Level Up While Locked Down: A Quarantine Resource Guide for Media Personalities
So, obviously, Coronavirus. It’s all anyone can hear or talk about, and at this point you either have been, or will be staying home to practice #SocialDistancing as we try to reduce the spread and end this pandemic.
For a lot of us in the media industry, especially freelancers, it means events are cancelled, shows aren’t happening, work isn’t working and we have a lot of free time on our hands. Particularly for people in my area - entertainment reporting and television hosting - it feels like everything is cancelled and we have no idea when we’ll get it back. Of course there's the loss of income, too.
While this whole thing sucks - and it really does suck - it’s our reality right now, and the best we can do is prepare ourselves to hit the ground running when this thing finally does end. So how can we do that? By honing our skills, perfecting our materials and becoming more versatile so that we always have options.
(Sidenote: If you were reading this in hopes of immediate income, the article likely won’t help, but check out the list of emergency funds / resources at the end)
First things first:
Set Up Your Space For Self Tapes, Castings & Remote Interviews
As everything (temporarily, hopefully) moves online, it's not a bad idea to start setting up your space for doing self-tapes and remote interviews. You don't have to blow a bunch of money on this either. It can be as simple as identifying where you'd do interviews or self-tapes, making sure you have adequate lighting and adjusting so you know exactly where to put your computer / camera / phone. Depending on the time of day, I'll sit in my living room across the way from the window, removing a distracting collage on my wall and setting my laptop on a box and a book so it's eye-level. If it's evening or low light, I'll take a lamp with an adjustable smaller light from my bedroom and position it to balance the light. This does take a bit of time, experimenting and reworking, so if you have the time to sort that out now, do it! If you do have some flexible income, there are a few low-cost items you can get for enhancement. I already own a Nikon D7100, but a few weeks ago I got a new tripod, a mount to hold my phone in case I wanted to shoot with that instead, and a lav mic for under $50.
I know self tapes have generally been for actors, but the reality is, Coronavirus or not, the media personality industry was heading that way as well. Luckily a lot of the acting community's self tape rules apply to us and they've already figured it all out.
There are a million resources online for self taping, but here are a few on setting up your space and self taping in general that I found helpful:
Casting Directors: The Best & Worst Self Tapes | MORE: Self-Tape Auditions Panel
Self Tape Audition Example | What they should look like + how to self tape like a boss
Self Tape Backdrop | Easy, budget friendly DIY backdrop for self-taping from home!
Also: The Casting Society of America and SAG-AFTRA Foundation have united to schedule an online casting tips panel Friday at 5:30 p.m. PT. Read more on that here.
Ask for Remote Interviews
The same people you'd be interviewing at events are likely stuck somewhere inside just like you are. Especially now that you've set up, it's a great time to request video interviews and continue to produce entertainment content. With uncertainty in the air and the entire industry feeling the impact, folks are being a bit more lenient and way more kind. They also need to stay relevant while they're stalled. This may just be the time to reach for that interview you thought you'd never get.
Zencastr (audio only) - To support the community during this crisis, they've removed participant and recording limits on their free version through July 1!
Update Your Reel
A lot of my colleagues do this diligently. But a lot of us, me included, slack on this important tool. We just had award season where a lot of us had red carpets, one on ones and a handful of other projects. Now's the time to put it all together! If award season wasn’t busy for you, and you wish you had a little more to work with, this is a great time to develop that too.
From home, or a safe social distance, you can record additional stand-ups, film an introduction, add creative video interviews, edit your reel / have your reel edited and more! Here are a couple ideas / resources to get you started:
If you're newer to this, or need help choosing content:
Some general advice about reels:
Help with editing:
If you'd prefer to outsource it:
Simply in need of some inspo? Here are a few reels of some of my favorite industry folks:
Zuri Hall | Stuart Brazell | XiXi Yang
Courtney Tezeno | Alina Vission
Enhance Your Resume
That resume you haven't updated in months? You know what to do! Especially if you're multi-faceted, it's a great idea to have a few different versions of your resume on hand. For those of us who also work in the more corporate side of the industry, you'll definitely want a different resume for that than for your other media gigs.
Generally as a media personality, your resume should include the specifics on what you do (red carpet correspondent, travel host, entertainment reporter, etc.), outlets you've worked for, any special skills or accomplishments (eg. a certificate in sports journalism) and of course, your contact information and an easy link to your website or reel. If you're far enough in the game, and planning to do speaking or other related activities you can also spring for a press kit. I'm absolutely obsessed with Zuri Hall's.
Of course it doesn't have to be as intense as hers either, something simple, cute and effective like this one made by Mina Naidine is amazing too:
Here are a couple more resources:
Canva has templates if you're looking to create a jazzy resume or press kit. They're free and easy to use (Mina used Canva for this -->)
Actors Access is a tool for hosts as well! The free version allows you to put a bio, 2 headshots, and your resume information on an easy to access site. This is a great one to set up even if you have a more 'official' resume
Hosts in LA is offering a Rock Your Resume live online coaching session on March 23. This is an excellent opportunity to get real live advice and feedback from industry powerhouses. This one is paid, but they're always making resources available. Just this week they hosted a free virtual happy hour where expert casting director Sean DeSimone dropped in and answered some questions, so be sure to check their website, Facebook and Instagram for more of those opportunities!
