Monday, August 08, 2005

My Hypocrisy

Been meaning to write this for a while, but it seems like there's always something more important to be done. I've noticed, when I feel this way about something over an extended period, it's either truly not important and I've got to take it off my To Do list, or else I've got some fear or dislike surrounding the matter. In this case, I think it's the latter, so I'll just jump in and write, and damn the torpedoes.

I've felt like a hypocrite for a long while about keeping this blog, primarily because my mantra in acting is "It's not about you; even when you think it's about you, it probably isn't." If that's true, how do I reconcile the fact that I'm keeping a blog that's to a large degree all about me, me, me?

I guess the answer for me has to do with longevity, attrition, and having a career in this biz. One reason I think agents, producers, casting directors and the like surround themselves with layers of protection is that actors make lousy dogs. Bear with me on my tortured metaphor here:

It's not that actors aren't "likable" or "friendly" or even fun to have around. But how many people really want to have an actor as a friend? Better yet, how many actors truly know what it is to be a friend, or know how to treat people outside their circle of friends as if those people were themselves potential friends? In my experience, most people would rather have a dog for a friend than an actor, at least for the long haul. Why? Because most actors seem to be a great deal more needy than dogs. Sure, a dog needs to be fed and walked, but the other 90% of his/her interaction with you is defined largely by you. They want to know what YOU are doing, they want to know what YOU are feeling, they want to have fun with YOU and, hard as it is to believe, they actually put themselves second to whatever YOU want to do. And, if you think about it, those are some of the same hallmarks that people look for in choosing their own friends.

Now, I'm stopping way short of saying that friends need to be doormats, and the percentage of time spent with friends that should most appropriately be centered on them is probably closer to 50% on average, but hey, 50% is a LOT more than I see many actors give to the people around them.

I hate to sound like a shame-based, self-hating actor here (I really don't think that's the case, and I'm usually the first to defend actors as Real People and acting as a Real Profession), but my pet peeve about people listing their resumes out loud in the waiting room for an audition didn't come out of nowhere — it happened just last Wednesday, as a matter of fact. I wonder if D.G. (Wednesday's blatherer) has grown cynical yet about the popularly held belief that who you know in this biz potentially advances your career as much as your talent. I swear that at least half of the people complaining about the theatre community being a "closed clique", or about casting directors "forgetting" them don't realize that they themselves are making the experience of being around them unpleasant. I know, for myself, that I would never hire D.G. for a job — regardless of his talent — and I am occasionally in a position to do this now (which is itself neither a boast nor a threat, but rather an illustration that everyone an actor talks to in this biz — from the agency receptionist, to the P.A., to the fellow actor in the waiting room — may someday be in a position to either help or hurt their career).

Okay, I just went to the bathroom, thought about it a bit, and here's what I mean to say:

Just as most sane people realize that talking about raw sewage around the dinner table is inappropriate, the fact is that, in this business — ironic as it may seem to be — attempting to focus other people's attention on you as an actor, outside of certain rare instances, is also inappropriate. Do it a lot and I guarantee that Dr. Phil will one day be asking you "How's that working for ya?" Drawing appropriate focus to your character on stage or on camera: good. Responding to direct questions from an agent or casting director about your last job: okay. Listing your resume, bitching about craft services, dropping names, or saying anything particularly negative about anyone else in the biz: way, waaaay bad.

And, precisely because it IS so vitally, critically important to be a real human being to those you meet — someone who is fun to work with, who doesn't complain, who doesn't talk much about themselves, who seems, in fact, to be good "friend" material — that I think there ought to be a Safe Place where actors can blow off steam. For some people, that Safe Place might be at home with their family. Dad may fuss and fume over the dinner table about the idiots at work and his overbearing boss, but 10-to-1 when he's actually at work he's pleasant and respectful as much as possible. Is that hypocrisy? Maybe, some might say. Personally, though, I think it's more of a coping mechanism that allows Dad to be human without destroying his hopes for career advancement (which, of course, benefits those that depend on him as well).

So, long story short, go ahead and call me a hypocrite. I'm keeping a blog. I keep it because it is my Safe Place to fuss and fume about the idiots in my business. I keep it because I occasionally want to talk about work-related issues without worrying that I'm hurting the feelings of other actors around me or, conversely, that some Buyer of Talent will think I'm a horrible braggart. I keep it because I'm not worthy of being a dog, but very much want to be.

1 comment:

Story said...

Evan -

There's a lot here to talk about.

First - you have said this before, but I did not notice it in this particular post. Your blog is also of great assistance to actors at my stage of the game. As you yourself stated in the rules about not doing the whole actor chatting thing, it's okay to talk about your work if it helps someone else - and if that's the reason for talking about it. And your blog has helped at least me, if not others. It continues to provide me with grounded, well-thought out experience that gives me greater confidence in what I'm doing.

Second - I've always said that talking is taking and listening is giving. And, unfortunately, the nature of what we do lends itself to the talkers. Many folks do what we do in order to receive attention. And that's no different off stage. I think, in addition, many folks have tied their self esteem up in their resume. Perhaps that's a cultural thing in the acting community?

Anyway - know, at least here, that I was wondering where the heck your blog has been because I NEED MORE INFORMATION!!!!