Nothing worse than long periods of no work, right? No self-tapes, no auditions, your agent’s portrait showing up on a carton of milk… Here at StageMilk, we understand completely. But we also know that quiet stretches are a great time to get stuff done. So in this article, we’ll be looking at constructive things to do when your acting career is quiet.
Dry work spells are common in any actor’s career. Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do when your acting career is quiet that can prime you for future work and opportunities. It is the opportune time to develop new and existing skills, expand your artistic knowledge, or even simply recharge your batteries before the chapter.
Before we dive into what to do when your acting career is quiet, it’s worth clarifying that this article isn’t about remedying the lack of auditions or jobs. There are, for example, things you can do if you feel you’re not getting enough auditions. This page is about preparing for the inevitable—those slow times which can easily break an actor unused to stepping off the merry-go-round.
Check your Actor’s Toolkit
This article was written in the depths of the dreaded month of January. It’s a quiet time of year, when many actors are questioning their choices )or perhaps their acting career altogether.) Our first piece of advice in this famously quiet period is always to spend time looking at your actor’s toolkit: headshots, resume, showreel, casting profile.
Does your headshot need updating? Is it time for a “new year, new me” scenario? How about your resume: does it reflect the work you did last year? Is it ready to be seen by a casting director or potential agent? The showreel is a larger commitment, and one we’ll speak about in greater detail below. But slow seasons are the perfect time to ensure that your means of being seen in the industry are up-to-date and looking swish.
Update your Showreel
In the last five years, we’ve seen two truths about showreels emerge. One: they are the best, most direct way to promote yourself, and can achieve this for you from the comfort of your home. And two: showreels are no longer about excerpts from short films or tv commercials—they are about showcasing you doing short scenes in front of a blank background. Also from the comfort of your home. What do these truths mean? That it’s harder than ever to make excuses for not having a polished, professional showreel ready to go.
Far too many actors have showreels that are either outdated or non-existent. When your acting career is quiet, take that time to update (or simply create) your showreel. Keep it short, keep it punchy. Find that connection and warmth. Get to it!
Work on Self-Taping
When your acting career is quiet, take the time to focus on upping your self-tape game—priming yourself for whatever job comes to you next. Self-taping is one of those actorly skills you will never stop working on. There’s always another way of shooting, another interpretation of the scene in question. The advantage of working on self-taping in slow periods is that you normalise the process for when a professional job prospect lands on your desk.
Self-taping can be done at home with a reading partner, enough lighting and your phone’s camera. However, if you’re looking for a little more professional guidance, why not try out our StageMilk Scene Club and get feedback from industry figures on every submission?
Take an Acting Class
When your acting career is quiet, it’s a great time to examine the way you approach your craft. Consider taking an acting class, either in person or online. You can develop your skills, practice scene work and audition technique—maybe even dip your toe into a practice totally unknown to you, such as clowning or mask work!
Even when you are going for work and booking professional gigs, acting classes are a vital part of your career as an artist. After all: you need to keep yourself challenged and growing. So a quiet period is the perfect time to instil such a process and thought pattern into your regular routine.
Invest in New Skills
Ever wanted to learn the trombone? How to sketch? Fence? Prep a kick-ass tiramisu? When your acting career is quiet, consider learning a new skill separate to your craft as a performer. The skill may not directly help you book the next job (unless you’re auditioning for the role of a swashbuckling dessert chef) but the artist’s life is about variation and consuming of knowledge.
That being said, you might find yourself pleasantly surprised by how a new skill can come in handy. Picking up the guitar could get you singing. Singing might get you playing in a musical or cabaret. Doing a stint at an improv class could lead to teaching young artists—which pays surprisingly well and gets you out of the hospo grind.
Support Your Creative Community
If you find yourself with time to spare, why not look for ways to lift up your artistic peers? Can you help a friend prep for an audition? Can you teach somebody how to improve their self-tape game (with all that practice you’ve been doing?) If you know a writer or a director, perhaps they need help in a devising workshop for a new project?
It can be tough to see people around you working and moving while you’re feeling static. Jealousy is an unattractive quality, even though it comes for us all. So remind yourself that one of us succeeding can elevate us all. We’re all in this together, and you never know who might be in a position to give you a break down the line due to something nice you did for them in the past.
See Some Theatre
Do it. Go to a live theatre show. Spend too much money on a ticket to the best show in town. Spend the price of a house red and see some strange fringe monstrosity. Catch student theatre, catch any theatre you can. Actors owe their very existence to the long tradition of live theatre performance; it’s the best place to hone your skills and build your network of peers. So take some of that free time and invest back into the form that made you.
Be a student in a theatre show: analyse what works, what fails, what was ambitious? Here’s a good question: what you have done differently/more/better? When you go to the theatre as an actor, you’re not just an audience member. You are there to learn from your colleagues, to absorb the work of others. And then take those learnings into the next acting job!
Ever tried writing a film? A play? A sketch or a series? When your acting career is quiet, writing is a terrific thing to do. Our industry praises multi-hyphenates, which is a fancy way of saying “artists who can do more than one thing”. Set yourself apart from your acting peers by adding something to your skillset that can not only open you up to new professional opportunities, but create new acting work for yourself.
If you have any ambitions or interest in writing, pick up a pen, open a Google doc and go for it. Don’t worry about training or fancy software or some fountain pen forged in a volcano. Writing is a great thing to self develop because it’s free. All it takes is some time and effort, and you’ll be well on your way.
Listen, Read, Watch
Good actors are literate when it comes to art. If you want to be taken seriously, you need to know your Shakespeare from your Simone, your Kandinsky from your Kipling, your Pollock from your Peele. If your acting career is quiet, spend some time absorbing films, books, artworks, music. You can hit up the canon—the classics—but don’t forget the rebels and low-taste-makers as well. Just be sure to diversify and step beyond your usual tastes.
Much like our advice on going to see theatre: be an active participant when you consume art or media. Don’t glaze over, watch ten seasons of Drag Race and kid yourself it’s for your art. Engage with what you listen, read and watch critically. What can you learn? How might what you see inform/inspire your own work as an artist or actor?
If you’ve done everything else on this list, or nothing we’ve mentioned feels quite right, it might be a good time to tune out and recharge your batteries. Relax. Take a time out while you can and focus on something else: work, family, relationships, hobbies, nothing at all.
Actors, like any artist, suck at relaxing. They’re all filled with the innate desire to hustle, to upskill, to make the next milestone. Given how important it is to switch off and recharge, relaxation is actually a skill you need to develop. If you’ve got one week off between two huge jobs, you must learn how to take that time for yourself, otherwise you head into burnout territory.
Take quiet spells in your career as the opportunity to practice relaxation and mindfulness. And trust us when we say that far too few people in our industry will tell you how important this really is.
There you have it: ten suggestions on what to do when your acting career is quiet. Quite a lot to get done, isn’t there? Perhaps this is the biggest takeaway we can hope to impart you with at the bottom of this article. For an actor with drive and work ethic, there’s really no such thing as “quiet” parts of their career. There are times when you work less, absolutely. But choosing what you do with those times is what separates the great from the good.
Whatever you end up doing with these times, don’t forget to do it with a good attitude and take plenty of breaks. Sooner or later, that phone is going to ring. And you’ll want to be in top shape for what might be a truly life-changing opportunity.