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Stop everything you’re doing and read the following quote. Then read it again. Note the question within it. Ask that EXACT question of yourself right now. Meditate on it, picture yourself as the young poet and then answer the question as truthfully as possible. It’s all good, I’ll wait…
Ask yourself, ‘Must I do this?’ and be damn sure that the answer is yes.
It’s a question stolen from Rilke’s advice to a young poet.
The poet sends his verse to Rilke saying, ‘Are these any good?’,
And Rilke says, ‘That’s not the question the question is, must I write?’Samuel West
you answered with a no, it is not too late to redirect your time
and energies. There is absolutely NO SHAME in that. I know people who have done
exactly this. It wasn’t easy for them, but today they’re damn glad they did it.
So I implore you all to make that courageous choice. If you decide that this
career is not for you, know that in making that truthful and honourable choice
now you have saved yourself a lifetime of heartache and bitterness. With an early gear change, time is on your
side and the sky is the limit. Massive kudos to you for your honesty, bravery
However, if that answer is STILL A YES – it’s time to adapt to some real-world, post-drama school realities.
The bubble-wrap of drama school is gone. It’s over to you now. How electrifying to take your very first steps down a path that you’ve so longed to adventure down! Thanks to your training, you’re brilliantly equipped with expert knowledge on how to play a character and give voice to the voiceless. Woop woop! However…
We’re sorry to say it, but the pursuit of emotional truths don’t tend to :
– Help you face another day of selling wine in a call centre. OR…
– Put you on a bus or a train to another audition or another day of work. OR…
– Sustain you as you labour behind a till, a steering wheel or a coffee machine. OR…
– Uphold your soul when you get your billionth silent ‘No thanks’ following an audition.
Then on top of all of this, there is the immediate culture shock of suddenly being YOUR OWN BOSS. Disturbing existential questions will start to materialise quicker and quicker:
What do I do now?
How good am I?
Am I going to make it?
Why does no one seem to give a shit about me now?
Essentially you will be doing what director Robert Cohen calls ‘making and responding to your own assignments’. There are no marks or assessments out here. That drama school ‘safety net’ of knowing where you have to be and what you’re going to be doing is gone.
There is so much content out there that deals with the handling of yourself as a new creative entity in The Biz. For the new kid on the block, it can be very overwhelming. Fortunately, I’ve gone through most of it and created what is, in my opinion, the best way to approach your first year outside the wire. Like most things in this resource, it ain’t rocket science.
As an actor, you are essentially your own little start-up business. You have a boss (you), a brand (also you) and a product (your abilities and craft). So think of the first year out of drama school as a your inaugural product launch year. As part of the prep for your launch, you will need to build your brand and give it the best possible opportunity to sell itself. Now, I’m sure you’re all pre-empting where this is going and, yep, you’re going to read the ‘T’ word and the ‘G’ word in a few seconds. I know it will have been drummed into you ever since high school and even the mere mention of these words will be enough to bore you into a dribbling thousand-yard-stare. I get it, I totally get it. But, like it or not, TARGETS and GOALS are your LIFEBLOOD as a new professional. Yes, you may scream and thump the table with your heavily marked-up Cherry Orchard script: “I’m an artist, dammit, not an account manager! I didn’t break my back in Chekhov scenes just to draw up marketing projections and business models!”
Take it from me and every other pair of eyes that have scrutinised this material: The only way you are going to be able to make the long haul, is if you have TARGETS and GOALS to give you A SENSE OF DIRECTION.
Creating a sense of direction is THE MOST CRITICAL STEP you will ever make in beginning and sticking around for the long haul. This is because targets and goals allow you to visualise the steps required across each day to achieve your ultimate goals. They will keep you active, proactive, engaged, inspired and excited. Without them, you leave yourself adrift in a horrible sea of uncertainty and willingly relinquishing what little control you could have had to the winds of chance.
As you begin your first year out, all new grads automatically split into two camps:
- Those who look about them, roll up their sleeves and start figuring out what they’re going to tackle first.
- Those who, due to fear of failure or pure laziness, will happily sit around smoking pot, dual-perusing Netflix and social media, getting drunk, buying crap they can’t afford and don’t need, aimlessly drifting from casual position to casual position and waiting for things to just ‘happen to them’.
The actors who work forever are the actors who work harder than anybody else. Rarely do things just ‘happen’ to people, and even then I would be highly sceptical about how much of that was due to ‘pure luck’ (whatever the hell that is). Nearly always there will be some measurable unit of action- big or small- that was taken by the actor in question.
