What does it take to “make it” as an actor you ask? What a great question. Well, perhaps more than anything it takes commitment. How much commitment, you say? What another fantastic question!
That’s right. It takes 10 years to “make it.” Malcolm Gladwell’s discusses this in his new book Outliers, coining it the “10,000 hour rule,” which basically states that it takes 10,000 hours–roughly 10 years of dedicated time–to reach the top of one’s field. Look, we’re just talking about practice here. I’m not quite sure why so many actors think they’re just going to “get discovered” or randomly end up a star. It just doesn’t happen that way. I know, I know, you have some story about an actress who was walking down the street to her pilates class and some agent spots her and now she has her own series. 2 things. First, that agent was probably just trying to get in her pants (creepo). And second, this is the exception not the rule. See for yourself. I challenge you to start researching the careers of the actors you aspire to be like, who have “made it” in your eyes. Check out your favorite stars (even stars in their early 20s!) on imdb and see the length of time from their first credit, to the first credit you recognize. In general, I bet it’s about 10 years.
This really shouldn’t be discouraging for any of you, because it means that with enough time and dedication, anyone (almost) can make it. This means that you have control. Yes, there is certainly “luck” and chance involved in this business, but as Samuel Goldwyn so correctly stated, “the harder I work, the luckier I get.”
Many people wonder why there are so many people trying to be actors and actresses, and I think it has much to do with the extremely low (zero) barriers to entry. Any homeless guy with an iPhone (he won it, ok?) can take a picture of themselves and put it up on LA Casting and call themselves an actor. Think about it, you can’t do this in any other field. You don’t see a bunch of random people wandering around the city of Boston saying “I think I’m just gonna try the doctor thing for a year and if I’m not a neurosurgeon by then, well golly gee I guess it wasn’t meant to be.” No, these people get weeded out in Organic Chemistry like I did (true story), and the dedicated ones spend at least 10 years in med school, residency, etc. on route to becoming a doctor. This doesn’t happen in our field. There really isn’t a weeding out process, except for not getting cast I suppose.
So get excited and strap in for the ride. It’s going to be a long one…and what could be better than that?