Harvest Season

The Three Seasons for the Vancouver Actor

So, I’ve been doing this acting thing for a while now. I got started late after getting laid off from a job and saved from a life path that was just plain wrong – we have a way of subconsciously redirecting things when we’re not consciously doing what we want to do, don’t we?  The point is that I got started late.  I didn’t have my first real audition till I was 31.  That’s a helluva rough time to be getting started in this industry, especially after the particularly challenging life path I had been on before.  I wasn’t exactly brimming with confidence, and I had some pretty big (albeit self-imposed) pressures to succeed – whatever that meant.

It took me a while, but eventually I started booking – commercials mostly at first, and then the occasional Film or TV role.  I was always proud of the regular commercial bookings I’d get, but I could never get any real momentum going in Film and Television.

Year in and year out, I’d audition a decent amount, and I’d book here and there, but never consistently.  There was an ugly circle of doubt dominating my brain: ‘does casting like me?  ‘why am I not auditioning more?’  ‘awesome I’m auditioning tons’ ‘why am i not booking more?’ ‘yes!  I booked something, NOW it should start rolling’ ‘wait, what happened to my auditions?’  ‘casting must hate me now’…. and repeat.

I was  oblivious to the real ebb and flow of the industry (the three seasons), and to make it worse, I was looking for affirmation from bookings to prove something to myself (going in needy = you are not booking).  I was essentially creating two, volatile seasons for myself:  Auditioning or Depressed.  My goal during “Auditioning Season” to book. My goal in “Depressed Season” was to get the monkey off my back and book something.  I’d stay in one of those states until one of the ACTUAL Seasons aligned and took me to the other one.  I was completely reactive with no control over the momentum of my career.  Frustrated, uptight, and sporadic at best.

Cut to 7 years later. I’ve worked with thousands of other actors from Vancouver, LA, and Toronto, as well as with most of the major Casting Directors in each of those markets. I’ve gained a huge experience-informed perspective on the whole thing.  It actually floors me that it’s only recently that it’s become obvious to me that there are THREE seasons for the professional Vancouver Film and Television actor, and more importantly so incredibly obvious what to do when.  In retrospect I know that in absence of understanding of how it all works, I was caught up in the immediate results to define success and failure (hence the regular hangout time in “Depressed” season)

If you’re reading this, hopefully you can take it as the opportunity to help you save you from the vicious audition-depression cycle, by paying attention to the three seasons and allow them to guide how you’re focussing the blend of career and artistic energy you have to invest.  If you do, I bet you have a better year next year.

 

Here’s the seasons chronologically listed  from where we are right now (December 2012):

HARVEST SEASON:  Mid June to Early December

PILOT (PLANTING) SEASON: Early January to Early March

PLANNING  (GROWING) SEASON: Early March to Early June.

The seasons are tied to TELEVISION production.  This is because Features and MOW’s will come and go, and their seasonality is much less predictable.

 

HARVEST SEASON

I started writing this post  on November 20th, 2012 –  the waning days of Harvest Season.  At that time there were  13 episodic TV shows shooting in Vancouver, and less than 2 weeks from today, there will be 4.  The industry and the people in it who can influence your opportunity to work are in the final whirlwind of ridiculous production, trying to get through to Christmas break where they get to breathe for a bit.  You are currently riding the notoriety and rapport you built with them through Pilot and Planning season last year. Hopefully, you’ve done what you’re ideally looking to do this season: booked one or two roles that push you into the ‘next level up’ on the call sheet (moved from ‘Actor’ to ‘Principal’, ‘Principal to Guest Star’, ‘Series Regular to Series Lead’ etc etc).

Whether you have or have not, don’t sweat it.  What you need to do is take a good clear assessment of where that level is right now so you can set yourself up to do what you are supposed to do in Pilot Season:  Cement your foundation as a player in that next level up.

Historically I wasted the first half of Harvest Season getting the ‘why am I not auditioning’ monkey off my back, and by the time I did, I had made a less than stellar impression on casting, and by the time my confidence (false confidence sourced from external influences that I had no control over) was in line, impressions had been made, casting didn’t have time to pay attention to me, and opportunities were lost.

Harvest season starts off slow in mid June,  builds slowly through July and August at first then slams into full gear right around Labour Day Weekend.  If you’re not paying attention, you might not notice it,  and by the time you realize it’s on (i.e. if you’re only looking at ‘how often am I auditioning’ as the barometer) it’s probably going to be in wind down.

You have to set yourself up for Harvest season, using the preceding two seasons well, hit the ground running, recharged, connected, educated, and ready carry and build momentum.

