First, I want to explain the difference between poor communication and an unhealthy actor-agent relationship to make sure that's not your issue, then we'll dive into communication tips.
An actor friend of mine asked if we could talk one day about a strange interaction she had with her agent. She'd only been signed with her for a few months.
She said, "I think this is weird. I'm not sure if this is right."
When I heard and read the really negative comments being made to my friend (that I knew were not true about her), I was shocked. I said, "You need to be done with this particular agency. You need to write your 30-day written notice. This is not just an issue of poor communication. This is straight up unhealthy."
When you have a negative feeling, or you feel like there's a red flag that goes beyond poor communication, ask other people in this business that you trust for their opinion.
You may need to make the hard decision to step away from your agency. If you're wondering, "Should I change my acting agent?" then ask yourself, "Is this interaction good for me?"
Listen to that warning if you have it. Communication is one of the key components of an actor-agent relationship.
After hearing about my friend's issue, I immediately wrote my agency a quick email saying, "Hey, thanks so much for always looking for the silver lining and trying to stay positive. I really appreciate that. Here's what I just heard from another friend, and I'm glad that's not true for us."
That type of negative interaction is not anything I would ever expect my agency to do. so I let them know I was thankful. I'd encourage you to do the same if you're in a good situation. Healthy communication can be that simple.
If you're thankful for something, tell your agent! They're humans that need encouragement, too.
I want you to be proactive this year. Let's break down tips and tricks that I've personally used in this post.
Hey, if you don't have an agent yet, actor friend, that's okay. You're gonna get one one day. So stick with me because there's really a lot of trial-and-error in this business for figuring out what works and what doesn't.
Outside of learning your craft and getting coaching on your talent it's like, "Where's the manual? Someone tell me!"
Read the following tips about what the actor-agent relationship should look like in case you're asking yourself, "I have an acting agent--now what?"
ACTOR-AGENT RELATIONSHIP TIP 1: HOW OFTEN TO EMAIL
Sometimes I hear actors talk about how often they contact their agents, and my stomach hurts because I always want actors to communicate from a place of confidence.
Initiating conversation from a place of confidence is a good way to keep the actor-agent relationship healthy. I, too, have written an email that I regretted because it sounded insecure in hindsight since it was so wordy.
Communicating from a place of power is also dependent on how often you communicate.
The first tip is to send an email to your agent maybe once a quarter. I don't even do it that often if I know I haven't provided them with what they asked for in a prior communication.
For example, I know my agent needs more film footage from me since I have a lot of commercial clips.
I sent them a couple of film clips after that request, only one of which they liked enough to use. I also recently uploaded new headshots. So if I were to contact them with the same question right now, what do you think they would say?
The same dang thing. They need more film footage! Ergo, there's no need for me to ask them again if everything is up-to-date except for what they've already requested.
When you are ready to check in with them, keep it simple. Ask, "What do you need from me right now?" You may get feedback you didn't realize was an issue. What if they need a certain look or type of footage that you thought you'd already uploaded but isn't translating the way you hoped? You won't know unless you ask.
If you're not bombarding them a million times a week with emails, it's more likely you'll get a detailed response.
They see things differently on that end of the submission table, and good agents are aware of current casting trends that you may not recognize.
Be proactive. Don't wait on them to get in touch with you. This is your career. You check in with them, but don't do it too often.
Again, I don't want you to come across as desperate or needy. You also need to be prepared to follow through on whatever notes they give you, so communicate when you'll be financially ready to do that if it won't be soon after they respond.
ACTOR-AGENT RELATIONSHIP TIP 2: ASK TO SEE YOUR AUDITION SUBMISSIONS
Avoid accusatory questions such as, "Why aren't you submitting me more?" They most likely are! If instead you ask what they need from you, it puts the responsibility back on you where it should be.
But what if they're not submitting you?
Most actors don't realize this, but you can ask your agent to send you a breakdown of roles they've submitted you for this year.
Good agents are happy to send it.
Try to make this request feel like a team effort, though. You should look at your submissions list to analyze that data.
