By: Jess Canty
As many of you have noticed - the business is getting back up on its feet. TV especially, but I was heartened to see that Cinematographers are also feeling upbeat about working within the new safety protocols.
This is all great news!
So how do we best capitalize on this moment?
From what I am hearing and seeing when I talk to other managers and agents is that this last 6 months of no work seems to have caused a couple of issues among their rosters, and I want to address them here so that you can help yourself avoid falling into these traps.
ARE YOU THIRSTY?
I am sure many of you are.
We've been wandering in the desert - quite literally - where there has been no possibility of any real work for months. It is understandable that this would be a cause for some serious creative thirst.
The problem is - it is the death of good acting and to casting looks like a mirage - all hot and wavy.
I have long likened the audition process to dating. We all have seen (or sometimes even been) that person who so desperately wants to be in a relationship that you can just feel it on them. They are trying SO hard. They aren't being their authentic selves on that first date because they want to please the other person so badly in the hopes that companionship will follow. This always fails - and it is why the old adage that these things happen "when you are least looking for them" is always true.
The acting equivalent of this is that audition that you "thought was terrible" is the one you booked. Casting directors are EXPERT at reading behavior. That is literally their job. And your thirst for auditions, callbacks, and bookings is not going to be helpful here.
You can't go into these auditions wanting them too badly. It is the equivalent of "water intoxication" when you are dehydrated (no, I didn't know that term, yes I had to google it). Basically, once you are dehydrated, it can actually be dangerous to gulp water - you have to sip it, very slowly. To allow your body to come back into balance.
You cannot risk indulgence here.
That is the issue with wandering in the desert and being dehydrated. It would seem that the solution would be to drink as much water as you can when you get to the oasis. But that indulgence is just the opposite extreme of dehydration.
Life, nature - and acting - like balance.
I recently read an article in the reporter about Jurnee Smollett and Kaci Lemmons' (Eve's Bayou) description of casting Jurnee in the film when she was only 10 sums it up perfectly for me:
"Then she met Smollett and instantly knew she was right for the role. 'There's nothing indulgent about Jurnee's acting, ever — there's never a moment where you don't believe her.'"
And that is the thing - indulgent (i.e. thirsty) acting, is not believable acting.
So what do you do if you are feeling thirsty?
If you are in class - start by sipping material. Work a scene you've worked before - maybe something that you auditioned for right before the shut down. Don't put a lot of pressure on yourself right away. Your quick memorization skills may not be where they were in February. Get those back up to par. Find your way back into material slowly. See how it feels to stand in front of your self-tape set up again. To find your eyelines.
If you are not in class - think about rejoining. Or look for casting workshops (remember we always recommend these are at least two meetings with the CD for what you are paying) or "intensives" at a reputable studio that will allow you to get back in the game without the pressure of booking an audition.
If you are getting auditions already great! But remember that in order to capitalize on them nothing has changed in terms of what makes for a booking. You may be thirsty - but Casting is still looking for believability.
ARE YOU COMPLACENT?
These last six months have been incredibly difficult as I don't have to remind any of you. The pain that our country is collectively experiencing for so many reasons is real, and it is enough to make you want to crawl under the covers and take a long winter's nap - if only it wasn't 90 degrees out.
And like the understandable thirst - another completely rational reaction to 2020 is to sit back and just wait for it all to be over. For things to get back to "normal" - or whatever "new normal" is. To let yourself believe that there just isn't that much you can do for your career in the face of all that is going on.
I mean, who knows how many tapes casting is seeing for this role, right? They may not even get around to watching mine. No reason to coach for this one since I'm not going to book it anyway. It doesn't REALLY matter if I make my bed before I self tape in my bedroom, right? I mean, do they really care about that? I am sure they won't really judge me for that, they'll look at my performance. I know my manager keeps telling me I need to invest in better lighting and sound but seriously how many auditions am I even going to get right now?
The problem with this kind of thinking - other than it is just completely negative and doesn't serve you - is that this business has always been hard. I have said it before, and I will say it again.
THIS IS THE HARDEST BUSINESS IN THE WORLD.
Remember before the pandemic?
I mean, Meryl Streep is doing Television now, so what chance to do I have during pilot season? And it is such a pain to have to drive all the way to Santa Monica for 45 minutes in traffic for this commercial audition where I am in the room for 5 minutes and then drive an hour back home. 9 pages? And they want me to do that in two days? How am I supposed to fit that in, when I can't get anyone to cover my shift tonight at work?
This shit has always been hard.
And yes this year has been one psychic assault after another. But just like the business didn't care that the biggest audition of your life to date came in just as you were about to leave for the airport for your sister's wedding - it doesn't "care" about the last six months.
It doesn't care because IT IS THE HARDEST BUSINESS IN THE WORLD.
And so it expects that you are present. In this moment. Right now. That you are only focused on the audition at hand. That you are able to forget about the past and stop worrying about the future, and just be here with the words on the page and the red light of the camera and you are ready to act.
I recently read an article in the reporter about Julia Garner and her description of her goals when she is acting sums it up for me perfectly:
"For Garner, becoming so lost in a scene that she forgets what she's done on a take is the goal. 'I never like the feeling of remembering a scene, because that means that I wasn't present,' she says. 'If you're hearing yourself talk, you're not listening. It's the same thing when you're acting. If I remember what I did on a take, I ask to do it again.' "
There has never been room for complacency in this business, least of all now.
Nobody knows what is going to happen tomorrow and everyone is suffering from whatever struggles they have been surviving the last 6 months. But right now - you have an audition. Right now, you need to get back in class. Right now you need to make your bed. Right now you need to hit "purchase" on that ring light that has been sitting in your amazon cart since the Cinterra Self Tape Town Hall.
Acting has LONG been a way of escaping. Use it. Escape 2020!!! Escape into your work. Escape back into making your career a priority again. Escape into the 5 line co star that your agent just sent you so that you can book it and escape to set.
Believable / Present.