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  • Writer's pictureMatt Pipes

5 Things I Wish I Knew Starting out as an Actor.

Lessons learned on a pursuit towards spiritual and artistic freedom.

Throughout a journey in the arts, you find all sorts of messages you wish a future you would have provided to help the past you figure things out quicker and save A LOT of trouble, stress, and time. Instead of being able to travel back in time, I would like to share these findings in the hopes it somehow might help you. I have created a short list of 5 Things I Wish I Knew Starting out as an Actor.

1. You Do Not Need to be a Suffering Artist

I was at one of the lowest points in my life. I was on my way to work in NYC waiting for the A train. In my hands I had an old black notebook, nearly filled out.

I was flipping through reading my past entries. Choosing a random passage, reading to the second paragraph, suddenly, my heart sunk, I felt a tight grip around my chest as I was waiting for the late A train into Brooklyn.

What had been written there was “I wish my life wasn’t so vanilla, that it wasn’t so boring, and I wish that I was more interesting, and I wish I was going through some kind of suffering, because it seems like all these people are so much more interesting then I am.”

My jaw dropped, my hand went to my head. I had gotten exactly what I wished for in that statement.

I was naive.

Even when I went through the experience I was going through, as an actor I could not use that emotional information as it was too dangerous to bring into an acting space. It informed very few things for me in my acting process.

If I hadn’t suffered I would have been just as fine.

Suffering is a unique experience in the human life, no one avoids it.

Who I was referencing are the actors who seem to have these really rich fantastical lives; full of heart break, abuse, trauma, and so much more. I didn’t suffer like that, but it’s not the traumatic life they lived that made them incredible artists.

It’s not the suffering that they chase, it’s the passion that they are chasing; the art, the craft, the love, the romance, whatever but inevitably they might have ended up suffering, because let’s be real, life is tough.

But it’s much better than chasing suffering, because if that’s what you’re after, I assure you that the universe will answer.

I learned to heal my wounds. I learned to work on myself, and learned to seek out health and spirituality, and a positive mental outlook. Within my acting I used mostly imaginary circumstances and allowed life to inform my work.

A few actionable steps I took:

  • Workout/have a movement routine, get up, get outside, explore nature.

  • Forgive yourself, from past and present mistakes. Allow yourself the permission to move forward.

  • BUT ALSO, hold yourself ACCOUNTABLE. Do not hide from your mistakes, go deeply into why they occurred.

  • Go get therapy - It’s becoming far more normalized now, and if you feel nervous about going, please contact me and I’ll give you a logical explanation as to WHY it’s important.

  • Sleep/rest: You’re allowed to go to bed, you won’t miss much. you don’t need to go to bed past 12 every night. Rest and make certain that you are allowing yourself to recover and rewire the connections in your brain THROUGH that rest.

  • Minimize or completely cut out alcohol, smoking, and/or junk food.

  • Stick to a routine

    • Every day, learn something new.

    • Write.

    • Move.

    • Connect.

Practice, and change it up bit by bit. Find what works for you and you alone. Be certain to begin. And though you might suffer you will be FAR more ready for the challenges that will come to you.

2. Finding My Why Earlier

My life had been built around the ideas and lifestyle of the people I grew up with. My parents, my teachers, my young and malleable brain growing up with the media and social media, I was an adaptable motherfucker. My therapist called me a chameleon because of this.

Even in groups, I used to be able to adapt my beliefs to better fit in. But that’s something only someone without a foundation could do, and I walked through my life for a long time without that foundation.

It became harder and harder to figure out who I was in a world full of vastly differing ideals, the rapid growth of social media, and the many differing and quickly adapting ideas and theories of this current world, and I only recently figured out my WHY a year ago!

Two years ago I began discovering and holding space to find my WHY, but only last year have I felt confident in my inner direction. I’ve solidified it as this; “To explore a spiritual and artistic pursuit toward self freedom, and inspire and encourage others to follow their own pursuit toward freedom.”

Here’s how I personally found this. NOTE: Every WHY will be different.

In my journey I gained a deeper self-reflective ability, a deeper consciousness, different from my already very self aware ability.

Because I explored so many perspectives, so many options, adopting the inspirations of others, I could find out what worked for ME by letting go of what didn’t work.

What brought me joy, and what consistently offered me value in my life.

My own foundation began to form. But it came from stripping away pretty much everything I had already built on top of a non-existent foundation.

“It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.” - Chuck Palahniuck

My therapist called me a chameleon, and I still am to this day. I now hold that as a power rather than any form of a detriment, but only because I found my WHY, my foundation.

3. Acting as a Business

I have never been good with money. Too many times in college I asked my parents to bail me out of my financial situation. I could never save the money I made. So my privileged ass, kept thinking that money wasn’t something that I needed to worry about. I was going to be the best actor that I could be and the work that I put into the acting world would reap rewards that were bountiful and plenty. Well I’ve worked my ass off and where are we? still broke… but happy… but broke!

Unfortunately this is my current development. I wish I was already a master at this but unfortunately I can only tell you what my plan of attack is now.

Currently my actionable steps are this.

  • Find a job.

