Thursday 9 December 2010

Working with actors

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 gold.

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.

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