Create Your Own Content to Further Your Career Make the Best Use of Your Acting "Downtime"

further your career

The author, hard at work in Costa Rica.

I have a thing for side-projects.

I volunteered with PRETOMA in Costa Rica because I care about endangered species.

I produced a video about it because I was taking TV pitch meetings and needed a visual teaser.

I bought a Canon 7D because I had $800 in rewards at CostCo and as of winter 2012, half of my film/tv auditions began requesting video submission for first calls.

I taught myself Final Cut Pro X because I was saving myself money by editing my own talent reels, and I’d outgrown iMovie.

I consider myself an actor, not a filmmaker, but look what I’m doing.

Content, concept, equipment and means. Technology has become so affordable, anyone can produce a short film, create a web series or film a full-length movie. Most of us are carrying around video cameras in our back pockets daily. I wonder why we all got into our arts in the first place. I’m particularly interested in why actors, specifically, use the industry to justify why they are, or aren’t, doing their art.

Dancers do not wait to get hired. Paid or not, they are dancing at the club, in their living room, in the Produce section. But actors, especially film/TV actors in LA, they spend all their time hoping their agent will get them an audition, hoping that audition will turn into a job, hoping that job has more than three lines so they can finally “get to” act.

It seems selfish to me, being an actor and holding back your art just because you aren’t getting paid. And it seems like self-abuse, keeping yourself from your passion because there is no money, set or crew.

I’m not saying work for free or accept less than you are worth.

Of course technology is no replacement for artistry. The trick is being an artist who knows how to use technology.

You can further your career just by doing the things you love to do. When you aren’t working, you are still an artist, and the tools of your artistry are at your fingertips. Nothing is stopping you from putting a scene on camera or documenting your work in Costa Rica. And because you are an artist, you probably have oodles of multidisciplinary ideas ready. Your downtime is the PERFECT time to work on your own stuff, instead of someone else’s.

Please enjoy this short about volunteering with the endangered sea turtles with Costa Rica’s PRETOMA organization—a concept this artist felt vital enough to learn the tools necessary to create it:


My whole Eco Tourist series is a good example of the evolution of technique you can learn in your so-called acting “down time.” Check it out. Then go make something to further your career, with or without the paycheck.


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About Tonya Kay

This Magickal Child from Michigan farmlands is an award-winning actress and writer, professional dancer, burlesque performer, pole athlete, danger artist, stunt woman, world-traveling conservationist, raw vegan celebrity and living proof of what a child raised in love grows up to be.

You’ve seen her on TV’s “Criminal Minds,” “Glee” and “The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien”; in The Muppets, The Lone Ranger and Larry Gaye: Renegade Male Flight Attendant movies; in Rolling Stone, TV Guide, SPIN, Inc. and Vertical magazines; and on stage with STOMP, De La Guarda, Panic At The Disco and the Lalas Burlesque.

When she is not road-tripping to see her favorite heavy metal rock bands play live or rebuilding her 1965 Buick Riviera classic hot rod, Tonya Kay is seeking out organic farmers markets, sustainable vineyards and life-changing art. It is this renegade’s passion to shape reality, push evolution, exist in love and take the whole wide world along for the ride.


  1. Cristina on August 2, 2013 at 8:58 am

    I love your video and I really love your message — volunteer if you’re not working (and work could come of it!) I lived in Costa Rica for most of a year in 2009 in Samara on the Pacific coast and I’d ride my bike to the other playas early in the mornings. I once came upon the hatchery in Camaronal releasing baby turtles at dawn and it was amazing and beautiful. I would have volunteered with one of those orgs, but I was on a tight budget and could live cheaper on my own. I understand they make a bit of money from all the foreigners who come to “volunteer”, it just didn’t suit my style. I also wished more Ticos were involved. It’s their fabulous country, que no?

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