If anyone says “you’ll never work in this town again” they’re lying. No one has that control.
No one in LA theatre has that much power or authority to make or break a career. There are angelic individuals that can help start and nourish your career, and there are people’s who opinions are well respected, but overall one persons opinion of you will not completely derail your career.
Reputations can be difficult to manage, because they are how the general community perceives and discusses you, which is muddied with their own personal biases and subjective value of their opinions on your art. One person might say I am a nightmare to work with, aggressive, argumentative, etc. and another might say I am kind, generous, collaborative, and they both might be correct based on how they perceive who I am and what they believe our working relationship should be. I will also let you guess the demographics of those that think I am aggressive and argumentative….
So what am I to do? I have one half of LA theatre thinking one thing, and the other thinking another, well this is where personal perception and branding steps in.
I ask “Do I value this person’s opinion on me?”
There was a situation where I had took on way too much responsibility and for the first time really overreached my capacity. This led to me letting someone down that I deeply respected and I knew they had put a lot of time and energy into investing in me, and being honest, I fucked up. They were honest with me that they were disappointed, I was honest in knowing where I went wrong, and we talked about how I could move forward to not make these mistakes again. The embarrassment and shame stung for a while, and they could have told everyone that I was a royal screw up, but instead they have continued to support my career and I keep that lesson with me.
It was less about if I screwed up or not, and how I tried to own the mistake and mend it, while appreciating the grace that others gave me.
On the other hand, I have had a handful of very vocal and opinionated men tell me things like I am unprofessional, I need to be nicer, or that I am overall uninformed or don’t know what I’m talking about. I’ve had at least 3 people tell me I’ll never work in this town again, and the only aspect that stuck what that I never worked for them again. Which is fine. I’m also positive they trashed my reputation publicly, and some people might believe it, but others won’t, and I can’t control that. Sometimes there is real feedback in these messages, but for the most part I take pride in the fact that I stand by who I am so strongly that I don’t care if someone (usually men) thinks I’m difficult to work with.
There is no singular opinion that matters, and it takes time to build the courage and space to not care about what self-proclaimed important individuals think of you. When it comes down to reputation, community, and building those two things, ask yourself if the people you want to work with, want to work with you. If they do, you’re on the right track. If the people you want to work with you, actively don’t want to work with you, you might have some reputation damage control you need to do.
When you are building your reputation, focus on your own values and integrity. Are you reliable? Are you kind to the people around you? Do you say what you’re going to do? Then for the most part, your reputation will be fine.
Just make sure to surround yourself with people who would put your name out there when opportunities show up.