  • Building your marketable skills.

    • Social media management.

    • Film, videography, photography, premiere pro, and photoshop.

    • Sales.

    • Writing.

  • At this current moment split your focus in your art. Accept this as something that won’t last forever but something you must go hard in now, making and saving money.

  • You will still be able to act. (Trust me).

  • BUDGET! Become a budgeting FIEND!

My favorite changes come from over correction. That’s how I’ve developed my whole life. I overshoot hitting the extreme, and then I strike the balance. I would rather over correct and be out of balance than remain stagnant making the same mistake over and over again.

But an overcorrection in the business/capitalist world really scares me.

A few friends of mine have been kind enough to hold me accountable in staying centered and grounded within spirituality as I embark on this journey.

A rope tied to my waste as I explore the deep cavernous territory that is capitalism.

I pray I don’t lose myself.

These are the people I’m currently learning from about business, making money, sales, and more. Utilize them as a resource, but stay conscious in your consumption.

Dan Koe. - YouTube

Alex Hormozi. - YouTube

Caleb Hammer. - These videos are hard to watch, but can be really helpful as they are real AF - YouTube

Russel Brunson - His books, but his YouTube is also helpful.

4. Cherish Your Friendships.

I learned the hard way that it’s better to have a few very close friendships than trying to be friends with EVERYONE.

Everything used to be so transactional for me, I sought friendship circles for safety in community as opposed to seeking people out for humanities sake. I let so many of my close friends down trying to be friends with everyone.

By the end of college I had two friends from school. Lucky I had two. It’s NOT a good feeling when you realize that you missed an opportunity to cultivate meaningful relationships. Though I deserved EVERY bit of it, when you do something stupid, all those people you thought were your friends are ready to drop you at a moments notice.

It was those two people that stayed friends with me because they wanted to see me grow, and stayed to see how I would change. Because those were friendships I did cultivate. But there were many I missed out on.

It’s so important to cherish those who are present with you. Cherish those who open up to you. Support them. Support them so much more than you think you should. Root for their growth. Always hold them accountable in their actions but take care of them. Call them out on their bullshit, but please be kind. Deep conscious friendships offer a foundation of support towards a journey in healing and healthy change.

You know what my favorite thing to do is to reach out to my friends? I send voice memos. I’m an actor so I like to make people laugh and I make some of the most wild, idiotic voice memos, with random accents.

But you can also send out a random voice memos, videos, or just texts, asking how they are, complimenting them on an achievement in their life, recognizing something healthy that they’ve done, or simply an honest message of “thinking of you, hope you’re well!”

Cherish the friendships in your present immediate world.

5. EVERY Opportunity to Act is an Opportunity to Develop your Craft.

If you’re not auditioning then you probably aren’t working as an actor.

Auditioning is an integral part of this job, it makes up a huge portion of our work.

Any chance that you get to audition, make it a point to get into the room, because that’s a chance for you to develop your craft.

Also, you’re going to miss all the chances you don’t take, this isn’t a job where you wait around for someone to notice you (really no job is like that).

So for the actionable steps:

Find out how to get auditions, and AUDITION! Then when you’re working your working, and when you’re auditioning, you are in fact STILL WORKING!

To get auditions:

Get an agent.

There’s a few ways that you can go about this. Create for yourself a reel of your work. YES it’s ok to put together a selection of monologues, and yes it’s ok to put together a selection of sides and film it all yourself.

Sometimes for agencies you can sign up through their websites, if not, try to email. Do your research on the agent themselves so you know what work they do and who their clients are, and you’ll get a much better idea if that agent will serve you well, and if you will serve them well.

Remember, you make the agents money.

There should be no prerequisites besides your experience to get into an agency. You do not need headshots from their special in house photographer, and you do not need to take their Modeling 101 course to be allowed to work with them. Avoid these “agencies”.

Lastly, industry standard is 20% agency commission for non-union work.

10% commission for union work.

There’s much more we can talk about in this section. I might write up an extensive understanding of agencies in the near future.

No agent? Get on backstage or Actors Access.

Audition for all different types of jobs and get into a solid routine and consistent practice of taking a look at the listings

Auditioning for 2 a day makes 14 per week. That really ramps up the odds in your favor! But make certain to show quality work!

Start small, and keep track, you’re aiming for getting cast more, so learning how to book more will be in your best interest.

No money for backstage?

Check out You’ll find a few castings there that you can send in for free, and I’ll keep an eye out for any more free websites!

Get out there and begin auditioning!

I wish I knew this earlier because there were so many auditions and thus opportunities I probably missed out on because I thought roles would just come to me.

Wanna know how I got the roles I got now?

I auditioned.

Sometimes I’d get cast from a director who saw me in a past show.

Wanna know how I got that past show?

I auditioned.

Don’t take auditioning for granted. Learn to love it.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve read this far thank you so much for joining along!

There is of course a great deal more in the lessons I’ve learned. So I’m excited to continue sharing my journey toward artistic and spiritual freedom, offering you the solutions to problems I’ve faced myself!

I’ve updated my website and I’d love for you to check it out.

Much love today and every day

Matt Piper 🐅🌱

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