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Last Updated on November 3, 2020 by Hunter Phoenix
When I first wrote this article, I talked about the normal slowdowns the film and television industry experiences every year; right after pilot season, in the summer after episodics finish shooting, and end of year holidays over the Christmas / Hanukkah / New Years break. But there are exceptions: This does not apply to commercials, print work, voiceovers or music videos, the latter of which we shoot a lot of in L.A.. And feature films as well as streaming shows are on a slightly different schedule than network television.
I’ve also been in the business through an actors’ strike, a writers’ strike, and the teamsters striking. With each strike, the industry ground to a complete and total halt. EVERYONE was out of work. No one could pay bills. It was frustrating, sometimes terrifying and continually exhausting. Sound familiar?
While what we are seeing right now is unprecedented, and hopefully a once in a lifetime occurrence, the entertainment industry, with almost 100% unemployment, has been one of the hardest hit… but it will come back… eventually.
During the other shutdowns the comebacks were slow. Financing falls through, key players exit, and locations may or may not be available. But if you don’t stay somewhat productive and prepared and put at least a little bit of attention on your acting career, you’re going to be left behind when LaLa Land kicks into high gear again.
Here are the 9 key things I learned on how to weather an industry shutdown and stay productive, creative, connected and energized.
If you’ve been making any significant portion of your income in some area of the entertainment industry, an industry slowdown, or worse yet, shutdown, can be financially devastating. This time around we saw a lot of casting director open calls and generals at the beginning of quarantine, and while I’m as grateful as anybody else for the opportunities, it also made it super difficult to honor all of those and take care of how to pay the bills. You have to be eating and have a roof over your head…. and know that you will again next month, to be at all creative. Take care of your income first and spend a little extra time on financial planning for the next 3-6 months. Map out best and worst case scenarios and what your options are either way.
Looking for the perfect side hustle? Check out the 10 Work From Home Jobs Perfect For Actors
Clean It Up
You know all of that stuff you’ve been meaning to get around to…? The clutter around the house, that pile of papers on your desk, the messy cupboards or closet, and the digital clutter that has built up on your phone and computer…? Clean it up! Just get it done. Internal chaos makes for external chaos, and the reverse is also true. Added bonus: when you clear up the old junk you are sending a signal to the universe that you are ready for more “new and good” in your life. If you’re open to it, I would highly recommend that you feng shui your space. You can do this to bring more harmony, love, better relationships, career and/or prosperity. Personally, I’ve been doing this for about 15 years, and every time I do there are amazing results! And hey… it’s been around for 5000 years, so just maybe someone is on to something here 😉 You can hire a Feng Shui expert for help, but a clear, really easy-to-use and effective book on this subject is “Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life” by Karen Rauch Carter – it’s literally my bible on the subject. Give it a shot!
Detox Your Inbox
Do you have a backlog of unread emails in your inbox? Most people do. One of my side-hustles for a number of years was productivity coaching, and everyone I worked with had a pretty big backlog of emails. And a ALL of them said they found it stressful. Answer people, respond, read, delete and unsubscribe. I’m also a huge fan of automatic sorting of emails as they come in. Try setting up mail rules so all of your industry related emails go in to one mailbox, shopping, another, personal, another, newsletters, another. Then you can pick and choose the times to deal with things and you aren’t inundated all at once. For example, I read all shopping and trade papers at night when I can sit down and relax. It also allows me to focus on business stuff during the day.
Best Face Forward
Do you need new headshots? Is it time to tweak your branding? How are your demo clips looking or your demo reel? And when was the last time you looked at your resume? Promotional materials get tired fast, and especially today when the industry is changing more rapidly than ever. You’ve got the time right now without a whole lot of pressure of auditions so go through and…
- Make the edits, maybe choose different photos from your last headshot shoot. Get super critical and equally creative with where and how you want to position yourself in the next 6 months to a year moving forward. Also, right now, with so many productions being delayed or even canceled, it’s a slower time for everyone. Agents, who don’t have much if anything to pitch on may be more open to reviewing your materials and giving feedback.
- Reach out to your reps and ask them to take a look; Are there any changes or updates they’d like to see? Classes or training that would be a boost on your resume and make it easier for them to pitch you when things do get rolling again?
