Maintaining an Acting Career Post-Pandemic
Yeah, everything kinda sucks right now – I feel ya. But hopefully this little think piece might help you to see the bright side of all the suffering and stress in the world right now.
First up: always, always, always prioritise your health. An acting career should never come before your own health and safety, no matter what. It’s great to be ambitious and passionate – but not to the extent of putting yourself in harms way. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s look at how we can maintain an acting career and a healthy spirit during Covid-19.
The light at the end of the tunnel
Although we don’t know when exactly, this too shall pass. Humans are incredibly resilient, resourceful and responsive. We will do whatever it takes to overcome the hurdle that is Covid-19. We’re already seeing some big shifts in the post-pandemic world – the creative industry is suffering on a logistical and financial level. But since when did creatives simply give up when they were presented with a challenge? Well, never! In fact, creativity often thrives under pressure and within boundaries. Creatives are great at adapting and leaning in to a challenge, instead of shying away from it, or dancing around it.
In the past 2 weeks I have watched one of my best friends perform in a Live Streamed Musical, I’ve seen a new television series written, filmed and launched via Zoom and StageMilk has seen over 2500 self-tapes submitted by it’s members since February. 2500!!! So, whilst there are still some HUGE roadblocks standing in our way, that does not mean we should crawl under the doona and wait for a vaccine. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, I promise.
But what does that light look like? What will the film and theatre industry look like post-Covid? Well, no one knows for sure, but we have a few armchair theories…
#1 The industry has suffered financially, and it’s going to need to bounce back somehow. Government funding would be nice, but that’s not guaranteed. There will always be the demand for content, but I suspect that there will be less risk-taking for a while. It’s likely that we’ll see a smaller pilot season, and instead, new series for already popular shows. We’ll see more book adaptations, movie remakes and comic-book superheroes. Most of us will probably want something safe, inspiring and comforting to watch for a while.
#2 Independent filmmaking will hopefully surge and rise! A lot of creatives have been stuck at home, marinating wonderful story ideas, and we hope that we’ll see a lot of independent, risky, unique and challenging content released in 2021 and beyond. They may not have a lot of money to make it happen, but I doubt that will stand in their way.
#3 Online content will prevail and thrive! Straight-to-stream content such as webseries and short films will be pumped out through whatever platform will take them! These productions often require less man-power and woman-power, which make them cheaper and safer to produce. This is a great opportunity for entry-level filmmakers to make their ideas come to life.
#4 Theatres will take a long time to recover. This is sad, but true. It is no longer safe to have 1000 seat theatres, let alone 100 seat theatres. It will be a while before we can enjoy a Sunday night at the theatre, and production companies and venues will need to come up with some serious strategies in order to survive. This might mean that actors will perform in a theatre, and audiences will watch a live stream from the comfort and safety of their own home. Creatives will need to think of a way for this to be financially viable, but also still entertaining!
#5 Auditioning in the room will be less frequent. We are seeing this a lot already with most auditions taking place as self-tapes.
#6 More local content. The industry over the last 20 years has become increasing international. I think we will see entire economies going more local. So understanding your own industry and telling local stories will be a big part of all our futures.
#7 Activism and content with strong messages will prevail. Activism is on the rise from climate change to social inequalities. We will likely see more content that has a strong message and call to action. Shows about drunk men hanging out will continue to be shelved for more political content.
One thing is for sure – we are ALL going to need to lend a helping hand to get our own industry back up and running. So, humble actor, what can you do to help? Instead of hitting pause on our acting career, and waiting for the phone to ring, here’s how you can gear up for post-Covid creative industry:
#1 Oil Change
It’s probably been a while since you last auditioned, read a script, or put down a self-tape, right? Well, to further extrapolate on this car metaphor, it’s time to change your engine oil. To get back in the saddle, to grease the chain… you get the idea. Here’s my simple, tried and true method for getting better at acting.
- Put down 1x self-tape per fortnight. (or even 1x per week if you’re feeling ambitious!)
That’s it! The only way to get better at acting is by bloody doing it – so pick a script, it can literally be anything! Make it fun and make it challenging. Get a friend to read for you over Zoom or over the phone, or work on some monologues instead. But the important thing is that you make a commitment to yourself, and you stick to it. I recently decided to put down 1x self-tape per week with a neighbour. We met up every week, put down a scene each, sent them to our agents and uploaded to Vimeo. And we both were shocked at how rusty we felt initially, and also how amazing we felt after 6 weeks of this ritual! If you’re like me, and you struggle with self-confidence – this regular self-taping will be a serious game-changer! So read the rest of this article, and then go put down a tape!