You have to do that by understanding the two seasons that lead up to Harvest Season and by investing your time, effort, and money wisely, so that you can create bumper crops.

 

PILOT (PLANTING)  SEASON

In pilot season, you’ll get to audition more than you have been for two main reasons:

1. No Stone Unturned: There’s a bunch of new projects on the go, and they want to cast them EXACTLY RIGHT so they have the best shot turning the pilot into a series order from a network.  Consequently, casting tends to have the opportunity to audition many more actors for the key roles.

2. The Usual Suspects: The actors at the top of the heap tend to migrate to LA during this time, so the ceiling is a little higher for all.

That’s great, you get more opportunity than usual, but don’t bother expecting to book.  Yes, I said don’t bother expecting to book. Let me be 100% clear:

Booking a pilot is NOT the point of Pilot Season.

If you do FANTASTIC! You just fast forwarded your career in a huge way!  It could certainly happen (and does every year), but the odds are not good, so don’t bother with that expectation, free yourself from it.  Go in and prove to casting that you have the chops (both audition chops AND acting chops) to be reading at that higher level.  Instill absolute confidence in them with respect to what to expect when you go in their room, make it easy for them to say yes.

That’s it. Build your stock to increase your shot at harvest opportunities SIX TO TEN MONTHS FROM NOW.

If you have this approach, you will succeed in the room, and you will avoid the depression and allow yourself to be productive during the next (and I think actually most important) season of the year:

 

PLANNING (GROWING) SEASON

In Growing Season, you will either build your rep or fall back to square one.  It’s all on you.

It’s the time when ‘the sky is falling’.  Everyone is complaining that there’s no work (of course they are, they’re hanging out in depressed season for the most part).  Everyone is going to quit or move to LA or move to Toronto, or fire their agent, or any other number fear and ignorance-based knee jerk reactions. Most people are freaked out and not doing much, just hoping.  Now is your time to help yourself, and differentiate through professional proactivity.

How?  Make work happen. It’s time for getting yourself out there through means OTHER than auditions – get your play up, your web series done, get student films done, update your demo (I have some different ideas about how this should happen these days – will blog on that another time) your  website updated, your new headshots done…

…and then…. MAKE SURE CASTING KNOWS!

How?

Twitter if they’re on it, and an email from your agent if they’re not.  Invite them to the play, send them a YouTube/Vimeo link of the great work you’ve done recently.  All the while make sure that it is reinforcing the rapport and positioning that you’ve created with casting in the previous two seasons.  It’s so key.  You have the chance through simple, useful, brief touch downs to stay in their brain, and by doing this, your acting will stay sharp, and your auditions unfettered by anxiety when harvest season begins.

And then…. HARVEST HARVEST HARVEST!

….and repeat.

So, it’s December today.   Holliday breaks are approaching.  Relax a bit, take care, but stay sharp and be ready to plant in January.  The industry will be handing opportunities out.  It’s your job to understand them and be ready.

#GetBusyLiving

 

10 comments

  • Sotos Petrides

    Thanks for this Jeb. I can identify. As a newcomer to the industry – began in 2010 – although I was a theatre dude as a teen and pre-teen working with a small troupe that travelled to Ontario elementary schools bringing AESOP’s Fables to life for children – I have noticed that the business here is seasonal – as you put it. I fortunately have faced lots of rejection in former careers so I am not so affected by not booking. Since 2010 I have been in more than 80 film project ie. student films, scenes, web series, trailers, feature and indie feature films as well as PSAs and Commercials. About 90% of them have been unpaid. I have tried 3 different Agents – but submitted and booked 99% of my work by myself. What I have gleaned from your blog is that in order to succeed, one has to continually be working or busy trying to work and also that it is best to stay away from “Depressed Season” altogether. I also agree that it has little to do with if the Casting Agents like or hate you. It is more a matter of doing the work, being prepared and making sure you hit it when you are in the audition room. I have heard great things about you and wanted to ask you a more specific question – Is it alright to turn down a part in an episodic with a speaking role if they offer you very little money? I auditioned and secured a role as an out-of-town detective on a A&E show called “Twisted Sister” – when the offer came, they wanted me on hold for 2 days but said they would only need me for one-half of one of those days. They offered $15 per hour. I declined through my Agent and then asked my Agent why he would send me out for something that paid so little – can’t see how it is worth his while to collect $9.00. After we chatted, we agreed that I would be better representing myself. I don’t think I am expecting the world, just wondering if you think it is worthwhile for an Actor to work for so little. I would rather do it for free than to accept such a small amount. Any comment or insight is greatly appreciated. I just don’t want to be viewed as someone who turns away work.

