Saturday was our day-long intensive called the SMFA Retreat here at the beach in Santa Monica.

(I don’t mean to play favorites, but holy shitballs what a spectacular group of creatives gathered to bring more JOY to the creative journey through the empowering info that is easy-to-gather DATA! I’m still so freakin’ inspired!)

During the Q&A, one of the most charismatic, likable, can’t-take-your-eyes-off-her actors I’ve ever seen shared that she’d been told she’s “not a commercial type” and shouldn’t bother pursuing commercials.

*blink* *blink* *blink*

Now, I don’t cast many commercials (mainly just this cool stuff), but I certainly know a commercial actor when I see one.

Of course, it’s when absolutes like this are doled out that I’m quick to ask for more information.

Usually, it’s ONE coach trying to steer you away from classes you’re considering taking elsewhere… or ONE casting director using a stopper as to why you didn’t get cast… or ONE agent excusing why they can’t get you out. But rarely is it enough people — enough DATA — to become a “rule” for you.

Yet you’ll take it on as a part of your identity (or NOT a part of your identity) rather than going on an expedition to get more information.

You tell me I’m not a commercial type? I go take a class from Laurie Records and find out for myself.

I certainly don’t decide that all casting directors in my market (that’d be 723 in Los Angeles, 128 in New York, 34 in London) share this opinion I received from *a* coach, *an* agent… or even both of those people. The sample size is too small!

We need more data.

Just like you’ll survey people about a headshot, see that dreaded ONE word in the responses that you hope no one ever says about you and FIXATE on that rather than paying attention to the dozens of times another word was used to describe your most castable brand and feel the power in that information… you’ll hear one opinion from one person presented as if it’s a RULE about who you are in this business and just buy it.


It’s so weird!

There is no one rulebook for this business (believe me; if there were one, I’d have written it and I’d have retired to my private island because OMG I’d have cracked the one and only set of rules for how this business works). Whenever you get someone’s RULE about anything — especially about who you are or what you’re capable of — note that it is ONE piece of data from ONE person about ONE thing.

Nothing more.

Your work now is to go collect a massive bunch of data that supports it or disputes it before you decide that ONE thing is even a thing.

This is power you have, darlin’. Stop giving it away!

Do you have an example of how you’ve accepted a single opinion as a “rule” in this business? Share in the comments below!

SMFA Ninjas of New York and London! I’m headed your way! We’ve added the classes for both first-timers and elite alumni and enrollment is now open! WOO HOO! πŸ™‚ Cannot WAIT to jam with y’all!

Berlin, Atlanta, I’m coming through your world too! No day-long intensives in your cities, but we will be adding more goodies to my EVENTS calendar so please keep an eye on it to be sure we can connect while I’m in town!

And yes, Los Angeles, we’ve now confirmed that the last SMFA Retreat of 2018 will be after all my travels in November and you can snatch your seat here. We always fill up, so don’t delay!

All my jetsetting love,

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

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  1. Jamie Lee Kearns August 28, 2018 at 5:14 am

    Oooh, good stuff! I was told once I wasn’t attractive enough to be a promotional model. I fit the casting description to a T, but when I submitted, the only words they replied with where β€œUm, seriously? No”… so there’s that blow to the ego. Then I got cast as attractive love interest in another commercial, and I wiped my tears with hundred dollar bills!! πŸ’΅πŸ’΅πŸ’΅

  2. Emily August 28, 2018 at 5:19 am

    Several years ago when I had first moved back to DC after graduation, I went to an open call at the Central Casting (no relation to the *other* Central Casting) office, which was basically an interview with the director where they look over your resume and headshot and then sit down with you and discuss how to get signed. Now, note that NONE of the materials they have from me are ones I’m now using 6 years later –

    I go in and the director starts ramming home that my chin is too pointy and it’s very distracting, and I should come in again after I’ve changed my hairstyle to pull focus away from my chin and taken a film class by someone she endorsed, etc etc. I got home and started asking everyone I know “HOW DO I FIX MY HAIR SO IT DOESN’T MAKE MY CHIN LOOK POINTY?” I inherited a large chin from my mom with which I’ve forever and ever had a complicated relationship and so of course I was fixated on this.

    Fast forward years later, turns out being told something is wrong with your face is a rite of passage with this lady – who then forgets the next time you call her. One of my headshot photographers, a guy, knew exactly who she was when I asked him to deal with the chin in my photos, without my even having to name her. And what’s extra hilarious is that I have not resubmitted to their office since, so they still have my crappy old outdated materials that do not match the branding I’ve been building in more recent years – and they’re calling me in periodically ANYWAY.

