Why it Pays to Stay Professional in a Sometimes Unprofessional Business by Rob Sciglimpaglia

Edge Studio

This past week, a lesson in how difficult it is to book a part in this business was reinforced for me. I also reminded myself that no matter how much you pine for revenge against an unfair, sometimes unprofessional business, revenge never pays off.

About 8 weeks ago, I auditioned for a commercial. It was apparent when I got to the audition that the client was conducting it on their own, because they handed me a pad of paper and asked me to answer five essay questions about the project. I thought it was odd, but I had a lot of knowledge on the subject, so I obliged. After that, I was called in for my “screen test.” They must have liked what they saw, because after the hour audition, they called me back a couple of weeks later. Shortly after that, I get word that I was picked as one of three — in the entire New York City area — to be featured in this commercial. They asked me to keep a date free about 6 weeks out, and told me to round up a bunch of personal pictures of me, my family and co-workers, which they would need for the shoot.

A few weeks later, I get an email letting me know the shoot is still on. Now the director wants to know my hobbies. I give them my hobby information, and tell them I have been going through pictures for a couple of weeks. On the Tuesday prior to the Friday shoot, I send off an email asking for the final details, i.e., wardrobe, call time, location, etc. I get an email back a couple of hours later stating that the client has just met with the director, and the director has decided to cut the shoot in half and that they have selected someone else for the shoot, so they won’t need my services after all.

At that moment, anger shot through my body, and I could have shot back a nasty email. But I thought better of it and just thanked the client for the opportunity, saying “maybe next time we can work together.”

I asked myself, “Should I post something about this on my Facebook page? Should I call the Union and see if they violated any rules?” These thoughts were just a fleeting reaction and I did not do any of those things. Why? Because I am a professional. And any professional in the entertainment business understands that rejection is at the CORE of the business.

It did get me to thinking, though, about how little the acting profession, and actors, can be regarded by some in the business. I am also an attorney by trade, and I have NEVER had anyone treat me so “unprofessionally,” not without at least expecting to reimburse me for my professional time. Why is it that actors are treated any differently than other similarly situated professionals? Perhaps it is because people who are not familiar with the business — like these clients running their own casting — think actors are “just having fun.”

I find it ironic that when I talk to other industry pros (like agents, casting directors, directors and producers), the number one complaint I hear about actors is that they act “unprofessionally.” Meaning that they are late for appointments or sometimes don’t show up at all, they don’t take their craft seriously by obtaining training, they don’t have their marketing materials up to date (or no materials at all), etc., etc. Because I am not one of those actors, I never really thought about it before. This experience, though, got me thinking: What if actors act unprofessionally because they are treated unprofessionally? Is lack of professionalism ever acceptable? If I were not also an attorney who learned how to act professionally, with a Professional Code of Ethics to follow, would I, too, act unprofessionally in the acting profession?

I told myself long ago when I started to pursue acting, that I would carry over all the same professional habits that I had learned practicing law, and that if I did that, I would always be OK. That is why I told the client “maybe next time we can work together” … because as a professional, I know that as long as that bridge is not burned, the possibility of crossing it always exists; whereas if that bridge is burned, any opportunity is gone forever! In that respect, the voice over business is something like the island of Manhattan — there are only so many bridges that lead in and out. So if you burn too many of them, you will soon trap yourself, with no means to expand your range or to get where you really want to be.