Advice for the week: Honesty is not always the best policy.

I have a friend who once told a very powerful casting director that he would not be able to attend a call-back (or it may even have been a booking, I don’t remember the details) because he was a bartender and the date of said conflict was St Patricks Day – which was the biggest day of the year for his bar. And he didn’t want to miss the mounds of cash he’d make working it.

Big Mistake.

Why?

Because in that one, simple maneuver he communicated to the casting director that bar-tending was more important than acting. Which makes him a risky, even pointless, investment. And a casting director (or an agent, or anyone in the industry for that matter) has a hard time backing a horse that may or may not leave the box when the gun is fired.

But what should he have done in that situation?

For my money, I suggest that he should have told a white lie and said that he had another booking. That, or done what he could to get out of the bar gig for an hour or two. But he should not have mentioned the bar or the fact that his conflict involved his day job at all.

Now, I strive to be someone who speaks honestly and conducts myself with integrity. But every so often a situation like this arises and it challenges my ideals.

One thing I’ve learned in this industry is that if you come across as someone who is not completely and utterly invested in being an actor, you won’t get very far. Every agent I have ever met with has stated “If I call you in for a job I need you to be available. Every time.” If you choose your survival job over any work presented to you by the industry you are directly communicating that your priority is something other than being a working actor.

But, does that mean that we have to ditch our day-jobs for every single opportunity that arises?

I don’t think so.

What agents request of us is availability. By the time an agent calls you in for an audition, there are many wheels already set in motion, so to turn the audition down, you are communicating to the casting director that your agent doesn’t know your schedule. And it can make the agent look bad. A simple way around this is to “Book Out” or send upcoming conflicts to your agent (I’ve written extensively about Booking Out with your agent and managing your schedule as an actor previously. Follow the links for more info). Every so often, though, unforeseen situations arise and you are forced to chose between your survival job and an audition/call back/booking. And, in some cases, you may have to choose your job. Which, let’s be honest, in the current, financial climate in America, can sometimes be the smarter choice.

And I’m all for it. After all, it’s your life. You have to live with the choices you make and it’s you, not your agent, who has to pay your landlord at the beginning of the next month.

What I will say, though, and I want your undivided attention here, is that you NEVER, EVER TELL YOUR AGENT/CASTING DIRECTOR/DIRECTOR/PRODUCER/ANYONE-IN-THE-INDUSTRY THAT YOU CANNOT DO AN AUDITION/CALLBACK/JOB BECAUSE OF YOUR SURVIVAL JOB.

EVER.

You do not need to tell an outright lie, either. But, in my experience, the less information the better.

I refer to everything I do whether it is an acting job or anything else, as “a booking.” Plain and simple. An agent/casting director is not really permitted to ask for – and you are not obliged to divulge in – the specifics. An agent WANTS you to book work (preferably for them so that they can make their commission) so when you say you have a booking it communicates that you are a viable actor and that you can make them money. It is a subliminal message that only helps your trajectory as a money-making actor.

In the meantime, I want to close by saying that if you find yourself in this situation a lot then you may need to take a look at your priorities. This is a fiercely competitive industry. If you are not serious about it and are not giving 110% of your energy to it, stop wasting yours and other peoples time. Find something else to do. It’ll make everyone happier in the long run.

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About The NYC Actor

Angela Dee is a professional actress working in Film, Theatre, TV, Commercials and Voiceovers. She currently lives in New York. www.angeladee.com

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