In 2015, I teamed up with Rob Margolies and Jenny Sciarra of Different Duck Films to create a 12 episode web series called “Fully Engaged.” In case you couldn’t tell from the title, it’s a comedic series about a couple that gets engaged and has to plan their wedding amidst the insanity that is wedding culture today.
The experience was a whirlwind of incredible highs, heartbreaking lows, and lots of creative firsts. I learned a lot really really fast. One of the most eye-opening parts of the experience was working with actors from the other side of production.
As actors, we’ve all heard the horror stories from casting directors about how crazy or weird or inappropriate actors are. But until you are on the receiving end of sketchy guy messaging you his headshot or following you into the bathroom with it, you don’t really internalize what this all means.
So, as a service to my fellow actors, I’m going to break it down for you real simple.
Here at the top 3 ways that actors shoot themselves in the foot:
- Check your energy at the audition. Let me begin by saying I GET IT. I am you. I am that actor who awkwardly shuffles around the sign-in sheet so she can start a conversation with the casting assistant. I am that actor who runs back into the room because GODDAMNIT I JUST FIGURED OUT THE PERFECT WAY TO SAY THAT LINE. I am that actor who puts her hand out for a handshake even though I’ve been told a hundred times not to do that. I have done all of these insane things and more. On one hand, I think it’s very unfair to fault actors for this behavior. We are the pond scum of the industry and everyone tells us the only way to succeed is by standing out. So it makes perfect sense that we would develop this strange desperation that seeps out of our pores onto everyone around us. The problem is that even if it’s justified, it’s not doing us any good. I’m a firm believer that the most effective way to rid ourselves of that desperation is to make mistakes. To feel that shame and embarrassment when you know you’ve done something super weird and inappropriate, to take that horrible feeling in and remember it for next time. In my experience, that’s the best way to learn how to be that chill, confident actor that everyone wants to work with.
- Self-tape madness. Yes, we all know the face of the industry is changing and we can all be expected to be acting via holograms in the next 5 years. This change has some huge advantages for actors and some massive downsides. The plus is that we can be considered for roles that we otherwise would have missed out on due to location. Now we don’t necessarily have to live in fear that every time we book a non-refundable 3 day weekend-getaway, the audition of a lifetime will drop into our laps that Thursday at 6pm. However, if we wan to take advantage of this amazing new industry standard, we have to know how to do it properly. That means sending tapes via downloadable links, keeping them private or password protected, not uploading them to YouTube, and most important, MAKE SURE THEY OPEN!
- Be prepared and be flexible. Ok, be prepared: Duh! Every actor knows that you have to come to set with your costumes neatly ironed and your tearstick on hand! But what all actors don’t know is that it is equally important to be flexible. In fact, some might say that being prepared is what allows us to be flexible on set, so they kind of go hand in hand. Nothing is more disruptive to a set than an actress who can’t take direction because the way she memorized her lines is so deeply ingrained in her mind. Or an actor who gets visibly frustrated because his call time or location changed last minute. Or an actress who just won’t take off her shirt! Haha just kidding about that last one. But the point is that you will make a wonderful impression on everyone involved if you can both say your lines exactly as written and throw them out the window per the director’s request.
Erika Robel is an NYC based actor, writer, and producer. You may recognize her from NBC’s “The Blacklist,” on which she had a co-starring role, or from the various independent film and theatre projects she has worked on over the years. In 2014, she got engaged to her real-life Danny and quickly realized that her experience with the wedding industrial complex was too funny not to share. For more info about Erika and to watch episodes of ‘Fully Engaged’, you can go to fullyengagedseries.com