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Planting Season: Four Steps Setting Up Your Career Year

In a recent post, The Three Seasons for The Vancouver Actor. I outlined what I see as the true ebb and flow of our TV Industry, and gave a general outline of how to navigate them as the actor. Going forward, as the calendar evolves, I’m going to get more specific and offer some ideas about how to keep on keeping on month to month and day to day.

To carry the farming analogy (Plant, Grow, Harvest) forward, let’s look where we are today, right at the beginning of PLANTING SEASON – which will last till early March. Exciting times! Planting doesn’t start with just shoving seeds in the ground; you need to assess the conditions, choose your crops, prepare the soil, and plan how you will manage it all. That’s what I want to address with this post – how to set yourself up for a successful planting season in four steps.

I’m a Vancouver actor so my references are local, but wherever your local market may be, you’ll find similar resources to the ones I share.

Now, without further ado, let’s get busy on the four steps:


We actors so often get obsessively focussed on our careers (it’s scary and requires extreme orchestration and attention) that we often lose perspective of what our true priorities are. This is a problem, It leads to BURNOUT – we all know it – we are overwhelmed, in a state of active stagnation, frustrated and we end up resenting the things that really matter. An actor can’t possibly be connected, present, open, vulnerable and GENEROUS in his or her work if he/she is obsessing on all of life’s frustrations.

We end up chasing an idea rather than experiencing our lives. Disconnected from our lives = disconnected from ourselves = disconnected from our work = negative exponential spiral.

The good news is that there’s a simple and quite pleasant cure for this state: RELAX!! Hopefully you’ve enjoyed some holiday down time, kicked back, and connected with what really matters in this life – the people you share it with.

Step 2: ASSESS THE CONDITIONS – Where are you planting?

Quick! What shows are shooting in town right now? When do they wrap? What is each show’s style? What network does each one air on? Who is the target audience of each show? Who is casting them? What is your relationship with each of those casting directors? Which shows are getting cancelled? Which are getting renewed?

You need to know the answer to all of the above. Wait! Don’t get freaked out – please refer to Step 1 and RELAX! It’s all good – if you don’t know the answers, that’s cool, you are going to learn a ton this week. Get busy assessing the present conditions and find the answers to these questions.

PLEASE don’t barrage your agent or casting for the answers. Learn to find them on your own they are our there!

Go to BC Film Commission’s Website, and to Union of BC Performers for a snap shot. Then Google the shows, find video on YouTube, find fan forum pages for it. Did you know most shows have their own Wiki where you can find pretty much everything you ever wanted to know about the show and more? Here’s an example of one for CW Network’s Supernatural.

You must be an expert on all the shows that are shooting right now. The key part of that sentence is RIGHT NOW. They constantly change. If you make keeping up to speed with your industry part of your daily/weekly time investment, you will be in a constant sate of career conditioning, which is to say you will be constantly re-conditioning yourself to be current, and you will be aware of the specific opportunities that exist for you. This will help you manage that urgent/anxious feeling we all carry, and increase the ease and comfort in your auditions. Opportunities are perennial and constant. You just need to know where and when to expect them so you invest the appropriate time and attention in them (in other words ‘you do not obsess over’ them!)

As you dig in to what’s shooting and what’s coming up, and you are a little more relaxed because your expectations from the present moment of the industry are accurate, you can move on to the next step….

Step 3: ASSESS YOUR SEEDS – What are you planting?

Now that you are up to speed on the industry conditions that exist right now, you can begin to determine what opportunities are likely to be there for you right now. That’s for YOU SPECIFICALLY – not ‘an actor like you’ or ‘an actor of your type’ for YOU. Period. Anything less is too general to be useful, and is therefore a distraction. You, and everyone on your career team (your actor friends, your coach, your Twitter and Facebook followers, your Blog readers, your agent, casting….) needs to be aware of who you you are, and how you should be cast. This can only happen if YOU are aware of it.

Wait, let’s be realistic about this – are all 800 of your Facebook friends thinking about you and your career and is casting urgently trying to get you the perfect role? No, definitely not. BUT, if you are engaging them as YOU – the real you, not an image or presentation of you, then you are planting seeds in their mind about who you are. When the time comes that the thing that you are perfect for pops up, you are more likely to be top of mind with them, and more likely to be brought in for something you are specifically appropriate for, and more likely to book and grow.

