• Ben Stranahan

Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting My Hollywood Career

Starting a career in Hollywood comes with a range of complex, often conflicting feelings; excitement, uncertainty, optimism, anxiety. We bounce back and forth between these emotional poles, rarely in equilibrium. With this post, I hope to calm this rapid-fire emotional flux by letting you in on a few things you can expect from the early days of a Hollywood career. These are things that I wish I’d known before starting my own Hollywood journey, whether to temper my dewy-eyed expectations or to give me hope in times of doubt.

A Note on Intention and Expectation

Before we begin, I’d like to note that one’s intentions and expectations in starting a Hollywood career are of more importance than you might realize. You should pursue your craft because you love it, because it makes you happy; not because you expect it to bring you fame or fortune. If you expect success early in your career (or expect consistency later), it can feel like a punch in the gut if that isn’t the case. Be confident in your abilities, but be aware that the distance between expectation and reality is exactly what eats away at so many young Hollywood hopefuls. Here are a few things that you can and should expect:

Ugly Truths

  • inconsistent work

  • “Don’t quit your day job” isn’t always an insult; for many people, it’s the only practical way they can pursue their dreams. It’s always best to have an alternate source of income you can turn to when entertainment work slows down or dries up. If possible, find a job that allows you the freedom to leave for auditions or casting calls every now and again (for example, working as any form of independent contractor affords you more control of your work schedule).

  • small parts

  • If you’re starting with an empty portfolio, expect to be underutilized and underappreciated. Find other ways to make yourself a valuable addition to the crew; you just might end up working with them again.

  • hours spent practicing, waiting, and auditioning for roles you will not receive

  • Make the most of every opportunity to utilize and showcase your talents. Learn from mistakes and failures.

Though it’s not all glitz and glamor and red carpet premieres, it would be silly to suggest that there are no benefits to working in Hollywood. What the work lacks in security it makes up for in valuable experiences.

The Good Stuff

  • meeting interesting people

  • Hollywood is brimming with unique, intelligent, creative people. Go out for drinks, go to public events; meet people and network. Find opportunities to collaborate with other artists and creatives.

  • learning a lot about your industry/craft

  • I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: experience is always the best teacher. You will learn so much in your first few months of pursuing a Hollywood career that you may find your trajectory has totally changed since you set out. Embrace this process of discovery! Find what you love and follow your heart.

  • having fun!

  • Making movies is, after all, the coolest job in the world. Don’t forget to enjoy it! Make memories, make friends, and cherish the good times.

Like any job, there are positives and negatives to the Hollywood path; significant costs and considerable benefits. If you really love acting, if you love making movies, then the risks and difficulties should not deter you. If you approach your new career with thoughtful optimism and a realistic understanding of the struggles you’ll face, you can build a strong, resilient mindset that will carry you through any period of uncertainty.

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