The year 2020 upon us, and it’s time for actors to contemplate setting New Year’s resolutions. Besides the standard aspirations to manage one’s money better or maintain healthier daily habits, when it comes to actors specifically wishing to advance their careers, casting director Erica Arvold encourages performers to combine two different approaches. In her Arvold Ask video “Should an actor make specific goals?” she discusses both philosophical and pragmatic goals performers can make to benefit their acting pilgrimage.

Initially, an anonymous actor reached out to Arvold to inquire about the best way to set actor-related goals:

“Some people believe that you shouldn’t make goals that are obvious like ‘book a supporting role,’ or ‘book a co-starring role’ because these goals are technically not under the actor’s control. And other people say it’s okay to write these kinds of goals out because it can be motivating, and it can make you push yourself and create habits that are then helpful in getting you closer to making these bookings.” Arvold is then asked her opinion on the matter.

Arvold views this question as both complex and important. To answer it, she refers to a motto that both she and acting coach Richard Warner often say to actors in educational settings and casting-related videos: “Practice, patience, and persistence.” Indeed, any goal that seeks to balance these three aspects of development is key to “best achieving any goal,” she insists. So when specifically focusing on best practices for actors to reach their goals, she lays out the philosophical and pragmatic approaches actors can make—and then she looks at the way these goals fit into the bigger picture of “Practice, patience, and persistence.”

  1. Examples of Philosophical goals for an actor:
  • “Improve my craft every day.” 
  • “Make genuine connections with acting colleagues, casting directors, directors, producers with the understanding that filmmaking and theater productions are collaborative art forms.”
  • “Support my community of fellow film artists and the town where I live.”
  • “To help create a creative vision whether it’s my own creative vision or someone else’s creative vision.” 

2. Examples of Pragmatic goals for an actor:

  • “Get headshots that show my updated look.”
  • “Learn skateboarding tricks to increase my chances of landing a gig.”
  • “Take an improv class.” 
  • “Update my acting reel.”
  • “Practice self-taping.”
  • “Join SAG-AFTRA.”
  • “Book a role—any role whether it be for a commercial, co-staring, guest-starring, supporting, leading, or background role.” 

All of the above goals, both philosophical and pragmatic, are key to moving forward as an actor. But Arvold believes talent is best equipped to practice their craft, be patient as they develop, and persist even during setbacks in achieving their goals if they combine both approaches in a holistic manner; doing so strengthens and balances each element of the “practice, patience, persistence” equation. If you only focus on attaining a guest-starring role, for example, but neglect to build meaningful professional relationships, then it reflects an imbalance in goals, making it less likely you’ll persist over time. On the other hand, if your goal is to take part in a creative collaborative vision but you don’t have current headshots, that reflects an imbalance as well that can stunt your progress.

So remember to include philosophical goals to balance any pragmatic objectives you have. Without the philosophical ideals, it would appear that stating the goal of “landing a role” would be out of the hands of the actor. But when these larger ideals balance the practical goals, it becomes more apparent just how much power an actor actually has to increase their chances of landing such a role. In this way, Arvold encourages actors to dream big even if certain aspects of their careers are outside of their control; thinking in larger terms can increase the possibility of attaining the kinds of roles they desire in the long run.