What types of productions did they submit you for? Which casting directors consistently turn down an audition from you? Are they submitting you for guest star roles when you don't even have co-star or U5 roles yet?
Let's say you have enough principal commercial roles to audition for a national commercial, but you realize they haven't submitted you for any national commercial auditions. Have you communicated that goal?
It's important that you ask for feedback once you've analyzed your submissions.
Here's an example of how I suggest you communicate:
"Hey, I feel like I've booked enough commercials that I'm ready for a national commercial. I noticed I haven't been submitted for any. What needs to happen on my end from your perspective to make that a reality? Thanks so much for your input and help!"
You may find out there simply aren't any national commercials filming in your area. It could be that they don't have enough of your commercial footage to submit a strong demo for you.
It might be that industry trends are changing, and digital commercials are taking over in lieu of national commercials (which is actually true).
Feel free to ask for your submissions list, but make sure to ask from a place of openness that promotes teamwork.
ACTOR-AGENT RELATIONSHIP TIP 3: ASKING FOR AUDITION FEEDBACK
I've heard a lot of different opinions on this topic, so I'll share my experience.
I do not ask for audition feedback.
I've never once asked my agent to contact a casting director for me, but I've had casting directors reach out to my agent about me for positive feedback.
Typically, if a casting director wants to send you notes, they will contact your talent agent, then your talent agent will send that to you.
I've also had a situation where I was in an actual casting office and one of the casting directors came up to me to give me feedback face-to-face about a particular client really liking me.
She didn't need to take time out of her day to tell me that, but she did. They will tell you! The information will get to you, okay? Casting directors love giving actors good news or helping them reach the next level when they see potential.
When you do get that golden, rare in-person audition now-a-days, I want you to pay attention to what they're saying to you while you're in the room. That's feedback!
You may notice that casting directors are giving you the same note over-and-over again. That's feedback. You may notice that they consistently ask you to try again without moving too much. That's feedback.
The best time for you to ask casting for feedback directly is while you're in the room. You already have them as a captive audience, but make it quick and specific.
Weak Question: Do you think I'm a good actor? Strong Question: Do you feel like I took the note you gave me, or should I go further next time?
Weak Question: Are my auditions good? Strong Question: Are my objectives being clearly communicated?
Weak Question: Why am I not getting more callbacks? Strong Question: How's my energy when I walk into the room?
I think this is best done when you're in a solo audition on a low-key audition day. Avoid days when the lobby is packed. Never ask for feedback at a callback in front of a client (i.e. directors/producers).
Notes will go through the right channels if you need it, that channel being your talent agent, if not to you directly in the room. There's no need to email your talent agent in my experience.
Go with your gut on this, but my two cents is that I haven't asked for it, and I've gotten it.
ACTOR-AGENT RELATIONSHIP TIP 4: SEND YOUR TALENT AGENCY A GIFT OR THANK YOU CARD
Are you happy that you have a talent agent? Have you heard from all of the actors that don't have talent agents talk about how hard it is to get one?
Actor friend, send a gift to your agent at least once per year, okay?!
If they don't celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah, but you know their birthday, send something for their birthday.
I think a great option is to send something on the anniversary of your contract signing or at the end of the year if you can only send one gift per year.
Do you know the date of your contract signing? You should still have your contract somewhere so that you can look at it. I kept thinking mine was in July, and for the longest time I would intro my social media videos saying, "I signed with my agent in July of 2016." It was actually in May.
And I thought, "You know what? I need to go check my contract and see." You should know where you put that contract. You should have a date on that contract.
Find that date so that for every additional year they say yes to you, you can say thank you to them by sending a gift or thank you card.
Get comfortable expressing gratitude. Your gift does not need to be super expensive. It just needs to be thoughtful.
ACTOR-AGENT RELATIONSHIP TIP 5: CONFIRM OR DECLINE EVERYTHING
I'm always surprised at how often I see audition emails or postings that highlight a request to confirm or decline an audition. This is a very standard practice for our industry.
Confirm or decline every single audition no matter what. It's super quick and simple to shoot them back an email.
