So, you graduated from acting school or finally made that move to the big city…only to be greeted with the double whammy of a SAG-AFTRA and WGA strike. Maybe you’re a professional working actor, hit with the same hiatus. What may seem like an overwhelming time is actually a historical one; a major milestone for the entertainment industry. The question is, how do you map out your acting life during this strike? We want our students, alums, and actor peers who may feel overwhelmed during the strike to know that you’re not alone!
Progress is finally being made at the bargaining table…so stay positive, and check out the ideas below, as we hopefully see a “light at the end of the tunnel.”
One of our favorite things about being an acting studio is cultivating a supportive community of artists. Additionally, there’s so much introspective work to be done while most of us are on a hiatus. For instance, have you ever asked yourself what you like to do outside of acting? Have you wanted to travel somewhere exotic or try that killer hairstyle you (or your agents) have talked yourself out of getting?
“As actors, we aim to tell stories of all kinds of human experiences. So take some time to have some new experiences. Trade skills with someone, listen to a band you’ve never heard of, read a book someone recommends, draw a picture of a tree or someone you love, try a food you’ve never eaten before, sit in the grass in silence, ask someone to tell you a joke…expanding your experiences will make you a better actor.”Janelle Snow, ASC Instructor
Getting to know yourself fully and outlining what you want in life is just as key as fulfilling your creative dreams. Aristotle once said, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” Charting what makes you you will only strengthen your ability to bring yourself to a role.
Everything that has happened to you in your life is fodder for your work as an actor.C. Stephen Foster’s Awakening the Actor Within: A Twelve-Week Workbook to Recover and Discover Your Acting Talents
After your much-deserved self-contemplation, let’s not forget that there actually is acting work blissfully unaffected by the strikes…theatre! Not to mention union & non-union commercials, student films, micro-budget films, and (our favorite) acting classes:)
Speaking of which, we gathered a few friends and fellow advocates for Chicago actors Ilyssa Fradin, Janelle Snow, and Mickie Paskal to discuss navigating and nurturing your acting life during the strike.
First question! What’s one lesson you’ve learned during this strike? And/ or have you learned something new (about yourself or maybe a new skill)?
Ilyssa: “HOLD THE LINE! Our union(s) are only as strong as our members. With our siblings in the WGA and non/pre members, we must stand strong and stand together to get what is fair for all of us. Seeing how we are part of a greater labor movement and taking this stance has been eye-opening. Our sacrifice will help not only us but will also help other workers in other industries. #UnionStrong”Ilyssa Fradin, SAG-AFTRA Chicago member/actor, Chicago Local Board member, National Board member
Mickie: “Oh goodness. Does building my skills in Hyrule while playing Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom count as a new skill? This strike brings up all the old pandemic feelings, yes? Being cut off from our community. From making the art we all love. From the loss of collaboration. And yet…. I feel, as I did during the pandemic, very close to the actors and artists in our town. In sharing the feelings of loss and frustration, and yet knowing…KNOWING…that this too shall end. And we will drive back into that precious world of make-believe and storytelling that fills us all up. And I feel grateful that we will soon be on the other side of this. Together.”Mickie Paskal, Paskal Rudnicke Casting
Janelle: “I’ve been wearing my SAG STRONG shirt a lot, and I’m surprised (and delighted) at how often a random stranger will see it and express support. The other day I was in the aisle of a grocery store, and someone walked by and said, ‘Totally with you and what you’re fighting for!’ “Janelle Snow, ASC Instructor
If you could give 1-3 pieces of advice for all of us maneuvering acting life during a strike, what would they be?
Ilyssa: “Patience. We wait so long for that audition or that booking, to get on set or see ourselves on a screen. Any strike is hard, but this strike is about the future of our work and our industry. We must have patience and solidarity.”
Mickie: “Live your life. Explore. Experience. Find activities that challenge you and how you think of yourself. Nothing plays better than actual life experience on camera. Go get some!”
