• James Stranahan

How to Be Ethical As An Actor

There are a lot of posts out there that talk about how to act or how to be professional on a set. What I don’t think gets talked about often enough is how to be ethical when you are working as an actor. Perhaps that’s because acting is manifested outwardly: it’s about being able to grasp the intentions and meanings of your lines and deliver them on cue, taking care of yourself physically, and being believable as the character. The choices you make behind the scenes, though, are just as important. As you go throughout your day (or night) on a film set, it’s worth keeping in mind that actors need to be just as ethical as people in other professions. It’s just not talked about as often, and I wish it were.

The first should be obvious but is often forgotten about: every actor, including me, should be respectful of their fellow actors and crew members and respect their needs. Hollywood is so pressure-filled that it can sometimes be hard to remember that we’re all living under the microscope. We’re always being asked to prove ourselves and to market our abilities. That never-ending spotlight on ourselves can cause us to forget sometimes that our co-star is a human being, one who deserves courtesy. I always appreciate the people who treat me and others well and make a point of remembering them. Those are the ones I would like to hire again for my films.

I also believe very strongly in supporting the success of other actors (or anyone working in the film industry, for that matter). There are, unfortunately, a limited number of roles every year, so there will always be competition for each one. As I can personally attest, you’re going to lose more than you win. With those kinds of odds and with the professional rewards at stake, the frustration you feel when you don’t get a role is understandable. However, I and many of my peers still believe in being classy. Why be jealous when someone else gets the role you wanted? Rather than believe something was taken from you, you could instead learn from the whole experience and use it to do better next time. And yes, there will be a next time!

The importance of friends and family for those working in the movie industry can’t be overstated. You’ve probably already found out how bizarre your work hours can be. While your husband is sleeping in a warm bed, you’re out in freezing weather in the middle of the night on a set, doing the twentieth take and trying to beat the sun. Those long hours spent shooting a movie can take a toll on your relationships unless you prioritize them. Also, while I fully support the drive and determination it takes to succeed in showbiz, please try to not let it make you emotionally distant. We actors can sometimes live too much in our heads, where we explore our characters and endlessly replay takes. It can make us a bit hard to talk to, so I recommend coming down out of the film each day and checking in with those people who have been with you the whole way in Hollywood.

In the end, the movie world is, in many ways, no different from working anywhere else. You still need to treat people fairly, respect each other’s boundaries, and congratulate those who move up even when you don’t. What makes it hard at times is knowing that your odds of success aren’t exactly in your favor. Isn’t that part of the adventure, however? You’ve come this far; you’ve got the guts, the talent, and the vision. You’ll attain the success you’ve always dreamed of - just treat your peers well and be worthy of it.

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