Sometimes you'll be instructed to decline through the system (i.e. Actors Access), but I say send your agent an email as well letting them know you did.
I declined through the system once, and my agent didn't see it, so they reached out to me two days later reminding me to submit the audition.
So play it safe if you're declining through a casting system, and email your agent letting them know you declined.
UPDATE: If you decline on Actor's Access on your phone, you must scroll up to the popup box to type in a reason to finish declining. Otherwise, nothing will go through, and it will look like you didn't do your part to decline through the system.
Hey Actor Boss, you do not need to give a lot of detail about why you're declining. Some of the best advice I've ever gotten was to simply put "not available." Your agent will reach out to you if they're curious as to why, but even then, keep it short and sweet.
Speaking of short and sweet, keep all of your emails to the point. If your email is a paragraph, ask yourself how you can compress it down to two sentences.
I like to add details to my confirmation emails just to make sure we're on the same page. For example, "Confirmed Tues 11/12 at (Casting Office Name) 1:00pm Thanks," because sometimes the date and times don't match so they may catch that and clarify.
Also, I made a mistake once of writing a huge long email to my talent agent without giving them a heads up it was coming.
It was in reference to information security, but I should've sent them a short email asking them if I could send them more info about the topic first. In fact, I should have first asked them what security measures they have in place.
ACTOR-AGENT RELATIONSHIP TIP 6: BOOKING OUT AND REMINDERS
I recently booked out for vacation, and when I got back, there was an audition email in my inbox for a SAG-AFTRA commercial that I hadn't responded to! So I'm now implementing a new system.
3-Step Booking Out Process for Actors:
Book out ASAP, ideally 1 to 2 weeks in advance.
Send a reminder email a few days before your book out dates.
Schedule an email auto-responder saying you're away from your email.
First, please book out and let your agent know if you won't be available to audition, even via self-tape.
If you can't go to an in-person audition, but you can self-tape, then don't book out.
Still email your agent to let them know you can't do any in-person auditions but will have access to self-taping. If they forget, just request a self-tape in lieu of the in-person when you receive your audition email.
I personally book out when I can't attend an in-person or film a self-tape. I let them know that I'm on vacation, and I'm not working or self-taping.
Let's park here for a second. Are you okay fully booking out and stepping away from auditions for a few days? You really need that freedom to clear your mind and get away sometimes.
Are you planning your weeks and months in advance? Because if you're not, it's gonna be hard for you to know when those book out dates are coming up in your schedule.
Try to book out at the beginning of the month by emailing, "Here are all of my book out dates for (month)." Sometimes things will happen a little closer to the date, and you'll need to book out last minute. That's ok! Just be sure to do it.
It's so crucial to book out with your agent know because they need to go into your casting profiles to mark those dates. That's something only they can do, at least on Breakdown Services, that actors don't have access to on Actors Access yet.
Your agent needs to fill that audition spot with different talent if you're unavailable, which makes the casting director's life easier as well.
Include a reason for booking out if you want, but keep that short, too.
ACTOR-AGENT RELATIONSHIP TIP 7: USE AFFIRMING LANGUAGE
Lastly, let's talk about the words you use with your agent.
Be generous and affirming in your conversations.
I try to say things to my agent like, "Here are these five new headshot options. Which ones are your favorite? I trust your opinion."
Tell them you trust their opinion. Do you trust their opinion? Because if you don't, you might need another talent agent.
I know that my agents have been in this business a lot longer than I have, and they have a very different perspective on the casting process. Sometimes, trusting your agent will get tested, like with any relationship.
My agency rejected a piece of footage that I liked very much, but they said, "This isn't right, for this reason," and they explained why to me.
I responded, "Okay, I trust you."
Your agent should take the time to provide you with explanations or feedback if they reject your materials so that you know what to do next time.
If they do reject something, don't take it too hard. Walk it off for maybe thirty minutes, then realize they have your best interest in mind because that's also their best interest.
The more your acting income increases, the more their revenue and exposure increases. Their success is dependent on yours, so they want you to succeed.
Say nice things. Affirm them. They're humans, too.
