WARNING: This may sound like a bit of a whinge, and it is. It is also a very important message about attitude.
In all professions, there is a certain expectation in terms of skill, attitude and respect that everyone needs to at least be aware of, if they plan to make their chosen career their life. Even if it is not your chosen career, just the one that is going to help you get to your preferred one, you still need to present yourself as a respectable professional. I was always taught this in no uncertain terms both by my parents, and my school teachers. Yet there appears to be a troubling lack of this awareness with today’s work force. Note I do not say youth (as many other commentators tend to), because even though it is more prevalent with the younger generations, it is not isolated to them.
Too much am I seeing an indefinable attitude that a commitment is not that important. You make an arrangement to meet, be it a job interview, audition, business meeting, etc, yet to not see the importance of keeping this arrangement, or at the very least, relaying some sort of message if circumstances change making your presence difficult if not impossible. What is with this? Where is your sense of personal and professional pride? Do you not care that such a regardless mind-set may actually prove to be detrimental to your future prospects? Or perhaps you are not aware?
In two very different capacities, I have sat on both sides of the fence. Both as the Applicant for a job interview, or casting audition, and as the interviewer or casting director. Now, I would not dream of skipping on an audition without at least calling to see if I can make other arrangements, or to at least give an explanation. However, based on previous experience, I would appear to be in a diminishing minority on that front. Let me relay a specific example, without revealing specifics.
I recently sat on the panel for the casting a local, Professional, Paid, theatrical production. The auditions were promoted through a casting agency, a casting website, through various theatrically/film related Facebook groups, and even direct emails. We had a rather large application pool which was rather encouraging. We ended up having to spread our sessions across five days which included a couple of weekends. In all, around 36 people applied, and confirmed a booking time. A few people missed out as we filled our books, due to the large number of confirmations. Everything looked rather positive in that regards.
Across the five sessions, a total of 12 people actually turned with a few giving their apologies or pulling out just before hand. I have no issue with these people. They demonstrated good professional etiquette by either keeping their appointments, or by contacting us. As for the remaining around 20 individuals… where were you? What happened? There were up to four people hanging around waiting for you to show, and the last day was a complete no-show! How is it that so many people thought it would be absolutely OK to simply vanish in to the mists?
I feel a little twinge of sympathy for these people (just a little) as their names are now on a shared record with other local agents. It is something I didn’t realise myself until going through this particular casting process; agents share something called a “shit-list”. It could cover all manner of things like poor attitudes, ability to work with, and attendance records.
In the not-for-profit theatrical groups, not attending an audition would probably not really affect your that much, unless you made a habit of it and word slowly spread. In professional theatre, well let’s just say it is less forgiving and can seriously affect your career choices.
So here is an example where my life has taught me important lessons that have benefited my acting life, and I am thankful for it. I think back and recall times where I made a call to a local Independent (not profesional) theatre making my deepest apologies for not being able to attend, or calling ahead to say I was running a little late, but was on the way. The people I spoke to usually were extremely appreciative, and occasionally surprised that I went to the trouble. I found that odd. To me it is simple good manners, nothing special.
After talking with various industry professionals, I find I am not alone in my concerns. There appears to be a troubling apathy in the talent pool to develop what is simply a respect for yourself, and those you have made a promise to. After all, it was your choice to apply, no-one forced you, which means it’s your professional reputation on the line.