Gerald Langiri
May 08 / 2017

Whatever reasons you may have to want to be an actor, especially in the Kenyan film industry, let me let you in on some truths before you embark on this career path. Some of these may encourage you even more and make that burning desire inside you hungrier, while some of the points below might discourage you. Whichever way you chose to look at it, isn’t it better to know what to expect than walk into it blindly? If your answer is yes, read on.

1.  There is always someone more talented than you.

Many actors walk into the industry thinking they are the best talent we are yet to see. Words like “I can act better than him/her” have been heard thrown around to try and use that as a selling point. Having confidence in your ability is one thing, being arrogant about it is another because the truth is; there will always be someone out there more talented than you. Luckily for you, talent alone is not enough. The amount of talent you may think you have, the biggest challenge you will face as an actor is getting the opportunities to actually showcase that talent. The actors who book the job may not necessarily be the best, but they are certainly the best at playing the game. Learn the game and play it better than them if you wish to be a successful actor.

2.  It is a hard industry to survive in.

This is by far not the industry to get into if you are looking for a get rich quick way out. You will toil. If it looks rosy on the outside then kudos to the actors that make it look like so but the harsh reality is it isn’t. This is not saying that you will never make money, this is saying before you see the fruits of your labour, you’d have laboured and laboured hard.  Most actors will tell you that they do it for the love and passion is what drives them; two qualities that are very important in order to survive in it. It, however, gets tricky when your bills start piling up and it hits you that passion won’t pay your rent. If your intention is to get into it to make money, you’d rather venture into something else.  For those actually making the money, it has taken them years to build their brand and is probably getting work on the regular and they too will tell you that the money is only enough to get them by and not enough to live the life of stars that they so deserve.

 3.  It is a people-driven industry, know the people who drive it.

I use the term “drive” here very loosely because gone are the days when we’d speak of gate-keepers. The industry is more open now to anyone ready to take the risk to get into it thanks to the internet and the opportunities it presents. One fact that doesn’t change how, ver; it is still a people driven industry. Its people you are going to deal with and its people who you will spend most of your time with. So if you have an attitude that people do not want to touch or the personality of a crab, your chances of success are already diminished greatly. Know people. Network; better yet, learn how to network and sell yourself. Projects are a team effort and most of the work you’ll get will probably be because someone recommended you somewhere, so make good lasting impressions. Auditions are not the only way to get into the acting industry sometimes, roles are gotten from a luncheon or film premier. You will of course not get along with everyone, its human beings after all and that comes with its own challenges. The phrase “Your network your net worth” has however never been truer than in the acting industry.

4. It is called show business for a reason

No better words to emphasis this than from an article I read that stated “Acting for a living is a business. I wish I had worried less about whether it was an art or a craft and had begun researching it in a practical, unemotional manner. My actor pal Nick says, “How one handles their business—relationships with agents, managers, producers, and directors—is crucial. Business sense and relationships matter as much as talent, beauty, luck, and opportunity.” Flora, another actor with years of experience, adds, “I think it's sometimes difficult for an artist to look at the pragmatic side of life. Certainly I would have liked to have had more business tools. I wish I had known when I first started out how important that is, ultimately.”

5. You will get disappointed. You’ll want to give up.

But only those who see it through will get the rewards.  Sometimes even I do not believe those words. They are however words that I latch onto with all my might. My thinking, my words, my actions are all centered towards success and I hope to look back and say “yes, I made it.” Then again, what is your definition of a successful actor? At what point would you feel like “you’ve made it?”  Tough questions with no easy answers. The truth however is you will get disappointed more times than you’d like. No one owes you anything in this industry; it is business from head to toe. I learnt not to take things personally when things do not go how I had hoped they would. When I dint get the role I was promised. When I dint get the money I hoped I’d get. When the quote I am given isn’t even close to what I had envisioned. When I’ve been to many auditions and failed. It is not personal. Instead I sit and re-evaluate and ask myself “what am I doing wrong?” Big budget project will probably come once a year. You’ll have to do many projects to survive and make a reasonable amount of money to survive. You’d be sitting home more times than actually working.  I get messages coming in from would be actors asking to get into the industry and deep down I want to say “Why? Go do something else do not waste your time for this” But then I remember, if I had given up, I wouldn’t be where I am today. It is not where I want to be but I have made so many strides to not be where I was.

Do you still want to join the acting industry? What challenges are you facing?

By Gerald Langiri

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