Can you believe it? We made it to 2022! As a kid I thought by now we would have flying skateboards and the ability to download full screenplays directly into our neural cortexes by now, but, sadly, not. After going through two long rounds with COVID lockdowns, protests, isolation, vaccination and a chaotic re-opening period around the world it’s fair to say that the last two years probably haven’t been as productive as we all would have liked. So now, with the path relatively clear, opportunities back on the horizon and a fire in the belly to get out there and make this acting thing happen, what practical steps can you take to ensure you get out there and smash 2022 as an actor? Read on and find out!
The way to crush 2022 as an actor is to make a plan with clear goals, get your toolkit together, analyse your work and look for opportunities for improvement and create work that sparks joy and creativity in your life. This is the time to grab life by the scruff of the neck and charge into the bold unknown, confident in the skills you have and the ones you need to acquire.
Make a Plan
Planning as an actor is one of the hardest things to do, sometimes it can feel really impossible. So much of our career success depends on other people throwing opportunities our way. But the best thing you can do as an actor is to have an idea of where you want to be, where you want to go and start filling in the blanks on how to get there. It’s important to know that you can’t plan for a big break, you can only be ready for it when it comes. You can, however, plan the progressive steps it takes to move towards your end goal.
For example, if you want to be a theatre actor working off-Broadway or on the West End but you have never done a play before, then you need to start somewhere. Getting involved in community theatre, doing some theatre training at a reputable institution, thinking about going to study at a great drama school and looking to do an indie theatre show at a good theatre by the end of the year makes a lot of sense. You can see how incremental the process is here, it is a process and it takes time but there are steps there you can plan out to give yourself direction and purpose.
Similarly, if you want to work in Film and TV but have little to no experience. Placing your hopes and dreams on being ‘discovered’ is no way to run a career. You need to take practical steps to move forward towards your goals! If you want to be a series regular on a Netflix show (number one, get in line!) Then you need to be a really good actor! Look for great film acting schools and training in your area and jump into a class! If there is nothing around you, then think about jumping into an online program that can help you get where you want to go. Shameless plug here for the StageMilk Scene Club. It’s a great way to learn screen acting techniques online, with awesome staff and a crazy amount of resources. Worth a look – just saying.
Back to my larger point. If your goal is to work in film and TV then you need experience, an agent who really supports you, an up to date tool kit and some really good skills in front of the camera. Working your way up from student short films, into independent shorts and features into small roles on TV into bigger roles in Film and TV. Ask yourself, where on that journey you are and what steps you need to take to get to the next level? It might be getting an agent, upgrading your agent, expanding your network, getting proper training or improving your skills. Have a look at your work and your CV and think critically about how you can take what you have so far and grow it into something great.
Tool Kit Check-up
The actor’s tool kit is a shorthand we started using here at StageMilk to encompass the key calling cards for an actor. Simply put, it’s the combination of your headshot, showreel and CV. The combination of these factors is what you will find on every casting website from Actors Access to Showcast to Starnow to Spotlight. These elements are the key to getting cast in everything from student films to HBO and, if they aren’t up to scratch, frankly you are dead in the water. The unfortunate news is every one of these elements is going to cost you money in some shape or form, so just be prepared for that! Now we have written about each of these elements at length across StageMilk but I am going to do a cheeky little re-cap for you just to remind you of the deal.
The first place to start is with your headshot.
Does it look like you? Seriously. Is your hair, facial hair, piercing situation and eye colour the same as in your headshot? If you look drastically different you probably need an update. We have a great article on the ins and outs of headshots here: The Complete Guide to a Great Headshot written by actor and headshot photographer, Indiana Kwong.
Do you look great? Does your headshot represent who you are and the types of roles you usually get cast as? Take me for example – I get repeatedly cast as nerds and best friends – why? Because I am a big ol’ nerd who plays 3 games of Dungeons and Dragons a week, played slap bass in high school and I build my own computers. I’m also a little intense (in a good way! I swear!) but that intensity also means I get cast as the occasional bad guy. So my headshot looks like this:
Now, this was taken by Sally Flegg back in 2019 and it is on the top of my to-do list to replace it! I have a radical beard now and need new headshots to reflect my new appearance. I really liked Sally’s photo of me and will be using her again. Check out our lists of Sydney, LA Melbourne, NY and London headshot photographers to find a legend near you!
This is the big one. Your showreel is so important. We have written so many articles on how to get this right it is silly – so before we continue, let me hit you with some required reading:
- Ultimate Showreel guide: Essential reading. If you have a question about showreels we can guarantee we answer them in this article! 10/10 check it out!
