How can actors exercise their acting muscle between projects so they’re good to go once the next gig comes along? Georgia-based casting director Erica Arvold and acting coach Richard Warner list a number of affirmative suggestions in this Arvold Discuss 2020 video. The duo shares activities to promote self-reflection, broaden one’s perspective, and they discuss ways actors can challenge themselves during the slow times. 

They urge actors to be in the practice of acting. Acting is a profession that requires individuals to be in the daily practice of pursuing the craft with the goal of eventually mastering it—much like the way an athlete or doctor approaches his or her career. “Can you do something every single day to advance either your artistic side or your business side?” asks Warner. Just think: by year’s end, this kind of discipline results in performers accomplishing 252 tasks to benefit their career, provided they commit to one task per workday. Sounds like a great way to build skill, confidence, and momentum.

Here are Arvold and Warner’s tips.

Monologues

Memorize a monologue and then tape it. Upon reviewing the footage, ask yourself how you can improve upon the performance. Do three takes altogether.

Review old auditions

In the spirit of play, review an old self-taped audition and reflect how you could improve on the performance or simply approach it from a different angle. Create a new version and make sure to tape it. “I love it when people have nothing at stake with old material and you can probably find something else because there’s no pressure,” Arvold says.

It’s your business

To take charge of the business end of their career, Arvold encourages performers to read a book about marketing themselves or about becoming an entrepreneur. Actors must be in the practice of promoting themselves whether they’re updating their headshots, editing a demo reel, talking to their agent, or maintaining an online presence. Arvold also encourages performers to listen to TedTalks (but watch out, the talks can be addictive). 

Broaden horizons

Read a book about screenwriting. Perhaps it will inspire you to write your own screenplay. At the very least, it will shed light on the scripts you read and help you appreciate the contribution of writers.

Film Festival for one

Grab the popcorn and enjoy a weekend film festival. Warner explains, “I find an actor that I truly admire, a film actor, and I do a beginning film, a middle film, and an end film—and sometimes if I really want, an award-winning film. And I do a mini Warner film festival on the weekend.” As he watches each of the movies, Warner closely observes the creative choices the actor made in the productions, how the roles relate to one another, how the actor evolved over time, and he focuses on the character arcs. “It’s a deep study that I could do all by myself as to what made that actor make good choices,” Warner says.

Observations

Carve out time to people watch. Go to a location where people congregate (while social distancing, of course) and really zero in on their expressions, mannerisms, voices, posture, and behaviors without judgment. It might help to bring a journal to jot down what you’re seeing each step of the way. Warner encourages actors to keep a sensory journal as well.

Arvold and Warner are actually in the midst of writing a book on the topic of staying creatively healthy between gigs. The truth is, no matter what level of success an actor has achieved, the uncertainty of the acting field can cause a lot of stress while a performer waits for the next role to be offered. Spending time doing the above-mentioned practices will help take your mind off of anxious thoughts and replace them with constructive, healthy habits.

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