“Wow, it’s dead right now, huh?”
… a couple commercial auditions here and there, a self tape, and other than that….tumble weeds. Shows are wrapped or wrapping up and uncertainty and the predictable sense of doom and gloom fills the air.
Traditionally, for me, this is when Depressed Season would kick in (Check This Article for more on that). Hot off the heels of a fervour of early year activity, I’d be thinking “YES! Finally, I’ve been ‘called up’ to the ranks of those who audition and book. I’ve made it!”. Then, the industry would slow, and my insecure voice would start to speak up pretty loud, convincing me that my agent had it in for me, casting hated the work I’d been doing, or I just didn’t have what it takes to make it. I’d allow the lack of industry activity to drive me into a funk. I’d over indulge in whatever my distraction of the moment was, let my conditioning fall short, my momentum slow, and I’d set myself up for a completely wasted Harvest Season.
By late June or July (the start of Harvest Season), I’d get a couple auditions, and think “Finally, my agent has convinced casting to see me again”. I’d walk into the rooms with a monkey on my back, and not do so great. Then, over the next few months, I’d get a bit better, get rolling and maybe book something by the end of the year. Often not. I was trapped in the ugly cycle of letting the natural ebb and flow of the industry colour my sensitive perception of my hire-ability as an actor. I was relying solely on industry generated opportunities to grow, and I was making things way harder than they had to be – continually trying to recapture some previously experienced momentum or dreading the grinding into the ground that seemed to always happen after a little success.
I was a passive participant in my career, responding to what was being thrown my way, but doing little to be specifically prepared. That’s all well and good when it’s busy, but right now, the industry simply is not handing you the activity that keeps you sharp and top of mind with casting. It’s easy, even tempting to get complacent, and out of shape. Right now, more so than at any other time of year, our proactivity is being challenged. We must battle to stay motivated, creative, disciplined, and persistent in fostering own career growth.
The Most Important Time of the Year.
There’s more opportunity floating around out there than there will be the whole year: Opportunity to Flourish or Opportunity to Whither. One of those two is the line that you are creating right now, and it will affect what happens for you for the next 12 months. It’s not in obvious spots, and the payoff is down the road, making it difficult to see. As others fail to recognize it, and even misinterpret it as failure, the opportunity is created. That’s kind of the definition of opportunity, actually: conditions that exist to make something possible. One of those conditions is the inability of many to see what’s what. Many will fail to take advantage, and this will create a window for the focussed and initiated. Now is the time that it’s all on you to GROW that which you will harvest in two to six months time. It’s completely on YOU to be the soil, sun, water, & food for your growth. Do so, and you will set yourself up to have momentum pushing your building through the back half of the year. Fail to do so, and you will be working to simply keep from falling behind, effectively losing a whole year of career building, relegated to the actively stagnant place of ‘auditioning or depressed’.
Hopefully, you did your job in Pilot (PLANTING) Season: made the most of your audition opportunities, increased rapport and familiarity with casting, and upped the level of role consideration they held you for. If you did all that, you gave yourself a slightly elevated platform to work from this year. If so, great! Give yourself a pat on the back, take a quick rest, and then get up and get to work. If you missed that opportunity, that’s ok too – it doesn’t fundamentally change what the task at hand is at the moment, nor does it change the siren song working hard to lure you off track amidst seemingly smooth, clear waters: Complacency.
Actors are going to get complacent over the next six to eight weeks. Not all actors, but many. They are going to take their well-earned rest and overdo it. They will get soft, lazy, depressed, ‘out of shape’ and show up to Harvest Season making things much too hard on themselves. It’s a double-hit too, because as they do that, they create opportunities for those of us who work hard to stay on task.
Their complacency foolishly turns the early opportunities of Harvest Season into squandered practice. They show up no longer fresh in the mind of casting, they show up still in that funk. Shaking off the ‘I suck, it’s too hard, etc etc’ jitters. That’s totally understandable and forgivable on a personal level, but on a professional one, they’ve shown that they can’t be relied upon as easily they might have. Their image is inconsistent at best, and seriously lacking at worst. Not only do they lose the equity they built up in planting season, they leave the door open for others who are prepared and ready to deliver. If a pro athlete shows up to game day with no practice, and out of shape, think they can expect to keep their starting spot? Nope. Somebody else will be better prepared and ready to step in to that spot. The spot that they earned with time and effort. Lost. Now they’re screwed; they’re in danger of wasting a full year of career re-earning a starting position THAT THEY ALREADY HAD. Brutal. Preventable. Sick.
