I’m recovering from a horrific case of the Hollywood Crud. You know that strain of pure evil that is hitting CDs, agents, filmmakers, writers, showrunners, managers, publicists, and actors everywhere? Yeah. It hit me. Twice. I’ve already spent more time in bed in 2008 than I probably did in all of 2007. It’s bad, bad, bad. And if you haven’t had it, cover yourself in bubble wrap, coat your extremities in Purell, and don’t leave your home unless you absolutely must. It sucks being that sick for that long. Sucks.
But I don’t like to mention being sick, ever. Because it yields these replies like, “Feel better!” and, “So sorry you’ve been ill,” and, “Aww… poor Bon.” And, frankly, I prefer comments like, “You rock!” to any that focus on the negative. Heck, I’ll make my MySpace mood “optimistic” when I’m sick. Unless I’m REALLY sick. Then I’ll just go all-in and make the mood “sick” as further motivation to hurry up and get over it already. There’s work to do, dangit!
Okay, so what is my point in leading off a column about how much I *don’t* like to talk about having been sick (and then doing exactly that)? Ah, well, see something really cool happened while I was sick in bed this most recent time (somewhere around Day Four of Part Two of the Ick, I’d guess).
I learned the power of “eh.”
See, I care a lot. About a lot of things. Most creative people are pretty dang passionate about a bunch of stuff, so this shouldn’t seem too unusual. We are highly invested in many things, most people, certainly a majority of causes and issues. And, since we’re expressive, we also share with others our commitment to things like politics and social issues, our investment in people and their choices, our connection to how any particular thing might turn out.
Actors want the roles for which they audition. They don’t simply hope they get cast. They love the character. They know this story. They are this person. Ah, I love that passion.
But as most actors know, that passion can bite you on the ass when you don’t get cast. Which — c’mon, we all know — is going to be the majority of the time you audition, right? And then there’s this attachment to this role that leaves a stinging sensation that lasts far longer than when you didn’t book the national commercial in which you would have to repeat the line, “Mmm. Tasty!” (Of course, you really, really, really wanted that one too. But that was so you’d get the good insurance last year. This role was YOU. It was your SHOT. I know.)
So, mid-week, I found myself propped up against a podium giving a talk to a college class. I mentioned that I had just celebrated (ah, what a metaphorical word, seeing as I was barely conscious for it) my fifth anniversary in casting. I talked about that first job interview I reluctantly attended, in which my general disposition was, “Eh. If I get the job, maybe I’ll take it. It’s really not my priority. I have so many other things going on and I’m not terribly invested in how this all turns out.”
From there, I talked about how that general attitude really does parallel some of the better auditions I’ve seen. But that it can’t ever really be a “faked eh.” It actually does have to be an “eh” that lives within about the situation. You have to be invested in the process, but not in the outcome. Does that make sense? You need to connect to your experience, but not be driven by how it’s all gonna turn out in the end. Tough balance, but so dang cool, once you can figure out how to attain it.
For example, there was some significant career bullshit going on while I was sick in bed. Significant. Bullshit. (Let’s just leave it at that.) My adoring husband would come in to check on me after a few hours (because, frankly, anything more than three hours’ sleep in a row is weird for me and deserves a poke to be sure I’m still breathing) and would report on the few dozen phone calls that had come in since his last report. I’d roll over to hear him out, grab my iPhone to check emails in six different accounts, give him a couple of tasks to complete (sometimes, “More NyQuil,” sometimes, “Call her agent and tell her we’re not paying her quote for travel days, that she’ll have to take scale on travel days and accept the flippin’ premium pay only for the day she’s actually acting on camera for this film, dammit”), and then roll back over and go back to sleep.
At one point, Keith had a “big problem” to share. (And, as I’ve mentioned before, drama costs extra in my world, because I really like working with people who do what they say they’re gonna do and don’t need to stir up shitstorms in order to feel like they’re accomplishing something by surviving them.) I heard him out, I blew my nose, and I rolled back over. He said, “Honey, I don’t think you heard me,” and then repeated the problem. I rolled back over toward him, shrugged meekly, and said: “Eh.”
So, when Keith and I were on the drive to that above-mentioned college campus talk I had to give, I said, “I think I know what Monday’s column is gonna be.” And then the talk, leading off with my tale of that whole job interview five years ago, cemented it. There is something so very liberating about a sense of detachment from outcome.
Yes, you do have to be invested in the process. You do have to prepare for your audition, you do have to understand the character and research the project, you do have to care enough to even show up! But the ability to just let the rest go is so very freeing… it actually makes us want to cast you more.
Think about most sets you’ve been on. What are you doing most of the time? Hanging out, right? Waiting. Talking. Not getting in the way. Chatting about your real life. Connecting either with people who will want to work with you in the future because you’re just so dang cool or with people who hope not to see you again because you’re just so dang intense and creepy. And what’s intense? Caring a real, whole lot about everything in this business. Caring too much about something. Being so flippin’ invested in anything that you can’t see beyond it.
For example, an actor at that talk I keep mentioning was obsessed (I kid you not, obsessed) with IMDb’s policy about listing actor-submitted credits for projects like student films and non-festival indies. The amount of time this actor spent simply telling me about how many hours it took to submit information that ended up rejected was baffling. And I listened. Patiently. And then said, “Seriously. If you put half of the energy you put into getting unqualifying (see the IMDb FAQ for cryin’ out loud. It’s very clear what they accept) credits rejected from IMDb into attending networking events, shooting your own short film, or writing your own spec script, you would be amazed at the shift in energy your life would have.”
“If you put even one-tenth of the energy you put into getting unqualifying credits rejected from IMDb into doing even ‘easier’ stuff like agency mailings, attending free events, or working up a new character for your one-person show, you would be amazed at the shift in energy your life would have.” And then I quoted either Deepak Chopra or Wayne Dyer (I’m seriously not sure who said it right now, as it was on an audiobook I had in grad school on which they both talked) and said, “Energy is currency. How do you wish to spend it?”
The actor looked at me like I had 16 heads. And, thinking maybe I had a boogie hanging from my nose, I stopped this line of discussion and figured I’d save it for the column, where your thoughts of what my nose may look like during my recovery from the Hollywood Crud are hidden from me by the wonders of the blessed shield of the Internet.
Point is: There is something beautiful about losing that investment in things you can’t control, in losing that belief that you can control whether someone else will keep his word, in losing that need to see a result you’re counting on. And Hollywood responds to that. Hell, LIFE responds to that. Being detached — having that sense of “eh, whatever” — can make the difference between your coming close and booking the role. Ironically. When you don’t really care so much that you book it.
Process-centered living is healthier than results-oriented living. Actors who get that, embrace that, and enjoy living within that mindset find themselves cast more often (and, when not cast, find themselves less crushed by that) than those who are all tied up in what’s gonna happen.
Big picture, folks. We’re all in this for the long haul and that means surviving beyond the easy, base-instinct, quick emotional investments in “what if’s.” Absolutely, be into it. Be committed. But also be bigger than “this Hollywood thing.” It’s far more attractive — and I mean that both literally and in the sense of the power of attraction itself — in the end.
How has the power of “eh” helped you detach from outcome? Share your tips in the comments below!
Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/000840.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.