- Does Your Showreel Suck?: Andrew’s in-depth guide to the common problems with showreels. We watch hundreds of peoples reels and give them feedback every month and so often we see the same problems over and over again. Read that article to get the lowdown!
- Showreel Alternatives: Don’t have the cash to make a proper reel? Lack of professional credits? This article is for you. Also, check out my guide to a sizzle reel
Similar to your headshot, your showreel has to represent YOU! The truth of screen acting is this:
‘No one wants to see you acting. We want to see you – actually you – genuinely experiencing a moment under imaginary circumstances. We want to see how you – again, actually you – would react under those circumstances. Not you pretending or showing or controlling anything. Ever’
Actors often get confused by the many voices out there telling them they need to be one way or another, show their range or their brand etc. The thing that will set you free is that you are ALREADY the character – you are already, the brand! You are unique and interesting and iconic – we want to see you, really you – under the given circumstances of the scene. So your showreel should be a selection of scenes that best showcase who you really are!
Your reel should be three of these scenes, around a minute long each, edited together to be a 3-4 minute total video. No montages, no music, no jump cuts, no crazy stuff. 3 scenes, minute-long each, with your best, most authentic, most powerful work first. Make sure you read those articles above!
Your CV should be clearly laid out with all of your credits, training and experience. It should be chronological, easy to read and if you like, divided into sections for each type of work. The credits should have the type of credit, the year it was released, the director, the name of the piece and the role you played. It should be clear, well presented and easy to read as well as clearly showcasing your experience and talent.
Don’t fluff it out with tonnes of irrelevant information. Your childhood dance experience or touring magic show in the nineties probably isn’t relevant. Give us a clear picture of who you are, your experience and what you can offer as an actor. Check out our in-depth guide here.
Analyse Your Work
If there is one thing actors nearly universally hate doing, it’s watching their own work back. Nearly every actor I coach or work alongside says the same thing ‘Oh god! Please don’t make me watch my work back! It’s the worst! So cringe!’ I firmly believe this is a feeling actors have got to move past in order to improve. Yes watching your work back can be difficult, but I think it’s also important to figure out WHY you hate watching it back, it is usually one of three voices:
- Ego – I am better than this kind of script, it’s the writing that’s the problem that’s why the scene isn’t working, I don’t need to change it’s the work that needs to change.
- Patriarchy – I look terrible, this that and the other is wrong with me, no one is ever going to employ me looking the way I do – I should be x,y and z.
- Capitalism – If I am not making money out of doing this, after all the time and cash I have put in so far, then I am a failure. It has to be financially worthwhile. Success means money and nothing else.
There can obviously be other things at play here, but predominantly (in my experience) the narratives that hold actors back from examining their own work centre around one of those three voices. My encouragement to you is, start to notice which voice is running the show for you, isolate it, put it in a bag, fill the bag with concrete and throw it in the river. You need to be able to watch your work back analytically and identify areas you can improve.
For example, are your eyelines in the right spot? Do you know your lines properly? Are you listening to the other person in the scene? Are you using imagery? Are you allowing yourself to feel the emotions of the scene? Are you allowing genuine spontaneous action to occur? Is your work the very best it can be and if not what changes can you make to improve it? Again getting someone who really knows their stuff to take a look at your work and offer constructive feedback is essential in your growth as an artist and that is exactly what we do at the StageMilk Scene Club.
Create Work That Sparks Joy!
To misquote Marie Kondo, find the acting work in your life that sparks your creative joy! Read plays that interest you, by great writers that inspire you! Go and watch some theatre, see the good stuff, see bad stuff, see things you like and things you don’t and importantly work out why you don’t like them! Work on critical analysis of film and TV too, when you are watching your favourite streaming service show, and a great moment happens take a second to think about why it was effective. Was it the writing, the direction, the emotion, the performance, the score, the CGI? What made it great?
Think about bringing some people together and making something that sparks joy too! It could be a short film, a feature, a play or even just a reading. Getting together with other creatives and finding community is one of the best ways to expand your network of contacts, engage that creative spirit and work on your craft all at the same time. We have some great resources on the website about writing a short film, a one-person show and how to network like a normal person. All of this will help you on your journey as an actor, and may inspire you to add more strings to your bow like directing, writing or producing. At the very least you might make some new friends and really, isn’t that what it is all about?
So there you have it folks, if you want to crush 2022 start by working out what you want, make a step by step plan on how to get there, look critically but kindly at your own work and find ways to improve, make sure your toolkit is in order and start thinking about ways you could create something with likeminded people to really bring people together and showcase your work! Good luck in 2022 you guys, I cant wait to see you all on screens and stages in the future!