ACTOR-AGENT RELATIONSHIP TIP 8: UPDATE YOUR HEADSHOTS
I emailed my agents one day about headshots, and they said something that I was clueless about.
I don't want you to make this same mistake with your headshots, so I have to ask--how often are you rotating your headshot edits?
This isn't the same thing as getting new headshots. Let's breakdown the difference.
HEADSHOT EDITS TIMELINE
Between new headshot shoots, we should be uploading new headshot edits to our casting sites for our agents to use.
Here's the big fat news I didn't know--my agent asked me to upload new photos every six months at a minimum.
Ideally, these new uploads will be two at a time, one theatrical and one commercial.
You may throw in slightly more specific looks from time-to-time. For example, wearing a blazer that reads professional or pulling back your hair and wearing a polo for a sporty vibe.
However, we shouldn't get too specific in our headshot looks.
Word on the street from a source I trust is, "You'll piss off a director because they'll think you assume they're too stupid to imagine what you look like in scrubs."
Select enough edits from each headshot session that you can rotate every six months for up to 18 months, namely, six edits: three theatrical and three commercial.
Only give a "vibe" in your headshots while saving the super specific looks for a comp card.
NEW HEADSHOT TIMELINE
This doesn't mean you need to get new photos every six months.
Based on the feedback I've received, you only need brand new headshots every 18 months, sooner if your look drastically changes.
Headshots cost MONEY, so we only need to take brand new headshots as often as needed.
If you're asked to change your look for a project, remember to also schedule new headshots during that project shoot so the look is fresh.
You'll most likely have great new hair if production just paid for it.
Negotiate the cost of those new headshots into your pay.
Here are my suggested estimates to have negotiated:
Headshot session ($300+)
Headshot edits ($20 per photo not already included)
Headshot uploads ($10 per photo for Actors Access)
Hair and makeup if needed ($100-$200)
Cosmetic purchases if required ($20-$60)
Schedule this into your calendar.
I promise you'll forget. This will also help you budget for upcoming edits, uploads, or headshot sessions.
Be sure to also ask your agent what type of looks they need from you.
Scheduling headshots is NOT the first thing you need to do if you're new to acting. If you're still unsure how to become an actor and find a talent agent, you need my Kickstart course. Enroll now.
PLANNING YOUR HEADSHOTS
I have a sad story to tell. I spent $300 on my last headshot session, only for my agent to reject them. In fairness, we had a few technical difficulties at the shoot, especially with the wind, and I tried a new foundation that did not work (Smashbox 15 Hour). I also had a freaking stye in my eye.
You do not have money to waste on new headshots if your agent isn't going to use them.
Side note:I did not realize that agents and casting directors expect to see a full body shot in your casting profiles, so make sure you dress according to your body type so your clothes look flattering.
Google what's my body type to find yours. I am a pear, so skinny jeans do not look cute on me in photos, which I learned the hard way. Now I know I need to wear wide leg dress pants or bootcut jeans for my full body photos.
The silver lining to my rejected headshots is that I created a new headshot strategy.
Try booking various photographers for just one outfit per session, which is a lot cheaper and will give you a more diverse portfolio throughout the year.
The focus of my next shoot will be a full body shot. While we're at it, I'll see if I can get one good commercial and one good theatrical photo.
The next session will be a little more gritty. I'll probably listen to music that makes me cry, work through a good sense memory beforehand, and be okay with my eye makeup looking smudged.
In summary, I suggest booking various photographers for just one outfit per session, focus on getting one type of shot (see list below), and then ask for a few closeups at each shoot to see if you can get a new commercial or theatrical headshot while you're at it.
Here are a few ideas on how to focus your one-look sessions:
Full body shot
Gritty and gloomy
Happy and preppy
Highlight a special skill
I've read that casting directors love special skills photos.
You may need to hire a very specific photographer if one of your special skills involves action, such as sports, to make sure they know how to capture movement correctly.
Again, only hiring them for one outfit will make the session cheaper if they're willing to do that.
You'll also get better photos because you won't be worried about pulling off various looks. You can just focus on looking awesome at playing sports or looking professional, not both.
