I know it may seem a bit simplistic to write a short article about something as weighty as this, but there are some truths that I have seen over and over in the decades that I've been in this business. Take them or leave them, here are a few!
1. Live within or beneath your means. Despite what our society tells us, external things do not equal success. I know that many of you are responsibly doing the best that you can just to make ends meet, but I also see many actors forced to make career decisions based on the fact that they have voluntarily painted themselves into a financial corner. Most of you want the job badly enough as it is, but when you need the job in order to pay a Visa bill that's racked up with things that you knew were beyond your means, you've now gone from a place of "want" to "desperation." This is rarely the best state of mind with which to walk into an audition. I'm not saying you should deprive yourself, but if your peace of mind is important to you and if you have a choice, avoid renting or buying anything that you can't afford. Survival jobs are a fact of life, but there are all kinds. Overspending can force you into the kind of survival job that interferes with auditioning or taking an acting job. Remember your true goals! Keep a positive attitude about your talent and how it will one day afford you everything you want, but don't screw yourself in the meantime! Toys, gadgets, and expensive living situations for an actor are affordable not only according to your current financial state but to your future financial state as well. How secure are you about tomorrow? I've seen actors get a dream job and the first thing they do is go out and buy a crazy-expensive house. Not everyone is equipped to handle a first-time windfall of cash. The assumption is that now you've "made it" and the money and the jobs won't ever stop. Which brings me to the next tip....
2. Don’t assume anything. You can get a pilot, but that doesn't mean that it will be picked up. Your pilot can get picked up, but that doesn't mean that you necessarily will be—hello recasting! You can be on a picked-up series that's a sure-fire hit and then it gets yanked after six episodes. You can land a role in a big budget feature with huge stars, but there are no guarantees. There's a long list of these films that lasted two days and are now forgotten. On the other hand, don't assume that this little screenplay reading or that humble workshop isn't worth your time. Sometimes the projects that start out very small can end up very, very big. This is a crazy, wonderful business with very high highs and very low lows, but even the most experienced of us don't have a crystal ball that can always accurately predict which way the wind will blow. Enjoy every day and the adventure that it brings. The outcome is merely an afterthought.
3. Don’t take anyone for granted. Today's casting assistant is tomorrow's casting director. The front desk receptionist at an agent's office may be on track to becoming an assistant and then an agent. The grip or production assistant on a set can—and probably will—talk about the actors. I have seen actors acquire a bad reputation because of their rude behavior towards people that they perceived to be "inconsequential." No one in life is inconsequential. If you don't know that by now, please get your head out of that dark place as soon as possible! Anyone you meet in this business may become someone that you'll need someday, but being a considerate person should never be part of a strategy. Do you want to live the best life possible? Show kindness and respect to everyone that you encounter regardless of anything that they may or may not ever be able to do for you.
Approach everything with grace and treat everyone with dignity. This is arguably the most important life lesson that anyone can learn and, in my opinion, it’s one of the keys to a happy, peaceful, and productive life.
Marci Phillips is the Executive Director of ABC Casting. The opinions expressed in this article belong solely to Marci Phillips and do not necessarily reflect the views or endorsement of ABC, Disney or any of its subsidiaries. Marci is the author of “The Present Actor – A Practical and Spiritual Guideline to Help You Enjoy the Ride” available on Amazon.com.