What’s the hardest part of being an actor? Probably being an actor… We certainly haven’t chosen the easy path, but we’ve chosen it nonetheless, so we might as well make the most of it right? Gotta love life hacks, so here are 10 Actor Life Hacks to make the road just that little bit smoother.
1. I call this one the ‘Ultimate Audition Emergency Essential Survival Pack for Actors’ (working title)
If you’ve got a car, this one’s for you. Gather audition essentials such as deodorant, dry shampoo, a hair brush, a pencil, a highlighter, a spare T shirt, a toothbrush, perhaps you could include a self-affirming quote in there for added inspiration. Pack it all up in a bag, and keep it in the boot. I’ve had some pretty rough last minute audition calls, and walking into the room feeling stressed and anxious because you ran home, showered, learnt your lines, did your ‘brows and made a smoothie in under 20 minutes, is not so great. You never know when you’ll be called in, so better to be prepared.
2. Mini Scripts
I have a friend who prints his sides on tiny pages, and I think it’s just genius! Actually, I’m pretty sure he just does it to save space, but it’s also a great way to save money on printer paper and ink (umm.. it costs more to replace ink cartridges than it does to buy a new printer – which comes with ink…?) Print your sides on A5 pages (so 2x per A4 page) and double-sided. If you get the layout right, you can fold it, staple it and BAM you’ve got a cool script booklet.
3. Cooking Lines
Sometimes you get these scripts with some really clunky, and chunky, pieces of text to learn. Although I’m an advocate for learning thoughts not lines, sometimes you’ve just got to get them in your body, so you can relax and play with it. So, practice your lines out loud – both yours, and the other character/s, whilst you’re doing some other task. I usually do it whilst I’m cooking dinner, much to the dismay of my housemates. But you could do it with any activity, like riding to work, walking around the block, or at the gym. Rehearsing whilst on your feet and moving around, will help you absorb the text and loosen you up. It will also help with focus – if you get distracted by a cute trainer at the gym and forget a line, then you know you haven’t learned them well enough (depends how cute he is I guess.) If you can still say your lines whilst drooling at the trainer – you’ve done well, and I’m very proud.
It’s also helpful to practice in public. Yes, people will think you’re crazy, but if you can work on your scripts in public, ignoring people around you who may or may not be ‘judging’, then you’re at a good, comfortable place. It’s great practice for auditions, getting used to working in front of strangers who don’t know a thing about you, or your work.
4. Audition before you Audition
Film yourself doing the scene/monologue before you go into the audition. Morning of, or the day before are recommended. If watching yourself back makes you self-conscious – KEEP GOING. Once you get used to how you look, sound and act, you can start to analyse your performance more objectively. What’s reading? What isn’t? Does this choice need to be stronger? Am I being specific enough? If you can give yourself this feedback and improve on just one of those things before you go into the room, you are going to be that little bit closer to booking the job (or at least booking the room). It’s also going to help you get used to doing the piece in front of a camera, test out your different choices and gets that awkward first read out of the way. Get it out of your body, and I’m telling you, you’ll go in feeling that much more confident and prepared.
5. 1 minute Meditation
I’m spiritual as f~ck. So, I recommend meditating every day. But, you’ve got to find your own path – picturequotes.com.
If you’re thinking “I’m too busy to meditate” – I can tell you right now, meditating for 1 minute every day will not make you any less busy. You can do it in the morning when you wake up, in the evening before you go to sleep, in the shower or on your lunch break (to shake off that middle-aged woman complaining about ticket prices – I do not make the rules, Karen). Meditation is really just reflection. Put on some music, walk around the block for 20 minutes, lie on the living room floor and stare at the ceiling. Just doing nothing for a few minutes, listening, breathing and being in the present will make you feel invigorated and clear your head. There are so many ways to meditate, and I want you to find the one that works for you so that you look forward to it, instead of avoiding it and making excuses. Calming the mind, pressing the reset button, and slowing down for a minute, will help you manage stress in your daily life as an actor.
6. Remembering names
Classic excuse: “I’m sorry, I’m so bad at names“. Like, I’m pretty sure everyone is ‘bad at names’.
How about this: when you meet someone and they introduce themselves, say their name at least twice throughout the conversation. “Lovely to meet you, Felicia” and then perhaps “Felicia, you’re a funny gal!” and to bring it home, “Bye, Felicia!” You can also visualise writing their name down on a piece of paper, or a place or object that reminds you of the name. Or perhaps they have the same name as one of your friends, you could visualise both Felicia’s hanging out together – what a blast! No more lame excuses. If you have the time even jotting it down in your notes on your phone. People love it when you remember their name!
7. Blue is the warmest colour
I have a wall in my house, which is permanently painted blue for self-tapes. It’s near windows, so has lots of natural light and is in a quiet spot in the house. Sometimes I only have 4 hours to put down a tape and send it to my agent, so having that beautiful blue wall ready to go is a lifesaver. If you’re not able to paint a wall, then a blue drop-sheet pinned to the wall also works. You can also buy pop-up blue screens which are super handy (but good luck to you folding it back up, because it’s a mission, I tell you. I think there’s a rule of thirds?)
