Life, work, family, fortune, tragedy, chance, change: there are many reasons that you may find yourself taking a break from acting. Often, it’s a difficult thing to reckon with—such reasons are seldom within your control, and the feeling of ‘losing time’ in pursuing one’s goals can be quietly devastating. But once your situation stabilises, there is no reason that you shouldn’t consider returning to acting and pursuing your passion for the craft afresh. You may even find the process invigorating! If you are looking to return to acting after a (long) break, be comforted by the fact that there are many positive things you can do to get back on stage or screen. Technology, social networking, the self-tape era and the glut of work in the Streaming Age can all function in your favour; while you may find yourself ‘starting over’ in some respects, you can also use your return to acting as the opportunity to re-brand and rethink the kind of performer you are. Don’t be disheartened: get excited!
When you return to acting after a break, the first thing you’ll need to do is to sort through any material you’d use to market yourself and determine what should be replaced or removed.
They should be current, reflecting your actual look/age and not how you did when you last worked. Nothing will drop you off a casting director’s radar quicker than a misleading headshot they’re unable to believably sell. It’s also worth noting that certain styles of headshot go out of style; look around to see what’s fresh, and who is taking the best pictures of performers nowadays. New headshots are not only important tool, but will give you a self-esteem boost as you get to meet the new version of yourself you’re putting out there!
Check out our Complete Guide to a Great Headshot for more info.
These can be effective marketing tools, but as with your headshot they should reflect the actor you are, not were (there is more on this subject in the following two dot points). Link your website to Facebook and Instagram, and if you are not yet present on these platforms as an actor, establish a professional presence on each. Do not just re-purpose your personal profile. Create an acting page and manage it separately, publishing material relevant to your practice.
Check out our Ultimate Guide to Social Media for Actors for more info.
Resumes are generally in need of a retool when you return to acting after a break. Update your information, and remove any skill-sets you are no longer confident in performing (horse riding, fencing, skateboarding, sitar). You should also remove older credits so that your CV doesn’t look as though you’re trying to sell yourself on past achievements.
Check out Writing an Acting Resume for more info.
Showreel rules are more of the same: clips of you twenty/thirty years ago tend to look more as though you just haven’t worked since and you’re clinging to the past. Stick with a few short pieces of you from more recent projects—even if they lack the production value of older, more impressive credits. Remember to sell yourself as you are now, than what you used to be. There is definitely a market for one, and definitely not one for the other.
Check out our Ultimate Showreel Guide for more info.
This is something we speak about a lot on StageMilk, and there are plenty of articles you can look at on this site for more in-depth guidance. But just in case this is your first visit: the age of the self-tape is upon us. Invest some time and money in your home set-up: cordon off the corner of a room with an unobtrusive background and plenty of light. Your camera phone should suffice, as long as the picture and sound is clear. Get used to filming self-tapes, as this will be a big part of putting yourself out there in the contemporary industry.
Of all the steps you’ll need to take, re-branding often the most difficult as it concerns itself with the previous chapter of your career. Start getting used to letting go of things you have long held as indicators of status, achievement or credibility. It’s time to start looking forward…
2. Connect with the Community
As mentioned above, social media is a powerful tool for actors these days. However, your presence on sites like Facebook and Instagram shouldn’t be exclusively geared towards self-promotion. Join actor-centric groups and contribute: talk to people and make connections with like-minded performers in your city. Online groups are also great places to find acting opportunities. These are generally smaller, unpaid roles, but they can provide some contemporary resume credits and material for your (new) showreel.
3. Seek Representation
This step requires focus and research. Sending your new resume and headshots to agencies can be very beneficial, but know who you’re approaching and have an idea in mind as to why they might take you. Look through their books online and ask yourself: “Do they have somebody like me already?” Smaller, boutique agencies are worth reading up about as their pool of actors is less likely to include ‘one of you’ already; if you know any actors represented there, get in touch and ask about how their experience has been. Just think twice before asking about an intro directly. This can put everybody involved in an awkward position, and burn bridges down the line.
Approach an agent with a headshot, CV and a clear cover letter. Regardless of what is said, don’t take it personally. You may find yourself approached by them at a later time after you explore other career options.
Check out our article on Getting an Acting Agent for more info.
4. Take a Class
Setting aside all of the marketing and branding and talking-by-the-water-cooler business, the most important aspect of returning to acting is getting yourself comfortable with the actual acting part again! One of the best ways to do this is to take an acting class: something part-time, a refresher course, or perhaps a showreel course that promises a video of you looking and sounding good at the end of it.
Acting classes are not just for students and young people; they are a terrific way of brushing up your skills and re-building your confidence. They can also be places where you start to interact with other performers and build new circles in your creative community. As a veteran of the craft, you may find that your role in the class becomes that of a mentor; this is beneficial in its own way, as teaching something is always a surefire sign that you know it well, yourself.
Find an acting class using our Acting Classes Near Me page.
5. General Auditions
Once you are ready, seek out general auditions with theatre companies in your city. Generals are a great way of putting yourself back on the map and making the industry aware of your work (or the results of your re-brand). Don’t expect to be cast straight away—consider them more as an investment you can make for when you wish to pursue opportunities with that company down the line.
We have a tonne of information about Auditioning across our site.
6. Talk to Schools
Drama schools and, in particular, film schools are often looking for actors to appear in graduate projects and showcases. Contact heads of departments and put your details forward to perform: you may find yourself in student films (providing excellent showreel material at no personal cost) or acting in readings/grad shows with talent who are just about to enter the industry. The students behind these—the next generation of writers and directors—will be full of potential, brimming with energy and lacking non-theatre-school contacts that ‘legitimise’ them. If you older than twenty-five, odds are you will be one of the more mature performers they have ever cast: there is an immense demand for older actors in the work of younger grads, who don’t wish to populate their production of Death Of A Salesman with a collection of recent grads who look like they belong on a soap. Your age can be an asset. Go seek out the places that agree with this statement.
We have a List of Acting Schools if you’re struggling to find one near you.
7. Redefine Your Worth
While there are many things you can do to facilitate a return to acting, there is no guarantee that it will be an easy process—let alone a successful one. Often, even a short break in one’s career can be demoralising—robbing you of your confidence, your sense of purpose and legitimacy as a performer. When you return to acting after a longer hiatus, make it a priority to redefine what you are worth. You are not worth less because you chose (or had) to step away from acting. You are certainly not worth less now that you are older, or have less credits than your contemporaries. Keep yourself focused on the potential of this new-and-improved you: hit the scene refreshed, reinvented and better than ever. You are chasing the exact same things you did now that you did starting out. This time you have age and experience on your side! Add self-confidence to that mix and you will be unstoppable in this new chapter and return to form. Good luck. And welcome back.
Want more? Check out our article on How to Fall in Love With Acting Again and re-inspire yourself!