So you wanna be an actor?

the author in full makeup with stage manager from "The Berlin Circle"

me & SM supreme Beth Mack during The Berlin Circle

The only thing that made me happier than my 10-odd years as an actor was the day I decided to stop being one.

You’ve already heard that, right? If you don’t have to act, don’t.

But let us say you do. Or that you care about someone who does. Either way, you’re here to find out what I know that can help an actor in her quest for acting excellence. So here we go…

Thing #1: My collected columns on “the business of the business”

I’ve been writing a column for Casting Networks, the premier commercial casting submission service here in Los Angeles, for over seven years. There’s a wealth of stuff here for actors looking to maximize what they can control, from improving your bio to planning your year to chunking out tasks into daily, 30-minute sessions that can move your career forward.

The four-part series on marketing proved wildly popular and led to my developing a seminar on marketing yourself as an actor by employing foundational principles and low-cost tools like social media. If you’re interested in having me speak at your school, please email me (colleen AT communicatrix DOT com) for more info.

Thing #2: My (free) monthly newsletter

I’m 100% convinced that a major factor in my success as an actor, and for our purposes, let’s define “success” as “supporting myself for 8.5 years in millenial Los Angeles”, was because I had a strong grounding in basic communications and marketing principles. In other words, I was able to work as an actor in commercials because of all those years I spent as a writer making commercials; I was able to make any other inroads at the ancient starting age of 33 because of all the learning I’d picked up in business and life.

I pass along what I’ve learned in each issue of my newsletter, along with good tools/tips/media I think smart, creative people can use to make themselves better, stronger and faster. The stuff I talk about is immediately applicable in both your acting and “civilian” life.

Don’t be a dummy actor: be a well-rounded communicator!

UPDATE 10/28/13: My newsletter archives are a casualty of some pharmaceutical spambots hacking their way through my site via a plugin vulnerability. The lessons here are twofold: 1), keep your software updated; and 2), back up, back up, back up!

Thing #3: A list of helpful resources for actors

Actors are a passionate, sensitive lot, and there are a lot of unsavory types who would take advantage of that. This is a short list of things I think are useful to actors as of this writing (see date at bottom of page), but sadly, things can change. Please use your head and not just your heart when reviewing any kind of information. Consider the source; wherever possible, get multiple recommendations and triangulate.

Bottom line: the most important training and education you can get is knowing yourself, staying well-informed and learning how to keep yourself grounded. Be those things before you go around spending either your time or your hard-earned money on actor-type stuff? As they said on a great old TV cop show, “Let’s be careful out there!”

  • The Actors Voice This weekly column written by casting director Bonnie Gillespie is packed to the gills with useful information on how to be a working actor. Virtually any question you can think of on the day-to-day challenges of actors is (probably) answered in the archives; if not, query Bonnie via proper channels and she’s likely to answer it for you.
  • Self-Management for Actors Bonnie Gillespie’s book on how to handle all the things that are within your control (and what to let go of). Undergoing revisions as I write this—4th edition, w00t!—it’s HUGE and razy-packed-full of good, up-to-date info.
  • MonologueAudition.com NYC-based actor/teacher Karen Kohlhaas teaches you how to embrace (and even enjoy!) the monologue. There’s also a lot of very inspiring and practical information on her comprehensive site.
  • My Amazon store contains a full list of books for actors (or for people who want to learn about acting). But the main thing is for you to READ the books, not buy them. So make the time, too. Get a library card. If you live in L.A., shop Sam French. Don’t be a dummy actor!
  • Vanie Poyer Photography Vanie took my current headshot, the one that graces the sidebar of this here blog. Not only does she do great work, she provides a wealth of useful information for actors on her own excellent blog.
  • Blake Gardner Photography Blake took the headshot that not only worked brilliantly, online and off, for over five years, but formed the basis for my masthead logo. If you live in Los Angeles, I highly recommend him as a photog. No matter where you are, you’ll benefit from the actor resources on his page.
  • David Sobel Photography David took my very first bona fide actor headshots, and should probably win a medal for patience alone. But he also managed to capture whatever it is about me that was marketable, because it was after his shots that I first started to book.

Photo of me with Beth Mack, resident stage manager of evidEnce Room, backstage during the ER’s production of The Berlin Circle.

Updated October 28, 2013.

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