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Many of us began January 1, 2021 with big dreams and hopes of a fresh start after the crushing challenges of the previous year. But here in the U.S. it has been anything but a smooth start. The film industry, like everything else across North America, is on shaky ground. Studios are trying to find firm footing and a way to move forward amidst constant closures, delays, travel challenges and quarantines – but they WILL move forward, it’s only a matter of time.
As actors, we need to be ready. And although so much seems out of control at the moment, there are still things you can do to take back control in your career.
Here are 10 things you can do today to help your acting career and keep things moving forward.
1. Set Small Obtainable Goals Regularly
While you should definitely have large career goals, you also need weekly or at least monthly smaller, obtainable goals that are going to help you move toward creating the vision you have for your career of the future.
Example: If your bigger goal is to get your first IMDB credit, some small obtainable goals for the week or the month might be to submit to online auditions every day, to refine your self tape set-up, or hone your audition skills by attending online classes. All of these things are doable and obtainable and will ultimately help move you towards that first credit.
2. Get To Know the Ins and Outs of the Industry
If you’re brand new to the biz there is a lot to learn! Commit some time every week to reading about the industry or connecting with other actors and industry professionals who can provide valuable inside information and help guide your career forward. An excellent book for new actors is Secrets of Screen Acting by Patrick Tucker.
This book goes into the big differences in acting for the camera vs. acting on stage. It gives you an inside look at things like shots and framing and tricks directors use to fit everything into a rectangular format. The book also covers some of the terms and phrases you will hear on film & tv sets – awesome if you don’t want to look like a total newbie!
Facebook groups are also a fantastic jumping off point and fairly easy access for industry networking. You can not only connect with other actors, but also industry people that can be otherwise hard to reach. Agents, managers and even casting directors post, share and comment every day. I’ve put together a list for you of the 16 Best Facebook Groups for Actors here.
Another key component to learning about the film and television industry is to know industry terms, lingo and jargon. What’s a DP? What is a first AD? What does the director mean when they say, “Back to first!” You can read more on film industry lingo and specific terms here.
3. Always Be Improving
There is really no substitute for this one; you have got to constantly be developing your skills and your craft. Today, with all classes being virtual, there is almost no excuse for not getting into some kind of training every month, even if it’s a one day workshop. You’ll find that seasoned pros and actors with decades of experience still take classes. It keeps them fresh, tuned up, and tuned into what’s going on in the biz.
For brand new actors, commercials will be your easiest in to the business. I’ve never actually taken classes here, but they get fantastic reviews, and the first class is free! Why not check it out and see if commercials are for you. Hey I saw Your Commercial!
4. Keep Your Materials Current
Your appearance changes more often than you think, and yes, even for adults. The general rule of thumb is to get new headshots about once a year. New shots always reflect not just how you look, but “where you’re at” as a person and artist right now. They can also stimulate a little more casting director interest when they’ve been seeing your same shots for the last year. Keep your resume and online profiles fresh as well as your video clips and voice over demos. If this seems like a lot to do at once, put things on the calendar and tackle one per month for the next few months until everything is up to date, and then review it in 6 months time.
5. Get A Mentor
It doesn’t matter where you’re at in your career, at every level you are going to need feedback and guidance. Having a mentor, someone to run ideas by, critique your work, to point you in the right direction with expert advice and resources can be invaluable! This can literally save you years of struggling and thousands of dollars. With any luck, you’ll have many mentors over the course of your career. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and look for someone you feel is good for where you’re at right now.
6. Measure Your Success
The entertainment industry can feel so tiring and isolating at times, because you can do so much work without seeing any immediate results. One way to see how much you’re actually doing is to track it. Keep track of the number of jobs you submit for, auditions you do, classes you take, industry connections you make. If the numbers in any one fo those areas is low, your career will probably suffer for it, so this can be a very clear indication of what needs your attention. It also lets you see how many amazing things you’ve done to move your career forward! There’s a success saying “What get’s measured get’s managed.” Measuring allows you to manage your career input, progress and results.
7. Build Relationships
The degree to which any of us are successful, is largely dependent on the number and quality of our relationships. This doesn’t mean that you need to be having lunch with casting directors and producers every week, or even every month, but you should know people professionally. Ask yourself, in this industry, who do you know? Who knows you? Try a foster a couple of new connections every month; take a casting director workshop, attend an industry panel and use social media to connect with power players.
8. Stay Consistent
Success in this industry is VERY possible if you stay consistent. This is something that probably 80% – 90% of actors don’t do. And let’s face it – life happens, things come up and there are other expenses and distractions on the road to stardom. But consistency is an absolute key ingredient to success in any career or area of life. The reality is that you can’t do everything all the time, but you can do something. Try to find one action you can take on a daily or even weekly basis to move your career forward. Maybe it’s being consistent with your Instagram, rehearsing new practice scenes with a partner, reaching out to industry contacts, or taking a class. And Maybe it’s one small action, even if it’s a different action, three times a week. Find what works for you and your life right now, and adapt as needed. The key here isn’t as much about what you are doing, it’s the fact that you are staying consistent.
9. Seek Accountability, Community and Motivation
Staying consistent is so much easier when you have a pier group and people holding your feet to the fire. Sign-up for industry mailing lists to stay on top of what’s going on and to stay motivated. Join Facebook Groups and network with other actors, as well as agents, managers and casting directors. Take a group acting class that’s going on for a few weeks or more to keep you moving forward, connected with your craft as well as other actors. Find an accountability partner or even an accountability small-group, and do weekly check-ins with each other as a way to stay both inspired and on-track.
10. Take Responsibility for Your Career
Recently I was in a casting director workshop, and the casting director remarked, “Your agents only get 10% because that’s about all they can do…. 10% of the work. It’s up to you to do the other 90%.” That one really hit home! Ultimately, your career isn’t your agent’s responsibility; their career and reputation is their responsibility, and yes, a big part of that is finding opportunities for people on their roster, like You. But you’ve got to be putting in the work – the 90%. If you’re not repped right now, any new agent is definitely going to want to see that. And ultimately, while you absolutely need support and allies, this is still your career, your dream and your life.
Being a working actor, like any other career, is always evolving. It’s so much more than a good headshot and submitting to online casting calls. That alone will only keep you checking your phone for a call or email that’s not likely going to happen with any regularity or frequency.
Working actors today take a more proactive and interactive approach. They create, hustle, learn, grow, pitch, connect, test, try, revise and try again. Work through the tips above, focusing on what you feel you need the most right now.
As always, I’d love to hear about your progress! Head to the comments section below or jump onto social media and let’s connect there.
Remember, I’m always on your side! 🙂 Hunter
Like this or love it? Tweet it, pin it, post it, share it! It’s a tough biz and we could all use a little help!
* Please Note: I am not an agent, manager, or casting director. I do not procure work for actors. All information, workshops and coaching are for educational purposes only and are not a guarantee or promise of employment. Thank you for being here!