(You can also join our online scene club if you need a kick up the butt/helping hand!)
#2 New Tyres
I don’t know about you guys, but the busier I get, the more time I spend working, and the less time I spend working OUT. Exercise is a huge part of my life, and some weeks I just completely neglect it. But, since Covid, I’ve made a commitment to put my health and wellbeing at the forefront. This will look different for every single one of you – some of you might want to learn how to do a handstand, run 6km every morning, get 6 packs, 8 packs or 10 packs! It’s completely up to you – but I encourage you all to use this downtime to get in shape, and to be healthy. And this includes vocal and physical warm ups. As performers, our bodies are our instruments and they need regular tuning up. Remember those daily voice warm up’s you’ve always wanted to do but never had the time? Well – you’ve really got no excuses now!
Here’s an actor’s workout that will warm up the body, voice and mind!
#3 New Skills
(Yeah, I’ve run out of car metaphors)
There’s a lot that feels like it’s out of our control now, so instead, focus only on what is WITHIN your control. Take this opportunity to learn new skills! I’ll mention a few ideas to get you started…
- Learn to write: this is first on my list for a reason – now, more than ever, actors need to take even more responsibility for their own careers. Pre-Covid you couldn’t just wait for the phone to ring, or your inbox to buzz, and you still can’t. You are creative, and I’m sure you’ve got a story or an idea floating around in that wonderful brain of yours. Put pen to paper, and see what happens. Worst-case scenario? You write a wonderful story.
- Learn to produce: this is 2nd on my list, because once you’ve written a story, you’ll need to learn the skills to bring that script to life. Whether it’s a short film, a play, musical or webseries, I imagine you’d like to share your work with the world! So learn what it takes to produce, and get started. Producing is mostly learning on the job – and in this new pandemic-world, everyone’s making it up as they go! Even if you can’t physically shoot your story until after restrictions ease, you can use this time to prepare, prepare, prepare! My favourite quote: “Time spent in reconnaissance is NEVER wasted.”
Additional reading: How to Make your Own Work
- Accents! Learn or brush up on your accents! It’s a global industry, and I’m sure you’d all like to work and travel the world at the same time. You’ll need to master a few accents in order to do that! If you haven’t at least nailed the General American and/or Standard Southern British accents, you’d better hop to it! Once you’ve got those two down, you can diversify and start learning those fun accents you’ve always wanted to! For me, it’s Irish. Hehehe
#4 Perfect Your Self-Tapes
These days, pretty much all casting is done via self-tape. And whilst in some areas, restrictions might ease, I can tell you now that self-taping is going to be a huge part of your acting life moving forward in this post-pandemic world. So, you’ll need to get REALLY good at it if you want to succeed. Crinkly sheets, traffic noises and out-of-focus self-tapes are simply not acceptable. It’s a tough industry and actors will not be able to get away with sub-par self-tapes anymore. No matter how great of an actor you are, if your self-tape is blurry, eye lines are all over the place and your dog’s barking in the background – you won’t be booking any jobs. We’ve got a great self-tape guide available here. If you need to invest in new equipment, then that is something to seriously consider. If money is tight, split the cost with friends, or find hacks to achieve professional quality self-tapes for a fraction of the price.
Click here for self-tape equipment guides for both small and larger budgets.
#5 Explore New Content Avenues
Come on creatives, get creative! Don’t give up – how can you continue to create, to produce and to express yourself post-Covid? Think outdoor theatres and performance spaces, interactive experiences, online straight-to-stream content, smartphone filmmaking, social media content, Zoom musicals, Instagram Live etc. etc. Think outside the box now, because the box is gone and we need to reinvent the wheel a bit here. Are you going to sit by, and wait for the world to tell you how you can be creative, or will you forge ahead and find your own path?
So there you have it – some practical ways to help you get prepared for post-Covid-19. The most important thing I’ve learnt from this pandemic is that I can take absolutely nothing for granted. It has made me more ambitious, more grateful, more accepting and I’m also super-ripped now, so there’s that too…
So change those tyres, oil that engine, and do whatever it takes to remain sane and keep creating during the chaos. Be the change that you want to see in the world, and remember that this too shall pass.
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