I fell out of love with acting when I graduated drama school 6 years ago. OK, I didn’t fall out of love, but something changed. I was graduating from WAAPA, and had a tough time at showcase. I remember I went and sat in a park, staring at my phone, hoping the agent of my dreams would send me a message saying “yes, we would love to take you”. Though it worked out in the end, I vividly remember feeling a sense of hopelessness and disappointment. In fact, the first few years out of drama school were filled jealousy, competitiveness and all round insecurity. It was a combination of having zero control over my own career, and zero control over the industry.
But I was wrong to feel that way. I did have control. I still do. It’s all too easy to take a ‘defeatist’ approach to life in the acting game. I get it, this life can be full of disappointments, rejections and set-backs, and don’t forget comparisons – one click to open Instagram and you can see everyone else’s picture perfect journey to stardom (colour coded and with plenty of white space for aesthetics.)
It’s taken me many years, and this incredible StageMilk community to restore my love for acting. I get to work with passionate actors everyday, some who are at the beginning of their journey, and others who are well into their journey and building a solid career. So I wanted to share some tips to help you naively fall in love with acting again.
Take a social media hiatus
Social media, on the odd occasion, can be very inspiring, informing and a great way to pass time. And at other times, can send people down a spiral of comparison, hopelessness and sometimes even self-hate. I’ll leave it to the psychologists to tell you all the reasons you should keep your social media time to a minimum, but with regards to finding that naive love for acting again, I highly recommend cutting back on your Facey and Insta usage. Think about this: your feed is full of actors and celebrities who’ve “made it”.
Most of them have already put in the hard yards, and continue to do so, but they rarely post pictures of this hard work in progress. All you see is the finished product – the red carpet, the film set, the dvd poster, the Netflix trailer. Makes you feel pretty shitty right? We can’t help but compare our worst self, with their best self. Our work-in-progress, with their final product. So, end the torment, and take a break from social media. Another thing you can do is re-organise your feed. What inspires you? Keep following those accounts. What makes you feel less-than? Unfollow that.
Re-phrase your goals
“To land the lead in a Netflix series, be on the cover of Teen Vogue, make $1M in 2020 and get 800,000 followers on Instagram.” These kinds of goals are certainly not going to inspire you. It’s specific, yes, but focuses on fame and fortune and kind of has nothing to do with acting at all!
The things I mentioned above are bi-products and side effects of a working actor. If fame and fortune is what you’re working towards, try something else. It won’t work. Instead of going to Instagram for inspiration, I recommend reading some biographies of working actors. Then set your goals. Goals that work are things like, “take more risks in performance”, “find the truth in every scene, monologue or character I work on”, “make meaningful connections with other actors and creatives.” I hope you can see how these types of goals are much healthier, and also instil a child-like sense of wonder and motivation when it comes to working towards them. Also think back to what made you fall in love with acting in the first place? You were naive once before, so build your goals around that.
See more films & theatre, alone
Remember when you saw that incredible film by yourself and lay awake in bed that night wired, inspired and creatively fulfilled? I can think of a few. Whilst it’s fun to see films and theatre with friends, I recommend going on a solo date once a month. Pick something challenging, or pick something comforting – doesn’t matter. Going alone can enhance and heighten the experience for you – you’re not influenced by what your friends thought and you have the time and space to come to your own opinion.
Take a break
Seems counter-intuitive, but I’ll stand by it. Sometimes taking a break from something means we can come back feeling refreshed, with a new perspective and more energy. When you’re stuck for an idea, forcing yourself to sit at a desk for 15 hours until you come up with something original, unique and awesome is certainly not going to work. Take a break. Maybe literally – go travelling, go camping, do a Cattle Drive or a meditation retreat. You could also decide to focus on some other passion of yours – maybe spend 1 month just focusing on writing music, or 1 month building up your camera assistant skills or your producing skills. Whatever it is, sometimes a healthy distraction is necessary. It can force us to see our original path from a different perspective, and make us look forward to jumping back on the bandwagon again.
Work on a piece of acting, for no reason
Pick up a monologue, or even better, a scene with a friend, and work on it for no reason. Don’t do it for a new showreel, or as a way to practice an accent, just do it because you love it. Find something that ignites your passion, a piece of writing that excites you. Learn a little bit everyday and just enjoy the process. We pursue this difficult career because deep down we love it. So do what you love!
Earlier I encouraged you to watch more great films and theatre. This is so important for actors, but so is reading. I remember when I was just starting out as an actor and reading Death of a Salesman or Long Day’s Journey into Night and being completely shaken up by the brilliance. There are still 100s of great plays out there to read, so pick one up this week! You don’t have to limit yourself to plays – enjoy poetry, novels, non-fiction and any other forms that give you creative inspiration.
Disengage with gossip
Gossip is addictive. I see it amongst actors all too often, and so I wrote an article about giving up gossip. There is no quicker way to lose your love for acting than by having coffee with cynical actors every week. Talking about who got this role, or who landed this agent, when they didn’t “deserve” it. It turns acting into a game, into a race. It takes away the love of the craft and the joy of being in performance and makes it about comparison and jealousy and resentment. Acting was none of those things when we first fell in love with it – find your back to that attitude of hope, and encouragement for yourself and others.
I promise you – the working actor, the coolest cat in town, hasn’t lost that naive love for acting. You may not be able to see it right away, but look close enough, and you’ll see the passion burning underneath. Please seek it out. Don’t give up. Stay playful.