Tuesday, September 06, 2011
Commodities are bought based on price. Gasoline is usually bought based on how much of the stuff costs how much money. At an intersection with 2 gas stations, you may choose to pull your car into the one that is selling your grade/type of fuel for less. Economists sometimes call this kind of thing being fungible, and Wikipedia defines fungibility as
...the property of a good or a commodity whose individual units are capable of mutual substitution; interchangeable parts.
To put it another way, we treat one gallon of gas as equivalent to any other gallon of gas. When any product of service gets commoditized, the only point of competition is price. Commoditized products experience pressure from the market to lower price as much as possible. Other things, like quality, are not often used to make buying decisions for commoditized products.
If an actor can be replaced with almost any other actor, and the project doesn't change much, that role is a commodity. Background acting and extra work fall mainly into this category. As Seth Godin implies in his post on Talent and Vendors, non-commodities both matter in their uniqueness, and bring hard to quantify qualities into play. I've touched on the value of being indispensable before, but it bears repetition. It's also been said that competence (like showing up on time) and innovation are opposites, and while I'm not going to go that far, I will say this: once an actor has shown up on time, off-book and ready, there are no rules to follow; between action and cut the accidental behavior, the unexpected and irrational is what the actor is often hired to bring. I summed this up once as in contrast to other more technical departments on set: "actors are the squishy."
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