Harvest Season

Harvest Season – The Why What & How for the Working Actor

Harvest Season

What Crop Are You Harvesting?

 

THE WHY

“Wow it’s busy right now huh?”

As predicted at the start of the year, a promising bountiful harvest is upon Vancouver.  As of right now, shooting or scheduled to shoot before the end of the year,  there are 17 TV Series, 5 Feature Films, and 11 MOW’s (two of which are Backdoor Pilots – meaning they may well turn into TV Series.

Yep, looks like It’s BUSY this summer.

Hopefully you did your work in Growing Season (the past 8 weeks) and fought for an outlook of “positive and possible” amid the perennial funk  of doom and gloom  that was floating around, attempting to taint your focus. You kept yourself busy and familiar to your tribe you attended industry events, casting workshops, built out your online profile, worked on your own projects, kept your auditioning chops alive, and  now you are sharp, ready to harvest, and unlikely to lose ground with your first few auditions of the year by using them practice or dust-shakers.  You are going to pick up where you left off in Planting Season.

The question that’s in front of you now is:  what are you harvesting?  What’s your crop?

Well – obviously – WORK: “I want to be a working actor”

NO!!!

Well, ok: YES.

You DO want to be a working actor, but I’m here to proclaim that this is FAR TOO GENERAL a goal to ever be achieved.  That’s not actually what you mean.  You mean something far more specific than this, and you either haven’t figured out what it is, or you are fearing the specificity because on some level you realize it means saying yes to it means saying NO to something else. If you want to be working, the prospect of saying NO is scary. The actor who just “Wants to be Working” (a perspective that I lived with for the better part of a decade) IS working. He or she is working to avoid not working.  Looking back over shoulders, futilely directing efforts, energy, and intention BACKWARDS.  Looking at the thing they wish to stay away from:  ‘NOT Working’ or ‘Depressed Season’

Guess what? They have their wish.  They are working hard and hardly getting anywhere. Busier than they’ve been in months. Working on auditions, schedule juggling, shift covering, line learning.  BUSY. 

BUSY is a waste of time if it’s not leading you somewhere. Without the context of a specific goal in mind, you (we) have no idea what to say yes to and what to say no to.  We are creating a mire of active stagnation.  Working hard on an impossible To Do list, proud to be busy, justifying stasis.

It’s not an accident.  We create this state on purpose.  The alternative to active stagnation is forward motion.  Forward motion is scary.  It involves the great unknown, offers no guarantees, and will demand paying a price, letting old ideas and values go so that we may evolve toward new ones.  We much prefer looking back over looking forward.  We much prefer to stay where we are than to grow. Generality is probably our favourite hiding place.

Enough with ‘Working Actor’.  Enough with ‘Busy’.  Forget these hiding places. Get busy growing something specific for yourself.

But what to grow….?

THE WHAT

Career, like acting itself, is about setting up context born of relational priorities that inform the decisions and resulting actions of the moment. In other words, if you know what you want, you are most likely to know what your best decisions are. Making them and committing to following through is another story, but knowing is half the battle.  <~~ wow, never thought I’d be quoting the wisdom of GI Joe.

Your ‘What’ is a personal discovery. It’s not it’s a decision, it’s a discovery. It’s the crossroads of your artistic passion, branding, market circumstances, skill set, and whole-life priorities.  As you evolve on any of these fronts, it too evolves, so you must be absolutely attune with and aware of what it is at all times.

Here’s mine:

“I want a small recurring character on a locally shot national television show that I would want to watch myself.”

Super specific, kinda scary, and attainable.

It took me a long time to arrive at that.  It didn’t appear it till I had no choice but to see it, at least 30 credits into my acting career.

Toward the end of my first son’s first year here, I realized that his arrival had presented me with a crisis.  I had been living in that crisis unconsciously for probably 18 months at the time, trying to be a father, husband, teacher, and ‘working actor’. All of which were general ideas and not specific goals. Not coincidentally, I wasn’t booking consistently at all. I was stressed out, and manifesting crises to keep me busy and urgent everywhere I turned.  My son’s arrival presented a monumental shift of priorities, and I hadn’t yet recognized that let alone adjusted to follow them.   Where acting had been the kingpin of my life priorities for nearly a decade before, there was a new sheriff in town, his name was Fatherhood.