However, I highly suggest that you hire a hair and makeup artist to help you transition looks if you want more than one look per session.
Ask your photographer for a reference. Ideally, they'll have a good working relationship. Make sure everyone knows who you're working with to avoid any potential drama.
Has this helped you better understand the secret of a happy actor-agent relationship?
Comment to let me know which tips are helpful. Which one can you act on today? Writing a thank you card would be the easiest to try.
I'd also love to hear any additional advice you have about interacting with your agent. If you know any actors that need to see this post, feel free to share it on social.
Are you currently looking for a talent agent? You must take five steps before you submit to agencies. Learn more in my Kickstart course. Enroll now.
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"Our findings indicate that people are more willing to give to, share an office with, commute with, and work on a critical project critical to their advancement with individuals who are similar to themselves (Self) along a particular identity dimension than with individuals who are dissimilar (Other). However, the magnitudes of these differences depend on the particular identity category."
I think this means we're constantly searching for some basis of commonality to relate to in other people, however small.
I want to interject here that I'm all for diversity and hanging out with people that don't look, think, sound, or believe the same as me. It challenges my thinking and forces me to grow as a person.
Even still, human nature compels us to find something in common with people that are seemingly different than us so we can find an avenue to understand each other better.
Think about your own behaviors.
Don't you get excited when you find out you're from the same city as someone else? What about the same suburb?
Your voice changes in the very next sentence, typically going higher while you smile saying, "Oh yeah?!"
You know what I'm talking about, actor friend.
What if you had that type of connection with a more established actor, director, or producer on set?
You won't--unless you break the ice.
Asking questions requires you to be curious.
Everyone has a reason for being in this crazy business instead of "getting real jobs" like most people tell us to do.
Hmph. At least until someone becomes a celebrity and makes millions. What do you think they were doing before that payday?! I digress.
Doesn't that make you curious as to why the people you're working with decided to take the crazy route like you?
Maybe it's the same reason you did (commonality and bonding to ensue!) or maybe it's random, which will prompt you to ask more questions.
Now that the ice is broken, your second question is, "So what got you interested in (fill-in-the-blank)?"...acting, directing, producing, just depending on who you're talking to.
Again, you're gonna get backstory and insight into that person's goals, dreams, and aspirations.
I also think that hearing how different everyone's story is will remind you that there's no one way to make it in this business.
You'll not only help build that person's confidence by allowing them to practice self-expression, you'll also benefit from being an active listener.
Listening to their story may spark an idea in you about how to pursue your career in a way you haven't thought of yet.
Let's discuss a very dangerous mindset a lot of actors have. Most of us have believed the lie that our success comes with quick moments of "hitting it big."
What if our acting success actually came from the simple day-to-day habits that we practice?
A few years ago, a mentor sent me a book and told me to start reading for at least 10 minutes a day to kickstart my personal development.
I'm not sure why I wasn't already practicing that habit. I love learning, and I've always been a good student, but somehow adulthood stripped that away from me.
Plus, crazy successful experts are literally giving us their answers word-for-word and helping us bypass their mistakes by taking us straight to the best practices.
Disclosure: Hey Actor Boss, I have affiliate links in this post, which means at zero extra cost to you, I make a commission if you purchase through my link. I made the decision to add affiliate links so I can keep this blog up and running, but I'm only linking to products I know, use, and trust and would recommend to you in face-to-face convo.
The book was Darren Hardy's bestselling book The Compound Effect. This was the first personal development book I read as an adult, and it inspired me to create my daily habits list. He teaches that our success is based on the (sometimes boring) day-to-day tasks we complete.
The habits of successful actors consist of any tasks they need to complete on a daily basis to reach their ultimate long-term goals. These can also be referred to as Habit Goals, a concept I learned from leadership expert Michael Hyatt.
Creating your daily habits list will require you to think long-term. What goals do you want to achieve in the next year? Visualize achieving those goals, then reverse engineer them into simple tasks that you can incorporate into your actor daily routine.