    Tl,dr; this CD’s rules were arbitrary and most of what they cast isn’t what I am anyway :p

  3. Melissa Bender August 28, 2018 at 6:18 am

    This actually has happened to me a lot lately! Audition for 4 commercials in the last month-and-a-half and I haven’t gotten any of them. This had me thinking maybe I’m not the commercial type. I know there’s a commercial class that has been offered before but I’m hesitant to take it if commercials just aren’t my thing. Maybe that’s why I’m not being signed in Ohio because it’s a big Commercial State from what I’ve seen coming through casting posts. I guess I’m not really sure what a commercial type is really. But I never thought of putting it into a survey before. I know I asked you on a quarterly call maybe back in April about a previous acting coach telling me if I can’t get signed in the state where I live no one will sign me or they will wonder why I’m being signed. When I went to these agencies they both had me read a commercial script. But I like this advice!

  4. Melissa Bender August 28, 2018 at 6:52 am

    *Testing *

  5. Elizabeth Zimmerman August 28, 2018 at 8:16 am

    In April 2015, taking baby steps into acting on film, I had an acting teacher tell me I was wasting my time. I would never get hired because actors never wear glasses! I was devastated. He should know, right?
    But then I wrote for advice to the columnist who wrote The Actors Voice. Bonnie Gillespie soon sent me a personal reply and actually used it in her column in the Your Turn section.
    Then, a number of excellent ninjas posted reassuring comments to reinforce the fact that one teacher does not get to decide your career path.
    I am very grateful to that idiot teacher, for because of him, I found the SMFA community. And another acting coach.
    The rest is history.
    I love you, Bonnie.

  6. Ninja Erin August 28, 2018 at 10:49 am

    Jamie, Emily — so sorry to hear that you had to deal with such *unpleasant* and unprofessional people, and I’m sad to say this industry is filled with them. Know that their behavior says WAY more about them than it does about you, and I’m glad you were both able to move on from those experiences!

    Melissa — I think the very fact that you’ve gone in for four commercials in the last month-and-a-half is data to support that you ARE a commercial type. You wouldn’t even get in the room if a CD didn’t think you were right for the part (remember, CDs need to look good for *their* buyers, and they wouldn’t risk looking like they’re bad at their jobs by bringing in actors they didn’t think could potentially book). πŸ€—

    Elizabeth — I love this story so much! We’re so glad you found your way to SMFA and are part of our incredible community of creatives. ❀

    1. Melissa Bender August 28, 2018 at 11:52 am

      You know what I take that back submitted for 4, gone in on two. But I see what you’re saying Erin 😊

  7. Remy O'Brien August 29, 2018 at 5:00 pm

    I had the same thing. I was taking a workshop in Chicago with two director/producers from New York. They asked me why I was in Chicago all they do is commercial work here and I don’t have a commercial look. No one would ever believe that I do housework. I didn’t have a reply but until recently I shunned or f’d up lots of commercial auditions.
    Oh well. Live and Learn

  8. Lindsay Noell September 4, 2018 at 8:46 pm

    Lesly Kahn (who I LOVE and respect) told me in my intro class with her that she doesn’t “get me”, my hair says “leading lady” but I’m character, not leading lady. That I need to put on glasses (she actually made me go to her office to grab a spare pair of reading glasses and try them on to show her) and get a sleek angular haircut because I’m the intellectual boss lady. I initially panicked since I obviously respect her opinions. but was so thrown since all of my data SCREAMS All-American, girl next door, warm, charming, cute, etc. Now I could totally be the intellectual boss lady within the spectrum of my brand, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I need to go and cut my hair and start wearing glasses just cuz Lesly says I should. Noted. If the data starts to show that note more and more, okie dokie. In the meantime, I’ll stick with what the numbers tell me.

    1. Emily September 5, 2018 at 3:53 pm

      @lindsay’s comment made me think of ANOTHER story I have like this. I paid a large sum of money to do a musical theatre program at an elite, Tony-winning theatre, and towards the end of it they did these one- on- ones with us where they looked at our materials and our books. Mine was essentially the associate artistic director and the CD (who eventually ran his own company until he landed on Broadway) flipping through my book going “no, no, no, get rid of this, no.” So of course I asked them what they thought my type was… and they DIDN’T KNOW. They legitimately said to me, “well, you’re not an ingenue, but you’re not a girl next door, we don’t know what to do with you.”

      These people are in casting and they told me this, and it’s stuck with me for 6 years because I just find it so MEAN, and it didnt endear the company to me at all. I know for a fact I was the only one in the program they said this to.

  9. Bonnie Gillespie September 6, 2018 at 1:57 pm

    Emily, there’s a day in our 100-day challenge that’s all about what that really means. In short, these are not your buyers and that’s actually great data! It means you can move on from ever trying to figure out what you could do to somehow turn them into buyers! It means all your energy can now go into EVERYONE BUT THEM and that way that they let you know they’re not your buyers — while it may have felt cruel at the time — absolutely has no effect on who you are today or how you present yourself to your true buyers… unless YOU CHOOSE to keep giving that power away. The only moment it had power was IN THE MOMENT it happened. Everything since then has been all on you, continuing to activate that power from non-buyers. Phew! What a relief, right?!? πŸ™‚


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