In my last advice post, I spoke about the 5 intangible “P”s all aspiring actors need— Passion, Persistence, Possibility, Perspective, and Perseverance. Well guess what? THERE ARE SO MANY MORE P-WORDS LEFT IN THE DICTIONARY!
Yes, friends, there are, in fact, at least five more P’s an actor needs. These P’s build upon the former ones, as you climb the staircase of auditions and bookings. They are essential things to keep in mind while putting your best foot forward in this difficult industry. Some are obvious, but some may surprise you! Read on.
1. Preparedness. Always be prepared. It will put you at ease, and also people you are working with will take notice. When auditioning, plan your outfit the night before. If filming and providing your own costumes, do the same and bring a variety of options. Make sure you know where you are going (and double check if you are as directionally challenged as I am!) Come to auditions with extra headshots/resumes. Have your lines memorized for auditions and film shoots. Finally, always have extra headshots, resumes, and business cards on you even when not auditioning–you never know who you might meet! Act professional, and you’ll be treated like you are a professional!
2. Positivity! Or, a smile. This is not an industry for the easily discouraged and the downtrodden. A positive attitude will serve you well, both mentally and professionally. No one likes a whiner or a complainer. Also, smiling is just proven to make you actually feel physically better, and it additionally boosts the moods of those around you. (That’s right, it’s contagious!) Believe in yourself, believe in your career, believe in your ability to persevere, and when you start to feel discouraged, get back on that horse and ride into your sunset!
3. Patience and Proactivity. A lot of this career is waiting around, and you really need to be okay with that. You could submit for an audition and not receive a call to audition for a month, or you could audition for a Theatre’s upcoming season, which won’t be fully cast until 8 months later. To combat this constant waiting, too, you need to find other ways to occupy yourself. You cannot spend all day waiting around for that one audition to call! Every day do something for your career, be it submitting yourself for more auditions, working on a new monologue, editing together a film reel, or even blogging. Meanwhile, outside of your career, find something that will get you up in the morning, whether it’s a daily walk or a part-time job you enjoy. If you’re occupied doing things you enjoy or things proactively helping your career, the waiting won’t seem nearly as long, and new opportunity might present itself in the interim.
4. Perception and Protection. That is to say, “Street Smarts.” As much as I would like to believe that all people are trustworthy, not everyone is. An actors, unfortunately, are often victims on scams. Use your intuition. If something seems fishy, it probably is.
- Do your research. Google the project, the people involved in it, if they have a Facebook page/website. If you can’t find any of that, ask if you can see samples of their work (to prove that they are actual filmmakers/if they produce good work.) If their work seems badly thrown together, it’s OKAY TO SAY NO—especially the project is unpaid. Unpaid work is paid in a different way—through learning and ultimately having a reel. Also ask if you can see the script to make sure you are okay with doing/saying everything in it. Remember, just because they are hiring you to do work for them, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get anything out of it!
- Protect yourself. Before doing ANYTHING, write up a contract that both parties must sign. It’s a good habit to get into anyways, especially when you have yet to sign with an agent that will do this for you. Make sure clauses are included to provide you with a copy of a reel, to receive proper payment in due time for any word you do, and to perform the script as-written (so they can’t say you are violating contract if they ask you on-set to do something not in the script that you are uncomfortable with). MAKE SURE to read any contract THEY give you as well. No matter the length. If you have a question about part of it, ask them about it in detail.
- Never pay for anything that shouldn’t be paid for (an agent, for example, or to be a part of a show when it doesn’t make sense.) Make no deals or agreements without a written, signed contract. If you are self-managing, you must learn to be your own agent. Similarly, if you were open to networking with anyone earlier, you might have made friends with an agent or entertainment lawyer that might be willing to look things over for you. In short, guard your own value: Many people are just after your money. (Even if you don’t have any…just corn (see below)).
5. Philanthropy. Or, as my alma mater would call it, Pro Humanitate. As much as some might want to believe it, this career choice is not all about you. I’m a firm believer that good will you do unto others will eventually be paid back to you through karma or some other unnamed force. So HELP your fellow artists (and even non-artists)! If you have a friend moving to a new city where you have some other friends, introduce them! You never know what new connections they’ll make after their move that they can connect you with in the future. If you see a casting call that you aren’t a fit for, but one of your friends is, send it along! Who knows? Maybe they might return the favor later. And even if they don’t, doing things for others selflessly makes most people feel better anyways. And feeling good about yourself leads to higher confidence and better auditions, right? Right.