Build Your Brand, Curate Content and Improve Your Social Media
I actually despise social media and have a hard time with content. If I could, I would just vanquish every social platform, but I know that brand building is very important for us media people. Some of us are naturally 'influencers', but if your social media presence takes effort, like mine, nows the time to build up that content and improve your social media game whether by curating what you already have, doing new content at home, or just interacting.
When I say build content, I don't just mean pretty pictures, either (though feel free to have a solo-shoot at home!). You can write articles and blog entries to post now or store for later, film tips and tricks to help others, and generally get creative.
As I mentioned, I'm not the best at this, so I won't give you any further advice, but here are some resources I found helpful:
Elise Darma is a Social Media Marketing Whiz who is always posting great ideas on her IG
Tools to Launch Your Brand as a TV Personality by Shannon O'Dowd
As I mentioned earlier, Canva has a lot of free templates, including ones for social media posts
Apply, Apply, Apply!
Say it with me: The 👏🏾 industry 👏🏾 is 👏🏾 not 👏🏾 dead. There are still castings out there, there are still people casting, there are still outlets that need stories. The way we start to do things will certainly be different, but we'll still be doing things. If your materials are prepped and ready, please keep applying. Some resources for castings and TV personality gigs:
Los Angeles Casting Calls - A bit spammy sometimes, but I've gotten some good stuff from here and it's not only exclusive to Los Angeles
Work On Your Interview Skills
I’m constantly looking back at interviews I’ve done and critiquing myself (in a healthy way, of course), as well as looking at interviews by peers and other pros to see what styles exist, see things I don’t like so I don’t do them myself and, of course, just generally get inspired. This is a great time to analyze your interview skills and an even better time to practice and polish them up.
If you want a free live stream of TV content to watch (good for both studying interviews and keeping entertained) Pluto TV has several entertainment channels like Entertainment Tonight and PeopleTV to help you out (full disclosure, I work with them, but I'm vouching), and YouTube will never fail you.
Though I’m not particularly funny, Ellen is my favorite interviewer to watch because she can access people of all ages and stages. Find someone you like and make note of the things they do well.
Take a Writing Course
Personally, I think it's important for every media practitioner to develop their writing skills. Besides the potential to become an extra revenue source, you never know when you're going to need it. It doesn't have to be a boring writing course either. Creative writing, business writing, anything! Here are a few free ones across the web:
Media Writing and Editing (Ohio State University)
English for Journalism (UPenn via Coursera)
Grammar and Punctuation (University of California, Irvine via Coursera)
English Grammar and Style (University of Queensland via edX)
Creative Writing: The Craft of Style (Wesleyan University via Coursera)
Writing Stories About Ourselves (Wesleyan University via Coursera)
Writing Winning Resumes and Cover Letters (Univ. of Maryland, College Park via Coursera)
Copywriting: Improve User Experience One Word at a Time (via openSAP)
Writing for Social Media (University of California, Berkeley via edX)
90 Free Online Courses to Improve Your Writing Skills - This has a million writing course resources for everything you could possibly imagine.
Become a Media Contributor
As if I needed to say it one more time, our industry (like most) is temporarily moving online. This means our people left in studios and behind the scenes will be looking for contributors that can fill the gaps they'll inevitably have from this shift. We usually look to others to do the contributing or to give the interviews, but there's value in becoming a contributor yourself. While it doesn't happen over night, if your materials are together, consider pitching yourself in an area where you're an expert. For example, I do media training for non-media folks. I could pitch a segment to an outlet on how beauty influencers should handle scrutiny on their cleanliness practices during this pandemic (or something like that!)
Plan Your Looks
This one is a lot of fun. I know it sounds superficial, but what better time than now to go through your closet, take stock, donate unwanted pieces and plan full outfits for your future gigs. Pour a glass of wine and try on your looks, taking pictures of ones that work so getting dressed in the future is a snap.
This is also a great way to connect with friends if you're isolated. Send pics and get some opinions. I will admit, this is the first thing I did and my friends now have about 20 pictures of my red carpet looks to come. You're Welcome.
Create Future Money Making Opportunities
Although most media people have a second hustle, wouldn't it have been fantastic to have something that was making money for you right now regardless? Use this time to start, develop, finish or even just think about that thing. Mine is a book that I've been working to finish, but not directly focused on. This project will boost my credibility opening up more speaking and coaching opportunities down the line.
If you find yourself in a spot where you feed financial resources, try the links below. While these are trusted resources, I can't speak to their capacity. I'll add more as I find them
There are a million more ideas and if you have any you think should be added here, feel free to get in contact with me! I hope this added a little sparkle at the end of the quarantine tunnel. Questions? Reach out to me via Instagram DM! It's important that we're here for each other through this all.