As a self-trained actor, I have always wanted to bump up my skills; but whenever I had the time for classes I was short of money, and when I had money I was too busy.
Like everyone else, I suddenly have a lot more time on my hands, and although I probably have less money now than I have had for a long time, I want to take advantage of the various free and low-cost courses that are currently being offered online. My problem is that with so many out there it is quite difficult to choose which classes would be most useful.
I am already getting headaches from staring at a screen for hours while doing my day job from home, so I want to limit any further online activity to just the one or two classes that will bring the best results. Can you give me some guidance on deciding which classes are the right ones for me?
Casting profiles have changed a lot since the days when they consisted of a headshot paperclipped to a hard-copy CV. Click the drop-down menus on any online casting platform and, where there might once have been a relatively small and general list of skills, you will now usually find a vast array of different areas of specialisation to choose from. Even skills such as ‘baking’ and ‘legal training’, which might once have been considered irrelevant on an acting CV, have secured jobs for several actors I know because they were specifically required in particular casting briefs and those actors had them listed when a search was done.
Given that almost any skill you add to your existing profile could be of similar benefit in the future, some might suggest a course in crystal ball gazing is your best option. But if 2020 has proven anything so far, it is that we live in distinctly unpredictable times. So, instead of aiming to become clairvoyant, my first recommendation would be to choose classes based on what would be most fulfilling for you rather than just because you feel you should be doing them.
One useful technique is to consider the types of work you are hoping to secure after lockdown. Consider the most experienced and successful performers you know who are doing this kind of work, then imagine being in a casting for your ‘dream role’ where one of them is your main ‘competition’. What is the main area of skill in which you feel that performer might have the edge over you due to innate talent or because they have had more experience in this type of work? When you identify that edge, this might be the area you decide to polish up with a class or two.
As well as topping up existing skills, you might decide to devote this lockdown time to acquiring new ones. In addition to acting skills, there are a lot of introductory scriptwriting, production and direction-orientated sessions being offered. The casting side of our industry will get back to previous levels of activity, but this may not happen quickly, so getting yourself into a position where you can create your own work, whether online or offline, is likely to be an even more useful skill than it has ever been.
Whatever online course you do eventually choose, commit to it, turn up on time and do your homework, just as you would if it were a physical class, even if the session is being offered free. Not only does that show respect for the teacher’s time and generosity, it also acknowledges that the value of any training is determined as much by what you put into it as how much you pay at the door.