The Job Today
Acting hasn’t changed, but being an actor has. Gone are the days of mailing your headshot and resume out to a casting director and waiting to be called in. Reels are now resumes, and your presence on social media can supersede your ability to perform.
It’s the wild west out there, and if you want to succeed in a business that has such a low level of genuine success, then you have to learn a new set of skills.
Now, the actor is essentially an entrepreneur, handling brand, image, sales, content, marketing, and every aspect of their company, and if you are not developing the skills of a Harvard Business graduate then unless you are bringing unrivaled hotness, which is not in short supply, or unparalleled comedic timing then you will be left behind.
There are two choices. If you want to make a career of this craft, then you have to develop these skills or be left behind. Yes, you can just focus on “the art” and make your way from one small job to the next, but if you long for any sort of lasting success, then there is a new package of skills you need.
Display What You Know
Our eyes have been hijacked. Every artist is competing with every other influencer with a phone. The local theatre company is in direct marketing competition with Key and Peele, an Instagram model, and a travel blogger who has never left the country.
It used to be that the rehearsal room stayed hidden, that actors didn’t talk about the process of finding characters. Today, people want to see the life. Today, people want to be a part of the process.
We are always on our phones and computers. We are consistently looking for content well beyond entertainment. People want to read blogs that help them understand a topic, they want to watch videos that enhance their grasp of a field.
Being an actor is no longer just about putting a performance upon the stage or waiting for hair and makeup to get you ready for the sound stage. The career has exploded out of the theatre and into the world.
Now, I am not saying that every actor needs to be an influencer, but you need to understand how the current climate works. Think about it this way. What does it take to be a successful stand-up comedian? First and foremost, you have to understand the craft. There is a rhythm, a language, an art to developing comedy. Night after night, you have to put in the work in front of an audience, and day after day, you have to spend your time crafting jokes. Furthermore, if you want to be a relevant comedian after you master those skills, people have to know you exist. Luckily today, you can share your routine on YouTube, start a podcast, or simply stay alive on Instagram and with funny videos.
If a comedian is doing all this on top of their work in front of a mic, you better believe you, as an actor, better be putting in the work.
So, on top of acting classes, reading scripts, books, and plays as well as studying cinematography, story structure, and a million other things you should be working on because you love the craft, here are the skills you need to be developing today:
Maintain Your Sanity
This business will eat at your soul. You dedicate years to learning how to perform Shakespeare better only to be passable at it, and some kid on Youtube with a million followers gets a movie a deal. So what? Life isn’t fair.
What you need more than sarcasm and tough love is a tool kit for managing these waters.
Standing out amongst the resumes.
Create content. Make movies with your friends, read audiobooks for SoundCloud, shoot social media videos, be a presence. The headshot and resume are vital, yes, but just as powerful and perhaps more so is having visible content for the world to see.
When we decide where we are going to eat, do we just pick a random restaurant and hop in an Uber? No. We look it up. We check their website, look at Yelp reviews, and compare it with other places.
When looking to hire someone for a movie or for a commercial, we want to see what they are sharing with the world. What kind of person are they, what are they presenting to the world?
Websites, YouTube channels, blogs, Instagram accounts, Twitter feeds, all of these things matter.
Reels are the new headshots. Film is so accessible today, and photos contain so much manipulation. The amount of times agents have brought someone in based on their headshot only to have a completely different person show up is astounding. You can’t hide on video. Therefore, make sure your content is available, and that it is what you want to share with the world.
What is your personal brand?
Whether we like it or not, we must understand what our brand is. No one wants to be typecast, but that is the nature of the business.
Would you trust Foldgers steaks or Jack Daniels yogurt? People are more complex than products, but in this business, we must understand what we thrive. And if we are a pro at this, then we must understand how to market and share that content.
You Are the Business
Every artist must think like a CEO. If you believe the role you want is going to be handed to you, you are wrong. Display what you know online, refine the specific brand you are projecting, and connect with the people in your industry.
The days of a black and white headshot and an 8x11 paper resume getting you in the room are fading fast if they are not already gone.
In this business:
Stop dreaming of the days, you can hire a team of people to craft this image. Stop waiting to be the actor you want to be. Start creating that company the same way you create a character.
All of these things I am practicing and trying to get better at. I waited to start working on these things. Despite being a writer, I wrote in private for the last decade. Sure, a few of my articles and essays made it onto other sites, and I wrote a play or two, but I did not spend any time building my brand, and I am starting from square one.
Yet, that’s the point. We all have to start from square one. I am practicing what I preach.
I love writing screenplays and studying the story. I love rehearsing and learning. I love being an actor. I love driving to set, living in new places for a few months while working on Shakespeare, or doing a quick shoot in NYC. I love the work.
But there is more to being a professional.
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Brock D. Vickers
This is the beginning of a new part of life: a habit: an idea: a routine to dig at what makes a man great.