Using Faith To Guide Your Acting Career

I recently received a question from a young actor from the UK, asking me if it was possible to get a Christian Agent, and if it was necessary. Honestly, I don’t really know the answer. I would think that of course you could find a Christian Agent. But I would have no idea where to start, other than Googling, “Christian Acting Agents.” However, honestly, I think you’d be limiting your options by deciding you would only want to work with a Christian agent. That’s like saying you won’t buy food from a shop owner who’s not a Christian, and on and on. Many people in the film industry are not devout Christians, but that doesn’t mean these same folks won’t care for you, or empathize with you, or want to help you find a successful career. It also doesn’t mean that they won’t keep your strong Christian faith and values at the top of their mind when sending you out for different kinds of roles. It’s your agent's job to keep and make you happy, and to get you roles. After all, you are HIS client, because it's YOU who make the money for HIM. In other worlds, you are his boss. Keep your mind open. Just learn to make decisions about the roles you will take, even if your agent doesn’t like it. That’s my best advice.

I must say, this question has lead me to other long, rambling thoughts, relating to our careers in this crazy industry, that go way beyond trying to find helpers, teachers, and agents who are Christian. And those thoughts are, “How can we, as people OF Faith, guide our own lives, THROUGH our Faith?” I think this an important question, even if you are not a practicing or Baptized Christian. I’m talking about people of Faith of all kinds, of different religions, and from every culture in the world.

Maybe you’re a devout Jewish actor, or a devout Buddhist actress? It doesn’t really matter to me. What I’m asking here is for us to think more deeply about how we can use our Faith to guide our lives: how do we get God right there in the middle of everything we do? If you’re an actor, then that means, using your Faith to guide your acting career. In my mind, it’s all about seeking God, and seeking divinity and Grace.

I really feel that God has a perfect purpose for each and every one of our lives. I’m a believer in a kind, loving, forgiving God, not in a vengeful God. That’s just how I believe. And I believe that it’s true for Christians and non-Christians, and for people with no faith at all, that there is a higher power outside them selves that really cares about our life, and wants us to fulfill our purpose on this earth. I believe that God makes people perfect in every way, it’s just our society and culture that makes us do bad things, and that’s usually because of desperation or lack of love. Where there is a lack of love, there is darkness. And darkness could also be called Sin, or Evil. But it all starts with Love. Abundance of Love. Or lack of Love.

I think that if we truly pray, and truly listen and act on the very obvious answers God gives us, in our daily meditations or spiritual practices (whether it’s reading the Bible, or any other kind of spiritually inspiring book), then we will be fulfilling God’s purpose in our lives. If we listen to God, and to that tiny little voice of reason, which you could call, “Your Calling,” or, “Your Gut,” then you will be fulfilling God’s Will. Sometimes you don’t hear anything. During those times, you must wait in faith. That’s what many call “The Dark Night of the Soul”. And those times can be quite difficult.

So going along with this thought, I feel that if God wishes for your career to take off, with the help of an agent who happens to have the same Christian faith as you, then you will find this person! It will and should be easy, if that’s what God wants for you. If not, it won’t be so easy. It’s all part of God’s plan.

They always say, “Ask, and you shall receive!” Or another version of that would be: “When you’re ready, the teacher will appear.” It’s a bit like the famous line out of Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come.” That’s what faith is. Putting it out there, and knowing that God has a perfect plan for you and your life; and the believing of it -- in every single nerve ending of your body and soul -- just knowing and waiting for it to happen. Along with the knowing, of course, you must also seek, and discover too! You can’t just sit in a dark room praying, and think that you’ll magically become a professional working actor. You have to get out there!

As I’ve said many times in other posts, I think that Christian actors can play a very important role in the Film and TV industries. A commitment to living with generosity, empathy, patience, forgiveness, and joy (in the midst of greed and adversity) can and will inspire others. It will also help them seek out where this joy comes from. Not only will it help to spread the word of God, it will also, plain and simple, make other people feel better!

