You ever have one of those acting hot streaks, where you can do no wrong? A period where you book everything you touch, even to the point where you’re turning down work?
It’s nice, isn’t it. But of course, what goes up must come down – after the season of plenty, comes The Drought.
Suddenly you find you can’t get cast to perform as Spiderman at your own nephew’s birthday party: “Well, Uncle Kevin, we really liked your energy, but we just had so many amazing applicants. We’ll be sure to keep your headshot and resume on file, though…”
Don’t let anyone tell you different: it happens to us all from time to time.
So what’s a dedicated actor to do when faced with a lack of gigs? Here are some ideas on how you can not only turn it around and stay positive, but how you can help yourself to get over the the dreaded drought!
1. Be Like Matt and Ben – Create Your Own Acting Work
Not booking work? Make your own work! In this day and age where even the most dubious “content creators” draw thousands of viewers to their horrible Instagram and Facebook videos, there is absolutely no reason why every actor in the world shouldn’t be creating something original. It’s not a stretch to say that the fact that Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are (or at least have been) major stars for decades now all stems from the starting point of them creating their own script for Good Will Hunting. And have you heard of this new up-and-coming young director fella by the name of Wes Anderson? He made a little underground 12-minute film called Bottle Rocket one summer while on break as a student at the University of Texas. Well, long story short, it got picked up at Sundance and funding came through to make it into a full-length feature and the career of one of the most original and beloved creators in the business was launched. And don’t forget, Anderson’s buddies Owen and Luke Wilson who devoted themselves to working with him on the original short – probably for free – in the deadly summer heat of Texas that year went on to do pretty okay for themselves too.
And guys, that’s just the old-school creative stuff. With the explosion of YouTube original series and other web series drawing millions of eyeballs – and thus advertiser dollars and thus the respect of industry gatekeepers – not a single actor in the world has any business sitting around at home waiting for the phone to ring when he or she is in a drought. If you’re lacking in ideas, don’t fret. Get with people in your network from your acting group or a class, get yourselves a bottle of wine (on a non-class night of course, lol) and a notebook and start riffing! You never know what kind of script ideas could come out of such an informal chat.
2. Be a Pod Person
Have you heard of this kooky new fad, podcasting? All the kids are into it. (I think it has something to do with vaping…)
But in all seriousness, podcasting is exploding. For a minimal investment to get a decent microphone, or to go in on renting time at some indie, bare-bones studio, you can start your own podcast with ease. Everyone and their brother has a podcast these days, where they share their political ideas, their childhood trauma, their innermost thoughts, their sexual conquests – you name it, it’s out there.
What’s more, currently one of the big drivers in the podcasting world is scripted material. And what does scripted mean, kiddies? It means acting! What better way to hone your skills than being forced to play a character through voice alone? No longer do you get to cheat by wildly flailing your arms or making goofy faces to convey character and emotion – it’s all gotta be in the voice. It takes work, and it will make you a better actor, I promise! And again, if you find you’re lacking in original script ideas, there are plenty of podcasts out there created by comedians who are just riffing with their buddies about the events of the day or whatever subject floats their boat. That’s called improv, and it’s a great way to work on your ability to think on your feet as an actor.
3. Be involved
Just because you don’t currently have rehearsals or a role lined up doesn’t mean you should sit at home in a dark room bingeing on Cheetos, re-watching Game of Thrones and weeping for King’s Landing over and over. Thinking about what it means to be a generous actor on stage or on camera and translate that to the acting community as a whole can weirdly be a great way to help yourself. That’s because getting out into the community means networking. As you help your mates with their projects or play roles in student film projects you are part of a creative process, and that’s always valuable if you allow it to be. Even simply being an audience member attending your friend’s showcases or improv shows or theatrical productions or art openings, you’re rubbing shoulders with other people in the creative fields, which is the definition of networking. You never know who or what you’re going to encounter out in the world of art, what doors a random conversation can open, so get out there and see what happens!
4. Improve your craft
No matter how good you are, you can get better. If you’re in a down time as far as booking roles, make sure you’re doing everything humanly possible to give yourself the best chance of booking next time a juicy role comes up. Get better! Take a new class, start an actor’s group, do some improv, hit a comedy open mic night – whatever. Acting work means risk and if you aren’t constantly testing yourself, constantly pushing the limits of your comfort zone, you’re stagnating, and nobody wants that!
5. Improve your tools
Another way you can help yourself today even if you aren’t currently involved in a project is to update all your materials. Get your headshot updated – you know it’s time. The cost sometimes looks formidable, but if you think about the work you WON’T book and thus the pay you WON’T receive if you’re handing out inaccurate, outdated, or unprofessional headshots, then paying for a top-notch headshot seems more like a necessary investment, doesn’t it?
Another area where most actors could use a little work during their down time is their video game. (No, not Fortnite. Put down the controller.) How’s your reel looking? Time to update it, most likely. And even if you don’t have any new material to add, here’s another motivation to focus on your scene study class or actor’s group: create something worthy of showing off!
How about your self-submission game? There’s no worse feeling than coming across a call for self-tapes for a role that is perfect for you, and getting all frustrated and having to fight your computer or your camera for hours to get it done. Work on self-submissions when there’s no pressure – and in fact you can self-submit today for a variety of roles to kick start the end of your drought right here on NYCastings!
Just remember: you can always be acting in some manner or another, and if you’re acting, you’re improving. Get out there today!