HERE'S WHAT HAPPENED
My acting coach once told me to never staple my headshots and resumes together. He was working with a big shot director (or maybe it was a producer?) and they cut their finger on a staple. This person refused to handle anymore headshots with staples and had his casting assistants throw away all stapled combos, so they were never even considered!
I decided I would only attach my headshots and resumes on site depending on how many casting needed. (Btw, it's standard to have at least three with you at all times.) That meant I needed to glue them together, but how the heck was I going to do that without making a huge mess in my car?
In this post, we'll chat about what you need to keep in your actor kit, especially if you drive a car. However, some of these can also go into your acting bag if you're taking public transportation.
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 refer you to products I've used or researched and would recommend to you in face-to-face convo. Let's get back to that question about not making a huge mess in your car with glue.
CARDBOARD, GLUE, SCISSORS
You know how you attach your headshots and resumes together, only to later take them apart so you can update your resume? You can avoid doing this too often--if you keep cardboard in your car.
I want you to keep a piece of cardboard in your car for a few reasons:
Based on the staples story, I now use rubber cement to glue my headshots and resumes together. I've never had a problem with them coming apart, and the rubber cement has survived the southern summer heat so far. It's a surefire way to prevent someone from cutting their finger on a staple. It's also "no wrinkle," which has been true in my experience.
You'll also need a basic pair of scissors. Standard headshots are 8 x 10. Your resumes are going to print on 8-1/2 x 11 paper. You need to trim those resumes on the fly sometimes, although I recommend doing it before you put them in your car if you have the time.
If you're printing at home, remember to print on 8 x 10 photo paper. It's obvious to casting that you're not getting professional prints when they're not the standard size, and that will work against you looking like a committed actor that does things to industry standard.
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BOX OR BIN
When I was in college, one of my besties and I were the exact opposite when it came to organization. Although her car and dorm room always smelled amazing (like vanilla!), she had piles of stuff everywhere.
When we were resident advisors, I would secretly key into her room and organize everything. Then she would call me to ask where stuff was because she couldn't find it. Ha! I didn't think about that being an issue...
I, on the other hand, had a place for freaking everything. I'm also a stickler for throwing things away that I haven't used in a while. One day in my adulthood, I realized my car had accumulated a few items that I really did need to keep: sun shields, a lumbar pillow, and baby wipes (more on this later), but they were scattered everywhere.
Y'all know I can't have that! So I started looking for a cheap box or bin to corral all of my items, but they were freaking expensive! Then I found this sweet bin at the Dollar Tree.
They still sell them at my local Dollar Tree a year later. They're seriously a freaking dollar, y'all. ONE. DOLLAR. They have different sizes, too. I've been using mine for about a year now with no complaints.
Listen, when you pull up to an audition, you don't have time to be frazzled looking for a million things. Keep it all in one easy-to-reach spot. If you need two bins, so be it. Just make sure you have one dedicated to whichever acting items you need.
My first set of headshots were amazing. I was seriously surprised at how good they looked because years before I had a chunky, oily, pimple face. I sat in front of YouTube for--count 'em--six hours watching Smashbox makeup tutorials. The two places I trusted to do my makeup were booked solid.
When I went for my second round of headshots, Smashbox had discontinued the super amazing foundation I used the first time. Their 15 hour studio foundation was like plaster on my face. It did not blend well.
On the way to my shoot, my nose started running. I wiped it with my hand without thinking, and it removed that thick foundation from the end of my nose. If you've ever worn thick camera makeup, you know that it's almost impossible to spot correct without it looking crusty. Sure enough, my nose looked so weird in my new (unusable) photos.
Fast forward to 2019 when I'm on set for a short film. We were behind schedule, so the makeup artist was working at lightning speed. I hopped out of the chair, looked at her with big eyes and said, "I'm about to have snot all over my face."
She said, "No problem. Use this." She handed me a Q-tip to wipe my nose. It's so genius! It fits perfectly into your nostril and absorbs really well. If only I'd had it at my second headshot shoot.
You better believe I did at my third one. I definitely needed them, and my headshots turned out great again because I didn't have any weird makeup smudges.
You will look strange using a Q-tip to wipe your nose. You will push your nostril out and look funny. However, you will not mess up your makeup. Just make sure you press firmly into your nostril before you roll the Q-tip around so that you don't tickle your nose and sneeze.
I recommend carrying around this small travel case of Q-tips so you always have them handy for a shoot or audition.
This story is embarrassing. I'm going to tell you anyway.
I can't remember what made me mosey into a Publix one day to buy a Tide pen, but I'm so glad I did. It didn't work on whatever random thing I needed it for, so I threw it into my car in case I needed it before an audition.
