An Actor’s Advice: Staying Authentic and Overcoming Zoom Anxieties

Overcoming Zoom Anxieties

By Crystal Yu

Zoom me (zoom me) on the line, Zoom me, zoom me any, anytime.

“Yuck!  I hate it.  It is just so impersonal and unnatural!” a close friend of mine exclaimed when asked how she feels about all the Zoom meetings and auditions since COVID-19 began.  

“I stood in my living room and stared at my laptop for 45 minutes because the production team was running behind,” she continued. “Then without any notice, there they were, all 15 of them on my screen!  I was so caught off guard!”

My friend is not alone in her feelings.  I find it equally anxiety-inducing.  The sheer amount of time required to set up the ‘meeting room,’ for one: good lighting (I use two LED panel lights on separate stands to get even coverage), setting my iPad/laptop on a stand at eye level, and removing any distractions from the wall behind me. 

Then, there’s checking to make sure the link works, checking to make sure the Internet works… the list goes on!  And after all that, there’s the nagging worry of how to be authentic and establish a genuine connection with the other person when I am reduced to a pixelated floating bust on their screen.

“So much that is communicated in person is not tangible,” counsellor and psychotherapist Alan Bordeville explains. “Pheromones, energy, body language, subtle expressions, and we take all that in whether we realize it consciously or not.”  

I recently had a ‘chemistry read’ on Zoom with a fellow actor and I could not help but wonder, what chemistry?  I could not feel his presence or touch him.  There were four other executives lurking on call, scrutinizing our so-called chemistry.  While we worked well together (I was later offered the role), I felt it was not because we had wowed the ‘room’ with a spine-tingling romantic connection, but rather because we were both seasoned professionals.

However, being at home has been helpful in some ways. Speaking from experience with clients, Bordeville says that the comfort of being at home helps people “access the deeper emotions that they might not be able to access if they had taken a trip to [his] office.”  

So perhaps, I should give myself (and Zoom) a little more credit.  Yes, Zoom meetings, auditions and chemistry reads are awkward and scary, but conversely, offered some benefits.  I was not worried about running late, I did not have to wait in reception with other actors who were going up for the same role, and I did not have to attempt to reapply make-up in someone else’s bathroom.  I was prepared and in control of my environment, and that was quite empowering.

For anyone else who finds video conferencing challenging, WeAudition CEO and Co-founder Darren Darnborough has some suggestions.

“Don’t fight it,” he says. “One of the ways to reduce anxiety is to be prepared for all eventualities: know your lines, know your script, understand your set-up, have good quality equipment and a stable Internet connection’.  

What else can we do to reduce video-conferencing associated anxieties? 

Bordeville suggests turning off the notifications on your devices prior to a meeting so you can stay focused.  

“Get out and move your body–we are built to move and not sit in front of the computer all day!” he adds. “And deep breaths. Inhales for a count of six and exhales for six can help reduce cortisol levels in the body.”

So, what do I do if I get anxious again before my next Zoom meeting?  Don’t fight it. Take deep breaths.  Be prepared and find ways of reducing stress, such as dancing to Blondie and turning off my phone.  Most of all, I’ll remember that I’m in my element–empowered and professional, auditioning from the comfort of my own house.

About the Author

Crystal Yu is an actor, filmmaker, educator and is best known for her role as Dr Lily Chao in the BBC BAFTA award-winning medical drama Casualty. She is currently filming a Neil Gaiman project for Netflix, and recently featured in AMC’s Soulmates and HBO’s Industry. 

Her directorial debut, ‘Are You Sleeping?’ was recently nominated for Best Director Short film at the Unrestricted View Horror Film Festival.  Crystal is also one of the finalists for the 2020 Asian Women of Achievement Awards for her unwavering dedication to Arts and Culture.

crystal-yu.com

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