Yes I want to be a goddamn actor
Goodness, what a statement it is when you finally declare to the world that you want to be an actor, be that a declaration to your family or friends or even your acting class. But then almost immediately after, you realise that this could mean any number of things. There are so many options out there for becoming a professional actor and booking work.
Have you ever considered the challenges around booking acting work when you don’t quite know what it is you want to do? I have. You might want to tread the boards, or perhaps get a guest starring role on television, you might want to present, or perhaps even travel around doing tours.
Over the years I have sat with actors as they share what they love doing as an actor and then tell me all about what they’re actually working on (booking), and the two are poles apart.
I have no idea what acting I actually want to do
And right there you have the problem. It’s one thing to talk about what you love, but it’s a whole other thing to actually be doing it. If you aren’t clear about the jobs you want in the first place, then there is no hope that the universe will be able to come through and deliver them to you.
And then it came to me recently in a flash of genius (this happens very occasionally). What about a manifesto? I had never considered a manifesto in acting before. It never occurred to me that companies actually have the right idea when they sit down in their ivory towers with their mocha chocolate lattes with extra caramel and discuss the fate of their business, by creating their company manifesto. Why couldn’t the same principles be applied to acting. An acting manifesto!
But what the hell is a manifesto?
Companies talk about manifestos being created in their business to help them clearly identify what they want and what they should focus on. The Holstee Manifesto is perhaps one of the most well-known, and Apple are known for their incredible company manifesto. Closer to acting, Anthony Meindl talks about your life manifestos and the importance of them (in this fascinating article and video you can see more. And lets face it, Anthony is the guru on all things acting teaching, especially with students including Shailene Woodley amongst others). But if we want to get really specific we need to consider a manifesto in terms of an acting career.
Broadly speaking a Manifesto is a cheatsheet or bullet point summary relating to a person or business’s values, focus and passion.
An acting manifesto therefore offers clarity. Once created the individual has a carbon footprint to their work, life and creative outlook. It even indirectly helps you to identify who your potential customers are – for example, you can get specific as to which Casting Directors you should focus on or which production companies or theatres you should reach out to.
Acting manifestos offer a declaration to your work, your beliefs and the constructs of your motives. They aren’t intended to be flowery and flittery and flakey. They’re supposed to inform, guide and inspire. Though if a little flowery helps you, then by all means add a touch of that too.
Rightly so, acting manifestos help you focus on what is the most important thing to you in your acting career.
Why Apple’s manifesto works
Apple’s manifesto is clear. Apples manifesto echoes their company philosophy of being cool, cutting edge, and fashionable (new Apple watch aside). Apple talk about ‘what matters’, about the ‘experience of a product’ and ‘how it makes you feel’. Their manifesto objectives are synonymous with what you feel and your experience when you go into their store. You’re greeted by friendly staff who care about you. They smile. The store is inviting. It’s clean and shiny and you can play with anything you want.
If Apple was an actor, you’d know exactly what type of actor they are. They are the television type who are always in a brilliant new television show. They look glamorous on the red carpet, they smile invitingly and sign every autograph for their adoring fans. Ricky Gervais would never be this actor. Neither would Melissa McCarthy. They have their own style and groove. But one thing’s for certain. They are clear about who they are and how they are perceived. They know what type of work they will say yes and no to. Unwittingly or not, they have their actor manifesto sorted!
When Apple make a business decision they use their manifesto to guide them. They make choices that echo what they say about their brand publicly, and choices that demonstrate why they are leaders in cutting edge technology.
As an actor, your objective is to do the same. Once you create a manifesto, you can then accept work and make choices that match your acting statement. Suddenly it becomes much easier to say no to that lousy online job for £50 that you never really wanted anyway. You have a manifesto for your work and your acting life.
Let’s paint the picture in even more detail. If you don’t focus putting your career into some sort of clear direction how can you ever know what you should apply for work wise? How can you know who you should reach out to, what agents might be good for you, or even which roles you should take? You simply can’t. It’s all well and good to say I want to be an actor and I don’t care what roles I get, but try shouting that out to the world. If you think you can do everything and anything you can guarantee you will book work but it won’t be what you really dreamed of.
If you really want to be clear about your work, you need to get clear about your values, motives and what is absolutely singly most important to you. Imagine you’re at a dinner party and someone says to you “what’s the role you absolutely must do at some point in your acting career?” Whatever your answer to that is will begin to guide you towards what your manifesto might include.
Steps to make your personal manifesto
To get you started, here’s an outline of the process you to follow to build your own personal acting life manifesto.
Consider words, quotes and phrases that resonate with you and write them down. If Dr Seuss inspires you, then write it down. If you love what Carey Mulligan says, add a quote from her.
Consider that dinner party speech and what you would answer if you could only do one more acting job in your career. Include that and a few other “most important” type of roles that you desperately want to be in and write them down.
Consider what feels good in your world, value wise, and write that down. What gives you shivers up and down your spine like those TED talks where people have created world inspiring changes around the globe.
Consider your passion. Not in a sexy-times kind of way, but in an acting passion kind of way. Sure, maybe you book presenting roles effortlessly, or you’re the go-to girl for sports photoshoots. But if that’s not something that makes you passionate, skip those out when adding things in this step. Your manifesto needs to be passionate and proud. You must have a sparkle in your eye every time you read it.
Now it’s time to take key words and phrases and build what will become your personal manifesto. Like with dream collages, if you infuse them with colour and fonts and a little bit of designer thoughtfulness you’ll have something that visually you want to look at every day. And this helps.
Use powerpoint or word, or some crayons and a pad and start to put your words on the page. Attached are a few examples to help you get started.
And remember, you design your unique acting world. No one else. So boldly go into the mocha double latte world and find your inner acting manifesto. And once created, put it in a special place that you will see it daily!
Here are some more manifesto examples.
What quotes or affirmations would you use? Let me know in the comments below.