I’ve had this conversation with many actors and the opinion is always different: Some people feel like once you know how to act, you just know and you don’t need to be in class. Some people feel like you should always be in class to stay sharp. I fall somewhere in the middle: I will be in class as often as I can afford it.
For me, class has always been a way to stay hot in between gigs. I can’t just be immobile. Life and this craft is a continuum. We never stay still. We are either progressing or falling behind. Progression will always be at the top of my list. If you want to get creative about ways to stay sharp when you’re not in class, here are a few things I do:
1. Take an Intensive. We’re actors and we have bills. Committing to an on-going scene study class can seem daunting once you’ve been gone so long. Ease back into the game with an intensive. These generally last 3-6 days. Get your feet wet. Get inspired. Jump all in when you can spare the time.
2. Read books on acting. Someone wise said that if you read three books on the same subject, it makes you an expert. Well become an expert in your technique of choice. How many books can we find on Meisner? Reading is cheap and mobile.
3. Watch Virtual Channel Network on ActorsAccess.com. Industry professionals give priceless advice. For free. Get educated.
4. Create a project. Booking can be tough but writing a scene and putting it up on its feet can be done in a day. Grab some actors and make the most of the time. You never know what it could lead to. Ever heard of King Bach or Issa Rae?
5. Memorize monologues and record yourself on your phone. Play them back and critique your own work. You probably know by now what works and doesn’t work, but you may not know what you’re giving when you audition. Do a little self-study. It’s harmless.
I should take my own advice with some of these. My default is creating my own material. I guess that’s just the writer in me. I hope this helps you along the way! Stay inspired.
Let me tell you a thing or two about working for free.
As an actor, there will be plenty of times (especially in the early days of your career) when you will work for free. I am a seasoned newcomer at this point and I am still working for free from time to time. As writer I wrote for Essence for no monetary compensation. I wrote for HOPE for Women magazine for no money. I have done plays that didn’t pay. I have written for another blogger for no pay. I have done countless film projects for no money, including one just this past weekend, which brings me to the premise of this blog.
IF YOU AGREE TO WORK FOR FREE, WORK LIKE YOU’RE GETTING PAID.
This past weekend, I knew the project was unpaid when I submitted for it. I figured it would be a ten hour day, because filming can take a long time. The call time was 6am (I wasn’t expecting that), but I showed up on time as if there was a clock for me to punch. We didn’t wrap until 9p. You got it. I worked for 15 hours on set for no pay, and as a stand-in. That means my face will never even be seen on the footage. Let me tell you why it was worth it:
· I moved from LA to Atlanta. So I’m in a new city. I have to start from scratch with networking. I don’t know many filmmakers here so being on this set gave me 15 hours of making around 30 first impressions with people who work in Atlanta and know other Atlanta filmmakers.
· The director is award-winning.
· Columbus Short of Scandal was the lead actor.
· Columbus Short of Scandal was the lead actor.
· Columbus Short of Scandal was the lead actor, like dude. It was hours of free acting class.
· One job leads to the next. It’s too soon to tell right now, but I can guarantee that working on that set will lead to a job in the future.
Don’t believe me?
After serving as a stand-in for My Black is Beautiful on BET, I was brought back to work on the show as a model, networked with a photographer and got a free photoshoot, and the casting director cast me in several paid projects after that. Because I have written/write for Essence, I am invited to exclusive events with just the hopes of gaining exposure. After writing for HOPE for Women as nutrition writer, I landed a paid job with a publication due to having that experience. Not to mention that years later, I am now the Online Content Editor for HOPE. I wrote for a blogger, and now I have a bigger (paid) position in her company. After doing an unpaid play, I learned from the playwright and wrote my own show, which generated income. I did a couple of unpaid shoots for another director and we became friends and now she does all kinds of stuff for me for free, including film/edit my comedy reel. I’ve met people on set who tell me about jobs, opportunities, and casting directors, etc.
Networking is not an activity you set aside time to do. Networking is the result of putting yourself in amazing situations to meet people with similar goals.
I take business cards to set and events (with my face on them) so that people can find it in their pockets later and learn more about me. Everything anyone wants to know about me can be answered at this website. That is the way it is designed!!!
Understand that there is more than one way to be compensated. I believe that education costs. I’m willing to pay with my time, which is why I will work for free. I will act for food.
So if you show up for a job that does not pay you in cash, behave like it’s the biggest paying job you have ever had. Submit your work on time. Show up to set on time. Behave professionally. Be excited to be used. Your performance and enthusiasm will lead you to other projects. I promise you! And if it doesn’t, you haven’t done enough free jobs yet.
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