“Ticking away the moments that make up the dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way”
“Time” – Pink Floyd
Actors, especially those in the earlier stages of their careers, are constantly being told to just be patient. And this is solid advice – you’ve got to give yourself time to really hone your skills and perfect the craft and learn how the business works. And it’s not just about gaining skills and nuances and refinements that you don’t even know you’re missing; there’s also the patience required to actually land jobs, that fabled one in 20 auditions where you’re going to actually book a role.
So yes, patience is a virtue, and you have to understand that achieving success in the acting world requires you to play the long game.
HOWEVER! Having said that, there are some fundamental ways that lots and lots of actors sabotage themselves and their careers by wasting precious time. Being patient doesn’t mean you should put roadblocks in your own way on your path to the successful career you want, and one of the ways actors do this is by wasting time. They waste their own time and they waste the time of other professionals in the business. And in the process they set themselves back, often in ways they don’t even understand. So here are few self-sabotage time-wasting mistakes to avoid in order to get your career on track!
1. If You’re Sitting Still, You’re Wasting Time
One of the biggest stumbling blocks young actors put in their own way in their first few years of seeking professional work is to assume that because they have some degree of skill and talent, that’s going to be all they need to thrive and achieve their goals. Look, if you’re reading this, and if you’re doing this mad business we call “show,” then of course you’re undoubtedly a talented, strong and skilled person. But there’s a mindset issue at work here that many, many actors don’t even realize they need to overcome in order to get themselves to the next level. You could call it “The Confidence of the Pretty Good.” You just come out of school or off of a couple of successful roles in a film and you mentally start to go to a place where you think, “Hey I’m pretty good at this! I’ll just keep hitting auditions and that will be enough. Success is bound to come my way.” Well, maybe. But I invite you to try to adopt a more proactive mindset that will help to catapult you forward rather than leave you sitting stagnant. Try putting this thought in your head every morning: “If this is a day that passes without acting, then it is a wasted day.” It may sound extreme, but there’s truth in the notion that every moment you spend performing or rehearsing is another step toward hitting your goals as an actor.
- Get yourself in classes. Always have a class going on or one on the horizon. There’s so so so much more to learn, and we often have no idea what we don’t know. And not just any classes – you want to learn what it takes to get cast? Well, you should probably be seeking classes taught by casting directors. They’re the ones who are often most in tune with what’s currently working as far as making an impression on a producers or agents. And don’t just put in your time in a class and then take off when time’s up. These places are tremendous bonding and networking opportunities. Get to know your fellow actors and your instructor, let them see your personality and who you really are. The more connected you are with other people who are grinding every day in the business, the more likely you are to hear about it when something comes along that’s right for you.
- Get in an actor’s group. If you can’t find one that’s already up and running, get one started. Talk to some people in your acting class, get on Facebook – find a way to have a night or two a week to hang with other actors even when you’re not in a show or on set. This is not only a way to work on monologues, scenes and create original work in a judgment-free safe space, actor’s groups can form the base of a much-needed support system in a sometimes cruel and inhospitable field. You can not only hone your craft – you can raise each other up when things go badly, and celebrate the wins together!
- Perform. A huge time-wasting mistake I see lots of ambitious young actors make when they’re just getting rolling in the professional world is they won’t take on a project if its not paid. Look, that’s of course the goal, hence the word “professional.” But the people who make student films and create their own work independently are often ambitious enough and determined enough that they are going places. I guarantee you Luke and Owen Wilson weren’t being paid when they went out one hot as hell summer day in Austin, Texas with their buddy Wes Anderson and made a 12-minute short they called Bottle Rocket. You never know where an unpaid project might lead. Not only that, remember our new mantra: if you’re not acting on this day, in whatever capacity, then it is a wasted day, and you have wasted your valuable time.
2. Stop Wasting Time With A Bad Tool Kit
No matter how much effort you put into auditioning, taking classes, and networking, it’s all a huge waste of time if your tool kit looks like amateur hour. All that hard work is for naught if you send an agent or a CD a headshot that’s a selfie. Don’t fool yourself; it just can’t work. This is possibly the biggest waste of your time, because by sending out this sub-standard headshot – which is the most basic calling card and introduction of the business, – it and your resume are immediately going to wind up in the recycle bin, and you’re never going to get a chance to show them what you can do. If you want to be a professional actor – and perhaps just as importantly, if you want to be percieved as a professional actor – you’ve got to stop wasting your time and that of other professionals with sub-standard tools. To wit:
- Get a current, professional headshot. That pic your buddy snapped in the park one afternoon on his iPhone ain’t gonna cut it, sunshine. Not with professionals. You’re not only wasting your time with these, you might even be setting yourself back, because CDs are going to remember you for all the wrong reasons, and they’re going to think you’re a rank amateur.
- Hone your self-tape skills. For far too many of us, the only time we think about self-taping is the moment the call comes in for a self-tape audition piece. The result is usually sloppy, harried, and, well, not good. Get yourself a reel too, even if it’s just taken from scene study classes or actor’s group. Studying yourself on video is the best, most direct way to self-improvement. So the next time the call does come in for a self-tape, you’ll be ready!
- Present yourself as a pro on social media. Are you in this for real? Or are you a dilettante? If you present yourself on social media as anything but completely dedicated and serious about acting, then you’re not doing yourself any favors. With all the work you’re doing to network and get your name out there, you want to make sure that if someone does look you up what they see on your social media is a professional actor who is ready to work, not someone who is screwing around, wasting time, or unsure of what they want to do.
Audition and Self-Submit!
Of course, you’d love to have an agent and just be able to sit back and wait for calls to come in with job offers for which you don’t even have to audition, right? But that’s just not where you are right now. And sitting around waiting for that day is wasting your time and preventing you from getting there in reality. Self-submit every day! There are tons of new roles every single day right here on NYCastings. And self-submitting works! Producers and CDs use these sites, as they have for decades now. This is the best, most effective way for an up-and-coming actor to get themselves booked, hands down. So stop wasting time and make it happen for yourself!