The Life of an Actor & other "Chasing Your Dreams" myths

Ah, chasing your dreams. It is a common theme with we humans and something that most of us would love to do. But the reality of taking on that challenge can be a bit… challenging.

Especially if the dreams that you want to chase are dreams of becoming an actor in Hollywood. From moving to LA and starting a new career (and actually a new life) to keeping your spouse happy during the transition, there is quite a bit to going after those dreams

Read along right here as author Neal A. Yeager presents a few chapters from the novel non-Hollywood devoted to the life of an actor and other myths of "chasing your dreams."

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Life of an Actor

Chapter 1: Life of an Actor

Terrance had just been stabbed for being a vampire. Well, he wasn’t really a vampire, he was an actor playing a vampire in a “film” that was so low-budget and God-awful that, much like a vampire, the film would likely never see the light of day.

The fact that the movie would likely never be seen was unfortunate. More unfortunate, however, was that the whole “being stabbed” thing — well, that was real. Terrance was making a movie. And Terrance had, in fact, just been stabbed.

Oh, the life of an actor.

“Holy Christ!” shouted someone — the camera assistant maybe — as the blood, real blood not movie blood, real blood, started to seep out of Terrance’s chest.

Standing directly over Terrance was a moron. An overzealous moron. The actor who, while playing the Vampire Hunter, had just stabbed Terrance. Oblivious to his own idiocy, the actor said, “Whoa…”

The only thing Terrance had to say was,“Ffffff…. ffffff…”


Later in the ambulance, Terrance, high on pain killers and blood loss, hoarsely sang “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and tried, through the haze of his mind, to focus his thoughts on his life. Not because he thought that he was about to die — he didn’t — but because he wondered if this little episode might be telling him something about what his life had become because of this stupid dream of stardom.

Twenty years. Terrance was generally an optimist, but… twenty years? For the last 20 years he had been living this life of an actor — feeding himself to the Humiliation Machine that was Hollywood. And as far as he could see, the best that he’d gotten for his trouble:

1.) a near miss while acting alongside a guy who would eventually become a HUGE MOVIE STAR (and who, after becoming a HUGE MOVIE STAR had seemed to completely forget that Terrance had ever existed).

2.) being stabbed by a moron.

As he lay in the ambulance, Terrance couldn’t help thinking that maybe a normal life didn’t seem half bad.


*The printed version of non-Hollywood follows a different character in its next chapter. You can read the book in that orderif you prefer, or scroll down to see the next chapters starring Terrance.

[ or just skip ahead to Chapter 5 ]

Did Terrance regret heeding the call to chase dreams and pursue the life of an actor?

Chasing your dreams always has a cost.


In this, the first chapter of the novel non-Hollywood, we learn pretty clearly of the cost to one of the main characters: an actor named Terrance who twenty years ago said, "I want to be an actor" and has now found himself in a less-than ideal situation.

As an aspiring actor for a few decades, Terrance has really been through it all in the pursuit of that elusive career. Was chasing the dream actually a good idea for him? Was it right to take a shot at starting a new career, an acting career in LA? Is acting a good career choice?

These are questions that Terrance is certainly mulling over on his way to the hospital.

After all this time, this may not actually be where to start an acting career.

Chase those dreams. Pursuing your dreams can be one of the most exciting experiences in life. But know that there are costs. Sometimes big ones.

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Going Hollywood

Chapter 5: Going Hollywood

The incident wherein Terrance had been stabbed on the set of a vampire movie had occurred on the night of October 19, 2010. He was 44 years old.

Twenty years before that eventful day, Terrance and his young wife Melanie were driving a crappy old car across the country. As he drove, sunglasses on, blonde hair blowing free in the wind and a cigarette dangling from his lips, Terrance was feeling pretty good, feeling pretty cocky, feeling pretty happy. He had no idea.

Terrance and Melanie’s destination? L.A. — L.A., that magical land where it was only a matter of time (and very little time at that) before Terrance would be crowned the Next Big Thing. Before he would be a celebrated actor. Before he would be rich and famous. Before life would be damned near perfect.

They figured that they had enough money to last them close to two years — or rather Melanie had enough money to last them close to two years, thanks to her late-grandfather who had named her as beneficiary on a small insurance policy. But neither of them thought that they would need that much time. Terrance would be huge before then.

Terrance pulled into the parking lot of a motel and as he killed the engine, Melanie stirred awake. “Where are we?” she asked, yawning.

