(My group, The NightinGals, right before a performance in Burbank, CA)
I appreciate when my well-meaning friends recommend me for film projects—really. But being a full-time, freelance “slasher” (actor-slash-host-slash-model-slash-singer. Click here for more on that.) requires a special balance between passions and paychecks, so caution must be taken when choosing commitments.
I can’t count the number of times a friend has told me, “You should read for my friends’ project; he’s a filmmaker!” How many times it turns out to be just a guy with a camera and a dream. He means well, but the next thing I know, this “project” gets postponed seven times. Meanwhile, I’ve blocked out my schedule. Suddenly I’m not working for two whole weeks.
Now, I have no beef with people playing at things they love. Look at me: I’m doing it right now with this blog. But whenever large groups collaborate, there’s a chance that somebody’s time is going to be wasted. And a good chance that the “somebody” will be me.
When a project is improperly planned, actors are usually the first ones to get the shaft.
It might seem like actors are a dime a dozen—clamoring for attention, dying for work—but the good ones always know when to fold a losing hand.
How do we tell? Instincts.
This past week, a friend of mine suggested me for an upcoming short film. He put the filmmaker in touch with me, even though we live in separate cities.
(A quick traffic tip for distance slashers: wake up early and get on the road before sunrise. Another word of advice—make sure you define “filmmaker” before meeting with a “filmmaker”).
This “filmmaker” asked for a brief video of me introducing myself. So he emailed me a few basic questions, some very legitimate (How I would approach the role?), some not so much: “Why do we want to make a movie with you?”
Why do you want to make a movie with me?
I held no personal attachment to his movie, and I no clue why anyone would want to cast me…apart from me being a good actress and right for the part. But, if he liked me, shouldn’t that go without saying?
An odd, self-serving question. I became annoyed, though in that moment I couldn’t articulate why. Was I just taking his question personally? Was this a case of Fred getting on his high horse? (Fred is the ego voice in my head. See previous post.)
As I rolled it around in my head, eventually, “Why do we want to make a movie with you?” became “Well, why would I Want To Make A Movie With YOU, Mister?”
Imagine if I had I written and said, “Sure, I’ll make a video. And you can send me one, too. Have you looked at my website? Why do you think I might be right for this role? Convince me why your production company is worthy of my time.”
Every actor eventually comes understand she deserves to discriminate, too. We can and should choose the projects upon which we put our names.
But was I wrong to judge?
He’s a slasher just like me. He creates digital effects and title bumps for cash while working on his side projects for street cred. Balancing passions with paychecks. Living the dream. Nothing wrong with that.
Not wanting to offend my friend who’d recommended me, I decided to follow through. I painted on a smile, turned on my camera acted the part of the interested actress. I told him exactly what I thought he needed to hear.
But I’m pretty sure my doubts were transparent. According to the acting coach Ivana Chubbuck, the thoughts we think (often while saying something to the contrary) are called inner monologue. “Cast me if I’m right for the role” probably looked and sounded a lot more like, “I am SO on to you, my friend”.
And then, after the filmmaker reviewed the video, he gave me another homework assignment, another YouTube audition video. But I still knew next to nothing about him, or his work.
I declined, and offered to meet him in person (so that the interview could go both ways, I figured), so he set a meeting in two days.
The next day, I trudged through evening traffic from LA to Vegas. The desert was one hundred-ten degrees. I had a gig with my vocal trio, so I couldn’t leave until after four.
Have you ever driven to Vegas after four on a Friday? Sucks.
Anyway, I made it to Vegas. The next morning, a couple of hours before our meeting, he canceled by email.
I’d put my life on hold and drive driven 250 miles for nothing. A quick scan of his Facebook page confirmed that he’d cast the part before I’d even left LA.
But here’s why it’s ok.
I choose to live in faith that these things happen for my benefit. And in those moments when things “don’t work out”, I remind myself that, in a sense, they do. I didn’t need to be in that guy’s film. And maybe it’s better that I wasn’t.
Actually, I can say with certainty that it’s definitely better that I wasn’t.
In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield says that taking unexpected hits are inevitable for artists. My job is to develop, learn, and roll with the punches. Life threw me a curveball. So what? It’s worth it to be a slasher. I love my work.
As a bonus, I now had the time I would have spent on the “movie” freed up for legitimate auditions.
Again proving my go-to mantra: It’s well with me.