PODCAST: Episode Sixty with Katie Birtill

E P I S O D E S I X T Y is live
Today I speak to my lovely friend @kbirtill. We talk lots about creativity; what it means and how you can get back into the zone, if you have felt you have been out of it.

Over the years, we've had so many chats about how we dance the creative career. How to deal with rejection; not being flavour of the month, or not be 'quite right'

Katie recently reached number one in the ITunes charts with her debut album, a project she produced herself. It is a fascinating story.

Podcast: Episode Nineteen // Indra Ové

In today's episode, I talk to my lovely friend and actor Indra Ové. You may know Indra from the small or big screen; her credits include; Interview with the Vampire, Resident Evil, Marcella, The National Theatre, The Young Vic, The West End...these are just a few.

What do I do when the phone isn't ringing? #actors

When I speak to actors, this is one of the most common questions that I am asked. ‘What do I do?’

The story usually goes as follows: they have left drama school, they sign with an agent, they land one or two jobs….then nothing. Everything grinds to a halt and they are left in a place of uncertainty. ‘Am I being put up for jobs?’ ‘Are my head shots working?’ ‘Is my agent working hard for me?’ ...’What do I do?’

The answer is ‘something’… do something and quickly.

It is your responsibility.

Of course, a strong working relationship with an agent helps, but you are the common denominator in your career. You are constant so take it seriously.

Here are 5 ways to help you stay motivated and take action:

1)   Think back to your recent successes

What did you achieve, what did you do, where you were performing, how did it make you feel, what did people say to you?

Start to vividly remember and then analyse the process.

What did you do? How did you make yourself feel good and find your flow?

2)   Find your focus

What do you want? What do you want to achieve in the next 6 months, by Christmas? Write yourself a goal and then take action

3)   Flip the questions back to you and put yourself back in control

Instead of being cross with others or asking closed questions ‘Is it quiet at the moment?’ ask yourself ‘What can I do?’ and ask your agent ‘What do you need from me, can I provide any additional shots, show reel clips, what can I do to make your life easier?’

4)   Write a list of your tasks you need to do

Make a voice reel, hone your Yorkshire accent, take a refresher horse riding course etc. Break down each task into smaller tasks and schedule the dates into your diary; when you are going to start, what you need to do and when you want to complete the task by.

5)   Go for it and take action

Don’t wait or say you’ll start tomorrow, or next week or when you have a block of time. Do something today. Send an email, make a call, make a booking and start to build momentum.

How the internet can benefit you as an actor

As an actor, it is imperative that your work can be viewed. I often used the analogy of ‘searching for properties’. 

Imagine you are looking online for somewhere to live. Before you make an appointment and invest time in trekking across town to view, you want to know that the property is going to be a possible match for you. You want to see clear photos that are a true representation of what the property looks like, otherwise known as YOUR HEADSHOT. 

You then want to know the dimensions. How many rooms there are, how big they are, whether you are able to fit all your furniture in, otherwise known as YOUR CV. It is essential that these vital pieces of information are accurate and comprehensive. 

Lastly, the house tour. How great would it be to be able to view an online tour of the potential house, otherwise known as Your Showreel.

Casting spots can be very precious as there are only a certain number of appointments per session. These need to be filled with strong actors who can deliver and be reliable. If you have a showreel, the likelihood you will be invited to castings will increase. 

Building a showreel can be difficult; waiting for footage or gaining footage that truly represents you and your abilities can take time. Therefore the ‘perfect showreel’ can seem a long way off. 

Please don’t wait for perfection- it will delay your process. Start now and focus on what you can do, not what you can’t. 

Begin with a creative mind and consider what you can do now, it is important you start to become familiar with your on screen presence- what do you look like on camera? Do you have any behaviours or habits that you didn’t know you had? Take the time to work hard on your camera technique now- don’t wait until you get in the casting room, when you have an audience. 

Here are five strategies for you to help get started. 

  • Look for the easy wins. Could you record a monologue? Do you have a friend who has a good camera that could easier shoot a duologue? Could you research companies who offer showreel services? Don’t wait until you have 5 minutes of footage- focus on what you can build now. 

  • Become familiar with equipment.  If you have a recent computer, it is likely it will include an editing suite, learn how to operate it now. Remember, there is so much information online, if you ever get stuck, simply type the question into You Tube. 

  • Become familiar with sharing. Your agent may ask you to go on tape in the near future, so figure out how you would do this now. Don’t wait until the call comes in, this will only encourage panic. Create an action plan now so you are prepared and sharp. 

  • Join forces. No doubt, you will have actor friends that have a similar set of requirements, so collaborate. Contact those you trust and set up a meeting, clearly sharing your expectations and ideas. This can be a fantastic way of sharing costs and to be effective and accountable. 