“Somewhere in Colorado,” he said.

Melanie rubbed her eyes, opened her door and swung her feet out onto the pavement. “Pretty,” she said.

“Yeah it is,” Terrance said, “air smells pretty good too.” He walked over to Melanie, put his arm around her and then lightly rubbed her stomach — something that he couldn’t seem to stop doing ever since she’d told him she was pregnant.

Melanie brushed Terrance’s bangs out and away from his eyes.

He looked at her and smiled, “Maybe we’ll get a home here — after the one in Malibu and the one in the south of France.”

“Which,” she said, “comes after your academy award and your star on the Hollywood Blvd.”

“Maybe before the star thing,” he said, then he kissed her.

Damn, he was happy.

Melanie looked up at the motel, “looks like a giant log cabin.”

“I hope that’s intentional,” Terrance replied, and they walked up and entered.

At the front desk was a large, middle-aged woman with a friendly face. The motel woman had watched them as they had crossed the lot and entered her lobby, and what she saw: a young man, tall, thin, with blonde windswept hair, sunglasses and exuding a casual confidence that movie people would label “presence;” and with him a girl, thin and pretty with jet-black (obviously dyed jet-black) hair and just the right amount of too much eye makeup; in short: two ridiculously attractive young people.

The motel woman saw good-looking young people coming through her doors often enough to know what it meant. She said to Terrance as he walked toward the front desk, “Let me guess: You’re on your way to California.”

Terrance laughed and removed his sunglasses, “Yep,” he said, “Going Hollywood.”


“From a small town just outside Indianapolis.”


“No, Indianapolis.”

Melanie chimed in, “he’s in a movie.”

The motel woman asked, “He’s in a movie, or he’s going to be in a movie?”

“Well it’s not out yet, but he’s in one,” Melanie replied, “It was being filmed in Indianapolis and they cast a few local actors. Terrance was one of the ones they cast.”

The motel woman nodded and said, “Really? That sounds like fun. Had you acted before?”

Terrance responded, “Oh yeah. Did a few local commercials. Did some modeling in Chicago for catalogs and stuff. But my part in this movie is only, like, four lines. But it’s a start.”

Melanie added, “It’s hard just to get started in The Biz. We figured, might as well go for it now. What, with a break like that and all.”

The motel woman asked, “So now you’re going Hollywood?”

Terrance nodded. “Yep. Seemed like it was now or never. Being in movies is what I’ve always wanted to do. So I figured I should… you know… do it.”

“Well, good for you,” said the motel woman.

Terrance asked her, “And how did you know? That we were headed for California?”

“Oh, you see something every day, you kinda get to recognize it.”

“Every day?” Terrance asked, “As in literally every day?”

“Oh yeah. But, I tell you something else though, I see people going Hollywood, but I see just as many folks coming the other direction. Lots of people out to make their dreams come true and lots of people who’ve apparently figured out that theirs ain’t gonna happen.”

“Well,” said Terrance, “I guess that’s good for your business then.”

“It is, in fact. Now if only I owned the place,” she said with a laugh, “Well sir, if you could sign in right here, and that’ll be $37 for the night.”

Terrance took the hotel register and signed his name where the woman pointed: on the page for April 17, 1990.

Melanie stepped forward, pulling her wallet out of her purse, “Yeah,” she said, “And I’ve got the other right here.”

The motel woman looked at Melanie, then at Terrance. A knowing smile crossed her face.


As they unpacked their suitcase in the small room, Melanie laughed and said, “Did you see her?”

“Did I see who?”

“The lady at the desk.”

“Well, yeah Mel, I saw her. I was talking to her.”

“But did you see her? When we were leaving the lobby? She was checking out your butt. She had to be like 40 years old and she’s checking out your butt.”

Terrance was unfazed. Actually, women did that sort of thing to him all the time. Frankly, he thought it was odd that this was the first time that Melanie had noticed. Unless she had noticed before and this was just the first time she had said anything.

He said, “How do you know she was checking out my butt?”

“I saw her in the mirror. Her eyes were glued.”

“How do you know it was my butt? You were walking right beside me, maybe it was your butt she was glued to.”

“Nuh-uh. It was definitely yours.”

“Well, she can’t have it,” he said as he walked over and hugged her, “my butt already belongs to somebody else.”

“Damn straight,” said Melanie and she kissed him.

