Monday, May 02, 2011

Nobody Knows Anything

The accomplished writer William Goldman (book and screenplay for The Princess Bride, screenplay for Absolute Power, the book Adventures in the Screen Trade and many others) said this about the entertainment industry, specifically in Hollywood: Nobody Knows Anything. He didn't say it as some embittered sour-grapes silliness, but as an accurate assessment of how much people know about this business: Nobody Knows Anything.

Clearly this is true. Otherwise every movie would be a hit. Every play would run forever. Every actor would be a millionaire, and every agent/manager/casting director would be too busy booking talent on brilliant and commercially wildly successful projects to get paid to attend workshops. We know nobody knows anything.

There are many opinions masquerading as fact. Many things people say they know for sure. What makes for a good headshot. How to slate. When to change agents or seek a new manager. People professing such "advice" really do have ideas, but know nothing for sure.

Show me a guru/agent/casting director/producer/director who says headshots must be color, and I can show you an actor who just booked enough work to pay their bills for the next year who only has black and white pictures. Show me someone who claims across-the-board representation may end up with an actor's career being neglected in some areas and I'll show you an actor with major commercial endorsement deals and both mainstream commercial movies and Oscar contender films all releasing simultaneously. Tell me there is a hard and fast truth about this industry and I'll hold up a mirror to show you someone who is overlooking something. I could likely benefit from looking in it myself from time to time.

This is all a great gift, even as it seems to promise a professional life full of uncertainty. You don't need to do/learn/acquire some magic potion, literal or figurative, to pursue your career. Typically promised short-cuts are castles built on sand at best, pure mirage at worst. You can relax. Breathe. Be who you are and wisely choose your path yourself. No one cares about your career as much as you do. No one else can know your goals as well as you do either.

Since the dawn of time, show business has been the gathering of people together to sell them something. But not always. Being skilled at the craft of acting often makes economic satisfaction through acting easier to get, but is not sufficient, nor necessary. Skill or talent, just like being smart, good looking, lucky or rich, often make it easier to accomplish anything in life, but all of these are not sufficient nor necessary. You do not need them to succeed, and having them doesn't guarantee success.

To be an actor over the long term requires only persistence. This isn't really news, so much as an observation: people who continue to act are actors, those who do not continue to act are no longer actors. And you must define what "continuing to act" means to and for you. Just as you must define what success is to you, yourself. Like much of life, in many ways you are on your own.

Our characters are often faced with big challenges, unknowns and a world populated with both people and forces of nature that are indifferent to their wishes, and sometimes belligerent toward them. So too in any profession or investment that lacks the predictable veneer of safety that lulls us into believing life is predictable and "safe" (like being a school teacher or owning a house).

This is fine. This is even good. Life's always been a vital, vibrant journey or discovery, and while we all don't really know anything, we have ideas, and we're alive anyway. We do things anyway. We look uncertainty in the face and take action anyway. No one may know anything, but we still act.

Break a leg!

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this posted by David August at 5:52 PM 

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