Auditions, rehearsals, workshops, long shoots, performances – acting is in and of itself both demanding and oftentimes draining as a profession. Imagine on top of all the effort one puts into training, and going from one audition to the next – even facing one rejection after the other – to also have to worry about networking.
What many people may not realize is that networking has always played a huge role in an actor’s life – perhaps even now more so than ever. This is the case for any person wanting to succeed as an actor all over the world. However, it sometimes feels as though it is more so the case in Egypt than in most other places in the world.
Most people may be familiar with the idea of a ‘struggling actor’, imagined as a person who works many odd jobs, drags themselves to 20 auditions in a day for the chance to make it in at least one small scene on some random television show, or, plainly, someone who barely manages to earn a decent living wage. Honestly speaking, it’s not a far off image: there are a lot of people who want to act, and most of them are indeed struggling to survive and make it in the industry all at the same time.
In Egypt specifically, other than going from one audition to the next, people who want to act also have to develop a heightened awareness as to who they’re dealing with – certain people will help you out more than others, certain people will help you get noticed more than others. This is especially the case at casting agencies and auditions in general – one must learn to develop relationships with certain casting directors or with certain assistant directors present at auditions and so on.
While many factors come into play when it comes to determining whether or not a person is fit for a role – from talent and experience to looks and charisma – simply knowing someone important in the cast or crew of an upcoming film or television show (or in the industry in general) is sometimes enough; sometimes, it may even surpass talent. By saying this of course, I do not mean to say that people who make it in the industry through certain connections are undeserving or that they are not talented – I actually don’t believe that someone who truly loves acting and is eager to pursue it can do a bad job at it; people are just different and approach things differently and audiences have different tastes. Rather what I mean to say is that more often than not, these people start off in the industry with an advantage.
This is a phenomena evident all over the world as we often see family members of well-known actors or directors or the like, making their way slightly easier in the industry. On an international scale for example, Meryl Streep’s daughter Mamie Gummer followed in her mother’s footsteps and is currently an actress; as is Johnny Depp’s daughter Lily-Rose Depp and countless other celebrity offspring. On a more local scale, think of the likes of Adel Imam and his sons who are currently working actors as well, or Mahmoud Abdelaziz and his sons.
I’ve always said acting is for everyone and I truly believe that; I am always for anyone and everyone trying it out because I believe there is nothing more beautiful than acting. And there are even those who go into it for fame or recognition for example, but they end up falling in love with it and wanting to train and develop – if that’s the case then by all means yes, go for it.
At the end of the day, acting is about playing a character and isn’t that basically all we did as children? I believe this is what people fall in love with when it comes to acting – this child-like element of ‘play’, this sort of freedom to become someone other than yourself, take this character’s experience and merge it with your own, in the hopes of affecting those who watch your performance in some way. That is why, I believe, we keep going after it.
The reason why I am personally not a fan of the aspect of ‘networking’ and meeting the right people, and talking to the right people, and marketing oneself and so on, is because I feel as though it tends to drag away from why one chooses to pursue this career in the first place.
While I understand the importance of networking and knowing the right people and so on, it shouldn’t be one of the main determining factors as to whether someone gets an audition or not, or whether someone gets a role or not. Yes, network and meet people and push yourself to get to where you want to be, but it shouldn’t be something actors rely on to get a job – while at the same time, it shouldn’t be something those in a position of power in the industry should take advantage of.
Network, but remember why you’re networking. Meet people in the industry, but remember to be yourself and not present a version of yourself you may think they want to see. Keep in mind that you chose to pursue one of the most difficult career paths for a reason – acting is unlike anything else you’ve ever experienced, it’s a roller coaster ride and sometimes it can be extremely challenging and sometimes it’s simply good fun, but ultimately you always love it.
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