Keeping Engaged With Your Acting Career in Uncertain Times
Performer Lauren McCrostie offers her thoughts about how to hone your craft at home and keep connected with the acting community.
By Lauren McCrostie
Tap into your social network, reach out to like-minded professionals, brainstorm ideas or just have a chat with some actor mates. You’ll hopefully feel productive and somewhat better for having connected with the acting community and sharing experiences.
Our industry is taking a big hit from the Coronavirus epidemic. The latest James Bond film has seen its release date pushed back again, and it's just one of many. Huge production studios have temporarily shut down, actors have been sent home from shooting abroad and it’s clear to everyone involved with the industry, that things are quiet. So whilst we’re waiting for the world to get back to some strain of normality - and it eventually will - how can we still feel engaged with our acting career?
Most actors have experienced being ‘out of work’ and ‘in-between jobs’ lots of times, so maybe this period of quiet isn't that strange. Or maybe it is. Maybe you're lucky enough to have regular work or perhaps you're fresh out of drama school, used to exercising your acting practice every day, and find yourself feeling lost with all this time on your hands. Regardless of what category you fall in, keeping your finger on the acting pulse can help you through this period of instability.
If you’re planning creative activities that reinforce your strengths and broaden your range as an actor you can emerge from lockdown ready and raring to go. They do not have to be big changes, in fact, the smaller the better as the more micro the activities the more habitual they become. Do small activities little and often.
Connect with the Acting Community
Just because you can’t leave the house, doesn’t mean that you can’t ‘meet’ new people. Go online and you’ll see lots of great things happening in our acting community with hashtags, groups and online workshops being initiated all over social platforms.
From the #castingcrushescorona hashtag on Twitter to the one-to-one sessions Spotlight are organising for members to meet with casting directors (make sure you've signed up to Spotlight's Events emails and that they're not in your junk folder!), industry professionals are giving their time and expertise to us actors so we should make the most of it where we can.
Any chance to talk to someone in the industry is an opportunity not to be missed and whilst it probably won't lead to an audition or job offer in the current climate, I've found it's a good way to boost my self-esteem as an actor and get some much-needed reassurance. Plus who knows what it may lead to in the future?
We’re all in this together and everyone's lives have been affected by the pandemic so reach out a metaphorical hand to your fellow actors and get inspired by the creative conversations you’re bound to have. Tap into your social network, reach out to like-minded professionals, brainstorm ideas or just have a chat with some actor mates. You’ll hopefully feel productive and somewhat better for having connected with the acting community and sharing experiences.
Deepen Your Skill Set
Sort of an obvious one here, but if you feel like it, you could spend some time progressing and extending your talents as a performer. Although this is not a necessity, it could help you focus on something other than *all this* and make you a more dynamic performer with a diverse range of skills.
Learn a new accent, work on your stage fighting (YouTube has a surprising amount of tutorials in this area!), try a new acting technique or look to improve on an area of your craft where you may lack confidence. There are endless things to learn if you feel motivated to try.
Learn, Read and Absorb
Research areas of the acting world you’re attracted to. Stanislavski? Meisner? Brecht? There's so much out there to be discovered and learnt.
Read books by industry insiders, watch videos and theatre online, learn about the history of acting and unearth new ways of exercising the craft. You may find a different technique, teaching or tip for getting into or preparing for a role, that resonates more clearly with you.
Do some googling and see what sticks. Don’t feel tied down by one, two or even three styles - pick and take inspiration from those that work for you. Everyone is different, and we all have different ways of interpreting our craft.
Work on Your Own Work
They say everyone has a play in them, so you could use this time of social-distancing to think about topics you’re interested in or feel passionate about that you may want to write about. Think about messages you want to articulate to audiences, characters you are keen to see on stage, find a narrative and play with it.
Lose yourself in your own imagination and think about everything in detail - characters, backstories, stage directions, props, lighting, costume, makeup etc. See where this creativity can take you and your story. You could keep it to yourself or share it with friends and have a virtual play reading over video chat.
If you're struggling to get inspired then read our article full of ideas and exercises to kickstart your creativity.
It's an uncertain time for us and we need to do all we can to stay well throughout its run, until its closing curtain.
You could choose to do one, two, all or none of the things I’ve suggested but the one thing you should do is look after yourself. This is the most important thing and supersedes everything else. It's an uncertain time for us and we need to do all we can to stay well throughout its run, until its closing curtain.
As actors, we're used to uncertainty to some degree. The majority of jobbing actors are just that - doing different sorts of work to get a regular income, used to living on the edge and with no secure plans. But that doesn't make this pandemic any easier to cope with.
This is an unprecedented time for the entire world. So it is vital you ensure you are keeping mentally, physically and emotionally well during this period and if you're struggling, seek help. ArtsMinds is a good place to start if you'd like to speak to someone.
If the prospect of focusing on acting/work life is too much for you right now then that’s fine and completely understandable. Instead, portion up your day with easy and relaxing things to do. Read, watch a film, cook a nice meal or do some meditation. Speak to friends, family and loved ones. Sleep.
Perhaps spend some time funnelling your creativity into a different outlet revising an old hobby or taking up a new one. Scrapbooking, journaling, meditating, practising tai chi, painting, crocheting, baking… Anything that helps you get a sense of stability and calm during this time. Doing something creative can be a great form of escapism and a source of comfort during hard times.
I hope this helps in some small way. I hope you feel inspired to continue to hone your craft at home, to network with the acting community, to take some time and listen to your needs. Most importantly I hope that it's a reminder that the most valuable thing you can do is to take care of yourself.
Your mental health is important. If you're worried and want to speak to a professional then visit ArtsMinds.co.uk where you can find contact information and support resources online.
Lauren McCrostie is an actress and writer based in London. Previous acting work includes Tim Burton’s 'Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children' and Carol Morley’s 'The Falling'. Lauren also runs her own newsletter - happy helpful homework - which falls in line with her deep passion for sustainability and all things green.
Image by Jason Strull.