Actors probably more than any other profession go through peaks and valleys when it comes to working. That’s just the nature of the business. Even the most bankable Hollywood stars have fallow periods where there just aren’t so many jobs lined up.
First and foremost of course, is to make sure you’re wired in to the latest, most up-to-date listings of auditions in your area, and that you’re receiving audition notices as soon as they come out.
Even then, it’s not unusual for actors to find themselves with no particular gig to prepare for. What to do?
Well, if you’re serious about developing your craft and being a professional actor who regularly books work, sitting around in your pajamas eating Cheetos while binging on Netflix shows for days at a time is not an option. Even if there’s no audition, show or film to prepare for, there are ways to get yourself seen, and in the process keep your acting chops in tip-tip shape for when that perfect audition notice does slide into your inbox. Here are a few ideas.
1. Have You Heard of This YooToob Thing?
Yes, believe it or not there is a platform out there on which you can post virtually any type of video you want! Not only that, you’re probably carrying around a tiny computer in your pocket right now that not only has the processing capacity that a full-sized desktop computer had just a few short years ago, it also comes with a video camera that can shoot in high definition. It’s kind of astounding how many actors–who are generally creative, outgoing, fun people–fail to take advantage of modern technology and film themselves and their friends doing scenes, monologues, or even improv. You’re not even constrained if you don’t feel ready to write a whole screenplay; perform a monologue or read a scene with a friend and film it. There are limitless lessons to be learned from watching yourself perform, even in a format like this one. What’s more, if you like the way it turns out, you never know who might run across your vid if you post it with the proper tags. And when it comes to writing something original, remember two things: one, every great film or play started with a scene, which started with a single line which started with a single word spoken by a single character. Just start! Open a blank word document and see where your imagination takes you. There are a million resources out there on screen and playwriting–read up on the craft and have a go! The second thing to remember is that as you create, so too can you destroy. Anything that you don’t like need not make it into the public eye. The beauty of creating work this way is that as writer, director and editor, you have control over what goes into the final product. This is also a helpful mindset when it comes to feeling embarrassed or uncomfortable when filming: if it sucks, cut it and try again! Extra bonus: working in front of the camera on your own or with your friends can help you to be more relaxed next time you’re in front of the camera for an audition.
2. The Play’s the Thing
No matter where you live, there are live theater performances happening somewhere nearby–and there’s nothing like the joy of producing something from start to finish and presenting it to the public. A quick search on how to produce a play is a way to start, but it’s likely that there are people in theater groups in your area who would be happy to sit down with you and give you a sense of how to get the ball rolling. The best thing about producing your own theater show is you get to choose what show to produce–and you also have a say in the casting, hint hint. In all seriousness, even a few friends who are eager and excited to perform can make a staged reading or black box show a night to remember for audiences. Another tip: if you agree to donate any proceeds to charity, you can not only create a buzz and attract audience members who might not otherwise go to see a play, you can also get local businesses on board to donate supplies like printing needs and even a space where you can perform.
3. Read Read Read
There are a million book clubs out there–why not start a play-reading club? Gather your actor friends and even those who are aspiring to be actors and get together for weekly scene-readings from your favorite plays. There are a million ways to format this, but one fun way to really explore a piece is to start with reading the entire play aloud the first night and briefly discussing it. Then the following week come back with thoughts and more in-depth discussion, then start going over the play again a scene at a time, perhaps switching up roles and reading the same scene multiple times in a night. And remember, helping others helps yourself too. If there are people in your group who aren’t as advanced when it comes to acting, sharing your experience and insight with them helps you too. In the act of sharing what we know, we often help to clarify it for ourselves and we can even gain new insights.
4. Go to University
Local colleges and universities often have aspiring filmmakers and directors who are hungry to create new work every semester. Look up theater departments and film departments in your area and ask if they’re looking for talent. When working with student creatives you can often find yourself at the heart of the collaborative process and taking a strong hand in crafting something from the ground up. What’s more, you never know where a contact made in this way can lead in the long run!
5. Keep it Classy
Don’t skimp on taking classes in your down time between jobs. You never know who might be attending a particular class, or how networking with classmates might pay off down the road. And when it comes to being seen, ask if a class you’re considering culminates with a performance or showcase at the end. You might be surprised at the number of talent agents and casting directors who attend such events.
Don’t forget to self-submit! Sign up for sites like nycastings.com and get your resume and reel in front of the largest pool of agents and casting directors you can! And break a leg!