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.
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.
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:
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!
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!
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.