How to decide if an acting project is right for you
There is one source that you need to go to when you are at that point of decision making when you’ve been offered a job, about whether to accept it, or to use the time to try and find something else that may be better. And that source is simply your own instinct.
Of course there’s going to be many other factors involved that you need to consider. Is it paid or not, will it be high profile, does the director, venue or other cast members have a great reputation – or a bad reputation; will it involved a big commitment, will it challenge you, will it be beneficial, financially or otherwise, potentially gaining you some exposure? All these questions should be considered, and for the most part they will determine whether a project is right for you or not.
There may be other factors you want to consider for your long term career as well. Are you predominantly a theatre actor who has hardly worked on screen and you want to get some camera experience? Then go for those short and feature film roles, and work your arse off at them. And remember when you’re on set why you are there, to play, to experiment, to learn and gain experience. Maybe you also need showreel material - another good reason accept some roles you may not otherwise accept. Or maybe you have enough showreel material for now – so it could be time to stop applying for one unpaid short film after another – your time may be better served broadening your work and spending your time chasing better paid or higher profile roles.
Also consider what kind of work you want to be involved in. If you want to do or get experienced in contemporary parts, then spend more time going for that – if you’re very experienced in Shakespeare but again want to broaden out, it may be tempting to always go for the classics, but unless they’re going to pay well, the benefits may not be there and you will just be ticking over.
If you haven’t worked for a while, accepting any show or short film that is offered to you can be very tempting. But if that show has a script which is dire, or you can not see it benefiting you in any way, my advice is to turn it down and go for something else. Working on a piece that is terrible is soul destroying, and there is always work to be applying for, and not working on something frees up your time to apply for other, more worthwhile things.
And of course be aware of well, bullshitters. There are plenty out there, and they tend to be more on the film than the theatre side. If it feels like someone is giving the wrong information, or not enough information, or isn’t being totally open about what a project will be, it’s because they are concealing something, so stay away. Also beware phrases like ‘we hope to,’ ‘we’re looking towards;’ things like that. ‘We’re expecting a lot of interest from TV companies,’ we hope to transfer,’ ‘we’re expecting great things for this project.’ I don’t know how many times I’ve heard and read these statements. We’re all hopeful of these things, but if you challenge the people who say these things and they can’t factually back it up, well, you know how you feel, and that feeling’s right – stay away. If they’re selling to you, then they need you more than you need them, so you have every right to challenge the information people are giving you.
But of course don’t go over the top with it. Have a healthy scepticism, but if things do feel right and the things they say are the right things, go with it until you feel its wrong. For my last job, I was promised a shoot in and around Venice, a classic jeep to drive in, production values, extras, and all food, travel, every expense catered for, and many more great things. They said all the right things and seemed like genuine people, but until you see it on set we’re never really sure are we? It turned out it was all true and much more, and it was the best, most professional, most fun experience I’ve ever had in my life, and I was so lucky to work with them.
So consider what you’re after, why, what the benefits are, and whether the people seem genuine or not. Then trust your instinct, and you should never go wrong.