  • Make it happen. Start today. Don't wait until it feels right or until you have the perfect amount of time or money. Take baby steps and begin the process. Your agent will be thrilled and you will be seen by the people who need to see you. 

Stuff you can do right now as an actor to help your agent

When I was an agent, I rarely stopped for breath. Lunch was a hurried affair at my desk and often the calls and emails of ‘immediate attention’ continued way beyond office hours. 

When you are under pressure as an agent, you want to be able to deliver to the client (you represent or company you are working with) in the most efficient and effective way. 

Due to the timing, you can be away from your desk - which can prove difficult if the systems are not in place. Fortunately they were, which would pay off tremendously. 

Although I am a creative, I love systems and they are essential for my life. As you know, my working day can alter hugely, so it is essential I can work remotely, across all devices.  

We are all working across time zones, under strict deadlines and in various locations. 

I cannot stress enough how important it is for you to be organized as an actor.  

This five step plan I am going to share with you is really easy to implement, even if you wouldn’t consider yourself as an organised person. 

Remember, with all of my 5 step plans… take action. Don’t just read and say ‘I really must do that’. Schedule it in your diary and make it happen. 

Step One: Choose a programme

My favourites are Google drive and Drop box. My lap top is currently at the Apple Store hospital so I am working from my I mac. I have very little saved onto my computer because it is all uploaded on to one of these programmes so I can access from all my devices- I am a 4x times Apple user! 

This takes away an enormous amount of stress because I can always access what I need, when I need it. Plus these two programmes are shareable so you can share your material by simply typing in an email. 

Step Two: Scan and upload

- Passport

- Drivers licence

- Insurance

- Measurements

- Contact details

- Doctors details

- Your head shots (including your back catalogue)

- Video clips/showreel

- Documents of achievements- certificates or any evidence to proof you can do what you say you can do. 

-Your CV

-Pictures- family/with partner/with friends/action shots- perhaps that capture your specialist skills.

Step Three: Expect the unexpected

Don’t wait until you need the documents, preempt the situation. Take a couple of hours now to get everything in place. You will remove the stress at the last minute and be ahead of your competition. 

Step Four: Check it works across all devices. 

Make sure you have downloaded the app on all devices so you are never caught out. 

Step Five: Link and share with your agent

Don’t forget to let your agent know about your high flying organisational skills. This way they can quickly access the material and advise you on what is missing and what may be useful. Plus, the agent will be super impressed and be more likely to suggest and push you for last minute jobs because you are ready to go!

So what do you need to? Where are your gaps? Take action and get cracking...

What to do when your family don't support your acting career?

Many actors I know have wanted to be an actor for a very long time. Perhaps they were inspired by a childhood film or loved the feeling of ‘being on stage’ when they were in a school production. 

When did you know you wanted to be an actor? What was the deciding moment? Who did you tell first? 

When people ask you, ‘So what do you do?’ and you tell them, what do they say? What do they want to know? What are the questions they ask? 

You may have made the decision to be an actor many years ago, during a discussion in the school playground. Or acting may have always been a passion of yours that you are revisiting in later life. Whatever your path, I’m sure your decision sparks some opinion. 

So what happens if your friends and family don’t agree with your decision? What do you say during a particularly dry spell, when you know you will get a simple ‘Told you so’.

I’m sure you are familiar with the spectrum of emotions we encounter as actors. On landing an amazing job, we feel elated and exhilarated. But when we don’t get the job, or even worse, come so close and then don’t get it, our confidence and outlook can take a hammering. During those bleaker times, we really need the support of our loved ones to cheer us up and spur us on. 

However, what do you do if the support isn’t there? What do you do if you feel misunderstood? 

Here are 5 strategies that can help you ease any animosity. 

1. Understanding

Put yourself in their shoes for a moment. What is their perspective? Why don’t they agree with your career choice? What has formed their ideas? Experience? Fear? Lack of knowledge? 

What piece of information is missing that you could share? What parts of the industry do they relate to? List some possible conversation starters.

2. Identify

Who does support your vision? Friends? Fellow actors? A mentor? A coach? A teacher? Who makes you feel great about being an actor? Book in some regular time with them and during that time, be proactive. Don’t spend the time moaning that nobody understands; share ideas and join forces so you can make it happen. Hold each other accountable and help the other person to set targets and goals so they remain focused and proactive.

