Answers For Actors guest columnist, Douglas Taurel: actor-playwright-producer.
“Look well into thyself; there is a source of strength which will always spring up if thou wilt always look.“Marcus Aurelius Antoninus
Our artistic world today is, without a doubt, scary and a little depressing. It’s so hard to see the future optimistically as an actor. All the cornerstones that we have known as actors are disappearing. Businesses that were the center of our acting lives have closed. Rehearsal and casting studios across the U.S. are vanishing, and I don’t think they will ever come back. Bastions of the acting world, that I thought could never be touched, are beginning to crack. Broadway won’t even think about coming back until 2021, and when it does it won’t be at full capacity. Theater margins were already incredibly tight in a rational world but to be forced to 25 percent—or even 50 percent audience capacity?—fuhget about it. The shutdown will have a severe ripple effect on every aspect of the entertainment community worldwide. The entire acting eco-system that stretches from Los Angeles to New York to London and beyond and everywhere in between is dying. It’s like we’re a strapped-in audience of a horrific Broadway musical wrought with bad acting, atrocious singing, horrible costumes… and there’s still twenty-five acts to go. Make it stop!
I moved to New York City from Texas in January of 2000. I remember 9/11. As a young, green actor walking out of the Twin Towers when the second plane hit, I thought, ‘Hmmm, perhaps this was not the right move.’ Post-9/11 was just as scary. The entertainment industry took a massive economic blow across the U.S. Everything that we knew as actors was profoundly changing. And making acting careers more difficult was a writers’ strike compounding the economic woes for us as actors. Can you say, “Non-Union?”
But post-9/11 we found a way to get through challenges. Life and artistry is never easy. The ‘hard’ is what makes both so beautiful and amazing, plus why we live and create. Our happiness as actors will come from what we focus our energy on, and what we create. I began to write, and I found opportunities for myself. There will be plenty of opportunities for us all. We’re artists, We’re creative as fuck. We will figure out our new normal. We did post-9/11, and we will in a post-COVID world.
We are experiencing a seismic shift in our artistic world. But seismic shifts have always happened. Silent pictures became talkies. Radio dramas and variety shows found new life on live television. Black and white became color on TV and movie screens. Air-broadcast TV dominated by three major networks became a gluttony of programming with cable TV. Cable went to digital to streaming, and on and on. Think about all the artists who were left behind because they chose not to adapt to the technology of the day.
We’ve gone full circle to how acting used to be at the very beginning. We are going to have to become producer/writers like Shakespeare. In Shakespeare’s day actors had to create, write, and produce their work, and then had to find an audience. Today, creating for and, reaching people is easier than it ever was. We will have to learn how to change, and that change will be through technology and creating new content.
However, the new world will ask that you tackle the beast that is technology. Technology will be the key to opening the doors to your future. You don’t have to master it. But you cannot run from it anymore. Not in a post-COVID world. Gone are the days when as actors can say, “I’m not good with technology” –those days are gone! Tackle a little bit of technology every day. That knowledge will build up over the week, months, and years.
Look for success in the things you can control, and the one thing we can all control is creating content. Self-creating content was the answer post-9/11, and it will be the answer for us in the afterlife of COVID. As actors, writers, casting directors, and artists, we can all have a podcast, have a YouTube channel, write, and all shoot a film or create a series with our iPhones. Our ability to create content today is endless, and it will open many doors for us in our new world.
I created and recently uploaded a film on Vimeo On Demand, and onto Amazon. I have a podcast. A blog. A YouTubechannel. I share my artistic thoughts. I own platforms, and distribution channels that I could have never dreamed of ten or fifteen years ago. I create characters, record monologues, and share them with producers, directors, and casting directors. When I was studying with Wynn Handman twenty years ago at Carnegie Hall, if I wanted to be in a movie or get that new credit on IMDB, I had to be cast by a gate-keeping casting director in something. Not today. I control the gate.
The most genuine truism of all is, work will always beget work. It was true in Shakespeare’s days, the Golden Era of Television, post-9/11, and will be true post-COVID. Focus on what you can do, what you can control, and what you can create. ‘What’ is up to you, not someone else. That is all that matters. It’s all that ever mattered. It’s what our identity should be and where our happiness lies.
We all can do this. You can do this!
(P.S. – If you need help or have any questions: Please feel free to reach out to me at www.DouglasTaurel.com or via my social media platforms listed below.)
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About Douglas Taurel:
Taurel has been nominated for the United Kingdom Amnesty International Award for his play The American Soldier. Taurel was twice invited to perform The American Soldier at the Kennedy Center. The Library of Congress commissioned Taurel to write and perform his follow-up play An American’s Soldier Journey Home. He’s appeared in numerous TV shows and films including his recently released TV series Landing Home which he wrote and directed.
Douglas Taurel online:
About Paul Russell – Paul Russell Casting
Paul Russell has been in the entertainment industry for over forty years as an award-winning casting director, director and the author of ACTING: Make It Your Business. He’s cast for 20th Century Fox, HBO, Broadway, and regional theater. Featured in American Theatre Magazine, Paul has directed premiers, and at the Tony-award recognized Barter Theatre. He teaches master classes at university BFA and MFA actor training programs, and privately online with actors globally. Paul began his career in entertainment as a successful working actor. Visit Paul & Paul Russell Casting @ PaulRussell.net.