Choosing to live your life with joy and light heals the world! It will inspire people to work with you, and for you, so it will also help your career. Also, your joy, and your Faith, will work as a spring-board for investors and for producers and directors you meet. Seeing the “God” in everything you do, and everyone you meet, will also keep you inspired through the tough times in your career. It will also help your friends and family. Your Faith will help you laugh when you get rejected for the fiftieth time in one month, and it will help you think “out of the box” when working on building your career.

Having Faith also means being a part of your community, and taking responsibility for the world around you. It gets you out of your crummy apartment, and out of your head when you’re feeling down, and into your LIFE! It takes you to church, and to community events. Faith encourages you to volunteer to help children and the elderly; it inspires you to write your own plays and film scripts' and makes you want to write Blogs and books and films for other people, all creative and loving ways you can help others.

I’ve never been a Bible beater. But I have been a “God Chaser” – a phrase I’ve heard lots from all my guy buddies in Promise Keepers. What I mean by this is that I consider it my duty, as someone who believes deeply in the message of Jesus Christ, that I must, first and foremost, live my life as much as I can by what he said and did. I try to see the Divine in everything I do and experience, and I try to see the lesson God is trying to teach me at all times.

But the number one most important thing for me to do as a Christian Artist is to “Do Unto Others”. Love. That’s what it’s all about! If I can show other people how much I love them, if I can think, always from the very outset of everything I do, about other people, use empathy, consider their pain, suffering, needs, hopes, fears, and dreams, then I can also learn to take care of my own suffering. If I can pray to surrender my Will, to the Will of a Higher Power, and live my life simply, and calmly, and with laughter and joy, from one moment to the next, yes, even one day at a time, then I am walking in His footsteps! Then it doesn’t matter one tiny bit if I don’t get that part, or that funding for a film. It just makes me try harder the next time, and it makes me think, “Well then, God doesn’t want me to have that part! He has something else in mind for me!”

I know so much that it’s really hard to have that kind of life perspective when you’re younger. Every experience, every loss and hardship, you will be going through for the fist time. Once you get a bit older, you begin to see the ups and downs of life. You begin to understand that you get stronger through your suffering. But maybe, if your younger, it will at least help to know that other people have struggled as you do. You are not alone.

So many of the questions I receive from bright, gifted, brimming with hope, young actors and actresses, have to do with big questions for their life. Bless their hearts! They are, you are, of course, uncertain: “What should I do?”

Student actors, or younger beginning actors, want a quick fix answer. I always did, and I really used to be like that. I realize now that I always gave everyone else the power to make or break my career. As an actor, I felt powerless. I had to rely on others to see I was talented, to see I was right for a part, to like me, or to not like me, to cast me, or not, and I had no idea how much power I had right there, just being me! I felt like Dustin Hoffman in that great acting film, Tootsie – you know, that scene where he was too tall, too short, too fat, too thin, too smart, not smart enough at every audition? That was me! It's probably you too!

Finally, I came to understand that no one else was me! No one could do or say or be or look like me, the way I did. That made me the most unique actor, person, student, artist, woman, person in the whole world. I know it sounds cliché, but that’s really how I feel now. I wish I’d known how powerful and strong I actually was, and how differently I could have viewed my life if I’d only had more faith back in my early twenties. It wasn’t until I was in my late twenties that I really got more spiritual. At that point, I’d stopped acting. But at least, I was able to see my strengths in my film career. For the fist time in my life, I decided to do things “my way” and to make a film “may way” and no other way. I prayed a lot while making that film, and felt like I'd entered foreign territory – I often felt like I had no clue what I was doing, and I let go and prayed all the time, and said, “God, help me do this film. I’m giving my will to you!” It’s probably one reason that my film won so many awards. I really put that whole project into God’s big, gentle hands! That film taught me so many big lessons.

Back to some of my initial concerns... These are the kinds of powerless questions that so many actors and actresses ask. These kinds of questions represent the way that actors and actresses give away their power to everyone else. Look at the fear in the center of each of these questions, and you’ll see what I mean.

