Feedback on Life on Set

I got so much email about last week’s column (about twice the usual volume)! Wow! In my attempt to help share the love with those wonderful actors who contributed to last week’s piece, I’m going to include a good cross-section of those emails here.

Great day-in-the-life article, Bonnie. My kids like reading your articles too. We each took one of the people who contributed to the article and “became” or “acted out” that person like we were the one being interviewed. It gave them practice reading, which I think is very important, told them about a “regular” actor’s day as opposed to the extra’s work they’ve done and gave us some family time to boot. You should see all six of us crowded around my little 15″ laptop screen! Keep those articles coming. We love ’em!

I just love the idea of a whole family gathered ’round the computer, reading! Thank you for writing about this. It rocks! I often wonder if my columns are general enough to apply to young actors, so this is good news on several levels. Thank you!

I just wanted to drop a line and thank you for your candor, for sharing your experiences, and for putting in the time for your weekly column. I particularly like that you don’t sugarcoat anything. The business is really tough. I think a lot of us (actors, that is) have this idea that we automatically deserve immediate success in the acting world, with minimal effort on our part. You are excellent about keeping expectations in check with reality (i.e.: When Bad News Is Good News, Five Stages of Actor Grief, etc.).

I also enjoyed your most recent column, On the Set. I’m proud to say that I worked my first co-star role on the pilot for Shark (Directed by Spike Lee!) this past spring. My experience was very similar to that described in your column–down to the contract being in the trailer, having a wrangler, the close-knit family environment of the cast and crew, and leaving wardrobe rather than returning it. Your column contains excellent information that isn’t regularly shared, so it’s a great learning (or reaffirming) experience. So I just wanted to share. Thanks again, and keep up the great columns!

First, congratulations on Shark! That’s great news! Next, I worry sometimes about being too blunt about the realities of the industry (especially when I know how delicate actors’ egos can be), so I’m pleased to know the lack of sugarcoating is appreciated. Heck, it’s what I’d want to read, if I were still pursuing acting! I’ve always said, “I can handle the truth — even if it hurts — because at least then I know what I’m dealing with!” So, I guess that’s my approach to these columns sometimes too. Thanks for the feedback (and I’m so glad your co-star experience was similar to the description here). Keep kickin’ butt!

Fabulous! Awesome! I JUST had my first day on a TV set last week, and while I didn’t have your article to reference, it definitely went down just as they said! What a very informative article and a definite must-read for those of us who aren’t used to being an actual actor on a set! Thank you so much and I’m so glad you help us out like this.

Well, you’re absolutely welcome and I’m happy to know your on-set experience was the same as my very experienced contributors outlined. The thanks, of course, for the success of last week’s goes directly to the fine actors who so generously shared their tales from the set. Couldn’t have done it without them!

Your on-set behavior article couldn’t have been more timely for me. I just booked a co-star on ABC new sitcom In Case of Emergency which stars Kelly Hu, Lori Loughlin, Jonathan Siverman, David Arquette, and Greg Germann. I have a few questions. I am in the weird situation where I don’t have a theatrical agent. How can I negotiate my quote with casting without alienating them? Also, I am thinking about getting a thank you gift for the casting office. Any suggestions? I appreciate your input on any of this.

Big congrats on the sitcom! What a great cast! That will be a blast, I’m sure. Well done! Okay, so if you have no agent and need to negotiate your quote there are a couple of things you can do. Approach an agent and ask him to do the deal for you (many actors get their first theatrical agent by coming to them and saying, “You’ll earn 15% on work I’ve already booked if you just help me close this deal”) or close the deal yourself, saying to casting, “Hey, I’m on my own here. Can I get something better than scale?” I’ve seen both of these tactics work. In fact, my husband (who contributed to last week’s column after having done his first network co-star) booked his second gig with CSI: Miami the day the column went up… and he got overscale (with no theatrical agent). A lot depends on your relationship with the casting department and how much wiggle room they’ve been given for that week’s roles.

As for good casting office gifts, baskets of yummy goodies tend to go over best, as everyone in the office can share that way. Flowers are usually good too, but less “exciting” to most CDs. I think most casting people live on coffee (although, not me. I don’t touch the stuff), so a giftcard to your favorite coffee joint could work too. Booze is good only if you know for a fact the casting folks drink. Again, this all depends on your relationship with them. Have fun and keep rockin’!

Oh my gosh! You made my friggin’ day. I just opened my email to see you addressed my question concerning a day-in-the-life on the set. This is amazingly helpful (and as you stated in Your Turn, I’m actually surprised certain actors wouldn’t help you — that’s craziness. I love sharing experiences with others in order to demystify. Even with all of this advice, it will be an experience I know I have to go through on my own. This just helps with my confidence level. So screw them but thanks to the awesome actors who did write to you)!! Anyway, if more actors keep pouring in with their experience please post! I loved hearing Alexis Bledel on Gilmore Girls is also shy, for example. Thank you, thank you!!

Ah, yes! Yours is the question that launched what appears to be everyone’s favorite column of my career here at Hee! I’m so glad you sent in your question (and I’m thrilled with the response I got from the working actors who shared their insights AND from readers like you).

Definitely, the “toy share” is one of my favorite things and I’ve found it’s very easy to surround yourself with people who enjoy the “We’re all in this together” spirit of doing business. On that note, I must ask my readers to share a BIG thank you to the fine folks at and Breakdown Services for several key things that impact our ability to meet up right here each week: Thank you for inviting me to write for you each week. Thank you for keeping these columns FREE. Thank you for making the information searchable. And thank you for the outstanding archives! Folks, I know I talk a lot about gratitude, but I think sharing the love with the people who spend the time and money to even put this stuff “out there” need to hear how rockstar that choice is. Sure, it’s a business decision and good will among customers is always smart. But a bit of thanks is always welcomed!

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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