Apr 1, 2011

An Actor Despairs

Q: How do you get an actor to complain?
A: Give him a job.
Yes, this tired joke is probably only funny to theater people, but not entirely untrue. And while it's not regarding me getting a job, I have a brief beef to bring up here on "Beets".
As actors who audition, we're all too familiar with the phrase, "[the producers] decided to go in a different direction." This, of course, is one of many codes for "you didn't get cast." It's usually assumed that there's more to be said about your audition, but no one's going to press the issue. It's quick, polite and, after all, that's just the way it goes - actors audition and don't get cast, it's a hazard of our workplace and we develop a thick skin for it.
In a fit of fantasy today, though, I imagined a universe where a producer is able to say - in a manner simultaneously respectful and succinct - "your audition wasn't very strong". As it stands, going in a "different direction" already suggests that the direction you were going was the wrong one (as paranoid as it sounds. Welcome to actor-brain). A small, nagging part of me almost wants to dispense with the "it's not you, it's me" line in favor of a professionally-delivered (prepackaged, even) message of "you didn't show us what we wanted, try harder next time. Thank you." Sure, I'd cry in my pillow that night, but maybe the next day, I'd have a clearer idea of my limits and my strengths. Maybe even clear enough to inspire me to take action to improve. Who doesn't have pity and scorn for that actor whom no one's ever told they're crappy? How can we get better in an environment that always says yes? Personally, I don't believe grad school is the only answer.
Now of course I know it's not the producer's job to manage my career decisions or to offer critical feedback of my performance (or, truly, any feedback at all), and I believe people change their minds about the character or script. As I said, this was a fantasy moment. Realistically, my ego is just fine with the current arrangement, especially since entertainment professionals are not known for their bedside manner. But I'll always be curious about that "different direction" and why I'm not headed there too.