Thursday, September 13, 2012

Why did they do it?

NPR just aired an excellent report on the production of the film that's incited the violent uproar against American embassies in the Middle East, this week. It touched on the question I asked when I'd seen the trailer for the film, "Who are these actors and why did they perform in this?".  Apparently, several claim not to have know what the film was actually about.  That got me thinking....

What is our responsibility as actors?  Making a living in this profession is so hard, that we are always grateful to get any paid gig...but where do we draw the line and what ownership should we have of the message of a project once we've signed on?  Is it enough just to get the paycheck and the IMDB credit?  Or should we also accept a role as representatives of the agenda of the project?  And can we be choosy when we're broke?

I think the answer is that if you're in it, you have to own it. Though we really are just cogs in a giant machine, actors are literally the face of the agenda of any film/tv project. We're what the audience sees - not the producers, not the cameramen, not the costumers, not the grips... So we have to accept that we represent that project to a higher extent than most other people involved.  In that light, we can't really hide behind the "I didn't know what they were doing" excuse.  We have to own our choices. That means we have to be so careful about the projects we pick. 

The actors in The Innocence of Muslims say they didn't know what the film was about. How does that happen? Easy. Happens to a lot of us... You're busy, you're not a main character, you're brought on late, it's "just" a reading/short/student-film/producers/directors don't even want you to know the big picture... whatever... the bottom line is, you don't read the full script - you don't know the full story of the project you're acting in.  Nine out of ten times, you can get away with that without issue, but at some point, you can end up in the kind of worst case scenario that is going on right now. I'm not just warning other actors, I'm reminding myself because I've done it, too!  You get a 160pg script, you're only on 5 pages, you're working on 3 other projects plus working your day job, so why waste time on scenes you're not in...  Or maybe you do know the whole project, but you figure no one will see it, you need the check, it's just a gig, it doesn't really matter, you're just a hired employee....whatever... No. You don't get a pass. You took the work, now speak to it. If you choose not to defend your choice, then express that, but please don't say you didn't know...  Ignorance cannot be an actor's excuse. 

Let this be a reminder to all of us to make responsible choices in our work.
Actors: Know Your Projects, Know Your Producers (and their agenda!).  And own your choices!
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