How to Build a Good Reputation as an Actor | Ways to Raise your Esteem

How to Build a Good Reputation as an Actor

Written by on | Acting Industry

At the climax of Arthur Miller‘s play The Crucible, protagonist John Proctor is given a chance to save himself from hanging. All he has to do is sign his name to a false confession of witchcraft, something, ultimately, he refuses to do. “Because it is my name!” he screams at the corrupt judges: “Because I cannot have another in my life!” In acting, such as in life (and in witch-trials) reputation is everything. In this article, we’re looking at how to build a good reputation as an actor.

An actor can build a good reputation by being gracious and uncomplicated. With so much uncertainty facing actors in their careers, it pays to become known as somebody who can roll with the punches and mitigate the unexpected. Learn to market yourself, to network in ways that project confidence whilst never coming across as cocky. And above all else, an actor will build a good reputation by being generous: with their time, with their efforts, with they way they build up those around them.

This article contains twelve different pieces of advice on how to build a reputation you can be proud of. There’s no real order to them, and some are bound to be obvious to you if you’ve had any industry experience to date. But the point to take away from a list like this is that there are multiple things you can do to improve your standing in the eyes of others.  Work on it, invest in it, and your career will pay you dividends.

Be Uncomplicated to Work With

Build a good reputation as an actor by requiring minimal support. Be known as the actor on set who isn’t fussy, doesn’t make demands, who respects that their role in a production is one of many—no matter how many lines you might have over everybody else. This is especially important when Everything Goes Wrong; actors who can weather misfortune, disaster and delays are rare and therefore coveted by directors, producers, etc. No matter the outcome a production (however cursed), you’ll receive a look-in during the next project, and people are sure to sing your praises in between.

However. “Be uncomplicated to work with” does not equal “put up with crap you get dished from anybody.” Stand your ground and you’ll command a different level of respect—particularly when you can step in to aid the plight of others. Ever seen that clip of Keanu Reeves hauling camera gear up the steps during a John Wick shoot? Class act, that one. Be like Keanu.

Be Confident, Stay Humble

Confidence is important: it lets people know you have belief in your own abilities and that they should back you accordingly. If you’ve worked hard to cultivate your career and hone your skills, you better believe you’ve earned the right to declare your efforts loud and proud!

A confident actor is a happy actor, an inspiring actor. They’re good to have on a team because they build up their peers and make them feel like they have a similar worth. So cultivate your own sense of confidence, and be assured that collaborators will find themselves drawn to you.

Let Your Work Reflect Your Values

Here’s a hypothetical for you: is there a job you wouldn’t take as an actor? Is there a playwright whose work you really hate? A certain product you wouldn’t advertise, or brand you wouldn’t want to represent? Everybody has their own opinion on where they draw those lines; there is no judgement about the jobs you take to pay the bills, even if you find yourself shilling a product you either don’t use or wouldn’t personally recommend.

Whenever you can, let your work reflect your values. And stand by them—be a force of good and change that people rely on, and identify you by. There are plenty of reasons to say no to a role, and having the guts to do exactly this will put you in good stead in your creative community, as well as the wider industry.

See Theatre, Talk in the Foyer

At StageMilk, we believe that theatre (particularly indie theatre) is the best place for an actor to train, learn and grow as an artist. Theatre is where your creative community needs the most support, and where the most exciting, innovative work is always done.

So take yourself along to the theatre. Bring a friend or a romantic interest! Buy a drink at the bar to support the venue and talk in the foyer with your peers. When the cast come out, make a point of telling them if you thought they did well. The actor who does this is always held in high regard.

Market Yourself

It’s as simple as it sounds: put yourself out there online and in person. Make sure people know about your brand, your type, and the kind of work you like to do. Good marketing builds awareness, and lets people know that you’re looking for opportunities to work.

Marketing also contributes to a good reputation. It allows you to craft your personal narrative, and promote your attitude towards the actor’s life and your own journey. If you market yourself as positive, hard-working and an eager collaborator, you’ll find yourself surrounded by like-minded artists.

Give Gifts

Gift giving is a very quick path to raising your rep as a kind and caring collaborator. It shows that you’ve taken time out of your day to think about the people you work with, and how you might show your appreciation for what they do.

It could be as simple as a fun-sized chocolate bar you hand out to your castmates and crew. The smallest gesture can lift your colleagues’ spirits on a challenging day and forever ingratiate you in their minds.

