How to Survive as an Actor – Take the Bull by the Horns

I just went to the cinema and it inspired me to write this post. What i’m about to say has nothing to do with the film I just saw.

(Side note – I saw “Far from the Madding Crowd” and it was fabulous, you should go see it!)

Just going to the cinema, sparked something inside me. Whether it was the storyline, sharing a moment with a friend, or the fact that I would have loved to have been in it… I had a reaction and it inspired me… that made me happy.

In order to have a reaction, you need to perform an action first (like going to the cinema or going to an art gallery) don’t you? Right? Unless of course, we are reacting to someone else’s action… but that’s not something we’re in control of.

This is why I’m writing this post. In this life, to be happy, fulfilled and everything that we can be, we need to be active. We need to do things with our lives, whatever that may be, and feel part of this world…. have a purpose.

I just spent a weekend sitting around doing nothing. I felt miserable, lost, bored and worst of all, lonely. I felt like I was sitting there waiting, waiting for something to happen. Which is ridiculous. You can’t sit around and wait for something to happen. You lose all control that way. What you need to do, is take the bull by the horns, and be in charge of your own destiny. It’s YOUR life. No-one else’s.

Actors often feel helpless, like their lives are in someone else’s hands… but this is not the case. There are so many things that you can do to better yourself, to get where you want to be. It’s a hard profession. One where you have to constantly face rejection after rejection. Go to those dreaded auditions, put yourself out there… time after time… sometimes multiple times a day. This is not easy and it takes a lot of courage. This is something that other people only have to cope with maybe once every 3-5 years when they decide to have a job change. The thought of having to go through the pain of interviews on a daily or weekly basis would scare the living daylights out of most right minded people. So why do Actors do it? The answer will be different depending on the person. For me, it’s the only thing that has truly challenged me in this life. It doesn’t have a definitive answer… it’s not black and white and every time I do it, I learn something new about the world, about people and about me. It fascinates me. I’s not just that though, it’s the buzz you feel when you recreate life, when you really believe the world you create for your character, when you perform in front of a packed theatre, when you feel proud of your performance…. the list goes on. So with all these positives, why focus on the negative? Yes, we have to constantly face the rejection but there are other things we can do, which might in turn prevent those rejections from happening in future.

The important thing here, is to keep going. Believe in yourself. This is something that I have to keep reminding myself time and time again. I’m writing this post for me just as much as for anyone else to read. You could ask: “What does she know?” “What authority does she have on this?” I have none whatsoever, you’re right! I have by no means ‘made it’ in the acting world by any stretch of the imagination but I keep myself active which keeps me happy which keeps me going. I can only pass on what i’ve learnt to keep me happy in this crazy world, what I do to keep me going. Yes, we all have moments where we slip, like me this weekend just gone.. but that’s when we need something to remind us not to stay in that place, in that mind set.

You should never feel helpless. Brainstorm ways of taking control of your life. If you’re not sure where to start, here are some ideas of things that I like to consider when brainstorming how to gain the control back!….

1.IMPROVE YOUR CRAFT – If you’re not working. You need to look at training. Can I do a short course somewhere? What do I still need to improve my craft? As my teachers at Theatre School told us again and again – training is something that will never end for you. You can always learn new things and improve your technique. A mistake that I made when I was younger, was that I thought I knew it all already and quite obviously, I didn’t.

2. MEET NEW PEOPLE – I think it goes without saying that if you stay in the same circle of friends all the time, you are never going to make those new connections with people that could change your life or even your career. I’m not saying that friends can’t introduce you to new people, of course they can (… and that is often where the magic happens!) but, the more you are out there meeting new people, the more chance you have of making that ONE important connection. You know those times when someone invites you to a party but you deliberate because you know that you will only know one person there but in the end you finally force yourself to go?… At the end of the night, you realise that forcing yourself to go was the best decision you made for a long time…. all because you made an important connection with another person. It doesn’t even matter if it wasn’t connected to your career. Maybe you made a new friend, or even a lover… but either way… that new connection may lead you to another new connection which may lead to a job…who the hell knows? You just don’t do you? So why sit at home worrying about the idea of you standing at a party looking like Billy-No-Mates?? If you go there and that happens…who cares? At least you tried. But how often has that actually ever happened to you when you’ve gone to a party? Very rarely right?

Performance of “Non-Starter”, a short scene written for a showcase event.

3. TAKE CREATIVE CHARGE – If you can write, write something. You can write your own part… how amazing is that? Then you can perform it somewhere and invite people to it! Or else film it? Ha! Sounds easy doesn’t it? If you put your mind to something, you CAN do it. If you think you’re bad at writing… just take some time to practice. The more you write, the better you’ll get. The more you work as an Actor on the things that you write, the more you’ll understand how to improve the writing. If you really don’t have any confidence in your writing… find a friend that can write! Ask them to write you a part! They might say no, but you never know, they might say yes!



4. TRY OUT A NEW PERSPECTIVE – Why not understand your craft better by getting involved in the other side of things? Try your hand at directing, learn how to edit, be an intern in a Casting office, volunteer as a reader for auditions. Knowing what is required from the other side can only improve what you need to do as an Actor to provide the Director or Editor with what they want. I speak from experience on this one. I recently put together a mini web series called Banging on the Brick Work. I directed and edited the series and as a result, I learnt sooo much about what to do on camera and what not to do.

Banging on the Brick Work
Screen Shot from Banging on the Brick Work

5. KEEPING PRACTICING – If you struggle with a certain accent, or with learning lines… keep practicing while you’re not working so that you can get better at it. That way, when the time comes, and you get that big audition, you WILL be ready. So, again, as before with the training, think of things that you need to improve and then just take the time to work on it. Maybe set yourself the goal of spending 1 or 2 hours a week on it. 1 or 2 hours a week is nothing but it could make a difference in the long run.

6. RUN AN EVENT – Organise a charity event. I’ve had the pleasure of putting together two charity events so far. Before that, I was involved in 2 or 3 that others had organised. Do something for the greater good, it will make you feel like you’re contributing to this world but it will also give you and your friends the chance to put on a performance and invite people. What could be better than that? If you would like to do this but have never done it before, my advise to you, is to book a venue that will not expect you to pay for the venue hire, but instead will take the earnings made from the bar. You can then charge a ticket fee that you will be able to donate to the charity. All you then need to do is work out the line up, get someone to help you collect an entrance fee and get an MC involved to introduce the acts. And there you have it.

made on crack
Photo from “Made on Crack” performed at charity event in London.

7. THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX – You know that special skill section of every casting page? You ever want to tick a few extra boxes on there without lying about it? Why not actually take some classes in something that is not acting? For example: learn a specific style of dance, learn a martial art, do carpentry, knitting… anything that you are actually interested in… do it! Then you can put it on your resume! Perhaps, you can also think ahead here about the parts you want to get in the future, and what skill set you could offer Casting Directors that will set you above everyone else. For example, if your dream is to play a middle class lady from 19th century England like Bathsheba Everdene from “Far from the Madding Crowd” (obviously this is currently on my mind right now ;o) ) …you may want to make sure you can perfect the R.P. accent and learn how to ride a horse.

There are so many more things you could do. These are just the beginning and hopefully they will inspire you to think of many others. My main message here is to take the reign of your own life. It’s sometimes easier than you think. You just need a plan.


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