People who most inspire me. All of them aren’t afraid of hard work. They weren’t born on third base; they hustled their asses off to get there on a blooper down the right field line. They know what it means to do The Work.
These days, the barriers are lower than ever for talent to get noticed. Just ask Rachel Zegler, who used YouTube and Twitter to get on Spielberg’s radar for WEST SIDE STORY. Look at Teddy Swims, a YouTube singer with 1.38 million followers who looks like a blend of Action Bronson and Kid Rock and until recently worked at Chili’s. He’s a blue collar Georgia boy, she’s an ordinary girl from New Jersey. Neither of them had stage parents, they didn’t go through the Disney machine, but they both have extraordinary talent and have been constantly pushing the right buttons to showcase it online and get noticed. The tools are at everyone’s fingertips. I’ve always felt talent rises to the top; I believe that even more wholeheartedly today.
Unless you want to be a flash in the pan, the road to creativity and entertainment success is dark and lonely. You have to showcase what you can do, and that takes time, practice, and true effort to broadcast your voice to the masses — whatever shape it takes. Money is an aphrodisiac, I know, which is why it’s so hard for many who found early success to do the work. But the proof is in the pudding: you don’t have to be born beautiful to succeed in Hollywood; you can create desire with your own creativity. Lin-Manuel Miranda gets mocked now for his early demos for Hamilton, but he created In The Heights out of practically nothing so his creativity got him something.
Once upon a time, it was what I could do for you. Today, it’s what can we do together? Sure, as a manager, I still suggest to my clients what they should do, but they’re more tied into the business than ever. They read the trades, they have connections. They know what’s going on, they know what they’re passionate about, and they have opinions on their own careers, as they should. My favorite people to work with are those who already know what they want, they just need me to help put it together. They’re the gun, I’m the bullet.
How do you point the gun? How do you fire?
By doing the things I’m happy to say many of my clients already do. Read the trades, figuring out your passions and the artists you love, going to classes, try things that make you uncomfortable, force yourself to spend time with people you might not otherwise. Develop self-awareness and humility.
It’s not easy to garner sustained success these days when there’s always a new thing. Most talented people have been so hyper-focused on one thing, the rest of their skills suffer. Think of great quarterbacks in the NFL: maybe four out of 50 can actually speak in complete sentences because they’ve been so insane about throwing a ball since they were four years old.
Likewise, many actors have talent, but they lack the business acumen, the personal awareness, and the work ethic to truly make it. They can’t combine the craft with the savvy. This day and age, you have to adapt, learn, and change or you’re going to end up treading water, or worse.
This rings true in every business, doesn’t it? How can an agent thrive if she doesn’t know her clients’ kids names? If she doesn’t make connections with new, unique voices? If she doesn’t spend time in places she normally wouldn’t? How can an entrepreneur get the most out of his employees if he doesn’t invest in getting to know who they are, when they do their best work, and what they need to succeed?
Creating sustained success is about doing the work. But it’s also about doing the right work. Invest in your craft, yes, but invest in the world around you. Learn how to develop multiple skills, learn how to be comfortable being uncomfortable, learn how to talk to anyone. Learn what you like, what you want, and what you need. You’d be shocked how many people can’t even do that.
Right now, we live in a more digital, self-isolated world than ever. It takes work to break from that isolation. It takes work to build connections. It takes work to discover what you truly want, and it takes work to be recognized the ways you want to be recognized. I can break down some of the walls, but you have to know where to pull the trigger.