In the most recent Seattle Intensive (Actorswork) workshop, we were asked to name a fear we hold about acting. Instantly, I thought of some of the risks within film work, such as:
- Lack of control when your performance is chopped up in the editing room
- Fear of others’ perceptions of you as a person, (sometimes because of how a performance is edited)
- Fear that the film will be badly finished, impacting your career marketability
- Fear that your Grandma will see that one love scene
All valid. I battle all of these. But this time, my greatest fear wasn’t “bad” characters or villains or challenging roles or editors I don’t trust… My biggest fear was “acting as commerce.”
My greatest fear may baffle most actors: acting for money. Specifically, I mean having to take a job I’d otherwise pass on, just for the paycheck.
I recently read about an actor who takes his roles based on whether or not healthcare is provided. He may have been a tad tongue-in-cheek but there’s still truth at the core. This discussion isn’t the merits healthcare, it’s why we act.
Acting for me is completely different from a “job.” When I sign on, I want it to be with a mixture of joy and terror, the inward tug of knowing I’m beginning an adventure. And I want it to pay, don’t misunderstand me! But I don’t want a paying gig first, and a compelling gig second. As Amy Poehler hinted during the Golden Globes …
The journey has highs and lows. You’ll be swamped with work one month, and then you’ll realize a certain casting director hasn’t asked for you in a year (gulp – true story). Sometimes you have to take jobs that aren’t exactly winning material – that dry teleprompter-laden training video, for example. Or heck, a national commercial (!) for fast food that you loathe, but it pays your rent for a year.
I just know that I’m an actor because I’m a compassionate, emotional individual who loves to connect deeply. I want that to always be the driving force behind why I take (or don’t take) an acting gig. Most importantly, I need to trust that as long as I am true to myself, the right gigs will continue to find me.
This morning I saw a quote, “Fear is the enemy of creativity.”
Well, maybe. Other popular quotes tell us that fear is also the enemy of progress, love, and logic. Seriously. Just type it into Google and see for yourself.
Somewhere in our culture, Fear became a force we have to face. Instead of an impulse or a thought that arises from circumstances (“Gee, this ledge is high,” or “She would never talk to me“), we made this into a big, bad demon we must continually confront before it ruins our lives.
But I have a different perspective:
Fear isn’t your enemy.