#MeToo to #WhatNow?

Millions of women (and men) are joining the chorus of courage and posting their #MeToo. Some have simply left it at that, some have shared their stories, and some have even named names and taken it to the justice system.

That so many people have been sexually harassed or assaulted shocks me to the core and yet my own history makes me shrug. I’m shocked—but not surprised—by the magnitude of our rape culture.

In most business cultures, companies give mandatory sexual harassment training to their employees at all levels—entry level through leadership. Some of the major film studios provide human resources along with safety trainings yet, overall, the entertainment industry has very loose behavior parameters. Reports of sexual harassment are often dismissed, if not buried, by their mostly male leadership. Also, most independent professionals—actors, directors, producers, and crew—don’t have to attend any kind of harassment training. Our unions ask us to pledge ethical behavior but there’s no governing body overseeing whether we do or not.

For many people, the stories we’re hearing are like old news. I don’t know one woman who hasn’t felt the pain of some kind of sexual harassment or assault. The tangible reality of this dark stain on humanity is no stranger to us. Sexual assault has been happening among us, without consequence, since the beginning of time.

So, why has this subject suddenly gone viral?

Firstly, it seems to have taken A-list celebrity voices to make this a subject worthy of serious consideration. Because Rose, Angelina, and Gwyneth spoke out about Weinstein, a victim’s testimony is suddenly assumed truth rather than lies. I’m incredibly grateful for our colleagues’ courage to speak out—our sisters have set the ball rolling for us—and at the same time I can’t help wondering how many other predators would be in jail if it didn’t require celebrity for their victims to be heard. But moving forward, if it takes celebrity to get this subject out of the shadows, then I’m all for it.

The second reason the Weinstein case has started this cascade of publicly declared reports is that we’ve reached a tipping point. We’re at a critical place in evolution where enough of this has come forth that the law of nature takes over and a new and irreversible development occurs. The same process happens when a caterpillar finally turns into a butterfly.

This may be the silver lining to all this sordid stuff.

We are part of a shift, and that means we get to carve out something new together.

My question is what? WhatNow?

I have some simple thoughts about it, which I share below, but I know they’re just a small part of a very big shift. Please feel free to share your ideas so I can pass them on to my readership.

Walk the talk.

I vote that we all become more educated about the behavioral and ethical boundaries that keep those around us safe.

“Sexual harassment” can be defined as involving the making of unwanted sexual advances or obscene remarks. If you’re not sure what that literally encompasses, consider taking an independent training course like this one.

“Sexual assault” can be defined as a form of sexual violence, and it includes rape (forced penetration), groping, child sexual abuse, or the torture of the person in a sexual manner. I would add that it is also exposing genitals and/or pleasuring oneself in front of a person without their consent.

Take a stand.

If you feel uncomfortable about another person’s behavior, speak out in the moment. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve laughed off inappropriate comments or behaviors, and it was never because it was funny. I was just mortified and embarrassed. I know I’m not alone on that one.

Self-defense training is a great way to get better at speaking out. Once you know you can flatten a man twice your size, saying “hey, that’s not okay” seems like a breeze. From my own personal experience at Shield Self Defense, it’s very empowering.

Report it.

With good reason, victims are afraid of the shame, criticism, or career-ending consequences of reporting sexual harassment or assault, so we stay silent. Sadly, that is what allows predators to keep going.

Sexual assault must never be ignored or buried again, no matter what, and I believe we are ready, together, to end it. I hope you never have to report anything in the future. Meanwhile, I urge you to communicate with your union about this important topic and ask your representatives what their protocol is for reporting. Here is the Screen Actors Guild discrimination and harassment policy.

Get healthy.

If you’ve been feeling triggered or hijacked recently by old trauma, consider working through it with a licensed therapist. There are some good therapists and some not so good ones, so do your due diligence. If you can’t afford it there are free hotlines and low fee therapy clinics in most areas. RAINN is an organization that can provide resources and support.

Your wellness allows you to live a good life despite what may have happened. Your healing is the healing of our crazy world.

Stop competing.

