Actors become so accustomed to saying YES to every offer (that’s what happens when gigs are few and far between, starting out), that they often forget the importance of knowing when to say NO. Some gigs just aren’t worth taking. What makes an offer one to pass up? That can only be answered by one person, of course. That’s you.

My recommendation is that you establish your personal policy before the offer is in front of you.

Will you do nudity? Will you work for “copy, credit, meals” when other actors on-set are getting paid? Will you cut or dye your hair for a role? Is there a particular product or cause for which you will not pitch? Will you work “off the card” (do non-union work, despite your hard-earned union membership)?

The answer to these questions–and to any of the others of this type that may come up — should be clear in your mind before the issue is staring you down. The pressure of coming up with a quick answer (especially when money is being offered) could cause you to make a decision that you otherwise wouldn’t make. That’s why it’s amazingly helpful to have your personal policies on such subjects clearly stated (whether in some acting journal, on a Post-It note on your mirror, or in your blog). You can then consult those policies when the offers start coming.

An actor friend of mine has an opportunity to audition for a role on a pilot presentation for a new series. The role would be the series lead, if the pilot gets picked up. Problem is, this pilot is being shot non-union and this actor is a member of SAG. “Should I go on the audition and hope that the series goes SAG?” Yikes. Tough question. I’ve seen so many SAG projects lose funding and turn non-union that it scares me to imagine putting all of your proverbial eggs into the basket of hope that a declared nonunion project will someday get bumped up to a SAG project. Of course, that’s just me. This is where that personal policy declaration comes into play.

You either have a problem with doing nonunion work or you don’t. If you have a formula for accepting a gig and have stated: “I’m willing to work off the card if the role is X and the pay is Y and the location is Z,” and that situation comes up, your decision is already made. If you don’t set the parameters up before the situation presents itself, though, you are always going to do the “should I?” game and you’ll make yourself nuts. Because an audition is not the same as an offer for a role, obviously, some actors will table the decision-making process until actually offered the role. They’ll go on the audition, knowing their personal policy dictates that they couldn’t possibly accept the offer, if made, and then, when the offer is made, they find they’re in a decision-making bind. Additionally, they’ve led the CD to believe that they are pursuing the role in good faith. Further bind. Again, this is a very personal issue. Some actors would simply not go on the audition, knowing the role would never be one they could accept. It’s just such a personal decision!

Another actor friend was stressing out about whether to go on a commercial audition for a certain product for which she is morally opposed (she’s a vegetarian and the commercial was for a big fast food chain). This is where I say, “Know your price and know it up front.” Better to know now than when you’re offered buckets of money to be a spokesperson for something, right? That way, it’s not an issue when your price is met and you do that awful ad you always swore you wouldn’t do. It was in your personal policy statement and the conditions were met. Case closed!

Same thing with doing nudity, changing your appearance drastically, or working for less than your “quote” (the last rate at which you worked). Let me underscore the point: the moment the work is offered to you is not the moment at which you should develop an opinion on these things. There is too much else going on at that moment to cloud your judgment (enthusiasm, adrenaline, excitement, your agent’s opinion, your family members’ opinions, your bank balance) and these decisions could be very important ones that change the course of your career. Have your policy set way up front and refer to it from time to time to be sure you still feel the same way. I use my birthday as the “revisit personal mission statement” day. No, you don’t have to be an actor to have a personal policy. I use my statement to guide me in the projects I choose to cast all the time!

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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