2008 is almost here. Oh goody. That means the sound of thousands of resolutions being broken at 12:01AM.
“I’ll stop smoking, I’ll lose weight, I’ll shave my dorky beard.” Actors make career related resolutions as well as personal ones. “I’ll get a new agent, I’ll finally book a guest-star role, I’ll become a movie star.” Problem is, none of these are good resolutions. So I’d like to take a few paragraphs and talk about how to make productive resolutions to help advance your career.
Make sure your goal is actionable. This means a goal you can accomplish by your own actions. Resolving to book a guest-star role isn’t actionable. It requires you to be called for an audition and then be hired by the producers. You can’t use mind-control on the casting director or producers (believe me, I’ve tried). An actionable resolution is “I will send out more post cards to casting directors.” This resolution can lead to you booking that guest-star role, but it’s something you can take into your own hands.
Make sure your resolution is time limited. Let’s be honest, if someone tells me I have a year to clean my apartment I’ll probably not clean it until at December if I remember at all. If the same person gives me until the second week of January to clean my place, I’ll probably start right away. Set a good time frame for your resolution and you’ll find yourself following through much more often. And no, it doesn’t take an entire year to get new headshots.
Set goals within your limits. I can resolve to run a marathon February 2nd. It’s actionable and it’s time limited but it’s darn near impossible. But if I resolve to run 26 miles over the entire month of February, that’s a whole lot more reasonable. Know what you can reasonably accomplish. You probably won’t lose 100lbs. this year but you might be able to lose 25.
Still be sure to challenge yourself. It’s not challenging for me to resolve to blog five times in 2008. It’s too easy and even if I follow through I won’t feel like I accomplished anything. Don’t be afraid to stretch yourself a little bit.
And my final piece of advice is not to make new years resolutions at all. Seriously, it’s silly to only try to change your life once a year. If you want to set resolutions in July, go ahead. If you notice something’s wrong with your career or life don’t wait to change it.
Commercial actors get their Polaroids taken at almost every single audition. Why? So the casting office can have some pictorial identification on your paperwork and because the ad agency might ask for the guy in the “red Hawaiian shirt” instead of asking for “Eitan Loewenstein.” No, I don’t actually own a red Hawaiian shirt. But I should.
So if you’re making your living (or trying to) as a commercial actor you’ll get hundreds of Polaroids taken over the course of your career. Commercial casting directors often swear that no one has ever lost a job because of a bad Polaroid. But I don’t believe them. I’ve seen some of those photos and they look like the devil himself has taken them to torture actors who take great pride in their appearances. Very few actors have learned how to minimize the chances of looking like they have been woken up in the middle of a nap for their snapshot.
Here are a few techniques that I’ve learned/stolen over the years to have your Polaroid not suck (mostly from models, they all know how to have a good picture taken):
- Get down to or below the level of the photographer. I’m tall. Tall people know that they look really silly in photos because the photographer is typically below their eye level when they shoot. In the photography business this is referred to as shooting “up someone’s nose.” The bottom of the chin is featured as well as anything that happens to be living in the actors nasal passages. The way to combat this is to get down so your eyes are at the level of the camera or even an inch or two below. The best way to achieve this is to spread your legs apart so you don’t have to hunch over.
- Don’t let your chin fly away. For some reason when you aim the camera at people they tend to throw their heads back trying to look like a “badass gangsta.” Well, it’s just as bad as being shot from below, so don’t do it. Tilt your head down slightly. Very slightly. Think of aiming your nose at the bottom of the camera.
- Don’t point your nose directly at the camera. Polaroids are wide angel cameras. They’re meant for shooting big group photos. So they distort things at close range (where most commercial audition pictures are taken). So by aiming your nose slightly to the right or left of the camera (and still looking straight at the camera) you prevent your nose from looking bigger than it actually is. This is a very slight tilt, don’t overdo it. Aim at the left or right side of the camera with your nose. That’s it, perfect, you look beautiful.
- Get away from that wall. Every session runner shoots photos against a wall because it makes for a neutral background. But they also use a flash which casts a shadow on the wall. You want to avoid a dark, sharp shadow floating behind you. So make sure you’re not leaning against the wall. A trick I learned was to put your hand behind you to feel the wall. Try to space yourself six inches to a foot away from the wall to minimize the shadow but not annoy the photographer.
- Relax. These tips are helpful but every commercial actor has booked a job with a horrid Polaroid. It’s not a make or break moment for you but it’s nice to lead with your best foot forward. No one’s expecting these to look as polished as your headshot.
As an actor the second most important job you have (after acting, of course) is to promote, promote, promote. There is no easier way to promote yourself and your work than by starting your very own actor blog. Here are a few benefits to starting your own blog to discuss your acting work:
* Your accomplishments are automatically broadcast all over the internet for the world to see.
* It’s easy for your family and friends to keep up with your career.
* Starting your own blog is not only easy, but you can do it for free.
Actors are always wondering how to promote their newest accomplishment. If it’s a commercial, part in a TV show or even a new play you aren’t always going to get invited onto The Late Show to talk about your endeavors in front of an attentive public. This is where your blog comes in. It’s your blog and you can write whatever you want. I get daily hits on my site for people looking for information on iCarly. That means whenever an iCarly fan is searching for information on the show they get to read about my upcoming episode. That’s great targeted publicity! Someone’s going to watch my episode and say, “hey, I read that guy’s blog!”
Does your mom call every week and ask how the career is going? Do your cousins always bug you to find out when you’re going to be on TV next? Well, with a blog they have no excuse to bother you again (like that’s going to stop them). You have a centralized place to post your accomplishments and your friends and family can check in whenever they want an update on your career. But not only can family and close friends find out what you’re up to, so can long lost friends. People I used to perform with in college, high school drama friends and people I’ve worked with in Los Angeles and since lost touch have found me and what I’m up to through my blog.
About now you’re looking at my shiny beautiful site and you’re starting to think you could never put anything like this together. The second you hear the letters “HTML” or the word “program” your brain turns into a lump of igneous rock. Well I’ve got some great news for you, you don’t have to program anything to get a blog up and running. There are several free and simple ways to set up your very own slice of blog real estate. The two most popular are Blogger.com (0wned by Google) and WordPress.com. You get a spiffy domain name like stephonfuller.blogspot.com (a “must read” actor blog), easy tools to update it yourself as well as a very friendly help pages to point you on your way. And did you catch the part that it’s all for free?
These free blogs can make a great substitute for a full fledged “actor site” if you’re not ready to take the plunge both technologically and financially. There’s really nothing to be scared of and loads to gain. So get out there, start your blog and start promoting yourself!
Look for an upcoming post with some great actor blogs and other sites every actor should have bookmarked.