Now, trust me when I say thatI’ve tried to limit excessive amounts of emotionally charged language in this resource, but please indulge me for a fleeting moment…
Regarding those who identify with Category #2 above :NO. NO, NO, NOOOOOOOOO!!! DOWN with the stereotype of the disorganised, lazy actor! DOWN with sinking your career before it’s even started! DOWN with inaction and self-sabotage! It’s NOT good enough, people! Actors all, this is your call to arms: VALUE yourself and your ability. REFUSE point-blank to kowtow to this horribly destructive cycle of laziness and fear of failure! You and your career are worth so much more than a token effort and deserve the best start you can muster. End Rant. Ta, I feel better now.
Back to goals. Heard of a bloke called George T. Doran? In 1981, he created an acronym called S.M.A.R.T that provides a handy little way of assessing the quality of your individual goals. Each letter corresponds to a critical trait in your chosen goal:
S – Specific (The goal is not vague or wishy washy)
M – Measurable (You have a way of assessing your progress towards the goal)
A – Achievable (The goal can actually be completed)
R– Realistic (The goal doesn’t involve progressing via illogical leaps)
T– Time-Based (The goal is held accountable to multiple due-dates)
Good-quality goals will tick all the boxes. Dodgy ones will tick less than 5. A single missing trait will see your Jenga tower crash at some point, so make sure any goal is 100% watertight. Next, is the concept of ‘Macro vs. Micro’. Macro means ‘large’, micro means ‘small’. Therefore, I’ll assume the terms macro-goal and micro-goal are pretty self explanatory.
EXAMPLE OF EFFECTIVE GOAL SETTING:
- Actor graduates.
- Actor thinks about what they want to achieve now that they’ve graduated.
- Actor creates the goal of staging a play within six months.
- Actor runs that goal through the S.M.A.R.T frameworkand tweaks a few things
- Actor now has the watertight macro-goal of staging a play within six months.
- Actor now creates a list of smaller micro-goals that will, collectively, allow them to achieve their macro-goal.
- Actor runs each micro-goal through the S.M.A.R.T frameworkand tweaks a few things
- Actor starts toward first micro-goal and is off to a damn good start in their first year out
In more actorish terms, this approach
allows you to break down your super objective into the smallest
‘act-able’ unit of action. From here, it’s a matter of stepping forward to the
next smallest unit of action, each subsequent step bringing you closer to your
super objective. Who knew acting school would prep you so well for effective
So, it’s now over to you. Whether it is a 1 year plan, a 5 year plane or even a 10 year plan, grab your phone (or a pencil and paper if you we born prior to 1990) and start thinking about where you want to go in The Biz. Keep things S.M.A.R.T. Create that all-important sense of direction that will keep your motivation burning white-hot; no matter how many glass ceilings you may encounter. After all…
A goal without a plan is just a wish.Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
LONG HAUL LIFE SAVERS:
- Networking = Thumbs Up.
Whilst it is not the number one skill to have as a new grad, it isn’t going to hurt you to exploit your status as a ‘new entity’ in The Biz by leveraging it in the right place at the right time. Now is a great time to get your face around town and make a good impression (see the section called The Eternal Commandments for important tips). Some of us are born networkers, others avoid it like the plague. Either way, start thinking about how you’re going to create networking opportunities for yourself. Utilise the wider interwebs (YouTube, Google Books, etc…), libraries (even more free reads), other online resources and industry mentors to up-skill where you need to.
- Beware the ‘skewed view of self’
Because you’ve been in the artificial environment of the ‘creative training hothouse’, chances are that you have been cast in either one particular type of role or a whole slurry of different types of role. In either case, it is very easy to end up with a skewed view of what you ‘play’ when you enter The Biz. This is a well-known hangover effect of drama schools and does not reflect the reality of the industry. So, fear not, you won’t be playing a 74-year-old Russian aristocrat (not for a long time, anyway) and, no, you won’t be playing a 15-year-old girl from the slums of Mumbai. Unless of course this is literally you, and even then someone else may get the role (see sections below on Rejection and Typecasting).
- Be careful with interstate or international moves.
This is a warning to grads who have just made any kind of interstate or international move. Any failures or challenges that you experience tend to be magnified when isolated and far from your standard support systems (family, mates and friends). Ensure that you create new safety nets for yourself (see the sections entitled Creating and Joining Professional Development Groups and Your Creative Growth).