Flashback Friday Post: Ask For Help

Don't be afraid to ask for help

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

This post is as much for me as it is for you, because as many times as I learn this lesson as an actor, I keep needing to be reminded. Ask for help. This blog was chosen for this week’s Flashback Friday article because putting ego aside and asking for help will ALWAYS be an important part of surviving and thriving in this industry.

It sounds so easy. But something for which you might not be prepared as you begin the painstaking process of building your career from scratch is that you will need to ask for help all of the time. 

It was hard enough for me in college, when I was surrounded by resources and people whose jobs were actually defined by helping and training me and my fellow students. Absurdly, I would feel anxious about harassing them with too many questions, or as though I wouldn’t be pulling my weight if I didn’t do everything myself. This is a terrible way to think as an actor. Please for the love of anything you consider holy, do not try to carry this into your professional life because you will hit bottom faster than a cinder block in a kiddie pool.

No matter how much you prepare and train for it, navigating a new career as an actor is going to take you by surprise. It is likely you will be in a new city, or living completely on your own for the first time, or at least trying to network in ways you have not before. Suffice it to say, your life will be stressful and hectic enough as you start out. Do yourself a favor and utilize your resources. Ask your actor friends for advice, email old professors, talk to local artistic directors, anyone in the business you can get your hands on, just do it. Reading this and other acting blogs is a good step! And because I realize this sort of advice can be nebulous and overwhelming, I have compiled a handy list of situations in which you should ask for help.

  1. When you need new headshots. If you know actors in the area, chances are they will know who has good prices, who does good commercial shots, who is easy to work with, etc.
  2. When you need a day job. Almost all actors need them. Find out who works around actor schedules ahead of time and save yourself a headache.
  3. When you need to memorize lines. If you are someone who needs to practice with a live person, find a buddy. This is something you will probably need many times so find someone who also needs help, or who is willing to trade time for food or beer.
  4. When you need an agent.  Word of mouth will help you steer clear of some, and avoid wasting your time with others. On the flip side, getting someone to walk your stuff in to an agency will go a lot farther than blind submissions.
  5. When you get cast! Ask your director if you have questions about the character, or the blocking, or anything that feels wrong. Sometimes young actors feel like they shouldn’t rock the boat, but theatre is and should be a collaboration.
  6. When you bite off more than you can chew. It happens to everyone. Eventually you have to realize you can’t do it all, and you are going to need support.
  7. When you are learning something new. I recently agreed to be costume coordinator for show produced by a new theatre collective. Aside from some very basic training and crewing experiences, this was foreign territory for me. As one might expect, I ran up against some unforeseen obstacles. I was lucky enough to be friends with the producers and other company members, and their help and support was definitely the only thing that ensured everyone was appropriately costumed by opening night.
  8. When you’re dealing with someone new. Even if it’s just crafting an email to a casting director with whom you have not yet spoken, go ahead and find out things like how they prefer to be contacted, the level of appropriate formality, etc. First impressions are important. If you don’t have theatre friends who can give you advice, read it aloud to someone to make sure you sound professional.
  9. When you need a referral. Sadly, sometimes it really is who you know. Don’t abuse your connections, but when you need help getting in touch with someone in the business, ask around.
  10. All. Of. The. Time. Bow to the inevitable. If you don’t ask for help, you’re not going to get it.

The backbone of the entertainment industry is communication. That is the whole point. We collaborate. We join the diverse visions of directors, designers, cast, and crew, to communicate stories and ideas to an audience. So you might as well start collaborating and communicating now, because it is not going to end. Really, that is the fun part. Go find artists you like and respect, and learn from them, because I guarantee they didn’t get where they are alone. Even when it doesn’t feel like it, we’re all in this one together.

 

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Rachel Rachel Frawley is an actor living in Atlanta. She holds a B.F.A. in Theatre from Michigan State University (with cognates in Music and Professional Writing) and is an Apprentice Company graduate from the Atlanta Shakespeare Co. She also works as an education artist for local theatres, which have included the Shakespeare Tavern and Aurora Theatre. For more information, visit her website at www.rachelfrawley.com