It was 1999. I was an actor in Los Angeles. Having been burned by “golden handcuffs” earlier that decade when I first moved to Hollywood, I knew this time out, I’d only ever cobble together “crap jobs” that would allow me to pursue my passion as an actor.
I regularly picked up Dramalogue/Back Stage West (now Backstage) and when, among the casting notices in the classifieds was an ad for a floater/temp at the paper, I faxed over my resume because, what the hell, right? Another way to make a few bucks a week so I could keep auditioning on-camera, taking classes, and doing plays.
What on Earth would my life look like had I not seen that ad? Faxed over my resume? Said yes to covering a desk on a day that the editor in chief just happened to need someone to turn a list of info into a small article?
Because from that one article, I was offered the best actor-on-the-hustle job possible: Go interview all the casting directors who WON’T SEE YOU if you show up as an actor, but if you show up as a reporter? They’ll welcome you in. Ask you to stay for hours, observing their process. Answer all your questions. Then you’ll write it all up. Tens of thousands of actors per week will read it. You’ll get paid for this. And you’ll retain your rights to the material.
Best. Actor. Job. Ever.
Except it didn’t take long for actor me to realize that writer me was WAY more successful, way faster… and frankly, I like success. The struggle is overrated. And since I was building relationships with all the casting directors anyway, why NOT lean into a creative outlet that was rewarding me way more richly and more quickly than acting ever had?!?
When I only had a handful of casting director interviews under my belt, actors started writing in each week, asking for “the rules.” They’d point out that THIS casting director says demo reels can be three minutes long, but THAT casting director says never have a demo reel longer than 90 seconds. “Which is it, Bonnie? What’s the rule?”
Ah, artists. You reject any career path that has linear progression or set benchmarks and then you beg for the rules of being an artist. I get it! It’s no fun to color outside the lines if you don’t know where the lines are. 😉
But these questions that kept coming, they gave me new ways of shaping my interviews with casting directors. No longer was I going in to do an interview with ONE person; I was gathering data for these “rules.” Because even in a reality for which there are few rules, with enough data, you can track enough patterns to reasonably predict how things are gonna go down when you do certain stuff.
Cause and effect. Choices and consequences. Actions and reactions.
And in a business where there’s little that makes artists feel in control, this is some empowering shit.
On May 1, 2019, we kick off what we’re calling SMF-mAy. Self-Management for Actors is, of course, SMFA. So, with a clever play on the acronym (thank you, Erin), we’re celebrating 20 years of my gathering and sharing advice for actors and other creative storytellers with 20 days of free training all through the month of May.
All the details are over here and you can even sign up for reminder emails — and REPLAY emails — by heading over there now.
Whether or not you’re able to join in on this month-long celebration of all things actor + Bonnie Gillespie + empowerment + enoughness + FUN, please know I’m so grateful to every last one of you, because without your questions, collectively, my past two decades would’ve been very different.
Your questions have shaped my brain into one that always looks for the WHY behind the WHAT. So much of what actors are told are “musts” simply are NOT musts at all. Understanding the power of data — and the value in trusting your gut — changes everything. When I can help *you* see why what’s working for someone else may not work for you; when I can help *you* wrangle data to find out the patterns that make sense for your unique situation; and when I can help *you* find more joy along your creative journey through empowered, purposeful action, I’m soaring!
Thank you for having been a part of these 20 years — no matter when our paths first crossed. Make sure you join the SMFA ninjas Facebook group to participate fully with this month and of course, sign up for those SMF-mAy reminders here.
I am so grateful that you’ve trusted me to track patterns long enough to establish some methods and truths about navigating this industry in powerfully positive ways! Thank you for trusting me to go learn these things and then come back and share them with you.
Now, let’s get this party started, shall we? 🌱