Proactive – what’s too much?

talking actors

I got a little email recently from a little producer/director who wasn’t particularly pleased that I had emailed him. To put the following email excerpt (below) into context, I had spotted a really interesting non paid studio job that I really thought I might be right for. Granted it was a production email looking for a different role, but I honestly thought, wow I wonder if there’s a chance they have some smaller roles they might want to consider me for. I’d love to work with that producer and director. I rarely do this, unless I’m absolutely certain it’s the type of production that is likely to have my “type” in it. I’m even less likely to do it for a non paid job as I try to only do paid work. So my email wasn’t one of 20-50 I was sending out for the week. It was the only 1 was sending for the whole month.

Their passive aggressive email response went something along the lines of:

“I wonder, does this strategy ever work in your favour? I know it’s hard being an actor but if I’m looking for actors I advertise for actors. Wouldn’t it be better to spend your time emailing people who are casting on sites like [insert other casting sites]?”

Ouch huh! I mean, it was said in a nice enough manner but there was more before and after these three lines of text. And the saddest part was I took a while to write a very courteous, carefully considered response that was quite a few paragraphs long, and the person didn’t even reply. Interesting that they’d finished their email with an earnest comment about how they understand acting is hard and thought their feedback might be useful. But actually when I gave them feedback too, they must have been ‘too busy’ for it and didn’t return the courtesy with a “thanks for explaining” email.

photo by Milada VigerovaSo why do I highlight this in a B.A.B.E. post when I’m all about positivity, caring and sharing? Well for a number of reasons.

Firstly I took the email badly. I won’t lie. I was really hurt by it. They were basically slapping me in the face and saying, I’m not interested in you or your efforts to approach me. Get out of my face…but they were putting a little more chocolate frosting on top.

Secondly, I was anxious that I’d been black listed forever on their ‘never hire this actor’ list. Immediately my thoughts wandered to “I wonder if they have a database of actors who they keep on file called NEVER HIRE THEM”. Perhaps they are thinking – This actor has dared to express an interest in a project that we didn’t actually put a casting notice out for. Their genuine interest in our project can only mean one thing – they want to waste our precious time with their stupid little emails.

After I calmed myself with a cup of tea I approached my actor friend to discuss it. They’re much more established than I (even with my 10+ years of professional experience on film and television) and I thought they might be able to talk me through the scenario objectively and tell me if my impromptu email was out of line.

Their response was great…not because they agreed with me, but because they went one step further. Elaborating on the context of my futile attempt at being proactive with the producer by email and that producer’s reply, I asked them if I was out of line. They went on to explain that there is nothing wrong with expressing an interest in a project that you actually see merit in. Furthermore, in their own personal experience from their earlier years on set, Carey Mulligan was their runner and Carey used to do all manner of things to help everyone out and she used to contact production company after production company over and over again to get noticed and to get work. And it paid off for her. It lead to her getting other roles, be that in production, or acting, and then more. And well…the rest is history.

If Carey Mulligan can do it, then I think I can too.

I’ve riled one person in the grand scheme of things, but it was out of a place of doing something that I genuinely thought was a good idea. I wasn’t trying to be obnoxious or annoying, I was trying to add value to a production that I thought sounded amazing. I wasn’t emailing to say I fit the role of the Chinese grandad who was 5 foot tall. I was suggesting that their production sounded ace and while they may have already cast it I would love to be considered for smaller roles, or future productions.

But there’s an even bigger message in this little anecdote. We all get knocks and bumps – see my ‘I got dumped‘ article. It is the usual part of this industry. There’ll always be someone wanting to kick you in the shins for every two who are singing your praises. The way you handle it, is what makes the difference. If you are all about taking strides towards your dream job, then you have to go understand that not everyone will see it the same way as you. We have to manage the ebbs and flows of this crazy industry. We have to adjust our moves to accommodate the changes in technology, new directors, different arts cutbacks, opportunities, lack of opportunities, resistance to change, the ever increasing number of actors trying to make it, the list goes on.

And if we have friends in the industry who we trust to get another perspective on how we do things, all the better.

So was I too proactive? I don’t think so. But I guess we are always learning.

Next week I would like to elaborate on some ways to find castings and to reach out appropriately to secure more auditions, opportunities and contacts. Stay tuned B.A.B.E.s.

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