NPR from Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

New Book Offers Navigation For The Life Of An Actor

Connie de veer with her book
Laura Kennedy
Connie de Veer called on the experience of successful actors such as Gary Cole for the advice in her new book.

The life of an actor is no easy road, with ample demands that can tax the hardiest of artists. But help is at hand from a new book from a Bloomington-Normal pair who saw the need for practical advice that leads to lasting positive change for actors.

Connie de Veer is one of the creative voices behind a new book that addresses the stress inherent in the life of an actor. "Actor For Life: How to Have an Amazing Career Without All The Drama" deals with the usual actor bugaboos, such as rejection, self-doubt and creative blocks, while presenting self-care advice that teaches performers that they have more control over their lives than they realize.

"It isn't about fame. It's about making a difference as an artist."

Co-authored by Jan Elfline, the book is aimed at creatives, but it can offer a helpful and fresh perspective for people in any profession. A theater professor at Illinois State University, de Veer revealed that her former students helped to inspire the book. When she would run into students years after graduation, they sometimes seemed rather doleful and apologetic.

"They'd say, 'Yeah, I'm not really auditioning too much.' And having walked that walk before, I want to say, first of all, are you happy? Are you a happy human being? Because that's what matters. And secondly, it's a process, a lifelong process this acting thing. And it's hard."

A certified life coach, de Veer teamed up with her friend, Elfline, who is a master coach, to offer a way to help make performers winners of the inner acting game. The pair interviewed eight actors, including ISU graduates Gary Cole and Judith Ivey, plus two casting directors, for a book that offers advice and helpful exercises in each chapter.

"It isn't about fame," deVeer said. "It's about making a difference as an artist."

A reccuring issue with frustrated actors is a lack of agency, noted de Veer.

"A feeling that other people are in control of your life as an actor. Casting directors, directors who define who we are by our type, by gender age, color, size—all of those personal things. Other people can cast you or not, and you have no control. And that is patently false. Actors have the control to create their own destiny. First, define what you define as success, then take incremental steps to achieve that vision. The industry has changed so much. With the internet, actors can create their own work with a web series. If you have an iPhone, you can shoot a short film starring you and reach a wide audience."

Even with digital advances helping actors create their own agency, they still have to face what we all have to face now and again: rejection.

"It is inevitable," said de Veer. "There are many actors, so casting directors have many wonderful choices. So you have to sort of expect it. Rejection is going to happen more often than not. You shouldn't be shocked by it. There's a number of things you can do. Seek feedback and get better. You could get better at cold reading, for example."

Blocks are another way to stumble in an acting career, or any other career for that matter, because sometimes blocks are people in our lives that can be toxic.

"You have to tuned to the soundtrack in your head and manage your own thoughts about, 'Well, why did they say that and why did they do that—they, they they.' It helps to take a moment of compassionate examination of the other to take a look at what's going on in their life that might motivate their behavior so that you don't let your thought run away with you. That's a skill that you can develop. And then sometime you just need to get away from people who are toxic and negative, or choose when you're going to be around them."

"It all comes down to managing one's thoughts. This book can help the student, the recent graduate and those out pounding the pavement looking for work, be it actors or other professions. We've tried to make the book accessable and fun. It's 'dip-inable' — readers can dip into a chapter, get some inspiration and be on their merry way."

People like you value experienced, knowledgeable and award-winning journalism that covers meaningful stories in Bloomington-Normal. To support more stories and interviews like this one, please consider making a contribution.

Reporter, content producer and former All Things Considered host, Laura Kennedy is a native of the Midwest who occasionally affects an English accent just for the heck of it. Related to two U.S. presidents, Kennedy appalled her family by going into show business.