Pilot Season. It’s less of a season and more of an airborne bacterial infection, descending upon Los Angeles every year around this time. For some of us the symptoms will include five auditions and a year’s worth of anxiety a day for three months every day. For others, it will bring the deafening silence of an iPhone that’s not ringing, coupled with the boiling desire to be busier than we are. Either way, we must press on, try to survive Pilot Season intact, and emerge in June feeling whole. Here are some ways to do that:
1. Don’t Forget The Basics. Whether you’re losing your mind because you’re auditioning five times a day or because you’re not auditioning at all, you can’t forget to care for yourself. You are your business and you have to look after the product. Eat well, sleep well and exercise in a way that connects your body and your mind. Even though it’s hectic beyond belief or slow beyond belief, picking up McDonald’s and a Kit-Kat on your way to the audition is a terrible idea. Staying up till four in the morning to read the script one more time for your 9 a.m. audition is obsessive and can blow it for you. Letting the stress pile up in the recesses of your joints without the release that exercise brings is harmful. In order to be present in each moment and remain open – in an audition or in life for that matter – you must take care of yourself, mind, body, and spirit.
2. Get a Life. If all you are is an actor, you’re probably boring. Harsh, but true. Yes, you came here from who-knows-where with the singular focus to make your mark in Hollywood and told yourself, “nothing else matters.” But an actor must live fully so he/she can reflect the fullness of life in the audition room. So, during Pilot Season and every other season, seek out community. Seek out opportunities for connection and engagement. Spend time with family and friends. Be open to meeting new friends. Isolation and a narrow life is death for an actor. Community service is great for your community but even better for your work. Leo has the environment, Scarlett Johannson has Oxfam. For Clooney it’s Sudan, and for Eva Longoria it’s the United Farm Workers. If the only person you’ve talked to all day is your agent, you need to do the work of creating community.
3. Stay grounded in the work. You will be pulled in a myriad of directions this pilot season, most of which lead away from your unique artistic voice. Most of what you deal with on a day-to-day basis will put you in a place of doubt and fear and keep you locked in your head. The hyper-focus on the business of the season can make you obsess about agents, managers, money, the way your hair looked in that take, etc., as opposed to how you truthfully feel in that moment, what you want, and the interesting ways in which you expressed it all in the audition room. Pilot season can pull you away from having a meaningful, human experience in the room. You can start asking yourself, “What can I do to make them love me?” as opposed to starting with, “Where does this scene truthfully resonate in me?” In order to stay out of your head and in the work you have to have an outlet for your artistry that does not involve your pilot season auditions. You must be in class consistently even if you’re so busy you can’t breathe. Getting back to the source of your artistry every week reinforces that unique artistry, allows it to flow freely, thereby giving you a better shot at standing out from the rest of the masses and booking the job. Whether you have ten auditions or none the next day, GO TO CLASS!
4. Know what matters. While it is an actor’s job to take his or her work personally, and emotionally invest in each audition, she/he must also take care not to take the outcome so personally. There are a million reasons why you won’t book the job. Most of the reasons have very little to do with you. A deeper understanding of the impersonal nature of the business side of show business shows that it’s often not about you at all. To even be considered for a part you must be talented, prepared, bold, and accessible in the moment. But even at your best, the wild animal that is the business may or may not bestow its light upon you. Thinking that if only you hadn’t stumbled on that one line, or if only you hadn’t listened to your friend and worn the suede jacket instead of the jean jacket, is time wasted. None of it matters. All you can control is your bold, truthful expression in a world of a play. Being distracted by anything else clouds your artistry and prevents you from making an emotional connection with the people in the room.
5. Screw it. In the end, it’s only a TV show. They come and go, and it’s a miracle if any last one season. You are not defined by the pilot you did or did not get.
You are a human being with so much to give who is no less valuable than the person they happened to choose or the person who is auditioning more than you. With joy in your heart, work tirelessly to discover and express your unique artistic voice – write, shoot, and post your own material; put up a play – and you will inch even closer to being an artist whose voice is undeniable in whatever medium you end up.
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