Actors beating the COVID blues - 6 things to get your career re-booted.
Theres no denying that COVID has had a big hit on our industry in 2020.
From actors personal incomes to that of production and theatre companies, theatres themselves, agents and casting directors, everyone has felt the pinch.
But despite the hardship, humans always inevitably find a way to survive, and not least the human spirits nature to want to create.
There is hope.
The industry is bouncing back and overcoming adversity and its like a frost thawing, seeing my clients already not only auditioning, but getting cast in jobs. It's slow, but hopeful.
But if thats not you yet, it can be tough, and you feel like you're permanently in lockdown, so heres a few tips to help kick start things...
1. REFRESH YOUR BRAND
Wait, What is my brand?
You're a toothbrush. I need a toothbrush, but theres so many to choose from and they all promise different things, essentially, I just need to clean my teeth though, so whats going to sway me? Is it the amazing features you have, or the fancy packaging, or both?
Your skills won't get you through the door alone, sure you can backflip on a tightrope whilst playing the banjo on fire, but your CV doesn't mention it and the headshots make you look more like an accountant, not to mention your showreel is 5 years out of date.
Think about how you want to stand out, whats your brand? Are you a standard strong and dependable old-school toothbrush or a fancy electric ultra sonic one?
Look at your spotlight or online casting site profiles, if you were a stranger looking at it, does it look up to date? Does it have relevant hair length on there, are your skills up to date etc.
My personal pet hate is too much on a CV, theres no point putting abseiling if you can't do it, Casting directors will see straight through that, and don't put 17 headshots up and 4 seperate showreels, no one has time to indulge that much in you, sometimes, you've got to leave them wanting more!
2. SPRING CLEAN YOUR ONLINE IMAGE
The internet is a rabbit hole of information. Type your name in, see what comes up, does it reflect a good image to a future employer?
Just be conscious of what web results and social media you have public and what you post, sometimes it can paint a bad picture and is it worth setting some things private?
As much as having a website isn't going to automatically pop up on a Casting directors recommended google sites, but there is no denying that any online branding is good for you and a website can be a great place to put all your content for people to explore if they want to know more.
It's easier than ever to build yourself a website too, with the addition of sites like wix and squarespace it takes a lot of the technical work out of your hands, and they even offer artificial intelligence now to build it automatically and write paragraphs for you, it's incredible.
Why not do a free one and see how it goes?
3. RE-VISIT YOUR HEADSHOTS
If times are tight, its not always possible to get new headshots done as it feels like an expense that you can't afford.
Why not take another look at your last shoot and the gallery, and see if there was any shots from then that you missed first time round, and order a new retouch or two from your photographer?
Most photographers galleries will be up online for a while, so why not have a look and see? A single retouch is much cheaper than a full new shoot and might tide you over and freshen up your portfolio.
4. PRACTISE THOSE SELF TAPES
There's been a cataclysmic shift in the industry due to the pandemic that may not go back to pre-COVID ways, and that''s the use of online technology and its integration into our work process.
Face-to-face auditions will never go away, but I foresee more and more the initial stages of castings will be done via self-tape submissions, and you need to work out your technique.
Whether it's using a couple of bedside lamps or sat in front of your window with a bedsheet behind you, if you can work out a good setup that is repeatable, you won't be panicked when you're asked to produce a last minute self tape for an audition
You can get plenty of tips online for good self-tape setups, so worth checking out youtube for some advice.
5. UPDATE YOUR SHOWREEL
Stop it. I know what you are thinking, either that you don't have the raw material to update, or the skills to edit one together, or the money to get new scenes filmed specifically, but we need to think about a few things here...
I watch a lot of showreels, it's part of my job to research the clients I shoot, and by doing that I see straight through every 'manufactured' showreel, and take it for what it is.
Acting thats not 100% on a TV or film clip can sometimes be excused, there is a lot of pressure on you and time restraints, big crew watching etc, bad acting on a showreel scene that been shot specifically for the purpose of showcasing you, has no excuse, you were literally there to get footage of you acting well and couldn't, and you can end up waisting time and money.
So my answer is this, keep it simple.
Some of the best showreel scenes I have seen over the last few years have simply been a self tape someone has put up, no frills, just acting. Close up lovely acting, and i'll let you into a secret... That's all the casting directors want to see and they'll love you for it.
So try it, get a friend to stand in for the other lines, or shoot just over their shoulder on an iphone and just act.
6. BRUSH UP WITH ONLINE CASTING WORKSHOPS
Another great bi-product of lockdown is the expanded use of online classes and live workshops. Not always offered for free, so make sure it's not just someone trying to make a quick buck on the side, but there is some great access to industry professionals that didn't exist before, so take a look around paces like The Actors Centre, The Actors Guild, Equity or spotlight.
As well as online workshops that are live and sometimes 1-2-1, there is also a lot of pre-recorded footage out there, you can find little gems like this from The NFTS with Jina Jay, Shaheen Baig and Jane Arnell, or check out the Backstage youtube channel amongst others to brush up on some free info!
All in all, stay positive.
It may seem like there isn't a light at the end of the tunnel for now, but things will pick up and you'll be ready and ahead of the game when they do.