by Casting Director, Laurie Records
…feel that a past “actor faux pas” has caused irreparable damage to their career.
Have you ever attended a class or seminar, talked to a mentor or read this (or any other) column and felt the “uh-oh” in the pit of your stomach? The uh-oh that originates from the recognition you’ve made some mistakes or missteps in the past that you fear may be following you in your career. Did you read last month’s column about reputation and have the not-so-great realization that your reputation may not be what you want it to be with some of the industry professionals you’ve encountered? I received an email from an actor with this very concern. Obviously there are no absolute answers on this topic, but I can certainly give the world according to Laurie (and let’s face it, that’s what you always get reading this column)… so let’s get to it.
Commercial actors should never believe that their past missteps have ruined their career.
There is always hope, even if you have made an actor faux pas or two in the past. Here are a few things to consider:
*Actor offenses are not all equal. I have always said that Casting Directors (and other industry professionals) have a long memory when wronged by an actor. I stand by this statement. Am I pouring salt into the wound? Keep reading. I believe, often times, the little offenses (and certainly many of them are) do not justify nor come with a long-term grudge. Arriving late to an audition or being 10 lbs heavier than your headshot doesn’t rank in the same realm as embarrassing a Casting Director in front of their client or lying about your conflicts. If you’ve been feeling anxiety about the little mistakes you believe you’ve made, take a deep breath. If you’ve made some big daddy errors, learn from it, don’t do it again and move on.
*There is a difference between “naïve mistakes” and disrespectful choices. I run the risk of sounding like Ms. Kumbaya when I say Maya Angelou’s quote applies here, “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” Stop kicking yourself for past naïveté. But, don’t mistake this as an excuse to remain ill informed. You are absolutely responsible for knowing the in’s and out’s of the commercial world. You are responsible for your own lack of knowledge. So learn as much as humanly possible about the commercial process and all the do’s and don’ts… and let the past stupid mistakes go, with a commitment to not repeat. If you believe yourself to fall into the disrespectful category, you may want to ponder the reasons you jump to disrespect when irritated, nervous or uncomfortable… and find your inner “nice”. No one, including industry professionals, likes a disrespectful person. When you feel like you are being treated less than respectfully at a session, and certainly this happens, call your agent… or better yet, rise above and be the better person on your own. There is no long list of disrespectful commercial actors who are successful commercial actors. If you are a disrespectful actor, if only from time to time, fix it.
*Apologize. A relationship with an industry pro isn’t much different than the other relationships in your life. If you have committed a breach of etiquette, apologize. If you lost your cool in the lobby, express a little remorse. Actors (people!) so rarely apologize, I would think it would be highly effective. It has been for me. If you are walking out of an audition knowing you conducted yourself inappropriately, turn around and say something. Bring in a letter or send an email the next day. You are human. If you screw up, say you are sorry and be on your best behavior in the future. If the missteps were in the distant past, my gut says to let it go, but use your discretion. If you feel an apology is appropriate, I certainly don’t want to be the one to tell you it isn’t.
*Onwards and upwards. All you can be is the best you can be from here on out. A burnt bridge is a burnt bridge and there may be little to nothing you can do to salvage it. I’m a huge believer in learning from your mistakes… and an even bigger believer in learning from other people’s mistakes. So do that… but don’t spend all your time looking back with regret. Keep the focus forward. Control what you can control and put one foot in front of the other and continue in a forward motion.
*Win over a new set of industry professionals. If you find yourself with some irreparable relationships with industry professionals, nurture some new relationships. This can be difficult in a small market, but it’s a very viable option in a large market. No doubt there are some well-established industry professionals who do not know you. There are also new, up and coming professionals coming up the ranks every day. In the large markets, you are actually able to chalk up the losses of your naïve or angry actor yesterdays and create new and improved relationships with other equally fantastic industry professionals. You can cut your losses and begin again with others. Lucky you.
Let me be clear, I advocate actors be the definition of perfection in the way they conduct themselves with industry professionals at all times. From day one. This column is for those of you who have unknowingly made mistakes in the past, had a change in overall attitude and are nervous of the damage you have already done, and for those who were once misled enough to think you could get away with doing whatever you want. There is hope. Do what you can do and keep moving forward. You will rebuild a new and better reputation with each and every day you work hard, are respectful of the process and kind to the people involved. Throw some talent in the mix and you will be unstoppable.