New Year's Resolutions For Actors

Katie Elin-Salt offers up her resolutions for a happier #actorslife in 2018

If you’ve found yourself getting sucked into a social media #actorslife vortex at 2pm only to wonder why you’re having yet another “what am I doing with my life” moment at 2:30pm, maybe now is a good time to change that behaviour and do something that makes you feel good and moves you forward instead.
Katie Elin-Salt

If you’re reading this, you’ve survived Christmas. As an actor who dabbles in Yuletide festivities, over the past month you’ve probably survived at least one of the following: a December “quiet period”, a grotto with sticky over-excited children inside, a healthy sprinkling of home friends asking if you’re famous yet, your Nan asking you why you don’t “just write to Eastenders”, a boxing day matinee, and your ex in a Christmas special. Well done you thespian trooper, you made it. Please take a Turkey sandwich and a gym membership and step ball-change straight into 2018.

Now I’m not normally one for New Year’s resolutions having had to make one too many apologies to dry January sponsors over the years. But I am well aware that as a freelancer, January can be both literally and metaphorically a bit grey. So here’s a few handy little tips to get you started. I promise none of them will involve salad for breakfast.

Find some achievable career goals

January is an excellent time to press the reset button. 2017 you is ancient history and 2018 you is now open for BUSINESS. Have a little think about what you really want out of this year. I mean, an Oscar would be lovely, thank you very much. But if you’re anything like me and you’re more likely to gain a PhD in Astrophysics than be invited to the Academy Awards in 2018, perhaps start with something that’s a little bit more doable.

Maybe there’s a theatre you’d love to get seen for, maybe you want to find representation, maybe you want to break out of your casting box. I can’t promise that any of these things will happen, but I do think it’s good to have something to focus on and work towards.

Once you have a few things written down, have a little think about practical things that you can do to put your plan into action. Write the emails, book the new headshots, get the singing lesson. January always leaves me feeling a little bit lacklustre (I blame the roast potatoes), so I think having a little mental shakedown of what it is you are aiming at is an excellent way to take hold of the wheel.

Let go of bad habits

Let’s be honest: the years of having to be constantly self-motivated and in competition in a heavily over-subscribed industry have probably left most of us with a few bad online habits. I am not here to judge you, but I think January is a good time to have a little think about anything that you have been doing that inevitably leaves you feeling a bit sad and cross afterwards.

If living vicariously through celebrities on Instagram and checking your IMDb rating every half hour genuinely makes you feel better and helps you to become a better performer, then go nuts. But if you’ve found yourself getting sucked into a social media #actorslife vortex at 2pm only to wonder why you’re having yet another “what am I doing with my life” moment at 2:30pm, maybe now is a good time to change that behaviour and do something that makes you feel good and moves you forward instead.

Same goes for chocolate, gin and Netflix binge sessions. If it serves you and makes you happy, go for it. But if you’re getting into a little bit of a pit, perhaps 2018 you could make a mental note and set about making a change for the better.

And if you are really smart and savvy you can actually use this time to learn something about yourself and your finances. Things like a) How much money do I need to keep back for rent this year and b) How much do I have left for the ASOS sale? Actors are not known for their financial acumen, but being a self-employed person, it is important that we keep an eye on our budget and January is an excellent time to make a start.
Katie Elin-Salt

Get that cash flow sorted

Just as you’re finally getting used to the grey skies and dark mornings of this time of year, another storm looms in the self-employed person’s skyline towards the latter half of January - causing fierce weather warning in the homes and bank balances of all self-employed people. Storm Tax Return is coming for us and there is no escape.

Sooner or later we are going to have to sit down and face our bank balance and the fact that we could have single handedly kept several coffee houses in business over the last year while we were claiming we had “no idea” where all our money went. Unless you are one of those strange and rare people who actually enjoy this sort of thing (What is wrong with you? Are you aliens?) chances are this will not be the high point of your year. But you can get through it!

