By Richard Lawrence-Allen
The new year, and the new decade, is well on its way now. January may be dark and cold outside but with the start of a new calendar year it is a perfect excuse to start afresh and make exciting new plans and career goals and put some new practices in to action. Here are our top tips for kicking off the New Year:
1. Establish Achievable and Defined Goals
It’s all very well to start your year saying to yourself that you are going to work harder on your career, but vague statements like this don’t lead to actions. The key is to define specific achievable goals that are within your control. Deciding that this year is the year that you’re going to win that Oscar you’ve spent your life dreaming about is certainly a commendable target, but you need to ask yourself, is that something that I have personal control over, and is it a realistic prospect? For most of us, the answer to this will sadly be, no (at least for the time being)!
More realistic goals will relate to what you can do. Examples will include, “I aim to get new headshots that better reflect my current casting”, “I aim to get a new showreel”, “I aim to improve my singing”, “I am to improve my physical fitness and health” and so on. These goals are realistic and achievable. However, they are not specific. Make them defined.
Once you have a goal in mind, scrutinise it and reword. How will you achieve your aim? For example, if your goal is to improve your current health and fitness, you could set goals such as “I will join the gym”, “I will work out for 3 hours a week”, “I will go for a 20-minute run once a week”, etc. If you want to improve your singing, the goals you set yourself will be akin to “I will find a singing teacher”, “I will practise my scales once a week”, “I will learn a new vocal warm-up”, “I will learn a new song every month”, etc.
Using the phrasing of “I will” as opposed to “I aim” or “I’ll try” will also push you to work to fulfil your goals as it makes you accountable to the aim.
2. Write to Casting Directors/Theatre Companies
As an actor, when you are between jobs, it can be easy to sit around twiddling your thumbs, waiting for your agent to call with a new audition. Don’t. This wasted time could be put to much better use that will help you land that next job.
If there is a theatre or film company, or television series that you are desperate to work for, find out who does the casting for them and get in contact. Do your research, find a specific person’s name if you can. Look at the credits of the film/show, check the names in theatre programs. Once you know the person you’re looking for, find out how to contact them. You can find a lot of information through the contact section on your Spotlight profile, or if the casting director in question is a member of the Casting Directors’ Guild (CDG) their contact information can often be sourced from the CDG website.
Compose an email to your chosen casting director to introduce yourself, and try to be specific to the casting director that you are contacting; generic emails will garner less attention. If you are in a show at the moment, invite the casting director along to see you. If you are between performing jobs, send over your showreel and your CV. Make sure you include easy to use hyperlinks that will direct them straight to your CV/showreel, and avoid large downloadable attachments. The least amount of effort they have to put in to find your information, the more likely they are to go ahead and look!
The casting director may not be looking for someone that fits your casting right away and you may my not receive an immediate response, on many occasions, you will not receive a response at all. However, the important thing is that that casting director has been made aware of you and may look to cast you in the future.
3. Learn a New Skill
Another useful way to spend your time between acting jobs is to learn a new skill. You could take up a dance class, a circus skills or stage combat workshop, or even learn to play a musical instrument. Actor-Musicians are in high demand in the current landscape and adding any new skill to your CV will only serve to improve your castability.
Professional lessons can be expensive, so if you don’t have the available funds to pay for these at the moment, ask around your friends and colleagues and see if anyone would be willing to do a skill share with you. If you have skill that someone else could benefit from, and they have a skill that you would like to learn, you can agree a free transfer or skills and offer lessons to each other in kind.
Alternatively, video sharing websites such as YouTube often have tutorials that you can view for free as well that can give you a good start to a new skill.
It is also worth practicing your different accents and learning some new ones. Whether you do this with a vocal coach or for free by listening to native recordings of the accent you wish to learn and repeating the sounds, learning a new accent is always an achievable new string to add to your bow of skills.
Going through the list of skills and accents that you will find available to add to your Spotlight profile will offer some great inspiration to the types of things that you may wish to learn.
4. Update Your CV
Whether you’ve learned a new skill or have some further credits to add, make sure your CV is as up-to-date and complete as possible.
If your headshots are old and need replacing, if your showreel doesn’t show you at the best you can be, or if you would like a better-quality voice reel, now is the time you can be focusing on getting these things updated.
5. Treat Yourself Kindly
It’s important to hold yourself response for your goals. No one else is going to go to the gym on your behalf, no one can make you write to that casting director you’ve been anxious to be seen by. No one will learn to be a master at any one skill after an hour of trying. Make several goals, you will succeed in some, you will fail in others.
Don’t berate yourself for any failures, treat yourself kindly. Things happen, life gets in the way and we all need to take regular breaks. celebrate your successes. If you aren’t succeeding in any particular area that you wanted to excel in, accept that that is what has happened. It’s not a problem and there is no shame in it. See what you can do to move past that road bump and progress further towards your goal, making a plan of action. Identify what you struggled with and why. Plan on how you are going to address those points. Lastly, and most vitally, don’t ever be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
It's an exciting year ahead with new opportunities to seize and challenges to overcome. There is a bright road ahead so have an amazing year everyone!