How to know the most important asset an actor can have
Providing an answer to this question, I feel it might parallel John Rockefeller’s answer to the secret of his success: get up early, work late and strike oil. In other words, there is a lot an actor can do and many assets one can have to try and generate results, but unless you ‘strike’ the right part (which actually usually entails being in the right place at the right time, or ‘being lucky’ as we know it), work still may not happen.
Despite this, I believe the asset any actor can find in themselves to give them the best chance of success is one that you’ve probably heard before but should from time to time be reiterated to remind us all to keep going. And that asset is persistence.
Persistence will keep you going after that unsuccessful audition to make you accept nothing less than your best work for the next one. It will keep you coming up with new ways of getting access to castings, it will keep you learning and perfecting new skills, techniques and accents, it will keep you writing letters and emails to casting directors and agents who you want to work with, and it will get you ready and prepared to give you the confidence to say ‘I know what I’m doing’ when you finally stand on that film set, look Daniel Day-Lewis in the eye, and a voice ten feet to the left of you quietly says ‘action.’
In short, if you don’t foresee any longevity in your career (and you don’t make it big straight away), then there is reason to consider throwing in the towel right now as without that constant application of hard work, an actor is hugely limiting the chances of themselves ever getting performance work.
When career success does come a-knocking, that persistent mindset you have developed during this time of hard work and striving (and probably strife) will still be with you when opportunities do become freely available, so you will the be able to develop, choose, and nurture your work in a more intelligent and thorough way, approached through the prism of your years of experience, learning and hard work you gained through working hard at being successful.
At the time of writing (Jan 2014) there is an article on Esquire Magazine’s website on George Clooney. Upon reading, one of the biggest impressions you get about him is that this is man of his own making; the hard work gigging guest role after guest role on TV shows in his twenties; leading to the success of ER in his thirties; leading to his decision not to rest on his laurels and then go for film roles on the back of that show, to exploiting his position in the business to now write, direct and produce films himself; sometimes for himself, sometimes for his friends and peers, but always to his professional benefit. This is a person who has created opportunities as well as seen opportunities, and then taken them with both arms wide open, to his vast benefit. What is the one trait he would appear to have that might trigger this work ethic, diversity and longevity? No prizes for guessing.