This is a guest post by David Patrick Green, professional actor and creator of HackHollywood.com.
I’m proud to say that I’m an actor and I’m also proud to say I have accomplished what few people on the planet have accomplished. I have had several roles on top ten TV shows such as CSI, ER and Battlestar Galactica, which means I can do the Comi-Con Circuit and sign autographs for money for sci-fi fans…strange but true.
The reason for this post is not due to the fact that I’m a television actor, but more due to the fact that only a few short years ago, at the age of 40, I had no clue how to get onto television. But I figured it out, and turned it into a thriving membership site and a series of Kindle Books on How to Become a Famous Actor. I believe I can teach anyone to start a similar membership site if they have a passion and some experience in a competitive, skill-based field, whether it be race car driving, accounting, or underwater welding.
Upon reflecting back on my own story and business creation, I have learned and applied a few simple concepts that I believe are all you really need to know to start and run a successful online or offline business. Most of this applies to being successful at anything, whether it be your career or even your personal life. Yes, it’s a way of life.
How I Went From Unemployed Consultant to Detective/Biology Teacher/Serial Rapist with a Foot Fetish…
I was not always an actor. Before acting, I was a management consultant for a big-five consulting firm. Before that, I worked in advertising in Poland and before that, I was a ski instructor in France. You might say I’ve had a diverse career and personal life. After finding out that consulting wasn’t for me or maybe that I wasn’t for consulting (I got laid off during the dotcom debacle), I was at a loss for what to do next. I was in Los Angeles, so when in Rome…
I had always been a handful in school and was definitely a classic case of undiagnosed ADHD. I thought maybe I could take my attention-seeking and put it to use. So I started taking acting classes…and more acting classes. Soon, I was taking four different classes a week. Of course, my MBA friends of course thought I was crazy, but as it turns out they were also extremely jealous that I was doing something I wanted to.
Who knew so many people wanted to be actors? The intensive training was starting to pay off and soon I was getting compliments on my work. Even though I was extremely self-conscious and a very shy person, I enjoyed the challenge of memorizing lines and trying to connect with a stranger in front of an audience or camera. Right side of the brain, nice to meet you!
After plugging away in student films and bargain basement indies for a few years, I started to gain some confidence and wanted to start getting paid. A few years later went by and still nothing happened. I was convinced that I had a face for radio and a voice for silent films. Nothing I tried seemed to get me in front of people who could hire me.
Seemingly overnight, everything changed. Within the space of a few months, I booked my several network TV roles: a detective on ER, a serial rapist on CSI, a biology teacher on Veronica Mars and a UPS driver on Standoff. It seemed like everything I auditioned for, I booked.
In my first year of professional acting, my career exploded with 13 television appearances in twelve months, not to mention a major feature film starring Renee Zellwegger. What the hell happened? What led me from absolute obscurity to minor celebrity in less than twelve months?
Upon reflection, it turns out I had followed some common sense principles few actors ever consider.
I learned at what level the bar was set by top professionals in my field.
I connected with industry professionals, gave my time to them in exchange for seeing how the business worked and being able to sit in on casting sessions, often seeing household names practicing their craft. Once I knew where the bar was set, I knew my necessary level of capability. No more fooling myself into thinking that I was a ‘good’ or ‘great’ actor. In practical terms, if I couldn’t do what my professional peers and idols were doing, I was wasting everyone’s time trying to get auditions.
I forged close bonds with a few industry giants and tied my success to them.
I volunteered at a major casting office and made myself indispensable to them. Whenever they called, I was there and I did the best job possible for them. Soon, they were somewhat dependent on me and I was running CSI casting sessions on the lot at Universal Studios. Then, I was making connections with producers and directors of the #1 TV show in the world. I was their (40 year old) golden child. When I got an audition for their show, it was my job to lose.
I used arbitrage and perceived labor shortages to quickly leverage my experience into much bigger roles.
After racking up several credits in Los Angeles, I decided to see what my experience might mean in a smaller yet burgeoning market like Vancouver. I knew they shot several top shows there and yet few actors in Vancouver have credits like ER and CSI on their resumes. I thought I could take advantage of the summer slowdown in LA and get a little work in Vancouver. I was so right I was wrong. From the moment I hit Vancouver, I was the talk of the town. It wasn’t unusual for me to have 30 pages of material in a day. I went from reading for two-liners to series leads, literally overnight (again!). As it turns out, my value is different in different markets. There was not a shortage of labor in Vancouver, but there was a perceived shortage of ‘celebrity’ labor. Casting directors and agents suffer from ‘celebrity-itis’ as much as the general public. When I hit town with CSI on my resume, they swooned a little and handed me the keys to the city.