So, your job is to figure what seeds/stock you have to plant right now, in today’s conditions. Here’s the three steps:

1. Look at the style of shows that are shooting right now. Which two or three of them are right up your alley STYLISTICALLY? Honestly ask and answer for yourself the question, “What styles/shows make my artist engine rev to the redline? Which ones excite the actor in me?” This is where your passion lies, and it’s where you are going to be the most successful. Focus on these shows! For example, I myself am highly passionate about realism and humanity in my work, so a Children’s MOW for example wouldn’t be my prime target (can I play those Characters? Most definitely, but are they my focus right now? Definitely not.) Shows like Motive, Red Widow (both of which I booked in the end of Harvest Season 2012 – not co-incidentally) are great fits for me. Right now. Things may change, and if I’m constantly (re)assessing it all, I’ll be plugged in to that change.

2. What’s your casting on these shows? Some call it ‘brand’ some call it ‘type’ some call it ‘hit’. These are just all fancy intimidating marketing speak for ‘who are you’, and more importantly ‘who are you in the context of this show?’. Me? I’m a passionate loving insecure dad who’s stepping up to the plate and learning that carrying the world on your shoulders isn’t actually carrying the world on your shoulders – it’s work, but it’s fun and easier than I used to worry about. Compassionate, Frustrated, Insecure, and Determined. I’m not a cover model, but I’m not quite ‘character’ in looks. I play a doctor on Red Widow, giving compassionate but firm news to a concerned series lead, and I play a man in a confessional trying to own up to doing the right thing on Motive. Obviously.

3. REALISTICALLY, what level are you going to read and book for right now? It’s a resume/reputation question. If you have never booked an actor role, you are not going to book a series lead. That may sound harsh, and it’s not 100% percent true, but it’s close. Don’t expect to be the ‘exception that makes the rule’, but be delighted if you are. We’re often either overly humble about it (afraid to rise to the level that we are actually at) or we are in defensive denial about where we must be. Don’t give into all that silliness. Have a look at your resume, and be productively honest with yourself. You will read (and should be excited to do so) for roles that are one step up and one step down from what your most common level shows. Be grateful for that.

Now, put those all together, the two or three shows that artistically excite you, who you are quality wise on that show, and what level you should be reading for regularly. BOOM. If you’ve identified 3 roles for 3 shows, you now have NINE SPECIFIC ROLES to pay attention to this season. This is the core of your focus this month.

I’m not for a second suggesting that you become closed off to all other work outside of these targets; there is lots more work and you will read for, and should be open to. But if you are focussed on these specifics, and they inform your communications, your marketing (Headshots, Twitter, Facebook, Website, etc) and all your interaction with the industry, you are PLANTING the right seeds in the minds of all who can influence your career. I’m saying that whilst you focus on this core for your casting right now, you will relax and probably book more gigs in general, because you are providing a foundation for YOU to show up in the first place. Less trying to be and more simply being and doing.

An important note here: if it feels like you’re ‘trying to be something’ or forcing it, then it’s not right. Really, this all boils down to self-awareness – know who you are and tell people you know without wasting their time.

Step 4: START PLANTING – Targeting your seeds

Now that it’s all planned out, it’s time to put it into action. Talk to your agent, listen to their perspective on it all, collaborate with them. Get specific, but don’t impose. They are professionals who are backing your career for a reason. Share what you think your opportunities are this season and why, be open to perspectives being different and listen to their advice. Remember that their job is to know more about the opportunities out there than you, so work with them, while never squandering their valuable time or yours.

Update your headshots if they need to be made more in line with where you are aiming this season, start tweeting/blogging/facebooking on perspectives/ideas that reinforce how you’re positioning yourself.

The point here is to build familiarity with anyone and everyone who can and does influence your career in the smallest way while always, and I do mean ALWAYS being respectful to and grateful for their time and attention. Find ways to share with them by adding value to their lives. If you watch what I’m doing with my own Twitter, Facebook, and this blog it’s precisely what I’m advocating for you. I’m an actor and a teacher, and I’m sharing what I hope is valuable information with anyone who might want to work with me while at the same time making you aware of who you’ll get – as an actor or as a teacher – same guy.

So, there it is, an overview of how to make the most of Planting Season in Four Steps. Hope you’ve found some useful ideas here, please share feedback, questions, or debates with me – we’re all in this together, let’s keep helping ourselves by helping each other!

In the coming weeks, I’m going to continue to write on the finer points of this season, and I look forward to using your feedback as fodder (that’s not a dirty word, I checked).

Thanks for tuning in, and #GetBusyLiving

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