See your “competition” as your colleagues. When you and another person are up for the same job, don’t fall into the trap of “me against them”. In order for a community to thrive, we need to stick together. Remember, the majority of women have experienced some kind of sexual harassment, if not assault, and that means the actor across from you waiting to read for the same part is probably one of them.

Let’s beat the bad guys by coming together in compassion and empathy. Read my article about collaboration.

Trust your own process.

People rarely get discovered in Hollywood. It takes hard work, talent, and luck to make a good career in the arts and entertainment. If someone “powerful” suggests that giving them any kind of sex will lead to fame and fortune, they are lying. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

Trust your own process, take the steps necessary to be good at what you do and get yourself out there with dignity, self-respect and joy in your heart.

Acknowledge the good ones.

Pay attention to the good people around you and thank those who treat you with respect. There are plenty of good men out there who value others, act with integrity and speak honestly. As the Hawaiian Huna principle says, energy flows where attention goes, which means, what we focus on gets bigger. Let’s reward what we want by giving lots of appreciation and positive attention to the good guys!

Let’s stand together for love, empathy, goodness and most of all right now…. justice.

And yeah, #MeToo.


Be a Happy Actor starting in 2015!

Hwd_gold_sticker_000Wishing you a Happy Holiday Season and a Successful New Year

286The BEST HOLIDAY GIFT gift to give yourself and your ACTOR friends – Award-winning book, How to Be a Happy Actor in a Challenging Business: A Guide to Thriving Through it All. 

Buy it on Amazon

Join the thousands of actors who have become happier and more successful because of this book. Read the research, get inside Justina Vail’s celebrity client’s journeys to success, and read stories and wisdom from our industry’s stars like:

  • Award winning casting director Risa Bramon Garcia
  • Oscar winning actress Christine Lahti
  • Emmy winning casting director Mark Teschner
  • Emmy winning director/producer David Nutter

Here’s what some top film and TV professionals say about this book:

“ . . . Some of the best advice I’ve ever heard on the topic. Happy Actor is a must-read for every actor at any stage in their career.”
Mark Atteberry, award-winning actor, photographer, and co-author of The Working Actor’s Guide to LA

“The title says it all . . . This book is really needed in our industry!”
Eric Dawson, Emmy-winning casting director – American Horror Story, The Mentalist, Glee

“(Happy Actor is) a breath of fresh air. . . “
Anthony Meindl, artistic director of Anthony Meindl’s Actor Workshop.

“(Justina Vail is) a fabulous teacher.”
Margie Haber, acting coach and author of How To Get The Part Without Falling Apart

“Justina Vail has articulated some of the best kept secrets of longevity and joy behind all great acting. . . Lessons from a true Master.”
Jeffrey Marcus, actor and acting coach

“Read this book and fire your therapist!”
Alex Manette, actor The Butler, We Need To Talk About Kevin, Shame, 2 Days In New York, Law & Order and The West Wing.

Buy it on Amazon

10 Tips for Leaving Your Agent or Manager

At a certain point in every actor’s career leaving an agent or manager will become necessary, whether that’s because the relationship is no longer working out, agreements have not been fulfilled, or a career shift makes it important. It can be a painful process, both for actors and their representatives, but it can be done with consciousness, compassion and clarity. If and when the time comes to make the move, the following tips might be helpful.

1. Identify your motivations. Before you take any action it’s important to get in touch with the motivations behind your decision to do so. This way you’ll gain more clarity about yourself and the reality of your situation. You might be motivated to leave your rep because of a lack of auditions in the past six months, you may be swayed by another, more powerful rep showing an interest in you, or you might realize that you and your rep have very different ideas about where your career should go. Whatever the motivations behind this decision, fully explore them, perhaps even write a list. This may lead to a change of heart, it may not, but either way you’ll be straight with yourself.

2. Review your legal position. Once you know what your motivations are, and before you go firing your rep, make sure you fully understand your legal position. What contractual agreements are still intact, if any? Being legally bound to an agency or a manager when the relationship is broken can be very complicated for both parties. If you’re going to leave, do so with as many loose ends tied up as possible.

