love with the work is to head down a tunnel of ever-darkening bitterness and anger within which there is a very real point of no return. And that is one of the true tragedies of this industry: losing our best storytellers because they have come to hate the work.

We highly recommend reading Markus Flanagan’s incredible book ‘One Less Bitter Actor‘ (see REFERENCES AND RESOURCES). If there was one book on industry survival that you should read, this would be it – hands down. Go ahead and order it this second! Then whilst you’re refreshing the order tracking page in feverish anticipation, have a read through these excellent tactics with which you can pre-empt, acknowledge and, hopefully, curb the effects of these terrifyingly destructive mindsets. 

LONG HAUL LIFE SAVERS:

  • Don’t confuse arrogance with self-confidence.

You have to believe that there is something worthwhile inside yourself.

It has a flow-on effect.

Tony Gould AM

Tall Poppy Syndrome remains strong in the Australian industry and self-confidence is often slammed as unchecked arrogance. What we’re commending here is NOT arrogance but rather the deeply-held confidence that you have something worthy to offer. This is entirely compatible and, indeed, critical across an actor’s career. Indeed, it was probably this exact same same self-confidence which pushed you down this career path in the first place. It is a voice filled with hope, self-belief and a small (but healthy) dose of arrogance that permits you to believe that “I have something to offer the world”. You will need that warm, supportive voice to survive the long haul. However, we do hope that you’re not one of those actors where that ratio is heavily skewed to the far right. A high level of arrogance is normally compensating for some form of deep-seated insecurity and is nothing more than a defence mechanism. A small dose of arrogance remains part of the equation, but cannot replace or overpower everything else. If it does, you’re no longer an actor with healthy self-confidence. You’re just a wanker.

  •  Nobody is doing it easy in this business. Give praise when it’s due.

Always pass on genuine compliments to people. You never know how far they go. 

  • Never compare your career to someone else’s.

Making constant comparisons is a sure-fire way to sink your hopes. Everyone is picking out their own path in this industry and trust us when we say that there is more than one way to scale the mountain. Just because things ‘haven’t happened’ yet does not mean that you’re way back at the bottom of the trail. Chances are that you’re on a scraggy bit of cliff, where the going is the slowest and most dangerous.

Bitterness and blame will only make the shit that happens shittier.

Harriet Walter

Shit happens, and it happens because you’re in The Biz- one of the most unfair industries on the entire planet. It’s a very natural reaction to withdraw into blaming and outright cynicism when you put your soul out again and again only to have it stomped on and returned even more pancaked and boot-trodden than before. But dolling out blame and bitching mercilessly about your least favourite people isn’t going to fix anything. Once again we draw the line between healthy venting to trusted industry mentors/mates vs. all out bitchfests. The latter is just wallowing in a mire of negativity and will only leave you feeling shittier.

  • How on earth do I remain genuinely hopeful?

A red flag on the downward path to full-blown depression is the progressive loss of any hope. Lisa Mulcahy writes about my favourite way of rejuvenating it:

Stay absolutely connected to the feeling of loving to pretend, of being able to take yourself back mentally to a place where you enjoyed conjuring up characters in the past. Then you can easily revisit that place in your memory to rejuvenate yourself when your career gets tough and remind yourself of why you loved acting in the first place.

Lisa Mulcahy
  • “How do I remind myself of what I liked about acting? I’ve been through so much rejection that I’m finding it really difficult to think of anything.”

In the case of Yours Truly (Long Haul Guy), he had this tactic gifted to him quite by accident. Following my own graduation from drama school, my family presented me with a really lovely Christmas gift. They made, from scratch, a framed wooden plaque on which they had arranged a collage of all the production photographs of roles I’d played across my 3 years of training. And on top of that they managed to find an AGFA XTC 320 16mm film canister and adhere it to the bottom! Goodness knows where they found the damn thing, but the effect this little art piece had was stunning.

Now, sure, it was a thoughtful and memorable Christmas present. But it continues to serve a profound role in my life.  It remains a powerful reminder of an incredibly joyful part of my life. It still stands in my room as a daily visual reminder of why I do what I do. Each photograph is living sense-memory. A fragment of a particular moment that I can directly connect to specific smells, physical sensations, emotions, a character’s lines and the relationships I had with the actors opposite me. These simple photos transport me to a time where I was a storyteller and relishing the honour and joy of that role.

Therefore, I encourage anyone reading these words to create for themselves their own version of this collage. Keep the content separate from your standard Instagram fare. Just include your most favourite fragments from times when you can clearly see yourself relishing the act of ‘pretending’. It can extend from your very first time on stage right through to where you are now.

If you can’t get your hands on enough photos to make a collage, try this alternative technique. Write down 5 specific moments in your life where you accomplished something incredible. Make multiple copies of this list and leave them in your wallet, car, files, etc… practically anywhere you can access them quickly if you’re feeling low or unsure of yourself. Read them when you need to and remind yourself of these amazing achievements. It’s not just nostalgia. It’s bolstering your psychological health.

  • Count the people who have seen your work.

Uh, say what now? Trust us, just try it and see. Mentally picture every theatre-goer, TV viewer or cinema member on their couch, blow-up rubber ducky or sponsored seat. Then make a rough estimate of how many people saw you do your thing. Never forget about the power of storytelling. Story telling changes the world. You have been in a place that harnessed that power and unleashed it. Via the power of pretending, you will have actually changed or challenged the lives of all those audience members. Pretty cool, huh?