“So,” said Terrance, “Are we gonna do this straight through tomorrow?”

“Hell yeah,” Melanie replied, “By this time tomorrow I wanna have my toes in the ocean.”


By that time the next day Melanie’s toes were not in the ocean, though they were a whole lot closer to it than Colorado. After looking through his mom’s worn-out road atlas, Terrance had plotted a route which would take them right through Hollywood.

It was dark as they drove along the 101 Freeway. As soon as they had seen the round Capitol Records building with its pointy spire, Melanie had shrieked giddily and Terrance had swerved across a couple of lanes to get off at the next exit. They had immediately gotten turned around, but after several guesses at turns had somehow ended up on Hollywood Boulevard. But not the Hollywood Boulevard-looking part of Hollywood Boulevard.

Melanie said in a quiet, worried voice, “This doesn’t look like in the movies.”

Terrance looked around. He had to agree with both her statement and tone. He responded, “No, it doesn’t. I don’t know. You don’t suppose there’s another Hollywood Boulevard, do you?”

“What, you mean like how there’s a bunch of Maple Lanes and Third Streets?”


“I kind of don’t think so. I think there’s only one Hollywood Boulevard.”

Terrance shrugged and said, “I’m gonna keep driving in this direction until we see something…”

“Less sleazy looking?” said Melanie.

“‘More touristy’ is what I was gonna say.”

“Oh my God,” Melanie gasped, “Are those… Are those hookers?”

“Um, I don’t know,” Terrance replied uneasily.

“I think those are hookers.”

“I don’t know Mel. Maybe they’re just club girls. Let’s face it, sometimes club girls dress like hookers.”

“Nuh-uh,” said Melanie, “those were hookers.”

“Maybe. I don’t know.”

They drove along for several more blocks in silence. Melanie put her forehead against the window and sighed. She said, “It’s not really what I was expecting. It’s kinda depressing actually. I guess I was thinking, Hollywood, you know? I was thinking Hollywood would be something more like… Oh my God!”


Look. Look. Look!” she shouted as her pointing finger banged against the glass three times.

Terrance was puzzled. “Where?” he asked.

“Pull over Terrance, pull over!”

“There’s nowhere to pull over.”

“Right there! Pull over right there!”

“That’s a red zone, Mel.”

“I’ll pay the ticket! Pull over dammit!”

Terrance swung the car into the red zone. Even before the car had come to a stop Melanie was out the door and bounding toward the sidewalk. Terrance, alarmed, quickly parked the car in the red, jumped out and rushed toward her. Melanie was grinning madly and pointing at the sidewalk.

“Look!,” she yelled as she pointed downward.

Terrance looked down at her feet and he saw it too. He smiled as Melanie shouted, “Stars! Stars on the sidewalk! We’re here Terrance. We’re really here!”

Terrance was standing on the star of Lawrence Olivier on Hollywood Boulevard. There it was: that pinkish, marbly-looking star with gold trim. He looked back up at Melanie. She had an ecstatic look on her face and she bounced up and down as she said to him, “Can you believe this? We’re here. We’re actually here!”

Yes, they were.

And at that moment Terrance felt something. A feeling that he couldn’t really describe. Would never be able to really describe. He just stood there on the sidewalk of stars feeling this feeling that he couldn’t describe. He was happy. But, it was something more than happiness, much more. It was something that spread through his entire being, washed over him in the greatest of ways. When he thought about it later, the only comparison that came to mind was something spiritual. This, he thought later, must be the feeling of someone undergoing a religious conversion.

It felt wonderful.

And in the twenty years, six months and one day that followed, he had never felt it again.


*The printed version of non-Hollywood follows a different character in its next chapter. You can read the book in that orderif you prefer, or scroll down to see the next chapters starring Terrance.

[ or just skip ahead to chapter 7]

Moving to LA for acting and a new career... 20 years ago

It's pretty common. It happens every day. Young people load up their cars, moving to LA for acting and a new career.

Sometimes the dreams that they are chasing work out. Sometimes not. But there is always a sense of excitement in beginning this sort of a career journey. Young and full of hope is definitely how you go for your dreams.

In Terrance's case, as in many cases, he is moving to LA with no acting experience. Does that matter? Did Brad Pitt have lots of acting experience when he loaded up his car and made that journey? And so the young hopefuls continue to pour into the area, moving to LA not for the beach or the great climate, but to make it in the world of Hollywood.

