One of the most popular columns I ever wrote collected 10 simple things you could do to help move your career forward. Well, actually TWO of the most popular, people love stuff in short chunks. So here are 10 more, and always, you can do each in 30 minutes or less!
30 minutes dreaming up a two-way gift.
That is, something that will help you showcase your skills while it informs and/or entertains and/or supports other people. Could be an online video series. Or a podcast. Or a blog idea. Yes, this is a kinda-sorta repeat from the last iteration of the list, but I’m still floored by how few actors are taking advantage of the tools available and leaving their success (or failure) in the hands of some nebulous “others.” By the way, while you dream, walk! The “walking” part will help with loosening up your brain and has the added benefit of being—wait for it—EXERCISE! But before you take said walk, I might suggest…
30 minutes researching other people’s clips.
While there’s stuff going up all over Facebook and YouTube (although not as much as there should be from actors), it can be a bit overwhelming to start with. My friend and indie casting director supreme, Bonnie Gillespie, has a fantastically generous Facebook page where she uploads useful videos and answers questions, as well as points to her favorite self-produced clips. Sign-up is a MUST.
30 minutes watching two old TV shows on Hulu, Netflix or DVD.
Have you seen everything? Really? EVERYTHING? How about the original 39 episodes of The Honeymooners, followed by a few seasons of The Flintstones? Think you couldn’t gain something from a review analysis? Think again. If you’ve only seen the original, BBC version of The Office, watch the U.S. version. Or vice versa. Look at what’s changed and what hasn’t. (You can do this with lots of American television series, you know.)
30 minutes listening to The Moth.
Sorry, but actors ramble. They do. Learn how long five minutes is. Learn how to tell stories with a beginning, middle and end. Learn the most compelling (and quick) way to tell your story. The Moth is the best. Learn from the best.
30 minutes researching head shots.
Note that I said “head shots,” not “head shot photographers.” They’re two separate activities, and both important. Now that everyone’s on Facebook, checking out other actors’ head shots is easier than ever. (Advanced class: if you really, really want to start seeing how much all actors look alike, apply to intern at a casting director’s office. I worked for my manager for a while and trust me, it’s an education you won’t soon recover from.)
30 minutes managing your money.
If you already have all the money you need and a great relationship with it, to boot, you can spend that 30 minutes figuring out who you’re going to give it away to. If not, get busy, somehow, in some way, with your finances. The more on top of your cash flow you are, the more opportunities you have. Period. And please, spending 30 minutes dreaming about all the money you’re going to make when you sign with that agent or finally book that spot does NOT count. Balance your checkbook. Review your expenses and see what you can cut. Figure out a way you can put an extra $100 in your bank account or pay down an extra $100 of debt per month. Don’t be a jackass actor, learn to be a smart business owner!
30 minutes setting up or adding to a reading list.
Reading is great; reading in an orderly fashion (i.e., with some kind of goal and plan) is even better. (Exception: reading for enjoyment is also terrific and still useful; on your own time, read whatever you like!) Start with my suggestions, then triangulate with other people whose work and taste you respect. If three great people have suggested you read a book, put it on the list. Shelfari and GoodReads both offer rich communities and good ways to track what you’re reading.
30 minutes reading biographies or autobiographies.
Reading is the foundation of all knowledge, and reading books, long-form writing that requires engagement and involvement, strengthens your brain as well as filling it with good stuff. And reading the stories of people who have “made” it (or made it through something horrific) is often more instructive than the best self-help book. I loved Kathy Griffin’s book, which was hilarious as well as inspiring. Tracy Morgan’s, while not as well-written, was also illuminating. Don’t forget to read bios and memoirs of inspiring civilians, too: Ben Franklin is the gift that keeps on giving.
30 minutes reading the Act Smart! archives.
If you’re new to the column, you have over three years of back issues to check out! And if you’re not new to it, you have over three years of back issues to review! (Unless you’ve actually absorbed and applied everything I’ve talked about for over THREE years.)
30 minutes whitening your teeth.
Sorry if this is a little personal. And if you’re an extreme character type who makes money off your bad teeth, feel free to disregard. For the rest of us, some occasional bonding time with the Whitestrips is time and money well-spent. And hey, bonus, you can read the archives while doing it!