This is the first time I’m writing to you but I’ve been reading your column for a while. I am revamping my site and wondering how to go about dealing with a major hiatus that occurred due to life just kind of… imploding.
My husband fell ill in 2007 and although I somehow continued acting and auditioning during the caregiving period, after he passed away from cancer in April 2009, things kind of fell apart. Except for working with my home-base theater company in NYC, I’ve not put myself out there. If an audition came up through the manager I’m freelancing with, I would go, but I didn’t submit myself for anything. There was too much other stuff to attend to… so the old website is pretty much frozen from April 2009 on.
I told a friend I considered putting a big sign on the old site saying activity temporarily suspended due to crappy life events.
Fast forward two years: I’ve worked hard to get my emotional and financial life back together and will launch the new website within the next month. Just started a Facebook page and will probably open a Twitter account. I’ve also been encouraged to do a show or book or blog the events of the last two years, so this is another major project that might be in the offing.
SO. I don’t want to lose the archived “news” content from my formerly active site but am unsure how to account for such an obvious gap in activity. Anyone I know well is aware of what happened, as is my manager, but I plan to go all out, full-steam ahead and am unsure what I should do about this, if anything at all, with new contacts.
What if a new CD/agent directly asks about the lack of activity in the last two years? If you saw this would you question it at an audition or would it make you not call someone in to audition? And if I was upfront about the reason — which can be quite a shock (because I’m kinda young to be a widow), not to mention a bit of a buzzkill — is that just too much information and totally inappropriate? Is it okay to allude to it but not really spell it out?
Any advice you can give me on this subject would be appreciated.
Suzanne, I’m actually thrilled with where you are and where you’re headed. Let me tell you why: I work with actors regularly who are coming back after a break. And I took a break from acting when my mom’s terminal diagnosis came through in 2000, never to return to acting when I came back to Los Angeles after all. So, I am both fascinated by the ways creatives like us are required to “spin” the time we take to deal with things that happen in everyone’s lives and well aware of exactly the type of hiatus you faced and the dread you feel in having to account for it without losing momentum, without bringing people down, without oversharing.
It’s a balance.
The best news I can give you is that everyone gets it. There is no one who has been on this planet very long who doesn’t know exactly what it’s like (whether they lost a spouse, a parent, a sibling, a child, or a best friend) to need to take time off to regroup, to deal with life, to get things back in order so that the creative soul can continue to create! It is imperative that reorganizing and healing take place — whether that takes a few weeks or a few years — and no matter what job someone has in this life, they’ve either “been there” or know very well someone who has. They’ll get it.
They also are all about the bottom line, really. Agents want to know if you can make them money in commission, right now. Casting directors want to know if you can fill the role they’re trying to cast, right now. Some will want to know what the gap in your career is about. Others will not give a hoot, because that gap doesn’t affect your ability to get the job done today. So, when it comes to meetings and any in-person encounters, you’re going to read the room. You’re going to know how much to say about what you’ve faced based on who’s asking and how invested they seem in wanting to know the real deal. I’ve seen actors handle gaps as simply as, “I took some time to deal with a loss in my family,” and, “I went on hiatus while recovering from a death of a loved one,” and, “A family emergency took me away from the business for a little bit.” I’ve also seen actors get very specific, which — as you mentioned — can take the tone way down in certain circumstances, but can also create an, “Oh, I’ve been there,” moment between an actor and her future agent, who went through the same thing and totally respects the gap, because of what that gap in her career meant to her.
So, the easy part will be figuring out how to deal with things in person. Conversational choices will be a piece of cake for you, because you can “read” the person doing the asking and determine how much you want to share.
Now, about that website…
If you’re really, really, really married to the idea of keeping those archives up to show the momentum you once had, I recommend the “archived site” tactic. Basically, you create a whole new site for the new you, the ready-to-jump-in-again you, with new photos, current resumé, a blog post talking about being excited to get back at it, and — as soon as you have updates for it — a brand-new demo reel, showing your latest work. Within that blog post, and possibly within the main menu somewhere (but not too prominently-featured), you provide a link to your “archived site” (which can just be the existing site, in a subdirectory). This is a site that is — like your current site — frozen in time. It’s a look into your daily life as you lived it, before the break. It should be different in colors, font, and feel, to indicate it is your PAST. Again, I would only recommend keeping this up if you are really sure it’s serving you (perhaps because it shows momentum you once had).
So, let’s decide if it is serving you.
If you were booking top-of-show guest-stars and are trying to re-enter the industry and show the buyers that they don’t need to make you start over at the co-star level, the archives will likely be helpful. If you were only regularly booking co-stars back then, you don’t need that archived information to prove you can book at the level you’re trying to re-enter. You have the credits on your resumé to prove you can book — and have booked — co-stars. You now just need to get the newest buyers on the block to get to know you, while reconnecting with the buyers who were fans of yours before your hiatus. That takes time reaching out, doing the workshop circuit, doing mailings, getting back on stage in front of people who can be reminded of (or for the first time exposed to) your awesome abilities.
Your website isn’t going to have a huge impact, if that’s where you are in your career. Your use of Facebook and Twitter and just getting out to in-person networking events to reconnect with the casting community and shake the dust off will be far more powerful. Sure, there will be people who come and check out your website, and you can choose whether you’d prefer to address your career gap with one, simple blog post tucked away for those who really want to dig that deep, or, really feature the momentum you once had.
The good news is, this is a very small window of time you’re going to have to worry about what your site looks like, with regard to this issue. Once you start booking again, you’ll say so long to that archived information, because it doesn’t tell anyone how to cast you now, and they’re building new opinions about you from current interactions, and that’s far more powerful, for you. Or, if you really want to keep the history, the gap will be glossed over, since you’ll have new career momentum, which will be the focus.
I’m willing to bet you’re a lot like me, in that you want to keep allllllll the archived information available, explain the gap, and have a really lovely and accurate history of your journey. Yeah. Get over that. This business is all about teaching people how to cast you NEXT. And that means doing a little Resumé Feng Shui. I know cutting old credits (and the history of auditions and callbacks and bookings) can feel like torture, because it all means something to you. But trust that the history only means so much to you. And if it’s not showing people how to hire you NEXT, it could actually be costing you the next gig.
Several times in my career as a writer, I’ve had to put my old columns “away” to help steer folks toward how to hire me to write NEXT. It’s tough, because I love every post like it’s a child of my very own. But unless the archives of my “Don’t Get Me Started” columns on living as a single woman in her 20s in Los Angeles help me get a book deal with a major publisher in my 40s they’re actually better represented via a single line on a resumé.
I’m excited for you, as this “coming around” stage is such an important step in the grieving process and it’s truly exciting to see artists come back to their beloved craft, ready to jump back into it all, after having suffered such a loss. That you’re not afraid of what has changed, doing both soul searching and research on what your best next steps should be, and ready to continue your creative journey is simply inspiring. Remember that! And keep me posted on how it goes.
Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/001356.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.