I recently had an experience working with an actor who I sincerely hope never to work with again, ever.
In my mind, there are two
varieties of actors, with all sorts of shades of grey in between them of
course. But essentially there are those who are courteous, always
prepared and on time. They quietly do their work and then invest
themselves fully in everything they are doing in rehearsal, on stage and
on set. If such an actor also happens to be a generous performer, who
isn't concerned with him- or herself but focuses on who and what is
around him, I'm sure any director would agree that they have struck
And then there is the other kind. The
one that has no consideration for anyone else involved in a production,
who doesn't care much about schedules. The actor who doesn't learn the
lines, the one who doesn't do the work, the one who is disruptive and
entirely focused on him- or herself.
I sincerely hope that I get to
work a lot with those actors of the first kind because they are the ones
that I want to learn from. I have met a lot of actor folk in Wellington
theatre who are fantastic examples and I am getting seriously itchy
thinking that I will have to wait for quite some more time before I can
get stuck into theatre work again.
By now I've come across both
kinds of actors and when I vented about the jerk variety, my partner
said that, well, that's the difference between armature and
professional productions. The likelihood of coming across and the number
of the jerk variety of actors decreases the more professional the
production. I hope he is right but still, does doing unpaid work really
have to mean that we have to deal with inconsiderate jerks?
The other thing I am really
annoyed about is that the jerk actor variety often seams to be what
paints the public's picture of our profession. The amazing and generous
work done by most actors goes largely unnoticed - unless they win an
award for it. They are quiet, do their work, and make everyone else's
job easier because they love what they do and know that without the
collaboration of everyone else, their work would mean nothing.
But just as some actors, other
creatives and technicians also seem to forget sometimes that the world
doesn't revolve around them. In the case of the productions at the level
I am working on at the moment, they forget that everyone who shows up
for their project is doing so for the love of it, on their own time and
dime. I have worked on productions that didn't have a call sheet or a
shot list. I have been on set all day long, never knowing when my scenes
were going to be shot - or if they would be shot at all. I have seen
DOP's do the director's work because the director had no clue what they
wanted. I have even had to help rewrite a script halfway through a
production because the director was so stuck that it was impossible to
continue the shoot. But I have also had the privilege to work with great
people who were extremely organised, knowledgeable and focused. These
are the people I would work for again in a heartbeat - unpaid and knee
deep in snow in my undies.
So, maybe instead of complaining
about each other, we should all take a step back and evaluate our own
contributions to the productions we're involved in. Whether we are
actors, creatives, techies, maybe we should start by being honest with
ourselves, improve our attitude and work ethic where we can and lead our
peers by example. And then maybe, it won't matter so much how
inexperienced, under-funded and underpaid we are on those productions we
do for the love of it, but can have the great time we all want to have,
and walk away with something we can be proud of.