This article is first in an "organizing for the actor" spring series of guest contributor topics by Kristine Oller, a Los Angeles-based change strategist. For more information on the series click here.
Picture this: You are exiting Samuel French (the theater, film and television old school bookshop). Your stomach growls for lunch. Then-- your iPhone rings: You have an audition in forty minutes! You, however, are on the opposite side of town and unsure of how to get to the casting office. The role in the audition is a “corporate office drone”… you, however, are wearing jeans and flip-flops. In addition to needing two headshots, they want to check your availability for several dates… you, however, are down to your last headshot picture and your old-school day planner is sitting on your bed.
Hanging up from the call, you check the time and think, “Hmmm… what now?”
Times have changed in Hollywood. There is no way less turn-around for auditions, readings, and recordings. Where you used to have days or a week to prepare for an audition, you now only have hours (or less).
The most predictable aspect of an actor’s workday is how unpredictable it can be. When these unexpected opportunities pop up, time and traffic often prohibit even a quick trip home to raid your closet and utilize your office. Being unprepared for such good fortune increases the odds that you will squander your energy scrambling, worrying and “making do” rather than conserving it for the audition.
"The key is having a lean, mean, portable version of your office with you on the road. In Los Angeles, that means having an office in your car; in New York, that means having one slung over your shoulder."
Why should actors have a portable office?
First, you should note the difference between “setting-up a portable office” and “having what you need with you.” You may already carry around all of the items mentioned in this article, but are they scattered in the crevasses of your car or crunched at the bottom of your backpack? If they are, you lack the ability to quickly spot what may me missing, easily access items while on the move, and take inventory of what needs re-stocking.
Which low-tech container do you need?
Select a container for your portable office that best suits your needs and situation. You can use a tote bag, a plastic file box, a briefcase, a backpack or a nylon car caddy hung on the passenger seat. Next, assign every item in your office a permanent “home” (a.k.a. a pocket or folder or pouch) where it will live. Store your marketing materials (headshots with resumes, postcards, business cards, performance flyers, flashdrives, demo reels and voice over demo CDs) so that they remain clean and un-tattered. Keep your phone and planner handy. Carry at least one pen and highlighter with you as well as some extra cash for parking fees or cab fare. Have a means by which to charge your phone or laptop (or making charging it a daily ritual) and have access to your vital phone numbers either as a hardcopy or in your phone’s memory.
You might also include a small stapler, some thank-you notes and stamps for use during down time and, for extra credit, a geographical listing of casting director addresses (or bookmark the web address in your phone). That way, no matter where the day takes you, you can drop your picture and resume off at an office or two (if appropriate).
Tip: A map is a necessity, I know we are living in our cars and on our smart phones. What would happen if you could not access your phone's GPS? I suggest you picking up a basic street map just in case. Remember, it's about being proactive and organized.
Finding “homes” for a comb, a clip to put your hair up, a mirror, basic make-up, an electric shaver, a nail file, wet wipes, tissues, lip balm, floss, toothpaste, a toothbrush, and mints or gum, is relatively simple. Having immediate access to both a “nice casual” and a “business” outfit is a tad trickier.
Change of clothes
Of course, if you have a car, clothes and shoes can be hung in a garment bag or placed in your trunk. In some circumstances, you can stash a change of clothes at your gym or place of employment. Another plan, which I put in place for myself as auditions increased, was to get permission to access the homes and closets of two supportive friends in two different areas of town. In a pinch, I could drop in, borrow the few items I needed and freshen up.
Snacks and being your best
For days when arriving “as is” is your only option, having water and an apple or nutrition bar with you can be your saving grace. Without fuel, your energy and enthusiasm can noticeably lag.
Achieving the success you are striving for depends a great deal on your ability to capitalize on each and every opportunity – scheduled or not – that comes your way. Being organized gives you a competitive edge because, when you know what you have and have what you need, you will remain confident, focused and able to rise to the occasion.
Want to add to this story?
Kristine Oller is a Los Angeles-based change strategist who specializes in guiding successful people as they transition to their next Big Dream, particularly creative and performing artists. A graduate of Linfield College in Oregon, Kristine was a working actress (SAG-Equity-AFTRA) for a decade. As a successful small business owner, Kristine operated an award-winning professional organizing company for 15 years before "retiring" in 2011 to pursue offering her strategic guidance to individuals and groups full time. Visit Kristine's websites for more information visit KristineOller.com and TheActorsLibrary.com.
Kristine's series is used with permission and originally appeared in Backstage Magazine.
Hollywood Freeway image courtesy RaymoundYu and Flickr
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