3. Own your part in it. It’s all too easy to blame others for our disappointments in life. To own your part in the dynamic is only fair to your agent or manager. They probably worked much harder for you than you will ever know. Stepping back and looking at the situation from a wider perspective will help you understand what your part has been in the dynamic, which in turn will raise your personal integrity and emotional intelligence and allow you to learn from your mistakes.

4. Make contact with yourself. Make contact with the feelings you have about your decision, perhaps naming and even writing them down. This may seem unimportant or too mushy, but all change brings a type of grieving experience even when it seems like a good thing! Ending relationships, personal and business, can bring up all sorts of emotions, including anger, sadness, resentment, fear, relief, or guilt. When you acknowledge your own experience there’s more self-awareness, compassion, and authenticity—essential elements to your acting craft and overall personal development.

5. Decide how to tell them. You may be tempted to send a quick text to your rep saying that you’re leaving them, hopeful that the situation will go away quickly, but that would probably burn a bridge forever. It could also be considered cruel, callous, and immature. Instead, ask yourself what medium the relationship has primarily been through. Have you and your rep primarily spoken on the phone? Has it been predominantly an email relationship? Or have you been one of those remaining few who see your agent or manager in person? Whatever the prevailing medium is likely the most appropriate means to deliver the news. So, if you email or call each other, then an email or phone call might be appropriate. If you usually see each other, make an appointment to sit down in person. If, by chance, however, you usually text each other, I urge you not to fire them that way! Whatever you do, just act with integrity.

6. Plan what you will say. During any tough conversation it’s far more productive to talk about your own needs and experiences rather than the other person’s shortcomings. When planning your conversation or correspondence, be clear, concise, and specific about what your part has been in the dynamic, what you want for yourself and your career, and what you need to do from here on out. Focus on those things as the reasons for leaving, not what the rep did or didn’t do. But make it short! They won’t want to hear the whole story and just a synopsis will do.

7. Prepare to stay connected. Understandably, you might be nervous about letting your rep go. It’s never easy breaking up with anyone! The main thing you have control over is yourself and you’ll have a far better outcome if you are in a resourceful state. So before you write, phone, or visit your rep, take a moment to connect, first of all with yourself, by grounding and getting calm. This way you will be able to connect with the person you are engaging with. After all, your representative is a human being. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t liked how they’ve behaved or what they’ve done for your career, they have their own hopes and dreams and, yes, even feelings! Have compassion as you deliver the news.

8. Be detached. Your rep may need to vent their feelings about your decision. If you’ve done the self-exploration and career review I’ve suggested you should feel confident about your decision, so make sure you stay detached from any reaction to it. Your agent may not respond the way you’d like them to but remain cool. Let them vent if they need to. Most of all, don’t get into in a back and forth argument about who’s right and who’s wrong and who did what. There would be no positive outcome to that.

9. Be grateful. As mentioned, your representative has probably done more for you than you will ever know. After all, the vast majority of what they’ve done to pitch you, protect you, and serve your career happens when you’re not around. So, at least be grateful for what you are aware that they’ve done, no matter how resentful or disappointed you may be, and thank them clearly and directly. In fact, if you make gratitude the focus of your “talk” with them, you will step into a higher version of yourself, and in the end there will be benefit.

10. Learn from it. Any challenging situation is either a trial to be endured or an opportunity to become more than you’ve even been. You’ll be moving on to a new relationship with another agent or manager and the only way to avoid repeating yourself is to review what went well, decide what you will do differently next time, and get clear about what you want to bring with you.

This is a relationship business, so treat all of them—as you enter and exit—with consciousness and intention.


© Justina Vail. All Rights Reserved.

See this article on BackStage

Turn Even The ‘Worst’ Audition Into Gold

Many actors, no matter what level of career success, obsess about the last audition they had. This can happen even if they think it went well. They go over their lines again and again, thinking of the perfect ways they delivered/should have delivered them. Every little moment is revisited, How did I do? Did it go as well/badly as I think? What did the look on that director’s face mean? Did I really trip over my own foot on the way out? Was the part where I cried as great as I thought it was? Did I nail it or blow it? You probably know that inner voice, and if so, you also know that it can be a crazy-making waste of time.

