The Business of Show Business: An Actor’s Life

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I thought I might share with you my recap of when I first made the decision to become an actor...

So..You Want To Be An Actor?

I cannot emphasize enough the “business of show business.” 


Before many of us settle into our creative pursuits, we are hooked by the lights, camera, action of Hollywood.

I know I was.

It’s a signal of hope!

Then reality hits and you realize there’s work to be done to get yourself in front of decisionmakers.

And then, it’s all about the “work.”

For example, first starting out, it’s very important to find an acting teacher.

And then that teacher becomes a little more than that for you. They’re going to work with you and by that, I mean all of you.

This will be someone that is going to work with your head, heart and soul.

The totality of your instrument.

So make sure that you realize that before you sign up with someone, you will do plenty of research to evaluate instructors.

Words of wisdom: Just  because somebody is considered a good teacher doesn’t mean that they’re going to be a good teacher for you.

That’s a really, really important distinction.

You must be auditing classes to truly experience what this person is about.

What did I look for in an instructor? 

Want the working actor whose instructions are relevant and timely? Maybe you want someone more professorial — a reminder from your BFA/MFA pursuits. Maybe more emphasis on the psychological. It’s likely you’ll have all three (and more) over the course of your career!

What Am I Looking For?

I have had two principal acting coaches in my life and I will tell you this…

If you CANNOT consistently and knowledgably deliver a performance with whatever sides you’re given based on that person’s instruction, then quite frankly, having studied with them has no value.

Painfully, I know a lot of people who have taken a lot of classes and gone to a lot of teachers and the first thing they do when they get a piece of material is just look at the lines they have and try to learn them, which, of course, is an important part of acting.

But it’s not the foundation of the craft. You need to go further. I’ve stated this clearly here. 


Does This Apply To Other Areas?

Yes. Photographers. Touch-up experts. Website Developers. Fitness consultants. Dialect coaches. It’s never-ending for actors.

Believe me, I’m very disturbed when I hear about actors not doing their due diligence and relying on advice. 

Do research! Do a lot of it. Really know what it is you’re paying for and the work that the person does

Does This Apply to Representation?

Of course. Emphasized here.

Here’s a fresh thought…

As an actor, you don’t have a lot of time to get better at this business relationship. 

Sometimes it just doesn’t work out.

No one’s questioning the fact that our profession is show business.

When it comes to the “show” and respect for the art, it is all about the work.

No argument.

It doesn’t matter how much we discuss the business of show business in our careers. When you walk in that room, when you step on that stage, when you are called to say…

You have to be good.

As my good friend David Westberg used to say…

“It ain’t called ‘Show Art'”

It’s called Show Business and it’s a business that can be unforgiving to even the most talented. At the extreme, we are commodities or products for sale and we don’t like to think of it like that.

We just want to think of ourselves as artists. Totally understand it. 

However, to survive and really succeed, you have to find a way to really compartmentalize the core belief that you are special and worthy of the light despite the forces sometimes against you.


The best and most talented person doesn’t always get the job. Eventually your essence and type matters and books and the transaction is complete.

Your product was bought!! 

How Does An Actor Face This Overwhelm?

I have had a wonderful acting career, along with being the president and founder of “The Actors’ Network”,

I’ve been speaking to actors on this since 1991, so what I’m telling you is not always found in a book, per se. 

Doesn’t mean that books are useless.

I’ll never tell anybody not to read.

Just make sure that you keep in perspective what you’re reading or being told, because my big thing will always be this…

Often, I see people just tell you what to do. They don’t tell you… what not to do!

And in this incredibly subjective human profession, they don’t give you the real specifics of why or they don’t really know how to explain it.

Then what good is it…?

Modesty aside, I feel this is where I excel and it has become a calling. 

Mind you, one has to tackle a few books to get a Bachelor of Arts or a Master of Fine Arts. These are college degrees where you certainly matriculate through a very codified academic process. 

My early experience with actors from those institutions, is that the universities were not introducing the real world experience that awaits the graduating actors. 

Much has changed on that…

Let me wrap up with this.

There’s a lot I’m going to share through experience, insights and opinions. Some of it, you might not want to hear… 

I completely get it.

My only goal here and this blog is to lessen the mystery. To give you an action plan that works, saves you time and money and reduces anguish.

A dream is a goal without a deadline. The deadline needs tangible goals and tangible tasks. 

I advocate completely that knowledge is power; and right here, I’m going to give you a lot of knowledge. 

This profession is very subjective and it needs perspective. As we go forward, this is really my goal with this blog:

To put you in a position that you don’t just know stuff and you don’t just have a perspective on stuff, but that the knowledge coupled with the perspective empowers you to do stuff in an intelligent fashion as intelligent as it can be and move yourself forward in this business.

Every year, Hollywood finds that one story where an actor out of the blue, showed up here and a week later they rocketed to fame on TV or in a movie.

It happens. And it thrills us because that could be us. Well, you keep playing the lottery and I’ll keep dishing out information.

It can be a long career.


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Kevin E. West