Act Smart! The back-to-school mindset

Act Smart! The back-to-school mindset

I don’t know whether it’s being a September baby, someone who doesn’t tolerate heat well, or just a plain old nerd, but my favorite season has always been fall, a.k.a. Back-to-School season. Just like the new chronological year, a new school year speaks of possibilities, potential, and other great, clean-slate things.

Even though we don’t live with academic years as adults, we can borrow the best of those good old school days to rejuvenate our acting lives. Because doing the same thing with no variation can lead to a lackluster approach, and acting hardly thrives on that. Here are a few ways to add some new-year newness, starting now.

Spiff up your clothes. I wore a uniform for grades 1–8, but most years I had to get a couple of new jumpers or skirts, and I always had to rotate in new shoes, socks, and underwear. This is a great time to reassess your audition wardrobe. It’s easy for those clothes that looked crisp and spiffy to get dingy with time and wearings; not only will you look more the part if your clothes are in good shape, you’ll feel more the part in them (unless you’re being asked to show up like the “before” picture or someone a little down on their luck). Or rotate in something more updated. Styles do change, and it’s easy to start looking out of touch on an audition tape.

Even if you don’t need new clothes, you may need to address some missing buttons or ripped hems. Don’t be like this schoolgirl, who got clever with the Scotch tape whenever her hem needed mending; bust out needle and thread and do it right.

Get your supplies together. Come on—this was the best part about back-to-school. Why would you deprive yourself of it? Do you need a new backpack or briefcase or portfolio to carry your things to your various appointments? Do you have a supply of personal doodads you need to carry with you in the wild: dental floss, makeup, gum or mints, eye drops, and so forth? Does your highlighter have plenty of juice left? Do you have an ample supply of pens you like to write with, and pencils with non-desiccated erasers (a real concern in dry Los Angeles, anyway). If you need envelopes and postcards and stamps, stock up. If you need snacks and a water bottle to stash in your car or bag, lay in a supply. “Hangry” is never a strong choice!

Organize your locker. Once you’ve got your supplies straight, get your house in order (i.e. your carry-all or car). No matter how many times I organize these things, I need to do it again, and once or twice a season, I like to take EVERYTHING out and see if I can’t just put back exactly what I need, and organize it in a way that makes it easier to get at. Life is stressful enough. Keep your “locker” a sanctuary!

Plot out your classes and extracurriculars. Are you taking classes? If so, have you been in that class forever? When’s the last time you changed it up and rotated in a new teacher, or a new skill? Try to pick something different at least once per season. If you don’t have the money right now, start making a list of possibilities, and coming up with a way you’ll be able to pay for them. And in the meantime, you can always plan out free extracurriculars with fellow performers or artists: book clubs, study groups, play readings, excursions (to cultural events or just unusual places). If you keep doing the same things, you can’t expect different results!

Plan your next vacation. What was the best thing about school? Holidays! Well, okay, maybe not the best, but they were right up there. Plot out your own holidays, especially getaway varieties. Remember, there’s no better way to land a job than to book an airplane ticket!

Here’s wishing you a great upcoming season of fun, growth, new friends, and exciting possibilities!


BOOK(s) OF THE MONTH: No, I haven’t read the Game of Thrones books yet. Nor have I seen the screen version of A Wrinkle in Time (yet—’cause that Oprah costume, you know I gotta!). But over my vacation, I did pick up the book that HBO’s Deadwood series was based on. I’ve talked before about how much you can learn about making movies (or TV, or…) by reading the books behind the shows: how interior dialogue is visualized; how dialogue-dialogue plays on the screen; why characters are merged, locales switched, and subplots are “disappeared”. This book is no exception, and unlike some mandatory college classes I suffered through, the learning is mighty fun. (Note for the delicate: not nearly as much swearing as the series, but even more sex and brutality, and a heckuva lot darker.)

Colleen Wainwright is a writerspeaker-layabout who started calling herself “The Communicatrix” when she hit three hyphens. She spent a decade writing commercials and another decade acting in them for cash money. Now she uses her powers for good instead of evil by helping creatives learn how to strut their stuff in a way that makes the world fall madly in love with them.

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