• Rashid Salleh

10 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW SHOULD YOU DECIDE TO BECOME AN ACTOR

I have been acting for almost 3 decades; well, almost 40 years if you include my first stint in school at the age of 12 years. So, I can safely say that I’ve gone through varying degrees of situations in the TV & film industry that has taught me a thing or two about surviving in a competitive industry, which has become even more so with the presence of social media.


I have performed in mostly comedies & romantic comedies parts in my acting career, but I have also been casted in other roles when given the chance. I won an acting award in college many moons ago (a story for another day) but my biggest achievement to date was being nominated as Supporting Actor in the film Waris Jari Hantu at the 2007 Malaysian Film Festival Awards. It was for the role of Ah Meng, of which I was casted to play a Chinese transvestite; a challenging role, to say the least.


I know there are many aspects of the acting world that you need to know but this list will, hopefully, kickstart you into being prepared before taking on the role of a thespian.


These 10 things are based on my own work experience and are by no means like anyone else or a handbook for budding actors, BUT this is the advice I would have given myself if I were to start thinking about a career as an actor.


So, are you ready?


1. YOU WILL GET REJECTED. A LOT.

Like any other job, you will get rejected but in this line of work, you will be rejected a lot more especially since there are so many auditions and casting calls to go to. It is part and parcel of the job. It’s nothing personal. You may not be the right person for the role and the casting director may have chosen someone who you may feel is less talented than you. But that person will get the part for whatever reason that only they would know.

So, keep going and don’t stop trying. Rejections are part of the process. Why? Which leads us to…


2. GO TO AUDITIONS & CASTING CALLS

Yes, you’ll get rejected but the main point of it all is that you attend. Not everyone will get a call to audition, and you will have to find out if there are auditions or casting. The reason being is that the more auditions you attend, the better chance you will get more auditions. I know this sounds weird but the more you turn up, your database will be collected and shared within the industry.


Attending auditions & casting calls are so important for aspiring actors.


It is part and parcel of how you promote yourself and it’s free. And the more people in the industry know you, the better chance of getting the role, which also mean that the next time they will call you instead of you finding an audition. See how that works?


I know some will say that nowadays social media is a great way for auditioning yourself, but not everyone will get viral and 90% of you will have to go through that long route. Sometimes, it’s better that way because the experience will hold you in good stead in the future.


Saying that, I once did a casting call for a role for a TV show that I directed and invited a few actors to audition. I had one actor reject me because that person “doesn’t do auditions”, without any explanation. The funny thing was, that person had just kickstarted their career, (became viral in one performance) and suffice to say, I will not encourage anyone else to work with that person again nor recommend other actors to do that either.


When you have reached the mecca of acting, you will still be required to attend auditions (even when the role has been written for you) but it becomes a less painful process. But you’ll still get rejected once in while!


And as much as that happened, the next thing is also important…


3. LEARN TO BE THICK SKINNED

As I mentioned, rejection is part of the process. But how sometimes you are rejected, can be quite harsh.


When you’re just starting off, you will get all sorts of comments from everyone, including your friends and family. These days, in the age of social media, opinions are like buttocks (being diplomatic); everyone has one.


The most important thing is to focus on yourself. It sound cliché but it has kept me from falling by the wayside at times and remind me that I am my own product so I must believe in myself. You are your product so believe in yourself.


And that’s why you…


4. DON’T LET CRITICISM BRING YOU DOWN

This may sound like the earlier advice, but it is more about your mental strength moving forward. Acting is subjective and people will always be very critical of your performance.


There will be moments when even your closest friends and family will be critical of your work or even your profession. How many times have I been told, “Why don’t you get a real job?”. It’s not their fault. Sometimes, it is their way of wanting the best for you. Or at least, that’s how you should see it.


However, if you truly feel that you have a future in this industry, take in all the criticism and learn from it. Reach out to your fellow actors because they may have gone through the same situation in the past and can give you plenty of advice. You are never alone. You will learn from it. Trust the process.


I’ve also noted that comedians get the most criticism. Why? Because it is probably the hardest genre to perform because procuring laughter from an audience requires plenty of wit and frankly, you can’t fake being funny. But it seems that with the world now, comedy has taken more of a bashing because it is easier to do so towards comedians because, “we’re not serious” people.


