Being a critic, and also having worked (VERY minorly) in the acting industry, I have met many people and have established contacts with actors, writers, directors, runners, stage techies, producers, and critics, many of whom have gone on to do great things. One of the things you find out fairly quickly, especially in training, is that everybody knows everybody in the entertainment industry. To become a big fish in a small pond, you need to remember that it’s essential to have a pretty good, professional, relationship with everyone you work with, or word will spread fairly quickly about your reputation, which could cause some significant problems for your career. The same can most likely be said in London, Broadway and Hollywood, I imagine word spreads reasonably quickly when someone gets called out for being rude to a colleague or even a fan.
This problem, I hope, has not affected myself, as I try to keep as professional a manner as I can, while training as an actor in college, on set as an extra, being a director recently in university, and of course while attending press evenings as a critic.
There have been times where I have heard of well-known stars in the industry of having a bad reputation, and also other points where I have witnessed people in training or even people in the industry, acting in a very unprofessional and unproductive manner. I have a few stories of my own, and from other people, regarding situations which include actions from people that are uncalled for, and have spread, causing the person in these stories, to have quite the reputation.
The only issue I remember from acting on stage is from when I was a teenager, in a pantomime with a professional youth theatre company. I very much enjoyed taking part in this production, it was fun, and I learned a lot from participating. However, backstage, there was a lot of pain caused by the principals mistreating the large ensemble. The director for this production was very professional; creatively, however, he did very much enthuse the youths who were principals, to believe they were the most important component of the show. This caused them to become pretty big headed, pushing ensemble off stage, having full-blown arguments with dressers and also even one of them confronting my friend in a very abusive manner, because she led the ensemble line on stage too quickly after this principal’s bow. Most of these principals have now gone onto study acting at college, university and drama school, I have since seen some of them at several networking events and also heard stories about how their work ethic has not really changed, they still have a pretty bad reputation, and this is before they have even entered the industry. My best advice is to respect those around you, if you are put in a principal role, don’t use it as a power grab, use it as a chance to get used to networking with all those on stage and off stage, plus setting an example for the professional artist you want to be.
As an extra I worked on a television show, it was the first job I had, which I would class as professional and in the industry. The television show its self used to be a childhood favourite of mine, so it was a delight to be working on the series. I had already worked on the show several times and was coming back, for what I think was my second last day of shooting. We were filming outside, and the scene in question was a fight scene. The director of this scene was in a foul mood. He was snapping at runners and make-up artists because they were taking too long, even though they were going very fast and only doing their jobs. We had a five-minute break after an hour of shooting, the director then came over to all the extras, and started screaming at us, saying we were too loud during the fight scene, even though previously we had been too quiet, according to him. He started cursing and swearing, telling us if we didn’t get it right, we would be all asked to leave the set and be blacklisted from working with this television channel again. Just before we started filming again, one of the assistant directors came up to the director and asked him a question about the camera angle, for this the director went ballistic! Literally screaming in the assistant director’s face, telling him “It doesn’t matter! Let’s just get on with this f**king shoot!” We were all horrified. When it came to the end of this scene, we went back inside to work with another director on another episode, we were followed by one of the assistant directors who also worked as a casting assistant for the extras. They apologised profusely and said that they would raise this matter with one of the producers and that we were guaranteed not to work with that director again if we wished to return. This director apparently had quite the reputation among the workers behind the scenes and the cast. I searched his name up just before writing this article, and surprisingly, he’s only worked on one project since. Word must have spread.
There are several stories I have heard regarding many famous faces in Scotland and the UK; however, there’s one story that I have heard from many, many people. And it was finally confirmed to be true by a friend who knows someone who worked on this show. There is one certain actor, who is very famous for being a much-loved character in a particular fantasy film franchise, I will let you guess which one. This actor was filming for a television show, and apparently, didn’t talk to any other actor, didn’t take the director’s notes, pushed make-up artists away from them, wouldn’t listen to costume assistants and also walked offset for lunch one day when they hadn’t even wrapped. I also found out that during this lunch, a family spotted this person, asked for a picture and the actor tried to square up to the father of the family. WOW. I took a little look into this person’s projects to see what’s lined up and surprise surprise, nothing. This person is a phenomenal actor; I genuinely was a fan before hearing about their behaviour on set; however, this true story, has most likely ruined their career.
Stories of people within the industry being kind and amazing also spread like wildfire. The main example of someone who is loved by everyone they work with is people like Johnny Beattie, a man who is a legend in Scottish Theatre. I worked with him in 2015 as an extra in a television show, he was hilarious, on and off camera, continuously cracking jokes. I also have worked with some amazing directors, actors and technicians (you all know who you are) through being in companies, university, and college. And I have also met several people through press evenings, networking events and by other means. All these great people I meet, I do recommend to others.
I have heard of critics giving bad reviews to cast members who have given a bad impression off stage. I don’t do that as I purely judge a production on talent and creativity. That being said, I have seen clashes backstage affecting onstage relationships, which I have taken stars away for.
The main thing I am trying to get at here is that don’t let your ego get in the way of your career, just remember that as an actor, director, musician, technician, runner or even a writer, you are selling yourself as a product, therefore if you carry baggage off stage, you’re not going to get hired. Especially if you have a reputation. So, if you’re in training, build these good relationships, not just with a select few, but with everyone you can, it’s vital. Networking is a huge part of landing a job nowadays. Cause one day, you could be desperate for work, and the one person you weren’t particularly nice to is the casting director for a great production you want to be in.
And if you are a big fish already, just remember, it’s a very small pond.
Written by Lewis C. Baird (Originally for OnStage Blog)