Wow! I’ve never received so much email on a single topic. This week’s Your Turn is just a sampling of the emails you’ve sent in reaction to the column Two Letters and last week’s Your Turn (the rebuttal letter from one of the actors in the Two Letters column). Dear readers, the floor is yours.
Email number one:
Forgive me if I offer an alternative interpretation. The first actor, the less successful one, is in the position of trying to manage his own mid-level career (which is a daunting task) and is commenting (perhaps not as diplomatically as possible) on the fact that so many books we turn to seem EITHER to focus on the newbie with bright hopes or the best case scenario of the successful professional with a full professional team.
Frankly a lot of us people in the rank and file are right in between — fighting the daily fight. Now, that doesn’t mean a lack of talent necessarily — just a harder row to hoe for whatever reason (type, temperament, lack of congruity with the times, making a transition from ex-ingénue to character person, etc.). So there is a frustration with the lack of support and input out there to be had by reading a good book on it, which comes up when you pursue yet another manual which doesn’t seem to apply to you. It’s not that you are unwilling to LEARN or improve, mind you.
The reason this category is generally avoided is because of its mid-ground and due to the fact that the other poles are easier to delineate and to deal with in a straightforward way. The only other approach I see is something à la Julia Cameron’s “The Artists Way” but even then it doesn’t seem to apply to actors much. I myself have tried to address this in my blog but frankly, I don’t think anyone reads it. I started it to try in my own way to address the problem of the working/trying to work/always looking for work actor. We’re in the unions, in the IMDb, but I joke that I am either at the top of the bottom or the bottom of the middle (but we have to remember that there is the great unwashed expanse of the nonunion/non-IMDb/totally star stricken, untrained, inexperienced out there below us, too). Unable to give it up, we persevere, and info like yours sure helps us out.
The old showbiz wisdom has a lot to say for it. They were much more philosophical in a basic way than we are and seemed to understand the role of the fickle finger of fate in most of our careers. They begrudgingly accepted that luck played a major part in success and said that sometimes you just needed a break (and realized that some people rarely got those). We seem to think that we can engineer and plan and forecast everything and that setting goals means that they will appear. It’s not necessarily so. Most of us muddle through and do the best we can, gleaning insight along the way. We have to be brightly optimist out here because that’s the way the game is played but we should also allow ourselves upon occasion to be brutally honest and even a bit cynical if we are in it for the long haul. I have been doing this for 25 years and have more than one thing on the IMDb although I am hardly a star (even though I was pitched as one early in my career. It just didn’t happen for whatever reason. What a lesson THAT was!). I am still trying to carve my mark on the IMDb and make some money — both choices.
So, perhaps this is just a philosophical seconding that the book the first, less-successful actor was hungering for is one that should be written. Who knows, I may write it myself. Thanks for your efforts to bridge the communication gap.
Email number two:
I have read with great interest your Actors Voice article on “Two Letters” (re: the 2nd edition of your book) as well as the “Your Turn” in response to it.
I find it very courageous of you to suggest to actors that they take COMPLETE responsibility for their careers. I have found that most people (not just actors) are not willing to go that far (if willing at all). And that’s not just about careers, but their lives. Everything comes from within. I really appreciate the manner in which you describe to actors the inaccuracy and ineffectiveness of finger-pointing, blame and preoccupation with the external.
Here’s a great quote from your “Your Turn” response:
Basically, you are looking for answers to a question that does not exist. There is NO reason that any one actor gets work and another doesn’t.
Yes. Or there’s another way to describe it (and it amounts to the same thing): “Whatever happens, happens because it is meant to happen.”
I find that this too is a hard pill for many people to swallow. Many take this to mean that they have no control over their lives and careers; that they might as well just give up. However, I have found in my life that there is a paradox: In acceptance of that which is meant to be, things actually change! With that acceptance, not only is there greater inner freedom, but one’s life experience changes (both because the inner is different but also because somehow the external changes as well).
