This content originally appeared in the Actors Pro Expo Guide on April 16th, 2016.
1. Always say thank you, don’t say sorry.
“Actors waste so much time apologizing,” say my friends who work in casting. “I’m sorry, can I start over?” Or “I’ve never seen this show, I’m sorry.” You’ll come off as more confident and professional if you apologize only when you’ve actually done something wrong. (Imagine!) Apologize if you’re late. Apologize if you haven’t prepared the sides. But don’t apologize in an attempt to please or be deferential.
And while most actors know to thank people within the industry, a little expressed gratitude goes a long way in other aspects of life, too. Thank your colleague for covering your shift when you got a callback. Do this in person, face to face, not just via text. Thank the person at your day job for giving you time off to do a reading or a summer stock gig. In this case, an email or even a handwritten note goes a long way. Get in the habit of thanking the people who support you in a million tiny ways. You will find that good karma returned to you times a thousand.
2. Work in every medium.
I arrived here with a degree in musical theatre from Carnegie Mellon. I was prepared to work, but I only looked for work in musical theatre.
I was so stupid! Not pursuing a commercial agent until I was in my 30s was inarguably dumb. Be smarter than me. As an attractive, talented person with a headshot and resume, you have the tools to start a commercial career. Plus, commercial work is fun, easy, and there’s a lot of it. And it pays! Even a non-union VO gig pays more per day than some non-union theatres pay per week. So stretch your artistic wings a bit and try out some other fields.
3. Restaurants Make Terrible Day Jobs.
When I moved to the City, I thought that getting a job waiting tables was what actors did. I didn’t know it’s where actors’ souls go to die!
Because there are so many actors looking for work in the restaurant business, you are expendable to them. They do not care if you have an audition or get a callback. One time I couldn’t even get a day off for a friend’s wedding. They work you to the ground and afford you zero respect. It becomes very hard to audition well with a day job like that. You want something that provides flexibility and a supportive environment.
Try to think outside the restaurant box. Look into being a brand ambassador or promotional model. (Get a head start at www.mustardlane.com.) Catering companies are a lot more flexible than restaurants, and there are tons of caterers in the City. Some of my friends work as tour guides. Gyms and dance studios offer terrific hourly rates, plus you usually get a free membership or a discount on classes. Whatever you do, be sure you make time for yourself to pursue your goals. And be sure to work alongside people who are supportive of those goals. And then be sure to say thank you.
4. Your Friends Are Not Your Competition.
It certainly feels that way at times.
In her eye-opening book, The Artist's Way, Julia Cameron writes, "Competition is another spiritual drug.... when we are ogling the accomplishments of others, we take our eye away from our own through line." Instead of thinking, "He or she did it; therefore, so can I," our ego insists that he or she is succeeding instead of us. "The footrace mentality," Cameron says, "is always the ego's demand to be not just good, but also first and best."
In order to be happy-- not successful, but happy-- you must check your ego. When your friend books something great, you must train yourself to think, "That person succeeded, and so will I." That way your friend's success becomes your success, too. You will find yourself happier, healthier and with a cadre of wonderful, successful, supportive friends.
5. Auditioning Is A Job
And as such, you will need to carve out at least 20 hours a week to work on it.
"Twenty hours?" you say. "At this point my agent's only sending me on one audition a week!"
Here are some things you will need to do to supplement that one hour you set aside for the audition:
Learn the material.
Coach the material.
Take a dance class. Attend other auditions: EPAs, ECCs.
Take acting classes or seminars with casting directors. Check out One on One or Actors Connection.
Take an improv class.
Yes, schedule sleep. You cannot work at a bar until 4 in the morning and expect to be audition-ready the next day. Working those hours will take its toll on your voice, your body, and most importantly, your motivation.
If you do not carve out time in your life to be an artist... well, then you will not be an artist. And if you don't make time to coach your sides and learn your music and stay in shape, the person behind you will.