I spend a lot of time talking about actor tools and how they play an essential role in commercial success. There’s training, headshots, special skills, the resume, and agents (to name a few) that should be consistently razor sharp. I’m also a big advocate of extreme professionalism. Arriving on time, prepared, and in proper wardrobe seems easy enough, but actually isn’t always a given with commercial actors. But in the end, while working on consistency in all of these wildly important things, if an actor can sprinkle kindness on everything they do in the industry, they may see results that can’t be imagined.
Commercial actors should never underestimate the power and effectiveness of being kind.
If you’ve been following me for awhile, you know this isn’t the first time I’ve taken on the topic of kindness—it’s a big one for me. I value kindness in people and especially actors. I don’t want to take a political turn in any way, but I’m feeling the importance of showing kindness is growing daily all around the world, and in our commercial industry. And frankly, there are a lot of not-kind moments that can and do happen in commercials.
Let’s tackle the hardest one first . . .
- Be kind to those in power who are not kind to you. I’ve been in and around the commercial industry for quite some time and let me tell you, there are some commercial casting directors who yell—some regularly and some occasionally (and yes, some none at all, thank goodness). If you haven’t been the direct recipient of the rage of a casting director, it’s likely you’ve dealt with the aftermath when the assistant (who has just been yelled at) takes it out on you. There are times assistants get stressed and short due to session or lobby drama, and there are others who simply like to throw their power around. They are out there. I’m sure there are many shouting, “Amen!” right now. I’m not defending poor behavior of casting professionals, but I absolutely am advocating kindness towards them—the “kill ‘em with kindness” variety if you can muster it. You may have a right to make a scene of your own, or you may have the right to report the offender. But what if you diffuse the situation with kindness instead? What if you were the best person you could be in the face of being treated poorly? The lobby (not to mention the industry as a whole) may be a better place to be if everyone took that approach. And you would very likely be remembered in the best way, for taking the high road. You want to be known as one of those actors.
- Be kind to your agent. As hard as it may be to believe/remember, agents are human. They, like casting folk, are also capable of losing their cool. They make mistakes big and small. They may deal with you harshly when it seems out of proportion to your offense, if there even was any. Sometimes things get crazy. What if you commit to kindness? Your reaction can and will alter a tense situation. It’s hard to be terrible to someone who responds with kindness and respect. There are times, of course, when it’s right to leave your agent, just like there are times that it’s right for them to drop you. This is business and part of it. But when you lead with kindness, there will never be a burnt bridge—and that’s a great thing.
- Be kind to fellow actors. Uh oh. I’m changing my mind. This one is the hardest. Be kind to actors that are fi-core or boisterous work-only-union actors—and by this I mean the ones that have the opposite opinion to yours. I’m not saying you need to convert to their way of thinking, but there’s no reason not to be kind and respectful. Kindness could be the first step to greater understanding of both sides of this issue. Be kind to the actors with attitude, ones that are more successful than you and far from gracious about it. Be kind to the ones you are jealous of. Ooof. There’s always an annoying actor in the lobby. Ones that are going over the copy out loud, doing warm up exercises or demanding to be seen RIGHT NOW, ahead of countless others who have been patiently waiting. The annoying actor who brought all the neighbor kids, or who brought their own kids who should have been left home with a sitter. The overly chatty, braggy ones. The cold ones. Be kind to the actor who pushes your buttons, whatever those buttons may be. Yep, you might want to pull out the ‘ol “kill ‘em with kindness” routine again.
- Be kind online. People can be ugly online and actors are no exception. Take care when leaving comments on blogs or participating in online actor forums. Do this because it’s the right thing to do, but if you need more incentive, remember that casting professionals may catch a glimpse. If you are “friends” with casting professionals and you are being rude online, it could be a problem. We wouldn’t want you to be a jerk on set, and it isn’t a big leap to think you might be if it comes easy to you online. We rarely lack options when deciding who to call in. There are lots of talented actors out there, and it’s usually an option to call in the talented and kind actors. Be one of those.
If you are feeling put-off that I’m not calling for agents, casting directors and staff to kindness, I’d be happy to, but this column isn’t for them, it’s for you. We all need to sign up to be kind for this to work, but the kindness of actors will spread. It works like that. Why not be at the front of the movement? It would be inspiring and impressive.
What are the real results when you are a kind (and talented, yes!) actor? You will be called in more. CDs usually have that luxury. And the opposite is true—actors who act like jerks are called in less.
Personally, I believe leading with kindness will help with bitterness, which is a huge thing to battle as an actor, with few clear solutions. Less insecurity will come with being kind. Surely the benefits are endless. Our commercial world will be a better place to be and so will the world around us. Viva the kindness revolution!
**Want to take a 4-week Commercial Class with Laurie Records? Check it out and sign up now at: www.laurierecordscasting.com.**