To be… or wanna be? That is the question in audiobook narrator and acting instructor Sean Pratt’s new book.
I’ve read my share of tomes on acting, directing and cinematography that deliver advice in a methodical and cold manner; sure, they’re helpful, but can I really believe the guy on the dust cover? The first thing you’ll notice when cracking open To Be or Wanna Be: The Top Ten Differences Between a Successful Actor and Starving Artist is the time and care Sean Pratt delivers in his anecdotal evidence. You can trust advice when it comes from someone who has gone through the trials and tribulations of a career path and learned from them, and this is definitely the case with this book. Not once do you feel lied to, cheated or otherwise given advice that wasn’t learned firsthand.
For example, in a chapter focused on taking responsibility of your career Pratt writes:
When I was growing up, my father had constantly said to me, ‘Always have a Plan B. You never know when Plan A is going to blow up in your face.’ But here I was, practically broke and without a clue as to how I would come up with a Plan B.
The point being, if there’s no Plan B, do you quit? The story goes on to describe how he got himself out of his bind and started thinking laterally to pull himself up rather than give up on his dream.
Difference #5: A Successful Actor listens more than (s)he talks. Kind of like this guy.
If Sean Pratt isn’t good at math he damn well has the mind of a math major. Things are organized incredibly well; each chapter opens with one of 10 “differences” to separate yourself from the starving artist. It then gives an insightful quote, explains the difference, dives into a life story and proceeds to break down how to get started. He even adds a list of books to expand on improving your chances at succeeding at this difference.
Because of this, the book has a decidedly handbook type feel rather than free flowing, though at 130 succinct page this makes it the perfect “throw it in your back pocket” type of deal so that you can easily remind one of the 10 differences on the fly. (Methnks we might have sparked a new trend.)
Difference #6: A Successful Actor is charming. A Starving Artist needs a lesson in etiquette. Ireland Baldwin, think about buying your daddy this book.
I can’t say firsthand how difficult the journey from nobody to Hollywood success is, but after reading Pratt’s book it’s very clear you can’t just wing it, and you better have a plan. The book expertly breaks down how an actor should think about themselves, conduct themselves and even plan for their second job and money management. My personal favorite is difference #9, “A Successful Actor behaves like a CEO. I especially enjoyed the concept of considering yourself as a business; that is, spending a percentage of money and time on “research and development” on yourself, another percentage on marketing and constantly thinking of ways to make yourself flourish in a competitive market.
They are not limited by the market (theater, film, voiceover or the marketplace (New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C.) they work in. …Starving artists don’t realize that they must be willing to live, work, learn, and develop a wide range of options for their talents to flourish.
This mindset of observing oneself and establishing the where and what they should do to progress is prominent throughout the book. As it stands, it seems like the new go-to for what an aspiring actor needs to know before taking the plunge.