Update Your Footage
Whether it’s footage from projects you’ve shot or your library of self-tapes, these materials can be invaluable to your agent when they are pitching you to a casting director who hasn’t seen you before or maybe going for a role that is against type.
- Compile all of your existing footage and make a list of productions and clips. If anything is missing reach out to the appropriate people to get it, or hire someone to do an aircheck for you.
- Edit the footage for clips that best represents you. Make sure everything is uploaded to YouTube and on your IGTV (casting directors seem to be using this more and more!) Maybe take a few of your best clips and cut them together for a demo reel. Be sure to keep it to a minute and a half or less, and separate comedy from drama.
- Now organize your self-tapes the same way you did with your footage. Keep a list of everything: what it was for, who the CD was, and whether you got any notes or a callback. Upload everything to YouTube as unlisted videos that only you and your rep have links to, and consider having everything on a hidden page of your website. Again, this can be super useful when your reps are pitching you, or a CD is trying to decide whether or not to bring you in.
- Record some more. Figure out what you’re missing and record some more footage. This is an excellent way to up your self tape game and give your reps all of the amo they need!
Looking for free places to download scenes and scripts? Where To Download Scenes, Monologues and Scripts for Open Call Auditions
Revamp Your Online Profiles
Now that your headshots and resume are all cleaned up, make sure that you also freshen up your own website if you have one, and all of your casting profiles.
- Review your photos and media that you have online
- Check email addresses and other contact info to make sure everything is correct and current so people can find you if they want to book or request an audition
- Make sure that your special skills are up to date and if appropriate, shoot a 20 second clip of you doing it and post it to you online profiles. Are you a ballerina on ice? Olympic level fencer? Or a badass with a skateboard? It’s not enough to tell casting, they need to see it!
- Set a reminder in your calendar to check back in on these in 3-4 months time to keep everything fresh.
Once this is all done you should have what I call a “hell ya!” package that you are really proud of and love to share and you will absolutely be 100% ready to go when the industry gets a green light.
Now that you’ve done all of the clean-up and you have your promotional materials in place, it’s time to take care of the business part of things.
Make a New Target List
Who do you want to work with in the coming months? What casting directors haven’t you seen? Are there shows you’d love to get a spot on? Any writers, directors or producers that you could connect with on social media or shoot a quick note to? And what about reps? Now that everyone has a bit of a breather, they tend to be more open to new connections. Reach out, be genuine, and see if you can spark a relationship.
Check Out a Class
Has it been a while since you’ve been in an acting class? Are you looking for a new place to study? Or maybe to brush up on your improv, comedy, scene study or commercials. If you’re low on funds, lots of studios allow you to audit for a very small fee or even free! Check the local directories for classes in your area or jump online and see what’s available on YouTube. Maybe grab an actor buddy to rehearse, and you can even do this via FaceTime or Skype, or my favorite scene partner platform WeAudition.com For 25% of their monthly membership use discount code MAG25.
UPDATE NOV 2020: Acting studios are still operating virtually, at least in Los Angeles, New York and Atlanta….there are also some pretty sweet deals to be had! The cost for online classes tends to be quite a bit less than for in-person, and the class size is smaller as well.
What new connections have you made over the previous year or months? What connections would you like to make? Who have you been meaning to stay in touch with?
There really has never been a better time to engage your target industry connections on social media. Everyone is spending more time inside and online, and we are all a little socially starved at the moment – CDs included.
Casting directors are doing AMAs almost every day on Instagram and in general, tend to be engaging with talent more via stories and posts. Be generous with your likes, views, and comments and not always seeking attention or validation yourself – casting directors are people too, so don’t inundate them with neediness. Create some cool content, make it entertaining and tag people – we could all use a little entertainment right now.
For people you know personally, shoot them a text or even an email or just engage with their social profiles more. Every business thrives on relationships, and the entertainment industry especially. You never know where it might lead, and it just feels good.
We’re all going through tough times right now with stress levels peaking. Try loosening your grip on the emotional support vodka every once in a while and give yourself some genuine, uninhibited self care. Sleep a little longer, take naps, eat nutritious foods, meditate, pray – do whatever cares for your body and centers your soul. This is not just about getting through this, and surviving, it’s about living you life and thriving in the process.