We’ve all fantasized about what it’d be like to be a famous actor. The glitz, the glam, the VIP treatment. The reality is though, like most entrepreneurial endeavors, the path to a career in acting can be a long, tough, and sometimes lonely one.
On a cloudy day at a rooftop wine bar, I sat down with Brook Sill: Lifelong dancer, model, former Miss South Carolina Teen, and up & coming actress.
“I knew I’d regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t pursue this burning passion inside of my heart.”
Sophisticated Professional: Where does this story start for you?
Brook Sill: Dancing was the first love of my life, I started when I was 3 years old. If you can count that as dancing. As a kid, I tried every sport under the sun and just kept going back to dancing. Then in middle school I heard about the SC Governor’s School. After learning there was a place you could go to school and dance 5-7 hours every day, I was sold out and on fire. That was my dream.
How did the idea of acting come about?
Even though dance was my first love, acting has always sat in the back of my mind as something I wanted to pursue. At the governor’s school, I could either do dance or theater, but not both. Then i went to college at the University of Clemson and double majored in theater and communications, still with this idea of acting in the back of my head.
I had gotten to go down to Atlanta and be an extra a few times, but I wanted to do more. As graduation was getting closer, I just realized that I would forever regret it if I didn’t pursue it. So I kind of just put it all out on the line. Instead of just getting a job that’d be “normal”, or “stable”, or have a consistent income. I just jumped out of the plane.
If someone wants to get into acting, what should they do? When you initially started on this path, what was your first practical step to breaking in?
Research. Believe it or not, just simply google-ing, “best acting agencies in Atlanta”. Then look for a tab on their website for submissions and it will tell you what to send. It will say something like, “you need a monologue, photos like this, etc”. I started out as an extra which helped me understand a little bit about how set works and meet a lot of people. Facebook is a great place to find those first extras castings.
One big thing to understand is that this industry is so finicky and subjective. An agency may already have someone that looks like you or has the same range that you do, so if they say no don’t get discouraged. It doesn’t mean you’re bad, it just means it’s not the right time at the right place. My biggest advice is be persistent and consistent. Just keep submitting to every single agency you know. You might get told no 95% of your career, so just know that going in. Keep the perspective: every audition is just practice, allowing you to get better. Another opportunity for you to perform in front of someone. It all goes back to your why. Are you doing it because you love the process and performing, or because you’re chasing money and fame?”
At what point did you get an agent and what was the process for getting one? How do you choose someone you know you can trust?
I wanted to get an agent my entire life but waited until I could dedicate everything I had to it. When I learned that Atlanta is the number one place in the world for film right now, I packed up my car and went to the scene of the action. I had a very abnormal experience when it comes to finding an agent. I got extremely lucky and happened to be at the right place at the right time. I got to meet one of the biggest agents in Atlanta my second day there (I didn’t even have a dresser or bed in my room yet). They sent me an audition to work on immediately, I submitted it back to them, came into the office to meet everyone, and all of a sudden, that’s where I worked. I think the Lord knew I was doubting making such a big leap into the unknown and helped me out on that one. My advice for people seeking representation is word of mouth goes a long way. I had some friends who were with this agency and had nothing but amazing things to say. Ask around, get as many opinions as you can.
What was the first acting job that you had to audition? What is the audition process like? What did you have to do in the audition?
The first audition I ever had was for a movie called “Ma”. My role was to play the younger version of Missy Pyle in a flashback scene. I made it down to just me and one other girl, but ended up not getting the role. I was ecstatic to make it that far. 95% of my auditions are submitted through self tape, so the majority of the time I have no human interaction with the casting directors. My agency will send a character description, project details and the script that needs to be memorized for the audition. I normally have around 1-3 days to work on it and get it submitted. My roommate and I turned our dinning room in our apartment into a studio and set up box lights and a camera against a blank wall for filming. A lot of people I know go to studios that offer self taping services that will often give coaching for the audition.
How did you stand out amongst all the other actors?
I’ve heard several casting directors say that what separates most actors is their confidence. They don’t walk in the room with a desperation for the role. I suggest you simply show up, show what you have to offer after hours of preparation and accept the outcome.
Living in a new city, working like crazy to make ends meet, how do you make those first connections?
Make conversation with everyone around you. At the grocery store, at your job, on the bus, at church, everywhere. Even if you’re exhausted and feel like being an introvert!. You have to put yourself out there. Fall in love with meeting new people and getting to know their stories. Sometimes it’s awkward but you never know who you might be standing next to.
Initially, what was the draw for you? Why’d you want to be an actor?
I discovered as a kid that I have a deep love for performing.
I still have the same love of performing, but as i’ve gotten older and have had the opportunity to travel, I love meeting different people and hearing their stories. So as an actor, every story or script I read and the idea of getting to live in someone else’s shoes and tell that story is amazing. I couldn’t invent a better job.
Where does your motivation come from?
Every set I’ve been on, i develop a new hunger. Honestly, this industry can be a little dark. My soul purpose and motivation is just to love on people like crazy and to serve them no matter who they are, to show them a love that I think is sometimes non existent in this industry. I gave my life to Christ my freshman year of high school and my life has never been the same. I wouldn’t even be pursuing acting if I didn’t feel that’s where the Lord was calling me. If all of a sudden He called me elsewhere to do something completely different, that’s what I’d do. But for now, this is where I feel called.
