Tuesday, December 31, 2013

9 Things Your Actor Friends Want You To Know, But Will Never Tell You

1.  We don’t care about meeting your other actor friends.  
I can’t tell you how many times someone has told me I should call/Facebook/email/meet some other person they know or met who happens to do the same thing as I do.  I live in NYC – literally, thousands of other people do what I do, connecting with them is not a problem. Also, actors are a bit clannish and very competitive.  We’re kind of territorial about gigs and not so inclined to share “secrets” that might bite us in the ass.  For example, an actress who’s the same type as me, is probably not going to introduce me to her agent and risk losing parts to me.  But more specifically, meeting other actors isn't really helpful for business because we’re both at the same end of the transaction.  I mean, if you sell phones at Verizon, what’s more helpful for you – meeting another person who sells phones or meeting a person who needs to buy a phone?  See my point?  It’s the old supply & demand principle.  I’m an actor, I provide a service – my talent.  Meeting other people who provide that same service?  Boring and not helpful.  Meeting someone who needs that talent?  VERY INTERESTING AND VERY HELPFUL.  Does that make sense?  So, yes, I’ll call up your other actor friend because you've asked me to and I know that you mean well (we’ll have a laugh and/or gripe about the business for a while), but I’d really prefer that you connected me to your producer/agent/casting director/filmmaker friends.

2.  We hate when you call us “aspiring” actors.  
The word aspire implies wishing, not working.  So I’m not Julia Roberts, yet.  That doesn't mean I haven’t earned the title “Actor”.  If you knew how much work, time and money we put into this career…  Think of it this way: A student in dental school might be aspiring, but once he/she goes into practice even if they might still owe more in student loans than they earn, they are a dentist.  Period.  Plain and simple.  I am an actor. 

3.  Opening night is a dress rehearsal; the best performances are towards the end of the run.  
We need you to come to opening night of a play because we need that initial buzz around the show, we need butts in those seats, we need the audience’s energy to shift us from rehearsal to performance mode, but that first show….  Ooof.  Yeah, the kinks aren't worked out quite yet; sometimes things that worked during rehearsal, don’t actually work in front of an audience, we learn that on opening night and make the fixes.  So here’s the deal:  We need you to come back!   Yes, as demanding as that sounds, ideally, we’d like you to come to opening night then come back to one of the last performances, but if you can only come once, please come to one of the last shows.  It takes a couple of performances for the actors to settle in to their characters and play more freely, that’s the sweet spot.  That’s when you’ll catch us “being” rather than “doing” and that’s infinitely better. 

4.  Please, don’t recommend us for non-paid gigs.  
Your cousin’s writing a play and needs actors?  Great!  I love that you’d like to refer me, but hang on.  I like to get PAID for my work.  Is your cousin looking to pay for talent?  Because if not, you’re putting me in an awkward position.  If I were a contractor and your cousin wanted his kitchen remodeled but didn't have money to pay for it, would you do the same thing?  No.  You’d tell your cousin that you know a professional, but that you can’t guarantee that they’d do the job for free.  Actors want the same respect.  Again, the amount of time, money and energy we put into being constantly prepared for every random gig and audition means that we can’t just give away our work for free all the time.  Sometimes, I think of myself (and all actors who toil away on student films and no/lo-pay indie projects) as dreammakers.  We help make the projects - the dreams - of broke directors/writers/filmmakers come to life.  We literally give life to their vision.  I really don't mean that egotistically - we love our work and are grateful for it, and it's our dream, too!  But even dreammakers have to pay rent.

5. We’re crazy broke!  
Even those of us with day jobs – are just barely scraping by.  Our expenses almost always exceed our income.  Besides the general body maintenance (health, beauty, fitness), there’s constant training (voice, dance, technique, movement, specialties), then marketing necessities (headshots, postcards, website, subscriptions to trades services, mailings), all that on top of the regular cost of living (rent, food, utilities, transportation..) and raising a family….  We don’t have the resources for fat savings accounts and retirement plans.  Most times there’s too much month at the end of the money, so we get 2nd and 3rd part-time jobs to make the ends meet.  This has got to be one of the most expensive professions on the planet, when you compare our investment to our earnings.  So keep that in mind when you’re thinking we're flaky, cheap, or selfish.

6.  We dread the question “What have I seen you in?”.  
It’s always the next question after someone realizes you're an actor.  Please refer to #2 above.  What you see on film, television and Broadway isn't even a tenth of a percent of what’s being produced in the entertainment world.  We can have a full resume, yet never have appeared in any big mainstream hit that you’d know.  If you’re a dentist, I don’t ask if you've done the teeth of anyone I know.  I simply accept that fact that you’re a dentist.  Besides that, unless I am a household name, you might not have recognized me when I was in something you saw which then leads to the awkward situation of my having to explain to you which character I played and your trying to remember.  Not cute.

7. Even awful shows take a lot of work.  
It’s inevitable.  I’m sure even Meryl Streep performed in a clunker way back when.  Some shows or performances just fail.  There’s still a huge amount of hard work that goes into creating them, though.  Grueling schedules, tough rehearsals, strained resources, tireless research.  Cast and crew bust their asses for each gig.  So before you launch into your bitingly witty critique of someone's work, please know that what might take you just a few moments to dismiss was an intense episode (for months, sometimes years) in the lives of a whole team of very brave people (because it takes raw courage to create something and present it to strangers for scrutiny) .

8. You probably see more Broadway shows than we do.  
Have I mentioned that we’re broke?  Now, add to that the fact that in order to fund our full time acting career, we have to work other jobs, plus manage the rest of our lives. That takes a toll on our schedules.  Even when we can get cheap tickets, finding the time can be tough.

9. Your well-meaning advice to “just go on a reality show” is kind of an insult.  
Maybe some of us take this career too seriously, but we haven’t invested this much time, energy and money to risk humiliating ourselves on these reality shows - once you do those, it's hard to be taking seriously for real acting roles.  Furthermore, reality tv doesn’t pay much (that’s why it’s everywhere, it’s the cheapest thing to produce).  Also, there is still a sense among us that you should earn your wings in this business by doing creative work, not by eating live bugs or having temper tantrums about your wedding.  I know that sounds arrogant; I really mean no disrespect to reality show players.  It’s just a different discipline.  Sure, most of us actors want to be famous, but we want to achieve it in a different way.  If you really want to help us, keep giving your moral support and refer to #1 above.

I know the tone of this list is a bit rough.  That's just to get your attention.  :-)  You all know that I love and appreciate your support and interest and would never turn my nose up at your kindnesses.  I just wanted to share with you some of things that come up when I'm chatting with other actors about our little pet peeves. Again, these are things actors usually only vent about with each other, but I think they can be food for thought for anyone.  As a matter of fact, share this list with other performers you know and ask them if they agree.  ;-)

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