A longtime WWdN reader who I've traded e-mails with on and off for a few years recently wrote:
Anyway, something I've long wanted to ask you (or have you ask yourself) is, now, what are you? Are you an actor who writes, or a writer who acts?I didn't have to think about it at all before I replied:
No fair thinking about it; you have to go with the first thing that comes to mind.
This is easy: I'm a writer, and occasionally I do some voice acting. In every audition I've recently had, I haven't enjoyed it, I haven't cared about it in that life-or-death way I once did, and I've just wanted to get it over with so I can go home and get back to writing whatever it is I was working on before I had to leave and go audition.As recently as a year or eighteen months ago, I would have struggled with that question. Now, though? Not so much.
I think it comes down to the need, and I no longer have the need to be on TV or in movies or even be on camera, really. Of course, if the perfect thing came along and I didn't have to go do the goddam monkeydance to work on it, that would be an entirely different thing; but the way the industry works today, it's all about the monkeydance, and without the need to be on camera, the monkeydance isn't especially worth my while any more.
To be a successful actor, and to survive in this industry, you have to need the work, and love the work, more than you hate the rejection and the miserable process that you have to endure to receive the frequent rejection. Honestly, I just don't need the aggravation any more.
Friday, I had an audition for the season finale of a major television show, that pretty much everyone watches. It was the sort of role that gets noticed by the industry and the audience. It was the sort of role that leads to other roles, that leads to really great opportunities in movies. There was, as they say, a lot at stake.
I really didn't have time to work on it like I normally would, because I was on a Tokyopop deadline, but the character and I shared a lot of essences, and it was very easy for me to step into his head. The audition scenes were tough, high-tension scenes that are risky: for them to work, they have to be pitch-perfect from beginning to end. It's a challenge to nail scenes like these on the set, let alone in a wood-paneled production trailer, but I prepared them fully, and arrived at my appointment confident and well-prepared.
Three minutes before I was set to go in and read for the producers, the casting director said to me, "What scenes do you have, again?"
They'd sent me twenty-one pages of sides, and I'd specifically asked which scenes to prepare, so I could save myself the wasted effort of working on ten or more pages that they didn't want to see.
"Scenes one and four," I said, "just like you told me."
I knew what was coming. I've been in these situations enough to pretty much mouth it along with him when he said it:
"We're not doing scene one. We're doing scenes three and four."
Oh. Good. Scene three, which is exactly like scene four, and doesn't provide the contrast that scene one provided. It's also eight pages long, and I have less than five minutes to prepare it.
"Do you have scene three?" He said.
"No. I do not." I said. "I prepared scenes one and four."
"And I did it when I really didn't have time to do it, because I was busting my ass on a writing project I really care about," I may have added, if I were the kind of guy who says stuff out loud instead of writing about it four days later.
He shot the casting assistant a look. Clearly, someone had fucked up.
"Give Wil scene three," he said. Then, to me, "You're next."
Three minutes later, I gave the absolute worst audition of my life. Seriously. When it was mercifully over, nobody said a word. Nobody would make eye contact with me. If I'd been on American Idol, Randy Jackson would have broken the painful silence and said, "It just wasn't good, dogg."
I didn't wait for them to say anything. I just nodded my head, as if to acknowledge that we'd all endured something truly awful together, said "thanks," and walked out.
In my entire career, I've never felt so embarrassed and disgusted with myself. I suppose I gave the best performance I could have given, with my three minutes of preparation on an 8-page scene, but it's cold comfort.
On my way to the car, I wondered to myself, "Why do I do this bullshit? What's the point?"
It used to be different. I used to really love the whole process. Casting directors had more time to work with actors, there was a wide variety of programming available on television, and movies were a place for people to take creative risks.
These days (thanks largely to media consolidation and reality TV) budgets are smaller, television shows are largely derivative of CSI or ER, and casting directors for films won't even consider an actor who hasn't been on a one of those television shows in the last season or so. Many studios don't want to take creative risks, (in fact there is at least one major studio which won't green light a film that's not a remake.) For actors who have never known different, it's not that big a deal, but for guys like me who learned how to navigate this system in a different time, it's frustrating and depressing. Hollywood has always been filled with people who are afraid of losing their jobs from day to day, and now it's more like minute to minute. If creativity is the absence of fear, it's no surprise that there are so few original, daring, or unique television shows and movies being made.
So what am I a writer, an actor, or what? Part of me will always be an actor, but my creative passion fills a sea black with ink.
Please note that all of this goes out the window and into the Memory Hole where Heroes is concerned. I need to work on Heroes, and I'll do all the monkeydancing in the world to work on that show.
"Hello, my name is Bingo. I like to climb on things. Can I have a banana? Eek. Eek."