…neglect their own responsibility to reason through industry advice.
I have found myself saying, “It’s a good time to be an actor,” a lot lately. When I say this, I am most often referring to the amount of proactive things YOU can do, the ample opportunities available to increase your knowledge and increasing ways to build and maintain relationships, which were not so prevalent in the past. The playing field has been leveled in many ways over recent years. But with these changes and ample access to information, comes great responsibility as well. Personal responsibility.
Commercial actors should never forget that, in the end, it’s their responsibility to reason through the industry information they have received, before acting on it.
You are all too aware of the fact that there is no one-way, no one path to success in commercials nor the business as a whole. There are no absolutes. This is a bold statement, coming from me, the author of a column including “ACTORS SHOULD NEVER” in the title. In the age where information is plentiful, including industry information, an actor should be discerning and dissect industry tidbits before acting on them.
Some things to consider…
Who is dispensing the industry advice you are taking into consideration? Is it a fellow Actor? An Agent? A Coach? A Casting Director? An inspirational actor Guru? Your Mom and Dad? All of these have potential to be fantastic resources to draw from (with the possible exception of the parental units), but it is imperative that you consider the source, therefore, understanding the angle from which they speak. We all DO have an angle. I speak from a casting angle… therefore, you will be more likely to hear conditions when actors should consider acting “for free” from me than you would from an agent. An agent may be more likely to have a strict monetary stance on when to take a role. An Actor or Coach may suggest going to any possible audition for the experience, when an Agent or CD would suggest only when willing/able to accept the role. With topics like signing out after an audition, Casting Directors, Agents, Actors, etc. will cover a whole spectrum of opinions. I can’t cover every person delivering industry info nor all topics, just know that everyone has an angle and always comb through info with that in mind.
Questions to ask yourself:
Is the industry pro speaking from a theatrical or commercial standpoint? There are some similarities between the commercial and theatrical world, but much more often, there are big differences, like apples and oranges – BIG. What might be a steadfast rule in one realm could be completely different in the other. The times my thoughts have been called into question have been when I was speaking commercially and an actor was thinking/wanting to apply theatrically. There is some crossover… but many more differences. Another layer to add… are you dealing with the indie world, or with big budget production?
Is the industry pro from a big or small market? Which one? Even large markets have nuances that separate one from another. When comparing large markets to small markets, there can be huge differences. I say, take the info in… but make sure you know where to file it.
How long has the expert been in the business? Immediately, I think we rush to “the longer, the better” as a rule of thumb. I would say, yes and no. People who have been acting, casting, coaching, agent-ing in the business for a long time are a wealth of knowledge… but another thing to consider is their level of involvement, currently. The industry is ever evolving. When the “expert” had great success years ago, but has been coaching for the last 10 years, has had someone else running the bulk of the business or even been completely out of it for a while… consider what tidbits you take away. Technique? Great! Pointers on business of acting aspects? Perhaps not. They may not be in touch with the current ways of the industry, and more importantly, may not even know it.
Other things to consider:
Where are you in YOUR career? When you are new to the business, have had a little success, have had moderate success, are going great guns, mounting a comeback… each will lead you to make different choices. So when you hear someone say that actors should absolutely never work for free (for example), you may want to evaluate your own situation before jumping on the bandwagon. There are no absolutes in this business! Do not be coerced into making harmful decisions in your career by someone who does not have your best interest and intimate knowledge of your career in mind.
Your goals. I think the general assumption is that actors want to be movie stars and each and every thing you do should be geared towards inching you to that big movie in the sky. This is not always the case. Some of you (certainly reading this column, in particular) have commercial goals, as well. When listening to someone speak of putting together a reel (for example), they likely won’t be speaking to a reel geared towards securing commercial representation or furthering your commercial cause. It’s just something to keep in mind.
Your strengths. When you receive a suggestion that is not on your list of strengths or out of your comfort zone, proceed with caution. If writing a witty cover letter is not your strong suit, you don’t have to rush your attempt and get it out the door. You can always take note, and save for a later date. If 140 characters are more your speed, start with networking à la Twitter. You know yourself better than the industry person dispensing ideas. Begin with the ones that draw on your strengths and chip away at the ones that will be more of a challenge.
The info may be garbage. Every once in a blue moon, a well-respected industry pro will throw out BAD information. Blindly taking and acting on advice, even from professionals, can be risky. Listening to your gut when you get a funny feeling and getting a second opinion is never a terrible idea. If it seems too good to be true, it is.
In the end, educating yourself and staying current in the biz will only lead you to make solid decisions when it comes to your career. You can’t take everything one person (or lots and lots of people!) says to be true FOR YOU, not matter how experienced they are. Evaluate information, consider the angle, and think it through (!) before acting on it.