So far, I haven't needed it for an audition, but I did need it for another situation that proved to me it would save my butt if a pre-audition stain appeared on my outfit, especially the one all women dread--menstrual blood.
My hubby and I finally took a nice vacation to Nashville. We saved up for over a year so that we could eat fancy food and stay at a fancy place without worrying about money. We found an amazing bed and breakfast that's actually ranked as a four star hotel.
I'm not sure how expensive the crisp white sheets were, but I do know that they get the same sheets that they use at W Hotels. That is a luxury hotel, y'all! Well, it just so happened that on the last morning of our vacation, my body decided to menstruate a few days early--aaaaaallll over those crisp white luxury hotel sheets.
My husband and I obviously panicked and tried dabbing the stains out with water. Nope. I finally said, "Go out to the car and look in the console. I have a Tide pen! Let's hope to God it works!" Holy crap, I was shocked at how well it removed the stain. I seriously thought we would end up paying a few hundred dollars for a new sheet set.
If it worked that well on those sheets, then you definitely need one in case you spill something or smudge makeup on your clothes before an audition. Tide pens have got your back. They're best for smaller spots, though, so the liquid will dry quickly.
I'm a stickler for a particular brand of clothes hangers. I only recommend Joy Huggable Hangers for actors that need to travel with clothes. I've already written the reasons why in 1 Secret Weapon for Your Acting Wardrobe. They're cheap and super effective for a number of reasons that relate to you specifically as an actor.
Let's chat quickly, though, about whether or not you even need to keep changes of clothes in your car if you're an actor who drives. In the past, I said it really depended on the role or where you lived. If you've been asked to drive 45 minutes across town directly after work with no time to drop by your place, then keep clothing options in your car.
Commercial auditions are easier to gauge. If you see that you could be a good fit for another role in the breakdown, you may want to take a different top to fit that role in case they ask you to read for it. Otherwise, wear versatile layers or a top that could work for multiple roles.
For example, I had a commercial audition for an electrician, but they were asking actors to also read for the plumber once they arrived. I wore a black work polo and work boots that made sense for both roles.
I want to take a moment to say that in three years of attending (mostly commercial) auditions in the Southeast, I've never once been asked to change my outfit. That doesn't mean I haven't been prepared, it just means you don't need to stress yourself to death about this. Even if someone asks, "Do you have a different top? Maybe a jacket?" but you respond, "No, but I have a cardigan," you'll still look like a thoughtful actor that tried to prepare.
Now-a-days, however, I'm a huge fan of always having a backup shirt or jacket in your car. I had a situation at an audition literally the day I'm writing this. Long story short is that I looked down and realized I had melted chocolate all over my jacket (pics below). When I tried to wipe it off, it bled through to my cami, which I was going to wear by itself.
So grab a pack of Joy Huggable Hangers, and hang those backup clothes in your car. If you want to throw back-up clothes in your bin, then make sure you get something wrinkle resistant.
I had three in-person auditions one week, so I hopped into my hot car each day, already sweating from the summer heat. I turned my AC onto the coldest setting, plus switched it to maximum effort. Even after 45 minutes of driving, I was still crazy sweaty each time I arrived to the casting office.
I keep baby wipes in my car because my hands always feel gross after pumping gas, and I don't have time to go inside and wash them. They're great for cleaning up messes, too.
After a straight week of sweating everywhere, I realized you can also use baby wipes to freshen up before an audition. I can't remember where I first heard this advice, but if you want to feel fresh fast, you should wash your hands, face, and feet before changing your socks if you're wearing them. However, you can't wipe or wash your face if you're wearing makeup.
Use your baby wipes to clean:
You may also consider a face mist, but only if it's proven not to mess up your makeup. Voila! You're refreshed and ready to go.
This Livestrong article states:
"Appearances broadcast more than just how we look to the world. For example, when you present (at) a job interview well-dressed, displaying good hygiene, you look like a capable professional, able to handle yourself with care and respect."
Your auditions are the equivalent of a job interview, so arrive looking fresh and smelling clean. Even if the role is for someone grungy, I want you to smell good. It will make everyone in the room way more comfortable, and they'll only care about how you look on camera anyway.
My hubby and I decided to get a Rhodesian Ridgeback as our first dog. One of the selling points is that they don't shed. Apparently, ours is the one that does. His tiny razor hairs get everywhere, and there's no easy way to remove them.
I looked down at my black flats one day and realized they were covered in his red dog hair. I mean I might as well have worn dog fur shoes. I looked cute, but that dog hair was killing my cute vibe.
You need a lint roller in your car to show up to auditions looking pro, especially if you have cats or dogs. You'll look unkempt whether you realize it or not. There's an episode of BBC's Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch when he's deducing facts about a woman who is pretending to be someone she's not. One of the deductions he made was that she wasn't as rich as she tried to convey because she had dog hair all over her.
