Someone I knew in high school commented on Facebook that he hoped I'd be discovered soon. The sentiment comes from a supportive place, but it got me thinking... what the hell is being discovered, anyway? Is it the romantic idea of a famous director seeing you walk down the street, decide you're perfect for the lead in his next film and all of a sudden you're a superstar? It certainly has happened, but those of us who are in it know that this story is not as common as the general public tends to believe. The old addage among actors is that being "discovered" is the equivalent of a strike of lighting. Well, according to the National Weather Service, approximately 55 people are struck by lightening in the United States each year. So following that logic, you're probably MORE likely to die from being struck by lightening than you are to be stopped by Steven Speilberg at the grocery store because he wants to give you an above title credit in his next movie.
Still, Actors migrate to Los Angeles in droves believing that they'll have dinner at the Ivy and be discovered. That's their plan: all they have to do is be in the right place at the right time. Well... let's just say, if you have a five step plan to stardom and one of them is "Get Discovered," I'm afraid you're probably in for a lot of disappointment. If getting discovered at the mall is about as (or less) likely than getting hit by lightening or winning the lottery, I wouldn't allow the success of my career to hinge on it. If I were the financial manager of someone's estate, I doubt they would want me to include winning the lottery as one of the steps to ensure their financial security down the road. The plan better be designed to generate wealth outside of any Mega Millions winnings.
But again, I'm not discouraging anyone from buying lottery tickets... people do win. I've never met any of them, but they're out there. If you don't at least drop a dollar here or there on a ticket, you'll definitely never win, so you may as well keep the option open. Now I don't buy lottery tickets, but I do keep my head on a swivel for the opportunity of chance meetings turning into business connections that turn into jobs. In my mind, that's the reality of getting "discovered."
Example 1: I've done my fair share of catering in this city and have developed many contacts while on the job. I'm not talking about other actors who are also carrying trays (though I've met a lot of friends that way too), I'm talking about the guests at the industry parties we work. So many times I've overheard other actors in the staff who complain of having to go out on the floor and talk to people. I always think to myself, "Are you insane?!?!" That floor is full of some of the biggest producers in the business and you DON'T want to get in front of them and try to shine?!?!? That's just bad business sense. Working an event gives you a legitimate excuse to interact and get your face seen for hours by people who wouldn't normally give you five minutes if you asked them on the street. I've gotten countless business cards, auditions, trips to awards ceremonies, pilot scripts, and emails from VPs in some of the top celebrity agencies with requests to keep them informed of my career as they are now "fans." (It's worth mentioning that I've also been hit on more times than I could possibly count... so if you're going to try to put this into practice, be very aware that Hollywood is a town filled with inflated egos and raging libidos.)
I get out there and work my ass off for one purpose... to be memorable. (In a good way.) I worked an annual event two years in a row and happened to see a guest who said he remembered me from the last year. And guess what, this year we exchanged emails. A week later he sent a notice of a commercial audition he saw and thought of me. I was called in the next day. In my mind, THAT's being "discovered." I don't believe in waiting around for lightning to strike... I believe in running out into the heart of the storm and waving a ten-foot aluminum pole in the air. If I keep generating opportunties like that, some are bound to pay off.
Example 2: Last weekend, I was having brunch with my mom who was visiting for a few days. Near the end of our meal, an older gentleman was seated at the table next to us. We started chatting with him about the day, the restaurant, that my mom was visiting, where we were from and so on. He asked why I moved to LA, and when I told him I was an actress, he revealed that he was a screenwriter. After a little more conversation about the business, it turns out he's not just any screenwriter... he wrote couple films nominated for Oscars. So we joked with him that my mom had wanted to see someone famous on this trip, so now he'd helped us achieve that goal. Then he said, "Well, actually my brother is really the famous one. He is an Oscar winning screenwriter and director." He proceeded to list a few of his titles... some of the most famous films in the history of moviemaking. Holy shit, these guys were legends.
After a bit, my mother and I made our goodbyes, but on the way out we decided to buy one of the tarts he'd recommended we try from the pastry case. As I was at the counter, I noticed a pastry with a berry that is native to my home state, so I bought one for him since we'd been talking about it. I went back to give it to him, and by that time, his brother had shown up to join him. "Oh, I was just telling my brother about you!" he said as he introduced us. Then a Hollywood legend stood to shake my hand. (Holy SHIT!!) I gave them the pastry and he asked me the question I hoped he would ask:
"Who's your agent? So I know just in case."
I gave him my agent, and though I probably should have asked him if he'd like my card, I didn't want to put too much pressure on such a delicate situation. Instead, I sent him a thank you note through his manager this week, saying perhaps we can meet at the restaurant again one day, but on purpose.
I may not have won the lottery yet, but I'm certainly buying a ticket.