by Emily Grace
I’ll let you in a secret…when it comes to your acting success, thinking like an actor is probably stalling your career.
How can this be, you may be wondering. I’m an ACTOR. That is my job. How can thinking like an actor be stopping me from BEING an actor?
Well, my friend, I’ve got some news for ya that you may not want to hear. But, just like a bandaid, we might as well just rip this thing off quick and get it over with.
If you don’t have the auditions, bookings, clout, opportunities or financial security you want from your acting career, than being an actor is not your job.
Your job is to be a producer.
Now – you may literally be a producer of your own content, but you don’t have to be. What I’m talking about is being a producer of results. Results like more auditions, more bookings, great connections, and ultimately getting the industry to come to you.
If that ain’t happening, but you’re spending tons of cash on acting class, improv, scene study, on-camera technique or any other class that only focuses on craft, it’s time to put on your producer hat and get serious about treating your career like a bidness.
Because none of that technique can land you a job if you can’t get in the room to show ’em what you got.
I’m going to share my trusty 7 steps to think like a producer so you can act for a living.
Let’s cover why thinking like an actor will NEVER lead to a sustainable career.
Here’s the deal. There is a time and a place when thinking like an actor is required (and will serve you very well). Places like rehearsal, auditions, or in performance.
And then there are times when thinking like an actor is really going to mess you up, and eff up your success rate.
Like when it comes to treating your career like a business, meetings, networking events, and so forth. Did you ever read “A Marriage Proposal” by Chekhov? In one of the translations this character always said “And so forth!” when he couldn’t think of anything else to say. I’ve always gotten such a kick out of thinking of “and so forth!” as an expletive. But I digress…(see, that was a prime example of how thinking like an actor can seriously derail the train).
So let’s get back to business and show you why you’re actor-brain is not the one to use on your acting business.
First of all actors are emotional creatures. Open hearted, reactionary, vulnerable, sometimes a hot mess. Great for class, performance and the audition. But you don’t want to be a hot mess when you walk into the audition waiting room. Ya know? That shit will get you tagged as crazy pants. And no one wants to hire a crazy pants. (Except maybe recently fired Oscar-producer Brett Ratner. But the douche-baggery running rampant in Hollywood is another article for another time).
How else do actors think? Very short-sighted. They look for the short-term results like landing ONE audition, or putting all their energy into getting the agent meeting. But when they actually get to the meeting, they have no idea how to handle it because they didn’t think that far ahead.
Actors tend to get mired down in obstacles like nobody’s business. But you can’t run a good business when you’re down in the self-loathing dumps.
Ever had this broken record play out in your head?
“It’s so hard to get an agent, I can’t get work with out an agent, it’s a catch-22, I didn’t book that audition, I must really suck, everyone hates me, this is never going to happen, it’s too hard I should just quit acting and wait tables for the rest of my life wah wah wah wah wah…”
You know you’ve been there. It’s an unraveling of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, and once those flood gates open all you can see is how IMPOSSIBLE this business can truly feel. But if it is truly impossible, get out now sister, because life is short and there’s no point doing something you already know cannot be done.
And if you’re not ready to give up on yourself and your dreams, then how about jumping onto the track of what is possible? Because there is always possibility if YOU believe there is (even if no one else does). And the major difference between the dreamers and the wildly successful is the willingness to show up and do the work.
Bethany Hamilton comes to mind (the ONE ARMED champion surfer). I had the pleasure of being behind the scenes with the executive producer when the film Soul Surfer, based on Bethany’s book was being distributed. If this chick can get back on the board after a shark bit her arm off and go on to become one of the best surfer’s in the world, then there is hope for you to act for a living. Just sayin, there’s hard, and there’s HARD. The difference is your attitude.
So are you ready for these steps? Let’s go then!
The 7 steps to think like a producer so you can act for a living:
1. What’s your happy ending?
Nope, I’m not talking about a funky massage parlor (get your mind out of the gutter – geez!), I’m talking about your career. Where are you heading? What specifically do you want your career to look like?
Think about when you go to the movies. Don’t you love a happy ending? Especially when it’s a well-deserved one where the underdog has to fight to get what s/he wants. You leave that theatre feeling uplifted, inspired, giddy with possibility. Good producers know that a script with a kick-ass ending is a million times more likely to get made than a script with a mediocre ending that needs a lengthy rewrite.
When it comes to your career goals – it’s up to you to get specific about what equals a happy ending. Get clarity on what kind of work YOU are most excited about. Is it film? Ok cool. So is that indie film, big budget film, action films, rom-coms, a mixture of all of the above? Are there specific directors or filmmakers you want to be hired by? The clearer you are on your specific goals, the easier it will be to make them happen.
Take Action! Imagine what you want your career to look like 3 years from now. What specifically are you working on? What accomplishments are under your belt? What is your team like? Paint a clear and specific picture based on what would give you a happy ending (not a sad one).
2. Assets and Liabilities
So let’s imagine that you have attached yourself as the “producer” of your career results. You with me? What that means is that you are now in charge of that production. And productions are formal legal entities – or in other words, they are run like a business.
And every profitable business became that way by knowing their assets and liabilities. If you don’t know what you’re good at, it’s hard to get hired for your strengths. And if you don’t know what you’re bad at, you can get in over your head.
