Gerald Langiri
December 02 / 2013

As an actor, I know you have read about sharpening your skills, rebranding yourself as a product, marketing yourself etc. yet nothing or very little is manifesting and as much as we are passionate, attend acting classes and auditions don’t pass us by, we are still not there yet. WHY?

I believe there are TWO main types of artists; the great and the obscure. Let me introduce them to you:

The great artist: He or she is well known in the industry, their work and creativity speaks for them. They are in the successful movies and the hot ‘coming soon’ series that you probably never hear auditions for. They receive calls to confirm their availability and producers are willing to work with their time for they just must have them on their show. Imagine that!

The obscure artist; He or she is the unknown in the industry. They are probably new in the industry and probably fall in that “average” category. They are in no place of recognition. They are simply stagnant…and the worse thing is, instead of doing something about it like learn the tricks of the trade, they’d rather sit and complain.

There are many more differences between the two but I’ll concentrate on one very important difference.  The Mentality and attitude the great artist has makes them.  It’s the way they THINK. 

1. Obscure artists think having money & fame is being great. Great artists believe their work & creativity makes them great.The average artist views success in their career as having loads of cash and having people not have enough of them. That is what they consider to be the reward for their effort. They even choose roles depending on the pay. As soon as they have that, it’s a comfort zone, stagnant they become. Their purpose for acting has a price tag.  The great artists view success as the day their work will be labelled timeless and classic. They want to be remembered, so they work towards being the best of themselves and master command of their acting skills. They work for satisfaction not for money. God gave us gifts first to serve the world, and then make us rich. Not that money is not important for an artist as they do have bills to pay but it is not their primary goal which is to be the best then the rest will follow suit.

2.  Obscure artists have audition mentality (reactive). Great artists have acting mentality (proactive). An audition is an opportunity to showcase your skills but it’s not the only way to do it. So as you sit on the couch googling auditions waiting in vain for someone to give you a chance to do what you do best (it’s like waiting for permission), someone out there is after the very heart of the acting industry hence they go out there plan shows and organize events to showcase their stuff. They create opportunity for themselves for people to see their skills and not just wait for auditions for that to happen. That includes creating show reels and with the advent of the internet, come up with their own YouTube shows.

3. Obscure artists have no plans or goals. Great artists believe in planning and strategizing. Just because you are an artist in Kenya (where local broadcast is still wanting), doesn’t mean you have to wait indefinitely to be cast in some great series. Have goals, targets and plan for your future even with the uncertainty. Focus on the possibilities. I have a friend who is very established as an artist in Mombasa, he doesn’t wait for auditions, he visits the production houses asking for a job (a role to act). He is that aggressive and since he’s well known he gets the jobs. Obscure artists just want a great future and career; great artists have a clear vision of the kind of future they really want, and the short and long term goals they would like to achieve and set out plans on how to achieve them. For example, this week, I will get a portfolio, next week, I will give producer A a call to remind him of my existence and send him my new portfolio and show reel. The following week, I will attend that event because I know I will network with so and so and so forth. SET OUT A PLAN.

4. Obscure artists see auditions through the eyes of emotion. Great artists think aboutauditions logically. An ordinary artist is emotionally affected by auditions. They are depressed and devastated when not picked for a role and this affects even their future plans and alter their mindsets about acting. The great performer sees auditions for what they are through the eyes of logic. (it’s just another opportunity to act) .They know audition is a critical tool that presents opportunities but when a panel doesn’t pick you, they simply don’t need your kind of skills for that particular project or there simply wasn’t a role for them and they move on to the next one. They don’t wait to get called or wonder whether they got chosen or not. After one audition ends, they look forward to the next one till one eventually gives. They understand the industry and how it works and what it takes to be selected for a role. They know they could be talented but when the opportunity is not theirs, they go back to planning.

5. Obscure artists work towards being great.Great artists believe greatness is within them. By virtue of being an artist, you are great. Great artists know this and they work on expressing what is inside them. Obscure artists are not aware of their greatness. They look for it out there. They are rolling stones that gather no moss. Look inside of you, what you have is enough to get you what you want.

6. Obscure artists would rather be entertained than educated. Great artists would rather be educated than entertained. While the great artists seldom further themselves through formal education, they appreciate the power of learning long after college is over. They read books that educate them on how to be more successful and skillful. The obscure artist reads novels, fashion and entertainment magazines. They are always in fancy joints dressed in fancy clothes socializing. Just for the record, I don’t think a ‘Kim Kardashian’ dress or a ‘Kanye’ suit will make you more talented. It will add onto your brand and image as an actor but only after you already are talented. Research is important for any artist. Find out what producers are looking for. Find out the dos and don’ts. Read an acting book, learn online research research research and learn on how to build and perfect your craft.

7.Obscure artists think great artists are snobs. Great artists just want to surround themselves with like-minded people. The average mindset of an obscure artist is what keeps the great hanging out with the great. Great artists can’t stand talks of negativity and discouragement and masses often misinterpret this as snobbery. Labelling the great artists as a snob is another way the obscure artist finds to feel better about themselves and their chosen path of leverage and comfort. Not that there aren’t artists who aren’t naturally snobs and have a “diva mentality” but if you are going to want to talk and socialize with a great artist, you better have the same great mindset as they do otherwise they won’t give you their time. You need to reason like them and think like them and be at level with them.  Your approach towards them should be one that leaves them wanting to talk to you and even teach you their secrets. No great artist wants to mentor a fellow artist with a negative and “this industry is corrupt” kind of mentality. They were once there and made it, why shouldn’t you?

8. Obscure artists have personalities that need to be accommodated. Great artists have accommodative personalities. In the acting industry you will meet a lot of different people not mentioning the diverse characters you will have to play. Both involve having the ability to accommodate and mingle well with others, to always be professional, nice and friendly. Obscure artists usually have a problem with accommodating people. They think ‘I am talented and I need a conducive environment to do my thing, and everyone should understand that’ Great artists are humble and sweet people, you wouldn’t even know they are the main character till someone shouts “Action!” They are a joy to work around because they always want people around them comfortable with them, they are accommodative.  Well, let me say most do, because there are some who despite being talented, their talent dies because of their “I am the one” attitude which then makes a great artist become and obscure one.

9. Obscure artists love to be comfortable. Great artists find comfort in uncertainty. It takes courage to take the risks necessary to make it as an artist; a challenge  many obscure artists aren’t comfortable with. The obscure artist is blinded by the need for physical, psychological and emotional comfort. Great artists learn early that being great isn’t easy and the need for comfort can be devastating. They learn to be comfortable while operating in a state of ongoing uncertainty. Every step you take out of your comfort zone gets you closer to the action of life. They understand that what they do is not a hobby but a livelihood and therefore will give it their 100% commitment, dedication and persistence. There is no quitting for them. Its either art or not

10.Obscure artists think networking is knowing people. Great artists know the people to network with. “You should know people”my good friend got fired but she was right about this. Though it’s not enough to just know people and think you are well networked because not all matter in this industry. The great ones actually know just a few but their database comprises of directors, producers and script writers and you wonder why writers cast even before auditions? Great artists understand that art is also a business and as every businessman knows, networking is an integral part of doing business.  Get to know who has a say, who influences who and who listens to whom mostly. It’s not just the typical ‘Kujuana’ its professional networking. Kujuana doesn’t mean you have your father, mother in the industry..it means, the people who matter know your work, have seen you work before or have heard about your work and thus want to work with you. Most jobs you will get as an actor is through referrals so be the best you can be in all sets and network.

Any artist can be great; it’s just a matter of CHOICE.

Article by Betty Mash

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