In Part I, Required Reading, I listed a handful of articles on filmmaking that I urge Actors to apply to themselves. In this post, I take it a step further, breaking down Sheri Candler’s Top 10 Tips for a Successful Film Launch.
Consider this the translated into actor action lists and call it…
Top 10 Tips for your Acting Career.
Note: This is Part II in a series that explores how Actors can think like a business owner and make greater strides in their career. Part I kicks off here with Required Reading.
Part II: Who’s Your Audience?
Success for indie filmmakers in great part lies in being able to connect with a loyal core audience rather than water down the message in order to appeal to the masses.
How does this work for actors? Who is our audience? This is a complicated question; we request audiences with casting directors, in order to be granted an audience with a producer or director, who will take our work to their audiences. Eventually, an actor also brings their own built-in audience to every screening. At this point you are or are becoming a name brand, one hallmark of a sustainable career.
Identifying your audience may indeed be the key to applying the new model to our acting careers. My suspicion, though, is that unlike Kevin Smith’s audience that continues to grow out of a loyal core, an actor’s audience evolves.
As an entrepreneur-minded writer and producer, I’m keenly interested in the evolving DIY system of open information sharing, grassroots appeal, bootstrap’ing sweat equity, and Think Outside The Box Office-ing of independent cinema. These factors drive the indie scene much as the Hebrews circled Jericho, finding the right trumpet pitch to bring the studio walls a-tumblin’ down.
If you’re involved in this scene, you’ve debated in these conversations about self distribution, finding your audience, and whether Kevin Smith represents a replicable business model or if he’s just a stunt-pulling one-off in an XXXL bathrobe.
I want to bring these conversations to Acting:
There are so many worthy film projects I’m backing right now, it’s difficult for me to RT them, post them, and rave about them as much as I want to do! So here for your curiosity, my handy guide to what I think is pretty spiffy right now in the crowdfunding world.
Before we dive in, a note on why I like crowdfunding: Being a part of something great. Making art happen. Making dreams happen. Spreading happiness and good karma.
I know many of us are crowdfunding our own film projects, but as John Paul Rice said, “Hoy por mi, manana por ti!” It’s a truism that good things happen when you spread good works. It only takes a few bucks to stand in solidarity with projects or filmmakers you admire.
“I’ve surrendered the idea that I need one big break; I need twenty.”
I tweeted that thought out a few weeks ago. The “just one more…just one more….” slot machine mentality is just not true. That epiphany is being hammered home to me this week.
I hoped, I prayed, that the audition for Diverse Talent Group would be that Big Break. The elusive white whale of acting. The prize to put on the mantle. It wasn’t. I didn’t get it. They were incredibly nice and encouraging to all the auditioners and the whole experience was great, but in the end they picked someone else. Even as that throb in my heart told me “you’re not it” when I my inbox chimed that a new email from Breakthrough Star arrived, I still held onto hope. Because of that hope, I shed some hot, angry tears and was heartbroken for a good couple of hours. I was ready to risk so much for them – even moving to L.A – and they weren’t ready to risk anything on me.
I think my audition is damn good. What do you think?
But the lesson got me thinking that a career eventually has a tipping point. Like a Kickstarter campaign that snowballs, or the point when you give in and buy four boxes of Girl Scout cookies instead of two (because who buys just one?!), there’s a point where the future has been weighted in your favor by all the work you’ve accomplished in your past: 50 first breaks.
No career is an overnight sensation. Careers may come to the attention of the rest of the public seemingly overnight, but everyone has put their time, reputation, and sweat on the line to build up their trajectory one project at a time – a trajectory they keep aimed at the stars.
I’m pretty stubborn; sometimes I’ll keep at acting just because an entity like DTG seems to tell me “you can’t.” In your perseverance you will claim your reward. On the same day that DTG turned me down, I won an award, 3rd place for Outstanding Achievement in Filmmaking for Connect To from a film festival. The next day, we won a silver award for it’s score from a different festival. Perhaps these accolades are building to an unseen tipping point…the break.
A few days later, a webseries I worked on for free all summer in a hot, airless greenscreen room, The Adventures of Chadwick Periwinkle, finally debuted on the intarwebs. It’s pointedly irreverent and gambles on its own rebellion that you’ll want to see more. It’s terrible, and I’m delighted by it! Maybe this is my break….
Would that be break # 49, or 19? Who knows! The point is to stop counting and keep creating.
Do the work. God’s counting. Our break is coming.
If you liked this article, tweet it out in pithy chunks!
“Surrender the idea you need one break: You need 50!”
“Your future is weighted in your favor by your past work.”
“No career is an overnight sensation; keep your trajectory aimed at the stars.”
I contributed this originally for Film Courage, and I’m migrating it over to this site, as well. Enjoy! 🙂
Keeping the Faith
Growing up, my dad tirelessly warned me away from working in the arts, an industry where someone else’s opinion can determine your success. He urged me to go into industries where education and experience call the shots when it comes to pay grade and possibilities. “Doctor or lawyer,” he’d say when we talked about college. Doctors don’t get turned down for the job because HR “went another direction,” or because the hospital director didn’t think they were bankable.
But here I am, still chasing my dream.
