Are You a Proactive or Reactive Actor?

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It’s not a step, it’s a reaction. Recently I did something I thought was really positive in my personal life. I was telling a student of mine about this wonderful step I had taken to rid myself of a relationship that was taking a lot of energy and giving very little in return.

“That’s not a step, Sara. That’s a reaction,” he said. Before I had a chance to explain or tell him that he was wrong, I was hit by the absolute truth of what he had said. That’s the beauty of truth: Once you know it, there is no avoiding it—or it gets a heck of a lot harder to ignore.

It got me thinking about how much I’m doing in reaction to instead of proaction. The actor part of me waits until I have been asked about headshots to get new ones, and then somehow I’m in a position of semi-panic to get it done. Same goes for the reel or networking: I wait until asked/prodded/forced and then I go through the wonderful process of self-flagellation for not being more on top of it.

I am not that way in all areas of my life- and I used to be totally compulsive about new pictures every year and new footage added to the reel the second I had it. Now it feels like I could literally be working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Between all the social media—which is absolutely necessary, though I continue to fight it—revamping the website, writing the next book, classes and coaching, prepping for a movie, and a 10-month-old puppy…well, it feels like I might be living in reaction instead of action. Or I am quite possibly foregoing life all together—both of which are a type of death for me as an actor.

We strive to be in the moment and to constantly add to our toolbox, and yet I am limiting myself by focusing on what needs to get done instead of being present in the moment. I consider myself a coach first, however the reality of the right now is that I am going to be doing a feature film in three weeks. I have been revisiting the actor in me and it is going to take a lot more than the day-to-day work that I already do to get ready for this movie.

Unlike falling behind on a job or forgetting send a thank you card or saying, “I can get to that tomorrow” on set, when the director says, “action,” there’s no faking it—even if it’s part of our job description. To book an acting job means you have to show up totally prepared to get to work. For me that means I have 22 days to hit the gym and the trail as well as cut out carbs, sugar, red wine, and pretty much anything that tastes good. I can focus on working out and getting my endurance up or I can choose to fall behind. Reaction to or proaction? Time to put down the computer and get to the gym.

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Sara Mornell
Sara Mornell is a working actor, coach, and Backstage Expert.
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