Thing is, if you are hanging out in ‘auditioning or depressed’ seasons you won’t even notice the ebb and flow of these opportunities knocking on your door screaming at you to scoop them up. You won’t see what you’re missing. Every time you show up with less momentum than you had last time you are losing and it’s your fault. Sorry, harsh, but it’s true.
It’s all on you to GROW.
The good news is that it’s not really all that difficult. It just requires that you have some focus, passion, and discipline. I’m sure you have all three of those things or you probably wouldn’t be reading this article. Next is to make sure that you apply that stuff productively to three key disciplines:
1. Build & Maintain Familiarity
It’s all about staying top of mind with the people who can influence your career:
Dig in to your marketing materials. Set up your website, Facebook, & Twitter Pages. Get your demo reel updated, new headshots if you need them (see Industry Genius portion below to help figure if you do)
Participate in Casting & Director Workshops, especially with those casting directors who tend to cast the stuff that is stylistically up your alley & who don’t know you all that well or haven’t seen you in a while.
Produce short films, or put up plays – you probably need to have these underway at the moment, but right now is the right time to get them up.
Attend at industry events – connect with your tribe socially and learn what everyone’s up to. Anything and everything that gets you connected with anyone who can influence the momentum of your career is more valuable right now than at any other time.
We’re all in this thing together. The more you connect with your tribe, the more you will see what it is that you have to offer them, the more you will deliver what you have to offer, the greater your familiarity, the greater your momentum, the more independent of industry activity your career becomes, the less needy you become, the more valuable you become, the more opportunity you create, the more your career builds. Whew. Try saying that ten times fast. A mouthful, I know, but these are the links that build the value chain of your career.
2. Hone Razor-Sharp Audition Chops
One of the worst mistakes I see actors making is using their real life auditions for the practice necessary to book auditions. That makes zero sense to me. Ongoing Audition Conditioning is vital. I think it should happen all year round – you should never never never never be using your auditions for practice, and you should constantly be growing your work.
We can (kind of) get away with not doing so when we are auditioning all the time, but that is most definitely NOT the majority of actors out there, and certainly not at this time of year. Even when the industry is keeping us busy, we are in reactive mode rather than proactive mode, risking conditioning ourselves away from our specific goals. You must have your goal in mind and be working toward it. That goal should be your prime focus, and you should constantly conditioning yourself to attain it. Whatever action the industry hands you should be the incidentals that happen along the way.
At least weekly, challenge yourself to nail an audition in 36 hours or less. It’s a skill that simply isn’t optional to the career actor. You need to be good at this. Work it – often and hard, ESPECIALLY when the industry isn’t giving you the challenges. Stay sharp at all times.
3. Be an Industry Awareness Genius
In one of my classes last week, I brought up the Up Fronts. One out of twelve actors knew what they were. Yikes. That’s not good. Do you know what they are? If not, you are handing opportunity away. The opportunity to be specifically prepared for what’s up next. The Up Fronts are happening in the next month – it’s when the networks present their shows to advertisers and decisions of what will be picked up and what is passed over are made.
It’s your job to know what’s coming down the pipeline in the next 6-12 weeks, so you know how and what to prepare – if there is a new unique style that’s coming to town, are you perfect for it? Do you have some extra development work to do to be ready? Where should you be growing your acting RIGHT NOW to be ahead of the pack once a particular show starts casting? with all of this info, talk to your agent about what you think are your opportunities for the coming harvest season.
Based on that – do you need new headshots or reel? Do you need to update your website or other marketing materials to support the opportunities you are pursuing? Get on it!
Growing Season is all about proactively keeping yourself game ready: well versed in the game, in prime condition, and well known to all the key players. There’s lots going on out there right now – find a way to be part of it all. Over the next two months, you have the opportunity to set yourself up for a period of true growth and harvest. Actually, I think ‘opportunity’ is too soft a word. As the conditions exist to make it possible, and you wish to get there, you therefore have the responsibility to do so. These next two months are either going to be opportunity gained or opportunity lost.
Get smart, get sharp, get moving, get busy. The time is now.
As always, thanks for reading – please share feedback in the comments below or drop us a line here. We’re always here – to help, learn, and grow.
For Direct Career Support through Growing Season, Drop in to Business Hours with Wesley Salter.