Tess Porter, a spunky LA-based actress, is a novice to the acting world but is already killing the game. In just one year, she has been featured in several short films such as “Escape” an American Film Institute short film, and “Under the Pieces” which is screening this year at the Cannes Film Festival. For more information about Tess Porter, see bio below.
I had the pleasure of chatting with Porter about her experiences thus far as an actress: the good, the bad and the ugly. When I first shared my intention to interview the budding actress, people were confused about how a career in the performing arts would be able to provide lessons for them as developers, medical residents or a broker on Wall-Street. As I predicted however, many of the themes we’ve discussed thus far in posts like Herd Mentality (impostor syndrome, stress, and development of a self-care routine) were no strange concepts to Porter, and emerged organically in our conversation.
Here are 5 Quick Tips from Tess Porter To Maintaining Work-Life Balance and Connecting With Your Truest self at Your Job:
- Define Why You Do What You Do:
In my conversation with Porter, she described to me the windy road that lead her to the film industry. She did not always wish to be an actress. She went to school for psychology and then moved to Florida and got a job in retail. She talked about some of the emotional baggage that she moved to LA with and the struggles that she faced auditioning for roles. She navigated depression and loneliness but kept those feelings to herself. “Hiding my depression and replacing it with Happy Tess became my own personal character everyday.” She characterized herself as a perfectionist and credits perfectionism as one of the main limitations that kept her from being the best actress that she could be. She was having a hard time connecting with the characters that she was playing, because she would overcompensate each role for it to be perfect. It wasn’t until she leveraged advice from one of her acting coaches, that she was able to finally let go of acting the put-together, perfect actress. He reminded her that being an actress is not her whole identity but a component of who she currently is and who she will become. He encouraged her to connect with herself, her pasts, her struggles, her strengths and to channel all of it into the reason why she is pursuing an acting career. Porter emerged from that lesson with a renewed sense of self and intention for acting; “to tell different truths are real world stories.” She states: “it’s important to have a sense of who you are first and foremost. If you don’t know who you are, look for it.” Now before most auditions and during her quiet times she works not to perfect her character but to bring herself fully into the moment. She chants the following:
“I am Tess Porter, Daughter of Deborah Royce and Pliny Porter. They raised me to believe in myself and to be strong. My purpose is to bring the stories of people and communities to life through the performing arts. “
2. “Take Space and Make Space” for Yourself, Learn to Take Necessary Pivots
Porter also describes the mental and physical stress that coincides with being in audition mode and the Hollywood lifestyle. She describes one of her typical days as attending one or two acting classes and then shuttling around the city to different casting calls, having to “be on 24/7”. On a really busy day, she might be attending four commercial casting calls. Her perfectionism would cause her to become “obsessed” pushing her to take more classes and to cram as many auditions as she could into one day. She stated that she pushed herself so hard in auditions that she ended up spraining her ankle and ending up in a boot. Even when her doctor told her to take it easy and to rest for 6-8 weeks, she felt like she was letting herself and her career down. Reflecting on her feelings during that experience she said: “I don’t have time for that, if I’m not hustling then I’m not making money”.
Porter realized that by exerting herself to “push through her injury” was setting her back, rather than pushing her further. It was taking a toll on her. She had to recognize that she was spiraling. She had to make space for herself to slow-down and make a short-term career pivots to re-discover a physical and mental well space within herself. Instead of her usual auditioning, she tried something new: voice acting and found that she liked it.
RECOGNIZE WHEN YOU’RE SPIRALING AND MAKE THE SPACE FOR YOURSELF TO RECENTER!
3. Integrate Wellness into Your Work Day
Porter’s experience forced her to re-evaluate the way that she self-cares and how the lack of an established wellness routine had negatively impacted her health and career. Now, she now has a rigid, more balanced, wellness practice that is integrated into her work days.
Her General Schedule is as follows:
- Morning Meditation or Morning Mindful Walk
- Class / audition
- Sit down Lunch*
- Class/ Audition
- Work with acting Coach/ mentor
- Yoga/ work out
- Dinner/ social life
4. Don’t Over-analyze Everything
When you over-analyze everything you miss out on the authenticity of a moment, an experience or a character. Life is like auditioning for a casting call: “Make a choice about your character and roll with it. Be firm about your choice. If it isn’t what the director is looking for, it doesn’t matter… you’ve already done your part.”
5. Utilize Your Mentors
Porter described the importance of having mentors to keep her grounded and to provide encouragement. A good mentor will be honest about their shortcomings and insecurities and they’re methods to overcome them. Reflecting on her own mentors, she states: “They reminded me that I will not always succeed and that’s okay!” If you work intimately with mentors, they can also serve as accountability partners. If they are good mentors they will be able to know when you are over-exerting yourself or when you might not be giving your all and they will remind you to re-center. Porter says that she’s been told : “You’re doing too much. Go to the movies by yourself or with friends. Take a break. ”
I asked Porter what was the best professional advice she ever received that she would like to share with other young professionals. She said:
“It’s important to persevere and go for what you want. It’s equally as important to take care of yourself. Find times to laugh, be with yourself and self-care in whatever that means to you. Read, draw a bubble bath, scream once in a while and most of all have a sense of who you are. When you go looking for jobs, have confidence. Remember that the producers, casting call people or the employers always want you to be the THE ONE when you walk in.”
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