Developing and maintaining positive professional relationships is crucial to becoming a good actor. Of course we've all heard the stories about big-name actors who've had a right royal dummy spit on set, or crazy dressing room requests for peculiar items. But when you're starting out you should not expect that you can make any demands on those around you, or that any wild behaviour during a shoot or performance is somehow acceptable. These things are the exception, not the rule, and certainly you are likely to be fired if you behave inappropriately. Let's face it - there's always another actor who can take your place and play your role.
When you begin your profession as an actor, you want people to be passing the word around that you're "good to work with". What does this mean? It means:
Apart from the actor-specific points above, most of these criteria apply to any workplace. Yes - acting is a real job!
I don't know how many actors I've heard say, "I will never work with that actor/director/technical person again". See - word gets around about who is "horrible to work with". In a competitive marketplace, you want to be putting your best foot forward. If you can establish yourself as a desirable employee, you're more likely to get work. When a role needs to be cast, your name is more likely to come up. It's all about the attitude.
When you have opportunity to work in an ensemble that gels, you can have the best time of your life. If you're in an ensemble full of conflict or tension, it can be an awful working experience. Since an actor's life is project-to-project - you can be glad a bad project will be over soon. But chances are, after you've been out there for awhile, you're going to bump into someone you've worked with before, and be expected to work with them again. So you want to make sure the relationships you have are well-maintained. Make sure your projects begin well and end well relationally.
Identify where you haven't got it together yet. If you find conflict resolution really difficult, then work on that. Do a course, read a book. If you find it hard to regulate your emotions under pressure, get some counselling, or learn some anxiety-reduction techniques. And if you find you can never get anywhere on time, set your alarm twenty minutes earlier, use your phone to put in reminders, invest some time planning your route or tasks or schedule to better estimate how much time things actually will take. There are simple, practical things you can do to maximise your working relationships with others.
As an actor, you will work with many different people. Certainly, some will be easier to get along with than others. If you like your colleagues - fantastic. But in the end, there is nothing in your contract that says you have to like your workmates. You don't have to like them - you just have to be professional with them. (What a relief!)
Drama school is a great place to learn about industry expectations and to start putting those expectations into practice. At CADA we feel this stuff is so important we teach a whole unit on it in the 10197NAT Certificate IV in Acting for Stage and Screen. That way there is no confusion amongst our actors as to what is expected in the industry.
So next tie you're cast in a role with a new bunch of people you've not worked with before, you may be naturally anxious about what the future holds. (Will they like me?) At the same time, though - if you understand and practice the principles of "being good to work with", you're already well on the way to being liked!
Canberra Academy of Dramatic Art