3 Ways to Beat Actor Burnout and Gain a Fresh Perspective

Being a professional actor has a lot of pressure attached to it—you are consistently berated, rejected, and bossed around. It takes a lot of confidence and resilience to keep moving forward, and it’s unfortunately commonplace for there to be lulls and slow periods, as well as continuous rejections that leave you feeling dejected and uncertain about yourself as an actor. In my previous article, Why Am I Not Booking Anything? I address different ways to escape from those lulls and push forward to another, more prosperous, part of your career. This article, however, is more about getting yourself in the right state of mind when everything feels slow and difficult—and how to keep perspective on your career and future aspirations.

First off: give yourself a pat on the back. Being an actor is difficult; it truly is. It’s a career choice that’s fickle, not necessarily consistent, and is known for picking up and dropping actors quickly with a super fast turnaround. Just like Heidi Klum always says, “One day you’re in—the next day you’re out”. While these words are generally reserved for the fashion-hopefuls on Project Runway, we can also agree it can be applied to Hollywood as a whole. Before I worked in representation and casting, I never really realized how much of a “business” the “entertainment business” really is. Just like the general public, I viewed television shows and films as simple entertainment, and as a way to pass the time. While yes, TV and film are made for the entertainment of the public, it’s a job and way of life for many people, especially actors. When Hollywood parades its celebrities during award shows and on the red carpet, there are hundreds of lesser-known actors that supported the main players in those projects, making the show or film real and life-like. All that being said, most actors aren’t famous—they work as actors to pay the bills, support their families, and to keep food on the table. It’s a constant circle of putting yourself out there for others to judge and hopefully hire you to play numerous and various characters. Then, once hired, there are long work days, sometimes difficult material to get through, and in the end, if you don’t have a steady role, you have to start the process all over again to find your next job and paycheck.

All of the above factors can contribute to actors burning out and wanting to give up. Whenever you’re feeling down in the dumps and need a fresh perspective on your career, see below for some tips on how to keep positive and motivated:

1. Make work fun again! I know it’s easy to get too focused and nervous on a drive to an audition or when you’re preparing material for a new role, but sometimes it’s a good idea to take a step back and remember acting can be fun! Ask a friend (who may or may not be an actor) to read lines with you, practice dialogue in different accents (which is funny and helps you practice playing a witch in the new JK Rowling/Harry Potter Universe project!), or go through lines while you’re working out on a treadmill, elliptical, bicycle, etc. When on set, between scenes, instead of keeping to yourself, ask fellow actors to go over lines with you and use your down time to meet and network with other people instead of hiding away in a corner, or locking yourself in your trailer.

2. Take a break! This sounds counterproductive, but if you truly are feeling swamped by work and not looking forward to going to auditions, practicing lines and making yourself a better actor, then maybe it’s time for a short break. While this may be difficult because of financial reasons, it doesn’t mean it has to be a lengthy hiatus. Take a couple of days to yourself, detach from auditions and meetings with agents/managers, and treat yourself. Go get that manicure, spend a day at the beach, read a book you haven’t been able to because of the sides and scripts you’ve been reading. Most importantly—resolve to not talk about acting and entertainment! Get coffee with that friend from college who doesn’t work in the industry, have a chat with your sibling(s) about their kids and their lives. Sometimes the entertainment business can feel like the ONLY business, and taking a short break can help you get a breath of fresh air and a renewed outlook on things.

3. Re-Evaluate: This is something everyone should do when getting involved in any profession, but especially when trying to be a professional actor. Is this truly what you want? Is this the sort of life you can maintain and be happy about? Acting requires talent, resilience and a thick skin—it’s not for everyone. If you’ve embarked on this as a career and you’re having doubts or finding that it’s not making you happy anymore, perhaps it’s a sign to move on. Remember—not all working actors are celebrities. In fact, most aren’t. There are going to be times you have to do silly, small roles that don’t require a lot of thought or artistry, and there are times you’re going to have to work hard and have little come out of it. If it’s truly not something you have a passion and complete love for, it may not be for you—and that’s perfectly okay!

In the end, it’s important to realize the life you chose to lead as a professional actor isn’t an easy one, and it can be daunting and ruthless at times. Your success and passion can only be measured by you, and it’s okay to get tired or dejected at times. Whether it’s taking a step back to give yourself some time, or reevaluating if this is the life you want to lead, it’s best to always keep things in perspective to make sure you’re always giving 100% in the room for auditions and when you’re meeting other people in the industry.

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tara McGrath started her career in entertainment mainly because she couldn't see a life where she wasn't surrounded and inspired by actors in some way or another. After graduating from SUNY Purchase's Conservatory of Theatre Arts and Film with a degree in Screenwriting, she worked for a year at Roundabout Theatre Company in New York. Interning under their casting department with casting directors Carrie Gardner and Jim Carnahan, she assisted in casting such productions as Spring Awakening, American Idiot and Fox's hit show, Glee. From there she moved 3,000 miles to Los Angeles and for the last year has been working for a well-known boutique talent agency in West Hollywood. She has also worked as a reader and marketing assistant for the Blue Cat Screenwriting Competition and has worked on independent features as both producer's assistant and P.A.