Knowing his future as we do, would Terrance make that journey again?

In all likelihood, yes.

There is just something within us that makes us want to pursue our dreams. It's a human trait that is very strong within us. Just ask anyone who has embarked on the quest of the life of an actor.

And depending upon where the hopefuls are coming from, the journey itself can be a rewarding trip. Traveling across the United States to LA exposes many young people to areas that they had never before experienced. Maybe, like Terrance and Melanie it may provide the first taste of Colorado.

Or the first glimpse of an ocean.

So there are side benefits to pursuing your dream, if your dream happens to take you on a trip involving relocating to LA.

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Zuma Beach

Chapter 7: Zuma Beach

Twenty years, five months and twenty six days before being stabbed while acting on the set of a vampire movie, Terrance, 23, sat shirtless on the sands of Zuma Beach in Malibu. He and Melanie, 22, had been in L.A. for about a week, during which time they had been alternating between playing eyes-wide tourists and looking for apartments.

The apartment search part of things had been going slowly — they felt that for Terrance’s acting career they should live in Hollywood, but they were discovering that there were some pretty iffy-looking places in Hollywood and even those places cost more than the couple had been expecting to spend — but the tourist part of things was going grand.

The day after they had arrived in town someone had mentioned to them that they could jump onto Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood and it would take them all the way to the ocean. They had hopped into their car right then and jumped onto Sunset Boulevard. Out of Hollywood. Through West Hollywood and the Roxy and The Whiskey. Past the big pink Beverly Hills Hotel. Past the walls of estates in Bel Air. Past UCLA. Over the freeway and under the huge, vacant mountainside on which a sign proclaimed that it would one day host the Getty Center Museum. Skirting Brentwood. Through the winding, wooded sections where they suspected that very rich people lived just out of sight. Through the center of Pacific Palisades. And then a curving drive down the hill and wham!, the view opens up and Sunset Boulevard finishes its run in style with the seemingly endless view of the Pacific Ocean. Blue, blue and more blue. A wide open, awe-inspiring, breathtaking view of the Pacific.

As they had sat at the stoplight, the last stoplight on Sunset Boulevard, they gazed out the front of the car. They were both entranced by the sight of the ocean. Terrance arbitrarily hit the right turn signal, which meant their first drive up the Pacific Coast Highway. As they had waited for the light to turn, their windshield was filled with the sight of the Pacific. The salty smell had wafted in through the side windows and Melanie’s jaw had literally hung open. After several moments of silence, Melanie had finally said, “So that’s what an ocean looks like.”

Terrance had then patted her knee and said, “That’s what an ocean looks like.”


They had then driven up the coast — a drive that has enchanted countless folks for close to a century — for miles and miles they had driven with the gigantic blue mass of water always visible out the driver’s side window. For a bit, the road curved slightly inland, the ocean disappeared from view and they had practically held their breath until the water reappeared. Shortly after that, the large stretch of sand that was Zuma Beach had rolled into view.

Each day since that day they had made the drive, leaving the busy streets of Hollywood and arriving at the calm openness that was Zuma.

And so today they had come again.

As Terrance and Melanie sat on the beach, an onlooker might have found the picture oddly reminiscent of a light beer commercial: two insanely good-looking young people in bathing suits and wet hair, smiling as their arms draped one another’s shoulders. All that was missing was a dog in a bandana.

“I really need to learn how to surf,” said Terrance. He looked over at Melanie. She was wearing headphones and he knew that when she was listening to a cassette on her Walkman she usually didn’t hear him.

Terrance waved at her and Melanie removed the headphones. He asked, “What are you listening to?”


“Oh…. Smiths,” he said.

Melanie smiled, shook her head and put the headphones back on. She said, “We listened to your Nine Inch Nails tape all across the country and I didn’t complain.”

“No, you didn’t.”

“So let me listen to my Smiths in peace.”

Terrance shrugged. “I don’t understand how someone can like The Smiths and not like Nine Inch Nails. It’s the same kind of angst, just different volume levels… But either way, the point is that The Smiths is not really beach music, Mel. Beach music is up. Smiths are depressing.”

She laughed and waved her hand in a shooing motion.

Terrance looked out again at the ocean and again he said, “I need to learn how to surf.”

