“I made a resolution to floss, and I did it! 12:01, January 1st, bam! Blood everywhere.”
– Michael Scott (Steve Carell), “The Office,” Episode 7.13
Well, it’s that time of year again, when everybody takes a moment to assess our most recent trip around the sun and look at what we’ve accomplished – and what we could have done better.
But along with assessing the past, this is also a time for looking forward to what we hope to accomplish in the year to come. And while New Years Resolutions can seem a little cheesy, why not take the opportunity to make a clean break and set yourself up with a new start in the new year on taking your career to the next level? The natural break from routine that comes with the holiday season is a perfect chance to come out of the gate strong in 2019 by creating some goals for yourself.
One big mistake a lot of people make in setting goals and resolutions is they tend to dream big, but they fail to work out any kind of rational path that might help them to actually achieve them. If you just say, “In 2019 I want to book a guest-star on a major sitcom,” well, that’s great, go for it.
But simply writing that down on your list of goals for the year to come isn’t going to make it happen if you don’t have any kind of a plan to get yourself there. Jotting down a resolution and then sitting around your apartment eating takeout and waiting for the Acting Fairy to swing by and whap you with his or her magic wand is not a reliable method for booking.
What you need to do is work out some concrete steps to get yourself closer to your goal.
We all want to book more, so let’s look at that as an example. What are some rational, concrete steps we can take to land more roles? In the spirit of the New Years Resolution, looking backwards at what we’ve already accomplished can help us figure out what needs to change and how we can best move forward.
1. How Has Your Acting Improved Over the Last Year – And What Still Needs Work?
One great (and sometimes mortifying) way to take an honest, coldly analytical look at your acting and how far you’ve come is to bust out some older video of yourself. Audition tapes, scenes recorded in classes or acting groups, monologue practice – any and all of these may be cringe-worthy to view at times, but they can really help you graphically view how much you’ve improved – and how far you have yet to go. Was there a moment you froze when an improvised line could have come in handy? Set a goal to find yourself a new improv class. Set a goal to network with other actors and see if you can get involved with an improv group. Did your video self-review reveal some moments on stage or in front of the camera where you saw the character slip a little? Think about hitting up a scene study class to develop better tools for diving deep into characters your playing.
2. Speaking of Tools…
The winter break is also a great time to take a moment to coldly review all the nuts-and-bolts tools you need to book roles. Of course, the acting is the thing. But you can’t get your foot in the door to even have an opportunity to wow them if you don’t have a complete and up-to-date toolkit. Is it time for a new headshot? If you’re thinking, “Well, maybe…” then it’s definitely time. Set yourself a concrete goal of when you are going to get that done, start researching headshot photographers now, and figure out how much money you can put aside towards it every week, if need be. The thing about the cost of headshots is that, if the lack of a current, high-quality headshot is preventing you from being taken seriously by agents and casting teams, then it’s already costing you a whole lot more money than you would have paid to a photographer. And while you’re looking at older audition self-tapes, take a moment to think about what you could have done differently. Better yet, take some time to assess your self-tape set-up and even knock out a couple of self-tape monologues. You can not only use them to tweak your camera angle, backdrop, resolution, and editing skills – all without the pressure of having an actual self-tape audition due – you can also save those clips to look at when 2020 rolls around. With self-taping becoming such a huge part of the audition process, it’s vital that you’re able to slip into self-tape mode with ease, without technical glitches and the time-pressure panic it brings that can affect your performance.
This one is a little harder to self-review, as we can rarely get an accurate picture of how we came across in an audition. Self-assessments of our audition performances are notoriously, often wildly inaccurate, and in truth kind of a useless if not damaging mental exercise. In case you weren’t aware, in speaking to casting directors and producers, you quickly learn that actors sometimes get cast or not cast on things as tiny as the shape of their chin, their hair color, or even if someone in the room “just likes her energy.” However, having said all that, we still have the power to improve our audition skills, which is a larger goal we should all have on our list of resolutions. One vital component of any actor’s audition – and you’ll hear this from virtually every CD you talk to – is the confidence they show. Not only once the camera is rolling, but even just walking into the room. To this end, getting yourself into an on-camera audition class is really good idea. Even if you’re an experienced, confident actor who has done numerous auditions, the more we practice something the more confident we become. And hey, if you can have the opportunity to “audition” every week in a low-pressure situation and in the process get some actual feedback on how you’re presenting yourself – which you almost never get from an actual audition – why not take advantage of it?
There have never been more opportunities for actors in television, film, commercials, print, and webisodes as there are right now. The jokes fly about how Netflix approves literally everything that is pitched, but there’s some truth in it. Take a quick look at the Now Casting page on NYCastings and you’ll see literally a hundred or more casting notices on any given day. But you don’t have to wait for the perfect role to come around – if you want to book more, you’ve got to get yourself in front of the right people! Upload your info today, and you can post your headshot and resume and be all set up to self-submit – all for free – on the site where more CDs, directors and production teams look for quality talent!