• Ray Watters

Our Unique Life Experiences...A Valuable Tool

Updated: Apr 24

There is an old joke…the origin of which remains unknown but has been ascribed to various musicians such as Jascha Heifitz, Artur Rubenstein, or Jack Benny. A young fellow is walking the streets of New York, stops the musician and asks, “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” The famous musician replies, “Practice, practice, practice.”

And so it goes with the craft of acting. I have been taught by some great acting coaches, but a better teacher has been practical experience in community theater and in front of a camera in short and student films. Practicing the craft has been valuable for me and has given the experience I needed for larger projects. But there is something more.

A typical resumé includes the actor’s training and credits, however, leaves out something that I consider very important in an actor’s repertoire…something that talent agents should know when considering a person for representation or casting directors should know about the person auditioning in front of them. That something is life experience.

What I value most as an actor has been my experiences in life during the past 77 years I have been on earth. As an example, if I were to be cast in a film involving the military, my drama training, although valuable, would not the best teacher. My best teacher could be my experience as a Combat Medical Instructor in the U.S. Army, my work in the media supporting the U.S. Marines, my work as a USO volunteer supporting deploying soldiers, or flying in a U.S. Air Force aerial tanker filming the refueling of several military aircraft for a television program, just to name a few.

In the late 1960s and through the 70s, I worked for a major airline as a crew member. This gave me the opportunity to travel all over the world and experience different cultures. I have had breakfast in the Eiffel Tower in Paris and have climbed the Great Wall of China. I have enjoyed the hospitality of people from Europe and indigenous peoples in remote areas of South America.

For several years I was News Director for a radio station and hosted a regional television program. For my work as a broadcaster and local volunteer, I was honored with a proclamation by the city council in my hometown.

There are many more experiences, such as performing at the Hollywood Bowl four years before The Beatles, or flying in a glider and experimental aircraft.

My best experience, though, has been my marriage of 45 years, and my wonderful children and grandchildren.

OK…I’ve bragged enough, but I think you get the idea. Should I ever be asked the question by a Casting Director, “Tell me about yourself”, you can bet I have enough to bend their ears for some time.

A word of advice…as an actor, you may be asked in an audition to tell a bit about yourself. Never mention you are an actor and list your credits…they already know this and, frankly, it will bore them. People want to know what makes you unique as a person. Think about all the experiences you have had and be prepared to share them. Perhaps you have a musical talent, have had interesting experiences while travelling, work with animals, or anything else that would make an interesting story. Unless we’ve been locked in a basement all our lives, we can come up with something that would give people an idea of who we are and what shapes our emotions.

Embrace your uniqueness and have fun!

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