Making Lemonade in a Pandemic
If you're feeling lockdown lethargy and want some suggestions about how to keep one foot in the industry, read on.
By Laura England
Take the pressure off, you’re not missing out. If anything, you have the same amount of work as Judi Dench does currently - nada!
Full disclosure: all my industry friends say they’re experiencing ‘lockdown ennui’ coupled with a lack of enthusiasm to stay creative this time around. Life is providing rather bitter lemons for us to make lemonade with. Darker evenings make us want to hibernate and let’s be frank, nobody’s dared utter the words ‘banana bread’ since June.
We’ve already updated our showreels, emailed every casting director under the sun and watched approximately six thousand hours of Netflix, and yes, I absolutely believe that’s research! Question is, what can we do whilst the normal routes into the industry seem closed?
Acknowledge that things aren’t normal
First up, take the pressure off. You’re not missing out. If anything, you have the same amount of work as Judi Dench does currently - nada! Feel free to nab that quote for when the busybody colleague at your day job talks about how dreadful it is that everything’s shut. On that note, if you want to take a day to eat pints of ice cream or scream into your pillow, it’s essential that you do. You’re a person first and an actor second. Come back when you’re ready.
Write it out
Writing your own work can play a huge role in feeling a level of autonomy and taking control over your career. It certainly worked for me, as I wrote my play Marathon for You about the witty, flawed millennial Northern women I knew and how they dealt with grief, relationships and friendships. Marathon meant I finally felt represented and could amplify other female voices as well. It snowballed from then on, causing a total shift in the trajectory of my career, helping me find my feet and a place to belong in the industry.
If that big full-length project you’re working on is too much, pen a sketch or a monologue. Express yourself. Author a piece for Zoom and corral some friends for an evening read-through. BBC Writers Room collates tons of opportunities if your inner procrastinator needs a deadline to get grooving. Upload gives you a chance to send in your best work and be heard on the BBC. The perfect boost for a random lockdown Tuesday evening!
Hey new graduates, don’t lose faith! Everything is as paused as Pinter! Drama school prepares you for traditional routes into the industry but sometimes leaves you feeling a little lost on how to stay afloat on your own. Find someone a few years’ out and ask their advice for some food for thought. Start simple: whack your Spotlight link in your Twitter bio. You’ll be pirouetting rings around me in no time when we’re back.
Adapt for audio
Audio projects are an exceptional way to flex performing muscles and nurture valuable new skills moving forward. My own 2020 makeshift recording studio is still going strong.
Why not shift gears with these tips?
- Search the ACX website for audiobooks that need readers and send auditions to projects that would suit you. ACX supplies audiobooks for Audible and iTunes.
- Try sites like Fiverr for Voiceover jobs or to make use of your other freelance skills.
- Email some radio stations and pitch them a show. Now is the time to make waves! (pardon the terrible pun)
- Record a new vocal, voice or accent reel to add to your Spotlight profile.
Sidenote: When I say I made a makeshift studio, I really mean that. From changing the batteries in my smoke alarm that constantly beeped to clambering into a wardrobe to record, you name it I’ve tried it. Enjoy the journey!
Network like you mean it
We’re regularly told that networking means writing to/meeting the right casting directors or industry heavyweights on the level far, far above us. Develop your professional network further by connecting with more people at your stage of career this lockdown. If you pursue genuine connections, it often leads to more meaningful projects.
Casting thrives on recommendations and you never know where the people you meet will end up in a few years. 'Competitors' can become brilliant collaborators. Create a natural network to share opportunities and celebrate each other’s successes! Gather and cultivate that lovely support around you. Ultimately, you’ll feel a lot more fulfilled.
Don’t talk yourself out
Say yes to things that push you out of your comfort zone. Who knows if that side project you’re writing may change the shape of your career? If I had a quid for every time someone I know said “I didn’t think I had this in me!”- I could REALLY add to my makeshift studio.
When life gives you lemons, I hope you can now make delicious pandemic lemonade. Add a dash of creativity, or gin, if you fancy?
Whichever option you choose, I’m rooting for you!
Laura England is a Northern actor, writer and lover of female-led theatre. Her debut play ‘Marathon For You’ was developed as part of The Hope Mill Theatre’s ‘Powerhouse Plays’ series and played at Camden Fringe and The Carriage Works Theatre. Over lockdown, she turned to radio, presenting and producing shows for Quarantine FM and the UK Radio Network, alongside writing pieces recently played on BBC Radio in London, York and Manchester.
Headshot by Nicholas Dawkes
Main image by Louis Hansel via Unsplash