The Title is a good question and one I think every actor needs to ask themselves throughout their career. For myself the answer is: An Actor who likes to do different things and my career to date has encompassed, theatre, film, television and corporate work. I am also the type of Actor who likes to take on challenges and challenge an audience in roles that I would not normally be cast in. Certainly in theatre, I have played roles in Chekov and Shakespeare that I would not normally be considered for, something I relish to doing.
All of the above aside, I am also in the ‘Business of Being an Actor’. What that means is I know I am not just practising my art but I am also running a business as well so as much I love doing what I am doing, my heart is not ruling my head. I mention this because I was reading an article written by Paul Russell an US-based Casting Director whose blogs I read on a regular basis. Mr. Russell discusses at length what it takes to be considered an actor. Oddly enough there are so many things one has to do besides being on a stage or film/tv set. I will let Mr. Russell articulate it better than I ever could:-
If you’re a constant reader of Answers for Actors or any print on perfecting your performance; you’re not an actor waiting for others to push your career forward.
If you join and actively participate in an online forum or group related to the industry such as the Paul Russell Casting Facebook groups–offering insight and constructive tips to your peers; you’re no slouch sideliner.
If you set time aside daily (an hour to four hours) dedicated to promoting your career to the gate keepers of artistic employ (social media updates tossed to friends and barely-friends don’t count); you’re not a pretending player of the game that is entertainment.
If you’re constantly taking classes to better you skills (acting, the business of the business—how else will you learn how to get work?, voice — speaking and/or singing… too many actors don’t know how to effectively use their speaking instrument, stage combat—you need to learn how to fight for films too); then you’re not a transparent talker about your craft.
Over the years I’ve seen far too many ‘actors’ who have no right to assume the honor of the title call as they wait and hope for someone else to take the reigns of their life. From the drudges that trundle into actor expos with their overly, inappropriate glossy and poorly focused and composed headshots (if they have a picture of their puss at all) to the actors with agents who think their champion will do all of the toil of job seeking and career growth efforts for the actor. If you dare call yourself an actor and you’re investing your time and financial resources to the latest Angry Birds app on your hottest new technology toy bought to replace the must-get gadget you snapped up six months ago… may I suggest two options: Find a patient spouse with cha-ching. Or, if the well of happiness is dry of romances who will tolerate your hoping your career will be bettered by a fortune cookie… get off your lazy ass and get your life moving forward.
Momentum begins within. Every force that pushes upon others begins somewhere. From the big bang to the phone call or an e-mail that announces you got the job. The end result comes from an origin.
When I do my marketing for my various careers (directing, casting, writing and teaching) I often don’t get an immediate response but eventually my labors pay-off.
When I study to better myself, or learn a new skill for a whim, I may not immediately have a need or know if I’ll require the knowledge beyond personal enlightenment but many times I’ve found eventually what I learned comes in handy at some point in my life (My knowledge of web sites is one such skill that came from boredom in the 90s when I built a gay gaming web site).
Artists can not wait for the bus of opportunity to roll up to the curb as do civilians in the tedium that is the real world. Most civilians move up the ranks in their fields by deeds. The deeds of actors exist momentarily and then become forgotten to reside as fading lines on a resume. When an actor is not active acting, their skill set weakens. Hence, why classes or garnering knowledge via other means is vital to keeping an actor’s vitality.
If your career is not as active as you desire… what are you doing about it? Are you involved in your growth? Or are you a lackadaisical actor? Or are you an investor in your career? You’re the only adviser who can answer such honestly… that IS… if you can be honest with yourself. A fool is his own greatest listener.
© Paul Russell Casting
Now many of these things I am doing but unless you are working regularly as an actor or doing some other kind of paid work, then some of the above one may not be able to do. For myself, I have managed to get a website done – two in fact. Both of which I devised and built myself. I also built a Social Media Network by combining my presence on various Social Media websites together, mainly via using Twitter as the linking device. The good news is that none of this cost me a penny. So many of the things Paul Russell mentions can be done if you are a struggling thespian on a tight budget. Workshops and courses are a different matter. One of the things I did when I was earning a regular income was to invest in books on Acting, many of which included CVs, I also stocked up on Plays, Screenplays and books on Film and Film Acting. So while I am not able to afford to enrol on courses and workshops due to financial constraints, I have large library of reference material in book, audio and visual format so I can pretty much keep my skills up to date while I am ‘resting’ as an actor.
Back in 2004 (two years into my career,) I discovered by chance, a new website. I registered and created a profile on Casting Call Pro (UK). This is where I began to market myself as an Actor. My Casting Call Pro Profile became a very important resource in building an online profile – indeed, this Profile was the foundation of what would become my Social Media Network. In 2007 I registered a profile on Facebook and forgot all about it. It was only in 2008 when I decided to try Facebook as another method of furthering my Career that I discovered the profile I created a year previously so I completed the profile and used that as my Webpage until I created the first of my two Websites.
I have made mistakes along the way and I have learned from them. A mark of some success is that if ‘Daniel Jude Gennis’ is typed into Google, a wealth of links and information is presented. This tells casting directors, directors and producers that I at least have the right and have earned the right to call myself an Actor. This is not bragging. It is telling people that I am here, I am available and I have worked damn hard to get this far and will work that much harder to stay there and progress ever forward.