(Guest blog post by Amy Tallmadge, Marston Studios, Atlanta, GA)
In my immediate family, I am the only actor. Though other members of my family have just as much creativity (if not more) and are as appreciative of the arts as I am, none of them have chosen an artistic career path. My family is as supportive as they can be, though they may not always understand why I do what I do. Like most people, they have been taught that making money is the measure of a career. I don’t want to insult or criticize them for that belief – after all, no matter how you slice it, we need money, at least, if you are a part of modern society. What this means is when I experience a “win” in my career, something that may not involve a paycheck, they sometimes have difficulty understanding the importance. I had to ban my father from asking me “Are you getting paid for this?” – though he meant well, it was depressing to tell him, time and again, “no,” even though the opportunity I was excited about may be a really good one, just not a paying gig.
Over on Marston Studios’ blog, this issue is tied to one we discussed there in an article called, “Handling Questions from Non-Actors.” We talked about not allowing people’s well-meaning, but ultimately negative questions bring you down. Here, we’re going to go one step further than that – when you have good news regarding your career to share with someone you care about in your life, but you’re pretty sure their reaction is going to diminish your happiness, you can prevent that. You can tell them exactly how you want them to feel for you.
When you talk to your parents/significant other/best friend and you want to tell them about that audition you FINALLY got for that casting director you’ve been trying to get a meeting with, you might be worried that he/she may simply respond with, “Well, that’s nice, but isn’t this your fifth audition this year? What happened with all of those other auditions?” How do you handle that?
What if, before you even tell them your news, you say something like “I have something amazing to tell you! I’m so excited about it and I need you to be excited with me!” When you then bubble over about your good fortune, most anyone who cares about you will probably respond with “I am so excited for you!” You can tell people exactly how you want them to feel for you.
It may seem manipulative at first, but if it’s a person who is important to you, and they generally wish you well, they probably want to be happy for you. They just might not always know the best way to express that, or they may be worried about you and think that they need to be your “voice of reason” – after all, actors and artists get a bit of a bad wrap for being whimsical and irrational.
I have tried this tactic with my parents and it has changed things for the better when I have good news to share with them. Both of them now typically respond with something like, “if you’re excited, then we’re excited!” If someone you care for can’t seem to muster up positivity when you have something great to share with him/her, you may want to consider opening your social circle to include people who find your enthusiasm contagious. Not meaning that you have to cast away old friends and family, just look around and find those who lift you up – that’s a whole other blog post, though!
Since actors come from all kinds of families and backgrounds – some artistic, some not – it might be difficult for those who love you to understand why you have chosen to do what you do. Actors’ careers can look (and often be) uncertain to those who aren’t familiar with the industry.
Your close family and friends may be concerned when your victories are not in line with the typical benchmarks many people in our society associate with success. However, you can control the message by saying how it should be received even before you deliver it. Telling the people in your life how you want them to feel for you will help them be fully supportive of your career. And, eventually, you’ll be able to tell your dad that, yes, your next gig is going to be a paying one.
Amy Tallmadge is an actress for tv, film, voiceover, and theatre. She is also the Marketing Director for Marston Studios. Founded by John Paul Marston, Marston Studios offers classes teaching On Camera Audition Technique, Strasberg Method Acting, Scene and Monologue Study, Improv and more. To learn more, visit marstonstudios.com.