3. Step into an entrepreneurial mindset

Often the acting industry is frowned upon due to its job insecurity. As the majority of acting jobs are contract based, the likelihood is, you will be ‘out of work’ for some of the time. With this in mind, be inventive. Don’t assign yourself to just waiting for the phone to ring, get busy. Sometimes there is a glamour attached to the ‘struggling artist’ but you don’t have to be one. If you are being seen to be proactive, upbeat and flourishing, you are more likely to invite a positive reaction. Be creative in your thinking and look for ways you can earn money, honour your commitments and still be available for auditions. By adopting this mindset, you will be able to support yourself and maintain a strong position. 

4.  Take the advice from those who can give it

Surround yourself with people in the know and create a tool kit of knowledge (videos,podcasts, books etc). Sometimes, when we are experiencing a lull, we ask for help but are not selective in who we ask. Before long, you are receiving advice from your hairdresser, lady in shop, your mum’s best friend or a man in a local pub. Make the decision to get the help you need and from informative places. 

5.   Be careful when you share

This applies to social media and in the flesh. Sometimes there isa temptation to take everyone through the whole process; the call from your agent,  the audition preparation, the audition, the recall, the pencil, the call to say you didn’t get it etc. But it isn’t necessary. In sharing every layer of the story, you can subconsciously add more pressure to yourself. The external opinions of those around can come into play and take you out of the present moment of the job. If it helps, share only with a couple of people and then share the good news when you have it. 

You give and you give and nothing... (ten quick strategies for you)

So often this kind of conversation comes up with my clients so here is a little top ten run down of how you move past this...


1) Running your own business/being a personal brand may just be the biggest personal development journey of your life. Go easy with yourself. You will find your rhythm quickly in some areas and in other you will make mistakes that will be rubbish at the time and then change everything in your business in a brilliant way. 


2) Manage your expectations. As an actor I assumed, it was going to be one job that changed everything. It might be but that is a lots of energy that is directed in one place. So instead, I like to keep my options open. Be consistent, keep my eyes open as sometimes the least expected thing sticks. 


3) Ignore the rules. Your business. You choose. Yes of course learn from those who have done it but never ignore your own gut instinct. 


4) Boundaries. Be sooo clear in what the process looks like at every step. We know the rules when we go into the supermarket and buy food...because they have been set for us. You need to set your rules. In fact we want you to. As your potential customers we like to be told how things are going to move forward. 


5) I know it is tricky when you are starting out but try and spot your ideal clients; they are more likely to respect you and carry out their commitment. Your customer gets brilliant results and you get a great testimonials and a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. 


6) On the other hand, you may get a response you are not expecting...a no when you have agreed a yes...a personality of a client that certainly didn't reveal itself in the friendly coffee you had. An alternative request... 'Can you do these 1845 extra things we didn't agree on at no extra cost' If the parameters have changed you are welcome to question them...and CHARGE for them. 


7) Often a 'no reply' is not about you...you did a great job. Perhaps your client is not ready/not in the right headspace/needs a different flavour/can't afford you...all of which are reasons not to chase and please do not spend time thinking about what you could have done. You did everything you could. If the client is right for you, they will come back. 


8)If you offer something for free, know why you are doing so...it may be different to what you thought. Maybe you are worried that you are not ready. Maybe you want to be a nice person(this is not mutually exclusive to charging). Maybe you doubt your abilities. I have done all of these things but now if I give something I know why and often it is because I can and I want to. 


9) I look for ease in my business and will be looking for more going forward in 2017. I want it to be fun. I don't want to create unnecessary stress and I want to keep things simple. When things feel hard, I know I have to take a step back and reassess.


10) Say yes when you want to and say no when you want to. On both occasions do it with energy, conviction, integrity and kindness. 


BONUS: Don't spend oodles of time replaying the past on what you could have done... keep moving forward...

Sometimes my inner Veruca Salt wants to shout... 'I WANT IT NOW'

But I know that is not appealing or endearing...

I have to play the long game...

Throughout my career my patience has really been tested.

Why is it quiet?

Why am I not being called in?

Why is this taking so long?

WHY WHY WHY (basically)

But I have learnt to stop, collaborate and listen (!) and play the looooong game.

I was interviewed by Surviving Actors and shared my thoughts on the industry and there may be some nuggets that may help you. 

There is so much you can do/change/shake up in 2017.  I know myself when I am in the frame of mind of ACTION, the results come thick and fast.

But I have had to decide.

I have got clear and I have got support.

As a qualified life coach, I can help you too: 

What we may discuss... 

Agents | Head shots | Castings | Getting started | Networking | Branding | Websites | Motivation | Boost your cast rate | Drama school | Boosting confidence | Creating an action plan.

