…lack an awareness of how they spend their mind time.
I am a big believer in the notion that actors (and everyone else in pursuit of a passion) should do something for their career every day. Be it a big or small task/action, a step in the right direction is a step in the right direction. But lately I’ve been struck by how much MIND time is spent on business in the industry. This column isn’t going to urge you to stop thinking and start doing, although that’s never a terrible thought. Instead, I’d like to ponder the time and energy spent in thought… and whether those thoughts are serving you well… or possibly stunting the growth of your business.
Commercial actors should never lack an awareness of how they spend their mind time.
An acting career can be aggravating. The pursuit, frustrating… and wonderful, exhilarating, rewarding, blah, blah, blah… yes, yes, yes. All true. I’ve talked extensively with more actors I can count, and remember all too clearly my own feelings and thoughts during the years I was performing in theatre. There’s a lot of good and plenty of bad to contend with. The highs are HIGH. The lows are low. And as far as I can tell, even from the most successful actors I personally know, there is more than enough time spent in the realm of frustration. It’s a reality. Or it can be. If none of this is ringing a bell, consider yourself blessed (like, remarkably) and carry on. If you have found yourself frustrated, aggravated, enraged, miserable or miffed from time to time about anything in this profession, take heart. You are normal. Read on.
There are ALL KINDS OF THINGS to cause your gander to rise in commercials. Let’s just say it: changes in the contract, second callbacks, no more first-class flights, not making the commercial money you used to, no tracking system for when your commercial airs, your union, the mean/disrespectful casting director, the mean/disrespectful casting assistant, last-minute notice, jerks in the lobby, a long wait, changing copy, a less-than-kind session director, unclear direction, being paired with a clueless partner, crying kids, always needing new headshots, never getting called in, lazy agents, the price of everything, the lack of respect, casting director workshops, avails never being released, a booking drought, clients eating during your callback, no re-direct, not being seen after you were stuck in traffic, having to take more classes, large egos… this list could go on indefinitely. I’m not being facetious. These are all things that often evoke negative feelings… or certainly have the potential to. These are “legitimate” things you have a right to get upset about. But just because you have a right to get up in arms, doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Getting upset = BAD BRAIN TIME. Going into actor activist mode often times = BAD BRAIN TIME. Writing angry letters, making angry phone calls, complaining, obsessing = BAD BRAIN TIME.
How are you spending your mind time? How much of that is BAD BRAIN TIME? How can you change/lessen that?
Expectations. Check your expectations. I genuinely appreciate the expectation that a casting director should be kind, clear and positive when they hold a session. I agree. But here’s the thing… some commercial casting directors are known to be difficult, volatile and unkind more often than not. I’m not defending them, just reporting the facts. Sometimes even the good and kind ones are grumpy. What then? Does it ruin your day? Mess up your audition? Wreck your next audition? Kill your chances of booking the job? If dashed high expectations for your audition experience makes your head spin and thrusts you into anger, frustration or depression (I would call any and all of that “bad brain time”) perhaps you could consider adjusting your expectations. Imagine if the curt session director didn’t bother you or the 50-minute wait didn’t frustrate you because your expectations for a session is simply to arrive, wait, be told what to do, and to be put on tape doing it. It’s business, after all.
Business. It’s a passionate profession you have found yourself in. It may be hard to remember that it’s a business and that you must treat it as such. Nothing is personal. Nothing should be taken personally. When your brain is exploding with the offensive thing you just read/heard/saw/experienced and you are about to spend the following precious minutes, hours or days of your life going over and over it in your mind… God forbid letting it slip out your mouth causing the poison to spread… remind yourself that it’s business. Don’t take anything personally. Don’t waste precious time wallowing in bad brain time. Actors routinely have a million and one things to do for their career. Spend your time wisely. (Note: If, of course, you experience something illegal, immoral, etc… by all means deal with it. Call your agent, the authorities, the union… I’m not referring to those things, the HUGE things, when I suggest letting it go)
Control what you can control. The only thing you have any control over is you and your reaction to things. Do your part to be prepared, knowledgeable, and flexible. When something turns you upside down, turn yourself right side up. I couldn’t be more serious. When you control what you can control you are less likely to spend (waste) your mind time in the negative realm.
If misery loves company, you’ve got it. I think anyone in the industry (at all levels) is tempted to fall into bad brain time, and do from time to time. We all need to fight it. The actor, who can stay positive in their thoughts, wins. I believe this wholeheartedly. The only person hurt by the time you spend in bad brain time, is you… and your career. Your career can be a casualty of bad brain time, too. Beware, consider and adjust.