Declining a Role

Hi Bonnie,

First, I really love your column. I’ve gotten a lot of info from reading your current and archived articles! I was wondering if you had any tips on turning down a job.

I’m still a newbie (I’m unrepresented and pretty much handling everything on my own) and realize I shouldn’t be picky. But I went on an audition earlier this week and just got creepy vibes from the whole thing. When I read the sides, I initially liked the role and the project. After meeting with the producer (who is also playing the lead and is the writer of the piece), something about him just didn’t feel okay (maybe the fact that he kept looking at my rack the whole time, even though I wore a loose, high-cut blouse, nothing provocative whatsoever).

Perhaps I’m being paranoid or too sensitive, but my gut is saying “STAY AWAY!” As a young woman in this industry, I’ve learned early on to be careful and I really don’t like to ignore my intuition. It’s a SAG ULB and if the producer wasn’t so heavily involved it wouldn’t be that big a deal. I was thinking of saying that I have another job, or a conflict, or a “something.” I just really don’t like lying and was wondering how to say no to this project and how will it affect my relationship with the CD.

I would really appreciate your input. Thanks!

First off, good for you, listening to your instincts, going with your gut, all those clichés (or, really, in your case right now, good for you: considering listening to your instincts and going with your gut). Good for you, asking for advice. This is all good stuff.

I’ve written before about avoiding the island as well as trusting your gut instincts and I’m actually working on a piece for a future column about some seriously shady stuff going on lately (Are people feeling particularly desperate these days and behaving as “producers” when they only want to get laid or pull a power trip over some young actor they want to see naked? Seriously, one of the stories I’ve heard and am doing research on is chillingly creepy), so there will be more to come.

But the bottom line is simple: It’s actually when you’re at the beginning of your career that saying no is most important. In the beginning, you don’t have a staff of advisors or a team of agents and attorneys looking out for your best interests. In the beginning, you don’t have enough experience with “real” producers to recognize the difference between one of those and a wannabe with a good angle and loads of ulterior motives. In the beginning, you don’t realize that what looks like a “great opportunity” could actually leave your career scarred forever. In the beginning, you’re on your own and these skeevy scumbags know that. That’s why they love the unrepresented nonunion actor. That’s “fresh meat” to them. That’s an actor with all dream and no experience to draw from. That’s an actor who doesn’t have someone to tell her, “Run! This is NOT how a professional behaves.”

Obviously, not all producers who also write and act in their own films and who enjoy staring at ladies’ boobs are bad guys. But if your gut is screaming that you might be dealing with an agenda-filled wannabe rather than a professional producer, erring on the side of protecting yourself might be a good idea.

As for how the casting director will react, here’s what I know, having been on the receiving end of “no thanks” when making offers to actors on micro-budget indie films. Yeah, I might’ve preferred that the actor never submit on the project if she has no intention of accepting the role, but I also know from having reached the end of an experience with a not-so-great producer that you can’t always know up front that you’re dealing with someone you’d have said NO to, had you known going in what you were in for. (Sheesh, that’s a complicated sentence. Hopefully you get what I’m saying. Hindsight, 20/20, yada yada yada.)

But I’d be willing to bet that you’re not the only one having uneasy feelings about this producer guy. And that means the CD is probably adding this guy to her “never again” list too. Perhaps that will be a conversation to have with this casting director down the line (but not right now. Right now her only goal is to get the dang film cast, and you saying NO is not the launchpad for the chat you may eventually have. It’s the launchpad for her to scramble to the next name on the list with an offer).

There is no need to lie (and I appreciate your concern over doing so) when you decline the role. A simple, “I’m so sorry. I’m no longer available for this project,” will suffice. No one needs to know why, nor should anyone demand a reason. If you find you are being pushed to explain or are being treated in any sort of unprofessional manner, imagine how much worse that pressure would be once you were under contract to perform for these people. Consider that to be further confirmation that trusting your gut instinct was the right decision, thank the team for their interest in you, again apologize for the change in your availability for this project, and say your goodbyes.

Please let me know how this goes for you, whatever you decide!

Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!

Originally published by Actors Access at Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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