The new year is already one week old. How many resolutions have you broken yet? None, hopefully. But if that's because you didn't make any, it's never too late. I've done resolutions columns before, even a monthly goals checklist. This year I'd like to take a stab at some less overarching but altogether worthwhile objectives. Use these resolutions to get started on some practical goals of your own.
Practical? To put it simply, "Book a guest star" is not a practical goal. Nor is "Become the next Meryl Streep." I'm talking about things we have control over. Working out three times a week is a practical goal; looking like Megan Fox is not.
So here is my offering: five simple, practical resolutions that should improve your career and, more important, your state of mind.
1) I will forget about my auditions as soon as I leave the casting office.
Stop wasting time replaying old auditions and beating yourself up for perceived mistakes. Sure, you sometimes flub a word, or wonderful ideas occur to you on the drive home, or you miss the wardrobe mark ("Oh, I thought my agent said 'waiter,' not 'day trader'!"). These things happen to everyone. The important thing is to keep from dwelling on little imperfections and move on. An acting career is a marathon: You can't run it if you spend three hours agonizing over every step.
If you find yourself struggling to let auditions go and you waste time rethinking choices you've already made, try this: Once you've left the audition room, give yourself a set amount of time to beat yourself up, perhaps the time it takes you to get to your car or the train station. Let yourself have it during these few minutes. Berate yourself for saying "pain" instead of "pan," shudder over that weird gesture you made, and roll your eyes at your silly attempt to make the auditor laugh. Once you arrive at the station or get inside your car, take out your audition journal (if you don't have one, get one; a simple blank notebook is fine) and jot down anything you want to remember about the audition and casting office. After you write, "The CD never looked at me. There is no parking at this office (or, it's 12 blocks from the subway). They asked me to read the sides four times," close the book. Take a deep breath and let it go. Once you've turned the keys in the ignition or gotten on the train, move away from the audition both physically and mentally. It's over.
One addendum: If you spend days wondering whether you booked every role you read for, try this: Assume you will never book anything. Chances are, you won't get most of the roles you audition for, so why bother worrying whether this is the one? You did it, it's over, move on. Let bookings surprise you.
2) I will carry simple wardrobe changes for last-minute audition calls.
Last-minute calls seem more prevalent than ever. Instead of rushing home to change during your lunch hour, or trekking back and forth over the Sepulveda Pass or to and from Brooklyn, take simple actions to avoid unnecessary, time-consuming travel.
If you live in L.A., this one's a lot easier: Stash several complete wardrobe changes in your trunk. Whatever types of roles you regularly get sent out for should be represented there, so you might have a summer dress, a casual mom shirt, and a business suit, with shoes. Include a grooming or makeup bag and hair accessories. Then, when you get the call asking whether you can "be across town looking like a lawyer in 20 minutes," you'll be able to say, "Of course!"
New Yorkers, this is harder for you, but you can still make a dent in the problem. If you have a desk or locker at work, use that for wardrobe options. If not, on days when you'll be out of the apartment, carry a backpack with a few small items that could suggest different looks. Budget for purchasing cheap, last-minute audition clothes three or four times per year. A cheap jacket bought at a discount store might dress up your T-shirt enough to make you feel prepared.
3) I will take my agent/manager/mentor to lunch.
This one might feel awkward if you haven't casually hung out with your rep or an influential teacher for a while—or ever. It's time to take the step and show him or her your appreciation with a meal. Once you're at the restaurant, take the opportunity to get to know this person. Try to have a friendly lunch instead of a business meeting. Don't just rattle on about your accomplishments or, worse, fish for advice and assistance or, most offensive, nag this person to do more for you. Just enjoy a nice time with another human being. It has the potential to strengthen your relationship in a way that 15 calls asking "Why haven't I been going out lately?" could never do.
4) I will keep track of my auditions and costs.
In 2010, expect to make some money from acting and prepare accordingly. Keep track of your professional expenses in your audition journal. This should be the same journal you purchased for Resolution No. 1. Write down all your audition information and costs in one place. An entry might look something like this:
Jan. 12, 2010
Where: Bob Roberts Casting, 1515 Main St., L.A.
For: "Marvelous Mops"
Clothes: Casual mom—blue shirt, jeans, sneakers
Transportation costs: $1.75 in parking-meter change
Sides available at office
Read sides four times. CD was eating but seemed to like my read. Office is up five flights of stairs.
You can go back and add to the entry if you get called back or book the job. At the end of the year, you'll have a fantastic record of what you've accomplished and all the information you've gathered in 2010, as well as an incredible account of your expenses for tax season.
5) I will call myself an actor without shrugging and rolling my eyes.
This one might be the hardest of all. It can be downright painful to have to go over the same ground with strangers and distant relatives again and again. The jokes about waiting tables and the well-meaning questions about which shows and films you're in can be hard to take. Instead of shutting down, see if you can find a way to relax about simply calling yourself what you are in your heart of hearts. No, it's not all about self-perception, and if you haven't acted in 12 years, you might want to give the moniker a rest. But if you're in class, auditioning, and working every day on growing your career, you deserve to call yourself what you are. You're an actor.
Any questions or comments for The Working Actor? Please email Jackie and Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org.