Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Space of Loaf

One of the acting life's greatest joys is the discovery that you will rarely, if ever, do the same thing twice. Not for you the daily 9 to 5, soulless regimen of repetitive drudgery! Why do you think our trade newspaper is called Variety? The clever actor will find ways to enhance and even expand upon this career advantage. Here are some tips on

How to Make Sure You'll Never Work Anywhere More Than Once

1. Preparation, schmeparation:
"A good night's rest," before a job, is overrated. Instead, celebrate your good fortune in finally securing a film role by drinking heavily with your friends the night before. This will "relax" you for the coming day's work, and give you that sexy "just tumbled out of bed" look that you see really big stars sporting on talk shows. In the morning, dress with no particular care -- that's what the "wardrobe" crew is for! Just wear whatever you slept in, if you've slept at all.

If you're lucky enough to have "lines," remember that these are just suggestions as to what you might actually say on camera. By no means bother to memorize them! All writers are hacks, anyway. Directors know this, and will be much more impressed by your ability to "paraphrase" and "improvise." You will be expected to "improve" upon your lines, anyway, which leads to our second tip,

2. Drawing attention to yourself: Your first task upon appearing on the set is to establish the extraordinarily high nature of your own worth. Here's where all those self-esteem lessons you learned in middle school come in handy! Arrive late, or barely in time -- having to wait for you will excite anticipation and make your entrance much more dramatic and noteworthy.

There's a reason you and other actors are collectively referred to as "Talent" -- you may assume, by implication, that everyone else involved in the project is not. Complain loudly and frequently about delays caused by crew set-ups, lighting and sound logistics, props problems, etc. Denigrating the competence of everyone else on set makes you seem smart by comparison, and assures everyone of your high standards.

Shortly before it seems the shot will actually begin, elbow your way to the director and pepper him with arcane questions about your walk-on, two line character. You will impress him by your meticulous devotion to your "craft." This is also a good time to suggest "improvements" to your lines.

3. Etiquette: The behavior that marks you as a seasoned pro may seem counter-intuitive to the novice. For example, when "QUIET ON THE SET!" is barked over the manager's megaphone, by all means finish the conversation you were having with that fellow actor or cute script girl. It's considered rude to leave someone "hanging" in the midst of relating one of your fascinating insights or stories merely because shooting has begun.

Speaking of relating to fellow artists -- many modern films include scenes in which actors are called to be in various states of deshabille. As a bonus, these cast members usually are extraordinarily attractive. Most will, in fact, have spent considerable recent time in the gym, preparing for this very moment! True, they have been put in such position solely for professional reasons to do with the demands of the script, but that's no reason for you not to interpret their displays of firm, supple flesh as invitations to hit on them. If they didn't want you to try to have sex with them, why in hell did they show up so damned good-looking? It's not your job to observe the same polite deference shown them by the crew. Walk right over and compliment them suggestively on their physical attributes, perhaps making imaginatively graphic offers of what you'd like to do to them. They might be flattered! If not, everyone is still sure to admire your opportunistic devotion to self-gratification while ignoring others' sensibilities -- a quality every actor needs to succeed in this highly competitive business -- as well as the creativity of your suggestions.

4. Lunchtime! Again, your chance to "shine." Shove your way to the front of the catering-truck queue, even if you've worked only five minutes and others have been toiling since dawn. Pile as much on your tray as it will hold, then stuff as much more as you can in your pockets (a baggy coat is useful for this -- sometimes I'll bring an empty bass viol case). Everyone knows about "starving actors" -- others will admire your foresight and thrift.

5. Hail Fellow Well Met: Humor is important in breaking the tedium of a shoot. With the tension caused by trying to make optimal use of every second of time while millions of dollars are gushing through the production pipeline, any "comic relief" will be welcome. Let those wisecracks fly as soon as they occur to you, no matter what else is going on! Most actors began as "class clowns," we know.

Plus, hilarious stories of your best "pranks" are perfect for your inevitable appearances on "Letterman." One of my favorites: scream "CUT!" just before it seems the director is about to at the conclusion of a long, involved continuous shot. Another: make a point of picking up and playing with other actors' props, especially firearms, especially moments before they are needed. Be sure to replace them -- somewhere other than where you found them! Your hijinks will be remembered for years to come.

If you follow these hints, you are assured of enjoying a rich "Variety" of jobs, without the constraints of repetition or boredom. It's true, you may get fired each time -- so what? List the credit on your resume anyway! In fact, you are expected to lie profusely concerning your credits. So what if you didn't actually "co-star with Russell Crowe in Gladiator?" Who's to find out? It's not like any of the people working or hiring in this business actually know each other.


W. Free said...

Thanks: your suggestions confirm what I have thought all along. I'm a natural!

Lord David said...

Obviously, you've completed an entire manual on this subjest.
And it must be working!
I run in to your students in nearly every profession these days.

Thanks, so very much for these fine and shining examples!