So, you want to be an actor?

Photo by Luis Quintero

The Greater Cleveland Film Commission kicked off Career in Films Week this first week of May to highlight potential career paths in the film and media production industry.  This celebration of jobs and skills in the sector is our way of drawing attention to the variety of positions available and how your skills may translate into a career in film and TV production.  Most of the focus is on the talent behind the camera.  Many of you might be thinking – “But I want to be in front of the camera!”  Well, there is certainly nothing wrong with that, and as a working SAG-AFTRA actor myself, I offer you encouragement.  But in case you haven’t heard or found out on your own already, being an actor is perhaps the toughest path into the film and television industry.

Imagine a job where you are told no at least 95% of the time.  If you are indeed selected, you are then told what to do, when and how to do it over and over again on set. Unless you are the star or featured character of a production, you will be forced to play the game of “hurry up and wait” for hours without getting makeup on your wardrobe that you are expected to keep looking brand new in between takes that are broken up into brief scenes.  And to top it all off, you may not get to see yourself on screen from your minutes in front of the camera for months.  Change your mind yet?  I hope you haven’t because, despite all that, it is fascinating work which allows you to lose yourself and tap into your creative being in ways you never thought possible. 

While I am not a full-time actor, it is a passion I have followed for years because it is fun!   It has helped to make me the professional I am today, and yes, I have made a little money along the way.  I admit that getting in front of a camera or microphone is not a natural act for most of us.  It is well known that speaking in front of a group of people absolutely terrifies most people.  Imagine being the center of attention on a set with the pressure of learning your lines or dialogue, and literally being responsible for the success or failure of the finished product.  

Lowell Perry Jr., SAG-AFTRA actor and GCFC Chief Diversity Officer, VP Corporate & Community Engagement

On an industrial film, of which I have been a spokesperson for dozens, everyone else on set is trying to make sure you look and do your best in a timely fashion.  Time is money after all.  But folks, it is an absolute blast and a feeling of accomplishment when you nail a difficult, but important scene or part of a production!   Especially in one take.  Even then, they will still do the scene again.  For “safety.”  LOL. 

I have also been fortunate to over the years have had small day player roles with such luminary talent as Denzel Washington, Jack Nicholson, Matthew McConaughey, Connie Britton, and Kate Beckinsale, as well as appear in numerous commercials.  All productions shot in markets like Cleveland, Nashville, Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, and New Orleans.  That is my point.  You don’t have to go to New York or LA to act.  There is plenty of opportunity here in the Midwest, especially if you also dig the stage.  Did you know that Cleveland has a great stage scene?  

If you are serious about wanting to get into acting, the first thing you must do is not take yourself too seriously.  You should be willing to “act a fool” as the old folks used to say.  When you go on an audition, know your lines and be the character you are trying to play.  Take chances.  Most often, the writer and director have a certain look in mind, so while your read is important, don’t feel beat up if you don’t get the part; you just may not have looked it or fit the overall look of the other characters in the spot if it is a commercial.

Do your research by reaching out to local casting and talent agencies that offer workshops, and casting opportunities.  In any event, nothing beats a failure but a try.  So go for it, or rather, “break a leg” as the old stage saying goes.

Lowell Perry Jr.