My husband and I have a relationship that is built on two fundamental principles. One: Always trust that we each have the other’s best interests at heart (that way, even when we’re fighting, we know it’s because we both want a result that improves our relationship or current situation). Two: Always go for the funny. (I tend to argue that that last one is the more important of the two, but it’s really because of the first one that the last one works so well.) The idea is that, if there is a joke to make, you’d better take the shot (even at the other’s expense). That keeps us laughing, no matter what. Nothing wrong with that.
But this week’s column is about the first principle: TRUST. And it’s not just trust in an intimate partnership I’m talking about. It’s trusting your fellow castmates, trusting your director and producer, trusting your agent and manager, trusting your acting coach, trusting yourself. All while pursuing a career in an industry where self-doubt and cut-throat tendencies seem to rise up. No, it’s not gonna be easy, but it sure will be wonderful, once you embrace trust in your career’s path.
It takes smarts to really trust those around you. You MUST keep your eyes peeled for those scammers who will take advantage of too much misplaced trust. Also, watch out for folks who’ll lead you into a ditch because they simply don’t know any better (but they talk a good game). If you start off by building your relationships on a foundation of research and common sense, you’re on the right track for having a professional community you can easily trust, at every turn. But if you’re so eager to “get a team” in place that you aren’t choosy when assembling it, you’re much more likely to have your trust misplaced down the line.
Take the time to know who you’re dealing with. Only sign with agents you’ve researched incredibly well. Put yourself in the hands of directors whose visions you share. Study under coaches who get you and your career goals. And constantly reassess to be sure you’re in the best possible partnerships, as your needs change and your career path heads up a tier or two. Once you surround yourself with people you trust, you must then TRUST THEM. Don’t micromanage their process. If you did your research and prep-work correctly, you’ve got to know that you’ve put yourself and your career into very capable hands and let these folks do their best for you, unfettered by your anxious chatter.
Trust that no one — outside of reality show producers and nonunion filmmakers asking you to do your own stunts — is looking to embarrass you or put you in jeopardy. And, like I said, if you’ve done your research before surrounding yourself even with those unsavory or inexperienced characters, you’re going to have to trust that you’re right where you’re supposed to be.
Trust Your Castmates
This is where the improv rule of “yes, and…” comes in. It’s a great way to live. You’re given an opportunity at every cue line to accept what has been offered up to you by a castmate and then build upon it accordingly. While “screw your partner” improv may be really cute on shows like Thank God You’re Here and Whose Line Is It Anyway, it’s the kind of stuff that only celeb-improvisers can get away with (and even then, it doesn’t really work). What is far more pleasant to watch (much less experience) is the building up of the relationship and the material, via “yes, and…” give and take.
Watching actors who trust one another is a beautiful thing. Far more compelling than watching disconnected performances that were the result of some personality conflict or on-set diva behavior. When you audition, trust that your scene partner or the reader is there to provide you with your best possible venue for showing off your goods. Sure, there will be times when that’s just not the case, but if we see you trusting the process and the people there to help you through it, we will notice that and reward it. We’ll also enjoy you more because of it.
Trust Your Director, Your Producer
There are some directors who are gonna ask you to do weird stuff. The specifics might not make sense to you, but if you’ve done your homework before getting involved in a project with any particular director or producer, you’re going to be ready to trust that this person has the best overall finished product in mind, when asking you to perform in any particular way. (Now, of course, if you are being asked to do anything that jeopardizes your safety or crushes your spirit, you need to check with your union or really examine whether you did your homework before signing up to work with this loon.)
In most instances, the directors and producers you work with are going to have a broader view of what the overall finished product is supposed to look like, and while you may be certain that “it’d be better if I got to say the line on this beat instead of that one,” you’re only privy to a portion of the overall project, and you’ll need to learn to trust that a director is going to pull out your best performance in context that you might not have access to just yet. This is not to say that you should throw out your values at all, this is just a point about how important that early research can be, as it is the cornerstone for the trust required when you’re on set and being asked to provide what may just turn out to be a brilliant performance, if you know you’re in good hands, going in.
Many actors are such people-pleasers that they’ll bend over backwards to provide a director with what he’s asking for, on set. If, however, the producers who cast those actors aren’t seeing what they want in the dailies, you can believe they just might “final cut” the actors’ work right out of the finished product. Again, research on who the players are and who the real boss might be will protect you and allow you to go forward with the level of trust on set that makes everything come together like magic.
Trust Your Agent, Your Manager
Stay involved in what your representatives do on your behalf but don’t ever micromanage your team. If you avoided a premature move and only signed with someone after you did — here’s that word again — research and, from the onset, knew for a fact that you were connecting with the right representative, you’re okay. Yes, even when times are slow or you’re wondering if your agent is out there hustling for you, if you signed on with a team you trust, you can relax and observe the many ups and downs of a typical industry career’s cycle.
Of course, if instead you rushed into a partnership without doing research, without knowing who you were going to be dealing with, and without a level of trust that will benefit all parties, you’re going to find yourself anxious about everything your agent or manager is doing (or not doing) on your career’s behalf. Oops. Not good. For any of you. See “When To Fire Your Agent” for more on this issue.
Trust Your Acting Coach
Before you started spending loads of money on acting classes, you spoke to other actors whose work you enjoy about who their coaches are, right? You audited classes so that you could see, by sitting in and observing, how the coaches work and whether they’d meet your needs, right? Okay, so assuming you’ve not signed up for some soul-crushing, “watch me break you down and then build you up in my image so that you’ll walk around like a drone telling the world how much of a guru I am”-type of coach I find so repelling out there, you’re in a good class. Now, because you signed on with a coach you trust, trust him. Let him bring out the best in you. Test your range. Have fun.
Sure, there are times when you need to check with someone outside yourself to know you’re on the right path or making the right choices, but if you’ve surrounded yourself with people you trust in all of the above scenarios, the number of times you actually doubt their guidance will reduce significantly. So, that means you need to trust yourself. Trust that you’ve made good choices and are now in good hands. And trust yourself to check in with your progress in case your team begins to no longer mesh with your needs as an artist.
Trust That You’re Enough
This is the biggie, for me. TRUST THAT YOU’RE ENOUGH. You don’t need to lie on your resumé or beef up your first credits. Enjoy being a beginner while you’re a beginner! It’s the only time when you can freely be open to learning so much from so many others who have been down the same path.
There is room for everyone in this town and in this business. Your patience with your process, your willingness to treat this career as a long-haul experience rather than something you can quickly master, and your enthusiasm for the opportunities you get every day in this business will be more than enough to get you started. And rather than ever looking at an audition in terms of, “What are they looking for and how can I be that?” focus your energy on, “This is who I am and now let me show them that.”
Trust me: You, yourself, are enough. If you trust nothing else in this week’s piece, walk away with at least that nugget. I know it sounds “Stuart Smalley” in nature, but it’s just the truth. You don’t have to be anything other than who you are in order to make it here. In fact, the harder you try to figure out what we want and stray away from your authentic self in order to be that, the less trust we’re going to put in you to deliver the goods as an actor who gives voice to our projects’ characters in the first place. Trust that.
Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/000741.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.