We work in a subjective industry as to what’s Good, what’s Art, what’s Entertaining. We rely desperately on the good opinion of others for funding, for reviews, for survival. Feeling that your dreams are at the mercy of others is a vulnerable place. I remember a role I desperately wanted in high school, and the tears that followed not being cast. I felt utterly unwanted, a failure. There was one prizewinner, and I was not it.
Often we are tempted to put our total self-worth in the hands of a single opportunity. Approaching our lives that way – especially with acting, directing, and writing – is an invitation to burn out quickly. Instead, we must realize we are surrounded by opportunities. We need only to find our audience.
In an industry fueled by that elusive currency of “buzz,” have a little faith.
Belief in Yourself Is A Currency
My acting coach Steven Anderson says in Hollywood, power is currency. So if you and I are “just” actors or short film producers, how do we get any? One way is, by taking a stand.
Decide where your boundaries are, what you are willing to compromise, what you want to be known for – and then stand there. Don’t be swayed by every blowhard who would like to fill your sails with opinions of you who you should be or what you should do. Don’t play the game on their terms. Taking a stand creates respect and authority. Steven uses Nelson Mandela as an example. Even in prison, he took a stand – and that stand was powerful.
Power that does not originate from within can be taken away like a thief takes a coat. It has to come from inside. You must believe in your bones that everything will work out the way it is meant to, that “there is a divine plan of goodness for me and my work,” as Julia Cameron says.
For me, the key to my power is ridiculously simple and terrifically difficult: do the work. Whether an actor, filmmaker, or underwater basket weaver, work at it. Strive to be the best. Never stop learning and growing . Take classes, experiment, play. Stop procrastinating with that script idea you have and start doing the work.
Preparation and knowledge will fuel your belief in yourself. Knowing you have done the work is the foundation of your peace of mind. Now, when I walk into an audition, I am proud of my process and excited to show them my work. That’s far more powerful – and healthy – than going into an audition with the motivation to get the job. That line of thinking almost never works, whether you’re an actor or a director pitching a script.
Rejection is like a little withdrawal from your emotional bank account. When that happens, spend the currency of your power to restore the balance. Affirm your path, your work, and your dedication. Reach out to your carefully curated inner circle whose honesty guides you. Know who you are. Seek inspiration from your own heart. And keep working.
When To Be A Student, When To Take A Stand
Taking a stand isn’t the same as iron-plating your heart. It’s about knowing yourself. Part of that is learning to know when to trust your instincts, and when to be open to change.
I call this knowing when to be a student. We never have everything figured out – and if you think you do, chances are you are a jackass. The most interesting people are the ones who are continually curious about the world and seek to be lifelong students, learning and improving.
Admitting you need more help or more training is a breakthrough that can be scary but will propel you to the next level. Conversely, if you change your path every time someone who seems powerful tells you to, you’ll be as directionless as a kid playing Marco Polo when all the other players have left the field.
This takes trial and error, but learning to trust your inner voice grows with experience. Submitting my first short, Connect To, to festivals has been such an experience. I was used to rejection as an actor, but now getting rejected by casting directors and festivals was a double whammy. I had a few hard weeks where it seemed like the bad news kept coming. In a low point, I watched the film Official Rejection and gloried in my war wounds. I realized that not getting into a certain festival isn’t a true indication of quality. I went back and watched my short, talked to some close friends, and had the realization that my film is good. It’s solid. It’s a great little piece, and I needed to stand by it.
The film just needed to find its audience. Less than a week later, we were accepted into Dances With Films in L.A. and I had the public confirmation of what I’d already found internally.
Be open to all feedback, but sort through it to find what sets off your inner tuning fork. Always be a student. But know when to keep your stand.
Stay Loose, Run Fast
I’m fond of saying that the Year of the Rabbit belongs to the nimble. I love the image it conjures. Adaptable. Flexible. Turn on a dime and restrategize.
Firefighters say, “Adapt and overcome,” and this phrase has found a home in my every day lingo.
Nimble describes we indie filmmakers. The obstacles that would stop ordinary people must be seen as fuel for our creative problem solving. You hear these great war stories– the freak thunderstorm, locations falling through the day beforehand, an investor pulling out. These obstacles make us great in the process of overcoming them. These are not signs from God to give up; these are signs from God to be nimble and find the right path.
If you’ve been beating on a certain door without it opening, take a break and try a different one. The results may surprise you.
“When you feel that nothing is happening, it’s because things are moving elsewhere, preparing the way.”
I posted this as a Facebook update in response to my frustration with a dry spell, and to reassure myself that it was only temporary. To my surprise, many friends who I envisioned had rich and busy lives commented that it was exactly what they needed to hear. Other people felt the same way I did– at the mercy of the gatekeepers. Waiting is often the hardest part. Waiting to hear back from a film festival. From an audition. From your agent. From that meeting that could make or break you.
Sometimes dedication is the most important key to generating your own power. When I’m passed over for a role I covet, I pick myself back up and quietly remind myself that I’m hungry and gritty. I often feel that my hunger is my greatest strength, like a fiery engine in my gut. I’ll never stop acting, auditioning, and making films. I’m too hungry to take no for an answer. I’m in it for the long haul. I’m not going anywhere, and I’ll be ready to show them my work when they’re ready to see it. I will find my audience.
When you feel like nothing is happening, thousands of things are happening. The machinations of the universe are falling into place. Other people need to make their decisions, which can then affect a secondary wave of actions. The gears turn, locking into place. Sparks fire.
Just keep faith.