Chad Connell: Today’s Notable Young Professional

Today’s Notable Young Professional is actor Chad Connell, who offers some great advice for other young professionals looking to make a career in his field. One thing we learned from him? Don’t discount the 10,000-hour rule…

Elevator Pitch: Describe your job in a nutshell.
Still trying to figure this one out for myself. I suppose, in as few words as possible: I memorize words other people have written and pretend to be someone I’m not – and most importantly hope to get paid for it!

The job of an actor consists of being in a constant state of readiness; auditions can come with as little as an hour’s notice. If there are unusual demands for the job, such as a regional accent you haven’t worked in, or a high level of fitness, you don’t always have the time to hire a dialect coach or a personal trainer to get you in shape. You’ve got to be prepared for any curveball to be thrown your way at any given moment. Taking acting, voice or movement classes, constantly going back to basics and performing rudimentary exercises and drills the way an athlete would are all a part of the job description.

Why did you start working at your company? What was the inspiration for this career route?
I started performing in community theatre productions as a kid, and realized that the attention-seeker in me felt a lot more fulfilled on stage than on a soccer pitch. From there I begged my parents to get me an agent so I could try out some professional auditions. It was a while before I landed my first gig – I can still remember feeling like a big-shot at the sight of my first trailer. I’ve been acting professionally for about 15 years now. I was in high-school when I landed my first job, and from there I worked about one job for a year. Back then acting was really more of a hobby for me, which happened to pay better than a part-time job. I acted in high-school Shakespeare productions and musicals, but in my down time I cultivated a love of cinema and set my sights on a film career. I dedicated myself to four years of Theatre School to lay a foundation of technical training and learning about the world of acting and I’ve been fortunate enough since graduating to make my living as an actor.

What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
My day-to-day is like constantly hitting the refresh button. Every day brings something new with it, whether it be a new city, a new character to wrap my head around or meeting new people. Occasionally I have found myself downtown at the end of the work day walking against the current of commuters. It felt like an analogy for my life: swimming upstream, against the current, and carving out my own path. I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

I’d say the biggest challenge an actor faces is self-motivation. You are essentially the CEO of your corporation of one, and there is no boss to tell you to get up early and work on your lines, or to motivate you to go to the gym or get to acting class. It requires a lot of self-discipline and every day that you are not on set necessitates that you to make your day productive without the structure of a work day.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
In about five years I see myself sifting through scripts, selecting which ones I’d like to produce. 

What does success look like to you?
Success from moment to moment has to be measured with a different yardstick. I often feel some of my greatest successes as an actor are working through a scene in a small room, in front of only two other people, for a part that ultimately might be for someone else. Or in front of the lights and cameras of a film set. It is an intangible feeling of being so connected to the material that you lose yourself in the moment. To be truly successful would mean to be able to feel that I have the opportunity to act at my highest level whenever I wanted. Of course winning a few awards and being able to afford an ocean-side home would be a nice token of success.

What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
Working with an Academy Award winner (Mercedes Ruehl) this past spring was a highlight, and my first time on screen with an Oscar winner. I think my most significant milestones are yet to come.

Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
My advice for young actors would be to make use of every opportunity you have to act. I’ve read about the 10,000-hour rule that states to be successful one needs roughly 10,000 hours of practice behind them. When you’re young and have the time, test out the local improv classes or get together with friends and produce your own short film. Get those 10,000 hours in. A good career comes only after your talent and hard work are in place.

Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
I’m a big believer in food banks everywhere. There are so many people who struggle to feed their children and families. Donating to food banks is a way to ensure that people out there who are in need are getting enough to eat when their budgets fall short.

What to you is notable?
Confidence. It’s a quality that is hard to describe yet is acutely palpable. The camera can sense the slightest insecurity and magnify it. I think the most successful actors are able to find a source of confidence that will allow them to be so present or vulnerable. It’s really magnetic.

Blackberry, iPhone, Android, or Other?
iPhone. Is there any other? After losing it, dropping it, and having it stolen, I am probably on my 15th iPhone and we are still in a very deeply committed relationship.

Keep any eye out for Chad’s latest film, Mortal Instruments, which comes out August 21, 2013.