By Luke MacLeod
You've just graduated, or you've just made a return to acting. Or you've left your agent for one of various reasons. Either way, in all of these circumstances, you've ended up self-representing, at least for a while. So, how to make the most of this situation, even if it's not a situation you intend to stay in forever? It's a difficult conundrum because there isn't anyone else fighting battles for you, and it's quite likely you won't have the same resources available as an agent would have. Here's a few things that helped me when I self-represented for a while; as always, this is one person's experience, so absorb a variance of opinions and ideas before deciding on information that will truly help you as the individual.
Frame self-representation positively.
This is possibly the most important point of all, so let's start with why it can be a transformative experience in your acting career. Self-representation can often feel lonely and negative ("No one wants me! What have I done wrong so far?" Etc), but the first thing to acknowledge is that this career path does not have to be a race. It takes the time it takes, and putting pressure on yourself to rush into 2% success won't help. Self-representation was the biggest learning curve in my career to giving myself the best chance in every situation.
Embrace the freedom of choice.
You can literally choose what you apply for! You don't have to go up for that commercial, or that Rattigan play, or that corporate job. You get to choose, so find the projects that interest you the most and use your time to prioritise them instead.
Use your regionality to your advantage.
This applies to everyone, including London folks. We all come from somewhere, and more often than not that area will have a local producing theatre; these theatres often want to hire locals, to put back into their own community. So you grew up in the Hammersmith area? Write to the Lyric. You grew up in Sheffield? Write to the Crucible. It will always be worth your time, because as a local to the area you can tell the local stories better than any other actor; artistic directors are more often than not good at recognising that very fact.
Create your own database.
This is something that can be useful for every actor, but it does require a fair amount of time commitment. Keep track of who you've met for what project and when, write down projects/theatres/companies they're attached to, and so on. Writing out such information gets it out of your head and onto a page that can be called upon more reliably than your own memory.
Think like an agent.
Why are you the most suitable actor for the given role? What skillsets do you have that make you stand out? Do you look accurately represented in your headshots at the moment (be blunt with yourself)? Does your CV/showreel tailor towards the roles and jobs you want to push for? What can you do in the immediate to aid that? These are all questions you need to ask before you send that email pushing yourself for any given job, as this is what an agent will be doing in their Covent Garden office.
Take the position of the casting director/production company.
When they see your CV and decide to bring you in, is your CV bulletproof? Can you genuinely do every accent you say you can, perform every skill, back up every credit... It's a lot to ask but in the position of the self-represented actor, no one will ask these questions for you. If you feel shaky about anything on your CV, it's safer to get rid of it for now.
Find other self-represented actors and create a community.
This industry can feel lonely at the best of times. Whether it be through your 'resting job', attending classes or hanging around in bars, find other actors in your position who are just as driven as you, and sometimes magic can happen. Some of the best ideas are borne out of these new friendships, and even if you're not necessarily driven to become writers or producers between you, an outside eye to help with a self tape, run a new showreel scene with or even just grab for a hot chocolate and a hug can be eminently helpful and a shield against some of the more negative feelings that actors often are subjected to.
Social media can be useful, but be careful!
I'm not sure if it's a growing trend, but it certainly seems that more and more casting calls are channelled through the likes of Twitter than ever before. I know I have got a number of auditions through the information from people I've followed. In my experience, I rarely post, but I use social media to follow up with the up-and-comers; the fledgling writers and directors, the green producers and the folks who are determined to make new and exciting work. There's also a plethora of information spewed out by people on a variety of subjects that you'd otherwise have to pay a lot of money for, and these are the real hidden pearls (just yesterday a very respected vocal coach made a whole thread on what to do if you're certain you have a vocal injury). The flipside is that you will also see all the cast announcements that you aren't part of, stories of industry exploitation and general nastiness that can be seen through the disassociative behaviour that social media can feed. If you catch yourself finding more despair from logging in than informative potential, log out and delete the app.
Protect your mental health.
I cannot emphasise this enough as my final point. I'm not qualified to give advice on this front but if you've listened to various episodes of the podcast you should already be pretty clued up on steps you can take to keep yourself working in a healthy manner.
The above words aren't gospel, and have probably been heard in a million ways before by most working actors. But sometimes, being self-represented means you can need reassurance you're doing the right things. Trust me, most of you will be. Keep happy, keep healthy and eat that extra slice of cake (I wrote this in a cafe with a gateau in my eyeline, so that's what I'll now be doing).
Luke is an actor from the Midlands who often gets told he's too Southern to be from the North, and too Northern to be from the South, and then gets looks of disdain when he says he's somewhere in the middle. Make of that what you will. He rarely tweets, more often retweets, but can be found on Twitter at @LukeMacLeod94.