The beginning of the year is the perfect time to do a self-assessment; to review, make plans, and set goals. In my classes at the Actors Workout Studio, we spend time in January and February working on goals and actions, and discussing the actor’s business model. Painfully, a lot of actors don’t want to discuss the ugliness of business, just the beauty of making art. Some students even avoid my business classes altogether, and return when we get back to learning the craft.
These students may not want to deal with business, but the truth is, as an actor, you are a business. Like it or not, you are a self-employed entrepreneur. You are selling a product (yourself), and you have to have a business plan, marketing strategy, budget, and staff (which might just be you for now). Then you must execute your plan, and sell it.
Actors tend to avoid this conversation, relying on excuses like “I am an artist,” or “If I wanted to go into business then I would have gone into my family’s business.” They prefer to pursue their dream by studying their art, taking classes, maybe doing a play once in a while, sending out headshots and postcards, and bitterly wondering why nothing is happening.
A tragedy I continually see, after having coached thousands of actors for nearly 30 years, is when a trained, professional, talented actor, a true artist, simply gets no work. They may become great classroom actors, they might do some theater once in a while, but they have no real career of which to speak. The other side of that coin (a sad thing to witness) is when mediocre, careless actors find great success. They may not be as talented, dedicated, or give inspired performances, but still they get work. Because they work the business. It almost seems unfair to the non-working passionate artists, who helplessly watch lesser artists succeed while they remain unemployed, turning into bitter, frustrated actors.
Acting is a business, and much of an actors’ job consists of looking for work, networking, and setting up the next job, interview, or audition. Here’s a stark fact: 90% of actors are unemployed 90% of the time! But that 10% can make it all worthwhile, and can change the tide of an actor’s career.
Consider this: If you were a trained engineer and looking for a job, you would write your resume, solicit companies, look at want ads and job listings, and put yourself out there for hire. If you are well qualified and have some experience, you may go out on 10 to 12 interviews, and then you might land a job. Once you do, you’re set for a few years, if it all works out. Your employer also goes through this process once every few years looking for new job candidates. But things are different for actors.
In our business, you might go out on 10 -12 job interviews (auditions for us) in a month . Say you land an audition, book a job, and work a day or two. Then what? You know. You’re back to step one, doing it all over again. Simply put, you are in the constant business of seeking employment. The good news is the employers (casting directors) are also constantly looking to hire for their next project, so if you don’t get that job, you have an opportunity to move on to another, and not wait two or three years until the next position opens up, in the example of the engineer.
My point is that you are constantly looking for work, and casting directors are constantly hiring, so you need to adhere to a plan, a structure, and discipline.
Here’s a short version of what we do in our January classes. In class we go into a lot more detail, discussing energy, karma, consciousness, personal issues, special needs, step by step procedures, and blocks. But with this condensed version, you’ll still get the idea and be able to create your own plan of action.
GOALS – Start with a list of goals; at least five to seven major things you’d like to accomplish or achieve. Define your goals. Make them realistic and achievable, yet don’t forget to dream and stretch your imagination too. It’s important to set goals that are challenging but still reachable.
One mistake actors make is that they don’t set goals that are realistic to their current situations. Some set goals that are too simple, and others that are too big and complicated. With goals that are too lofty and unmanageable, you risk burning out and becoming discouraged, so the task of setting your goals should be well thought out and taken seriously. I define goals as achievements with clear results, meaning at the end of the time period for a stated goal there is an absolute yes or no as far as achievement is concerned.
Here’s an example: for our purposes: “getting in shape” is not a strong goal. It’s too vague, and the result is not definable. A better one would be, “to weigh 170 pounds with 5 percent body fat by July 15th.” That goal is measureable, and the outcome is absolute. It’s the same with acting goals. “To audition more” is not a strong choice, but “10 auditions in the next 2 months” is measureable, with an absolute yes or no to mark in the achievement column.
Remember, you don’t have absolute control over a goal’s success. Your goal may be to get 10 auditions, or to book a recurring role on a television series, but realistically you don’t have complete control over making those things happen. That’s where the next step comes in.
ACTION LIST – Once you have your list of goals, make a list of actions that you can take on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis to help achieve those goals. Setting up an action list helps you keep track of making things happen that you do have control over. Let’s say your goal is to get a commercial agent. Many actors send out headshots, maybe make a few calls, and wait. They’ll send out a mass mailing, and pray for one to hit.
Make an action list. Research the agencies that are open to submissions from actors at your experience level. That research should include a phone call to find out whom to contact and to send your materials. Then select 10 agencies to pursue, and don’t stop until you get an absolute yes or no from every one of them. Follow up at least three times until you get an interview or until they say no.
If they say “We’ll let you know if we are interested,” then schedule to call/contact them at least three more times to follow up. Figure out creative ways to stay in contact with them, to avoid being too pushy. If after three tries and a specific amount of time, you still get the same “We’ll let you know” line, consider it a no and move on. Then, go to the next 10 agencies on your list.
Do your research. Make a checklist, record the contact person, and create a relationship with them. Don’t take a “no” personally either. Just like the engineer in the above example, there might not be any openings for your type. That can change, and often does. Once you have your action lists in order, the next step is to get a partner.
ACOUNTANTABILITY PARTNER – We often feel alone on our creative journey of self-employment, but be assured, your fellow actors face the same situation. Find a partner and set a time to talk on the phone every day for just five minutes (two and a half minutes each). During this call you should tell your partner what you are going to do that day to further your career, and report on the results of the previous day.
Keep the call limited to five minutes in order to stay on purpose. Keep personal calls separate. This call must be a regular appointment; set the time and keep it. If you can’t commit to a five-minute call each day for your career, then you have even bigger problems, hence the next step.
DEMONS – Make a list of your demons. Write down all the things that are you consider your issues, things that get in your way. We all have them: dark sides, negative thoughts and actions that tend to disempower, or cause us to fail. Many are feelings of low self-worth, often stemming from family of origin issues. Making the unconscious conscious is a good and productive idea, so list your fears, your issues, and your blocks. Write them all down and take a good look. Read them out loud, and be honest with yourself.
We are actors: sensitive, feeling souls, connected to the human experience, both good and not so good. So get to it. List your “fear of failure,” “fear of success,” “I’m too fat,” or “not good looking enough,” “I really don’t have any talent,” “I’m lazy,” “I avoid confrontation,” “I can’t handle rejection,” and so on. Be fearless and thorough.
Once you’ve completed these steps, then get to work. Put your list of goals on your refrigerator or bathroom mirror; place your action list on your desk or wherever you do business; and as far as your demons list, take it outside and burn it! That’s what I said. Make it a ritual and burn that list, let those demons go. The burning ritual helps you to take responsibility, own your truth, and help you keep your sense of humor. Good luck, and may this process move you fast forward in your career this year.
Fran Montano – Acting Coach – The Actors Workout Studio
The Actors Workout Studio has been located in the NoHo Arts District for more than 25 years. Known for its professional school and outstanding productions, it is the vision of Emmy Award-winning acting coach and actor, Fran Montano. Actors Workout Studio also serves as a “home base” for talented actors on the rise. Email Fran at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.actorsworkout.com or call 818-766-2171 for an interview and free class audit.
The Actors Workout Studio, 4735 Lankershim Boulevard North Hollywood, CA 91602