Halfway to Success. Five years in Hollywood. An Actor’s Story.
As I write this article in my one bedroom apartment in Hollywood, California, I can’t help but feel grateful. Grateful that I took the plunge five and a half years ago and drove out here from Colorado with $1000 in my pocket to become an actor.
When I arrived in Pasadena, California in 2013, I got a sense of relief that I was going to be ok. That there was nothing to be afraid of and that I was already living the dream. Then I looked at rent prices. $1000 a month each to share a 2 bedroom. Well I can’t afford that. Especially, because I don’t even have a job and have less in my pocket than first month’s rent. Hmmm. Ok, that’s fine. I will check somewhere else, BUT FIRST. Let’s go to the acting class I’ve heard so much about.
So I did. I had nowhere to live but I went to the acting class. I was very lucky to have a supportive mother with me and we stayed in a hotel for 2 days while I figured EVERYTHING out. But again, class first. I walked into the class and realized that, “this is more important than finding somewhere to sleep.” So i signed up. From that day, that class offered me the most amazing two and a half years of my life, but my experiences there will be saved for another article at another time. Let’s get back to day one.
After the class audit, I drove back to the hotel and met my mother. I told her I signed up for the class and that we could start again searching for a place for me to live. After a day of searching, I came to the conclusion that I really did have to start from the bottom. And I mean the bottom.
I found a place. It was a sober house with three other roommates in the same room with two sets of bunk beds. The location of the sober house was also north of a rough part of town, which happened to be an even rougher part of town. However, I couldn’t have been happier to find somewhere to live and to have an acting class to go to twice a week. My total for both of those was $600 monthly. Not bad. I even looked past the bedbugs that ate away at me within the first week.
In week two, I found my first job. A bus boy for Buca Di Beppo. I specifically remember getting the phone call that I was hired, but more importantly, I remember my first day of work. I did my first training shift, and by the end of the night it was time to clean up. Frank Sinatra was playing over the speakers and I was in the room cleaning up a table alone. I guess they trusted me enough on day one to let me clean by myself. I was wiping down tables, and all of a sudden an overwhelming joy come over me. I did it. I drove out to California and I had a place to live, a class to go to, and an income. I wasn’t going to die.
I guess if I want to accomplish anything from this short recollection of my experiences, it is this. If you decide to become an actor, you won’t die. You may get a little hungry, and a little stressed out, but you won’t die. I know that this is advice that parents use for their kids in High School, but I find it even more true in LA. “Don’t get involved with the wrong crowd. Don’t go down a destructive path”. There will be questionable times, but I suggest, breathing through it, calling a friend, or even calling your family to tell them your worries. Everything will be okay. And yes it is true. Any hardship is just a stepping stone to turn you into a stronger warrior against the world. Go through it, so that one day, whether you become an actor or not, you will still be a force to reckon with.
A couple years had passed and I was only focused on acting. Class was going well, I signed up on a bunch of acting websites that would get me small roles in independent films and shorts by students. I was having a blast! Also, one of my friends from acting class offered me a place to live… on his patio for $300 a month, as long as I agreed to be the guy to do the dishes. DEAL.
Eventually, from there we moved in with more actor buddies into a house we called “The Hunk House”. Life wasn’t too bad, but none of us were getting anywhere with our careers. Then one day, I got a phone call. I had booked two episodes of Criminal Minds as the assistant to the main villain! 5 lines per episode! I couldn’t believe it. I was so excited!
Those episodes got me my SAG card and paid the whole fee for me to get in the Screen Actors Guild Union. Which is like $3300, so it was pretty nice to have it all covered in one go.
At this point, there was a lot of drama going on at “The Hunk House”, and I had to leave. My buddy from my job at the time took me in. I plopped up on his couch and I paid half the price of the rent. The apartment could barely fit one person let alone two. However, this is where I found MY BIG BREAK.
I had heard that my old teacher was sending students to audition for a big agency, so I sent a letter to the agency. I mentioned my teacher, and they brought me in. I showed up and it was big time Hollywood. I needed this. This was it. Through a grueling audition process, they decided to take me in. They were sending me out on HUGE auditions and I knew that I was finally going to become a star. After six months of no bookings, they dropped me.
I was completely crushed. Completely. It had been about four years and I was, and still am, at times convinced that that was it. I spent 2 months and a lot of money and time trying to get on another major agency, but no one was even opening my emails. I literally emailed, and then mailed, and then emailed and then mailed everyone in town and got no responses. I went to multiple workshops for one hundred bucks a pop and still couldn’t get anyone to look in my direction. It was then, that I realized how impossible it was to get the opportunity that I got six month’s prior.
Sitting in my bedroom, broke about to lose my apartment, I took a day of rest to consider my options.
I will not be defeated.
I signed up to make half of my apartment an airbnb. I got some sketchy airbnb guests, and I am very happy that my landlord didn’t kick me out because of it, but I had to pay the rent! Eventually, I found a great Airbnb guest and she (yes she) decided she wanted to stay permanently. She was amazing and it took a great weight off my shoulders.
Now that rent was taken care of, what am I going to do about my deflated dream. No agency will take me, and I was unable to get any notable credits with the good agency from before.
I thought about it, and then it hit me. I will focus on becoming a producer, while still pursuing my acting dream. That way I can learn the business itself. From the financing, to the agency deals, to what kinds of actors productions really want, to how to sell entertainment to the consumer.
I went online and saw that I could buy a decent camera for $1200. So I put it on the already heavily credited credit card and bought it. After about two weeks of realizing and buying the rest of the equipment I would need, I became $7000 in debt. The sole purpose for buying this equipment, was so that I could make my own movies and short films. But I also needed a way to make money off of the equipment.
That is when I created the company, Lucky Frank Studios. Also known as Lucky Frank Demo Reels. Yes that is right, I was going to make demo reels for actors.
I needed a way to pay back all this equipment. Sales were slow at first, and I was practically giving away demo reels, but they weren’t that good of quality. Then, I noticed that as my business sense expanded, I started to make more money. On top of it all, I was starting to find another passion other than acting. Business. Entrepreneurship. And especially, the business of show business.
Today I HALF think that the best thing to happen to me was getting dropped from that big agency. I will become an actor, but this last year has been the most accelerated course in business that anyone could have asked for. I know SO MUCH about how to sell and even more so, how to be a good actor. When you become a producer, you hope that your actors act in a certain way. I never would have known from the perspective of a producer and a director if I was never dropped from that agency.
If I made it into acting when I wanted to make it, I would have not known how to approach the next level. Now I know, EXACTLY what will need to be done when the next opportunity rises. Also as I grow my business, I won’t have to be desperate to get acting roles in order to have a successful life. I will always have my business.
I am very grateful for where I am. I have an agent and a manager and I am trying to pitch my own television show to every media platform known to man. I can’t wait to see where the world takes me and now I know that it will get there “one demo reel at a time.”
Till you see me on the big screen, you can catch me at my website…
Till next time.
Charles S Frank – Actor, Producer