Productivity Over Panic: Handling the Production Shut Down
Happy Apocalypse, everyone! Just kidding.
Not trying to make light of a heavy situation; Coronavirus is real and we all need to do our part to protect our elders and other vulnerable people in our communities.
On top of that, so many actors feel stressed about income for at least the next few weeks, and that’s understandable.
All over LA, production is shut down. As restaurants, bars, and gyms close, actors working in those fields will lose additional income.
And heaven forbid any one of you runs out of toilet paper.
In the midst of chaos, I urge you not to join the masses in panicking. Instead, stay productive as much as you can.
This industry shut down won’t last forever.
So, here are some ways to set yourself up for success so you’re able to jump right back in once everything blows over.
I know no one’s gonna focus until I address what’s on the forefront of everyone’s minds. Here’s my take on money.
First of all, file for unemployment if you lose your job or have your hours reduced. For more information, visit: https://www.edd.ca.gov/unemployment/filing_a_claim.htm
The Actor’s Fund is an organization designed to support artists during hard times. Whether you need budgeting, financial coaching, or even an extra cushion to cover your bills, they are a great resource. Go to their website and find out what support they have available.
Though money may feel tight in the short term, working from home provides an opportunity to save money too.
The obvious one is gas, if you’re like me and drive a ton.
You’ll cook more, eat out less (although many more restaurants are providing free delivery options), and appreciate that vodka Red Bulls aren’t $12 apiece when you make them at home. Add in a fun Spotify hype jams playlist (on a shared family account, of course), close your eyes, jump around, and it’s almost like you’re out on a normal Saturday night.
Maybe that’s just me.
Lastly, and related, put that gym membership on hold and go for a run or work out at home.
There are tons of free online workout classes available on Youtube. If all else fails, throw a solo party with some loud music, use a couple jumbo packs of toilet paper as weights, and dance like no one’s around!
No one’s around.
First off, if you’re covered by SAG-AFTRA healthcare, you are able to get tested for COVID-19 at no cost to you. More information can be found at: https://www.sagaftraplans.org/health/news-resources/news/467-no-out-pocket-costs-network-coronavirus-testing
The Union has also created a Disaster Relief Fund specifically for COVID-19. Learn more at: https://sagaftra.foundation/assistance/disasterrelief/
And lastly, additional information regardless of insurance coverage or union status can be found at: https://www.labor.ca.gov/coronavirus2019/
REPRESENTATION & MATERIALS
With production being delayed or canceled outright, it’s a slower time all around. Agents now have much less to pitch on, and more time for things that are typically delayed during busy season, i.e. going through photos and reviewing materials, which can easily be done remotely.
If it’s been slow for you in one particular area of work (theatrical, commercial, VO, etc.) for a few months leading to this shut down, reach out to your reps and assess if there are any changes or updates you should make so you’re absolutely ready to go when things DO pick back up (and they will!!).
One strategy that’s been helpful for me is creating a self-tape archive of unlisted links that only my reps have access to.
Under each tape, I include a short description of the project (network/cable/studio feature/indie, comedy/drama), character (usually a quirky, offbeat, Type-A office worker), and note if I got a CB or booking from it. These tapes are useful when casting requests additional footage of you before deciding whether to bring you in for a certain role.
This is especially important when your reps are trying to get you seen against type (for me, that’d be any role described as edgy or badass).
If you already have the footage, all you have to do is compile it. I suggest uploading your tapes onto YouTube as unlisted links and organizing the videos by role type into a hidden page on your website.
If you don’t have the footage, figure out what roles you’re missing that you could reasonably play, find sides from any project that’s already aired (ShowFax has a bunch, or transcribe the scene from a past episode of a TV show), and hone those self-tape skills!
While reps do have more time on their hands, you won’t be able to visit them in person. But consider scheduling a check-in with them over Zoom or Facetime.
And, on the relationship building front, now is a great to forge new connections and deepen existing ones. So, think about how you can connect on a personal level with industry professionals you respect.
Initiate the relationship via email or on social media, since social distancing has people seeking social connection on IG/FB/Twitter, and see if you can move it to a face-to-virtual-face relationship through regular engagement.
People are bored. Sports, live events, nightlife, and seemingly the world at large has been canceled. Has anyone else witnessed an uptick in their likes/views/comments?
There’s never been a better time to engage your target industry connections on social media. Everyone is spending more time online with this quarantine.
CDs have more time to answer your casting questions via AMAs on Instagram, and responding to stories is a great way to start that relationship. People on social media want validation and crave a sense of connection more than ever with the suspension of in-person contact.
So be generous with your likes, views, and comments, and create some content. Again, people are v. bored and you’re doing them a service by providing entertainment. Make it good and tag the right people.
If they haven’t yet, people will likely be going crazy locked in their houses very soon. Check in with friends you haven’t had time to catch up with in a while, just to chat.
Don’t underestimate the power of a few simple words of gratitude and encouragement, whether it’s with your personal or industry connections. It’s a tough time for everyone. Reach out and thank the CD who cast you in your first network show for the role they played in your willingness to stick it out in such a tough industry. Thank your reps for everything they’ve done to move your career forward. Actors are always complaining that no one has time for us. Well, now people have time. Reach out and start that dialogue.
I understand the urge to watch the news for to-the-minute updates, but it can be good for your mental health to take time away from the news, too. Trust me, it’s gonna be depressing before it becomes uplifting.
Mass panic brings out the worst in some, but brings out the best in many! Check in if you have elderly or immuno-compromised neighbors and loved ones to see how you can help make this experience less challenging for them.
Utilize this additional time to watch (or re-watch) that TV show. Part of our job as actors is to watch good acting. Take a free online class in some obscure topic you’ve been interested in but never had the time to explore. Finish that novel. Catch up with friends (remotely). Write a script. Collaborate online.
No matter what you choose to do, stay healthy, stay optimistic, and don’t forget to wash your hands.
-- Coach Melody