“The single best thing an actor can do, both professionally and personally, is to create their own work.” -Jenna Fischer, from her book The Actor’s Life
“Hard work doesn’t guarantee you success. But without it, you don’t stand a chance.” -Pat Riley
Jenna Fischer recently wrote a phenomenal book about the actor’s life. I highly recommend it. Besides being a compelling read, it’s a no nonsense, super granular, insider’s view of the business and the craft. Of what it takes. It’s one thing to want to be a “working actor.” It’s another thing entirely when you get a first hand, up close version of the lifestyle. Almost like an apprenticeship. Once you fully know and understand the career, then you can make an informed decision if the path is right for you.
Here are three reasons to read the book:
(1) PROCESS. Jenna didn’t have any industry connections. She was not annointed. She was just a girl from the Midwest who deeply loved performing and had a burning desire to do it for a career. She did the work. Day in, day out. Headshots, resumes, reels, industry events, rigorous training, cycling through survival jobs, improv, plays, meeting and signing with tons of agents and managers until she found the right team, auditioning, getting coaching, making her own art, etc…It was an exhaustive amount of work that she did for years. Often without any remuneration. Without any tangible progress or feedback to let her know she was on the right path. She just kept doing the work. One part that especially resonated…her sitting at her dining table every week, combing through Backstage, mailing out headshots and cover letters to all the various jobs she circled. Again, she did this consistently for years.
Yet even with all the hard work, she acknowledges that luck played a huge role in her success. This is not a “how to” book. Rather, it’s a generous sharing of “here’s what I did” information to guide and help you on your way.
(2) SPECIFICITY. She constantly asked herself the question “what exactly do you want?” and eventually, she figured out it…to be in an ensemble television comedy. When the opportunity to audition for “The Office” came, she was more than ready. Everything led her to this point. Her training, her experience and her specificity. (Ironically, she relied on her survival job as an administrative assistant to inform the character of “Pam.”)
(3) ACKNOWLEDGING HER WEAKNESSES AND TURNING THEM INTO STRENGTHS. She was honest with herself about not being a great auditioner. But rather than capitulate and accept it, she worked at it. Eventually finding a teacher to help her, to push her, to get her over the hump…Robert D’Avanzo, who she credits for much of her success. (NOTE: I study with Robert for on-camera auditions and couldn’t agree more. He’s tremendous. Seek him out.)
Whether new or old to the business, there is something for you in this book. If nothing else it’s an inspiring story of someone who dared to dream, who did the work, who persisted through long odds, and eventually found success.
Tip of the cap to you Jenna. Thanks for writing and sharing your journey.