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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Taking Control

We've all heard the stereotypes. Actors are crazy.  Actors are professional liars. Actors are self-centered.

I can even understand some of them. We can sometimes skirt the edges of sanity in our quest for "acting truthfully under imaginary circumstances". Some occasionally go over that edge. The best actors don't, but enough have done it that I get the label.

Actors are professional liars. Okay. Again, I get it. We are constantly portraying characters that, at least outwardly, have very little to do with who we are. So, obviously, someone that isn't a part of that world would conclude that we are better at lying than most. What they don't know is that most of us are TERRIBLE liars.

On to the self-centered thing. Hmmmm. This one is more problematic.  Because it rings true an awful lot. We do things that are... well... self focused, if not completely and tragically selfish. We do. You know it; I know it.

Why? Why do we do it? Why do we demand that green only M&M's be delivered by courier to our trailer out in the middle of the Mojave? Why do we play practical jokes or create drama or sleep around on set?

Here's my theory. We do it because we feel a lack of control. We are given our lines. We are told how to deliver them by a director. We are told how to dress by wardrobe, how to do our hair by the makeup department, where to stand by the DP.

So, what do we do? Do we just lie down and take it?

Ummm... yeah, we do.

Because if we're in the position where everyone is telling us what to do, it generally means that we're EMPLOYED! Employment is a pretty big deal in our profession, seeing as how 97% of us are not, the vast majority of the time.

That does not, however, mean that we need to be doormats. We are ultimately in control of our lives, as much as we like to think otherwise. We control which projects we do and which we don't. We control what our standards are: what we will do and what we won't. We are in charge of our own destinies.

If we don't like how things are going, we have the power to change them.

Now stop. If you're like most, you already had about 10 excuses flit through your head screaming at you why this statement doesn't apply to you. I know, because I'm writing this and I still did.

Aren't getting enough acting work? Make your own. Can't afford acting classes? Find other actors and create a scene study group. Pissed off because your acting career is taking off (let's talk about this later, btw) and you're getting "typecast" (important part of that word is "cast", just so you know)? Hook up with a writer and create a role that is outside of your type. For that matter, write it yourself.

In other words, take control. Or, you know, do it in passive aggressive ways later by demanding imported beer on tap in your dressing room so that people can prove to you how important you are. We don't have to buy into any of the stereotypes. None of 'em. We are who we chose to be. The kind of actor, the kind of artist, the kind of person.

As long as we're taking control.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Ben! I like your writing style, it feels really similar to the way I write, so I can relate to it right away, and your advice is sound. I'm an actress here in LA, and I very much agree with this post - I work the system a lot, meaning I submit a lot, audition a lot and actually book a lot - of course not all are paying gigs, but there are those that are and the projects I choose are good ones!

    But I also do what you recommend as far as doing my own projects, either on my own (interiews, on the street camera work, or scene work) as well as shorts and feature films and some theater *stuff*), with my other actor, writer and director friends. You are so right that it is so important to take our careers into our own hands and manage our destiny, as much as we can anyway and that we always have a choice as to what we'll accept as, well...acceptable. Keep up the good work!

    Take care,

    Victoria Drake
    If you'd like to check out my blog (which is still evolving) please do!