Ugh. I think about that every time I need a lint roller to remove dog hair on my clothes. (I can't remember which episode that was, so if you know, please put it in the comments.) I like this cheap Ikea lint roller. It does the trick better than most.
DEODORANT THAT DOESN'T MELT
Ah, yes. Melted deodorant. It's a staple for actors in the Southeast during the summer. I posted a couple of pics on IG, and my actor friends totally understood.
I'm still looking for alternatives, but a few options I haven't tried showed up in my research that look promising.
Deodorant options that won't melt in your car:
Let's look at the top hits in my research so far that have a green safety rating from the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Database. I'll update this post when I've found something I really like. Everyone's body chemistry is so different that you'll need to test these on your specific pits.
I try to use as many zero waste products as possible, but a plastic spray pump is the only way to go if you're leaving a deodorant spray in your car. I do not recommend aerosol spray cans because I'm seriously nervous about them exploding in the heat. I left a movie one day during the summer, and my car temperature read 104 degrees, not to mention the humidity. It's no joke here, y'all.
This EO Organic Deodorant Spray has a great health rating for both the Lavender and Citrus scents.
We've already chatted about baby wipes, but if you want wipes specifically for your pits, then EO makes deodorant wipes, too. The Lavender scent has a good health rating in EWG Skin Deep, but those are the only ones I can find in their database.
I've had a harder time finding healthy roll-on deodorant options, but Real Purity has popped up a couple of times in my research. It's not as cheap as other roll-on options, but that's because it has great ingredients. It's just for audition emergencies, though, so it should last you a while.
ORAL HYGIENE ITEMS
Two veteran actors in my acting class worked on a scene that required the woman to be terrified of the man. They'd known each other for some time, though, so the woman had a hard time expressing terror since she knew and trusted her scene partner.
The man smoked, and the woman hated that smell, so he went outside and smoked to get that nasty smoker breath smell that just hits you in the face. Then he got right up in her face to let it permeate all in her nostrils. None of us watching knew this at the time, so her look of disgust and nausea translated as fear on camera. It was genius.
Unless you're trying to purposely gross out your scene partner with bad breath, then you need to show up with a clean mouth. I do not recommend chewing gum. That's a big no-no when you're acting unless the scene calls for it for some reason. No one wants to hear you smacking, and it can actually be a choking hazard.
This WebMD article suggests flossing after each meal to help reduce odor-causing bacteria, so why not floss before your audition just to be safe? It's also no fun to look in the rearview mirror and see something in your teeth with no way to remove it. I've tried picking something out of my gums with my finger before, and I accidentally scratched my gums fairly deep. Just use floss. Glide is my favorite floss because it doesn't get stuck or break in my teeth.
Peppermint Essential Oils
Another way I avoid gum is by using peppermint essential oils. I simply dab it onto my tongue. Warning: you might look like you're chugging a mini-bottle of alcohol. At least your breath will smell fresh. I use Young Living Peppermint Essential Oil. I've heard good things about doTerra as well. Please don't use an oil that isn't therapeutic and rated as safe for ingesting. It can burn you!
SmartMouth Travel Mouthwash
I have the full-sized SmartMouth container at home, but it does not travel well. The liquid will spill everywhere if you pack it, so I suggest you check out these SmartMouth travel packets for on-the-go fresh breath. SmartMouth is unique in that it boasts a guarantee to eliminate bad breath all day if you use it according to the instructions. I typically don't use the full amount suggested, and it still makes a difference.
You need to be hydrated for a number of reasons, one of which is fighting bad breath caused by dry mouth. I love my Ello Elsie glass water bottle. I've been using it consistently for three years, and it's still in great shape! It also keeps my water from tasting like plastic. Gross. Make sure you have enough water with you at all times regardless of what bottle you use. I personally try to drink half my body weight in water per day, more if I'm sweating.
CHAPSTICK OR TINTED CHAPSTICK
HD cameras are intense, and they show everything. I feel like they can see my soul through my pores. The point is this--don't show up to an audition or a shoot with gross lips.
Keep chapstick with you so you don't show up looking crusty. If you really want to make your face pop for an audition, use tinted chapstick. Having hydrated lips will also make you more confident on camera. Many lip balms are made to intentionally dry your lips so you'll use more of the product, so be sure to look for moisturizing ingredients like shea butter or beeswax.
What do you keep in your car kit? What do you need to get from this list that you haven't thought of yet? Comment and let me know.
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HEY ACTOR BOSS,
I'm a screen actor and certified goals coach focused on helping other screen actors that are not yet a household name achieve their most urgent goal.