When you are starting out as an actor, building your resume often requires taking on roles that pay nothing or very little; that will be seen by a limited audience; and that do not always feature the best in acting, writing, directing, or editing. That isn’t to say that these projects are no good, only that they are created with small budgets and a cast and crew that often lack resources and experience. The end product can be entertaining, moving, and even turn heads.
You are not settling for less in these cases; if you want a familiar idiom, you are paying your dues, or perhaps getting your feet wet. However, even at this stage of your career, you need to be careful of compromise.
Compromising involves your morals, your talent, and your value as an actor.
When we say morals, we mean to include values, ethics, and personal stances as well. These differ from individual to individual, and that is perfectly okay. Regardless, you need to have made your decision before you potentially encounter the situation. For example: nudity. What parts of your body are you comfortable revealing? Full? Partial? What about a body double? Does it depend on the context? If you have not evaluated the issue, you may end up making a decision you later regret, or one that could damage the career trajectory you had envisioned for yourself. What about love scenes, kissing, drinking, smoking, drugs, crude humor, religious content, language, abuse, politics, and other adult themes?
These are just a few of the topics to consider, and each comes with its own set of questions. Perhaps you don’t mind your character drinking, but you don’t want to promote an alcoholic product in a commercial. Or you don’t mind your character bashing your religion, so long as the overall message is not bashing it. Are you okay with kissing or lovemaking scenes, or should you avoid them because it might damage your real-life marriage or relationship? It wouldn’t damage every relationship, but just because it might damage yours does not mean something is wrong with you or with your relationship. Rather, it simply is something to recognize and address.
Making decisions early in your career is vital. Your stances, beliefs, and preferences may change over time, or they may not. Don’t compromise now, or you will find yourself making bigger and bigger compromises as the opportunities become more and more tempting—or find that compromising has compromised future opportunities.
Depending upon the project and the people involved, they may be willing to change a cuss word, tame a sex scene, or otherwise adapt the script to attach you to the project. This is rare, and you will have had to have made yourself indispensible to them.
Building your resume might mean auditioning for and accepting parts in small projects, but it does not mean that you stop training for those career- and life-changing roles. You must nurture your talent. And you must audition for projects and rehearse with people whose experience and training exceeds your own. Athletes never improve unless they play opponents that outmatch them. The same goes for acting. You must observe and play opposite actors who can help bring you up to their level. Always be actively seeking out opportunities that will further your growth and further your career.
YOUR WORTH AS AN ACTOR
Your resume, while certainly important, isn’t necessarily an indication of your worth as an actor. A number of things contribute to your value as an actor: training, life experiences, personality, look, fitness, skills, other talents, and knowledge. Regardless of your resume, you are an actor. When people ask what you do, that should be your answer. And at a certain point, as with any business, you will need to value your acting in monetary terms. You will have done enough projects for free that you no longer require basic experience. You train and you work your craft, and you deserve adequate compensation. Your acting instructors, agents, managers, and mentors will help guide you in this area. Remain humble, always, but do not depreciate yourself and what you have to offer.