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This week I’d like to talk a bit about getting A Late Start in the performing arts. Well, I suppose this applies to nearly any profession, except maybe professional sports.
It’s never too late to start over…
It’s been said that you are never too old to learn something new, and while that’s true I would add “and to start a new career”. That’s definitely true for me, who has started a new career at the tender age of 60 years old. It’s been an experience, for sure, but it has also been a really great experience. Let me tell you why starting a new career at 60 has worked for me.
My dad used to say “Experience is something you get just AFTER you need it” …and for the most part he’s not wrong. When you start to get a little older, one thing you definitely have going for you is experience. Now, you may not have any experience in the new field you are trying to pursue, and that has definitely been true for me. However, I am finding I have a LOT of relevant experience in general that has helped a lot.
While I have little actual experience in voice over and acting, my 60 years on this earth definitely taught me the value of establishing and maintaining good work and study habits. In some ways, being an independent small business owner makes these things more difficult in that I only have myself to motivate me. No boss making demands on my time is great, but that then means the task of motivation and drive fall squarely on my shoulders. Thankfully, my 40+ years of service to the US Navy, both as an active-duty member and later a government civilian, gave me a lot of experience in self motivating behavior and a drive to succeed. Starting later in life has given me an appreciation for training (that I also now have to pay for myself, which is ALSO a motivator) and for setting goals/deadlines and driving toward them.
OK, I get not everyone is at the same place in life as I am , and I also get that I have been fortunate enough to have great jobs with good pay and have saved for retirement – so this is going to work out differently for each person, but I am talking about me and my own personal circumstance. Your Mileage May Vary (YMMV).
For me, I am fortunate to be in a position where my VO and acting income is in addition to what I need to live on. I’m blessed with two retirements (and eventually, if it is still solvent, I’ll add Social Security to that) along with savings and some other residual income from previous jobs. Frankly, I COULD just play golf all day every day. But I don’t want golf to get old and I am incapable of just sitting around all day. So here we are!
But my suspicion is that most, not all but most, people my age who have retired, are in a similar position. To be clear: The position I am talking about is not being wealthy, on the contrary I am suggesting there are many (most?) retirees who have sufficient income to live on while they pursue a second or third career.
OK, I confess I am not really all THAT great in this category. I actually used to have a sign in my office, and a tagline on all my emails, that said “BE IMPATIENT”. Yeah, I want things to happen right away, or at least as fast as possible.
That’s the key. AS POSSIBLE.
I believe that being a little advanced in age has given me the experience to know that successful careers don’t happen overnight. That you have to work at it. Work HARD. And over time success comes. Under the heading of patience, I’ll say that, while I still want things to happen instantly, I recognize that they don’t. And that knowledge means I don’t stress out over booking every job I audition for. I recognize that “good things come to those who wait”, and that it is the work I PUT into this that will reap the rewards. I think those rewards are worth waiting for. Twenty-year-old me would have disagreed. Hell, FORTY-year-old me would have!
Again, I recognize this may not be true for everyone, but it is my firm belief that most people my age have developed somewhat of a thick skin. At least, thicker than when they were in their 20’s.
There was a time in my life when any negative comment or critique would just pierce my SOUL and I would obsess about them for weeks or sometimes months. These days, it just rolls off my back. So maybe not totally…I mean, there are some people whose opinion of me I worry about…but not “people”. As a natural extension of this, rejection, which is a common every day occurrence in this business, doesn’t affect me the way it once did. Sure, rejection stings, I’d be lying if I suggested otherwise. But it has become MUCH easier to shrug it off and move on. It’s actually kind of freeing.
It’s not really rejection!
Besides, I view casting as a process of SELECTION vice REJECTION. They are not rejecting you; they are selecting someone else. The only ones who know why someone else was selected are the people who actually make the casting decisions. In some cases, they may not have even listened to your audition. Maybe they didn’t like the sound of your voice, or it just wasn’t what they heard in their head when they were setting out to book someone. Maybe they loved you audition but can’t find it in the 100’s they received. Maybe they have an arch nemesis whose name also happens to be Gary Mason. Who knows? It doesn’t matter, and you’ll never find out anyway.
Ask yourself THIS question: How many 60-ish year old people are starting an acting career? I can answer for you – Not many. But there ARE quite a few characters in the 50–70-year-old age range. Certainly, not as many parts as there are for the 20-40 crowd, but far fewer people competing for the 50-70 range. What that amounts to is fewer people competing for each role, which means it is easier to get noticed. This is a distinct advantage to starting out a little later in life, but it IS a double-edged sword. SOME of the people competing for those roles have been doing this work for 20, 30 even 40 years and have a lot more experience, but honestly, they are not going for the same projects I am as a relatively new VO/Actor, so competition is much less fierce.
Hey, It’s America we all have freedom! Well, some would argue that, and may have a point, but in truth there are many things in life that limit your freedoms, and the biggest one (from my view) is a J O B. Yeah, this is a job too…but it is NOT one that is controlled by a supervisor or an organization. I’m retired from my “day job” so I have the freedom to schedule gigs and meetings whenever I want without checking to see if it interferes with my work schedule. Which means I can work during “working hours”. Or not, as I desire! Freedom.
I am also fortunate enough to have a woman who doesn’t attempt to restrict me from doing what I need to do, even though it sometimes means being out of town, or working late in the evening. Thanks babe! Again, YMMV.
At the end of the day…
It may seem to some that starting a voice over or acting career at nearly 60 years old is a waste of time. I suggest otherwise and have found that being my age and starting a new career is actually easier than it would have been when I was much younger. Sure, I would have had more time to perfect the craft, build a reputation…but I also would have been a lot more stressed trying to raise four kids like this and probably would have needed a “day job” to make ends meet, at least early on. I think that stress would have negatively impacted my career all by itself.
What have you got to lose?
Would like to start a voice over or acting career, or any other career for that matter, but are hesitating because you feel like you are “too old”? YOU ARE NOT TOO OLD (I mean, unless you want to be the Starting QB for the Washington Football Team, you ARE too old for THAT). As long as you are on the sky side of the grass…DO IT! It’s not too late to start anew!