Saying no as an actor

Saying no as an actor is equally important as saying yes. Let me explain… 

 An actor’s career doesn’t follow a set trajectory and can take many twists and turns. The job doesn’t follow the ‘promotion’ route, i.e. you have been in the job ‘x’ years, therefore you have reached x stage and get ‘x’ salary and a company car. Being an actor works within an alternative set of parameters and often there are  many more creative factors to accepting or declining a job. 

The great news is you are the common denominator. You can create the career that you want and you can make it happen. 

As actors, we want to act, we want to feel creative and often. We don’t want to be stuck in ‘inbetween jobs’ when there are hundred other things we would rather be doing. 

So how do you battle the ‘non profit/expenses/creative/dream role’ opportunities with the high paying / perhaps more infrequent / agent pleasing / less creative jobs. 

I would like to share with you my five strategies to help you on your way. 

1. Get clear on your vision

As actors, it can be tempting to say ‘I want to do everything’ however this doesn’t often get your desired results. Everything becomes a little vague and you put yourself in the mindset of ‘I’ll see what happens’. Be purposeful and be clear on your focus. You may want to have a varied career but what do you need to do first? What is the work that lights you up? Where do you see yourself- TV? Film? Theatre? Get specific. 

In the first chapter of my book, I take you through the creative strategy to help you get clear on what you want. 

2) Once you have clarity...

 Once your vision is in place, you will be able to make more informed decisions. There will be some requests that won’t be a fit for you or won’t be congruent with your lifestyle and financial situation. It’s ok to say no whilst being respectful to all parties. Not every opportunity or request is going to be right for you, so please be thoughtfully selective, this way you will be available to say ‘yes’ to the matches. 

3) Research | Pros and cons list | Your why

Before making any kind of decision, it is vital to do your homework. Take the time to research the company, what have they done before and what is their reputation. 

What is the venue/platform and who will be able to see the production/project? 

What is the role? What is the commitment? Who are the creatives? 

 Taking the time to grab a piece of paper and a pen and complete a pros and cons exercise can be brilliantly revealing. It will help you to cement your thoughts so you can check that it works with your vision, rather than just being talked into it by an enthusiastic member of the team. 

4) Talk to your agent, seek advice

 It is crucial you work with your agent, not against them. Many agents may be open to you taking on a profit share job- it could be something they could bring casting directors to or it could boost your profile. 

Don’t be tempted to negotiate the terms by yourself, especially if a friend has asked you- always refer them to your agent. It will keep matters cleaner. Keep in mind the long term vision, work as a partnership, listen to their advice and then make a decision that you are both happy with. 

Be clear on the terms upfront- i.e. you are still available to attend castings / you will receive a copy of the film for your showreel with ‘x’ time etc. 

5) Maximise your opportunities

Whether the opportunity is paid or unpaid, remember to always be business minded. Market early so people see your work. Build relationships and be great and memorable always. Use social media and support the project you are involved with, you never know where it may lead.

Will you ever work again as an actor?

When the acting work is slow, many actors can find themselves balancing finances or spending hours in a job they hate. Not only does this effect morale, thoughts of ‘Will I ever work again?’ may start to creep in. Becoming unhappy on a day to day basis may be a slippery slope to effecting all areas of your life.

So what can you do? 

Here are five strategies to help you:

1) Make sure everything is up to date. 

Sometimes auditions slow down because your portfolio needs some work. Check your headshots, CV and showreel and make sure they are reflective of the ‘current you’. If they are not or if changes need to be made- schedule the time to make it happen. Give yourself a time frame and a check list and get the tasks done.

2) Check in with what is happening now.

Perhaps you are working too much- working hard  but not smartly. Or perhaps you haven’t had much time to dedicate to your acting career? Or perhaps other areas of your life have taken your focus?

Take some time to notice what has been going on. Don’t beat yourself up if things have been quiet, make a decision to recalibrate and make a plan to move forward.

3) Consider who you are spending your time with. 

Negative people and toxic conversations that consist of whinging are not helpful. They will only make you feel worse. Book in some time with people who make you feel good and who are solution orientated. Or alternatively book a workshop or seminar that is going to make you very inspired and uplifted. 

4) Make time for stuff that makes you feel good. 

Keep a close eye on your lifestyle- are you eating well and getting plenty of sleep? Are you carrying any stress or anxiety? Are you make time for stuff that you love?

Analysing our work/life balance is not only essential to our well being but it keeps our mindset and attitude in peak condition. When we are unhappy in life, we may find we are less successful in auditions. 

5) Do something every day to move you forward.

Many of my clients talk about a perfect time- when they have enough time, money or when it feels right. Start now. Introduce good habits and routine and make them the basis for your day. Invest in a notebook or create a spreadsheet and track your results so you can acknowledge how far you have come.