I chirp like a bird about the details of commercials. The wardrobe you should be wearing, the types you should have represented in your headshots, the research to do ahead of time, the copy, your audition time, listening, reading – the importance of the minutiae. The details will get you the callback, the details will book you the job. Attention to the details will win you the respect of the casting office. Sometimes the Small Picture (and by that I mean details) is a great place to focus. And sometimes, it can lead you astray…
Commercial actors should never lose track of the Big Picture.
The simple truth is a commercial actor’s ability to focus on the Small Picture (a.k.a. the details) without losing Big Picture momentum is essential. The Small Picture may get you some nice short term success. The Big Picture will keep you from big mistakes, from burning bridges. The Big Picture will help you make the decisions necessary to move forward long-term.
Small picture thinking says it’s great to go with the biggest and best commercial agency when given the opportunity, yes? Well, it may depend on who you are and where you are at in your career. When you’ve had little experience, haven’t joined the union, have a specific look or skill, etc., one of the biggie agencies may not be best for you. If you are thinking Big Picture, you may want to go with a smaller agent, get in front of casting directors on smaller, non-union jobs, get some experience with auditions and on set, then, after gaining experience and momentum, a switch (or NOT!) may be in order. A steady build in your commercial career could be a better option than going with a big commercial agent right off the bat and getting lost in the shuffle.
Has your agent or their assistant made you angry? Screwed something up? Small picture thinking says it will feel really good to give them a piece of your mind, or to have a serious talk about your boundaries or how you work, etc., but remembering the Big Picture may lead you to a different decision. Big Picture says that you are building a long-term relationship and it may be necessary to let it go. Surely every little thing doesn’t warrant a discussion and rarely can I think of a time when letting anyone “have it” is a good idea, Big Picture.
First of all, YOU GOT ONE! You got an audition! When you are focused on Small Picture frustrations of the commercial industry, it’s easy to forget what a big deal it is to get an audition appointment. You were chosen from hundreds to many thousands to be in the room. Don’t lose site of this Big Picture fact- find a way to be grateful, find a way to have this fact motivate you. Aren’t right for the role, you say? Small Picture thinking tells you to get annoyed with the waste of time, which will inevitably lead to you delivering a bad audition. Annoyed actors don’t book jobs. Big Picture tells you to give a fantastic audition and book the room. Make sure the casting office is so impressed they call you back to the studio for a role that would be right for you. Have you been waiting 50 minutes in the lobby? Is the lobby assistant being a jerk? Small Picture thinking says it may make you feel better to rally your fellow waiting actors to sign out and get the overtime owed to you at 61 minutes, thereby sticking it to the jerky lobby assistant/lame casting company. Big Picture thinking reminds you that the casting director actually has you for a full hour and it only hurts you to get irate about the wait at 50 minutes. Letting the jerk lobby assistant get under your skin just sabotages you in the room when you can’t shake the anger. Anyway, what’s the saying? You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Flies are pretty gross, but you catch my drift.
Spending money on headshots, wardrobe, classes, a reliable phone, wifi, reels, website, workshops, online actor profile monthly dues, etc. can get overwhelming. There are some of you out there that think you shouldn’t have to spend ANY money on your career, and that’s just plain crazy, but I do understand the frustration. I don’t like spending money on my business, either. What about when your tools are adequate? Why spend more money when your headshots from 4 years ago are “working,” and why take a class when you spent a zillion dollars on your B.F.A. in Acting already? Small Picture thinking says you’re doing enough, you’ve done enough. Big Picture says that you never stop investing in your career, there are always new people to meet, there is always something more you can be doing, and more often than not it will cost you some money. There are other driven actors that are setting the bar high. Think Big Picture and make the sacrifices necessary to have sharp tools; Big Picture, this is likely the right decision.
There will come a time when going out on auditions along with accepting the bookings for crappy jobs will come to an end. That will be a good day for you. However, many of you decide far, far too soon that you are too good for the crappy jobs. You are probably thinking Small Picture vs. Big Picture. Darn it. And let’s be clear, by “crappy job” I mean low pay for the most part. I guess that could mean anything from $100/day (more theatrical type jobs) to the usual non-union commercial with a lower than average day-rate and buyout, to a SAG job with industrial or internet usage. Really, it’s whatever crappy means to you. Small Picture, it takes a lot of time in travel, audition, travel (the travel goes on and on), callback, wardrobe and shoot. Is it worth the crappy rate even when you DO book the job? Do I need to remind you that there are many more reasons to show up to an audition/accept the booking on a job for more than just a paycheck? There are. Who might you meet? Casting director, director, producer, anyone on set – even other actors. You never know what might lead to something else. I always believe work begets work. It does for me. Would it be fun? Probably not the audition, but the shoot? Would it be fun to be on set? Would it further your career? Possibly. You might still want to consider those crappy jobs for a while, for Big Picture purposes, until you don’t have to. Again, that will be a good day. However, it’s a small group of actors who really belong in the “I only audition for big payday jobs.” If you have to think about whether that’s you, that’s not you, not yet.
Having a broad perspective in LIFE is wildly beneficial. Why wouldn’t it be in your acting career as well? Big Picture is good. Small Picture can be good for focusing on the details. Small picture is bad when it causes you to dwell on the frustrating aspects and to make snap decisions that can be a detriment to your career.
As much as humanly possible, clothe yourself in humility (come on, it’s sexy!) and summon gratitude at every possible moment. Use the Small Picture to your benefit; focus on those all-important details. Then, when frustrated or making the Big Decisions, make sure to check in with the Big Picture; I wholeheartedly believe you’ll be glad you did. I challenged myself with the same, daily. Let’s do it together.