Acting in Isolation: A Survival Guide
On a scale from one through to terrifying, the world is pretty terrifying right now. I am writing this in early March of 2020 and the COVID-19 virus has been wreaking havoc across the globe. In the midst of all of this trauma there have been a number of wonderful moments, citizens of towns in Italy leaning out their windows in lock down to sing in unison, Arnold Schwarzenegger has had a succulent meal with his two tiny horses and this selection of TikTok users kinda made my day. In the midst of all of the fear, the isolation, the toilet roll hoarding and the crushing existential fear of a pandemic these legends show how you can use your time in solidarity with the people around you, or in Arnie’s case the miniature horses. My point is this, this coming or present time of isolation is actually a great opportunity for you to work on your acting. There are myriads of things to do to improve your work as an actor and make the most of this time in solitude, we covered a few in an Instagram post the other day, but here are my top tips! Let’s hit it.
Read more plays
I think I write about Larry Moss too much, he’s in nearly every other article of mine, sadly I am not even on his payroll… yet! The reason I do is how practical his advice is, and how powerful it is. The guy trained DiCaprio, Helen Hunt, Hillary Swank – and the list goes on. Larry reckons you should be reading three plays a week. Now three plays per week sounds like a heck tonne of reading right? Well, here’s the good news about being in lockdown my friends. In the immortal words of the Orange is the New Black theme tune: ‘You’ve got, time.’ Don’t have access to play’s? Become a StageMilk member and you get access to a play library of over 3000 plays! That will see you through.
Learn new monologues
While we’re talking about Larry Moss, his other central tenet of advice is to be learning four new monologues every three months. Considering the impact of Corona and depending on how long you’re on lockdown you could really up the ante here to learn a bunch of new monologues. Get some new contemporary pieces, classics and Shakespeare pieces up your sleeve and ready to roll out at your next audition. In addition to this, learn a poem or two! This is not only great for your voice work but could be an excellent add on at an audition if a director asks if there is anything else you could add to the role. Plus, poetry is rad – get around it.
Work on your voice
When I talk to actors about voice work, one of the primary things that gets in the way is lack of time. Squeezing in a voice warm-up before or after your day job can be really tough, especially if you have family commitments too. But isolation gives you that opportunity in droves. Voice work is absolutely vital to your success as an actor. Resonance, pitch, tone and articulation are just a few of the things you can work on in this downtime. Not to mention accents! Having a great standard American and standard British accent down is going to help you a lot in the modern world. Need to start somewhere? Check out our articles here, here and here.
Set up digital scene work
Okay so this is a fun one, and I am just riffing here but if you are bored and stuck at home – so are a bunch of other actors out there in the world!!! Never in our lives has the internet been better at offering video communication technology – so use it! Zoom, Discord, Google Duo and many others offer great video conferencing options. Why not wrangle a few friends and hang out digitally to work on a few scenes or do a play reading? Just because you’re stuck inside doesn’t mean you have to be alone. One of the hardest parts of isolation is feeling disconnected with your community. Reach out to your friends, and use the awesome power of the internet to get together and do what you love to do!
Research your industry
Reconnaissance ladies and gentlemen. Recon is the business. Andrew Hearle who runs StageMilk.com said on our facebook page the other day:
“I am always amazed at how many actors are determined to be a “success”, but know very little about the industry they wish to be successful in. Spend this down-time researching your industry. Do some research on local casting directors, producers, directors and production companies. Who is making work, and what is going to be happening in the near future. This knowledge is so powerful!”
And folks he isn’t wrong. Andy gets hundreds of actors emailing him every day asking him how they can get into Hollywood, when they don’t even know who is a casting director in their local town! People are making theatre, digital content and film and TV in every country, city and place on the globe. You’ve got to get in touch with your local industry before you can hit the floodlights of LA. Deep dive into some Googling folks and make a resolution to become part of that local industry as soon as you can.
Get your package together
Another thing that takes time and is super challenging to bring yourself to do? Getting your package together. This means having an up to date and awesome headshot, showreel and CV. Showreel editing can be a tiresome and costly business, now is a fantastic time to wrap your head around your reel and make it the best it can be. Don’t know how to edit? You can learn and easily, Youtube holds the answers. Being able to edit your own footage is a must for actors in the modern world. You need to be able to deal with your self test footage and update that showreel regularly. Either learn yourself, or be prepared to fork out for editors to do it for you, and let me tell you they aren’t cheap! Also, is your headshot up to date? Why not take some time to research your local area and find some great photographers to take your picture as soon as you’re out of lock down? Finally your CV, make sure it is shmick and up to date – so your business side is ready to go as soon as possible.
Getting confident and comfortable with your self-tape set-up is vital for any actor in the modern world. If you don’t have a self-tape set-up at home why not check out our handy guide here. We also have a guide on how to shoot a self tape here. Why not use some of those newly minted monologues from point one? Or get a friend or two to do a scene with you remotely like point 4? You have options and agency here people and a great opportunity to make the most of this time to do some great work!
This was on Andy’s list too, and I think it is a great point. This whole international pandemic business is pretty damn stressful. If you’re feeling stressed it’s because this is damn stressful – so taking some time for introspection and letting that stress go, quieting the busy talk of the mind is a really great idea. Headspace and Calm are both great apps you can download to your device which can be a great starting point if you are new to meditation.
Okay everyone hopefully this list has been useful for you, this is a really scary time and isolation can be daunting. But it can also be a great opportunity to work on your craft and use the resources of the modern world to reach out to your community and your industry and connect over something creative and wonderful. Give yourself the opportunity to do the things you have been putting off due to time constraints and as much as possible try to stay positive and calm in stressful circumstances.
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