Last week's blog topic began with shedding my guilt and accepting my ego as something other than ego, specifically on the topics of unpaid work as an actor and being a critic. This week's post continues with:
GETTING ALL THE DETAILS & AVOIDING COMPETITION
Getting All the Details - In January I worked reenactments for a documentary where I happened to look remarkably like the feminist poet subject of the film. One benefit to being a generic white girl is I can change my look very easily. I first talked to the director on the phone – he was very sweet. He explained that it was a modest budget so there wouldn't be money to pay, but it would only be a four hour commitment and I would get footage within a few months. I agreed and we were in touch a few times about wardrobe and shoot dates. I knew a brief synopsis of the events- this woman went down south to join the civil rights movement while she was working as a broadcast journalist I think, and there was some kind of altercation with a police officer which led to her quitting her job. When it got a little closer to time I started asking more questions and the director seemed really passionate about the project but a little hesitant about telling me exactly what was going to happen. Eventually I emailed him just to say “Hey, I'm comfortable with any subject matter, I'd just like a few more details.” He called shortly after and said “Oh, yeah, she just had this altercation with a sheriff. It does require you to wear handcuffs, but we will clear those shots first and then hide your hands the rest of the time. Are you comfortable with that?” I said yeah, but when I tried to get additional information on the “altercation” he seemed to just brush it off. He said he'd send storyboards my way before the shoot so I let it go.
The storyboards arrived in my inbox a little after 9pm the night before we were suppose to start shooting at 9am. I had been recovering from the flu and was already asleep by that time, so I didn't take a look at them until I was already on my hour and a half commute from Brooklyn to the Bronx. The storyboards were...graphic. It was a rape scene. In one of them the cop was groping me, in another one he was straight up laying on top of me on a table, and in another I was trying to fight him off by biting his cheek. I meant it when I said I was comfortable with anything, but I'm going to pull an actor card right now and say I had not prepared or researched or even grasped the concept that I would be reenacting a rape scene at 9am in -get this- the basement of a public library. THAT'S where the set was. I had already texted a friend the address of the location and I wasn't worried about anything being weird, I just felt very cheated. I felt like the director was scared I would have bailed if I knew the content and kept it from me rather than respecting me enough to make it a discussion. I can't emphasis enough that it wasn't sketchy because there was never any time where I felt pressure to perform anything I wasn't comfortable enough with, and there was also an ex-NYPD officer in the room as well so I felt safe. But here I was with a director filming me and this other actor who I'd met moments before pushing me against a wall, touching my boobs and kissing my neck while I'm handcuffed. We were all fully clothed, so I don't know if that makes it miss the soft-core porn genre, but at one point I swear the director said “okay, now grab her boobs” and the other actor was totally just like “naw I'm not gonna do that.” I got the feeling he hadn't been told he'd be playing a rapist that day. Good times.
It SUCKS having to pressure people for the information you want. But it sucks even more feeling like I wasn't treated like an adult who could handle the information I needed. So, that means I've gotta shed my guilt about demanding all the details. I can do that. It's not my ego asking for the details, it's my instinct as someone who has represented themself as a freelancer for a long time. The director robbed both of us that day. Had I prepared a bit more, my performance would have been better and I would have possibly shared the passion he had for this woman and the documentary he was making. What a missed opportunity for both of us. And how infuriating to carry this experience with me now.
Avoiding competition: Because acting work has been so slow and I have been so picky on the type of work I'll accept, it feels like I'm losing a bit of my acting muscle. I'm doing everything I can on the business side of things, but I don't get to perform very much, and for someone who has always overextended myself when it comes to acting work, it's a very strange adjustment and it makes me sad. So I've started to think really heavily about graduate school and classes. I decided that I needed to get myself into some kind of training program, but the alternative to not having money for classes turned into putting myself further into debt for graduate school since I could take out a loan for college. Every option I thought of was so disheartening. Still, I reached out to some studios and began auditing classes.
At the first class I audited there was a woman in front of me who I heard say went to Julliard. I began asking her about the program and whether she liked it. She was super sweet and answered all my questions with no sense of entitlement or annoyance, but it didn't seem like she was working a lot, and I didn't really hear anything that made me go “YES I must audition!” I know nothing about this woman's personal life and I'm not passing any judgement here, but my first thought was if this girl went to Julliard 15 years ago and is taking classes at this place with people who did not go to Julliard and who do seem to be working somewhat regularly, does it really matter what road I take? Is it really even in my control?
There was a younger girl beside me who was about to graduate college, and she said she was about to audition for Julliard and had just auditioned for Yale the week before. After class I asked her about her Yale audition and she said it was the most intense thing she had ever done. She spoke with brutal honesty and with a sense of dissatisfaction, but didn't come off as pessimistic. She was just very realistic. In summation, these were her words:
“They make sure to remind you that they only accept 1 person
every hour, and they see 20 people an hour. The minute you walk
in you're met with the most competitive vibes ever, and no one is
there to make friends. No one liked each other.”
It didn't sound like fun, and truth be told I don't like to do things that I don't think are fun. Part of me wants to blame my ego for only wanting to do fun things, but dammit the whole point of this post is to shed my guilt over things! Wanting to do what's fun is an absolutely human way to feel. Of COURSE I only want to do what's fun, but I'm willing to work hard... but only on the things that I think will bring me longterm happiness.
I never understood the cut-throat aspect of this career. No, you don't need to be mean to other actors. No, you're not competing with one another, you're competing against yourself. It's up to you to nail the audition, and it's up to whoever is casting to decide if they think you can fill the role. The only thing you have control over is how well you think you do. I will not surround myself with people who see me as a threat. My favorite thing about acting is working with other actors and directors. It's about trust. It will take precious time to learn to trust someone who walks into a room and immediately goes “I'm not here to make friends.” Hell, it will take awhile to even want to try to be their friend at all.
I recommend everyone try taking what they think is ego and allowing yourself to just feel what you feel for a few days. There are several sides to everything. Take procrastination for example. I think laziness has very little to do with procrastination. Procrastination is usually a sign of some discontent or unhappiness or fear at the task ahead. Procrastination is a sign you should do some thinking so you can solve the problem long-term rather deliver half-ass results with any level of anxiety that's unwarranted.
I'm going to stop writing now. It's not because I don't feel like it, it's because I have no clever way to wrap this post up. That's how I'm feeling and I wont' apologize for it. Thanks for reading!