So now that you’re in business for yourself, let’s take a cold hard look at what’s working for you (your assets) and what’s working against you (your liabilities). Keep in mind that just because something is a liability (or a disadvantage) today doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. There is always room to turn it around.
Think about your 3-year goal from step one. Now take a look at what you have in your arsenal that is already working to support that goal. These would be your assets. (To stick with the above example -let’s say feature film is the goal. And I already have an SAG card – so that would be listed among my assets.)
Now take a look at what’s missing. What do you need to address that is in the way of getting your goal? These would be your liabilities. Maybe I need to update my reel footage, or create some if I don’t have any. For a film actor, that’s a serious liability! So get clear on what’s missing or what needs to be worked on so that you can make that happy ending a reality.
Take Action! Make a list of your assets and liabilities as they relate to your happy ending goal.
3. Give it a Greenlight
When a producer gets a greenlight – it’s all systems go. Take a look at your handy dandy new list of liabilities. Which one of these can you begin to work on right now? What is going to make the most sense for you to tackle to get you closer to your happy ending?
To keep on rolling with our feature film example, the greenlight project might be to produce the reel footage. With today’s availability of amazing cameras, this is easily done. Seriouslßy, have you seen the iphone 4S camera? It’s amazing! So no overthinking it and no excuses. Remember that wearing your producer hat means you are looking for HOW you CAN, not WHY you CAN’T.
Take Action! Choose ONE liability from your list to turn into an asset. This is your greenlight. All systems GO!
4. Make a Strategic Plan
Now you know WHAT you’re working on, the question becomes HOW? How do you turn your liability into an asset? It all comes down to the plan.
No vagueries, no half baked notions, we are going to sit down and plan out step by step exactly what you’re going to do to make this happen. Just like a director creates a story board before shooting a film, we are going to plan your.
Break it down into step by step. I’m not even joking here. This may seem oversimplified, but most of us get overwhelmed in the details and things get overlooked. Literally take your greenlight project, and break it down into baby steps. That way, all you have to worry about is the next little step, and I know you can handle that.
So our greenlight project example is to create a reel. How can I break that into steps?
Step 1 Choose scene(s)
Step 2 Get a crew (director, lighting, sound, editor – whatever you decide you need)
Step 3 set a shoot date
Step 4 rehearse
Step 5 Film it
Step 6 Edit
Step 7 Upload to web
Sweet. You’re done. Nice work!
Take Action! Break your greenlight project down into a step-by-step plan. Pretend you’re explaining it to a 4th grader to keep it super simple and obvious.
5. Take Action
You did such a great job putting that plan together. Now you’ve got to put that purdy plan into action, cowgirl! Just knowing what you need to do doesn’t actually count. It’s the action-takers who make it happen.
Take Action! Well, I guess that one’s pretty redundant. But just to be clear – take your strategic plan and get going on step one!
6. Persist Persist Persist
Here’s the deal – this shit takes time. And you have to keep going to get over the hump of procrastination, obstacles, set backs, feeling crappy and wondering if it’s all going to pay off. It IS going to pay off – but only if you take action long enough for that to happen.
Do not be deterred by “No.” It happens to all of us. Even Brad Pitt gets told no sometimes. It’s not a sign from the universe that you shouldn’t be doing it. It’s just the way it goes. Any good producer knows that getting a film made is nothing short of a miracle (every single time!) and the secret sauce is in the persistence.
Keep reminding yourself of that happy ending – let your passion fuel you through the rough patches.
Take Action! Keep that plan going until your liability is an asset. Do not stop. And if you’ve stopped, pick the ball back up. You can do this. I believe in you.
7. Wrap Party
Every project ends with a wrap party – whether or not that project was “successful.” The fact that projects get made at all IS successful.
It is so important that you give yourself credit where credit is due! And I’m not talking about the times when big stuff happens. Of course you celebrate that stuff. But that big stuff only happen after a series of tiny little actions along the way. The fact that you take action at all is a HUGE DEAL.
I bet you look at the results of your actions and start getting all down on yourself. “It’s not what I expected, I should be farther along, I didn’t get what I wanted so that means I suck.” Sound familiar? It’s easy to compare where you currently are and where you want to be and find all the things wrong with that picture.
You deserve better than that. You’ve gotten this far! You’re still here! You’re going for your dream! That is big big stuff, and you are important and wonderful. So cut yourself some slack, stop beating the crap out of yourself emotionally, and celebrate all that you have done and are doing now. It’ll lead to feeling good, which will inspire you to take more action which will lead to more results.
Take Action! Make a list of the actions you have taken in the last 3 months toward your career. Wow! Look how much you did, that’s amazing! Make time this week to do something really nice for yourself. It doesn’t have to be lavish or expensive, just something that would put a smile on your face. Celebrate all that you’ve done in the service of your career, because you are awesome and you deserve that.
Emily Grace helps actors get in the driver’s seat of their career with marketing plans that get results. She is an award winning actress, a writer and producer. Want to hear more from Emily? Be sure to sign up for her weekly newsletter full of useful tools to navigate the entertainment industry at www.emilygrace.tv