In 2015, a family decision prompted me to leave a regional market where I have four agents in four cities and move to a city with virtually no screen acting. I retained my agents but could no longer appear in person for live auditions in those cities. That means I could only be submitted for roles when casting directors accepted taped auditions. It felt a bit like Tom Hands in Castaway, except I made the decision to put myself on the island and suffer.
Suffer, I did. I went from auditioning live or taped as much as 10 times a month to one taped audition every few weeks on average. It was demoralizing to feel like opportunities were out of reach. When I did get an audition, I felt so much pressure to nail it and stopped truly enjoying the process.
I didn’t give up but I certainly didn’t make much progress in the first few months after the move. But I took a lot of time of reflect on my situation. My deep thinking led me to one conclusion: I needed to reinvent myself. Staying here on the “island” wasn’t getting me anywhere. So I started a process of how my ideal life here looks. It’s quite different than the one I was living. It may be 100% different.
I must preface these next statements with the fact that I haven’t reached all of these goals yet. I’m in the early stages of reinvention. But the vision is getting clearer and clearer.
- Work full-time in a different field with benefits beyond income. I found work as a Special Ed aide at the elementary school level. 32+ hours per week. A direct deposit check every 15 days. The benefits are unlimited. I get to work with young students, help them problem solve inside and outside the classroom, be part of the school culture, and see opportunities to put many of my acting/filmmaking/storytelling skills to good use.
- Become a resource in my primary field. Not long after moving here, I hosted a couple of free workshops and started joining Facebook groups for acting and filmmaking peers in the area. This past weekend I hosted the second of two paid workshops for students and now have two more scheduled as well as plans to develop weekly acting and filmmaking classes.
- Find a space for my classes and workshops. So far, I have used a free space arranged by a friend and a computer lab at a high school made available by the Rec Dept of the village I am living in. Ideally, I would have a space that’s private, affordable, and multi-purpose.
- Write and produce films as vehicles for my acting talents. As a SAG-AFTRA member in a market with almost no union projects, creating my own work will be most useful than ever. To make it happen, I need to continue networking to meet talented professionals to add to my team and write a film or find a script that will fit my goals as an actor. It may be a short film first, and that’s definitely ok.
- Secure sponsorship for my workshops and other endeavors. I want to expand my marketing reach in this area by aligning myself with reputable businesses. I send business to them; they help send business to me. They may even provide some fun samples or swag bags for bigger events.
I often think about the phrase “be the change you wish to see in the world.” I can adapt it: be the change you wish to see in your own life. Rather than waiting for all the variables in your acting career to work positively for you, it’s helpful to remember there will always be challenges beyond your control. Sometimes, and for extended periods of time, the challenges can outweigh and overwhelm the positives. You’re left with either complaining and indulging in self-pity or just finding some way, one way, to keep moving forward.
So, as 2016 proceeds, I will focus on letting go of how I saw myself last year and let myself embrace the reinvention. It gives me a better chance of creating success for myself than waiting for the winds of change to blow and send me in the right direction. Like you, I am more the person I am becoming than the person I was yesterday.