And if you are really smart and savvy you can actually use this time to learn something about yourself and your finances. Things like a) How much money do I need to keep back for rent this year and b) How much do I have left for the ASOS sale? Actors are not known for their financial acumen, but being a self-employed person, it is important that we keep an eye on our budget and January is an excellent time to make a start.

Whether it’s writing a full-scale yearly budget for yourself or making a folder for your receipts so you don’t have to peel chewing gum off them at the bottom of your handbag every January, taking back a little bit of financial control is an excellent way to smash the tax blues right in its boring face.

Smash funemployment

Most of us are generally fine and dandy with the actual professional acting side of things. Which is lucky because we are, you know, actors. But with 98% of us not actually doing any acting work at any given time and January being a particularly quiet time for a lot of us, I think it’s probably ok to talk about the fact that resting times are as large a part of a jobbing actor’s year as the other bits.

Sometimes it will be way more, sometimes it will be less; I think most of us have to deal with life as an actor whilst not actually being paid to do it at some stage. I honestly think that making things as brilliant as possible when I’m not acting has made both my life and my career a much happier place. Whilst acting is still the goal, I am a much better auditionee when I feel good about myself and know that if the job doesn’t work out, I will still be okay. I am also a generally much happier and better person to be around when I’m not feeling constantly desperate and despairing. Funny that, isn’t it?

We all have moments of panic and worry when unemployment looms. But while you’re in the January overhaul, take a moment to think about what bits of your ‘resting’ life make you feel sad and try to change them.

If you have a temp job you can’t stand, maybe now is a good time to find a new one where you come home and feel okay. If having too much time on your hands drives you mad, find something to keep you active. Maybe you still won’t feel as wonderful as you would feel if you’d just given your Macbeth on the Olivier stage. But being okay when you wake up in the morning, feeling valued and worthwhile, is a great start. Find things that you enjoy and use the time when you aren’t acting to do something else that makes you happy. It won’t mean you are any less ‘driven’, but it may mean you are a lot nicer to your Mum when she phones up and innocently asks “how the showbiz career is going”. 

Start getting active

2017 was the year where we uncovered some very unsettling things about our industry. 2018 feels like the year where we do something about it. There are already excellent campaigns brewing worldwide such as the “Time’s Up” campaign which Oprah spoke so brilliantly about at the Golden Globes, and there has been great commitment to change from many powerful industry folk, which I look forward to seeing realised as the year progresses. There is no better time to be the change you want to see than right now. It is happening, and you can be a huge part of it.

There are so many ways to get involved in changing the face of the industry we work in, but the easiest would be to find your local Equity branch and show up at a meeting. Speak openly and honestly about issues that you feel have had a detrimental impact on your career or the industry and know that you are in a place where you can incite change. Then bask in the glory and smugness of the fact you have made the world you work and live in a little bit better.

 

Hopefully brilliant things will happen for all of us in 2018 and we will all achieve every single one of our dreams. But no doubt many of us will also have disappointments and difficult moments as we work our way through #actorslife2018. That is the nature of the career we have chosen. Whilst I’ve written some things down that I think may be helpful to get started on the right foot, I also think it’s ok to not have all the answers yet.

Traditionally speaking, resolutions, like rules, are there to be broken anyway. Please don’t put a huge amount of pressure on yourself to be THE MOST AMAZING AND SUCCESSFUL ACTOR THAT EVER LIVED by February 2nd. It’s cold out and the days are short. Just keep warm and keep swimming in the right direction.

I wish you all an amazing 2018. We are going to be FINE!

Katie Elin-Salt is an actor, singer and musician from Bridgend in South Wales, now living in London. She trained at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and has done some nice bits of work over the last few years that she's chuffed with. Aside from this, she's most commonly known as Princess Elsa on weekends, and has also starred as Peppa Pig and Supergirl in various children's parties across the UK. You may also recognise Katie from working in the returns section of Ann Summers Cardiff during Christmas 2010. Series regular of Judge Judy (playing 'person watching it on the sofa whilst once again not in the gym'.)