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.

The face of someone who 'went for it' in her comedy dance audition.

The face of someone who 'went for it' in her comedy dance audition.

Lessons of today.

1) I can be daft on demand

2) When you have a room full of people who want you to make a fool out of yourself, you have to leave your inhibitions at the door

3) My whistles jumper, studio lighting and cardiovascular activity do not mix

4) My hula hooping needs work

5) I need to do a bra shop

6) I kind of need a wine

7) Fortunately I have been drunk on many occasions so could channel all those times to make all of the above much easier! #anactorslife#dancelikenooneswatching #naptime

Podcast: Episode Nineteen with 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.

Practical solutions to help you move forward as an actors [video]

I love collaborating with Surviving Actors. In this video I share lots of practical solutions to accelerate your acting career and help you move forward. 

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.

Be ready for the audition

As actors, we are used to working within tight deadlines and changing circumstances; last minute auditions, script edits at the final hour or a fast paced improvisation session. Then throw in international travel and ‘with hours to go’ confirmations, we can be stretched.

However if you can train yourself to ‘be ready’ for anything (apologies for the outrageous plug!) you will reap the rewards.

You will be the one is more likely to get the job. You will be the one who makes the production team’s schedule easier and stress free and ultimately the one who is remembered as someone who was amazing to work with.

Over the years in this industry as an actor and an agent, I have noticed the time frames have become tighter due to the speediness of technology. It can be a case of fastest finger first.

Of course, talent comes into play, but most are talented so what is going to make you stand out from the crowd?

Here are five strategies that will help you be in the best possible position for the next opportunity.

1. Be in contact

Communication with your agent is absolutely key and by maintaining an open dialogue of your whereabouts will build trust and allow your agent to push on certain jobs and make last minute decisions on your behalf.

Firstly always update them with your availability so they are informed- expect to get a call about an audition. Don’t be tempted to slip away for the weekend and turn your phone to voice mail- don’t get caught out. Secondly always keep your phone charged. I purchased and external phone charger that doesn’t need to be plugged in- try this one… this has saved me many a time when I am out and about.

2) Have online copies of your documents

Open a dropbox account or google drive account to store scanned copies of useful paperwork- your passport, measurements, insurance, driving licence. So if the production company needs your details quickly you can simply ‘share’ via email rather than waiting to get home, find, scan, email and send...by this point you may have missed the boat.

3) Expect to travel and have a ‘travel bag’

This is not a whole suitcase :) but a collection of stuff I always need that I can easily access. I have a travel cosmetics bag with travel sized products ready to go plus a drawer of plane essentials- eye mask, foregin currency, travel pillow, adaptors etc that I can quickly grab.

4) Keep things smooth

So many parts of an actor’s life can complicated so try and keep your finances and general life stress free so you can go accept a job at a moment’s notice.

5) Be remote

it is essential an actor can work on the move. This could be downloading scripts (I always have my computer with me) or equipment to be able to record.

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. 

How to get a brand new agent (my top ten tips)

I have had many agents over the years; some have been wonderful and some less than wonderful, let’s just say :)

This week, I signed with an additional agent, lovely Kaye is going to look after me for my speaking and presenting work. Elevating this area of my brand was on my 2018 goal list so it feels great to have achieved this by 10th January 2018. Bizarrely I now know Kaye was aware of me too and was going to get in contact but I beat her to it. 

You may be reading this and thinking ‘It’s alright for you Nicky…’ and that is totally cool. I get it. It’s annoying especially if this is something you want to do too. But don’t worry, you can do it too. There is space for everyone.

Writing to agents and getting a positive response is something I am always asked about. I’m sure you know already, but I was an agent for 5 years… over that time, I read many applications…many of which were poorly written, vague, unclear and a little bit slap dash. The applications that stood out weren’t necessarily the actors who had the most experience; often it was to do with attitude, understanding of their brand and a general sense that he/she would be great to work with. 

Here are my top ten strategies which will help you land your agent of choice:

1) Consider what you want for your career

Get clear on your vision and big picture dreams. What do you want to build? What direction do you want your career to go in? Don’t say ‘You don’t mind’ ; you may think you are being flexible and easy to work with but actually you are making it harder for the agent to get you work or envisage working with you. 

2)Who do you want to work with?

Agents have very different styles and not all are suitable for you. I certainly don’t get on with someone who is dismissive, soulless and doesn’t get me. Read ‘about’ pages and their social media feeds carefully, there will be plenty of clues that will help you to make a decision. 

3) Start with a winners’ mindset

Assume that your dream agent is waiting for you… even if this requires your best acting pants. Agents don’t get paid unless they represent actors who get paid. FACT. Starting the writing/email process with a positive mindset will shine through in your communication. Whatever you do, don’t start with ‘No one is probably going to read it anyway’… 

4) Do your research

Check out social media feeds, be thorough with their website, understand their clients, google their name in You Tube. Get to know their likes, dislikes and overall vibe. 

5) What are you selling?

I know we are taught to not show off or sell ourselves and sound sleazy and desperate but agents need to know who you are and what you do. Get clear on your talents, your niche, your skills, your appeal, what you can do now and where you want to go… feel free to write oodles and then strip it back to the essentials. Don’t give yourself the pressure of having to ‘nail it’ the first time. Successful emails do take time to write…so write 20 rather than 200. If you are falling into the trap of ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ reassess. If you need help with this, get in contact with me via my contact page

6) Build your brand

I know brand building a bit of weird concept BUT do it anyway. These days how you do something is how you do everything and you have to be ready for the opportunities. The first thing I would always do when I received an application was to google the person. Yes you need a website. Yes it needs to look good and yes we want to know all about you. 

7) Be creative now and don’t wait for the opportunity

I have written my blog for 5 years, I have a You Tube channel and I am launching a podcast on Monday. I am not waiting for someone to offer me the job or give me an opportunity. By creating stuff myself, I attract the right people. I show that I believe in myself so other should too. 

8) Build the evidence

The testimonials from directors, the press clips, what you are doing right now. We need to know. You have to champion yourself before anyone else can. Plus you will always be the common denominator in your career. 

9) Make it easy for someone to say yes

Tell them how you could work together. Keep it simple and consistent. 

10) Take action

Of course you can spend another day/week/month/year and moan that things aren’t happening for you and if that is your bag, go for it. But I know you are better than that. Take small steps, even if they feel scary or a bit vulnerable. Granted you may not get a ‘yes’ straight away but often that is no reflection of you. I would love to hear what you are up to this year, feel free to share with me via my contact page

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. 

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.