As we continue our march through this pandemic, with shutdown after shutdown, how we use this time is what will separate you from the crowd.
When everything was shut down for months, and us actors were standing by waiting for production to start up again–two groups of people emerged. Group one sought out ways to stay active, ways to work on things they never had time for before, tried new things, attended (virtual) networking events, kept taking classes, and kept themselves ready for when the industry opened back up. Group two–well, they stood on the sidelines and waited.
I know that many people have been affected differently, whether it was having to take care of loved ones, home-schooling, working from home, or coping with our own physical/mental health–I am in no way saying that if you did nothing during this time, that you were just being lazy. But staying active by doing something you’re passionate about is good not just for your career, but for your health. We all need a sense of purpose to get us out of bed in the morning, and I’m gonna list some free things here to help light you up.
- Free Workshops/Interviews/Webinars/Masterclasses: Whatever you want to call them–there are loads of them. Find some that fit your needs, and sign up. If you’re gonna be glued to your screen anyway, might as well make it worth while. You can find anything from industry professionals giving acting advice, to learning how to manage money better. This will give you a great starting point to figure out what you can be working on during this time.
- Read Those Acting Books Sitting On Your Shelf: I know you’ve got at least a few. They were recommended to you, you got all excited and went out and spent $15-40 on the book, and it’s just been sitting there. Pick it up and read it! Just a few pages each day will be good to get you going and perhaps inspire you to do more.
- Updating your marketing materials: Headshots, Demo-reels, resumes–Anything that is used to get you into casting rooms is something you need to ensure is as up-to-date as possible, and looking fresh. I will admit, I never had a demo-reel until about May of 2020. I listened to an interview with Paul Weber CDC on Casting Workbook where he emphasized just how important one was for actors, and BAM–I managed to get a 60 second reel done. It can be just 30 seconds if that’s what you’ve got, but it’s good to have one. Because now, with everything being virtual, I have been asked to include a demo-reel with many of my submissions. Why? Because when you submit a self-tape, it’s difficult to give you redirects, but if they can see something in your demo-reel that shows you can do what they want, then you increase the chances of casting submitting you to clients. Oh, and if you’re worried about the cost–I did mine for free, all on my iPhone. As for headshots–Yes, they can cost a lot. But maybe you can just go through some of the older shots that were great but weren’t chosen and get the photographer to retouch them for $25-$35.
- Invest In a Home Studio: This one may seem daunting, but you might as well invest in your own set up for a fraction of the cost of heading to a professional studio every time. Self-tapes are here to stay, and you need to get comfortable with them ASAP if you’re gonna stay in the game. The good thing is, you don’t need to get all the parts at once. If you have a smartphone, get a tripod and a ring light. That’s about $50, similar cost to a 30 minute session at a pro studio–plus, you can do it when ever you want with no time restrictions. When you get a few more coins in your pocket, invest in a nice backdrop, maybe an external mic, better lights, bigger tripod. I have been using my ring light for about a year-and-a-half, and decided that it was time for an upgrade. I invested in two large soft-box lights that cost me $100–less than the cost of one 60 minute session at a pro studio.
- Free Competitions: This last one is a doozy. For those of us thinking: “we’re already in enough competition every single time we audition, we don’t need more!” I encourage you to rethink. Many casting directors and agents turn to competitions to discover new talent. So, whether you’ve been in the business for a while, or brand new–it’s worth while to enter some competitions where you will be seen by panelists who may not have ever seen your work. I entered my first monologue slam in April 2020, and have since then participated in seven rounds. Not only did I push myself to be vulnerable and learn/redevelop a new skill, but I created new relationships with industry professionals that have undoubtedly helped my career. For one, I have had more auditions from this one casting director than ever since she’s judged me on my monologue. I didn’t win, but because I was able to show her a different side of my work (you know, more than an SOC or one-liner role), she has auditioned me 17 times in 2020 once production opened back up. And through that interaction, we have been able to cultivate a relationship.
I hope that I’ve inspired you to take some action to up-level your career during the pandemic–and if you’ve already done some of these things–you can really do them again. Find another free webinar, read another book, enter into another competition, get another backdrop–there are always things that can be done to bring your career to the next level for next to no cost.
Drop me a comment on anything that you’ve done during the pandemic that’s made a difference in your acting career!
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