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Making the Sacrifice for Showbiz

Your dreams are attainable, you just have to be willing to do whatever is necessary to achieve them. But what exactly is necessary? You must first know who you are. Let me identify “you” even though we have never met. What I know is there’s no one in the world like you.

No one sounds like you, no one looks like you, no one has your creativity, no one has your imagination, and no one has your background and history. In other words, no one has your uniqueness. To paraphrase the renowned choreographer Martha Graham—“There is only one of you in all time and if you don’t express your uniqueness you have cheated the world of the specialness that is you.” Learn to know that person and to appreciate that person. Acting is a craft. It is not something you just do. I don’t care how good you were in your high school production of Romeo and Juliet, when you’re playing in the arena of the professionals you need to know your craft. Sure there are those who through notoriety or infamy, are thrown into the spotlight by people eager to make a fast buck, but these people are not actors. Especially actors who plan to have any longevity in their chosen profession. Learn your craft.

What is the craft of acting? It is a set of tools that when combined and utilized in concert, allow the actor to live the life of a character moment by moment, as it is happening, free of premeditation and manipulation. Stephen Sondheim, the famous lyrist/composer says, “Your art is craft.”

Do whatever is necessary to take classes in your chosen career - acting, singing, dancing et al. Dennis Hopper cleaned toilets to pay for acting classes at the La Jolla Playhouse. Sixteen year old Barbara Streisand also cleaned toilets at her acting school. Danny Glover was literally cleaning a theatre’s toilet when he was informed he had landed his first big Hollywood film.

I chose three actors who have been working for the last 50 years to illustrate my point because in order to have longevity in this business you must have exceptional work ethics.

We’ve learned so far that we must know and respect ourselves and to learn and devote ourselves to our crafts. What else is needed to break into show business?

Learn how to, “go to work.” Bob Fosse, the great choreographer whose influence is still felt in every form of dance including street and hip-hop, said, “My career is putting one foot in front of the other. While you hear about others getting brilliant ideas, I simply say, I have to go to work.”

There is nothing wrong with brilliant ideas, the more you have the better. Just don’t wait around until they come. To quote Jack Nicholson, “Be ready!” Here’s a personal motto for all of you. “Be ready” and “Go to work.”

There it is—that scary word. How can I commit to a career? What if I don’t have the talent? How do I know I’m not wasting my time? There are so many others out there who want the same thing. If these thoughts are louder than your dreams find another profession. If these thoughts are fleeting then know everyone has had them from time to time. It is important you don’t give them power by dwelling on them. There is a charming story that illustrates what commitment should be. A town in Texas was suffering a severe drought. Everyday the minister would pray for rain. One day he said to the townsfolk, “I think we need more of a community effort. Let’s all go to the top of the hill and there we will pray in unison for rain.” Only one little girl brought an umbrella.


Showbiz backstage


Why are you going into Show Business?
When I was a young acting student a famous producer asked my class why we wanted to become actors. I remember thinking how can I articulate something that seemed to come from my heart and soul. How could I avoid sounding pretentious?

Was it possible this producer was asking the right question the wrong way? Perhaps he could have asked the following two questions? “What do I intend to bring to show business?” “What do I expect show business to give me in return?”

Perhaps I would have answered theses question this way. What do I intend to bring to show-business?

1. My love of craft.
2. My talent.
3. A well-exercised instrument.
4. A healthy body.
5. My devotion to excellence.
6. Persistence.
7. A dedicated work ethic.
8. A sense of humor.
9. Fearlessness.
10. The ability to continually grow.
11. An appreciation of all the talent around me.

What do I expect show business to give me in return?

1. A place to express my talent.
2. A substantial living.
3. An environment in which to grow.
4. The opportunity to explore every area of my talent.
5. Opportunities to work with talent of like mind.
6. The rewards that equal my contributions.
How would you answer these questions?

Acting Classes
It takes a minimum of two years in the best acting schools to learn the craft of acting. That is two-well focused years. You can learn about the craft of acting by reading any one of the great acting books. But, just like reading books about the craft of piano or dancing they won’t give you the ability to perform. You can’t learn acting just by reading about it.

Once you’ve finished studying the craft it is foolish to think that you don’t need classes anymore. After a lecture I gave at the American Film Institute in Hollywood, several actors solicited my advice on what they needed to do to get work I asked what classes they were attending. Not one of them was in a class. I wasn’t surprised they weren’t working.

Where is the best place to study? There isn’t room in this article to go into detail regarding with whom to study. For all the arts, the best places to study are New York and Los Angeles. That doesn’t mean there aren’t great teachers elsewhere. I suggest you research. See where others have studied. Read books on your craft. Then when you interview an acting teacher you ask them questions based on what you’ve learned in your research. If they don’t answer your questions to your satisfaction, don’t study there.


Adam Hill began his theatrical career with the renowned APA Repertory Theatre in New York. Adam acted and/or directed in New York, Los Angeles and throughout the country. Adam relocated to Los Angeles where he was Artistic Director of the Actors Alley Theatre Company. In 1980 he opened the successful Adam Hill Actors Studio and Theatre. While in Los Angeles he directed for television and stage. Adam has taught some of the bright stars of the theatre and film world including Heather Locklear, Laura Dern, Brad Garrett and Doug Savant. He successfully developed the Musical Theater degree program at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania. Adam is the author of “Beyond the Moon” an acting manual, and “You Got the Job!”, a guide to getting work in the Industry.


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