Yes, it’s important to review our own work and learn from it. We grow when we make conscious efforts to notice what works and what doesn’t, but in the long run it’s only going to be a source for learning if we treat it as such. Obsessing, daydreaming and rehashing are limiting habits. They take us out of the present moment and trap us in uncomfortable states of being. Taking new information and organizing it for future use is far more resourceful and liberates us into empowering states. With the right activities, all that excited, anxious thinking can be turned into gold.

So, what would you literally do instead? One activity that can help get you out of your head and back into the present moment is this; Right after your next audition, before you start your vehicle or get on the bus, take fifteen minutes and write down all the things you noticed about the meeting—what went well, what was disappointing, what you would do differently and how, and what you can learn from the whole experience. Whether you feel happy with the way the audition went or not, make sure you highlight or circle the things that did go well and what you will do next time to improve your auditioning skills and presence. Take no more than half and hour for this and then put it aside, take a deep breath and shake it off—-literally, stand up and shake your arms and legs. This will get your energy moving and help you start afresh.

Being conscious about what you can learn from any given situation raises self-esteem, skills and positive states, which in turn are all gold when it comes to your career. You can either let your mind run amok and distract you from life, or you can gather up the immense treasures awaiting you at every turn.

© 2013-2014 Justina Vail  • All Rights Reserved

5 Ways to Make Your New Year’s Resolutions Stick

Every January most gyms and yoga studios are filled to capacity, diet and stop-smoking books fly off the shelves, and brilliant schemes to make more money get hatched. But just a couple of weeks into a new year it’s estimated that 50 percent of us abandon at least one, if not all, of our resolutions.

So, why is that and how can you make your plans for 2014 stick?

1. Make them toward-motivated. New Year’s resolutions are often created because of dissatisfaction with how things currently are, and though that’s an important element of change, we can get stuck if it’s the driving force. Around this time of year a lot of actors talk about wanting to “lose” weight and the mind focuses on getting rid of rather than creating something. The thing is, change requires a deep commitment to what’s possible, and a powerful vision of where we want to be. So, rather than resolving to “lose” weight, choose a weight you want to be and imagine yourself living and breathing inside that body. Rather than saying you want to “get out of” debt or “stop” being broke, decide in numbers how much money you want going into your bank account every month based on the lifestyle you desire. Rather than swearing you’re “not going to screw up” any more auditions, build a picture of yourself as a powerful, creative actor who loves to serve the auditioning process and those involved. Our lives are created by the things we focus on, so make your resolutions about what you want to move toward what you want, not what you want to get rid of.

2. Plan your behavior. If the primary focus of your New Year’s resolutions is about end results, you’ll miss the important steps that’ll get you there. So once you have toward-motivated goals break them down into your behaviors. For example, what is one important behavior that will lead you to be the weight you want to be? Is it to eat smaller, more frequent meals, or run up every set of stairs you come to? What are a few essential behaviors that will bring you more money? Is it to create a spending budget or take on some extra time at a side job?  What behaviors will help you become more confident and skilled as an actor? Perhaps taking a new improv class or starting a filmmaking group with your friends will empower you. Make a list of all the behaviors that will take you to where you want to be and then live them out.

3. Make them doable and personal. That means your resolutions must be reasonably attainable and in your power to accomplish yourself. When goals are huge and hard to accomplish we can get overwhelmed and quickly lose steam, and we end up dropping them. So, bite off only as much as you can reasonably chew. Further, if you make a resolution that requires another person change their behavior, you’ll set yourself up for failure. None of us can change others. We can only change our responses to them. Resolutions are ideally about behaviors you want to improve in yourself, so be kind to yourself and meet the challenge with everything you’ve got.

4. Hold yourself accountable. The word “accountable” often has negative connotations, but what it really means is that you find ways to track and measure your progress. Examples of self-accountability are deciding on dates for specific steps and putting them in your calendar, setting up reminders each day, and checking boxes or crossing out items when they’re complete. Sharing your progress with a coach or friend can be motivating, but don’t hold yourself accountable to them. That way you don’t have to rely on anyone else to be a powerful creator of your own life and career.