For example, I want to become fluent in French so that I can add a foreign language to the special skills section of my acting resume. That means I need to form a daily habit of completing three Duolingo French modules to reach that goal.
In this post, I will share seven habits that I think should be included in the daily life of an actor. Adjust these habits to fit your routine. I'll list examples from my own life to get you started.
These habits should be transferred to a checklist on your phone that you can look at daily. I use the Awesome Note app thanks to a suggestion by Chalene Johnson's 30 Day Push, now promoted as her Push Journal.
Here's a quick overview of the 7 Daily Habits:
1. START A SKIN CARE ROUTINE
What do actors do on a daily basis to stay looking so good on camera? For starters, they take care of their skin.
You can't afford to have a job that requires you to be on HD cameras without following morning and nighttime skincare routines.
Now you know that if you have blemishes in your footage, you're not going to use it in your demo reel, which you need to book jobs. That's assuming you can even get your footage, am I right? But if you do luck out and get your footage, you need something you're not embarrassed to use.
So the next time you think you're too tired to wash your face in the morning or before you go to bed, I want you to visualize how embarrassed and aggravated you'll be if you have acne the next time you're on camera.
Not all good skincare products are expensive, but you may need to splurge on a celebrity-grade product if you're really having issues. If that makes your stomach hurt, it's time to start using Every Dollar's free zero-based budgeting tool and seven money goals.
So, how do celebrities have such clear skin? What are their Hollywood skin care secrets? That depends on a number of factors.
Everyone's skin is different. If you want to learn how to get celebrity clear skin, you'll need to experiment with various products to figure out what works best for you. My husband can just wash his dang face with regular soap, but I have a 4-5 step routine.
Let's make this process a little easier:
Figure out your skin type. If you want to know how to get glowing skin like celebrities, the best option is to have either a dermatologist or an esthetician tell you their professional opinion of your skin type. Otherwise, try this quiz by Nivea (no email required).
Research top products for your skin type. If you want to save some moola, then search for "top drugstore products for (your skin type)."
Search for those products in EWG's free Healthy Living app. There's no point in putting unnecessary chemicals on your face. The app may not include every product you find, but I can typically find something with a green approval rating. They rate products based on allergy concerns, reproductive disruption, and cancer risk. That means you should definitely avoid anything with a red rating.
Explore skincare routines for your age range. Someone in their 20's needs a very different routine than someone in their 50's, especially if you're a woman. Compare the suggested routine you find to the products you found in the previous steps to see if you have everything you need.
Commit to a routine. Some products come as a product line. It's better to stick with their routine than piece together your own with various products. I use Mother Dirt's AO Mist. It lasts me over a month. I always use organic jojoba oil to moisturize my face morning and night.
Skincare is part of your job as a professional actor. You'll never regret looking good on camera, and your makeup artists will also be thankful! Good skin is something that will separate you from amateur actors that don't treat acting like a business.
Lastly, I want to discuss the possibility of laser hair removal. Before a shoot, I always need to prep my eyebrows. No matter what I do (tweeze, wax, shave), my forehead breaks out like crazy. This is not acceptable.
I'm considering having that unibrow area laser treated for permanent hair removal. Do you have any experience with that? Please comment to let me know if so! I'll keep you posted on my journey.
***UPDATE: I did try laser hair removal between my eyebrows. At $70 a visit for six visits, I wasn't sold. It may have zapped a few, but not enough for me to stop shaving my unibrow. It's possible those little soft white hairs weren't dark enough. I think it's better to splurge on an at-home device that I can use more often.***
2. DEVELOP SPECIAL SKILLS
A lot of actors find themselves asking, "What goes on my special skills section of my acting resume?" If you want to know what successful actors have in common, you can bet they develop their special skills. Let's discuss your list of special skills and talents for your acting resume.
It's time to decide on a maximum of three special skills that you can start developing on a daily basis. If you really want to take your special skills to the next level, I highly recommend you implement Cal Newport's Deep Work technique.
I hate to break it to you, but no one is paying you to knit on camera unless a breakdown specifically requests that skill. Even if it does, you should place that information on the notes section of your casting submission since it's not strong enough to place on your resume.
