How Do You Get Out of an Acting Rut?

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Here at Backstage, we want to make sure our readers are always feeling like they’re pushing themselves forward. That’s why we created Level Up, a series for UK actors where we talk to pros who can help you take your career to the next level. Hear from the industry vets—from publicists and managers to agents and acting coaches—about how to do it! This week, Nicky Raby, the ultimate multi-hyphenate: coach-actor-writer-speaker-podcaster, who also spent five years as a talent agent. Author of Be Ready for Your Lucky Break, she dispenses advice on maintaining a healthy balance between the industry and personal lifestyle.

What something every actor should be doing, regardless of the stage of their career?
It’s different for different people and at different ages and stages. When people talk about wellness sometimes it can be a quite an elitist thing: unless you’ve been to the gym and meditated for four hours, you’re not serious. I think it’s more about what can you do to make yourself feel good—even if it’s those simple things of doing a few stretches, drinking water, and eating proper nutritious food.

You also have to be in the world. If you find you’re spending all your times with actors, stop. There’s this thing about artists being hidden away in their studio, or actors being in the rehearsal room. Go and explore, go and sit on a park bench, go and sit in a café; that’s going to help you broaden your horizons. Don’t switch off the from the world and go inwards. If you’re finding you’re getting a bit stuck or overwhelmed, go outwards.

What advice do you have for young actors just out of school?
The more of that structure and that focus and that big-picture version of what you did during drama school, the better. It can be tempting to think that not much is happening and get distracted. Get focused and be patient. Surround yourself with really great people in the beginning. It does take a bit of time to settle in and get going.

What would you say to a mid-career actor who is having trouble cracking the ceiling they may have hit?
I think it’s really important to go back to what you want. When I was working as an agent lots of our actors would say, “I just want to work.” Or, “I just want more auditions.” And that’s quite non-specific for an agent to do their work. Get really specific on what the next step is for you and get really focused on what needs to happen in order to take you to that next step.

It’s a business, and it needs to feel it’s being watered and looked after and not left to droop in the shade somewhere. Get really clear on where you’re going and what you need. Look at your mindset. Maybe you’ve got yourself in a bit of a rhythm of “I’m not good at this,” or, “The industry hates me.” People can get lost in stories that perhaps don’t serve them. Maybe you need to look at yourself and see how you’ve been holding yourself back and how you’ve been sabotaging your own opportunities.

READ: Do You Know How to Market Yourself to a London Agent?

What can actors do to make themselves marketable to agents?
You have to be able to show the evidence that you are good to go. Make it make sense for the agent. Quite often I feel people are vague because they don’t want to miss opportunities.

Websites are also really key in making sure if somebody Googles you that it’s all the good stuff. Don’t make somebody work hard for it, because somebody else will make it easy and the agent will scroll on by.

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