So what have you been up to lately?
We hear this question all the time from friends, family, agents, managers, and casting directors. Sometimes we have a seemingly good (correct) answer: I just booked a job; I just shot a commercial; I just made $1,000 shooting a film, etc. Or maybe you don't have big news to share, and you're forced to give one of the that's-just-the-business answers that always feel like an excuse: I had a callback but didn't get it; My agent isn't working out so well; I booked a film but my friend cast me; Things are slow right now, etc. And other times we are paralyzed by this question and can only respond, "Not much."
As actors, unless you are in a Broadway show or are a regular on television series, you work from time to time, perhaps a week in a film, a day on a commercial, six weeks in a play. And then there is the time in between. Sadly, the in-between time is likely the gauge by which we judge our success and therefore, our lives. And we don't stop there. We even judge our successes. We don't count callbacks, being cast by friends, unpaid work, student films, or readings as "true" wins.
In order to change the experience of your career - and therefore your life - you must change your perspective. If you are going to auditions, marketing yourself and honing your craft, you are an actor; everything after that is gravy. So pour the gravy on thick.
When someone asks, "What have you been up to lately?" it is an opportunity, a gift. Someone has taken interest in you, your interests, successes, and life. They want to hear about you. You have a chance to commune, market yourself, and/or make a connection.
And here's the simple trick: People respond to you in kind. Meaning, if you sound positive or enthusiastic about what's going on in your life, your new friend will see it as wonderful too. If you say that, we know what you do, the type of roles you play and that you are successful...because you told us you are.
This conversation you have with your new friend is now the conversation you must have with yourself. The in-between time is a part of what it means to be an actor, and the in-between time is when you will need to answer for yourself, "What have you been up to?" You may even hear that question resounding in your head over and over between these "big" bookings. Answer your own question with: "I just shot fantastic headshots that market me perfectly"; "I booked my friend's web series where I'll be in an Uber fun scene in a role I rarely get to play"; "I'm doing a reading of a screenplay"; "I booked a commercial..cha-ching!"; "I got an audition for 'Modern Family' "; "I rocked my audition yesterday!"
Soon enough you'll actually experience these successes, and being an actor will be a positive journey. Oh and BTW, the journey of being an actor is your life. You've discovered the secret to happiness. So tell me... what have you been up to lately?