Hi Bonnie,

I know you are a busy bee, but I just had to ask you about this. I live in Silicon Valley and I am taking a two-year Meisner course in San Francisco at the Meisner Technique Studio in the Presidio.

They strongly suggest not to perform during the program, which I don’t really have the time to do anyway since I’m working on classwork (practice time), class time, a fulltime job, and I’m a wife and mom of three. (Wow, that sounds like a lot, huh?)

That being said, I had come across your articles, signed up for your BonBlasts, and have read most of SMFA on my Kindle. I’ve also contributed to the 4th edition campaign, BTW. (Go, you!) From all this, I’m seeing what tools are helpful for my future career, and I really want to take control of this thing, but I don’t want to be scrambling at the last minute dropping thousands of dollars at once when I finish this program.

I found a really good photographer in LA — I’m from SoCal, just recently moved to the Bay — that I’m happy with, though I do want to get more headshots from him. What I have is an okay start, but I want some different ones to show my personality a bit more, and I’m certain he can get that for me (David Zaugh, BTW). I know I need to work on a website and reels, but I’ve never really done any film work. My background is a BFA in Theatre and some community theatre credits. Not that I don’t want to do film/video, I just don’t have any right now.

My question to you is: What are some things I can be working on during this performing hiatus? I’ve thought about writing a script for a small webseries, though I don’t have a clue what scriptwriting looks like! 🙂 I really wanted to take one of your courses, but I think I might wait on it until I finish this Meisner course next year. They offer a business class after finishing, but I’d rather take that sort of thing from you.

Should I create a website even if I don’t have any videos to post to it? Any other suggestions?

Thanks so much for any input you can offer this noob, 🙂
Jennifer Li Greene

Jennifer, you’re awesome. I wish all actors would take a long-haul view of building toward success in their creative careers and start planning out what steps they can take NOW, even before they’re ready to be out there and hustling, day to day.

First, let me address the screenwriting. The modern-day go-to for format and structure is Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat. I highly recommend you get that book (it’s an easy, fun read) and poke around at the late Snyder’s resource site to get started. It’s not intimidating! It just takes getting started. 🙂

Start with a low-stakes project, not “the story you’ve ALWAYS wanted to tell” or “the role you’ve ALWAYS dreamed of playing.” That’s too tough. Start with a short scene that you and a classmate could easily put up for class. Learn dialogue and structure and have no agenda for where these few pages will end up. That’s how you begin, learn how to build scripts, and then move up to stories you feel more passionately about telling.

Now, about that whole theory that actors shouldn’t pursue work while training in long-form programs like the one in which you’re enrolled: I see the point, but I don’t really support that theory, in practice. See, to me, you’re not in MED SCHOOL, where, sure, you shouldn’t practice medicine ’til you are finished with your program. You’re entering a profession in which some folks have almost ZERO training, yet they succeed. There’s not a linear map that leads — via a series of checked-off accomplishments in academia — to an acting career. Because of that, I think the school of thought that restricts actors from pursuing their profession while training for it is outdated. I’ve seen actors follow this rule and miss out on years of opportunities, only to come out of their programs just *after* their type has been hot for a season, or just *after* their age range shifts to something that’s not as castable.

So, I am a fan of going with your gut. When I speak with folks who are *aching* to get out there and start the hustle of the pursuit of an acting career, but who are NOT doing so because a professor or master teacher advised that choice, I like to share a gentle reminder that it is, after all, their career! And isn’t that *why* they’re in the program? To get the chance to work? Of course, if the WHY is to have immersive, exclusive, unfettered training, then absolutely, the right choice is exactly what is being advised.

I’m not sharing this with you to encourage you to break any rules, but instead to discuss a controversial issue that comes up all the time. Go with your gut. 🙂 And for now, I really love the plan of getting yourself *ready* to work, during this immersive training period. So, back to ways to do that.

I have great news for you. Since you backed Self-Management for Actors‘ 4th edition at a particular level, you have your choice of SMFA Essentials module, and October’s edition is GOLD for you. I definitely recommend you grab that one, when Ninja Jen surveys you about your selection. It’s called “An Actor’s Business Plan,” and it maps out a whole month of awesome, varied (many fun) to-do items to take your creative career to the next level. I would imagine, using this as a starting point, you can build some spectacular habits that many actors covet, on the business side of your pursuit.

Definitely, on the website front, I strongly recommend you score your domain name, even if you don’t yet have content to put up at a website. Registering your domain name before it gets scooped up elsewhere is very important, for brand-management! You can put up a simple welcome page or you can have the URL redirect to your Actors Access profile, even if all that’s there is your stage credits and training (and headshot, of course).

Don’t be afraid to be new. 🙂 You’re doing a lot right just by asking these questions! I’m excited to keep up with you along your creative journey. Be sure to let me know how it’s going for you! And thanks again, for your support of SMFA. What a wild month it’s been! 🙂


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

Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/001729.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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