5. Celebrate your successes. As you go along, even the smallest achievements deserve celebration. When you reward yourself in constructive ways, the seeds of further success are planted. You are encouraged to continue and expand on the resourceful behaviors that make you the person you want to be and bring the life you want to live.

With positive, specific, doable, measurable, and time-oriented goals, you can make 2014 a most happy and successful a year!

© 2013-2014 Justina Vail  • All Rights Reserved

5 Powerful Ways to Wrap Up 2013

How we make an entrance in any situation is important. It sets a tone. But how we leave is just as important—making a powerful impression, not only on others, but also in our own lives. The thing is, just like the final wrap on a shoot or closing night of a play, the end of a year is often filled with parties and busy activity, which leaves little room for important completion. And when we exit in a hurry it can affect where we go next, simply because we bring everything with us into new experiences—including all our unfinished business, our loose ends, and our limiting habits.

Here are some intentional ways to wrap up 2013 so that you can give 2014 the chance of a powerful start.

1. Say your thanks. We’re in a business that’s all about relationships, and acknowledging what others have done to support and encourage you along the way is part of building those relationships. Giving even the smallest gift to each of your representatives and their assistants will let them know how much you appreciate them and encourage the relationship to grow. This also goes for casting directors, directors, producers, studio executives, crew, and anyone else who has supported your work in any way. The gifts can cost very little if you’re on a small budget, but they do need to be personal, so use the information you’ve gathered about their interests and let them know you appreciate what they’ve done.

2. Complete your goals. When I say “complete” I don’t necessarily mean finish. Instead, I suggest reviewing, sorting, and taking action on your goals in some way so that you feel complete. One way to do that is to make a list of the things you had planned to get done this year and decide which ones you want to wrap up in the next few weeks, which ones you want to drop entirely, and which ones you want to place on your 2014 calendar. And while you’re at it, adjust the goals you bring with you into the new year so that they’re easier to accomplish the next time around.

3. Celebrate your triumphs. Many people make “to-do” lists, but not many make what I call a “ta-da!” list—which is of the triumphs or goals accomplished. Making a ta-da list for 2013 will give you the opportunity, not only to acknowledge the good things, but also celebrate them. When you focus on your successes and celebrate what you’ve worked hard to create, you’re encouraged to accomplish even more—with less effort.

4. Drop your baggage. Resentment and guilt can feel like carrying heavy bags around all the time, and as an actor you can’t be fully available if you’re being weighed down. To be free of that load you have to forgive and make amends, and this is a great time of year to get that done. Forgiving someone, whether they’re in your business or personal life, will help free you from the creative blocks holding you back. You probably ought not do it directly with them, and you don’t have to condone or forget what happened. You just have to let it go and move on.  When it comes to the things you’ve done to hurt others, in the kindest and most sensitive way, make your amends without defending or justifying your actions. Making peace within yourself and with others will mean walking forward unburdened and able to expand your life more freely.

5. Charge your batteries. Celebrating the holidays with friends and family can be a combination of fun, joyful, annoying, challenging, and above all, tiring. And just like nature, we can’t keep going all year long. We need take time to slow down, let go, and recharge. So, make sure you balance out the next few weeks, giving yourself the chance to let your hair down and connect with loved ones as well as have some quiet time to reflect and rest. If you really listen to you body, mind, and spirit, what really charges your batteries may be something you hadn’t though of, so be creative with the break.

Your power lies in being conscious, organized, and taking appropriate actions. Make the next few weeks a time of reflection and completion and you’ll create a solid platform to launch yourself and your acting career into those wonderful new adventures ahead.

