Ooh, I love it when patterns present themselves so clearly! Lately, I’ve been overrun with emails from, calls from, and coaching sessions with actors who left the business and are now coming back, ready to pick up where they left off.

Only, the business has kept going while they were gone, and for those who’ve been gone a while, a LOT has changed. For one actor, it used to be “go out on all the appointments my agent gets me and wait for the phone to ring” that got her all the way up to top-of-show guest and recurring on several hit series, years ago.

For another, it was “run around town doing drop-offs to the busy commercial casting facilities then be ready to say yes when asked to read for something that was casting right that second” that got him booked on nationals that paid many tens of thousands of dollars, back in the day.

And for another, it was “request generals from casting directors, producers, directors, and showrunners, all of whom would take those meetings” that built her relationships to a healthy, no-survival-job place.

But as anyone who’s out there hustling *today* knows, those days are long since over, and while there are certainly still actors out there whose reality looks a little like the actors’ pasts described above, it is NOT how to get back into the game, if you’ve left it for any bit of time.

I visualize the queue line for a ride at Six Flags, when I think of this particular element of the business. No, there’s nothing as linear about the road to success as standing in an orderly, single-file line, inching ever-closer to the wild ride. But, there is something about getting OUT of that line that makes it frustrating as you may try to reclaim your spot.

And that’s because you don’t. You simply don’t reclaim your spot. That line has inched forward and everyone who has joined the queue line since you left is now in front of you, at least in terms of endurance and awareness of what’s current in the industry. And whether you hopped out of line to grab a funnel cake, to nurse a stubbed toe, or to try to ride another ride before you got to the front of the line for this ride, the result is the same: No frontsies. No backsies. No savesies. You’re starting over at the back of the line, when you rejoin the industry you left.

Now, you may move forward FASTER once you’re back in the line, but a lot of that depends on your ability to learn what has changed while you’ve been gone. You may benefit from relationships established years or decades before, but you must have really good spin about where you went and why you’re low-risk now… after you’ve proven you’re someone who CAN leave. Someone who WILL leave.

Here’s what I recommend, to those of you who consider taking a break when the pursuit gets hard, when life happens and needs your attention, or for any other reason: Keep the hustle turned ON and take minibreaks that recharge you. If at all possible, stay plugged in and connected and aware of what’s happening in your beloved industry, even if you’re not constantly flying on the radar of your targeted buyers. Keep your show bible updated. Keep your contacts in sight. Keep in touch with folks in your web of trust so that you don’t have to start from scratch when you come back to the queue line. And know that even though this industry is always happy to welcome back those who took a break, that it *will* look different when you choose to return.

As for those of you who’ve had no choice but to take a maxibreak (instead of a minibreak) and who are struggling to regain your position in the queue line, I recommend patience, a LOT of research about how things now are, and a willingness to learn from everyone who’s out there actively hustling today, as you lose any ego about where you “should be” based on all the work you did before you left. That last part is really important. REALLY important.

The common thread with the actors I’ve been encountering lately who are back after a break is this: They feel the industry owes them their place in the queue line back. They feel they already put IN the work and therefore they shouldn’t have to start at the back of the line today. And, y’all, that sense of entitlement is wholly uncastable.

Success in the industry is like the perfect physique. No one owes you that. You have to work for it. And you have to work for it constantly (and even then may never attain it). And when you stop working for it (especially for years at a time), you have a LOT more work to do to get that perfect physique back. Doesn’t mean it’s not possible, but no one owes you that hot bod, just because you put in so much work, long ago.

Get back at it. Stay humble. Stay OPEN to what you can learn about what has changed while you’ve been away. Get ready to work harder than you remember working before (not because it’s harder now but because it’s different now, and that feels harder at first). And trust you *will* get back some of that momentum once you’re back in the hustle.


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/001820.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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