How Competitive Is Acting?

How Competitive is it to be an Actor?. Credit: Betsie Van der Meer / Stone / Getty Images

A common idea among actors is that we are constantly "competing" with one another for work.  Certainly, there is an element of “competition” in this business in terms of the relatively small number of acting auditions/jobs available compared to the very large number of actors out there.  However the overall idea of intense "competition" among actors in our industry can sometimes be more of a mentality rather than reality, and it shouldn’t stop you from reaching your potential as an actor.

Coping with Competing and Comparing

While working on set recently, I met a kind man who has just returned to Hollywood to pursue an acting career again, after being away from the business for nearly 20 years.  I asked my new friend about some of the things that he has been up to ever since he's been back in town and has returned to the pursuit of his passion of being an actor.  Rather than telling me about any projects he has been working on or sharing exciting plans for revamping his career, he immediately began to talk about his situation in a rather negative manner.  He started to recite reasons why he believed he was having an incredibly difficult time booking any work now that he is back in L.A.  He attributed most of his reasoning to the "competitive nature of this industry,” and that it is extremely difficult for him to compete for acting jobs, especially after being away from the biz for such a long period of time.

My talented new friend certainly brought up some thought provoking points.  For example, he pointed out that some of his fellow actors who are of a similar "type" as he have been working actors in Hollywood for the nearly two decades that he has been absent.  He said that those actors have built strong industry connections, have great talent agents and now have extensive resumes, meaning that any new opportunities for work “would likely go to them” and not to him.  He went on to say that, “Many actors who are his age and his type already know a lot of people," and therefore he felt that he is now competing in an extremely difficult pool of talent.  In short, the way that my actor friend talked about himself sounded very self-defeating, and having this sort of mindset is not going to be helpful in a difficult industry such as entertainment.    

Believing that You Have Something Special to Offer

Yes, it is true that having a strong resume, a good talent agent and knowing a lot of people in the business can be helpful in terms of obtaining auditions and booking acting work.  (People tend to like to work with people who they know and trust, which further points out the importance of .  But – and there’s a big “but” here – simply because one actor has more experience in entertainment or has a lot of connections doesn’t mean that someone who is new to the biz (or returning, like our friend!) has fewer opportunities to obtain great auditions or book jobs!    

My talented actor friend was talking himself out the possibility of obtaining any auditions or bookings simply by being in a mindset that our industry is a massive competition – a competition in which he clearly felt inadequate to compete.  He was speaking about himself as if he somehow were lacking important skills that others have which are necessary to succeed as an actor, when in reality, it’s quite the opposite!  He has numerous skills that no one else possesses, just by being who he is.     

Harnessing the Power of Your Own Uniqueness

My friend was neglecting to recognize his own power; for he was busy comparing himself to other people that he felt he would need to compete against.  In fact it appeared that he was “competing” more with himself than anyone else!  As an actor and as an individual, he is completely unique, and there is no one out there quite like him – and this of course includes every one of the actors who have been in the business for a longer period of time.  Each one of us has unique experiences, which will ultimately help to shape who you are as an actor (and as a person).

A major key to success is recognizing your own power and understanding that you do not need to focus on comparing - or competing - with other actors in order to find a place where you fit in.  (In the case of my actor friend, the 20 years that he was away from Hollywood could actually allow him to bring a completely unique experience of knowledge from working in another industry to his work as an actor!)    

OK - But What About Competition Among a Large Number of Actors for a Small Number of Roles?  

As mentioned above, the idea of a “competition” can arise when viewing our industry in numbers: There are a lot of actors and a smaller amount of auditions/jobs.  However this scenario is quite similar to the entirety of the job market for most industries; typically lots of applicants apply for a limited number of positions.  It’s about finding the right opportunity for you.  

Instead of focusing on a “lack of jobs which you need to constantly compete for,” shift your focus into a more empowering mindset and think about what you can do to create opportunities for yourself. Aim to find where you fit in.  There is room for everyone in entertainment, and you find where you “fit in” by being you.  Simply by being who you are, you’re separating yourself from everyone else, essentially eliminating an idea of competing with other people.

These days especially, the possibilities to create opportunities for ourselves as artists are endless. With the emergence of “New Media” for example, we’re able to utilize social platforms such as “YouTube” to showcase our talents, even creating series which can be filmed on a Smartphone!   

We’re All in This Together!

The point is, my actor friends, that every job market is “competitive” in a certain way.  Yes, there are a limited number of roles out there in the casting notices.  But there are an infinite number of possibilities for you to create for yourself.  There is only one of you.  Whether or not you’re new to the business or are contemplating returning to it, there is a place for you.  It is important to believe in yourself and see yourself as the talented individual that you are!    

When we see ourselves as the unique actors and beings that we are, and when we understand that there is a role and a place for each one of us, any ideas of “competition” with other actors becomes less of an important thing to focus on.  Rather than spending precious time worrying about “competition,” figure out ways to creatively express yourself as an artist!  Be "too you!"

This business can be much more enjoyable when it is not thought of as a constant competition.  It allows us actors to support each other and celebrate with our peers when we succeed as opposed to trying to always compete against one another.  We’re all in this together, friends!  When we’re pursuing a collective passion, we all win by being there for each other.