The moment I accepted this, everything changed.  My acting got EASY.  My life decisions became obvious, and easy to honour, (or maybe just difficult to hide from).  Slowly but surely, my awareness of  the crossroads that create my acting career ‘What’ became undeniable.

I love my family.

I love living in Vancouver.

I love teaching.

I love acting.

I’m pushing 40.

It’s not a coincidence that ‘love’ precedes every point there by the way – yes, even ‘pushing 40′ if I’m being honest. Those are not decisions, they are discoveries. Simply, they are my truth. I want and need them all in my life. They ARE my life.  They are the crossroads that reveal my WHAT.

And now that I know that, the ‘HOW’ is also obvious.  Slowly but surely, without anxiety or fear of the unknown, I’m making the right decisions to lead toward the life I want for myself.  Truth is, I have it already, and whether I am blessed enough to complete the whole package or not is almost irrelevant.  I’m an actor working on my life project and growing every moment.  My life is full, rich, rewarding and an absolute blessing.

Everyone’s is, once they’ve figured out what matters.

Vancouver provides one of (if not THE) best opportunities  to gain national television exposure in North America.  I’m working on the actual math of it all, but I’m very comfortable saying that there are more TV jobs per actor here than in any other market in North America.  Since television provides the closest thing to instant mass exposure there is, Vancouver provides the best shot and building heat quickly. A few large principal or bigger roles in one Harvest Season, and you can sky rocket your IMDB ranking, have good current material, and legitimate buzz to really build a platform to support your career.

Let’s look at what Career options are available to the Film and TV actors in Vancouver.  I’ve been thinking on this one for a while now and I’m totally open to someone pointing out something I’ve missed (please do – comments below!) but I’ve only been able to find FOUR possibilities in this town.  I think that’s a tremendously empowering thing.  Talk about specific – only four to choose from?  Easy, right?

I am NOT suggesting that there’s no crossover from one to the other, or that priorities can’t change.  I’m also NOT suggesting that you have no choice in the matter. I’m suggesting that these are the macro level of the choices, or career paths that are presented in this market.  Where each path leads is completely unique to the individual.  I’m using the term CROP to reinforce the idea that it’s what YOU sow, and that you are able to plan for and change what the crop is on a seasonal basis, provided conditions are favourable. In fact, in most cases, committing to one for a season will lead an actor to another one next season.

Here you go, the Four Crops for the Vancouver Actor:

LA LAUNCH PAD
Young, skilled actors probably have the best shot at this category.  They’re fresh faces, but no  Their acting and auditioning chops are POLISHED, they are in ‘bring it on’ mode, ready to deliver at the highest level on every audition.

Harvest season is almost entirely about amassing heat and momentum to unleash next Planing Season (pilot season) in LA. Perform and book early and often right now so you have time to put together LA Meetings in the early fall.

SERIAL GUEST STAR
Well trained, experienced actors able to deliver complex character arcs that support the story.  Deep knowledge of craft and self, with the skill and time to invest in each role. Probably (but not necessarily) has a strong theatre background, but are very familiar with the how to’s and differences for delivering in the audition room and then on set.

Often carries and Intricate character arc over one or more episodes.  Leads to series regulars, series leads, lead roles in Indy Features.  Probably a longer term, enjoy the view climb to the top than the LA ASAP.

GO-TO CHARACTERS
Skilled camera actor who is able to deliver interesting characters with smaller scenes without making the scene all about them.  They totally understand how to adjust to the style of a particular show with very little room to manoeuvre.   These actors will often have an improv background and/or simply be willing to jump in and offer interesting options for a fairly tight range of characters, often fitting into a type casting like:

Geeky teacher, asshole cop, grouchy store teller, funny mom, uptight lawyer, guidance counselor, the other woman, the red herring… the list goes on.

