It’s 4am and you’re just about to drift off to sleep when suddenly it hits you: those invasive little thoughts that ask you “have you done enough for your acting career today?”. I don’t think there’s an actor alive who hasn’t been there, and it can be hard to shut that little voice off. So here are 5 things you can do for your acting career right now to help quiet those annoying 4am thoughts.
1. Create a Target List / Photographer Spreadsheet
Keeping track of which casting directors you have auditioned for and when, which agents and managers you have submitted your materials to, and which theater companies whose casting newsletters you have have put yourself on can be daunting. It can feel like a full time career in and of itself but, once you get it done, it can be life changing. There are so many names to remember for actors, it’s true. But that’s also true for casting directors, producers, agents, and managers. It is your job to make sure you are regularly on their radar, and the best way to do that is to get organized.
The layout doesn’t matter as long as it makes sense to you. For my personal target list spreadsheet, I have the contacts’ name, job (agent, casting director, etc), company contact info, date last spoken to (month and year is good enough if you can’t remember the exact day), and any relevant notes about them (ie “does not accept unsolicited submissions”, “regularly teaches workshops”, “Is actively seeking to expand roster”, etc).
For headshot photographers, my spreadsheet contains the photographers’ contact info, cost breakdown, and any referrals I may have from other actors I trust.
Though tackling this large project all at once at 4am may not be the best move, you can certainly start it and break it down into smaller sections to be worked on over the course of a week.
We rarely talk about the boring clerical work that goes into an acting career. From creating email campaigns to making sure your information is updated across all casting networks, to figuring out taxes and finances for artists, it is nothing short of overwhelming. However, boring as it is, organization is your friend and I guarantee that having a document that is ready to refer to when you need it will help you tremendously in your acting career.
2. Self Submit
If you have representation, they are likely already submitting you for projects. But if you don’t have an agent or manager in your corner, you can be your own advocate by submitting yourself for projects you’re appropriate for.
Part of this is also making sure that your information is updated. Spend some time making sure all your links work and route you where they need to; ensure that all of your materials are easily accessible and up to date; make sure all your special skills are accounted for; and ensure your size chart is as accurate as possible.
When you submit for projects, trust that the casting team will see your submission in the morning and sleep easy knowing that you took the first step in making several potential connections.
3. Read a Chapter of an Acting Book
I’m not going to pretend that social media isn’t a helpful tool for actors (because it certainly is!), but it does not serve you to spend hours doom scrolling. Instead of liking cat videos or pictures from your cousin’s backpacking trip, I encourage you to put down your phone and pick up a book instead. A few of my personal favorites are The Invisible Actor by Yoshi Oida, An Actor Prepares by Constantin Stanislavski, and The Method Acting Exercises Handbook by LSTFI’s own Lola Cohen.
Several studies have shown that reading a book before bed has many benefits that are particularly useful to actors such as stress relief, increased empathy, and long term effects on cognition.
Is it much better to go to sleep with a brain full of newfound information and inspiration rather than social media stats? Go forth and dream of animal exercises and other helpful tools to help you on your acting journey!
4. Find an Accountability Buddy
Though the wee hours of the morning are not necessarily the best times to text your friends, you can certainly make a note to reach out! Find yourself an accountability buddy. Let them know what your yearly acting goals are: do you want to finally join SAG-AFTRA? Do you want to do at least 30 minutes of relaxation and sensory exercises a day? Do you want to finally lock down representation?
An accountability buddy can help keep you on track, and you can do the same for them! As actors, it’s important that we cultivate a community of fellow artists to help us along the way. With an accountability buddy, you can spend a short amount of time checking in to help boost two careers at once. You can go to bed knowing that someone is in your corner cheering you on, and they can also rest easy knowing that you’re doing the same for them.
5. Research Your Industry
There is a lot to know about this industry, and it’s an industry that is constantly in flux. These past three years we have been in the throes of a pandemic, which has presented us actors with many new challenges: auditions are primarily self tapes, very few shows were picked up for pilot season, and Broadway theaters are constantly on the verge of closing.
It’s important to consistently keep your finger on the pulse of what is new in this industry. The best way to do that is to arm yourself with the right tools for the trade. The free app Clubhouse offers plenty of chatrooms for actors to converse on a wide range of topics from the business side of acting, to mindfulness for actors, to tricks and tips for headshots.
Creating an account on IMDbPro will allow you access to all kinds of contact information for agents, managers, and casting directors. You can follow certain people to see who is casting what and when, and you can manage your own page to help ensure you are being seen and increase your reputability. An IMDbPro account can run a little pricey, so while you are building credits and working towards creating a reel, you can share an account with a (accountability) buddy or two to keep costs low while you research.
CastingAbout is a service that tells you what is coming down the casting pipeline in the major acting hubs and helps you to create mailers that target the creative teams. There is a fee attached to this service, so if you are strapped for cash, you can also follow them on Twitter to see a limited version of their service.
Being an actor is a juggling act: but instead of thinking of it as keeping all balls in the air at once, remember that you only have one or two in your hands at any given moment. It does not serve you to only think about the big picture of your career but, rather, finding the small steps you can take that lead to the big picture. After all, a painter can only paint one brush stroke at a time to make a masterpiece – actors are no different. By implementing these small, doable steps into your daily life, when those pesky 4am thoughts ask you “did you do enough for your acting career today?” you can proudly proclaim “yes. I did.”