Chasing a Dream: Making Mistakes

I HATE making mistakes.  Not only do I hate MAKING mistakes, I hate ADMITTING to having made a mistake.  And I desperately wish that I could say I rarely make them, but that would not be true.

I knew before I ever embarked upon chasing my dreams that I would make mistakes—as in everything else in life.  I only hoped that I would learn from those mistakes, and I have.  I want to tell you about my mistake in the hopes that any actor who reads this will benefit from my frank admission.

Admitting Mistakes Is HARD

This particular one is embarrassing as a performer, and just feels plain dumb as a person.  So let me give the background of the mistake.  Several months ago, I auditioned for—and was cast in—a movie role.  I was tickled.  The script was intense, the director is talented, and they had not PLANNED to cast this particular role from out of state because of travel expenses.  In fact, I was told that I was the ONLY one even considered for the role, so impressed were they with my audition.  I felt really good about it.

For non-actors, I should say that we all start out at the very bottom.  Sometimes in trying to build a resume, that means performing free.  After having done a few gigs, then you decide to no longer perform for free.  You feel as if you’ve “earned your wings,” developed your performance skills to the point where you deserve to be PAID for your work.  Then, there are low-budget projects—i.e., pay in the neighborhood of $150 per day—that you accept to further expand your performance experience.  The “mistake” role was one of those—a low-budget film with low pay.  Despite that fact, I was anxious to do it, and excited about the experience of being “on location” that involved travel for a film shoot.

So here I am—excited about a LOW BUDGET film and the travel for the shoot.  And a producer called me and asked me outright if I would forfeit being paid on the film.  He explained that they were over budget and that they were cutting expenses anyway they could, and had not PLANNED to have the expense of travel for my role.  Let me repeat this so you understand:  he ASKED ME TO FORFEIT BEING PAID ON THE FILM.

Make Mistakes and Keep on Smiling!

Make Mistakes and Keep on Smiling!

Now, those who know me realize that I am a helpful, giving person whenever possible.  I thought about it, and my thoughts went something like this:  $150 a day for a short film shoot is not going to make a difference in my life or finances one way or the other.  It was not an amount that would make a significant difference.  And so, I agreed.

Why That Was A Mistake

As I said, the pay for the role would make no difference in my finances, and I really wanted to do the role.  However, in retrospect, I realize a couple of things.  First, I DEVALUED my work.  Which means that other people also devalued my work.  Worse than completely obliterating my value, however, is the fact that I lost respect.

When I arrived on location, another actor had gotten the permission of the director to “tweak” the script and had completely “tweaked out” my best lines in the scene we shared.  The scene for which I prepared had some pretty good lines for me; the scene which he presented as his tweaked version left me out in the cold, and I was speechless.  I went from a scene with pretty good lines to a scene that put the entire focus on HIM.  My lines in that scene had been whittled to the point where they were foreign to me.  I SHOULD have spoken with the director myself and expressed my disappointment, but I was so blown away that I merely nodded.  Perhaps that whittling would not have happened if I were not performing free.

Since that time, the LA-based actors on the film have gotten together for cookouts or parties or whatever.  I was not included.  Perhaps I would not have been excluded if I had not performed for free.

Lesson Learned

So I have a couple of valuable lessons to pass along.

First, VALUE YOUR WORK.  Don’t let anyone diminish the value of your talent.  I am not saying not to do stuff for free.  I am saying you should be valued as much as ANYONE ELSE.  If others are being paid to perform, then YOU should be paid to perform.  Failing to value yourself—even though the actual amount of pay may mean nothing—can invite others to fail to recognize your value as well.  That is NOT a reputation you wish to have.

Second, LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE before answering any requests.  Ask yourself if what you are being requested to do is in your long-term best interest.  If it is not, politely decline and keep your head high.

Admit mistakes as they happen and learn from them.  And continue to dream!

DREAM BIG!  It’s so much more fun than dreaming small!





  1. Peggy- I love your honesty. This is so important. I made more than a few mistakes when I started acting. It’s important to value yourself every step of the way. I remember doing a AFI film years ago and I was so excited because I had a trailer and there was a budget. It was a night shoot and they asked me to drive an old car (no power steering) really fast and stop on a dime right next to a pier and a drop to water. The director said (and it’s like 3 am)- would you just mind doing this we would like to get your face as you are driving. I didn’t feel safe so I said no. So one producer came in and did the driving instead. I can see how it is hard to not say no but safety and value always first. Great lesson.

  2. Melissa Street says:

    Money can never devalue you! Make sure you have let it be known that your good nature and kindness were taken advantage of and certainly not appreciated – No acting skills required to put that person in their place and you have explained it clearly in your blog. Love you girlfriend and unfortunately Hollywood has no conscious – it is all about the money – for themselves!

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