The Principles of Success are Universal
Hack Hollywood is born.
Jumping forward a few years: I was minding my own business one day and somehow learned of Tim Ferriss and The 4- Hour Workweek. Even actors want to reduce their workload! After reading the book, I racked my brain trying to think of some kind of ‘muse’ I could create. I would have felt guilty creating a muse teaching people how to become a management consultant (I wouldn’t do that to my worst enemies). I didn’t think there were enough people who spoke French and could teach skiing to tap into that market. So that left acting. Could I turn my own acting experiences into a business? As it turns out the answer is yes.
Since I had no web development experience and am not the most focused person in the world, I sought some experts in the field to help out. With a quick Google search, I found a couple of dudes who were hanging out in Thailand that were literally advertising ‘muse creation’ services. Brilliant strategy…selling pick axes to the gold miners! After a few conversations, we agreed to proceed…but nothing happened. Money changed hands but the results weren’t forthcoming. After a refund and a reset, I ended up working with one of the original partners who agreed to set up the site while I created the content.
Now I needed to figure out if what I had done was replicable or was I just that great of an actor (ha!). I quickly reasoned that if I could do this at the age of 40, I could teach this to others who were far better-looking and more talented than me. The tough part was figuring out which parts of my journey were instructive and which parts were a complete boondoggle. That is probably my greatest gift to the world of acting: telling people what not to do.
I had wasted thousands of dollars and thousands of hours doing things that I had been misled into thinking were going to contribute to my career. People who had no real idea of what they were talking about had taught me that information. Unfortunately, until you have an acting career, you don’t know what works and what doesn’t. You trust that the advice you keep hearing is based on truth and experience, but it’s often based solely on the fact that to charge someone a lot of money for advice, you have to tell them ‘something’…and anything can pass for ‘something’ when your audience is composed of nubes.
Hacking the Muse Creation Process
After several iterations of a ‘guide’ or ‘plan’ that actors could follow, I simply worked backwards and reverse-engineered what I had done for my own career. I tried to create general ‘rules of conduct’ that people at any age or life stage could follow so they felt confident that they’re on the path to a professional acting career. Having a total solution is a huge confidence booster. That confidence makes what I teach ten times more effective than something that teaches you only “how to choose your headshots” or “proper auditioning technique”.
What I think is missing from almost all instructional methods, regardless of the field is a ‘complete path to success’. Most advice is given in pieces but you don’t know if the pieces offered by one source are compatible with the ones from another. For example, you might hear, “Market your business with webinars,” but what do you do before or after the webinar?
There are very few soup-to-nuts solutions out there, especially for something as nebulous as acting. Even in the web-business-building space, there are various solutions that give you all the tools, but they don’t tell you how to use the tools or in what sequence. That was a big frustration of mine in acting. I had to make a lot of mistakes to get to where I am and very few people are forthcoming with explaining exactly how they got to where they are, regardless of the field.
Give Customers Confidence with Clarity
If you really want to offer value to your customers in your particular niche, you have to walk them through the entire process in detail. Give your customers a Bible of sorts. Don’t just blog about topics. That stuff might attract attention to your site, but it’s not customer-focused. How many blog posts are people going to read before you tell them what to do? I advise prospective ‘muse’ creators to tell your customers exactly what you did and why it worked for you. Offer alternatives if you can come up with them for different personality types.
And never stop building. I’m constantly adding to the material that I created as new information becomes available and as I have new insights. I also love to use examples from outside my industry to illustrate something in my own program. TED is a great resource: a collection of some of the smartest people in the world revealing cutting-edge concepts and research. I’m always stealing their ideas and applying them to having an acting career.
Find Your Own Celebrity
Most people reading this post are probably thinking that I have an edge due to being on TV. Maybe, but only in that my TV appearances legitimize what I’m saying. If I was teaching people how to hack an accounting career, I would be extolling my virtues within that industry and my audience would identify with that. If you want to be perceived as an authority in your field, list your accomplishments.
