Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Actors: Don't Move to Atlanta (Reverse-Psychology Font)

Atlanta - the Hollywood of the South, the land of hope for countless actors who dream of credits to populate their empty resumes. Hundreds of millions of dollars of production has made its way to our steamy, swampy, tax-free corner of the country and every hungry actor has tilted their nose in our direction. Low-hanging fruit is no uncommon sight in our agricultural homeland.

So it should come as no surprise that every actor who is unhappy with their career now has Atlanta on their radar. Can you feel it, fellow artists? The satisfying feeling of control over your destiny? A chance to DO SOMETHING about all those closed doors, all those minutes ticking by without progress? Because what an actor is best at is imagination, and Georgia's burgeoning film industry has been crowding the trades with Big-Fish/Small-Pond success stories. If an untrained yokel can book a gig on the Walking Dead, imagine what an LA-seasoned actor could do!

So I'd like to offer some perspective from the inside. Before you pack your bags and give up your rent-controlled duplex. Before you toss your Starbucks apron on the floor, break up with your yoga teacher and call your cousin in Macon who said you could crash there anytime:

Only move to Atlanta if you are ready to QUIT ACTING. 

Yup, I said it. And now I get to explain myself. Because on my tax forms, for the last 6 years of living in Atlanta, I have stated the truth - I am a full-time ACTOR. I make a living as an actor, I have bought a 3-bedroom home on a quarter-acre of land, and two months ago I spent Oscar weekend in LA in a fancy dress at a party I would never have been able to get into 6 years prior, laughing and cheering as a movie I was in won an Oscar.

As Glinda at Agatha's Murder Mystery Dinner Theater
Does that sound like the Hollywood of the South fairytale come true? Of course it does, because I wrote it according to old rules of success that I no longer believe in. Because when I left LA 6 years ago, I QUIT ACTING. I was done with the LA model, and it was certainly done with me.

The LA model: Success is defined by the number of credits on your resume. If you have enough, 'they' let you get more. Someday you get enough credits to regularly be offered more credits. Then you get a house with a pool and take care of all your poor friends who haven't gotten enough credits yet. If you are talented enough and work hard enough, this will eventually happen for you. In the meantime, you must make yourself miserable wondering why it hasn't happened yet.

The ATL model: The Film/TV industry doesn't need you. No matter how talented you are, no matter how hard you work, you are not necessary. (Unless you are crew - then you are DESPERATELY needed.) The Atlanta pond has plenty of actor fish. There are plenty of people available to play Vampire #3.  It has way less fish than LA or NY and even so there are way too many fish. Those untrained yokels that got small roles that became medium-sized roles that became a series regular role after 4 seasons? Actually, they've been working here in Atlanta for MANY years, have been on camera countless times prior, as well as on stage or in other industry jobs, and have earned their "credit."

Performed this for one night in November.
When Out of Hand Theater calls, I always say YES
But you can make a living as an actor here. You simply have to quit acting. Stop thinking of what you do as some sort of magical gift you were granted as an infant and start thinking of acting as a trade. Like a plumber, you need to go where the sinks are broken. Because there IS a need for storytellers. And there is a need for your unique story. You simply need to figure out what that story is and who needs to hear it. While keeping in mind that your audience probably isn't the one watching the CW. They've got plenty of mindless content to devour. Think LOCALLY. How can you use what you do to serve others? Is there a story that you can tell, that will help/entertain/unite a smaller audience?

It's an incredible feeling when you go where you're needed. When you finally stop insisting that people who don't need you include you anyway. Find a community that needs your skill-set, and start taking control of your business. My business earns me a comfortable living, but only about 5% of that comes from film and television work. Where does the other money come from? Two dozen other acting-related jobs that I usually don't have to audition for, and that use my skills in a myriad of creative ways that keep me interested and busy. I teach, I do voice-overs, I write and perform live theater pieces, I improvise, I coach, I entertain.

Dad's Garage Theater. Oh yeah.
In Atlanta, I found a world of employment outside of the Hollywood of the South. I turned my focus away from what civilians consider "success," and instead looked to work where I was needed. Because they don't need me on Guardians of the Galaxy 2. But there's a few hundred local Atlantans a week who could use a laugh, or a chance to learn improv, or an imaginary witness to practice their courtroom technique on. And after 20 years of experience and training, I'm just the actor for the job.

I won't get famous. And being at an Oscar party was fun, but the party we're going to throw next year when my new theater opens is going to be EPIC. I can't define my happiness by random uncontrollable acts of fate. I get my fulfillment by being where I'm needed. Like any good plumber.

** Want to read more? Stages of L.A. is my experience of moving to Hollywood **


Dustin said...

Thank you!! Needed this tonight.

Dad said...

Very proud dad with one thought, U GO GIRL!

DAN BUCK said...

Great stuff, Tara. Sharing it with my students!

Unknown said...

Amazing. Thanks for this. Really inspiring.

Unknown said...

Great article, Tara! I am a young actress currently considering relocating to either Atlanta or LA, so this was a big help.

I'd love to reach out to you with a few questions regarding your experience in the Atlanta industry. Please let me know if that would be a possibility!

Thank you for your time,

Unknown said...