© 2013 Justina Vail • All Rights Reserved

21 Ways To Stand Out In The Crowd

With so many reality shows emerging in recent years, a huge number people—fueled by images of overnight fame and fortune—are pouring into our industry hoping to become the next big star. Because of this, real artists are finding themselves surrounded by an ever-increasing crowd of wannabes vying for attention. Casting directors are now faced with hundreds—sometimes thousands—of submissions for the smallest roles, and because time is a factor, they often end up bringing in the actors they already know. This means other legitimate talent is lost among the sea of faces.

So, how do you stand out? Of course there are many ways to be noticed in a crowd. You could jump up and down. Take your top off. Twerk. Make loud noises. But those strategies usually create short-lived interest or ridicule. Instead, there are ways to stand out in the crowd in a professional way and be noticed as the real artist that you are. Here are some of them.

1. Take your work seriously. Being a respected artist requires that you become a master at your craft. If you’re not working consistently already, get out there and hone your skills in every way possible.

2. Don’t take yourself too seriously. We all make mistakes, and it’s how we handle it that makes the difference. Learn to laugh at yourself, brush yourself off, and carry on with the job at hand.

3. Be a server. The entertainment industry is full of actors who are hoping to get their break, but the actors who really stand out show up with something to give. An attitude of service makes people interested in what you have to offer.

4. Be disciplined. Artists often live by impulse and feeling, but those who really make it in the world of dollars and time constraints also develop the art of discipline. Consistently show up on time, honor your commitments, and be prepared.

5. Know thyself. Get feedback from others, and find out how you come across. This way you can accurately market yourself and target the roles that fit.

6. Say “no” when necessary. If you keep saying “yes” to everything that comes along, you’ll get lost. Get clear about what you really want and don’t be afraid to say “no” to what you don’t want.

7. Raise your emotional intelligence. There are more than enough wacky folks in the crowd so do your personal work and heal what needs to be healed—not only for the sake of your work but for the business itself.

8. Love thyself. Self-love has nothing to do with the ego. It is a confidence and friendship inside you that elevates your relationships with everything else. You’ll stand out by being modest yet happy with who you are.

9. Believe you can do it. When you truly believe you can create what you envision and you take the steps to make it happen, not much can get in the way.

10. Act like you’re already successful. People who act like wannabes tend to stay that way. Start being the person you want to be, and life will meet you there.

11. Do whatever you do with excellence. Even if you’re currently waiting tables or doing extra work—excel in it. Practicing excellence anywhere prepares you to deliver high-quality work as a professional.

12. Be a master collaborator. Be a great team player. Make your fellow cast members look good, and show up for the benefit of all.

13. Be kind to everyone. Lots of people in our industry are only nice to those who can do something for them. Stand out by treating everyone as important and interesting—even those who can do nothing for you in return.

14. Be response-able. Respond to e-mails, calls, requests, and inquiries as soon and often as you can. Your responsiveness will have you stand out as a person who respects others and communicates well.

15. Be responsible. If you miss an appointment or make a mistake, you’ll gain respect from the industry if you take responsibility for your own actions and make the amends you need to make.

16. Get organized. Get to know what it’s like to be organized in your own life so that when the opportunity turns up, you’re ready and able to be part of a larger organization, like a production or show.

17. Have purpose. Purpose is one of the most important things an actor can have. I’m not talking about the popular things like “I want to win an award,” but rather a deeper understanding of why you’re even in the business and what your higher intention is.

18. Practice listening. Learn to listen from your heart, to listen with intuition, and to listen to what’s being said beyond the words. You will stand out in life and as an actor.

19. Be around those who elevate you. There are plenty of miserable, complaining actors sitting around saying they should be famous by now. Positive, proactive, creative, and inspiring artists rise to the top, and if you’re going to be around anyone, make it the people you want to be more like.

20. Set achievable goals. For many, goals are impossible to accomplish because they’ve not been thought through. Get clear about what you want and get some support in creating an easy, doable plan for your career path.

21. Be inspired. A passion for life attracts us to the actors we love and keeps them on our screens. To stand out and inspire others, you must first be inspired.

Practice these traits and you’ll not only stand out in the crowd, you’ll probably travel far beyond it.

© 2013 Justina Vail • All Rights Reserved

What’s Love Got to Do With Your Success?

