According to Merriam-Webster:
rep·u·ta·tion noun [rep-yuh-tey-shuhn]
1 a : overall quality or character as seen or judged by people in general
b : recognition by other people of some characteristic or ability <has the reputation of being clever>
2: a place in public esteem or regard: good name <trying to protect his reputation>
Commercial actors should never underestimate the importance of guarding their (good) reputation.
One of my fundamental beliefs for actors is that they must guard their reputation… religiously, passionately, totally and completely, at all times. In an industry built on relationships, in a city (for me, specifically Los Angeles, but insert your own major market city here) where masses upon masses of talented people congregate with the same, and let’s face it… challenging goal as you, your reputation, many times, is a deciding factor in getting or losing the job. And, you should know you are building it daily with the big (obvious) and small (not so obvious) actions you take. How’s that for applying the pressure? Pursuing a career in this industry is not for the lazy or faint of heart.
Pre Audition. Before/while auditions are rolling in, no doubt there are many things actors do to help/harm their reputations with their agents. I am not an agent; therefore, I find it difficult to do anything but speculate. But it isn’t rocket science to know that your reputation with them is ridiculously important on the road to receiving regular auditions… and becoming a consistently working actor. From a casting director perspective, something I can speak about, actors are building (for good and for bad) their reputations with casting, before they ever walk in the door. Imagine what lying on your resume does to your reputation, confirming/not confirming your audition appointment at all or in a timely manner, calling the casting director for directions to the studio (let me be clear… a complete no-no), consistently asking for timeframes/never asking for timeframes, booking out/not booking out with your agent (leading to last minute cancels, or no cancellations), inappropriate/non professional headshots/great headshots, going over the casting director’s head to contact the producer or director about the job… I could go on. There are big and little things you do to build a good or not so good reputation, before you ever cross the threshold.
At the audition. The stakes go up in the “reputation building realm” at the audition. I still hear the rumor (and see it regularly played out) that actors can be lackadaisical about being on time to a commercial audition. It’s just a commercial after all… and no one really notices as long as you are there within the hour, right? Well, it pains me a little to say this could be true, occasionally. I can also say that you won’t get away with it forever, and it’s very likely noticed and noted (if just mentally) without you knowing it. Just because you weren’t lectured by the Casting Director for being late doesn’t mean your good name is still intact. A lack of a phone call to your Agent doesn’t mean your absence wasn’t a problem. Commercials are a whirlwind. There is no time to challenge an actor about their tardiness and inform them how it has negatively impacted the day… it’s a waste of breath. But, it’s highly likely, we notice. Simply put: on time, prepared (wardrobe and copy) and good-natured = good reputation. No show (gasp!), late, not looking like your headshot, wrong wardrobe, lying on tape about your skills, no prepared copy = bad reputation. I just cast a job where an actor did not book the job because they were late to the callback. When asked by the client whether or not they were late to the first call, my answer was yes. The assumption was the talent would be late to set, and the client went with someone else. Your reputation is established that fast.
On set. Being brilliant on set is perhaps the most effective way to secure future work. We all want to work with fantastic people we know, like and have worked with in the past. Proven actors (actors the director/production have worked with previously) are the preferred actors to have on set. It’s less risk and more fun. Being a jerk (yes… I’ll define) on set is perhaps the quickest way to ensure you won’t be hired back. Early arrival, rested, prepared, attentive, professional = good reputation. On time (which means late), inattentive/distracted, non approved friend visits, not easily found, needing repetitive direction, flirting with production/other actors, demanding/high maintenance = bad reputation (yes, that’s my “jerk on set” definition. It isn’t all-inclusive, but you get the idea). You all read last month’s column on the power of being nice… on set, be angelic. Again, on my last job, I witnessed an actor not get the job because the producer had him on set, previously, and he/she was flirting relentlessly, instead of focusing on the job at hand. The producer didn’t want to risk a repeat performance of the same behavior, so another actor was hired for the role in the commercial. I don’t need to say this decision represented a loss of many, many thousands of dollars for that actor.
Because I enjoy being positive, your good, GREAT reputation will positively influence your career every… single… day. True, I sited a couple of real examples of reputation from a negative standpoint. You should also know that I have been a witness for many actors who have been hired, as to the talent, kindness, professionalism they consistently show. Reputation is a serious factor in getting or losing the job. It’s up to you which way yours influences your career.
Guard your reputation… (in the spirit of keeping it simple, yet truthful) your good name is all you have.