As we all learn early on when we get into the acting game, choices are important. It could even be said that making strong choices is the key difference between being a decent actor and being an excellent one. But one thing actors who are looking to build a career don’t have a choice about it acting.
It’s act or die – use it or lose it. You could even say as actors, we’re like sharks: if many types of sharks aren’t swimming, if they aren’t moving forward with water passing over their gills, they’re drowning. And if an actor isn’t acting he or she is stagnating in terms of craft as well as career – dying in other words.
But of course, we all hit a dry spell every now and then. The auditions just aren’t there, or the ones that do come along just aren’t right for you. That’s when it’s time to start using that awesome actor’s imagination of yours a little bit and look at some new and interesting ways to expand your actor’s tool kit, and the palette from which you paint your characters. Best of all, at the same time, these are also ways to expand your acting career.
Don’t Limit Yourself To Film And Television
What is acting anyway? Do you have to be saying words in order to be “acting?” Of course not. Ask actor Richard Brake, the Wales-born actor who played the scary Night King on Game of Thrones, and who recently did a CBS interview which featured numerous shots of him out of makeup and one or two in the process of applying it. He basically had to stand around and look menacing to make his paycheck – which, when you think about it, is pretty much what print models do!
Just kidding. Of course print modeling comes in all shapes, sizes and a variety of tones. But the fact of the matter is, your acting skills that are withering away if you’re just sitting around in your living room playing Fortnite while waiting for the phone to ring. You could be putting those skills to good use in print modeling: what they need are actors with the skills to show an emotion or a sentiment or a spirit of some sort without saying a word. What better challenge for the actor? It’s a great way to not only make a few bucks(print jobs often pay better than acting jobs), but also to hone your non-verbal acting skills, which are vital to being a successful on-camera actor. Along the way, commercial print work can burnish your resume with great photos, showing prospective employers that you have versatility and that you’re ready for anything! Find Agencies for Commercial Print Work in the Agents Directory.
Another excellent way to expand your acting career is to get into voice-over work. There are a ton of great resources out there on how to get started – try checking out How to Start a Voice Acting Career for a few really good tips on how to get started. But the key point is to understand that this too is another form of legitimate acting that uses some of your talents and skills you’ve learned as an actor. What’s more, much like working in commercial print, voice acting is another great way to really focus on honing your skill set on one particular aspect of acting – the all-important voice.
Many actors fear that by doing voice-over work and not having their pretty little faces front and center they’re going to be doing their career a disservice. But really nothing could be further from the truth. Just look at some of the most successful voice actors in the business: a young fella by the name of Mark Hamill comes to mind. You might remember him from a little franchise called Star Wars, but he’s also widely celebrated as one of the best VO actors in the business, especially his animated version of the Joker. You could do worse than following Luke Skywalker into the field of voice-over work!
The Host With The Most
Do you have any of those friends or family members who, when the subject of you being an actor comes up, comment on how scary it would be for them to be up on stage or in front of a camera? Something else to keep in mind when you’re thinking about ways to expand your acting career is that while we actors pride ourselves on studying the human condition, we are in some ways very much NOT like our fellow humans. The fear of public speaking is one of the most dire fears for most “normal” people. You hear statistics about this all the time, but a recent Washington Post survey showed that fear of public speaking was at the top of the list for most respondents, above even fear of heights, snakes, spiders, needles and flying. In other words, for normal people, the very space you have an insatiable craving to occupy – that is, the limelight – is the very one where they fear to tread.
Why not take advantage of that? One excellent way to expand your acting career is to get busy hosting. Your natural charisma and outgoing nature are perfect for working as a host at live events, on documentaries, in-studio talk shows, radio shows, podcasts – there are simply too many possibilities to list here in this media-saturated age. A bubbly outgoing nature, the ability to modulate your voice and emotions in an appropriate manner in accordance with what you’re speaking about, and that fearlessness of being in the spotlight are your ticket to hosting work. And keep in mind that while you wouldn’t strictly call this type of work “acting,” it nevertheless offers a great opportunity to keep your ability to adopt a public persona sharp. What’s more, given all those outlets where you can potentially be seen, it also could prove to invaluable in opening doors to other career opportunities.
Improve Your Improv
Most directors and casting directors can’t say enough about the value of having solid improv skills. Working with an improv troupe or starting one of your own is a fantastic way to expand your acting career. First of all, performing is performing, and improv is a form of acting. Even if you don’t have a script to memorize or a camera trained on you – even if you aren’t getting paid a whole lot, when you work in improv you are definitely working your acting skills. And you’re not only getting better, you’re in very good company. Steve Carrel, Stephen Colbert, Bill Murray – and let’s not forget ladies like Carol Burnett and Lily Tomlin – these giants of film and television learned their chops working night after night in often thankless improv gigs. You can’t put a price tag on the skills, talents and stage presence they learned along the way. Besides that, remember again that we live in a media-hungry world – new content for the web series, television, and streaming platforms is in huge demand. Developing your own material out of improv work you create with your group could well prove to be not only a way to expand your acting career, it could BECOME your acting career, or at least the catapult that launches it – depending on who stops in to watch on a given night!
Stand Up for Stand-up
Let’s talk about courage for a second here. While we acknowledge readily that we actors are certainly more brave about public speaking and performing than the vast majority of people, the crème de la crème of the performer’s world when it comes to courage is the stand-up comedian. Hands down. There’s no more naked, vulnerable, or terrifying position to be in than to be standing on a stage with nothing but a microphone and your smiling face to entertain an expectant audience. If you want a chance to work on your voices, your physicality, your charisma and your improv skills all rolled into one, here’s your shot! It’s a way to work on all the above-mentioned skills, but also throw in writing and coming up with original material. As far as ways to expand your acting career, there really is nothing that tops getting out and trying stand-up comedy.
The bottom line is this: the real sin for the actor is to not be acting. There is just too much to do, so many opportunities out there for you to not be trying out new things even when you’re in an audition down-turn. Remember, my actor friends, you’re a shark: Swim or die!