At some point in all our lives, I am sure we have all imagined what life would be like if we were famous. Award shows, movie premiers, concert tours, paparazzi and millions of adoring fans. One might see themselves in a mansion in Beverly Hills or in a penthouse overlooking Central Park in New York City. The glitz and glam of being a celebrity are something we all probably want.
What if I told you that not only is it something you do not want, but you should not even pursue? That Hollywood is not filled with hopes and dreams, but nightmares and depression? I am going to share with you my personal journey in Hollywood and the seven years of my life I spent trying to make it.
A lot of people do not understand how difficult it is to just get started in Hollywood, even if you live in Los Angeles. I began my attempt at fame and fortune at age 17. At 17 I did not have a license, or a car, so unless my parents were willing to drive me to an audition, I was out of luck. That's how it was for most kids I knew. Until you get your own car, you are at the mercy of your parents. Even if you do make it to set, there are so many rules when it comes to minors working. The restrictions are endless, and it is enough to stress yourself and your parents out. I never worked on set as a minor, but I knew people who did, and none of their stories were pleasant to hear.
One thing you must do is try and land a deal with an agency or management company. To have a chance at this, you must get professional headshots. These photos can run up into the thousands of dollars. Anything less and agencies will throw them in the trash. Even how your resume is stapled on the back must be perfect. The staples must be stapled so the back end come out on the other side of your photo and your resume must be perfectly in line with the headshot. It cannot overlap or be undersized. If it is either of these, it gets trashed.
Another difficulty is always being told no. You will never land more auditions than you get. If you land one audition every six months, that is considered doing well. It never gets easier, especially with how young I was and still developing. The constant rejection sent me into stages of depression. Being told you are too fat, not funny enough, not talented and that you should just give up. Even after hearing all this awful criticism, I still pushed forward.
Many people are also deceived that every audition is with a major studio or production company. Not only is that false, but many of us are even lucky if we ever get to see the inside of a studio lot like Paramount or Sony Pictures. Most auditions are spent in shady buildings with razor wire around them or suspicious looking areas that at night resemble the movie "The Purge." What is also frightening is you have no idea if these auditions are real or not. Without an agent, you are at the mercy of online casting websites, like I was. Anybody can sign up and pose as a filmmaker, so you do not know if you are showing up for your big break or a creepy person with a camera.
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Actors know this, but when you are desperate to make it, you push common sense aside at times because you want a chance at your dream. I remember one time I went to a building in downtown LA for an audition. I went up an elevator and into an apartment. I did not think anything at the time, because the person had a script and a camera. It was me and one other girl there reading for the roles. Instead of the script, the person just had us improv a scene. We sat down on a couch and when they started the scene this girl started freaking out and I did not know what to do, so I just sat there. Afterwards, they said they would call us and let us know if we got the parts. I thankfully never heard from them again, but to this day I still have no idea what that was. I am just glad I was not hurt, or worse.
After years of trying and failing to get an agent, I stopped submitting headshots to agencies and started doing projects with major universities like USC or UCLA. I knew that the projects were real and that I would be safe, but they never turned into anything. What was frustrating is I was never paid for these projects. In my seven years I tried acting, I think I made a whopping total of about $20.00.
The last memory I will leave you with is the biggest role I ever landed. I did background work for a major cable network. We had a break for lunch, and I will never forget what I was told. As me and the rest of the extras were waiting to eat, a producer came over and gave us instructions. “Listen up extras,” the producer said. “You will be the last ones to eat. First the stars will go, then the crew and then you. Remember, you are just extras. You are nothing more than a prop with a mouth.”
After I heard that, I knew I could not do this for much longer. I gave up making it in Hollywood at age 24. It was the hardest decision I ever made, but it was the best decision I could have made. I am so happy where I am at now, and I love what I am doing. Do not be fooled everyone, you can find happiness elsewhere that does not include a $10,000 necklace or a brand-new Bentley.
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Sean (he/him) is a business administration major from California. He enjoys playing video games and watching Disney+ in his free time.