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On Coming Back After a Hiatus

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Jacqueline HeadshotSo you went to college. Or a family member was ill and you were a caregiver. Or you maybe created a tiny human that is now your responsibility. Or maybe you were a child actress and looked super awkward as a teenager and then had medical issues and then went to college and then became a full-time nerd. You might have left the industry for any number of reasons.  But now that you want to jump back in full force, where do you even begin? I, as you may have guessed, took a break from acting and have lived through re-entry. Let me tell you what’s up.

It Can Suck.

There’s this weird catch-22 when it comes to union jobs and footage. All the auditions at my old tier didn’t yield results because I didn’t have any current footage and I was a risk (see below). And all the projects at entry-level tier didn’t want to use me because I was already union and therefore a hassle, or because I had so many credits they didn’t want to use me. I might be pushy and want to get paid more, or I might complain if anything was less than professional on set. I was intimidating. All this was I’m sure running through the minds of casting directors. I had too much experience to get low-tier footage, and not enough experience to get high-tier footage. Like the worst type of post-college jobs, I needed experience in order to get experience.

If you have a gap on your resume you are a risk, you’re unbookable. It’s very intimidating to potential buyers. What were you doing? Why don’t you have any current footage? Is there something we should know? Buyers could be really worried about what sort of baggage you carry. Are you impossible to work with? Do you have a substance problem? Have you “lost it”? Are we talking Lohan or LeBouf over here?

You can’t jump in at the same place. Maybe your contacts have all dried up. Maybe the industry has changed. When you were around, people had black and white headshots, and now they use color headshots. When you were booking, everyone was using paper submissions and now it’s moved online. It’s a mess. And you have to be on Twitter? And shell out money to all these casting sites? It’s overwhelming. But wait!

You Have Advantages.

First is a lot of experience. No one can take that away from you. All the jobs you worked, all the shows you were in, are a part of you and your career. Even if you are stuck at a tier below where you used to be, it’s proof that you are bookable at that higher tier. You did it once, and it wasn’t impossible then.

You have a bigger body of work to pull from. You know different contacts and different production styles. You have on set knowledge, audition knowledge, craft knowledge, and most importantly, knowledge of how it feels to be working. This is super valuable. Even knowing what all the crew people’s jobs are, or what MOS means. Even if your experience was over a decade ago (and I certainly wouldn’t know anything about that), there are a few universals about sets that are ingrained in you. Like the importance of good crafty, or to always be nice to the 2nd 2nd. You know how to behave on a set, and you know how it feels to book, and work, and lower the stakes on every audition. Those are invaluable tools.

This is encouraging, right? You have a leg up on newbies. You might even be halfway up to a new tier already. So what’s next?

Steps to Take:

New headshots and a new website will make you feel more current, to yourself and buyers. DO THIS FIRST. Do it immediately. Stop reading and do it now. You absolutely need new headshots to show people what you look like now, not five years ago. Next, purge your resume. Types of roles you can no longer get should be off of there. You’re no longer of “ingénue” age? Get Juliet off there. Get ALL your tools in order. You have to be as on-point and on your game as possible.

Figure out who you are now in terms of where you want to work and what types of roles you are right for. Get down with the branding and typing business. I am a huge supporter of Self-Management for Actors, so I think you should check. it. out. For serious. Get your face back out there. If you believe in workshops, go to workshops. Or showcases. Get back in class so at least you have a community of actors that know you. Start networking again. Get yourself some new footage and start booking those new gigs! Personally, I’m a fan of self-producing. But if you’re not into that, at least get a group of friends together to film a few scenes for a reel. Nothing lowers your risk faster than seeing you act competently RIGHT NOW.

Go! Do it. Launch at 85%. A perfect plan is less valuable than an imperfect attempt. If you keep worrying about taking the leap, you’ll never take the leap. And trust me; it’s a lot easier to just keep DOING it than it is to worry about it.

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About Jacqueline Steiger

Jacqueline Steiger is jumping back into the industry full-force after a break for school (graduated summa cum laude from UCLA, to brag). She has been enjoying taking classes and working on both sides of the camera this time around. As a child she was lucky enough to work with some of the industry's greatest, including Danny DeVito and Sally Field. Outside of the industry, Jacqueline enjoys all things sci-fi/fantasy, anime, and anything with melted cheese on it. She is an LA native. Check out her webseries, Force Push (about a group of nerds that try all sorts of weird experiments to get Jedi Powers) here: http://youtube.com/forcepushseries (It does pass the Bechel test, of course.)