If I am being too “out there,” please forgive me. But I simply wished to share my thoughts, and to compliment you on what you do most brilliantly. I really feel very privileged to have in our community the singular and inspired voice that you possess. You do immense service to our actors and all industry people.
President, Hollywood Management Company
Board of Directors, Talent Managers Association (TMA)
Member, National Association of Artist Managers (NAAM)
Email number three:
I liked your answer about figuring out what we can do rather than expecting someone else to do it. Years ago there was a running gag about “Let George do it.” But “George” was a rather mythical person, so the things never got done. Some actors seem to be counting on “George” when they could look in the mirror and see the person they should count on for help.
Email number four:
My take on the man that didn’t get your book, maybe he just simply needs more training. People that truly are great at what they do — or love it just for the acting — will shine.
Email number five:
I just wanted to praise you on this week’s column.
Everything you need to do to succeed in this business comes from getting out of your own way. You seem to think that only people outside of you are keeping you from booking. That’s simply not possible. Because if that were true, no one would ever book. EVER. You are looking to us to make it happen for you, and even if you are the most positive-attitude-filled person on the planet, that underlying message of, “And don’t you dare keep me from what I deserve,” shines through your work (and you’d better believe that’s a turnoff).
So much of this sentence above just HITS HOME with me. I’m in a business everyday that says that I am not “pretty enough” or “thin enough” or this or that. I’ve seen casting directors that have been cold to me or not paying attention during my audition (it happens, it’s rude but it happens). I could let this stop me and say that I didn’t get the part because other people are making it hard on me. I don’t BLAME anyone. I go to each audition and leave ALL THAT CRAP OUT THE DOOR. Why? Because every audition is a NEW audition and the person casting has decided that I could be right for this role. NOT, “She’s right, but could she lose a few pounds?” NOT, “She’s right, but could she be something else?” No, this casting director decided I’m worth looking at and so I go into that audition (using your words) and GET MY PART! If it doesn’t happen, I just gear up for the next one. It’s too hard a business to let rejection get to you. It’s hard for me to accept the idea that a casting director would call you into an audition just to HINDER you from getting the role. (Because they have THAT MUCH TIME ON THEIR HANDS!)
I’m just TIRED of listening to people say that they NETWORK to death, shake hands, kiss babies, send cards and emails, but never book a part and that OTHER PEOPLE are responsible for them not landing a part. Now I just may be a fluke, but I do almost NO NETWORKING (I say almost no networking because I’ve built little friendships with casting directors and people from all the auditions I’ve been on, but I don’t send mailers out as much as I’m told I should), I’m actually kinda shy around industry people (it’s the old adage, once I get to know them I open up — but my shyness NEVER happens at an audition, just wanted to clear that up) but I have booked or been called back to practically EVERY audition I’ve gone on. There’s no set rule to Hollywood, just go into that audition, and show them you’re the best one for that role and leave. No excuses.
I thank you for that Bonnie because people need to understand you can be the NICEST person in the world and network, and do A HUNDRED THINGS, but if you come in with this sense of ENTITLEMENT that the world OWES YOU, then you won’t get it.
Email number six:
Great column. Excellent rebuttal to this guy. I have a very good friend who I have had to basically shut out of my life because of his poisonous negative attitudes. He’s had some decent successes in his career and has been surrounded by supportive people who love and promote him. Yet, he is bitter that fate has not made his a household name and, because of it, he is a black hole of psychic energy to be around. Combine that with his tendency to burn bridges with his biggest supporters and I actually had to tell him that I could not be his friend anymore for those very reasons.
Case in point: A mutual buddy got cast in a low-budget feature and he got my friend and a few other of our circle a meeting with producers. My friend and a third friend got pretty decent featured parts. However, all my friend could do was complain because his featured role wasn’t as big as our other friend’s whom he went in with.
It’s frustrating because I know he is far more talented than many of the mid- to upper-mid-level actors on TV but he’ll never get to where he dreams of being because he refuses to see the ladder under his feet.
Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/000364.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.