Whether you realize it or not, acting is a business. Most of us start out with little to no money in our pockets and struggle to balance dreaded day jobs, acting classes, research and auditions. The most successful Actors in my personal circle, are the ones who know how to precisely get from point A to point B in the shortest amount of time. They know when to work on their acting skills, when to market themselves, when to network, and when to apply those skills.
I believe that what makes certain Actors struggle, while others thrive, is the difference between the daily commitments and small habits they create in order to help themselves move toward their greatest potential.
There Is Always More to Learn
An Actor once said to me, “Why are you in acting class? Acting is easy. Acting classes are just scams to take our money anyway.”
There are several issues I have with what this gentleman said to me. One, he was not a working actor. Two, the craft does take work. Three, taking the time to deepen our expertise should be a mandatory practice in any field. Would you undergo a life or death surgery with a doctor whose never practiced medicine before? Or does an Olympic Athlete win the gold medal by sitting on their couch eating crisps? No. Both the Doctor and the Athlete are out there, practicing their skill set day in and day out.
Start by reading about SAG-AFTRA, attend acting classes on a weekly basis, read about industry trends, follow other successful Actors and find ways to better your strategies in order to advance into a strong power player in the entertainment field.
I schedule time once or twice a week specifically for learning. If something doesn’t get on my calendar it doesn’t exist. I give myself a certain topic to focus on throughout the week or the month, and I dedicate the scheduled time to uninterrupted focused learning.
Commit to a System
By having a dedicated process in place, you can better track affective and inefficient systems. Systems can empower you to think long-term more effectively because they stack on top of each other, which will then enable you to make more informed decisions.
The quickest way to get from point A to point B is to create flexible systems that work for you. The more you tangibly understand the mechanisms that make your acting business run, the better it allows you to repeat and optimize your systems. From how often you self submit to casting calls, to how often you attend acting classes, when and how you network, to when and how you market yourself, to how you structure your entire acting business. Nearly everything within your business should be put on a system and continually optimized.
Commit to Active Listening
Think of it this way: Have you ever dreamed of booking a role as a Marvel superhero? What would your superpower be? Can you fly? Walkthrough walls? Manipulate metal, fire, or water? Do you have telekinesis? The best superpower you can have as an Actor is listening.
I cannot stress enough, the importance of developing your active listening abilities when you are acting. Take that skill with you into meetings with Agents, Casting Directors, Directors, Managers, and Producers. Everyone around us is unique, and their communication preferences are just so. Some people like to be cheered on with positive affirmations while others prefer straight talk and “No B.S.” I personally am a combination of the two.
At the end of the day, we all want to know that we have been heard and that what we have communicated has been understood. Use your ability as an Actor to uncover what makes each individual tick, and elevate their passions and what empowers them to succeed within your meetings. Trust me, being in the moment and making others feel empowered and heard, when you are in the room with powerful individuals, will have a lasting effect on your career.
Communication Is Everything
The way that we speak to others, it matters. Especially because Actors are in a position of influence. Any sign of talking down to a team member, especially to an Agent or Manager, can ultimately erode that relationship — fast! Actors often find themselves dissatisfied with their representation, and it can quickly turn ugly. Actors feel ignored, their phone calls or emails go unanswered, or like their Agents just simply aren’t submitting them enough, or when they are, it’s for all the wrong roles.
My suggestion is to head into that conversation with validation. For example, I had an Agent who I felt wasn’t communicating with my needs, so I decided to step in and provide support. Instead of just expressing frustration, I made sure to share what I did like about working with that Agent and precisely why. I then offered my notes for a strategy change and focused on phrasing everything I had to say during that meeting in a positive way. My goal was to offer support, and to collaborate in order to land on a game plan that we both felt was achievable. The primary goal with the way in which we communicate is to lift others up, help them grow in their role, and in turn, you will also grow.
Commit to Yourself
I always like to say, “You can’t build the skyscraper with the Penthouse. You have to start with the foundation.” We all need to make sure we’re doing the foundational things very well. What does this mean? Get the right amount of sleep, eat breakfast and workout in the morning, treat and reward yourself regularly, and take care of your mental health. After every audition, I always stop for an iced caramel macchiato to reward myself for showing up and acting. Regardless if I book the role or not, I did the work, and I got the opportunity to act.
The best way I’ve found to keep my mental and physical health at the forefront of my mind is to schedule my day as detailed as possible. I read an article from the Harvard Business School that stated when you work from home, you should only work for 45min at a time, and take a ten to fifteen-minute break to stretch, get a glass of water, or take the dog on a quick walk.
With any other start-up venture, in order to be successful, you need to layout all of your future steps in front of you. The little commitments we make to our business matter, and our habits will enforce our career path over time. If you want to be an effective actor, it starts with leading yourself. I encourage you to develop a business plan for your acting career. Write it down, look at your goals and repeat them to yourself every morning. Know exactly where you are going and how you are going to get there.
This is what smart actors are doing today. Don’t fall for the oversold publicity-stunt stories of, “I’m moving to Hollywood with only $100 in my pocket and becoming an overnight success.”
I’ve personally walked both paths, and I know which one works, and which one doesn’t.
Break a leg!