It's hard to say when the acting bug bit, but I know it had started at least by the time I was eight as evidenced by my first headshot. My family lived in the sticks and my mother had driven me approximately two hours into the nearest "big city" (population at the time: roughly 97,000) as there was an open call that day that I had been begging her to go to. The event turned out to just be one of those cattle calls where they try to sell lessons and pictures to kids with stars in their eyes, but for me it felt magical.
Perhaps it's fortunate that my parents had neither the disposable time nor cash to enable my dream-chasing as we got through that experience relatively unscathed, short only a few hours time, gas and cash of an untold amount from the headshots, which followed. We didn't know about talent scams back then, but we didn't have the raw resources to make good targets, even if we had decided to go for it.
A lot of the details are fuzzy as almost twenty years have passed. Mom ran me about that day while Dad watched the store (literally) and we all rested easy, as if the headshot was some sort of magic bullet that would bring Hollywood calling.
I never got a job - or even an audition - from those first headshots. Looking back, however, I did get a lot of lessons. Perhaps the two biggest were:
1. To work in the industry, you have to go where the work is. A million headshots were not going to get me work where I was from, a town with only a post office and a stop sign to mark its very center. That day to the call marked the first of many trips that would follow, years later, until I relocated closer to NYC.
2. You have to be your own greatest advocate. I still struggle with this one, my home culture being such that any statement of competency feels like "blowing your own horn." When the sure-shot headshot didn't bring raging success, my parents advised maybe I should pack it up and move on to a more stable dream. In their defense, it was the best advice they could have given, given the realities at the time. However, there is never a shortage of people who will tell you that you're not good enough or that there's an infinite number of reasons you'll never make it. This truth is not distinct to acting as it is as valid in an office as on a stage, and you don't grow out of it. Fighting ahead despite the nay-saying really just helped me prepare for an industry in which everybody experiences a lot of rejection. If you don't think you can do it, why should anybody else?
There were many other lessons that day and many I'm still learning. On a recent call, I was asked why I'm not promoting myself better - especially given that my day job is promoting the work of others. Oops. I guess I have to revisit lesson two. My foot is in the door and I've come a long way, but I've still got a long way to go.