Finding positives during the Covid-19 crisis
The global pandemic that is Covid-19 made 2020 one of the most challenging years in living memory. Industries were destroyed, lives were lost and livelihoods ruined.
Understandably, the many negatives of 2020 have been highlighted extensively. Every time we switch on the news we see the latest infection stats and job losses. And on a personal level we are all worried about the health and protection of our loved ones, the safety of our jobs and the future that lies ahead.
Although I do not want to downplay the difficulties that have afflicted us all, I won’t be reflecting on them here. They say every cloud has a silver lining, and after having time to reflect on 2020, this blog is about finding those silver linings. It is about making the most of things and finding the good where there seemingly isn’t any.
I hope you can relate to one or two of my reflections, and hopefully you may even have your own to add.
A renewed sense of calm
Pre pandemic, I was spending up to 20 hours a week on the road getting to and from London for castings and work, often at extremely short notice. Being an actor as well as a voiceover means plenty of in-person auditions, recalls and then extra travel if you are lucky enough to land the jobs you’re going for. Then of course, even when you don’t get the paying jobs, (which is most of the time), the effort and cost input is still the same.
I’ve always loved driving and I love music and audiobooks, so time on the road isn’t something I dislike. However, it can become extremely draining and costly. Especially after your 15th trip and 15th ‘thanks but no thanks’.
Because of social distancing measures, the pandemic has seen casting directors switch to online casting and self-tapes. I have to say, aside from the extra stress of having to become film crew and director as well as actor, my life has actually never felt more ‘normal’. You see, never knowing where you’re going to be or when you’re going to have to be there, are luxuries that can be taken for granted if you have one job with one place of work. Add to that working hours that are given to you with more than just a few hours’ notice!
Knowing that at 6.05pm on an idle Tuesday I am not going to get a call off my agent asking me to be in central London first thing with a prepped outfit or lines learned, when I literally just booked a dentist appointment or agreed to help a friend, has bought an incredible sense of calm to my life. One that has never before existed in my working life. For that I am grateful.
I really do hope that going forward, self-tapes, at least for the early stages of casting, become the norm.
Self care & work life balance
I am generally a healthy sort, love my fitness and the outdoors. However, when you run a business and a home, then juggle that with being required to drop everything at short notice to travel for auditions, self-care is usually the first thing to be neglected. Like many of us, I know I should find the time to switch off and look after myself more. Somehow, when life is so busy, I can never justify ‘wasting’ my time like that. I even have a secret aversion to the very term ‘self care’ and have had to learn to stop being freaked out by it.
I always feel I should be working. That is what being self-employed does to you. It can make you feel guilty for ever daring to switch off or stop checking your emails constantly.
As is true for many of us, the pandemic has given me more time. Those hours I am not spending on the road or working as much as I used to, can now be allocated to taking better care of myself.
I have renewed my interest in reading, discovered online fitness classes, become a better cook and even rekindled my love of the French language. 15 minute daily French lessons anyone? There was never much time for these ‘luxuries’ pre pandemic.
I think many people have been finding time for things they didn’t before. If that is only baking banana bread, or reading the kids one extra story, that has to be good news.
As stated elsewhere, I am not going to win any awards where switching off is concerned, so as well as looking after my own wellbeing, I have enjoyed having more time to spend on the health and wellbeing of my business. Despite the title of our profession, being a voiceover isn’t just about voicing. In fact, voicing makes up only about 10% of what I do on a typical day (unless I’m working on an audiobook!).
The pandemic has given me time to get my finger out and address all the jobs so easily put off. I have touched base with clients and reached out to new ones. I have brushed up on my software and
editing skills, practiced vocal styles, watched videos and read relevant blogs and books. During really quiet times, I had a shuffle about in my studio, improved the internet speed in the house and a few more useful jobs I never found the time for before.
These are all non-urgent jobs, easy to ignore. Suddenly when there is more time, we run out of excuses to procrastinate.
I have also been able to contribute an essay to a new book about the voiceover industry called “Voice Over Secrets” written by the talented Elroy “Spoonface” Powell. Pre lockdown, I may have had to think twice about accepting this opportunity due to fear I wouldn’t have the time to do it justice. Having less paying work available to me has made me able to contribute to interesting projects I might not have worked on otherwise. The book sees 22 established voiceovers talk about their unique experiences in the industry.
They offer candid, no-nonsense advice to others interested in the profession. It is a sort of baring of souls and I feel truly honoured to be a part of something that can help inform others. Some of the proceeds go to charity, making it feel like even more of an achievement.
OK when I say ‘more work’ what I really mean here is more work in certain areas. I think it’s a given that most people working in particular industries have experienced an overall decrease in work, but there are areas of some sectors where work has flourished since the pandemic.
National lockdown meant the closure of schools, colleges and other learning institutions. Learning had to go online, and fast!
For me, this meant seeing an increase in enquiries and offers of certain areas of work, particularly elearning. I love elearning anyway, so seeing more of this type of work coming through has been a little ray of sunshine in otherwise dreary times.
People have had to adapt fast and the voiceover industry is dynamic and fast paced, it always has been. We can adapt quickly and I think clients have seen this through the pandemic. I am hoping that the clients I acquired during 2020 lead to long term business relationships. Relationships that last way beyond the chaos and uncertainty.
I am also hoping that my renewed fitness interests and baking skills can outlast the pandemic too! Who’s for banana and walnut loaf?
Are there observations and experiences you can add to this? What have your positives been during these times. Leave a comment and share your experiences. Or comment on Twitter: @donnalbryan or Instagram: @donnalouisevoiceactorpresenter.