Recently I was asked by a friend to impart some words of advice and inspiration to a thirteen year old girl (let's call her "Melody") who wanted to become an actress in the movies. By all accounts the young lady in question is a hard worker and seriously committed to this goal, not just blowing a lot of hot air. So I wanted my advice to actually be, you know, useful.
This presented a problem.
Advice is a tricky thing to give to someone. It is difficult to be encouraging without being trite. It is difficult to be realistic about what obstacles lie ahead without being discouraging. And when you are trying to give advice about something as muddy and complex as filmmaking there are just too many factors to address to be anything except encouraging or realistic. Some of the best and most useful advice that I have ever read for aspiring filmmakers comes from the book "Letters To Young Filmmakers" by Howard Suber. So in a nod to this venerable work I decided to write some thoughts down in a letter.
So without further ado, here is what I settled on, which I think is good advice for any aspiring young actor who is interested in working in film:
I was trying to think of what advice I could give you that you would find useful and not too trite. I am not an actor myself because I know that acting is Hard Work. When it is doen well it looks so easy that people will make fun of actors for not doing "real" work, but don't be fooled! Actors must be very dedicated and willing to put lots of thought and practice into their craft. From what I hear you should have no trouble with this at all.
I suppose that the best advice that I can give you is to tell you that many people believe that the only way to be successful in the movies is to be aggressive and to undercut your competition in order to get ahead. If anyone tells you that this is the only way to be successful you must not believe them. There is no lasting success that can come from treating others poorly. This is not to say that others will not try to bring you down, but if you believe that you are a star- or that you will be one someday- then there is nothing they can do to stop you.
May you have all the good luck in the world, and I look forward to the day when our paths will cross.