This year started quietly but has suddenly got busier, with three jobs coming in at once. Normally I would be delighted about this, but the way things have worked out, it is stressing me out instead.
One gig is still on heavy pencil for a TV role I really want and for which my agent has confirmed I am still strongly in the running. The second is a theatre casting I did before Christmas. I heard nothing back and assumed they had gone with somebody else. If I had known they hadn’t, I wouldn’t have told my agent I was available for a touring play that has now also come back with an offer.
I have been trying to hang on to see how the pencilled role works out, but the other two jobs are now pressing hard for answers. The dates for all three jobs clash, so I need to get this decision right or I might be left with nothing.
Getting a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ as soon as possible after an audition would definitely make this common actor dilemma a lot less frequent. There have been welcome moves towards a fast, clear response becoming the norm rather than the exception, but in appreciating the individual casting professionals who are genuinely prioritising this courtesy, it would be inaccurate to suggest there isn’t much progress still to be made. Even with the best of intentions, the number of moving parts involved in pulling the average production together, and the frustrating reluctance of real life to run neatly according to plan, means that making difficult career choices without necessarily having the full information you need is always going to be part of an actor’s life.
I would love to give you pointers for always making the right decision, but since a decision’s ‘rightness’ is often determined by the outcome rather than the intention, that’s not within anybody’s remit unless they can see into the future. The best we can do is give you tools to help you make a decision you can live with, whatever the outcome. The first is to take time out to consider your options. In an industry where we are often asked to make last-minute decisions, that’s not always easy. Fortunately, even 15 minutes spent looking at the bigger picture rather than getting caught up in the drama and detail of the moment can help. None of us have total control over where we want our career to take us, but if we are clear on our overall career goals, we can make an assessment of which of the projects currently on the table is most likely to take us closer to them. Factors such as what material we will be working with, who will be working alongside us, and what experience we are likely to acquire as a result can all help us make that call.
Secondly, consider all possible options, even when you are told there are none. It might well be that all three projects are incompatible but production schedules can change and, even if they don’t, if you brainstorm as many ways as possible to make at least two of them work together it might be possible to negotiate something.
Lastly, do take advice from your agent and others but make sure whatever decision you finally make really is yours. Even if your choice doesn’t work out, if it was your own rather than one you will forever blame somebody else for, it will put you in a better position to learn the lessons that will make you a better decision maker when the next opportunity comes along. Whatever the outcome, rest assured other opportunities will come along, so take this one seriously, but not so that the pressure itself clouds your judgement.
Contact careers adviser John Byrne at email@example.com or @dearjohnbyrne
John Byrne is also a writer, cartoonist, performer and broadcaster. Read his advice columns every Wednesday at thestage.co.uk/author/john-byrne