Perhaps still in the realms of obvious, first and foremost, a working actor knows how to interact with others in the business and how to behave on set and auditions. Actors who continue to get hired are actors who arrive on time, know their lines and know how to address each person on set. It is important to follow directions, not only when acting, but also when it comes to logistics like where to park and eat. This can sound very basic, but ignoring the right etiquette will be a definite deal breaker.
A professional actor knows how to audition. Okay, there is no infallible auditioning method that will land you every job, but that’s the point. In an audition, the casting director isn’t assessing your ability; he is assessing your suitability towards one particular character as imagined by the director. That’s something experienced actors come to understand. It’s not about seeking approval; it’s about making choices about the character and standing by those choices. A professional actor is grateful and enthusiastic about the chance to audition but he also displays certainty and confidence. Even if only for a short while, you are there to collaborate with the director and your opinion and choices matter. If you don’t get this one, there’s always the next!
A professional actor is always prepared. Along with being on time and knowing lines, it is incredibly important to bring the proper materials and information to auditions. You need to have professional looking headshots that follow the standard sizes and styles of the business. You need to have a quality reel that is professional and engaging. A professional actor will understand that these things are many times the first impressions that casting directors will get of them, and therefore need to be perfect. An amateur actor will make his own headshots and reel at home.
A professional actor understands that they are part of a project that is bigger than they are. Everyone on the film set is there to make the best possible project and that should be your main objective as well. When you make a choice, try to make a choice that benefits the project not solely you or your ego. Be positive, proactive, and nice to people. But also understand that people might not always be all “hugs and kisses” with you because, ultimately, they are there to get a job done. So don’t take it personal if people are a little cold, even in difficult situations like auditions. It’s great if you make friends, but most of all, the job should come first.
A professional actor knows his or her rights and makes sure that he or she is always treated with respect and in accordance with their contract. The contract that you sign doesn’t only bind you; it binds your employer as well. Things like the hours that you will work, the payment you will receive, and the specific benefits that come with the project should be agreed on beforehand through the use of a contract and you have every right to enforce your contract. Also, things like nudity and acts that can be deemed as sexual should be agreed on in the contract and the director does not have the right to tell you to do something that wasn’t agreed upon during the signing of the contract. The director doesn’t have the right to touch you and you should avoid any director who asks you to remove your clothes or do something you are uncomfortable with during the audition (unless of course such acts are specified in the casting call.) Some people will take advantage of their position and a professional actor knows to protect his or herself from questionable projects.
A professional actor has a clear understanding of his or her definition of success. What is it that you want out of your career? What is your ultimate goal? Many people seek fame and fortune, and those aren’t necessarily bad things to have. But many would argue that the most engaging and lasting actors are those who find success within the quality of their work. There will always be people who earn more than you and get more notoriety than you do. However, if you concentrate on always doing the best job you can do and elevating your craft to a higher level, success will be something that you can attain without the need to compare yourself with others, and your performances will be better as a result. Know where you want to go, and you’ll get there faster.
What behaviors or habits do you think separate a professional actor from an amateur? Please let us know in the comments below.