“You’ve got to fall in love with being told No!”
This is a competitive business. I know a number of our readers have taken that first step, made significant sacrifices, but have hit a plateau. How do you get noticed in such a competitive field, how do you break out over the hump and make it to that next level?
Look at your schedule. Always challenge yourself. Whether that’s taking classes every day, working with a coach one on one, practicing more. If you do the same stuff every day, you’re going to stay at the same level.You have to challenge yourself and push your boundaries, get out of your comfort zone and ask people for advice. Be hungry. Get on fire. You have to really want it and keep your eye on the end goal.
To the person who says, “I already do everything to maximize my schedule, I take tons of classes, receive tons of coaching, and practice constantly.” What do they need to do to get to the next level?
If you are maxing out your schedule to your fullest potential then all you can do is be patient and know that God’s timing is perfect and keep putting in the work. This industry can feel like it has no rhyme or reason. Every single actor in this industry has a completely different story and timeline to success. You have to know that by choosing this profession you are choosing to fail more than you succeed and you have to be okay with that.
What’s your advice to the person that says,
“I know I have to learn to deal with rejection, but I can’t seem to build a resilience”
What’s really helped me is having mentors in my life. People you can call during those hard moments that really know who you are and will pour into you when you’re empty.
Also, journaling has been a huge thing for me. Even little things like sticky notes on my mirror reminding me that God has a plan for me and to not be discouraged.
Was the road to where you are right now all glamorous or were there some hard times and seasons?
I am a social butterfly at heart, so getting to spend time with my friends and family has always been important to me. The first 8 months I was in Atlanta I worked a job 8 hours during the day and then was a bartender every night. So i’d work all day, bar tend at night, get off at 5 am and have to be back at my day job at 7 am. Some nights I only got an hour of sleep. It was a grind. This meant that every single weekend I worked and wasn’t able to meet new friends or have the time to do anything really. It was a very lonely, hard time for me. I knew that if I wanted to be able to afford acting classes/coaching I was going to have to earn it. Most people don’t get to see that side of things.
Choosing acting as a career is choosing sacrifice. There is zero certainty and and the majority of those who pursue it don’t succeed. In choosing this art, you are gambling with odds that aren’t in your favor. When I graduated from Clemson, I knew there were plenty of jobs I could pursue that would provide stable income, great work environments and a consistent schedule, but I knew I’d regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t pursue this burning passion inside of my heart.
What is a reality of working in the business that a lot of people don’t think about?
The crazy, spontaneous schedule it requires. When I was working on “Legacies” for the network CW, they called me on a Sunday night at 11 pm and said asked if I could be there at 5 am! On top of that they also switched the role I was going to play. I was in SC, so I had to drive through the night to get there. I kind of feel sorry for my friends and family sometimes because I’ve had to cancel a lot of stuff.
You’ve gotten to travel quite a bit, how have you been able to do so?
I had to make it a priority. My freshman year of college, all my friends were going to these sorority meetings. I wasn’t really a sorority girl, but went with my friends to check it out. In the first 10 minutes they were telling us it would cost like $850 for your initiation fee. My first thought was, “that’s like 3 plane tickets to Puerto Rico!”
“When you want something bad enough, everything else in your life rearranges around that.”
I mean, half of my trips I eat peanut butter sandwiches for all three of my meals and sleep on someone’s couch. I just want to go to these places, even if it means cutting out some luxuries.
How has your faith played a role in building your career?
It’s the most important thing to me. One of the hardest parts is deciphering what I really think is right and wrong and where those lines are. Everyone has their opinions, but finding your own and determining what the Lord is saying is huge. I’ve turned down several pretty big roles because I wasn’t comfortable with what they would’ve required from me.
What lessons do you wish you would have learned earlier than you did, and if you had the chance to go back or were advising someone in that season, how would you suggest they learn those lessons now?
Your main road block is your own mind. Acting requires you to be wildly vulnerable. My mind would flood with thoughts like, “That was so bad! Am I doing this right? That character is so far from my natural personality, I’m embarrassed to even attempt that and look stupid.” I let the desire for others approval and validation hold me back from just going all in. Once you step out of the fence you built up around yourself, you really get to play and expand your abilities. The longer you allow your insecurities to win, the longer it will take you to grow.
Make the most of your time. It’s really easy to get distracted on social media and go down the rabbit hole of being entertained but not making progress. In the mornings i’m intentional to not check my phone for the first 2 hours. I have certain things I do first like reach out to x number of companies, answer emails, etc.
Everyone has a different opinion about acting, if you don’t like the way one person coaches you, there are plenty of coaches out there. Not everyone is for you. Find the people who really want you to succeed.
Focus on your strengths, not your insecurities. Even the top actresses and models I look up to have their own insecurities. Realize that you’re uniquely made and that no one else can offer what you have.
Again, fall in love with no. It’s pretty much the worst thing that can happen is they say no. Persistence.
What are you working on and where can people see you?
I just finished working on a pilot in the last couple of weeks. It’s sort of a sci-fi, 18 years in the future. Really excited about it! We are waiting to see which networks pick it up.
I did some work on the CW show Legacies, episode 4 of the BET show called Tales, and also a movie called Three’s Complicated.
Now i’m moving to California and will be between there and Atlanta.
Connect with Brook Sill