Act Smart!: 10 things you can do in 30 minutes

I get a lot of questions e-mailed to me. Most of them are of the “will you look at my reel and pictures and websites and help me get an agent?” variety, but some are actually smart, non-obnoxious ones the answers to which would benefit most actors. Like the one about how much time to spend on marketing each week. The answer is…it depends: on how much time you have to spend, on what needs to get done, on where you are in your career. But I would say that everyone should be spending a half-hour per day on some marketing- or promotion-related task. Here are 10 ways you can spend those 30 minutes wisely.

30 minutes searching/submitting yourself for roles.

You can do it solo, you can do it with a buddy (or several, read Bonnie Gillespie’s Self-Management for Actors for her system, along with lots of other great ideas). The thing is, DO IT – at least once weekly, or better yet, break your 30 minutes into five six-minute segments and do it daily.

30 minutes sketching out video ideas.

If I were an actor working now, I would be doing everything I could to leverage the amazingly cheap and powerful tools available for putting myself out there in the new media world. I don’t mean that you should turn on your webcam and get all LonelyGirl15 (although if you can come up with the 2009 version of an attention-grabber like that, more power to you). I mean coming up with a clever, interesting way to showcase what you do (i.e., act) online. Back in my day, some poor actors paid hundreds or thousands of dollars to get some crappy tape of themselves. You have no excuse not to be doing 10 times better.

30 minutes doing your social media sweep.

Facebook. Twitter. MySpace. YouTube. Your network is your life, so treat it with the respect it, and you, deserve.

30 minutes getting current on film and TV.

No one can go see everything. But there’s no reason you can’t know about most of it, including who was in it, what it was about and what people are saying about it. This is not a free pass to go spend a half-hour on the online forums for your favorite current television obsession, either. This is about you learning the whole landscape, not gorging yourself on stuff you’d watch anyway.

30 minutes schmoozing before or after a play.

Yes, schmoozing. Yes, even if it’s just your dumb friend’s dumb play and there’s no one there worth meeting. (A) You never know who’s worth meeting, and (B) you most likely need the practice in a low-stakes environment.

30 minutes punching up your bio.

Read through these old columns. Look over your own bio. Is it up-to-date? Does it show you in the best light? Is it user-focused (i.e., interesting for the reader)? Here’s a hint: a bio can almost always be better. And shorter. And by the time it is, you’re usually overdue for revising it again. Always be writing.

30 minutes putting yourself on tape.

How do you work on scenes? Are you watching how you look on-camera? Getting more comfortable with working small? I’m a big fan of actor play-reading groups.

30 minutes writing thank-you notes.

You get auditions. You go to seminars and workshops and classes, meet with casting directors, read acting columns (ahem!). You could easily fill 30 minutes this week writing thank-you notes to people who have somehow, in some small way, even a very, very small way, helped you move the ball forward. Be brief, be genuine and be polite. But be grateful, out loud. It will make you more aware of all the goodness in your life, and it will make the day of the person on the receiving end.

30 minutes reading the trades AND the news.

This one is self-explanatory. Don’t be a dummy actor with no awareness of your industry or the world around you. Even if you’re not in a union yet, educate yourself on the issues. Even if you’re not going out for A-list parts yet, know what’s going on in the business. You don’t have to know the minute details of every last deal, but you should have some understanding of what’s going on in and around your chosen profession aside from what you read in OK! magazine. And you should have some idea of what’s going on in the world around you, if for no other reason than having something besides the latest celebutard DUI scandal to talk about over lunch on a shoot day. You are your own best P.R. agent; don’t feed into the Dumb Actor stereotype.

30 minutes making sure your meeting wardrobe is in shape.

Missing shirt buttons. Run-down heels. Stained suit pants. It’s a good idea for any business person to have a good, working wardrobe; for an actor, it’s indispensable. Do not give them any reason to not hire you; do not let yourself go out looking anything other than your best.