By: Bob Fraser
A while back I saw a post on one of the many groups I belong to that was touting a new website, selling ‘pages’ to actors. It was a post filled with lies, half truths and completely mad conclusions about actors and acting careers. It got me sort of angry.
Here’s some of the offensive post:
“I’ve received tons of e-mails asking what prompted me to start my website, xxxxxxxxx.com. I was inspired to create a website dedicated to a small group of people (high level studio & network executives, top agents, managers and even some casting directors), in an effort to dispel the notion that there’s no fresh talent in entertainment … and to create a platform for every actor out there who deserves recognition.
“In a nutshell, I think that becoming a successful actor is one part talent, and 99 parts ‘who you know’. It’s an insider’s game. The ‘powers that be’ and/or casting directors bring in the same actors for all their projects, actors that they’re already familiar with. Which is why you see the same recycled actors over and over and over again – some of which even play college students but are well over 30 in real life.
“So, not only is it monotonous to see the same 45 actors over and over again, it’s also frustrating because most of them suck.
“To make matters worse, it’s depressing and quite scary knowing that Denzel Washington, Bruce Willis, Harrison Ford, Morgan Freeman, Dustin Hoffman, Angela Bassett, Sally Field, Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Eddie Murphy, Jim Carrey and Martin Lawrence are all up there in age and the powers that be act as if there’s no new generation actors worthy of replacing them. I mean we have rappers playing action heroes now … come on! Actor recycling is going to completely ruin television and film.
“So, I started this site because I’m tired of seeing the same recycled actors over and over again. Yes, it is an ‘insider’s game’ to make it in Hollywood. And yes, casting directors primarily do bring in actors they’re used to – so I’ve decided to show my cards. I’m posting one new actor every day and I’m saying: ‘This actor is good, add them to your rotation. This is what they look like, this is what they’ve done, they’ve trained with this person or this company and these are the roles they can play.’ Success takes too long and I’m trying to speed the process up.
“Wish me luck! ~ Anonymous”
Here is my response to this errant nonsense:
I’d like to take a moment to respond to this email from ‘Anonymous’ – there are so many offensive and clueless remarks in his email that it’s hard to know where to start … but you know me, I’ll start anyway.
First the idea that “becoming a successful actor is one part talent and 99 parts ‘who you know’” is facetious at best – and at worst, downright insulting to any actor who has actually made the journey.
In truth becoming a successful actor is a subtle combination of talent, business acumen, social skills, training, persistence, and in most cases, years of ‘product development.’
The idea that actors get to the top ranks because of some cabal of casting directors, directors, producers and powerful talent reps reveals ‘Anonymous’s’ total ignorance of how things really work in our industry. And I’m only addressing the idea of becoming a well-paid, regularly booked, so-called ‘working actor’ – when it comes to becoming a star,the formula for success is even more daunting: Add in things like audience interest, a work ethic that makes a farmers look like a slacker, and that most stars generally own that ineffable ‘something’ that makes them believable, ‘watchable’ and identifiable at a glance. These are not attributes that are divvied up on an equal or fair basis.
Next is the overarching theme of this letter: That people in our community and the audience are tired of seeing the same actors over and over again and that it’s time for some new faces. The implicit idea being that other actors deserve a chance to prove themselves – and that this wondrous new site will speed up the process.
Again, this shows utter lack of understanding when it comes to the basic concepts of success: Such as working one’s way up the ladder. Apparently ‘Anonymous’ believes that there is an ‘escalator of success’ and is demanding to be told where it is. As for there being no actors on the scene to replace those named – has ‘Anonymous’ never heard of Ewen McGregor, Renee Zellwegger, Will Smith (a rapper, by the way), Anne Hathaway, Alicia Witt, George Clooney, Amy Adams, Brad Pitt, Kirsten Dunst, Tobey Maguire, Hilary Swank … oh, making a complete list is pointless.
Wake up, ‘Anonymous!’ This isn’t a business of ‘turns’ or ‘deserving.’
Actors who have proven themselves and are able to put butts in seats – are not ‘picked’ by casting directors, et al (“the powers that be”) … they work their asses off to get there – and the reality is that they don’t get there at all, if the audience doesn’t agree they are worthy of being there.
Have you ever heard of Bella Darvi? She was Darryl Zanuck’s girlfriend and he tried to make her into a star by putting her in a few 20th Century Fox movies. It didn’t work. The audience stayed away in droves. There hundreds of stories of powerful industry executives trying to create stars, only to be handed gigantic flops for their troubles. To be blunt, things just don’t work that way in show business.
As for the dark idea that casting directors bring in the same actors over and over again because they are playing it safe – get real. Casting directors make their reputations by discovering new and exciting talent. Do you really think the great ones are mindless functionaries with no creative or artistic ability? Of course smart casting directors bring in the same actors over and over again (and, by the way, that number is probably closer to 2000 than 45) … but there’s a darn good reason for that: The companies that employ casting directors are expecting them to deliver the goods on every single assignment.
But, make no mistake in your assessment of them – actors have no stronger advocates than passionate and professional casting directors. (Apparently ‘Anonymous’ is unaware that a fairly large percentage of casting directors were once actors themselves.)
The general idea being expressed in this letter (and one presumes the entire ‘raison d’être’ behind the site itself) is analogous to baseball scouts being urged to consider players who own a bat and glove – simply because they own a bat and glove and they know where the stadium is located. In other words, they ‘deserve’ a chance to bat clean-up for the Yankees. Let’s face it, they know how to play baseball and can easily replace the same old 45 players who show up on baseball cards, year after year.
As I point out constantly – there are no shortcuts to the red carpet.
If you truly want to make that trip, make a plan, get a map, and be prepared to work very very hard … usually for a long time. If you expect it to be fair, a level playing field, or easier because you ‘know somebody’ – you are in for a world of hurt.
Finally, the remark in this letter that really set me off is the ad hominem attack on the 45 stars that ‘Anonymous’ seems obsessed with…
“… it’s also frustrating because most of them suck.”
Anonymous, if you think that attacking your betters is a way of improving your chances, you have no concept of human relations. Furthermore, what this sentiment reveals to a pro is that you are likely to be a mean-spirited human being and therefore someone most of us would avoid hiring in any capacity.
Wise up. Work harder. Stop whining. Suck it up and try ‘making it’ on talent, hard work, persistence, training and product development.
As for social skills, it may be too late for that – but please do everyone a favor and cease trying to convince other actors to buy into your ‘beef.’ While it’s not a huge loss to our industry if one actor believes the host of wrong-headed ideas you’ve assembled here – dragging dozens of other naive actors down with you is not a nice thing to do … in my not so humble opinion.