Why is blue the warmest colour you ask?
2 reasons: in advertising, blue is the colour humans associate with feelings of cool, calm and trustworthiness, like the ocean and the sky, oh and Facebook. Brands use the colour blue in marketing campaigns and logo design to appeal to people. Having blue behind you in your tape will do the same thing, it’s a universally pleasing colour. The second reason: blue is said to be flattering for almost every skin tone. I look pretty great in front of a blue wall, and I reckon you will too. It’s much more interesting than white, which can sometimes make you look washed out. And it also means you can wear white or black clothing and not look either like a ghost, or an emo. You’re welcome.
8. Knowledge is power
If there’s anything that makes me feel empowered as an actor, it’s knowledge. Having a grasp on your local industry is an invaluable tool and you’d be surprised how much it comes in handy. How to be an opportunity predator? Get to know the people and what they’re working on, in your own circle, in other circles, and in the even wider, all-encompassing circle. Easier said than done, here’s a couple tips to get you started.
- iMDB Pro: sign up for an iMDB Pro account, it’s a small price to pay for knowledge that knows no bounds. If it’s out there, iMDB will have the info.
- Social Media: There is something to be said about scrolling Instagram and trawling through Facebook groups. Make conscious decisions to follow industry players, people you’ve worked with previously or want to work with in the future and keep up to date with their projects. Facebook groups for actors and crew are a great way to hear about jobs, classes, productions, screenings, and events. By the way, we have a Facebook Group, so please join us!
- Events: *shivers* Networking. I know, I know but getting out, catching up with colleagues, supporting their work and meeting new people opens you up for opportunities, and it might even be fun. Be yourself, and don’t get too messy…
9. Free acting class
You’ve just got to keep working on your craft, especially in between jobs, which can be few and far between. One of the main things I take away from participating in acting classes is simply the practice, and watching others work. Sure, the coach may have some amazing insights which I write in a book and forget about 2 weeks later. But the invaluable part of doing workshops is getting up in front of people and just doing it. However this gets expensive after a while, and you can only ask for so many workshops for your Christmas, Birthday, Easter, Thanksgiving and 2nd Birthday presents.
So, start your own acting class: gather your mates, choose a scene to work on each week, read a play together whilst eating pizza, perform monologues for each other, do some sketch comedy, I could literally go on forever. Everything is practice.
10. Survival job, or thriving job?
Pick another job in the industry. I mean it, anything that peaks your interest – maybe it’s sound department, continuity, casting assistant, production runner or even marketing & distribution. Whilst it’s important to have a job that helps you survive and pay the bills, it doesn’t have to just be that. What if your survival job, was something you actually enjoy, that is creative, that you can learn from and that is fun? I’ve scored some acting jobs from working as a camera assistant, and scored some jobs as a camera assistant when I was acting. It’s all work, and it’s all worth it – get involved in your industry.
Teaching acting is one of the best ways to reinforce your own principles. You learn from others and start to see how other actors work. Teaching also puts the pressure on. If you’re teaching you have to know your sh*t. It forces you to think deeply, read widely and practice what you preach.
12. Film a self tape instead of a showreel
You could spend over a thousand bucks on an over-produced, under-cooked showreel scene, that doesn’t get you an agent, or any more auditions. Sometimes, they work wonders, but if you don’t have the dosh / can’t find a company or DOP you trust, you’re better off filming a self-tape. Filming a self tape instead has a couple of benefits, and ultimately achieves the same result – showcasing your acting.
1. Unlimited takes: take your time to get the acting right. Usually you are rushing when working on a professional reel.
2. You’re in control: you can make the call on what you like and don’t like.
3. Cheap: filming your own self tape is super cheap. If you know the right people or have the right gear, it should be FREE.
4. It’s more casual: a self tape looks more casual and less try-hard. Generally, we think this is a better impression to give casting directors and agents.
5. Focus is on the acting: showreel companies often try to make the scene look great and this can often be at the expense of the acting. A self-taped scene is always about the acting.
Read: how to film a self tape
13. Smile in your commercial casting photo
This is a great acting hack. You know how they take your photo before a commercial casting and it’s really awkward? Suck it up and smile. That photo matters. When the producers, directors and ad executives are looking at your audition, that photo is the first thing they’ll look at. A simple way to stand out from the crowd. They want actors who can sell products, and you don’t sell foot-long sandwiches with a grimace.
14. Save your measurements
How many times have you gone to write your measurements at a casting and had to awkwardly get out a measuring tape, or just make it up? Take 10 minutes and write all your measurements down. It will serve you in castings, and when you book the job and you have to send through your details for costumes. Save it in your notes, or in an email, and save yourself the hassle.
You made it to the conclusion, congrats. This has been StageMilk.com; making your acting life easier one article at a time. We hope you enjoyed these 14 Actor Life Hacks, and chuck us an email if you have one to add to the list!