You don’t have to be an award winner to be an expert. The fact you’re the first person to create a complete path to accounting greatness might be enough. If you’re actually first, no one else can take that from you. I’m merely a working actor, but my uniqueness lies in my background, age, speed of achievement, and ability to communicate to others how to do the same. Find your uniqueness and write your story. If you have done what others want to do, you’re an expert.
What makes your information valuable?
As I mentioned, anyone who has done anything with a relative degree of success is an expert. It’s not hyperbole, it’s reality. Just because you are an expert however, doesn’t mean that what you have to say is valuable or useful. If I simply recounted everything I did over five years to get onto CSI, I’m not offering much in the way of value, other than an autobiography. Distilling the stuff that works from the stuff that doesn’t that makes your information most valuable.
That’s a Wrap
I’ve been actively selling Hack Hollywood for about 15 months and despite it being a very small, hard-to-wrangle niche, I’m making over $2K a month in sales in sales without too much effort. We have members from all around the world including Brazil, Australia, France, and South Africa, as well as the US, Canada and UK. I really enjoy helping other actors and giving people the confidence and belief in themselves that they and only they are in charge of their lives and what they do with them.
Will I get rich? I don’t know, but it’s been a great learning experience and has given me a lot of confidence and purpose in my own life. I feel like I can help anyone get what they want now and that might be the next step: replicating this for other industries. I think I have a gift of breaking down large, complex problems into digestible parts because I have trouble understanding large complex problems. But I’ve taken my own weakness and turned it into a strength.
I’m a slow learner and a late bloomer. I think a lot of people are like that—they remain in the shadows. No one wants to say, “Hey, I don’t understand that.” It’s okay if you don’t get it at first or it may take you a while. You can still succeed if you stick with a good idea.
Ultimately, I think people want to follow their dreams but they also want to feel like they’re okay and not ‘weird’. They don’t want to be ostracized. Part of what I do is make people feel like it’s okay to be themselves and follow their dreams, despite what they think their friends and family are going to think. I’m going to hold their hand through every step of the way and there’s no reason they shouldn’t succeed. I’ve got their back.
It’s Never Too Late To Do What You Want
A lot of people shy away from doing new things because they think they’re too long in the tooth. The media tells us that you have to be young to do anything cool. However, I booked my first professional acting job at the ripe old age of 41. I was the equivalent of Steve Carell as the 40 Year-Old Casting Intern.
Before acting, I had more careers than the Dalai Lama in all his past incarnations and every time I thought about starting anew, fear and voices crept into my head saying “You’re too old. It’s too late for you.” Despite the voices, I simply couldn’t accept my life as others thought it should be. I made changes and the results were generally positive. I have gone from sports to business to art, and now back to business. If you treat people (including yourself) with respect and generosity, people will let you into their lives to learn from them, and from there you can launch all the new versions of yourself you want.
What is the secret to starting late and exceeding all expectations? As they say in rugby, “Old age and treachery will beat youth and enthusiasm every time!” Embarrassed to be the 40 year-old intern? Wow them with your skills and attitude and soon you’ll be given the keys to the president’s bathroom.
After a few months of interning for a casting director a few times a week, I was actually running the casting sessions for CSI on the lot at Universal Studios! Do you know how cool it was to not only watch but be a part of the process to hire some of the biggest actors in the world on a daily basis? Very cool.
No Excuses – Start Now
Whatever you want to do, or whatever you want to teach others to do, start now. Time flies and while you might think it’s too late now, in a year you will think of what you could have accomplished already if you had only started today.
I’ve learned from my own misadventures and from those I teach that success is about taking action. I never know if what I’m doing will result in success, but I know that every action has a reaction. So if I do something positive, the result will usually be positive. Create a plan for action, find some partners and resources to help you where you lack expertise and then commit. In less than a year, you could be helping others pursue their dreams while gaining some financial freedom for yourself.
David Patrick Green is a professional actor who has appeared on CSI, ER, Battlestar Galactica, Smallville, and Covert Affairs, among many others. He is the creator and founder of HackHollywood.com and the author of the book, “Become A Famous Actor: 5 Insider Acting Secrets They Don’t Want You To Know.” He holds an MBA from the University of Southern California and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.