A multi-part series for the not-so-established actor hoping to improve their career.
Quite a while ago I addressed the topic of how actors should know whether to take an acting job. My favorite method is to answer 3 questions when making the decision: Is it good money? Would it better my career? Would I have fun? My belief is that if you can answer YES to 2 out of the 3, it is a good job for you! BUT, you can’t be asking yourself these questions after you have already been submitted, gone to the audition, callback, been put on avail, etc. At that point, it’s too late to be asking those questions… and several other important considerations that I will bring up today. Think these things through now, discuss with your Agent if you have one, know where you stand for yourself if you are submitting yourself to projects, and stick to your guns.
Commercial actors should never bend their morals and standards when submitting/auditioning/taking the job.
The “3 questions” aren’t the only questions to be asked when considering a job. Commercial actors need to decide ahead of time whether or not they are cool endorsing any product out there, or if there are some that are out of the question. Are you a vegetarian? Do you feel comfortable being on a Jack in the Box commercial, eating a chicken sandwich and spitting it out between takes? Or is that against what you believe in… and is it the case (I have got to ask) even for a potentially big payday? There are a lot of loan modification company commercials out there now. Depending on your thoughts and opinions on the company you may or may not want to be any part of it. There are commercials for violent video games. How about a military weapons manufacturer? Those come up, believe it or not! Have this conversation with your Agent so they know where you stand and won’t submit you on jobs with which you have moral issues. If an audition comes your way and you are unsure of the product/company, ASK or look it up on your own, before attending the audition. There are plenty of good reasons to do this, but specifically here, know ahead of time if you have an issue with the product/company and do not attend the audition. Otherwise, Murphy’s law says that the client will be all excited about you, and you not so excited about them, potentially leaving your Agent, casting, and production frustrated.
Think about potentially offensive subject matters. There are promos being cast for TV shows that you may be uncomfortable being a part of, or actors needed for sketch comedy pieces dealing with non-politically correct matters. It is ok to have convictions, just know what they are and stick to them from the beginning! Meaning: don’t submit yourself on jobs that you find offensive and disclose the information and refuse the job later. Get rid of the notion that you want to be seen by the Casting Director, not for the project at hand (you would never do the current job at hand!), but so that they will keep you in mind for the future. Do not be seen for a job you know you will not take for whatever reason! You risk making too many people mad… and as I have said before, Casting Directors have a long memory when an actor causes an upset.
You should also consider, if you are so fortunate, if you are willing to do any job at scale (SAG or AFTRA actors) or if you are a national-network-commercial-only type actor… and all other jobs would have to be overscale. There are some of you out there, and that decision can only be made by you in communication with your Agent. You may also want to reconsider your bottom line as the economy changes and keep discussing with your Agent. Perhaps you are at the opposite end of the spectrum. Are you SAG financial-core? Know the rate and conditions you need for a non-union job. Make sure that you and your Agent are in agreement with this!! I have seen too many fi-core actors crash a non-union audition, offered the role and either they had no idea of the rate (and weren’t cool with it), or their Agent wasn’t cool with it… and they turn down the job and make everyone mad. Avoid making this mistake. My suggestion for most of you in deciding the rate you are willing to work for should be done case-by-case. I stand by the “3 question” rule… say yes to 2 and you take it, which could mean a small payday at times. Imagine a spec spot being done by a well-known Commercial Director. For some of you, it would behoove you to do the job to increase your opportunities in the future, even if it’s a freebie.
The truth is, we are evolving human beings and so are the situations around us. Decide what your standards and morals are for commercial work and hold to it… but don’t forget to revisit and reconsider. If you are not represented, that’s the end of the process… if you have an Agent; constant communication on the topic is key to keep everyone on the same page.