Melanie again removed her headphones. “You don’t need to learn how to surf, you want to learn how to surf,” said Melanie. But she wasn’t looking at him. Her attention had become fixed on the south end of the beach, where a a film production was obviously going on. Large tents had been set up on the sand and the parking lot was full of production vehicles: RVs with racks of costumes hanging just outside them; large white panel trucks full of lighting equipment; two lunch wagons with their awnings spread wide.

“No, I definitely need to learn to surf. What if there’s a part in a movie about the Beach Boys?”

“You’ll be fine because The Beach Boys didn’t actually surf… Look at those film people Terrance. There they are. Right there. Isn’t that fascinating? Aren’t you fascinated?”

Terrance looked over at the production. “I guess so… But, it’s kind of something that I was expecting. They film things all over the place in L.A. And we’re at the beach. I mean, how many gagillion scenes have you seen on beaches?”

“Yeah,” she said slowly, her thoughts residing down there at the end of the beach, “I wonder what they’re filming? I wonder if there’s anybody famous?”

Terrance added, “I wonder if they’re gonna blow anything up? That would be cool.”

She shook her head, “Those girls are all wearing bikinis. I don’t think they’re gonna get blown up.”

“You never know Mel. You never know. It might be some weird David Lynch thing… So you want to get back in the water?”

Melanie didn’t answer him. She just sat staring at the film production.

“Do you want to get back in the water?” he repeated.

She spoke slowly and said, “I think what I want is to find out what they’re doing over there. Terrance, why don’t you go over there and find out?”

“Because… they’re working. They don’t want tourists going over there and bugging them.”

“Why should they mind? And you’re not a tourist, you’re an actor. And they’re not all working. Look: Some of them look like they’re having a break or something. You could just go over and ask them…”

“Mel, you could go over and ask them.”

“No, you’re the one who’s good at that sort of thing. Just go over there and ask someone. See that guy sitting on the bench on the end there? Just stroll over there and ask him.”


“Just go ask him.”

So Terrance put on his sandals and started through the sand toward where the production was camped out. It took a bit for him to get down to the end of the beach, and as he drew closer he could see that this appeared to be the base camp — a mini city of RVs and tents — while the actual filming was taking place further south, where the coast suddenly turned into cliffs.

As he approached, the man Melanie had pointed out said something into a Walkie-Talkie and stood up as if to go. Terrance called out to him, “Hey.”

“Hey. Can I help you?”

“Oh, I was just curious about you guys here. Not in a tourist way. I’m not a tourist, I’m an actor.”

The man nodded and said, “Okay, well there you go.”

Terrance asked, “So, if you don’t mind my asking, what are you shooting here?”

The man said simply, “Feature.”

“Oh, anyone I know in it?”


And that was all the man said. Terrance cleared his throat and said, “Well, I don’t want to keep you, I just wondered… professional interest and all that. And Jeez, this is such a great location isn’t it?”

Suddenly the man’s face lit up as if a bulb had illuminated it. He said, “Yeah, this is one of my favorites in town. This place. I mean, Charlton Heston and all that.”

Terrance asked, “Charlton Heston?”

“Yeah. This is the beach from Planet of the Apes!”

“What? This? You mean the Statue of Liberty and all that?”

“That’s what I mean. Charlton Heston comes riding up this beach to where those cliffs are and Bam! One of the greatest film scenes ever. And it was right here.”

Terrance marveled as he looked out at the beach. He said, “That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever heard.”

“I know,” said the man as he walked away from Terrance and back toward the film set.

Terrance turned back and started to walk over to Melanie so that he could tell her the coolest thing that he had ever heard.


*The printed version of non-Hollywood follows a different character in its next chapter. You can read the book in that orderif you prefer, or click below to see the next chapters starring Terrance.

[ or just skip to Chapter 10 ]

Chasing your dreams can wait until after beach time

There are certain experiences that must be had.

And for someone relocating to LA, one of those must-have experiences which must happen as soon as possible is a trip to the beach.

It doesn't really matter that you are chasing your dreams. It doesn't really matter that you have to figure out how to get your first acting job, or for that matter just figure out where do actors live in LA. No, all of that can wait, because first things first, the beach is calling.

One of the best beaches, as well as one of the most common for people to first experience when moving to LA, is Zuma Beach in Malibu. Huge expanses of sand. Surfing. And the location for more movies than you can count.

So it is only natural that Terrance and Melanie head to Zuma Beach even before they have found a place to live. It's an experience that must be had.

Chasing your dreams