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  • Writer's pictureAndi Matheny

The Professional Actor

When I was in my twenties and I had made the decision to become a full-time actor, my approach to life was much different than it is now. Because I had made a career move from office worker to artist, I thought that gave me permission to live a free-form life. Party til 2am on a weeknight? Sure! Sleep all day, any day? Why not? My thinking then was I'd pull it together if an audition came up - but the auditions were few and far between. Looking back that's no surprise - I didn't take my career seriously and my career was more than happy to return the favor.

But even though actors technically fall into the category of artist, acting itself is still a job. We've all had jobs and we understand what a job means. It means you're dependable. You show up on time. You follow the rules, regulations and policies of your work environment. You dress appropriately.

If this job is your career, you constantly make strides for improvement. You study the successful people and emulate them. You do research to learn everything you can about your field. You participate in continuing education. You make goals, and take the necessary steps to achieve those goals.

Because actors are usually looking for work in an unstructured environment, an actor's survival in the professional world of film, television and theatre demands a rigorous standard of professionalism and a basic understanding of the job requirements. Those include:

Showing up on time

Continuing education (subcategory of memorization and other technical acting skills including on-camera work and auditioning, sub-subcategory monitoring your strengths and weaknesses and striving for improvement)

Communicating with your current sphere of professionals which could include acting teachers, agents, co-workers, fellow students, casting directors

Maintaining a reliable email program, cell phone and other means of communication

Maintaining a reliable means of transportation to auditions and jobs

Having basic tools - computer, current headshots and resume (both hard copies and online casting sites) a simple wardrobe for auditions

Following leads for jobs on casting sites and social media

Networking with other industry professionals, either in person or on social media

Research - watching film, television, reading plays, books on acting (the best part of the job!)

Scheduling at least one of the above at least once a day at least five days a week

If any one of the above is something that you aren't willing to commit to, then you may have to reassess if acting is the right career for you. For example, I just heard a student talk about the burden of memorizing scenes for class. Yes, that is work. It's also part of the gig and if you're serious about the business, something you need to be accustomed to doing. If a surgeon were to complain about all the cutting she needs to do on the job...well, you get the point.

We are coming up on a new year. Take a look at how you're doing your job, what needs improvement, and what kind of professional you'll be in 2017.

I'll see you in class.

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