Thursday, March 3, 2011

Being an Actor: Reality vs. Fantasy

So based on remarks I've seen from non-entertainment people varying from The Jobless Juris Doctor (a law school scam blogger) to Facebook friends of people I am acquainted with on Facebook, I think it's time to clear up some misconceptions about what it's like to be an actor.

In the wake of the whole Charlie Sheen situation, I have seen everything from "Charlie's laughing all the way to the bank & could care less about burning bridges with producers." to "Acting is an easy job while being a lawyer is hard work." I even saw someone have the audacity to claim the rudest industry people alive would be mouthy to attorneys & I know from personal experience + conversations with other lawyers that that is a baldfaced lie.

For the sake of my actor friends, let's get a few things straight right now:

1. Acting is NOT easy!!!!!!!!! While not completely related to this topic, this Huffington Post article highlights some of the things actors have to go through.

There's also having to work when you don't feel well and dealing with some less than kind industry folk (there are some out there). It's the same kind of thing as having an attorney boss who thinks the paralegals & legal secretaries are slaves or lesser than him/her. While the people I know wouldn't actually treat actors like slaves & I've never personally witnessed it, I'm sure there are people somewhere who are openly hostile to actors.

2. Real actors are not in it for the money. Even the kids of celebrities have to start somewhere. You will NOT get paying jobs in acting if you haven't gotten at least some experience doing something. Theater, extra work, indie film, student films...there are plenty of gigs that offer NO pay. Being an actor is all about having to pay dues. If you're related to someone famous, you also have to deal with people assuming you are a dick or have entitlement issues.

Why do you think lots of people who became famous didn't cash in on family connections? Believe me, the ones who do that become much more respected since they aren't perceived as line jumpers or spoiled brats.

The average person only hears about the established, famous actors doing things (which are a very small percent of all actors) instead of your more typical working actor who is not earning a steady weekly paycheck working a 9-5 job.

If you start out in acting immediately demanding paid work, you're either going to be relegated to permanent extra work or eventually go broke because no one hires you.

How many times have you heard about actors walking away from roles where they were making obscene amounts of money, simply because they were sick of the role? Something else is at work besides money.

3. It takes FUCKING EFFORT to be an actor. You don't just read lines from a script. You have to make the material come alive and create a story that the audience wants to see. Bad acting can kill a project just as effectively as bad writing, bad promotion, etc.

Try memorizing 20 pages of lines in a week as well as rewrites that could be a short time before filming. There aren't many people who are memorization experts & that's what you have to do when filming a TV show. You may have more time for a film or theater but you still have to deal with rewrites, blocking (the movements you will perform while doing the scene), etc.

So, if you think acting is SOOOOO easy, I offer the same challenge to you that I offered to The Jobless Juris Doctor: do an acting project yourself. Theater, extra work involving exteriors on a cold day/little clothing/something out of your comfort zone, any project that will give you some perspective. Ideally, you'll have to memorize lines or spend a lot of time with many people.

Believe me, you're going to learn some things.

If you still think I, someone who actually WORKS in the entertainment industry + has done some stage performance, am less credible than your non-industry opinion or that of your non-industry friends, then you're an idiot. I'll have to ream you out for whining about YOUR job next since I'm sure someone has a harder one that you (including parenthood since there are people whose kids have worse ailments & handicaps).

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