  • What kind of agent should I get? (I will be a failure if I don’t get the right agent!)
  • What kind of headshots should I take? (What if the picture is terrible?)
  • What school should I attend? (If I make the wrong choice, my career will be over!)
  • What parts should I search out? (What if I get cast in a part that destroys me?)
  • What teacher should I learn from? (If I get the wrong teacher, I will be so unhappy!)
  • Where should I move? (I can’t act from Dayton, Ohio. How can I be famous here?)
  • How should I look? (I’m too fat, too ugly, too short, have gross clothes, look dumb!)
  • Why should I study this or that? (If I don’t train correctly, my acting will be terrible!)
  • What should I wear? (I have no clothes, and I’ll go to the audition naked!)

It’s as if – if only you could just come up with the right agent, headshot, outfit, hairstyle, city, or teacher, then this magic formula would FINALLY cure all problems, and you’d be instantly famous, and the lead in your very own sit-com making a million dollars a year! It doesn’t happen that way. Please get a copy of The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron, if this is how you wake up each day. Reading her book changed my life (and go to my post about great books for inspiration!)

I remember back when I was a student, I was always worrying about where I should put my staple at the top of my page, while stapling my resume to my headshot. As if that mattered! I mean, seriously! I used to think about that for several minutes at a time, thinking that a Casting Director would even CARE about my stupid staple.

What if it’s on the right side and that’s wrong? What if it’s in the center? What if it’s too high or too low? WHO CARES?! I really thought that the placement of one tiny staple would actually affect my chances of getting called! This just goes to show you how powerless most actors and actresses feel when they’re sending out headshots. They give all their power away to a tiny metal staple. Well folks, it’s time to say, “No!” to the staples in your life, and “Yes!” to the power of something that matters: God!

There is no magical answer as to how you can become an actor, and even praying to God to fulfill all of your dreams for a wonderful and brilliant career may not get you anywhere. Why? Because -- if you wanna hear God laugh, then tell him YOUR plans!

What I’m trying to say here is that Acting is hard! It’s a really really hard career to try and follow. It might make you feel better knowing (if you are trying to become a working actor), that there are literally tens of thousands of brilliant, beautiful, talented, even filthy rich young beginning actors moving to Hollwood -- EACH and EVERY YEAR! Yes, every single year! So just give yourself a very big break, and be gentle with yourself and love yourself and be proud of yourself, because you are trying to do something akin to playing the Lotto! I’m not saying that you’re not an incredible amazing talent, what I’m saying is that being “discovered” in Hollywood is kind of like being a needle in a huge fluffy haystack! Patience. Faith. Humor. Joy. You’re going to have to choose to have these things. This is your life. Don’t let it pass you by as you struggle to get noticed. You might as well decide to be happy and fulfilled, right?

Your success or failure may have nothing to do with you. That being said, remember that YOU are the only YOU out there. No one else looks or acts or speaks or behaves the way you do! You are perfect! You are the most original and unique, one of a kind version of a human being that God ever created!

I find that if you take some time out of your busy, crazy life, to be grateful, and joyous, and know that you are already “making it” – just by trying to be an actor -- that there is no “there, there” when you come to Hollywood, that it’s all ego, illusion, this searching for fame and fortune… If you can LET GO of your need to control your destiny, and imagine your whole life and career, your longings to be famous and rich, your desire to have the “big life” – all of this worldly stuff that we all secretly covet, as nothing but a mirage… If you turn your focus to others, and to God, and to trusting… If you learn to be Godly in all places at all times, and accept that maybe he has a calling for you that you can and will never understand – and that calling may be something as simple as living in an inner city neighborhood in LA, on a block with poor neglected children who may need your wonderful, Godly energy… If you can see that maybe you work at a job you don’t like because God put you there. He put you there to bring cheer to others who are suffering under a difficult boss…then, no matter what, you will be happy. There is a reason for everything, and sometimes, the reason may be unknown to you.

Remember that there is resurrection and redemption after the crucifixion! That's the journey we every day heroes must take.

You will find Grace! Grace is all around you.

Grace IS you!

PS - Merry Christmas!

About Kirsten Tretbar

Kirsten Tretbar is an acting teacher, filmmaker, and former actress. She received her MFA in Acting from USC in Los Angeles, where she acted professionally for many years.

Los Angeles + Kansas City