Some of my comedian friends are probably the most intelligent and quick-witted human beings so the criticism they face sometimes, is truly vile and undeserving.


But they are one of the most resilient people on this earth, in my opinion.


So, what’s next?


5. STAY GROUNDED

This is another important aspect of being an actor, in my eyes.


What I mean by staying grounded is being humble.


I have observed & witnessed many actors who have taken their celebrity status a tad too far and become such ugly monsters. Not only does it look unsightly to your fellow actors, but it also becomes cannon fodder for the media and press. Some may say that “any publicity is good publicity” but that is one sentence that I shall refrain from commenting on.


My mother has always told me to keep my feet on the ground. It is an advice that I hold on 'till today.


As much as you will love the publicity, attention and accolades that may come in your future acting career, it is more of an achievement when you are also thought of as a good human being.


So on to the ‘technical’ part…


6. LEARN YOUR CRAFT!

The reason why you wanted to be an actor, right?


You can’t get round this if you want to be taken as a serious actor.


I recommend that actors go through auditioning for theatre roles if you can’t afford or are unable to attend acting school.


It is the most satisfying experience because theatre acting teaches you to perform in front of a live audience.


When I am asked why I take on theatre roles when the money is not as good, I would reply by saying that I get paid to train instead. How many jobs can you say that you will be paid to get your lessons taught by experts in the field. It’s just a matter of changing the mindset.


There is a subtle difference with acting in theatre, television, and film but the foundations are important so find a theatre near you and learn your craft!


Which leads us to a crucial element…


7. MEMORISE YOUR LINES!

I know some will say that this is obvious, but I can safely say that the ones who usually memorise their lines are the ones who have had theatre experience.


Why? Because the pressure of performing in front of a live audience forces us to know our lines and as importantly, stay in character of the roles that we play on stage.


I have seen plenty of examples of actors not knowing their lines when performing in television & film due to the start-stop nature of filming. And that will affect the consistency of their performance or character that they have taken on.


It may not be obvious when you’re shooting but it can cause delays in shooting and sometimes, your inconsistent performances are laid bare on screen.


Some actors may not care but I do know most of the theatre trained actors will never let their training go to waste.


So, memorise your lines!!


8. WATCH LOTS OF SHOWS & FILMS

This is pretty much standard with most actors.


Watch anything and everything. Watch actors and how they perform. Watch all the good and bad shows. The bad films. Trust me, you will learn something.



I, myself, have been guilty of not watching shows sometimes because was covering sports instead…


However, there’s so much out there so don’t stop watching.


Which leads me to….




9. TRY EVERYTHING

When you’re starting off, you may feel that you have an idea of what type of actor you want to be.


If you are casted in a role that you think doesn’t suit you, just try it. You just never know.


At times, we find something that is totally unexpected. I have friends who felt they failed as actors and found their calling in voice acting instead. Some found their calling in directing and as directors, they had experience of being in front of the camera, which was an advantage at times too, especially when dealing with talents.


There are so many instances where you will stumble into a role that you thought you could never do and found that you were good at it. But if you don’t try it, you would never have known, right?


I was constantly curious to try everything in the industry, so I dabbled to see whether I was interested or even good at it. And because of my curiosity, amongst other traits, I managed to experience many aspects of the TV, media and film industry.

So, if you don’t try, you’ll never know.


And finally…


10. FIND YOUR NICHE

When you have tried everything you can, you will find or even settle into a role or genre that is suited for you. Sometimes, that is all you need to do to be successful.


There are few actors who can play multiple roles and these amazing human beings are the most talented of them all. That is a fact.


But for most actors, they will find roles and shows that they will be most known for and will be type casted into that niche. But it doesn’t mean that they are unhappy. They are doing what they love to do and get paid for it too!


You will find it. You must try everything first. Even the ones that may make you feel slightly silly.


And when you find your niche, you will have accomplished a big part of your acting ambitions.


And one day, you may even want to direct or produce but that is a lesson for another time.

FINALLY...


Acting. It is never a lonely road. The journey is a wonderful experience.


Remember this.


Not everyone has the steel to do what you do because by deciding to become an actor, you have chosen the freedom to be your own person and not be bound by the confinements of a regular job.


And don’t ever regret not trying.

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