Are You Living in the Past?

One of the biggest A-HA moments I can help give actors and other creative storytellers is about one of the most frustrating things I see going on out there.

Living in the past.

It’s ridiculously common and it’s so simple to fix.

And you’re guilty of it if you have:

  • a resumΓ© filled with roles you’d never be cast in today
  • a demo reel packed with footage of you doing work below your tier
  • a bio that’s anchored in childhood and early life accomplishments
  • a website photo gallery showcasing archival candids galore
  • a cover letter detailing benchmarks from years ago

Now, before you react with a, “But Bon! I *have to* prove I’ve worked!” type line, I’ll ask you to think about your sex life.

Do you need to tell me how many partners you’ve had in order for me to trust you when you say you’re no longer a virgin?

*blink* *blink* *blink*

Well…? Do you?

Of course not.

But for some reason, actors and other creative storytellers spend a LOT of energy pulling out the whoooooolllllee list of EVERY! SINGLE! BOOKING! EVER! as if they believe there’s power in how very long this list gets.

Psst! It’s not helping you to showcase those one-night-stands that don’t represent the best of your decision-making abilities. πŸ˜‰

Nope. Not ever.

There are repercussions to sharing your ENTIRE history with those buyers at the next tier. Showing them your training-wheels-era choices makes them think you may still be there.

I’ll ask you to reframe your every single piece of marketing material by asking this question:

Is this telling the story of where I’m GOING?

Because anything in your arsenal that is so busy telling the story of your past that it’s missing the mark of detailing your trajectory is convincing buyers you’re NOT the right fit today.

Worse, it’s telling buyers at the tier you’re trying to LEAVE BEHIND that you need to stay there.

If you’ve ever felt stuck in pre-union-land, copy-credit-meals-ville, or the creative cul-de-sac of the career co-star, consider that your materials may be doing you a disservice.

It’s like creating a recipe out of every ingredient in your kitchen at once.

Ick.

Be selective.

Be *really* selective.

Share the best of what you’ve done and show the buyers where you’re HEADED. And that means taking the spotlight off all but the very very very best of where you’ve been.

Typical nervous actor pushback: “But, but, but, Bonnnnnnnnnnnnnie… it’ll look like I have no experience if I cut all the crap out.”

Really?

I’ll ask you to go back to the virgin analogy and consider a nervous teenager headed out on a date, all twitchy and sweaty and hoping no one can tell how inexperienced he is. Then consider an experienced but discrete young adult headed out with no twitchiness, no sweat, and no nerves about “being found out.”

You’re only nervous about how it looks to the buyers to showcase very LITTLE of your experience when you’re worried they’re gonna catch you having NONE.

When you know the experience you’ve had — no matter how little of it we’re talking about — COUNTS, is GOOD, and shows how spectacular your *next* performance will be… you have swagger that NO resumΓ©, no reel, no bio, no cover letter, no website could even touch.

Think about it.

I’m not talking about false cockiness; I’m talking about the accurate level of confidence in what you’ve said YES to over the years.

Followed by shrewd, purposeful focus when it comes to all the YESES to come.

(Continuing to say yes to the crap? You know where that’s gonna lead, right?)

Go through each of your marketing materials now and use a few highlighters or colored Post-It Note flags to mark off what’s a HELL YES when it comes to telling the story of where you’re headed (in terms of quality of *your* work, quality of the finished product, on-brand-ness of the character, joy you had in doing it, level of pay you received, critical/award status of the project, all of it), mark off what’s still got some sort of value in that it may not check all the HELL YES boxes but it does still help show where you’re headed in some form or fashion, and seriously CROSS OUT the stuff that’s cumin in the chocolate cake batter… that’s the one-night-stand you regret and never talk about… that’s accurate to who you WERE at one point in your storytelling journey but that serves you not at all when it comes to communicating beautifully to the buyers at the next tier on your target project what it is that you’re capable of doing NEXT.

Stop living in the past. Only some of it is serving your future.

Learn how to craft your materials and your every message about who you are as a storyteller into effective tools to help the buyer GET where you’re headed. If you need my help with this, it all happens here.

And if you want to jam with me about this during my next Facebook Live broadcast, well that’ll be in just a few hours right over here (2:30pm PDT). Can’t wait!

I’ll be sure to put the replay up at my YouTube channel, for those non-Facebookers out there. πŸ˜‰

UPDATE! Watch the replay: Actors Living in the Past!

Meanwhile, lemme hear from you on this. Comments are open below and I’m excited to know how this process feels for you!

Have a glorious weekend!


Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!

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4 Comments

  1. Denise August 25, 2017 at 6:53 am

    Yes, love it! Marketing materials DNE scrapbooks. The other way I see people living in the past (that drives me INSANE in the realm of music when I have my piano teacher hat on) is when something doesn’t go well and they say, “I always do that.” It stuns me to know that an artist would be aware of a specific, solvable problem, and their response would be to embrace technical inadequacy instead of solve their problem. I’m not talking about that visceral self-talk that might pop out in rehearsal, “I keep missing that line, ugh, why” For me that’s a way of marking the problem so that evening I study that line and figure out why I flub it and fix it so I stop. I am talking about the nonchalant, intellectualized answers to feedback: “You’re swallowing and mumbling a lot of words.” “Oh yeah, I always do that.” ; “Be sure to stand up straight.” “Oh, everyone says I have bad posture.”; “You’re calling for every other line and the next rehearsal is the dress rehearsal.” “I never seem to get off book when everyone else does.”. Maybe it’s because I have been frustrated by vague feedback from some teachers, but to me, specifically critical feedback is like a golden opportunity to leave class or rehearsal and drill the crap out of that issue until it becomes an area of strength. And although some issues might take more work than others, at least you would be in a position to say, “I’m working on my posture, I have been doing Pilates to strengthen my core, and it’s better but not there. Can you suggest anything else?” and if you have someone like me they might say, “Have you tried weight exercises to strengthen your upper back muscles and talked with a personal trainer about your hip hinge?” or you might get “Oh OK, keep doing that.” But at least you haven’t said, “Don’t bother investing effort in me because I’m sure not.”

    Reply
  2. Alexis August 25, 2017 at 7:11 am

    This is so true yet so hard! I am trying to get agency representation but it’s hard to be seen since my resume doesn’t have a lot or doesn’t have what they are looking for! πŸ™ I feel like I am swimming in circles because I don’t know what to do! I just know I really want a rep!

    Reply
  3. Melissa Chapin August 26, 2017 at 7:06 am

    OMG, this one really spoke to me. I finally got it. Right between the eyes!!

    I never disagreed with this point at all but hadn’t actually considered I might have stuff to remove! (I’m stage and corporate working toward my first spoken TV credits.)

    Now I know I’m on my way because my brain is looking at what CAN and WILL be, not what was.

    My birthday’s tomorrow. Coolest gift ever! Thank you, Bonnie, for helping me break through!

    Reply
  4. Bonnie Gillespie Bonnie Gillespie August 29, 2017 at 2:28 am

    Denise — Well said! So well said! Thank you! πŸ™‚ Yes to all of those illustrations of a great point!

    Alexis — I sure hope you were with us for the Facebook live. I addressed your situation specifically in the broadcast. πŸ™‚ If you weren’t with us live, the replay is now in the post so be sure to check it out! Lemmeknow if you have follow-up questions!

    Melissa — Awesome! Isn’t it fun when something CLICKS in a different way than it has before? I sure hope your birthday was phenomenal, m’dear. Sending you so much love! XO

    Reply

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