How to get as much acting work as possible
Believe. It sounds a little trite, but if I've learned anything over the last 12 months - practically the entire length of my acting career so far - it's that self-confidence will get you everywhere. I am grateful for the loving support of my friends, family, and my partner, but it has been necessary for me to adopt a single-minded approach to achieving my goals. Rely on no-one but yourself to make it all work.
It didn't matter to me that I wasn't a drama school graduate, didn't have the funds to invest in top-level training, or have access to noteworthy contacts who could whisk me through the crowd and place me firmly on the red carpet - I just wanted an opportunity - any opportunity - to perform, and I began my career as an extra (benevolently known as a 'supporting' or 'background' artist by the considerate and patronising alike) on a film which was then referred to as 'The Brothers', but has since been retitled 'My Brother the Devil'.
While my contribution to the project was minimal, I look upon my chance participation (I received a last minute call up the day before the shoot) on a (soon-to-be award winning) feature by debutant writer/director Sally El Hosaini as indicative of how putting yourself out there can make things happen. Sally, herself, was taking great strides in both realising her own ambitions, while simultaneously inspiring a wealth of actors, writers, directors, cinematographers, production assistants, and countless other professionals around her and beyond, while I - on my first film shoot - struck up a conversation with a fellow 'backgrounder', who turned out to be among other things, my future mentor. We exchanged details and within a few weeks I was acting with him as one of the lead roles in his first independent feature! Some might say it was extremely fortuitous, but I believe that my attitude and work ethic went a long way to convincing him to take such a gamble on me. That and the 'feeling' he had. This is the unquantifiable factor that can instantly turn strangers to friends, and candidates to colleagues. In spite of logic and reason concluding otherwise, you'll find that people unsurprisingly like people. Not paper CVs. And definitely not hollow platitudes. So I found that being honest and open allowed prospective employers and colleagues to access the real me, and tap into my energy. And the same will go for you too. Don't hide your light under a bushel - share your love for what you do, and where you'd like to be, because you never know who you're talking to, or how you might be able to help each other.
There is a saying that reads "fake it till you make it", and in the right context, I couldn't agree more. Now if you're a trainee surgeon or a mental health counsellor, PLEASE ensure you clue yourself up before you attempt to treat, diagnose or interact with any patients, but if you're a beginner actor: go out there and act! It doesn't matter what you're in, who is directing it, and who else is in it - make it happen, because from this point onwards, you will either decide to give it up or that you want the same again/something even better. Either way your inner 'Bette Davis' [or 'Steve Buscemi', or 'Marion Cotillard' - whoever floats your theatrical boat] will now propel you towards the next production with even more focus.)
Being open-minded, easy going, willing to learn and take instruction is a must whether you decide to work on TV, stage, film, or all three. Those key traits can be the difference between failure and success. The world is awash with an unbalanced mix of vastly differing personalities, a portion of which you will encounter as each production comes and goes. The only way to guarantee yourself the best chance at making an impact is to be consistent in attitude, appreciate the position you're in, and work hard to develop yourself further. If your eyes lacked emotion on the last shoot, study the expressions of other actors (female and male), and practice bringing them to life before your next gig. If people struggled to hear you on stage at the last show, find a vocal coach or speak to a fellow actor or go online (YouTube is great for this) and get some exercises to improve your breathing technique and projection. You won't always be told what you did wrong or what you didn't get right, so it's important that you either find someone you trust and respect to help you assess yourself and/or, do it yourself. Now a good teacher can help you to identify these issues almost instantly, so go and get the best training your money can afford. If you lack the finance, then there are plenty of highly-skilled practitioners out there putting on shows and developing productions, so the more you work, the more you'll learn. The library is also full of books on artists, technicians, techniques, and tips you can adopt to be better, and better prepared. All are free and accessible to everyone.
In terms of actually finding jobs, there are varying websites and agencies who will offer you opportunities to gain work. Ask around. Within a few conversations, you will notice the same names coming up, and get a better ideas as to where you can best find work. And don't be afraid to approach someone more established. There's no harm in asking someone who seems quite advanced in their career where you can go to find what you need.
I must say that I have been lucky enough to have been involved in various productions with some amazing people, working on student short films, corporate videos, mainstream TV series, community theatre and independent features. All were from different walks of life, and at different stages of their career, but they loved what they did and that helped us to achieve the best results possible. In working together you not only increase the chances of the production's success, but you also open a pathway to future relations. And I have more recently been blessed enough to have been offered jobs in theatrical and commercial work on the basis of my endeavours in past productions. Irrefutable evidence in my eyes that your past efforts will not be forgotten!
Remember: hard work is always be rewarded. Not always immediately or in the way you expect, but every ounce of effort I have put in to my work (and personal) life has created a benefit for me.
Do not rule any job out without serious consideration. I have tried my best to regularly apply for all sorts of related jobs, especially in areas I am unfamiliar with, and taken any opportunities that have been presented to me, especially if they were outside of my comfort zone. In doing so, I learned new things about myself and equipped myself with new skills that were immediately transferable. Not only have I acted, but I've also been a production assistant, assistant cameraman, filmmaker (with my home video Palmcorder), assistant director (stage), stage manager, short film night presenter, and writer (initially for film work, but now on stage and TV projects). All have helped me gain more experience and exposure, and introduced me to new people, ideas and areas of interest. They have taught me new things as an actor, and also helped boost my confidence, which was - to be fair - already pretty high!
And if you really struggle to find work elsewhere, hire yourself! Write something: a short, feature, play, advert, whatever! There are individuals and groups everywhere just looking to work on anything. Ideas are free, but can net you a fortune, so if you find nothing out there, BE the opportunity instead.
The reason for this mini-biopic is purely to give you the full context of my acting life so far; and a little because I enjoy writing. I want you to understand that although I was an older (30 years young when I began last year), untrained, financially-challenged and inexperienced individual, I knew that if I was determined, punctual, polite and professional - I'd always get a look in somewhere. I have worked with a lot of students, first-time filmmakers and community theatre teams, and their passion, coupled with mine, has made mountains out of molehills.
So if you want more acting jobs, just go out and act. Anywhere and everywhere. Soon enough, something will click, and you'll wonder why you ever worried in the first place.