Skilling up actors for the long haul

A new website designed to help actors plan and prepare for a long-term career has been launched in Sydney.

Australia’s first online career-longevity resource for young and aspiring professional actors has been launched in Sydney.

The free website, called The Long Haul, is designed to be accessible on all devices and covers such topics as working with agents and agencies, coping with rejection, developing positive relationships with peers and colleagues, financial advice, and good mental health and wellbeing.

The Long Haul is the brainchild of actor Rowan Chapman, who graduated from the QUT acting program in 2015.

‘The website is there to arm you with the best survival tactics possible to help you make a career in the acting industry,’ he told ArtsHub.

The idea for The Long Haul grew out of Chapman’s own personal experiences as a student at QUT. ‘There’s an inevitable existential crisis moment when you get halfway through third year, and you realise, “Oh my goodness, all this wonderful bubble-wrap and support and the frameworks that tell you what to do and where to be … it’s all going to fall away in a couple of months.” You’re going to be out there in the big bad biz by yourself. So what are you going to do about it?’ he explained.

‘I thought, well, forewarned is forewarned so I went away to the QUT library to do some research.’

Much of the material Chapman found around planning for career longevity was either out of date or too US and UK-centric.

‘So I threw my hat in the ring at the end of the year for the Jennifer Blocksidge Memorial Scholarship, which tasks the recipient with creating a resource that benefits the wider acting community. And surprise, surprise I got it – and four years later here we are having this conversation.’

The website’s content and research has been generated and vetted over four years by over 150 industry professionals, allied health professionals and mental health specialists across every state in Australia and overseas.

‘People were really happy to chip in, to be a sounding board, to give information – and that’s across a whole array of experiences and industry roles which just makes the resource even stronger,’ Chapman said.

‘And don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all great feedback! I’d go out there with content and bounce it off someone who’s a really well-known figurehead or someone with a lot of experience in the industry and I’d cop an earful. I’d be like “Have I done the wrong thing?” and they’d say “No, you just need to tweak this or that.” It wasn’t always positive feedback, it was negative as well, but either way it strengthened the resource,’ he added.

Actor Rowan Chapman is the creator of website The Long Haul. Photo credit: Sally Flegg Photography.

A survival guide and manual for working as an actor, the site has a strong focus on mental health and maintaining a healthy creative mindset, while its content is presented simply, directly and clearly, across a broad range of topics.

‘Right from the outset I was very aware that this would be a dense resource that was going to be aimed at people … with an attention span of 15 seconds, so I needed to accommodate all kinds of readership and all kinds of devices,’ said Chapman.

‘Obviously there are people who like to read and they just want a sequential, chapter by chapter resource. And it’s been designed so you can do that.

‘There are other people who like to go from back to front and read a smidgin from this chapter and a smidgin from that chapter, and we’ve tried to accommodate that as well with links within the chapters themselves in each section, as well as to other parts of the site.

‘And of course there are also the people who are like, “Too long, didn’t read – give me a summary,” so we’ve tried to accommodate that too,’ he continued.

‘Technically, if you wanted to, you could read the entire site on your smartwatch letter by letter but obviously, the bigger the screen the more user-friendly the experience is going to be. So we’ve built it for all devices and all readership types – we hope!’

The Long Haul is now live.

Richard Watts is ArtsHub's National Performing Arts Editor; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on Three Triple R FM, and serves as the Chair of La Mama Theatre's volunteer Committee of Management. Richard is a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and was awarded the status of Melbourne Fringe Living Legend in 2017. In 2020 he was awarded the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards' Facilitator's Prize. Most recently, Richard was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Green Room Awards Association in June 2021. Follow him on Twitter: @richardthewatts