All That Glitters
Posted on: October 2, 2011 in category: Steve's Blog
Every year around this time you and actors like you begin to ponder deep, existential questions. What does it mean? What is it all about? Why didn't they pick me? This is the time of year when the tangible results of the previous pilot season are presented in stunning technicolor.
Cue the flashback. It was a mere 4-6 months ago when you and actors all over Los Angeles were in the midst of what felt like a life and death struggle for pilot season supremacy. Every week-day for three months you bandaged the wounds of the previous day's rejection, learned your lines and put your heart on the line one more time in the audition room. Every day you battled the traffic, the industry- your agents, casting directors, producers, other actors- and your own self doubt just to be granted the opportunity to test for a show. And it took its toll.
Sleepless nights, upset stomachs, neglected relationships. By the end of it all you were almost broken and, like the overwhelming majority of actors, weren't celebrating a victory.
While the scars remain, the wounds have healed. And just in time for you to set your DVR's and watch the very pilots you tried and failed to be a part of. The result is stunning.
What follows from watching the new pilots, reading reviews of the new Fall line up and following the latest cancellation news is an understanding of the true nature of our business. 9 times out of 10 the pilot is mediocre at best and many of the pilots don't even last two weeks on the air. This reality forces you to face the fact that once again, you gave up your heart for three months trying to achieve something that is fleeting and mediocre. While you had notions of booking a great TV show, lasting three seasons and then making the jump to films or another great show, this harsh reality makes tangible the fact that the months of work might not have been worth the result. And that doesn't feel good.
Moreover, this reality won't change. Ever. The structure of the industrial model is set and the business is what it is. Creating an entertaining television show in a very short period of time that satisfies the bottom line for networks is very difficult. And even when a show gets picked up the pressure is on to keep the ratings up and for you, as an actor, to never be anything but brilliant. It's very difficult for actors and technicians to work in such a high pressure environment. The structure almost doesn't allow for unique artistry. The Dexter's of this world are a very rare breed.
So, what should you do? With the odds of achieving TV stardom stacked very much against you and the result of a victory often being nothing but mediocrity, should you forget your dream and give it all up? Should you go back to school and get a desk job? I say no. But you do have to alter your thinking.
The best part of what we do, the only thing that is real and constant in what we do, that no one can ever take away from us, is the work. The craft of acting. If we love that, void of the red carpets and critical acclaim- and we must or we need to go back home and do something else- we will never be discouraged. We will battle our own limits and struggle to perfect our craft, but we will never be less than.
I suggest that in the moments when the business declares that you are a failure, when you lose hope of ever booking that big role; when your agent won't call you back and when the casting director feedback indicates that you're not beautiful or sexy or interesting enough; in those moments, I suggest that you cling to the work.
You must write and shoot your own work, you must train constantly and you must always remind yourself that it is the emotional expression within the art of acting from which you derive your worth. Not from the industry. With a a focus on the craft of acting, you will take the desperate obsession out of your auditions and leave more room for artistry. You will stop trying to please and get it right and start trying to have an interesting, truthful, human experience in the room that resonates. You will understand that you are more important than the industry and that your truthful emotional expression is more important than a TV pilot. And it is that very moment when booking such a pilot is most likely to occur.