Returning from a Chicago shoot this fall, I ran into Australian actor Dan MacPherson boarding the same plane back to LA. I had coached him for a time about 4 years ago. But the jobs were just not coming. Back then, I know I told him some things he did not want to hear. We both shared a great love of sports, especially of endurance sports, but I forewarned him they could sap his creative juices and make emotional access difficult. (In the months I trained for 2 NYC marathons in the 80s, I did not book a single acting job. Later, I realized it was a time when I was literally running away from many things in my life.)
So, I was so happy to see him and hear that he had been working a great deal in the last couple of years and several episodes of a new series in Chicago. By the time the plane landed, he found out he had also landed the lead in a new series shooting in Europe! As I always ask booking actors, “so what is now working?” he told me and promised to write me up a little testimonial about decisions he had made that changed his trajectory as an actor.
Mid December, he sent me this:
“Caryn,It was so great to see you in Chicago, and what a wonderful synchronicity that we had both been filming on exciting shows over there! Even more so that I got the news I had been waiting for while ON that flight! Gotta live in flight wifi!It was 2012 when we met and began working together. I had just arrived from Australia and after a successful 15 year career in TV and Film back home, looking to make what I thought would be a swift and successful transition into US industry and into my glittering Hollywood career! We spoke also of our mutual love of sports, marathon running in particular, and for me Ironman triathlons. When I mentioned that I was still racing and training some 25 hours a week, you tactfully but firmly told me that there’s no way that I could commit so much effort to something outside of my career and still succeed in my work the way I wanted to.Of course as a 32 year old Australian alpha male, I was having none of it.That was until about 2 years later, where I hadn’t picked up any work in the US. I was getting close on network tests, but for some reason falling at the final hurdle. In fact, not being able to crack that final barrier to booking a job drove me harder into my training and racing. So much so I went and qualified for 2 amateur world championships and earned the right to my US Pro triathlon license. But of course, it was all just prolonging the agony of not achieving what I wanted in my acting.Soon after, summer of 2014, I had the epiphany. I was racing an Ironman triathlon in Bavaria, Germany. It was over 100F, and after the 2.4 mile swim, and the 112 mile bike, I was coming up to 13 miles into the marathon run. My day had started well but the wheels were falling off. My body was overheating, I couldn’t stomach any calories, my vision was beginning to blur and my legs were of course in burning agony. If I was a race car, I was out of gas and the engine had exploded. The tyres were probably melted too. It wasn’t pretty. As I pushed on and dug deeper into my reserves, mentally and physically, I had a moment of clarity….“What the F**K am I doing here?” I asked myself. Not in the way that athletes ask themselves in times of exhaustion, but asked in a much bigger way.“What am I doing HERE?”. As in, why the hell am I 8 hours into a triathlon in rural Germany, when I should be in LA, working my ass off in acting class and auditions to book myself a job that I love.Your words from years before came flooding clearly back of course.I literally waived down the next on-course medic, got a ride in an ambulance to get 4 litres of IV fluid, and began planning my assault on LA over a stein of ice cold Bavarian lager.Over the next month or two, I quit everything that I thought was or may be a distraction from succeeding in my goal of being a regular working actor in the USA. i quit triathlon, in fact i quit riding my bike altogether, i quit TV hosting ( which i was doing back in Australia to pay the bills). I ruthlessly quit everything that was taking time and energy away from my growth as an artist.I changed my training to more weights based training, specifically for roles coming through. I get a lot of cop/soldier/navy seal type stuff, so I got in shape for that. I booked into regular acting classes. I worked privately with different teachers. I read. lots. man I read lots. I still do. I watched everything. TV series, film. I went back and watched old movies with new eyes. I studied actors. I did student films. I wrote stories. I studied art. I put all that time from triathlon training into the growth of my career.And surprise surprise… the results we almost immediate. Within 3 months I had booked my first recurring role in a series. A few months later, the lead in a film. I havent stopped working since.2016 has been a breakthrough year for me, and the direct result of that hard work and focus. As I write this now, I’m on a flight back from Chicago when I have been working on new FOX series APB, a few weeks ago I worked on my first 100 million dollar film with director Ava DuVernay, and in the new year I head to Europe to start filming a lead role in Cinemax/Sky series Strike Back.I’m not saying its that simple, there were a a lot of other factors involved, but from the experience I have had over the past few years and knowing just how competitive this industry is right now, it took that absolute focus for me to crack through.If I can offer any advice from my time in LA – Stay strong, learn from the rejections. Its not personal. Work on the weaknesses that may hold you back. There are so many things out of your control in booking a job, you MUST master the ones that are IN your control. Character, Accent, Physicality, Emotional Accessability, Imagination, all the way through to having the right visa! Its the most competitive time in TV history right now, so you have to work harder than ever before to achieve what your goals. Also, it may not be when you are expecting it, but hard work NEVER goes unrewarded.Big thanks Caryn, and all the best to you and your students for the holidays.Wishing you a successful & prosperous 2017!Dan MacPherson”
Caryn West is an veteran acting teacher, director and coach who auditions and acts. She has taught many gifted and well known actors both in LA and NYC and is the only teacher cited on both coasts by Backstage polls and one of the “BEST AUDITION COACHES”. She has run Caryn’s Space for Actors since 1999 www.TheAuditionCoach.com firstname.lastname@example.org Facebook @CarynWestSFA West Hollywood / NYC