Are you a friend or a family member of an actor? My god, you lucky duck! I know, actors can be a little unreliable due to our wild schedules and sometimes we are just a tiny tiny bit dramatic (but you probably like that a little too). However, as emotionally driven folks, actors tend to be super selective about who gets their loving emotional energy, so we are so happy you are here!
As an actor myself I am not always good at asking for what I need. I personally tend to just try and do all the things on my own because I hate asking of others. But around this time every year someone somewhere wants to give me a gift. And sometimes they even ask what they can get me. This has led me to say things like “nothing!” or “cash!” (to be clear, I adore both things) but I wanted to make an easy explanation guide for myself and the actor in your life who may not have a platform to put snazzy clip art on a blog with links for you. So — let’s party.
Classes or Workshops
Most actors have a class, workshop, or coach they see to work on material. This is like a gym membership for your art. And asking them where they like to study is a great way to go about this. If you like to do a little social media stalking, there is a good chance you can also glean some info there (check especially tagged photos of your person, ideally with a location geotag). Then reach out to the studio/person/place and see if you can prepay or buy a gift card for your actor. This is beyond helpful in so many ways.
Pay Their Union Dues
Every actor at one point or another has to join the actor’s union SAG-AFTRA. And it gets a little pricy to pay the initial joining fee and then keep up with the bi-annual dues. So a fistful of cash is one way. Or you can buy a prepaid Visa gift card and put some cute message on it about how it is for our union and “going pro”. A quick google search will explain more about the importance of this, but just know: to work in basically any of the shows you see on TV or the films you see at the movies, actors have to be paid up with SAG. So it’s important!
Another requirement of actors in the business is to have really great photos of themselves called headshots. They are a very specific style and need to represent how an actor could be cast in shows or movies. And they get pricy. So helping us with them is a huge load-off and really appreciated! Just make sure you ask your actor who they are going to shoot with next cause just like any other business there are some folks who do it amazingly. I love Leah Huebner, Joanna Degeneres, and David Muller personally. And I have a video all about my last headshots with David, if you wanna see what all goes into that (expensive) process. Speaking of expensive processes…
Pay for Our Casting Sites
No matter the actor (ok, maybe Meryl isn’t on Breakdowns) they have to pay to have their photos/resume listed on the casting websites, even if they have agents. Actors Access is the site used for most TV/Film projects and Casting Network is used primarily for commercial and print work. They both cost to submit to auditions and they also cost a solid amount of money to have your reel (video of an actor acting) and headshots (see above) listed. Last year I paid for my assistant’s Casting Network as her birthday gift and she was over the moon. It’s a real solid insider tip.
Self Tape Equipment
Every actor now does what is called a “self-tape” to audition for roles. Back in the early 2000’s and before, actors would be sent a scene (called sides) and a place to go perform them for casting directors. This was an audition. Nowadays the vast majority of the acting is done in front of a camera in your own home, video-edited, and then submitted to casting directors. The in-person audition has morphed into at-home auditions in their (or in someone else’s) self-tape studios. This means actors now need good lighting, a quality phone or camera, sound equipment, and a place to film. A lot of great things are now in our control, huzzah! But this is also a lot of stuff to keep up to snuff, womp womp. So here is my full self-tape equipment Amazon list for you to peruse. And if your actor already has this on-lock, I cannot recommend the Movo iVlog kit enough, (used code OBA15 for 15% off) which is ideal for travel because we can now audition while we travel, which has its pluses and minuses.
Self Care Items
As a Type-A actor, I often put work above, well, almost everything. It’s something I am working really hard at not doing, but I often need reminders of ways to take care of myself and take time for myself. So here are some things I love to use in my downtime to unwind. Most make great stocking stuffers or Hanukkah gifts.
Olive and June Nail System or the Hand and Foot Care: I love the detail and taking time to enjoy little things. And if your actor does commercial work, they have to show their hands on camera a lot. O&J is one of my favorite female-founded companies that takes care of our hands and feet (without the salon bill). This link has a 20% discount code for a full system btw!
Headspace Meditation: taking a minute (or 20) should be a requirement of this job. And giving someone the gift of a breath of fresh air is a solid investment for both of you.
My Kindle or iPad: my iPad is literally attached to my hip at home and really lovely for reading scripts too. I also use Kindle Unlimited for reading the most random books. I get lots of ideas from them.
Peloton Digital Membership: it’s so easy to have a routine when you can take it anywhere. I have used this app for 5+ years and never missed a month. I take it to the gym, on trips, and use it at home a few times a week at least. And best of all you don’t need any of their equipment to have access to all the classes.
A massage: just find an awesome local place. I am so horrible at taking time for myself in this way and won’t do it unless someone gifts it to me. And then afterwards I always say, “I should do this more often!”
A Card with Some Love + Validation
Listen, we do not need stuff to feel loved. Like I said off the top, most actors are pretty emotional beings (this is truly a magical thing to be in this wild world so let’s not knock it), and deciding to do our art as our job can often come with some complications. Namely, a lot of times we don’t get to choose when we work. Which tends to leave us doing a lot in exchange for a little, in terms of validation. The effort to sustain this acting career is one of the hardest parts, so something as simple as a card (or hell, just a sheet of paper) reminding us that someone is proud of us/supporting us/is seeing us in our work even if they can’t see the evidence yet…that is priceless. And so freaking appreciated.