They say it takes 21 days to create a habit – or to break one. If you want to start an exercise program, or quit eating added sugar, or wake up earlier, science and self-help gurus will tell you that your big, bad, overly complicated human brain can be trained in just three weeks.
Whether or not you subscribe to this notion, one thing is certain: there are indeed habits you’ll find the actors who consistently book work doing. Aside from getting yourself submitted to NYCastings where the top agents and casting directors can find you, here are five more ways you can ensure that you give yourself the best opportunity to book work!
1. Positive Attraction
Have ever had — or do you currently have — one of those friends who is ALWAYS down about something? I’m not taking about someone who suffers from depression or who is going through a hard time. I’m taking about the type of person who manages to find the cloud attached to every silver lining; the Eeyore to your Tigger, the one who is always bringing down the mood and focusing only on the negative.
It’s exhausting being friends with this person, isn’t it? Really, deep down, you would rather not be around this person if you can help it, no matter how long you’ve known them, right? So, as working actors who meet new people virtually every time we go out to work or audition, positivity is a must if you want to book work consistently. Yes attracts yes. Positivity attracts positive reactions from people. You’ll find that actors who are always on their way to the next job are upbeat, solution-oriented people who don’t dwell on the things that go wrong on set – as things inevitably will. We can’t always be happy per se, but we can adopt a positive mindset that looks ahead to the goal and finding solutions, and doesn’t linger on the obstacles we encounter on the way there.
2. Strong Like Bull
Speaking of goal-oriented, another trait you’ll find in the consistently working actor is a healthy self-awareness of where his or her strengths and weaknesses lie – and how to take positive steps to improve on them. We all have things we’re better at, and things we aren’t so great at. In a field as complex and demanding as acting, both sides of this ledger can be quite extensive. But the first step is making an honest assessment of both your strengths and weaknesses, and then adopting a concrete, action-oriented plan to improve on them – both the positive and negative. A huge mistake many actors who are just starting out make is in thinking that there’s some enchanted moment down the road where they will have “made it.” At this magical time, they think, they will be so accomplished as an actor that they can just sit back by the pool surrounded by hot, young hangers-on, and wait for the offers to roll in. At that distant point in the future, they will be so good at acting that they will never again have to worry about improving their craft.
Wrong answer. Even renowned actors will tell you they never stop learning. It’s important to remember too that even your stronger skills can be improved. You may be a great dancer or a top-notch comedic actor. But I promise you there’s someone out there who is better, and I promise that you can be better too. Take classes, take every role you are offered, do improv, sing, dance and play as much as you can and you will book more work.
When The Rock was asked for a comment about his on-set falling out with a certain unnamed, bald co-star from certain movies about driving “rapidly and enraged,” let’s say, he made a remark about certain actors being “candy asses” and not working hard enough on set.
Putting aside the rather uninteresting beef between two major stars (I mean, who cares?) there is a lesson here. One person close to the production noted that Dwayne Johnson comes from a football background, having played at the University of Miami before he got into wrestling and then acting. And he brings a sports mentality to set: let’s practice however long it takes until we know what we’re doing inside and out, let’s then be productive, and work and work and work, and let’s do it until we get it right. Athletes are schooled in the training equals productivity mindset and know how to get into the proper head space to produce good work. The actor who consistently books work will have the same focus and dedication.
4. Let It Go
The art of non-attachment is something that comes with experience, but it is a vital skill to have if you want to book work. Oftentimes the actor who is newer to the game will have so much invested in booking a given role that they actually prevent themselves from getting it. This may seem counter-intuitive but if you ever didn’t get a role that you really, really, DESPERATELY wanted, you should know that you may well have brought so much tension and stress into the audition room that you blocked yourself from doing your best work. With that much riding on any given job, it doesn’t matter how talented you are; you’re going to stifle your best instincts and your openness and connectedness to the character – because all you’re thinking about is you, the actor. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t care or that you should be blasé about acting and auditioning. Rather, you have to adopt an attitude where you have a healthy understanding that this is a very long road you are on. The job you didn’t get that seemed so important today will be forgotten a year from now, because there will always be other jobs.
5. Presence and Present
The word “presence” gets tossed around a lot when it comes to acting, and it is an important concept we would all do well to think about. But in this case, let’s just talk about a related idea: those actors who are always present are the ones who consistently book work. That’s because they are most grounded, in the moment, and reactive to whatever is going on around them, and thus they are not only easy to direct, they are easy to be around. Adopting an attitude of just allowing yourself to be wherever you are, and focus on doing whatever it is you are doing at that moment – rather than worrying about what the traffic will be like after you leave, or if you are getting enough screen time, or if the CD hates you, or if your hair looks stupid, etc. – can not only go a long way to making you a better actor, it can make you a happier, healthier person too! Have some fun, and don’t take yourself too seriously, and people will want to be around you, and that means they will want to cast you!