Janelle: “Stay strong. Connect with other actor artists, and remind yourselves that this is one of those times when the personal struggle of the present will pay off in the future for all of us.”
How do you keep your creative and professional focus during an industry lull/ standstill? What do you recommend others focus on during a time like this?
Ilyssa: “SAG-AFTRA covers way more than just TV and Film. An actor can continue to work under many other contracts, (commercials, podcasts, audiobooks, corporate education, even interim agreement projects or student and short film agreements). Take a class, audition for theater, read scripts, See plays. Never stop working on your skills! Stay creative!”
Mickie: “I read. A lot. I watch films. I watch television. To keep myself present in the industry. Feels good to watch others do what they do best. And I have been seeing a lot of theatre. And that is my happy place. Saw a show at Steep recently. And that feels like where I am supposed to be within the industry.”
Janelle: “I’m fortunate to spend time almost every day in a classroom working and playing with other actor artists. I think this is a great time to take a class to connect with your creativity and with the community!”
There is a world outside of the film & TV industry (and even, dare I say it, ACTING)- what other ways do you create an artistic lifestyle outside of your passion for the dramatic arts?
Ilyssa: :I have been really impressed by the generosity of our membership and the greater public across the country. They’re not only giving their time to various strike actions, they are also turning passion into purpose. Members are offering strike discounts on classes or headshots, discounts at stores and restaurants they own or work at. They’re volunteering at food banks, raising funds to help other workers by donating to the Entertainment Fund or SAG-AFTRA foundation. Oftentimes actors are perceived as selfish or self-centered, but this strike has brought out the best of us, we are finding ways to give back and support each other. We are #SAGAFTRAstrong”
Mickie: “Back to Hyrule for me.”
Janelle: I’m not sure I know how to define an artistic lifestyle, but there’s plenty of art to enjoy – books, paintings, sculpture, pottery, street murals, music – and ways that you can create art yourself. I love to crochet, and taking yarn and turning it into something is an art form I find relaxing and creative (and really anyone can do it!).
Remember to keep training and creating during a time like this–whenever there’s a slow point (or standstill) in this industry, never give up hope. Additionally, supporting your fellow artists not only helps you stay optimistic but more importantly, helps you to build your community.
So, find your people, spread the love, and never stop creating your artist’s life! If you’re ever in doubt, all of us at Acting Studio Chicago are here for you.
Janelle Snow is a graduate of Northwestern and Harvard Universities and has been active in the Chicago acting community for over two decades, appearing on stage at the Goodman, Steppenwolf, Victory Gardens, American Theatre Company, Chicago Dramatists, Eclipse Theatre, Circle Theatre and more, picking up multiple Jeff nominations and awards along the way. She also trained at Second City and iO and has studied with Uta Hagen and F. Murray Abraham. A proud Actors’ Equity and SAG-AFTRA member, she’s also appeared in numerous commercials and industrials. Janelle worked in casting alongside Jane Alderman for several years and teaches On Camera and Professional Preparation at The Theatre School at DePaul University and the Chicago College of Performing Arts. Janelle also teaches at Northwestern Univ. and has been on the faculty of Acting Studio Chicago since 2013!
Ilyssa Fradin is a professional actress based in Chicago, Ilyssa has been seen on a variety of off loop stages and has worked successfully as a full time Voice Over artist as well as appearing in a variety of TV and film projects and commercials. She can currently be seen on stage at Theatre Wit in Mia McCullough’s new play Household Spirits...thru Nov. 11th.
Micki Paskal, C.S.A. has been a casting director in Chicago for the past 31 years. She has cast for hundreds of commercial clients both regionally and nationally. Past film/tv credits include Public Enemies, Road to Perdition, Fargo, What Women Want, Amityville Horror, Stranger Than Fiction and The Bear. She has worked with film directors such as Michael Mann, Robert Altman, the Coen Brothers, Sam Mendes, Marc Forster and Harold Ramis. Together with Jennifer Rudnicke she owns & runs PR Casting.