Now I know that not all of you are actors. In fact, probably none of you are but fear not, in this little script there lies the key to all the characters we play on a daily basis. After all, life imitates art does it not? Let me explain.
When I decided to pursue acting as a career I was already well established in life, or so I thought. I had a successful career in the Public Service. My income and lifestyle were safe. I had climbed the first few rungs of the corporate ladder and I was going further but the arrival of my first child changed all that and ultimately propelled me in a new direction.
I toyed with my own consulting business for a while but ultimately it wasn't what lit my fire. I started to dabble more into acting as a way of escaping the reality that was my life. I had no real direction and I was a new father. All I knew was that I wanted to spend as much time with my family as I could and I wanted to make money doing something I loved.
So, here we are 4 years later. I have had what I consider to be a very successful career to date. Now you may look at my IMDB profile and think "I don't see any massive movies on there" and you'd be correct, but here is lesson one:
1. You have to play the long game.
In acting as in life, there are no get rich quick schemes. There are no overnight successes. It may look that way from the outside but everyone that you think has struck it big overnight has been busting their hump for YEARS in the background and for the most part, they've been doing it alone. They alone have the desire and the focus to keep going even when the results aren't there. Even when every two steps forwards comes with one step backwards. Even when those around them encourage them to give up. THEY KEEP GOING.
"One day the people that didn't believe in you will tell everyone how they met you." - Johnny Depp
Another fallacy I learned whilst chasing my dream is:
2. "It's not what you know but who you know".
Now there is some truth to this in that the Arts industry is a very collaborative industry and your network is essential to helping you get work but, YOU NEED TO KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING. Whilst it's fantastic to collaborate and to develop ideas and to leverage your network to create opportunities, if you get your chance to shine and you come up less than par, you do more harm than good. YOU NEED TO EDUCATE YOURSELF, WHICH MEANS YOU NEED TO INVEST IN YOURSELF. In order to be the best, you need to learn from the best. You need to devote time to develop not only your skill set BUT YOUR MINDSET because your thoughts are where you more often than not are sabotaging yourself.
"If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. It's the hard that makes it great." - Tom Hanks.
The life of an actor or any creative is riddled with failure and in order to grow you must:
3. Be vulnerable and embrace your failures.
In the first formal acting class that I attended four years ago, I remember being informed, whilst sitting with a bunch of absolute strangers, that this room was a "safe" place to explore. I thought to myself what does that mean? I now know that what I was being told was that in that space, in that learning environment, it was safe to fail and it was safe to cry. If every work environment could guarantee that, then I think we'd be living in a very different world. We are taught from an early age that we must hold our emotions in check. That there are social constraints on how we are to feel and how we are to act in any given situation and so we BUILD WALLS AROUND OURSELVES TO PROTECT OURSELVES FROM VULNERABILITY and from expressing the way we feel in a constructive and non-judgemental way. This is not healthy and IT SHOULD NOT BE. EVER! If you want to connect with people in person or through a lens, then you have to let them in. You have to take off your armour and walk into the arena naked...and it will scare the shit out of you...but you will be alive and open and vulnerable and people will see...you.
"I live my life through fear. If I'm afraid of it I'll do it just so I'm not afraid of it anymore." - Jeremy Renner
Drama comes from conflict. It's what keeps us watching. In order to have a conflict, you need opposing views. Now your "character's" view might not be one that you agree with but in order to make your character live you need to have:
Defined as "the ability to understand and share the feelings of another." In other words, IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU. Whilst it's important to know what you want and to know how you feel about things, you must accept and recognise that your ideas and opinions may not necessarily be reflected by everyone you meet and associate with. Now you don't have to agree with everyone, but you have ta accept that we are all different and that, in general, most people don't get out of bed in the morning and make the conscious decision to be an asshole. Everyone has shit going on and not everyone has the tools to deal with their shit. Be part of the solution and not part of the problem.
"Acting is not about being different. It's finding the similarity in what is apparently different, then finding myself in there." - Meryl Streep
Has your mind wandered? Are you...
There is a difference between listening and hearing and so often we just hear but WE DON'T LISTEN. When you're "in it", and I mean really "in it" as an actor, the world melts away and it's just you and your scene partner, talking and listening. Really listening. In all the performances I've ever done, the ones that are the most engaging, the ones where I have "lost" myself and forgotten about the camera or the audience, the common denominator is how well I was listening. I wasn't just waiting to say my line. I was hanging on every word, letting it sink in, running it around in my mind and allowing it to affect me. We don't do that in life. At least we don't do that enough. Especially with the ones we spend the most time with. "Familiarity breeds contempt". Have you heard that before? It's true...and it needs to change. Please listen. Don't just hear what people are saying but listen. Listen with every sense you have because often what people are trying to say is hidden deep down in the words and a casual ear is not enough to truly understand what they are trying to say.
“Living consciously involves being genuine; it involves listening and responding to others honestly and openly; it involves being in the moment.” - Sidney Poitier
I hope that somewhere in here there is a spark that lights a fire in you and that you can find the courage to take off your armour and step into your arena. Naked. Vulnerable. You.
Be nice to each other.