Why Not to Take an Acting Job | When to Say No to an Acting Job
when to say no to an acting job

Why Not to Take an Acting Job

Written by on | Acting Industry

Deciding whether or not to take an acting job can be excruciating. When you haven’t worked in months, your credit card is maxed out, and you’re considering selling your pet pug to pay the rent, any job looks good. But is taking an acting job because you’re struggling the right thing to do? Let’s have a look at some of the reasons not to take an acting job.

It’s not career progressing (or worse)

I know what you’re thinking; not every actor wants to be a movie-star, so not every job has to progress your career. And on some level I agree with you. If a friend has offered you a role in a short film and it will only take an afternoon to shoot; go for it! But if you’re considering taking a 10 month regional primary school tour just so you don’t have to work at a café… I think that’s a mistake.

First of all, you will have to work your butt off. Children’s theatre ain’t easy, trust me.

Secondly, you will be in the exact same position once your done (except you might have a few less friends, and casting agents may have forgotten your face…).

Taking a job that is time consuming and doesn’t progress your career is just putting your head in the sand.

Note: this really comes back to your goals. I’ve done a long children’s tour and learnt a bucket load. You can learn a great deal from theatre in education.

It doesn’t pay (enough)

You’re already broke.

Do I need to say more? Well, okay… It’s really tempting to take on work that doesn’t pay because it might lead to more work. That’s true; it might. But exposure won’t pay the bills. And you’ll be miserable for the duration of the job. More importantly, you won’t be able to do your best work because you’ll be worried about your starving goldfish (he didn’t sign up for this!). Being relaxed and present in the audition or rehearsal room is the key to great acting.

So, if your basic needs aren’t met how are you going to act well? Make sure your rent is paid, and there is food in the fridge, and then (and only then!) you can consider working for free.

Great jobs for actors [Find a side job that’s flexible]

The work isn’t meaningful

If you want to be passionate about what you do, you have to find it meaningful. According to economist Malcolm Gladwell there are three factors to meaningful work. They are complexity, autonomy, and a clear relationship between effort and reward. Not to go too hard on poor old children’s theatre, but in general it’s not particularly complex, and you often don’t get much say in the direction.

Another example: I don’t know how people step into musical theatre roles where they don’t get to choose their blocking. That lack of autonomy would drive me crazy. So if you’re taking on work have a quick think about how much it will challenge you, how much power you will have to determine the outcome of the work, and if it will be rewarding. So what is rewarding? Well… does it pay enough? Does it progress your career? Is it meaningful to you as an artist and a human? Okay you get the point. Hope that helps!

P.S. Follow the well written word

One rule that has guided my career over the last few years is this: “follow the well written word”. If you are working on great text that you love then you will enjoy it and you will also do your best work.

Fundamentally you want to be an actor because you love it, so from time to time it’s worth struggling to pay rent for a chance at Hamlet or Joan of Arc.

About the Author

Luke McMahon

is trained as an actor at the prestigious Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts. He is now a professional actor based in Sydney, Australia. He recently finished working with Mel Gibson on his upcoming feature, Hacksaw Ridge.

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