    • Jeb Beach

      Hey Sotos, thanks for the feedback, glad you were able to glean some perspective from my pov.

      With respect to your question, I think it’s very subjective and comes down to what is valuable for you. If the project is one that you are excited about, or will get some especially useful footage from, the money is secondary. Personally, if that was the case, I’d take the money they offered assuming it was the best they could afford. I tend to agree that I often would prefer to work for free on projects that are personally career-strategically rewarding.

      I have yet to make an acting decision for money. It’s always been for time.

      For example, the past couple years I’ve been so busy with my family and growing as a teacher, I’ve had very little time for my acting. My present career goal is to book a recurring character on a locally shot american network show that I would watch. I am completely down for any experience that will lead me there, but as my time is hugely limited I’ve had to say no to a lot of opportunities that would provide dollars but not career momentum (commercials specifically).

      It sounds to me that you honoured what matters most to you. That’s not an easy thing for most actors to do.

      Keep doing that and make sure it’s never for ego reasons, and you are golden, I think.

      Hope that’s helpful – please reply to this post if you want to continue the dialogue!

      Cheers,

      Jeb

      • Sotos Petrides

        Thanks for such and honest and straightforward reply Jeb. Yes – it is Time that matters more than Money in making decisions about what to work on and what to pass on. In the example I used, it was the amount of time they wanted me on hold that cemented my decision. A few days later, I picked up a spot in a Music Video that was a 16 hour day – at least 9 of those hours I was hoisting a Tuba in Jazz style up and down as part of the jazz band in the background. That darned Tuba got so heavy and each take had to hoist it above my head over and over. It was a heck of a workout and hard work – but – I loved every minute of the pain and effort it took. I made $50 on that one. And I would do it again.

        I am happy you have found a healthy balance in your life as an Actor, Teacher and Family. That is inspiring. Peace and feel free to call upon me anytime. Sotos

  • Warren Ellis

    Hi Jeb,
    Are we ever on the same page. I think the first thing I learned about the acting industry was that it is incredibly similar to farming. The seasons in particular. Sometimes starving through Planning and Growing and then hopefully, but not guaranteed, becoming awash in money/work during harvest season. In farming the road to success is to be exhaustively particular during the Planning and Growing seasons and to develop strategies to extend the length of the harvest season.
    You are the first person I have seen to use the farming comparison with acting.
    I loved the pictures too.
    Have a great day.

    • Jeb Beach

      I WISH that was the first thing I’d learned about the industry! Dang, we shoulda talked farming more in summer 2011 :)

      Glad to hear it’s resonating – a lot of positive feedback on this one.

      I really like the way you put it: “exhastively particular during Planning and Growing seasons”.

      Is that what they’re actually called by the way?

  • Jessica Danov

    Hi Jeb,

    I cannot tell you how happy I am to have found your blog and this post specifically. I have also started late in the game and am still in the middle of the vicious self-created seasons of auditioning or depressed and it is so helpful to know that I am not alone in that. I have spent too much time gaining confidence based on events beyond my control and am definitely working to rectify that. Currently I am struggling to find an agent after terminating my last one for being less than professional. It was nice to read Soto’s reply mentioning he booked 99% of his work on his own. I’ve been feeling that without an agent I am helpless. This blog is definitely eye opening, comforting, and helpful! Do you by any chance teach workshops in Toronto at all? I had convinced myself I should move to Vancouver, but perhaps I should stick it out here now knowing what I know about the three seasons. Your response is greatly appreciated and thank you again!

    • Jeb Beach

      Hey Jessica,

      Thanks for taking the time to share your feedback. I totally understand the struggle to find the agent. That struggle never ends – first it’s agent, then it’s getting in the room to build rapport with casting, then it’s moving from ‘under 5’s’ to guest stars, to series leads, and so forth.

      I’m working on my next post (amidst moving studios, and moving my family to a new house!) at the moment. I think some further ideas about how to know you can apply yourself and know that you are being effective will come from that.

      I have not yet made it out to Toronto, but something may happen in the future – you never know – I’ll keep peeps posted through this website and through my newsletter. Hope to meet you in person some time – if you ever make it out to Vancouver, please pop by for an intro and a class audit.

      Keep the faith!

      :)

  • James

    Jeb,
    Thank you for your post that demystifies the process, focuses on the work we have to do, mostly alone, and then leaves the rest to the elements.
    Happy harvesting!
    James

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