By Alexa Morden
Christmas trees are looking sad, mince pie packets are mere crumbs and another year of “New Year New Me” tweets are on the horizon, while actors across the world have mini breakdowns of “what am I doing with my life and am I really embarking on another year of this crazy unpredictable industry and lifestyle?!” We asked listeners on twitter for their New Years resolutions that will hopefully make it all a little bit easier and here they are with some thoughts from me on how to realistically stick to them!
“To focus on my own journey and not be swayed by others.” (@sopheleni)
Ahhh yes “comparison is the thief of joy”. Not comparing myself is something that is always on my mind but also something I find very hard to put into action. The number 1 problem? Social media of course! A tool that seems to be crafted purely to cause comparison by only posting the highlights of one’s life but also a tool some argue is essential in networking/finding work/being up to date with all things industry. “You should try a social media blackout!!!” chimes in my well meaning mother when I’m talking about my mental health. She has every right to say that of course, however twitter is how I got contacted by a film maker to be in their short film and by a photographer a few years ago where I did a photoshoot and ended up on the front page of a magazine. So what to do? One things for certain is that it seems like when you’re feeling your lowest is when twitter is a constant stream of “SO EXCITED TO FINALLY ANNOUNCE THAT….!”’s…just to rub it in.
For me I do not find comfort anymore in “it’s just not your time” “just be happy for them!” “your time will come” thoughts. For me I’ve changed my mindset from “stop being a bitter actor Alexa” to “your feelings are completely valid, this sucks, I know you wish everyone including yourself could be getting all the work they deserve, but there’s nothing you can do to control that. Now maybe let’s put our phone away and watch some Ru Paul’s Drag Race instead hmmmm?”
We are CONSTANTLY compared to each other in this industry. From drama school auditions, to agents (“we already have someone like you on our books”), to auditions, to red carpet outfits (“so and so’s outfit marks a compelling difference to the…..”), to reviews, to director’s sifting through self tapes, to people sat at home talking about what they’re watching on tv (“so and so would have done a much better job, this actor is boring!”) to audiences comparing this performance of the show to the performance 10 years ago (“well I thought it was much more convincing when so and so played it at the Novello”) I think it’s LUDICROUS for actors to be told we shouldn’t compare ourselves or our journey’s with other performers when EVERYONE ELSE DOES!! And by saying that it makes people feel like they’re doing something wrong when they, inevitably, do.
It’s really hard when someone you went to drama school with has worked consistently since graduating and is now at the National and filming for Channel 4 on their days off while you still can’t master how to make the perfect cappuccino at the coffee shop you work at to help afford new headshots. OF COURSE you are happy for them (and will be trying your damnedest to get a ticket to go support them!..Maybe they have comps?) But when it’s close to home it’s a reminder of how you’re not doing everything you thought was possible when you first graduated, something which seems to be possible for others so obviously isn’t completely unattainable - why hasn’t it happened to you? (and here comes the spiral into crying into your pillow at 2am….) That doesn’t make you a bad person, or bitter, or terrible for not feeling genuine 100% JOY for every cast announcement all the time. It makes you human. Recognise those feelings, remind yourself your worth doesn’t come from an acting job or a post with 100+ likes on instagram or an “excited to announce” tweet. Remind yourself that the actor you’re stalking online posting rehearsal room pictures from The Donmar has probably felt exactly how you’re feeling right now and probably will again. Don’t let yourself spiral into comparison about things you have no control over. If you’re doing all you can that’s all you can do. Social media analysis of busy working actors will do nothing positive. Go compare RuPaul’s runway looks through the seasons instead.
“To stop myself and other people asking the question ‘what are you up to at the moment’” (@RoseReade)
YES another one that is actually quite hard to do and takes practice. When people ask me what I’m up to at the moment I now answer “well last night I watched 3 hours of Crazy Ex Girlfriend on Netflix, I’m finally up to date with My Favourite Murder podcast and I made the BEST vegan pizza for lunch.” This comes after years of even having to remind MYSELF that I am a person first and an actor second. So I understand the blank stares when I give this answer. I even said in an audition once when asked what I’m up to “Do you mean in life in general or acting stuff?” Just to buy myself some time because I was so confused….they?? had?? my?? CV?? in front?? of?? them??
When talking to other actors this is how it usually goes…“Oh you mean acting wise? Fuck all mate what about you?” “Yeah nothing really for me either.” Because I guarantee if that actor is doing something exciting they would have A) Made an announcement on social media B) Already texted you, if you’re friends C) Somehow wangled it into the conversation before even being asked what they’re up to. AND SO THEY BLOODY SHOULD DO ALL THESE THINGS!!! Getting a performing job is like winning the lottery and you can bet your bottom dollar when I next get a job I’m going to be more excited to tell people than when I got engaged!!
When someone asks what you’re up to we KNOW they don’t mean “are you thinking of going on holiday this summer?” or “are you up to date on Making A Murderer?” It’s a weird, round about way of asking if someone is feeling fulfilled acting wise without actually saying those words. They don’t want to flat out ask. So that’s what I do. When I see a friend or bump into an actor I haven’t seen in a while I ask them first about general life stuff and then pointedly ask “how’s acting stuff?” Because we shouldn’t NOT ask. If it was anyone else in the muggle world we would ask how work is going, what their job is, if they’re enjoying it etc. The difference is we wouldn’t centre that persons entire existence on it. So asking a fellow performer how auditions are/if they have a job coming up/did they enjoy that thing you saw that they did on instagram (because, come on, don’t pretend like you didn’t see it!) is fine and polite and interesting but it’s not phrased in a way that could mean anything when we all know it only means one thing ie “what are you up to?” “how are things?”
I also find that asking pointedly after general life chit chat encourages them to talk openly about it rather than just giving a polite answer to an anticipated question.
”What have you been up to?”
”Oh not much really but keeping my fingers crossed things will be pick up!”
”How are you finding the ol’ #actorslife recently?”
”Agh quite tough actually, I’ve been feeling a bit lost so I’ve decided to give writing a go!”
etc etc etc
HUMAN FIRST. ACTOR SECOND.
"To not be so hard on myself” (@sarahnaughton70)
Totally valid. Totally YES. Totally what we say almost every episode of the podcast. This industry is hard enough as it is without throwing YOURSELF giving you grief into the mix. If your friend came to you with mascara down their face and stomach cramps from spending all day in the foetal position would you say to them the things you say to yourself? Whenever you have thoughts enter your mind mentally beating you up, imagine it’s Donald Trump saying those things. Then promptly tell him to FUCK off.
Do you have New Years Resolutions? Let us know in the comments or tweet us! @the98percentpod And if you’d like to write a blog, get in touch using the contact us page or email email@example.com
Alexa is one half of The 98% podcast. One of her Dad's favourite performances of hers was playing Aunt Sponge in James and the Giant Peach in the annual local Stagecoach production when she was about 8 years old. You can find out a lot of stories and thoughts from Alexa by listening to The 98% wherever you get podcasts! Or by having a mooch around this website and following her on twitter @alexamorden and instagram @alexa_morden!