You can easily get bogged down in a list of cool special skills, but you should focus on becoming an expert at just a few things. If you're having an issue narrowing down a list of special skills to put on an acting resume, then check out my post 1 Crazy Useful Special Skill Casting Directors Love to get you started.
Try to group three skills together that paint a picture as well. For example, a foreign language, handguns, and martial arts would bode well for action roles. This isn't critical, but it could be beneficial.
3. EXPRESS GRATITUDE
I've posted this tip a lot. I once thought it was a "woo woo" practice, but the science has spoken. I feel strongly that the life of a working actor includes expressing gratitude.
In summary, expressing gratitude can have a number of positive effects that make you more likable. Set days can be long days, so likable actors just straight up get more referrals and work.
4. PERFORM VOCAL & STRATEGY EXERCISES
This habit technically has two parts. It's not imperative that you do them together, but I think it will make the exercise easier to implement.
This gist of this habit is to warm up your vocal cords (even if you're not a singer) and then perform one line of a script three different ways using three different strategies.
First, let's discuss the importance of voice exercises for actors. This is a crucial daily habit for you as an actor even if you're not singing or performing on stage. You can't perform without your voice. You don't want a shoot to get wrapped for the day because you lost your voice. What if a director wants you to perform the same scene 180 times? What if that scene requires intense emotion and you strain your vocal cords?
If you want a strong voice, you also need to practice breath control exercises and techniques. It's very possible you're not be breathing correctly. You can train your physical body to relax via breathing, which in turn will relax your vocal cords. I highly recommend the book Freeing the Natural Voice by Kristin Linklater.
I know you're taking your smartphone with you everywhere, Actor Boss. I recommend that you play vocal exercises on your phone and perform them while you're in the shower and standing. I do not recommend performing these in the car while you're sitting since sitting will change your posture and disrupt your breathing, thus damaging your vocal cords.
Now that your voice is warm, you should perform this strategy exercise to prepare yourself for a director saying, "Do something different." Essentially, say the same line(s) three different ways to start flexing your strategy muscle. I breakdown that process more in my post How to Run Scene Rehearsals with Confidence.
If you want to be an on-camera actor, I need you to understand something: the editor is going to piecemeal together your various takes, so you might as well give them something different each time. There's no point in worrying about what the final scene will look like because the hard truth is that the editor is going to decide, so make sure they have enough variation to keep your performance from feeling "one note."
5. PRACTICE PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT
If you want to set yourself apart as a professional actor, you need to create a personal development plan.
Starting personal development doesn't mean you don't already have strengths; it simply means you're learning new things to help you expand those strengths or grow in your areas of weakness, which everyone has.
Don't confuse learning something new with learning something better. Being an actor requires us to be relatable, multi-dimensional humans. Personal development adds new dimensions to our lives, not necessarily better ones, or maybe it just strengthens what you already have to offer.
Here are a few areas you can develop:
Listen, you have the ability to learn and grow, which not everyone has. Start practicing a minimum of ten minutes of personal development per day. I promise you'll get hooked and do more!
Here are various sources of personal development:
Books or Ebooks
Workshops or conferences
Prayer or devotionals
Weekly training emails
Social groups or meetups
My favorites are books, podcasts, and educational apps. I'm about to confess something to you that will make incorporating books much easier: read while you poop. Yep. I said it. It makes both more efficient. Put that phone down, and leave a book in your bathroom. You won't be able to resist reaching for the book. Side note--I also highly recommend the Squatty Potty. That is all.
I'm not asking you to totally give up music, but you should try listening to podcasts while you're driving in your car. Experts are giving you their best tips and advice for free! It's an actor's dream. The trick is to save the episodes that have a ton of good tips so you can listen to them again-and-again or take notes later.
I'm gonna bet you have a smartphone, especially if you're self-taping. Try downloading free apps with brain teasers, puzzles, or word games. If it's been a while since you practiced math, you can seriously go into the app store, type in the word "math," and find a free app to work your brain. We need to fire different parts of our brains to keep us sharp, which can improve our improv abilities at auditions and shoots.