Most actors know what it’s like to experience a roller coaster of highs and lows in their acting career, and depending on what kind of feedback you get from the industry, one moment you might feel on top of the world, and the next like you don’t deserve success and will never have it.

The word “success” means something different for everyone, but getting down to the roots of it, it’s whatever supports your happiness and fulfillment. One thing we’re learning about success is that no matter what’s showing up in our outside world, the dynamics that occur in each of our interior worlds is ultimately the creator of our human experience, and therefore our sustained success or continued failure.

Our interior world will also affect the way the outside world shows up for us. For example, if you’re critical, impatient, and unkind to yourself, you’ll wear it all over you like a suit and the people around you will respond accordingly. You’ll grate on others as you grate on yourself. You’ll inspire the same criticism from others as you bring to your own ears. No level of skill, marketing, materials, or representation is going to make you successful if you’re at war with yourself. It certainly won’t bring you happiness and fulfillment. However if you’re supportive, friendly, and encouraging to yourself, you’ll create an inner confidence that allows you to walk into any room and give others that same level of confidence in you. You become someone others want to know more about; they want to be around you.

Your success is defined by the relationship you have with yourself, and love is the ultimate ingredient.

“Love? You mean self-love? Isn’t loving yourself arrogant and egotistical?” you might ask. What’s interesting is that the ego is as far away from love as we can get. The ego is fear—fear of not being seen, not being enough, screwing up, being left behind, and not mattering. And when we’re in our egos, we very often compensate with vanity, defense, bravado, entitlement, and arrogance. Or we go the other way and feel that old familiar doubt, insecurity, disgust, criticism and impatience with ourselves. Most often it’s an unpredictable pendulum swing between the two. The point is, neither end of that pendulum swing is love, and both sabotage our ultimate success in every area of life.

Applying self-love toward your success takes a commitment to be different than you’ve been before. It means acting as kindly to yourself as you would to a beloved friend. It means changing out that critical voice inside with one that’s realistic and encouraging. It means dedicating yourself to healing your wounds, getting to know who you really want to be, and showing up every day accordingly. It means building trust in yourself by taking actions in favor of your long-term good, not your short-term impulses. It also means letting go of the things that hold you back, harm you, and distract you, and sometimes even setting firm boundaries to keep them out.

What’s also great about self-love is that, unlike egoism, it moves outward in collaborative, generous, and caring ways toward others, including directors, producers, casting directors, fellow actors, friends, and loved ones all get to benefit as well.

If you want success in your acting career—and in your life as a whole—you have to have to start with the foundation of it all, and that’s you. Then, as that old Tina Turner song asks, “What’s love got to do with it?” Let’s remember together that the answer is “Everything.”


© 2013 Justina Vail • All Rights Reserved

This article is also on BackStage

7 Ways to Get the Happy Actor Factor

In the work I’ve done over the years with both actors and non-actors, I’ve found that the core purpose to most of our hopes and dreams is to be happy. We have different ways we try to attain that happiness, and sometimes we mistake happiness for other things like excitement, ecstasy, and the ego’s pleasure. However, real, sustainable happiness is where we become aligned with the harmony of our universe. We stop suffering because we cease resisting life.

In the past few years I made it my job to study all this—through my own personal journey, the journeys of my clients, and the scientific research on human happiness that has been rapidly emerging. One of the things I learned is that 50 percent of our happiness is due to our genetics; 10 percent to our circumstances; and a huge 40 percent from specific factors that we can control. With a 31 year history in the entertainment industry – 20 of them working as an actor – it seemed natural to write a book for actors, sharing what those happy factors are. I am happy to say, How to be a Happy Actor in a Challenging Business: A Guide to Thriving Through it All has made a positive difference to the lives of many.

Here I share some brief reminders that will raise your happy actor factor!

1. Be kind to yourself. You’re the only person you can control when it comes to how you’re treated. Bottom line is: Your experience of life is very much a reflection of the relationship you have with yourself.

2. Believe in something greater than yourself, whatever you want to call it. Research shows that we are far happier when we have some sort of spiritual practice. Sharing that spiritual practice with others increases happiness levels further still.