These actors have been around long enough to be top of mind with casting, or have come out of the gate with a fresh take on an old standby.  They work a lot, especially in MOW’s and lighter television dramas and comedy.  Again, not to say that they are restricted this narrowly, but rather that they are great answers to the needs of these genres.

RECURRING CHARACTER
Already mentioned – this one is near and dear to my heart, as it’s my own goal.   I think it’s the goal for the actor who has a lot of other things in his or her life that are as or more important as acting is. 

 

These are the four crops, or the next rung up on four ladders that are available to us every season.  You may be halfway through the journey to that rung, or not even at the ladder yet.  Depending on that, plus all the variables that the market presents, what you are actually doing to work toward these crops can and will change.  AND, as I stated earlier, there are variants for each of these crops, and they will shift as our own lives, careers, and the conditions of the industry do. I’m not saying that you are ever pigeon-holed into any one category, but I am saying that one of these career lines is MOST in line with what is best for you, and that when you really pay attention to your unique growing conditions, the crop to harvest is absolutely obvious.

 

THE HOW

Although it may seem quite the opposite if you are only getting started, or if you are working form generalities, the HOW is by far the easiest part.  The how is obviously and effortlessly revealed time and time again when we are aware of the growing conditions.

We hate the notion that we can’t ‘do it all’.  We want to believe that anything is possible – it is.  Acknowledging what the obvious specific choice for you is right now, today, choosing it, and allowing that context to inform your decisions day in and day out will inevitably lead you away from stagnation, into uncertainty of result, but into the possibility of motion and growth.  Your career and life are waiting for you to see them and step forward.

Simply put, THE HOW is about making the right decisions.  The right decision is pretty much inarguable once you have the context of THE WHAT:

Say NO to anything that leads you astray, and YES to everything that nourishes your journey. It may be seasonal, but it’s your whole life.  This Harvest Season will be over before you know it, and it will be on to the next one, working with whatever you have reaped.  Don’t be left with a memory of ‘busy’.  Be left with growth, new perspective, experience, tools, and relationships that will support you going forward.

You’re going to have to do it all over again sooner than you think.

 

As always, thanks for reading and sharing.

Jeb.

 

PS – Stay tuned for the next few weeks as I explore what each Crop should be doing this season to stay focussed and productive.

 

PPS – if all the talk of growing, planting, harvesting and familiarity building is catching you off guard, please check these previous posts to get up to speed:
The Three Seasons for the Vancouver Actor – Published December 10th, 2012

Planting Season: Four Steps to Setting Up Your Career Year – Published January 6, 2013

Familiarity Building: Selfless Self Marketing for the Actor – Published March 4th, 2013

Growing Season: The Most Important Season of the Actor’s Year – Published May 14th, 2013

 

 

5 comments

  • Alison Titulaer

    Thank you Jeb. Very encouraging to read. Unfortunately being in an environment where there are only two TV series being shot, and maybe a couple of feature films (that aren’t cast off shore), things aren’t so promising, and I wonder if one can be so specific in a smaller market, or rather “get whatever work you can!”, as is the mentality here (Auckland, NZ). Though the message to work best with what you’ve got, personally and to your market circumstances, and to make sure you are making the right decisions to honour the other important things and people in your life is still pertinent to any environment. Wish I could still be in Vancouver!

  • Steve Thackray

    Thank you for these timely and insightful words Jeb. It really spoke volumes to me. It is certainly tough on the soul to make these difficult choices as our lives and priorities change.

    Looking forward to the next chapter…

    Best regards,

    Steve Thackray

  • Mike

    It’s such a breath of fresh air to not only know that there are others who share the same doubts and insecurities as I do, but also that there is a way out of that mental loop. Having had the absolute gift of being able to be in your class for the last couple of months has focused me in a way I never knew I needed. I have an audition today, and find myself relying on what I have learned in class to motivate and drive me, not the fear that, “THIS MAY BE THE ONE!!” I thank you for that, my friend. I hope one day I can return the favour (perhaps if I befriend Ed Norton…).

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