Here are a few benefits of personal development:
Self-awareness and confidence
All four of these benefits are important to an actor. Self-awareness and confidence always look good on you in an audition. Mental focus will help you listen to your scene partner. Stronger relationships will create better sense memories and life experience for your scenes. Motivation will push you forward even when you've been rejected a million times.
6. EXERCISE OR STRETCH
There are a hundred million different articles on how to get into shape, each one attached to a different diet it seems! Our goal for this habit is daily movement for overall health, not weight loss or muscle gain. While those are both valid goals that can be incorporated into this habit, neither are the primary focus.
Your body is your instrument. If it's not working, you're not working. I suggest you exercise or stretch every day simply to keep your body primed for basic functions. Focus on moving your body for at least thirty minutes a day.
You must ultimately decide which exercises are best for you based on your preferences and medical history. If you have a pre-existing condition, then definitely discuss your ideas with your doctor and a trainer.
Here are a few reputable resources to get you started:
My Fitness Pal
Certified personal trainers
This list isn't comprehensive. If you know of another great resource, please feel free to post it in the comments.
Let's chat more about stretching. It's crucial to do this after performing any physical activity, even walking. I personally need to stretch more. Stretching helps relieve tension and is actually a crucial relaxation technique to adjust your breathing before you perform. You can literally do it anywhere with zero equipment. Even if you only stretched for thirty minutes a day to implement this habit, you'll be doing your body a favor.
It's obvious that our bodies were made to move. Imagine that your body is a car. If you left that car in the yard and didn't crank it or drive it for years, what would happen? It would stop moving! It was made to move and needs to move to keep moving.
I want to mention one more thing for anyone who has a physically demanding job. I know what it's like to be on your feet all day working various part-time jobs and only have time to sleep, work, and eat. If that's currently true for you, you're already moving your body a lot, but you should still incorporate stretching, especially for your feet and legs.
7. REHEARSE OR MEMORIZE SCRIPTS
While I still think it's worth scheduling a fully focused once-a-month rehearsal, I started working through my monologues every single day. Holy crap. It has made such a huge difference.
Listen, most film actors may never be asked to perform a monologue at an audition, but you do not want to be the one actor that gets asked and not have one ready to perform. You can learn more about having monologues ready in this post.
Memorizing lines is our job. That means we should adopt the practice of memorizing or rehearsing scripts every single day. You may seriously get cast over someone who has more experience than you just from being more prepared.
My first professional job was for an industrial gig, and the head honcho producer kept asking us actors to swap lines--entire paragraphs of lines. I was so nervous about embarrassing my friend who got me the job that I ignored everyone who talked to me, plugged my ears, and stepped to the side to memorize.
Guess what? I hit every freaking word every freaking time. The director was impressed, and he cast me a few more times because he knew I would be good for the money. It also greatly built my confidence that I can handle multiple pages of dialogue with last-minute changes, which is a basic requirement of a professional actor. I want you to feel that same confidence.
"Memorizing lines is 99% of your job."This is what the head of my college theatre department always told us. He would also drop us an entire letter grade if we weren't off-book by the deadline. The reason was simple--you can't think on your feet or make different choices if you're worried about the lines.
What if you were given 30 pages of dialogue to memorize in a day, every single day? That is the life of television and soap stars.
I worked with an actor who doubled as the script coach for the show Good Behavior. He told me that the lead actors would immediately come to him after a scene cut to run their lines for the next day's shoot. Could you handle that, Actor Boss? If you start memorizing lines every day, you'll be way more confident when the time comes because it will come. How you respond could make or break your career.
Are you already incorporating some of these daily habits? Comment to let me know which ones and which ones are new to you.
The only way you'll remember to practice these daily habits is to log them on a checklist on your phone that you'll see every day, so go make that list now. Your phone is always with you, and a digital list will be easier to checkmark over-and-over again.
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If you really want acting to be more than a hobby, or you're just getting started, then be sure to learn more about Actor Boss on this page. These three stages will help you build a foundation for long-term success.