3. Surround yourself with people who are positive, supportive, and inspiring. Choose friends and colleagues who elevate you to be your best self. We are profoundly influenced by those we choose to be around.

4. Be in environments that nourish and ground you. It has been shown that our surroundings influence our happiness levels in a multitude of ways. Be intentional about the spaces you live and work in. Peaceful, open, organized, and uplifting surroundings are great soil for happiness to grow in.

5. Forgive. All of it. Resentment is a poison that eats away at the vessel it sits in. Forgiveness frees you. It does not condone another’s actions or inactions; it simply liberates you from the pain of the past and allows you to be as creative and healthy as you want to be.

6. Serve others the way they would like to be served. Making a positive difference in the lives of others, whether it’s through your work or through other means, will raise your happy factor. It gets you out of your own way and connects you with a universal truth – that there is really only one of us here.

7. Be inspired, not tired. Find out what has deep meaning and importance for you, create a robust vision for yourself based on that, and make every day a dedication to it. You cannot be jaded when you tap into your own source of inspiration.

Happy days include disappointments, losses, and pain. It is how you choose to respond to life that will determine how life responds to you.


© 2013 Justina Vail • All Rights Reserved

This article is also on BackStage

How to Belong in the Acting Business

Author: Justina Vail, PCC CHt  5/3/13

No matter how long you’ve been an actor and no matter how much time and effort you’ve put into the pursuit of your career, do you still feel you don’t quite belong in the business?

Belonging is a fundamental need for us. We are intrinsically tribal creatures and our survival depends on having a place in our community. The acting business is a tribe where actors make a life and a living from what they do—and it’s probably the one you’ve wanted to belong to.

There’s an interesting and unique dynamic in our industry that tells actors they’re on the ‘outside’ until they get that magical big break. Many actors buy into this myth and spend their lives feeling like they’re standing at an invisible wall, their faces pressed against the surface, looking in, and watching other actors succeed. “Let me in!” is their cry. Breaking through that invisible wall becomes the major focus, and a sense of belonging is made dependent upon circumstances and other people’s decisions. This takes an actor’s power out of their own hands, and places it squarely in the hands of others.

Feeling that you’re not invited or that you don’t belong in your chosen tribe can feel like you don’t matter and have little value—and that can be really hard to deal with. For many actors, it diminishes confidence and therefore their ability to show up, do good work, and book the jobs. So the cycle continues and any remaining sense of belonging drops even further. However, there is some good news. A sense of belonging in the acting business can be created, no matter what the industry is telling you.

First of all, it’s important to let go of the idea that you’re going to be ‘discovered’ someday. That hardly ever happens, and hoping for it will only make you uninteresting to those looking for talent. Real success requires that you take responsibility for your own future, and that means being proactive and focusing on what you have control of. Instead of waiting for someone to notice you or give you an opportunity, make the opportunities happen. Become what it is you want to be. Live the life, right now, of a working, productive actor. How? By acting.

Actors need to ACT. Waiting for the phone to ring, sending out endless headshots, and waiting outside audition rooms can kill the creative spirit if that’s mostly what you’re doing. Artists are kept alive by being creative. Isn’t that what you’re here for after all?

So, be proactive. Take a great acting class, get together with friends to write scenes and film them, find plays to rehearse until it’s in the marrow of your bones. Create something as an actor every single day, whether it’s writing scripts, filming shorts, rehearsing plays, or developing characters. There is little to stop you from being creative in a world where you can make an entire film on your phone.

And while you’re busy being the actor you’re here to be, you can also use those skills to act-as-if you belong. You can stop hanging out with complaining, out-of-work actors and surround yourself with equally creative, positive artists. You can network at industry events, get involved in film festivals and conventions, attend screenings, and become a reader or do open mics.

If you really want to belong to the acting business, you need to immerse yourself, contribute to it, show up as your best self, and earn your place there. The business will respond by welcoming you further into its folds and rewarding you for the contribution you have made.


© 2013 Justina Vail • All Rights Reserved

This article is also on BackStage