If you wanted to take a call on the road, you had to find a payphone. For the internet, you had to wait for a dial-tone, and music came on little silver discs called CD’s…
Today, actors can post their reels on YouTube and build portfolio websites in minutes. You can convert your résumé into a pdf and instantly send it anywhere on the planet, and nearly anybody with a DSLR camera and Photoshop can take a breathtaking headshot. In the iPhone Age, you can receive text, calls or email the second a casting agent deems you The One. As with other professions, technology has streamlined the actor’s life.
But there are downsides to such digital prowess. The faster you can communicate, the faster you are expected to react. Missing a single call could put you out thousands of dollars, because producers expect you to answer at any second of the day. As more audition notices go digital, they ironically become harder to find; instead of a few trade magazines with listings in the back, there are now millions of different job-boards, thousands of which are outright scams.
And then you’re standing there, in the middle of a rehearsal, and your messenger-bag starts vibrating, because you forgot to turn off your phone completely. The director huffs and grumbles, “Who forgot to turn off their phone?”
I often become nostalgic for the “old days” – that is, only a few years ago – when I could come home to a blinking answering machine, and I might wait until morning to call back a stage-manager. Back then we could jot our schedules into datebooks, or even scrawl them on the backs of our scripts. We could carry around a paper copy of Back Stage and flip through it on the train, uninterrupted by a deluge of photo-texts and celebrity Tweets.
But times have changed, and the sharp actor has to keep up. Today, your average New York dancer may look more like a young Wall Street executive – yammering into a BlueTooth as he furiously jabs at his Blackberry keypad. The schmoozing that was once reserved for after-parties and casting calls may now take place over Facebook, and voice-talent auditions may consist of an mp3 download. What used to be known as the “rat-race” now may feel like a rat-race on Red Bull, because accelerated tech means an accelerated lifestyle.
That’s the thing about technology: Once everybody has it, there’s no going back, only forward. You may think fondly of La Vie Bohème, when a decent headshot and a working landline were enough, but if producers have never been patient, they’re particularly harried in the 21st Century.
So take a breath. The future is coming fast.