How many times have you heard yourself or fellow actors say things like, “I just need to get an agent,” “I’ve got to join SAG,” or “I really want to book this commercial/film/tv show/etc.” I know I’ve said each of these things at least once (alright, probably more like a million times). The implication is that if you can accomplish whatever it is you’re talking about, you’ll have achieved something significant, that will validate your efforts. Maybe, unconsciously, you think it will validate you as a person or an artist. Yet, when you really look at these issues – having an agent, union status, booking a job – you realize that not one of them is something that an actor has any ability to directly control. You can’t force an agent to sign you, the union is practically designed to keep you out, and forget about making a casting director pick you. So what could you do instead that is more productive and that you can feel good about?
The answer is to focus only on what is under your control. There are so many things as an actor that are not up to you to determine. Instead of giving energy to that, what if you did anything else possible to support your goals?
Let’s see what that looks like. The first thing that definitely falls into the category of something you can control is your level of training, and how much effort you put in to your classes. Next, finding a headshot photographer that you can work well with who produces quality photos is another good use of your energy. Meeting fellow actors and other industry professionals can be accomplished with some work on your part. Learning how to list credits on your resume, use Actors Access, build a website (or hire someone to do it for you)…the list goes on and on when it comes to things that you can accomplish on your own in support of your career.
It’s possible that none of those things will directly work to get you what you want, but they will help propel you there. Take the idea of getting an agent. You can’t push your way into an agent’s office, shove a contract in his/her face, and compel the agent to sign you. What you can do is figure out why an agent would want to represent you – what roles could you get cast for (the answer isn’t “all of them”), and what do you have to offer the industry? Submitting your headshots to agents gets expensive, and isn’t always effective, but once you’ve been in class awhile, you can ask your coach, a trusted actor friend, or another industry professional to refer you. You can get yourself as ready as you can possibly be for an agent, because when you’ve done that, the agent will be ready for you.
If you’re wondering about your status in SAG-AFTRA, that’s another achievement that will only come to you when the time is right and you’ve put in the needed effort to get there (also, here in Georgia, a right-to-work state, this event may play out a bit differently than it would in New York or LA). As with getting an agent, all you can do is get yourself as ready as possible to be a working actor. Work on independent projects or student films to get experience and footage, not to mention networking with countless valuable people on set. This way, when you get your SAG-E status, if you think it’s the appropriate time for you to join the union, you’ll feel confident in your decision and it will probably fall naturally into place in your life.
What about bookings? We all go into auditions hoping that we’ll book the job – we’re only human, after all – but that’s not the best use of our energy. What if you went into a casting with the intention to just make a connection with the casting director? That’s doesn’t sound so intimidating, and it’s something you can actually achieve. I once went into a casting with the intention of making the casting director smile – this was risky on my part, as I still can’t fully control the casting director’s feelings towards me. But having that as my intention, rather than the desperation I’ve felt in the past when I really wanted to book the job, felt so much better to me than what I was doing before. And I did get her to smile!
When you turn your attention to what is within your power, it gives you a sense of control. The next time you’re tempted to say or think “I need to get cast in this project”, try coming up with something that will benefit you and that is achievable, such as “I want to do the best audition I can.” Then, you can figure out how to make that happen – maybe by prepping with a coach and focusing on each moment in your scene.
My hope for you is that you can move your focus into a positive direction for yourself. This, in turn, will help you get to those goalposts in a way that feels easier and makes you happier.