The cliche used to be that every actor had a screenplay. Now the prevailing cliche is that every actor is creating content. All cliches often contain a grain of truth….that’s how they become cliches!
To be clear, I wholeheartedly endorse the concept of actors becoming more:
- Actor-craft services!
In the “old days” (not that many years ago) actors were not really expected to be more in the way they are today. Actors who became great at their craft, got noticed because agents, managers, and casting directors often went out and saw many of them onstage. They then acquired an agent, got pitched by their representatives, had general meetings with casting directors (a quaint old concept – pretty much extinct), went on auditions, and sometimes booked jobs – each job (in theory) adding to an upward trajectory in their career-building phase: co-star, guest-star, recurring, series regular, etc. Although not always a linear path, that was the gist of it. And it still happens that way today, to some extent. But there have been sea-changes in the professional actors’ world, and it continues…..
- New (not always great) contracts
- More work, less money
- Non-union buy-outs
- 10 page auditions with less than 24 hours notice (“can you be off-book?”)
- Coaching – strongly suggested by managers who are not the ones paying for it
- Your number of Twitter followers becomes the new “currency”
- The expectation is that you will be creating content
- Casting-director paid workshops (poison in my opinion)
- Social media dominates: your own website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.
- Working with YouTube stars who are not trained actors
- Improv training to supplement your scene-study class
There is less and less time to somehow do more and more. It’s just expected. And actors almost always oblige because we are dedicated and dogged in our determination “They don’t want it right, they just want it by Tuesday at 11 am” – no matter what.
When I began my teaching journey seven years ago I enthusiastically encouraged actors to write, direct, produce, in short to create their own content. It was, and still is not about merely creating content, but creating opportunity from whole cloth – not sitting around waiting for the phone to ring. While that concept was beginning to take root at the time, it was still somewhat radical and not many fully embraced the task. Now seven years later when I interview actors to either be in my class or coach with me I almost always hear, “Yeah….I’m working on my own stuff too. Just created a new short.” Or a web-series, or a screenplay. Actors have taken that “note” and run with it. This is good.
But being great at your craft is not now (nor ever) all that’s required. Actors are expected to be stand-alone businesses, in effect….brands. For the true artist, this is a challenge. For those brilliant at promoting their career (and sometimes little else) – it’s can be a boom time.
Are you frustrated yet? Are you “keeping score”? It’s frankly harder than it’s ever been, there are simply more people chasing this dream, yet there is also more opportunity than there has ever been. We are running faster and faster on the treadmill – sometimes remaining in one place. It tests us deeply.
Look, not every artist can be a good business person, and not every good business person can be an artist. You will find yourself someplace on that spectrum between art and commerce – we all have to make peace with that as best we can.
Creating content is so “2017”. Cool. But the big question is: what’s next?
Keep you eyes on the horizon and your ears to the ground. No one really knows what’s next, except we will be expected to embrace it, dominate it, and incorporate it into our artistry, which above all things must remain our touchstone in the midst of the creative hurricane that an actor’s life can be.