It’s Slow

So, it’s slow out there. Yeah, big DUH, Gillespie, right? I know, I know. With this column I’m both stating the obvious and going against something I said a little over a year ago in “The Big Lies.”

LIE: “It’s dead right now.”

No it’s not. Look at TV. Consider not just the shows on hundreds of channels but also the many commercials on the air. Grab a paper and scour the showings in movie theaters just in your area. Including art houses. Including festivals. Look at the “in production” guides in the trades. Flip through the pages of sides available at Showfax. Pop through iTunes’ video library. Think of the scads of corporations out there in which employees sit around a conference table watching some industrial training video that the rest of the world will never see. Something is always in production. Always.

Yeah, there may be times of the year when production slows down a bit, but even when it’s slow, there are actors out there working. Might as well be you. Ask any actor who booked nonrefundable tickets to a spa out of town during a “dead time” how dead it really was when he got the call that he was on avail for a national network campaign. It’s never dead. Never. It’s just an easy excuse for something else that isn’t working (um… like you! Get it? If you’re not working. Yeah? No? No. Okay… moving on).

Okay, so am I changing my mind? Have things gotten so slow now that I’m finally giving in and saying that, yes, sometimes it just is slow? Yes and no.

Yes. It is slow right now. Actor friends who are used to going out five to eight times per week are lucky to go out once weekly lately, they tell me. Those who could count on going out once or twice a week are desperate to find one “real” audition per month now. And in a time when full-fledged movie stars are accepting Emmy Awards for their CABLE series regular gigs (not just doing one-episode guest stars á la stunt casting for sweeps), it’s clear that it’s gotta be tougher for yesterday’s top-of-show guest star to make that transition to series regular that would’ve been someone linear and absolutely logical a couple of seasons ago.

When Oscar winners are working far below quote in order to star in microbudget indies (below $1M overall budget), you can bet it’s tougher for everyone. Sure, some of that high-profile interest in high-quality projects has nothing to do with the economy and everything to do with an opportunity to do the type of work unavailable at the studio level or networks anymore.

But still, competition is tough. And it always is. So now it’s slow plus it’s more competitive in what is already an over-saturated talent pool for the number of jobs available. Oh, boy. Now what?

First, relax a bit. Historically, even when the economy really tanks (heck, especially when the economy tanks), production increases. Sure, the risks might not be as big as they once were, but the volume is there. People need an escape and entertainment always takes care of that. So, watch for production to increase, even if that doesn’t translate to more auditions for you right away.

Huh? How could increased production NOT translate to more auditions? Well, remember what I said about the people who are no longer only fielding offers from the major studios regarding four-picture deals. Your competition — whatever it was before — has gone from “the usual suspects” to those folks plus people who probably starred in The Usual Suspects.

Since you can’t control who’s showing up to your audition and who’s getting an offer without auditioning for the role on which you eagerly submitted, let’s focus on what you can control: Generating your own work.

Yes, I talk about this sort of thing a lot. I encourage actors to be out there working in black box theatres, participating in writers’ reading groups, showcasing for the industry and peers (you never know who is going to be developing something for which they’d like to tap you), and creating short films that can potentially go viral. But never is the time more right for such activities as when you’re sure it’s slow.

Benefits to creating your own work always include networking, being on the radar of those around you as someone who has good hustle, generating heat about yourself, nailing your primary type and having footage to back it up, improving your craft, stretching your range, developing stamina, and on and on. Best thing about creating your own work when it’s slow is that you never feel like it’s slow. You feel like it’s just another day. No audition today? No biggie! You have an ADR session for your short film anyway! No audition today? No worries! You have rehearsal for the play you’re producing! No audition today? No problem! You’re meeting with a group of writers to help give voice to their works-in-progress… and oh, one of them wants to talk to you about collaborating on a filmed version of this script.

And so on.

People who are used to freelance living never stress about times getting tough. They’re used to hustling to find their own work and they’re not required to make any major changes to their business model or their daily routine, just because they get a drop letter from their commercial agent. The work never relied on the support team anyway, so this just becomes an opportunity to find a better-matched agent.

Besides, it’s times like this that separate the proverbial men from the boys. This is when attrition is your friend (assuming you’re one of the ones sticking around, making it through this, and being a pro in this industry no matter what).

When your day consists of stuffing envelopes to send your headshots to agencies that may or may not still be in business by the time the mail arrives, adding in a meeting with your editor can be a huge boost. When your day consists of clicking “submit” on another dozen copy/credit/meals specs and longing for the days when your agent was calling to say you’d been dropped from “avail,” adding in a power group meeting in order to strategize the marketing plan for your short film can be a shot in the arm. And when your day consists of sitting around bitching about how slow it is, doing anything proactive is not only a wonderful shift in energy but is also a delightful reminder that you are the one who controls your career. ALWAYS.

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 Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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