Do remember that gifts should always be appropriate, and you should avoid them altogether if it could even be perceived as transactional. Don’t give gifts to potential agents or casting directors, this will come across as desperate. For your director, or your producer, consider writing a letter or a note about your experience working together. (And, speaking as a director/producer, a little chocolate never goes astray…)

Be Generous with your Time

Related to the above: the most precious thing you can give as an actor is your time. Arrive early to rehearsals, stay back if somebody needs help. Can you give a castmate a lift home on a late night? In between jobs, try to be a reader for auditions your friends are shooting. Read their scripts and participate in their devising workshops.

All that being said, don’t forget to set boundaries with your time. Give generously, but don’t place yourself in a situation where you’re strained or denying yourself opportunities because of commitments you’ve made. Being up-front about when you can and can’t commit to things is a reputation booster all in itself. And know that the people who understand that are the ones who respect you the most.

Remember Names

When you’re on set, when you’re in a theatre, if you’re in an acting class or a networking event, learn names. Remember names. More than that, get to know people and their stories. Most of them are on the same journey as you, and it’s a helluva lot easier to walk the actor’s path with people you know and respect.

This point is particularly important as you start to do higher profile jobs, and begin to enjoy greater amenities and pay (and, sadly respect) than the crew or your other castmates. Learning names keeps you grounded, and builds you a reputation as somebody who cares to make connections and respects everybody on set, not just the bigwigs.

Celebrate the Success of your Peers

At some point in your career, you may have the pleasure of watching your friends and peers book amazing jobs and receive accolades you’re yet to attain. When this happens, don’t be bitter. Celebrate their success and let them know how proud you are. Remind yourself that it’ll be your turn before long.

Jealousy is a part of the actor’s life. It’s something to be acknowledged, addressed and—if you’re close enough with the person enjoying success—openly discussed. But know that a good reputation and bitterness are mutually exclusive. If you’re known to be a sore loser when it comes time to hand out the jobs, you’ll not only drive away your friends … you’ll lose out on work as well.

Teach

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received at university was that if you can teach a concept to somebody else, you can understand it for yourself. Take every opportunity in your acting career to be a teacher of others. Work with kids, work with actors starting out, start a scene study group and work with your friends!

A lot of actors I know are scared of teaching; I think it’s because teaching is what a lot of us are told to do when we ‘fail’ in the arts—which is to say, ‘not made your first million in Hollywood by age 25’. But there is nobility in it; it not only improves your reputation, but your ability as an artist of any kind.

Think back, right now, to a teacher that changed your life. They still seem pretty amazing, right?

Keep Learning

Let me speak briefly as a producer/director. I love all actors; those I respect the most (besides the ones who bring me chocolate) are those who are constantly learning and improving their craft. They might take a class, they might work with an acting coach… Many of them work with us, here, as members of the StageMilk Scene Club.

Some actors do a year or three in drama school and come out feeling like they’ve learned it all. They’re not bad. But they often feel like their progression is stuck, tied to the latest commercial they’ve booked, rather than the latest technique they’re perfecting. Keep learning and you’ll keep growing. People respect that at every level.

Stay Positive

Michael Prince, the Big Bad of Showtime’s Billions, describes the phrase “must be nice” as a battle cry of the perpetually bitter. It’s fair to say that these three words are some of the most toxic in an actor’s vocabulary. If you ever find yourself wanting to say them, swallow that impulse immediately.

Develop a reputation as an actor who remains positive about their goals, their careers, their peers, etc. Will you always feel that way? Not a snowball’s chance. But what you feel and what you project/say/post online as a professional actor goes a long way to how you’re perceived. Build your rep as a supportive, positive member of your creative community.

You’ll be invited to far more readings, auditions and parties if you do.

Conclusion

So there you have it: our twelve-step guide to building your reputation as an actor. As a final piece of advice, let us leave you with something so important it almost defies being mentioned in the first place. Have fun. The actor who has fun, stays positive and considers their career a joy for to navigate (however precariously at times) always has the greatest reputation. People like them, people want to hire them, people keep them around.

Good luck!

About the Author

Alexander Lee-Rekers

Alexander Lee-Rekers is a Sydney-based writer, director and educator. He graduated from NIDA in 2017 with a Masters in Writing for Performance, and his career across theatre and television has seen him tackling projects as diverse as musical theatre, Shakespeare and Disney. He is the co-founder of theatre company Ratcatch (The Van De Maar Papers, The Linden Solution) and co-director of Bondi Kids Drama, a boutique drama school offering classes to young people in the Eastern Suburbs. Alexander is drawn to themes of family, ambition, failure and legacy: how human nature can flit with ease between compassion and cruelty. He also likes Celtic fiddle, mac & cheese and cats.

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