By: Caitlin O’Brient
Very recently I was given an amazing offer to work on a production of Guys & Dolls being produced by the former head of the theater program I graduated from.
Never in a million years did I think I would be stepping back into the shoes of Miss Adelaide this soon (after all, I’m only 24) and with many of the same creative team I worked with my senior year of college. I didn’t even have to audition—this was hands-down one of the coolest moments in my life thus far! I am saying a thousand Thank You’s for being given such an amazing opportunity.
As I reflect upon my recent good fortune, I got to thinking about the importance of the professional relationships in my life and the good habits I’ve developed that I think have helped me cultivate these relationships.
When I was younger I used to waste a lot of energy being bitter that other actors were getting cast over and over again with the same directors. I thought it was just favoritism. It seemed “SO unfair!” I never understood that this was the nature of our business. You actually get to choose who you work with, what a concept… I was just too inexperienced to understand that.
I mean, look at directors like Christopher Nolan. He continues to cast the same core group of actors: Cillian Murphy, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Christian Bale to name a few. They’re all VERY talented actors. But more importantly: Chris Nolan clearly loves working with them.
SO… here are a few things that I think have really helped me to stand out as a professional:
NEVER BURN YOUR BRIDGES
I thank my mother for beating this one into my brain as a kid…
The show business community is one of the smallest in the world. EVERYONE knows each other and they’re not afraid to talk. So be careful—don’t go pissing off the intern at the casting office or the tougher than nails stage manager or your professors in college. They’re all people who are there to help you in the long run. I vividly remember the head of our program at UM saying he received calls from CDs and agents in NY all the time about former students…
I know it can be hard if you disagree with someone (we’ve all suffered through community theater), but keep it to yourself and be respectful about your differences of opinion. You may end up learning something from these people and more importantly making a good contact.
FOCUS ON THE WORK AND THE WORK ALONE.
Acting is a job—plain and simple. Yes, it’s a lot of fun, but you’re still getting paid (hopefully) and you’d better deliver the goods. You’re there to forge relationships as well, but try to leave the partying at the door until you finish the run. I learned this one the hard way…
TRUST ME: You don’t want to have to ask your stage manager to leave a trash can right off stage just in case…
KEEP YOUR HEAD LOW AND DO WHAT YOU’VE GOT TO DO.
AKA: NO DRAMA. What is the point of creating it or getting involved in someone else’s? You’re just going to piss people off and in turn develop a bad reputation for being a pain in the ass to work with. Let’s be honest: it’s a waste of time and a HUGE energy drain. Leave your baggage at the door. Am I throwing in enough clichés for ya, yet?
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.
Your body is an instrument and it’s the only one you’ve got.
If you don’t get the proper rest, exercise, nutrients, warm-ups, etc., you WILL get sick and you won’t be able to do the job you were hired to do.
I also learned this one the hard way in college and it definitely bit me in the ass many a time until I buckled down and realized what was more important to me: my training (at the time) and my future.
I had a pretty horrific incident where I felt like I had to push through the sickness and developed pre-nodes. Not only did I feel like a complete jerk, but I ended up having to get scoped and do a ton of speech therapy. It wasn’t cheap and it wasn’t pleasant. Lesson learned!
If you can take good care of yourself and deliver the goods, people will know that you are reliable. Reliable is one of the BEST things you can be next to being talented.
KEEP AN OPEN MIND/KEEP LEARNING
I touched on this before, but it is so important that you always keep yourself open to learning. Just because you have talent, or a degree, or 10+ years of training does not make you an expert.
You’re really never finished learning and the minute you decide that you have learned everything you can from a person, you’re screwed. You might as well consider yourself dead inside.
Not only are you going to piss those people off who are trying to help you, but you’re closing yourself off to an amazing opportunity to grow as an actor and as a person.
If I had all the money in the world I’d be in class every day. Sadly I have to make do with reading lots of blogs, books, websites (I LOVE BACKSTAGE.COM), and watching a ton of theater, movies, TV, and so on.
A positive attitude = a fun person to work with. No one wants to hang around with a Debbie Downer. If you’re someone who’s fun to work with, you’re most likely going to get hired again.
I believe each of these things tie back into that important little word: Relationships. You never know if a friend or teacher might become a big producer someday and have a role that’s absolutely perfect for you that could launch your career. If you were a heinous bitch, you’re probably not going to get that call. AND you’ll have missed out on a great opportunity.