Well, we’re fully immersed in the doldrums season around the holidays where most everybody is in recovery from the overindulgence of Thanksgiving and already gearing up for the next big holiday. It’s really easy right about now to just rest on your laurels and halfheartedly hit whatever auditions happen to be around while your mind is occupied with visions of sugar plum fairies – or new Nintendo Switch games.
But the coming new year is a great opportunity to renew your dedication to the craft of acting as well as for taking your career doing what you love to the next level. While New Years’ resolutions are often kind of a cheesy, pie-in-the-sky concept, more a whimsical daydream than something you actually resolve to do, the sense of turning over a new leaf along with the calendar page is a strong one that resonates with our most primal, tribal memories.
And for actors, it’s a great time to refocus your energies and rededicate yourself to achieving your career goals. Here are a few ways you can use the holiday season to re-energize your career as an actor!
Define Your Goals
Defining what your goals actually are might seem like a really obvious first step toward achieving those goals, but its really easy to sort of drift along with vague ideas about “success” or “becoming a better actor” without really knowing what they are or how you’re going to get there. And if you don’t know where you’re going, laying out the necessary nuts and bolts steps needed to achieve those goals is impossible. How will you work toward success today? What steps are you taking to become a better actor?
So much of what we do as actors is reactive – on camera and off – and while this serves us well in the actual practice of the craft, it can be a hindrance when it comes to getting your career going in the direction you want. Rather than sitting around waiting for breakdowns that maybe kind of sort of fit your type, sit down and make a list of the roles you’d love to play. And while those specific roles may or may not come up simply because you visualized them, getting your head in that space and imagining yourself taking on those roles can be a good exercise in seeing what you want, and helping you to stay focused on it. Sure, we all gotta eat, but if your heart’s desire is to be a musical theater leading man, then auditioning for roles in Restoration comedies isn’t really helping you, and may be more distraction than aid.
Another important thought on goals: it’s important to note what’s underneath our goals when we say we want to be “a successful actor” or something along those lines. What is successful to you? When the audience gives a standing ovation? When a short film you were in wins accolades in the press and the industry? When your peers admire your work? This feeling, this sense of accomplishment and satisfaction over having genuinely connected with a role and an audience is perhaps what we’re really after when we talk about “success.” It’s worthwhile to spend some time specifically thinking about how best to achieve that rather than simply saying “I want to be a top musical theater actor on Broadway.”
One of the best tips I ever got was from an old friend and agent when we were talking about how naturally disorganized most actors are (me included.) Hey, we’re creative people! Who has time for organization?
Well, the thing is, you can really help get your career to the next level just by creating a simple spreadsheet or diary noting all your meetings, auditions, and industry contacts. Make entries for each audition where you can note what material or type of material you were working, some short notes on how you felt it went, the names of the CD, director, staff and other actors you met, and anything of import you might have chatted about. Not only can this help you better evaluate your progress, it can help you better create your network and build relationships in the business, as well as give you an easy-to-digest-snapshot of just how hard you’re out there grinding – or if you’ve been slacking off.
It’s also wise to add a calendar feature to your organization that looks forward, not just backward. For instance, you should be working to get new headshots a couple times a year. Set a date, and make it happen. Another great way to keep yourself in tip-top acting shape is to schedule yourself to learn a new monologue every month. There’s no such thing as down time!
Up Your Self-Tape Game
The industry has evolved a great deal in recent years, and one aspect of this is that an awesome self-tape game IS the name of the game. It’s really nice for us actors too, not to have to fight traffic and sit in a waiting room forever for a first audition.
But if you’re just slapping together a shoddy self-tape, then it’s not doing you any good anyway. Take some time to really learn what works and what doesn’t, and PRACTICE – perhaps using some of those monologues you’re going to learn! Sure, we’re actors and we know how to do the work under a variety of circumstances – on stage, on camera, green screen, etc. But maybe think of the self-tape as its own specific category that needs to be worked separately. It’s a weird one, and it takes some getting used to. Make sure the next time a last-minute self-tape audition notice comes your way that you’re ready to rock, and you aren’t fumbling around with either the technical aspects of it or bringing sup-par work to the table.
Look, we are creative people, that’s a given. What you bring to a role is a unique slice of who you are and your own quirky way of looking at the world, and no one else can replicate it. But it’s a common trap for many actors that we think of what we do only in reactive terms: we wait for audition notices, we wait our turn to read for the role, we wait by the phone for the callback, we wait on set to be called to do our scene.
All of these things are a legit part of the game, but you know what else is? Not waiting around and instead creating your own stuff. Write a monologue about something funny that happened to you, create a short video about last year’s summer trip, write a comedy sketch with a friend, whatever. Hell, have some fun with actor buddies of yours and record a conversation about what it’s like to be an actor, and you’re on your way to having a podcast! There are so many outlets out there and so many people hungry for content that it’s criminal we don’t have more well-known actor/creators out there.
Whatever comes of these various projects is kind of beside the point – which is to keep your creative juices flowing and to constantly be pushing yourself to new heights of creativity. Creativity is not a zero-sum game: what you create in one genre or field translates into your creative abilities in your next endeavor.
Believe in Yourself
It’s easy to get let seasonal depression or the stress of the end of the year translate into self-recrimination. And while this is a great time of year to honestly evaluate where we are and where we’ve been, we actors also have to remember to offer ourselves some positive affirmation. Take the time to look back over the work you’ve done in the past year and give yourself a pat on the back!
What you’re doing is hard. But it’s also really, really great. You’re pursuing your dream, and you are acting because it is not only what you love to do, you are COMPELLED to do it. Remember to love yourself throughout: a bad audition doesn’t mean you should kick yourself, just that you should assess what went wrong and how to do better next time. Tell the voice in your head that says you’re no good to take a hike, and shift to listening to the voice that looks to the future with a positive mindset.
And Happy Holidays – Remember you can SAVE BIG by Joining NYCastings Now!