Making it in Hollywood: An Interview with Actor Mark Atteberry
Every year, thousands head to Los Angeles, CA with the hopes of becoming icons for the film industry. Those that are in the mix will you tell you it’s certainly not as easy as one would think. Overnight success is a rarity, and very few find the gleaming lights of public notoriety and stardom. If one wants to navigate properly through the maze of connections he or she can find help from those who have already found some success in the business.
Enter, Hollywood Connect. Hollywood Connect (HC) exists to “[equip] creative artists and professionals to thrive personally and professionally in the arts, media, and entertainment industries” (HC website). HC hosted a well-attended Q&A with Mr. Mark Atteberry recently, and in this gathering, Shun Lee Fong led discussion and then fielded several questions from the audience to get Mark’s responses. I took notes feverishly and thought to share the wisdom – with Mark’s approval, of course.
Finding Your Niche
- For Mark, he feels that this came too late in life, as he moved through a successful music career before becoming an actor.
- There can be a struggle on which talents (for those who posses multiple) one should focus, and this can take some time to clarify in one’s mind and life.
- To find your niche, pick one and work at it. It’s okay to do others to keep food on the table, but plug away at that one thing that gives you the greatest fulfillment in life and become great at it.
All too often, young (and older) talent will attempt to mimic a successful actors in the film world with the hope of getting into the market. However, this is really a bad move. We’ve all been created to be ourselves, not someone else. Here are a couple of thoughts on how to make this happen.
- Determine how you are different or what makes you different in your skill set and seek to define it for others.
- You will be defined as “similar to ___,” but don’t settle into just filling that stereotype; put your own twist on each role you play to make it your own.
- Did you know that there were over 40 billion videos watched online in January, 2012 alone? That’s really a bunch of noise/competition. Learn to make your image stand out. Have a voice.
How do you make this happen?
- Know your technique. The artist who knows his tools is not encumbered with them. Know your skill set and learn to play over set rigidity – this is what makes you an artist and not a basic contractor.
- Get professional advice. Talk to those who can help you to learn more about who you are and who can guide you on learning more of your trade.
- Read what people said about you in your high school yearbook. Our overall personalities don’t change in life, so what was true at the end of your senior year is likely true now. You just didn’t care what they said about you then. See what truths can be gleaned and used them. There’s definitely value in the way that people perceive you.
- Accept/grasp who you are and celebrate it. When you are comfortable with yourself you can show people who you are over feeling forced into a mold.
- Keep in mind that you, due to your personality and appearance, will be generally seen as 1 to 3 major perspectives. You might be the hunk or the jester; you could be the thinker or the serial killer. No, these are not necessarily what you are in real life, but the types associated with appearance and mannerisms will place you into a stereotype. Find out what they are and learn to excel in those roles.
Note: Mark generally finds himself cast into darker roles. He’s generally the intelligent guy with a weakness who stumbles or even the guy who everyone likes but has an evil/dark side, like being a serial murderer, etc.
- In auditions for parts, don’t try; be yourself! There are already things about you that will define whether you fit the role (see point 5). If they say, “Be evil,” you were already brought in because you have the look for the part. Just be yourself in the audition and the “evil” (or other parts for which they search) will show through. Be careful not to chase the hook where you feel you need to add something extra. This will only look fake and extreme, keeping you from getting the part.
- Focus on what you do best. Don’t pick every production/audition possible. Seek the roles you feel you can fill. Shun Lee mentioned here, too, that if you are invited to audition and you don’t feel that it’s a good fit, “there’s power in saying, No.” You’ll gain respect in the industry for this.
- Be persistent. Look for those roles where you think you will be a good fit and work on getting them.
There is no real formula for this, but it is important for filmmakers (and businesses) to reinvent themselves every 3-5 years. This helps with keeping yourself looking new and fresh while also improving your product to stay relevent and true to who you are.
- Determine where you have been successful. Capitalize on this and perfect it.
- Actors, consider self-producing a film/project to promote who you are.
- Keep in mind that sometimes you may just need to take a break to refresh yourself and to find greater direction.
- Remember that if things are not fun, then you are in the wrong place. Try something new; take a class; or even consider pursuing a new venture or avenue.
- You are an artist, so be you and be unique.
- Attack when you see openings
- Commit yourself to excellence.
Branding vs Finding Your Niche
- Branding is what people say or perceive about you.
- Niche is using your brand to and making it work for you to show who you really are.
Dark Roles – How can one address them?
- Be you and trust that it will show through you if you were cast properly.
- Everyone has a dark side, even if it’s not the dark side of the character for which they are cast. Find that part of you that is dark (maybe you are naturally selfish, etc.) that you tend to justify in your own life and tap into it, as even a serial killer will justify his/her actions to himself.
Being Different or Obscure
- Remember that nobody is totally obscure.
- It a matter of finding out where you are unique and exploiting it. Don’t run from it.
Staying Positive When There’s Little-to-No Work
- Don’t make this (acting, directing, etc.) the one and only thing in your life. It’s not an end in itself.
- Find ways to use your art in other avenues. Stretch yourself.
Taking a Break: How Long?
- Take however long you need until you start having fun again
- Keep playing!
Finding Out Who You Are…
As an Actor
- Write down a list of potential roles, both positive and negative. These can include lead actor, mom/dad, hero, villan, etc.
- Have a group of unknown people look at you and circle which ones they see you most doing.
- Use their results to gain a sense of direction.
- Get assessment from other actors and/or professionals
As a Screenwriter
- Write a treatment
- Get feedback from the public/strangers.
As a Director
- Make something and get feedback.
And finally, …
What is the most important thing a creative needs to know?
You, as an artist, are meant to impact lives. Don’t ever forget that. Many people in our world are catatonic (can’t deal with great emotional stress), so they need an opportunity to live vicariously in someone or something else. Film helps many to connect and to do this. Use your God-given tool set to change and impact lives.