You may have noticed the redesign of the homepage, not to mention the new business name. In the course of effecting this transformation, I looked around at the way some of my competitors are marketing themselves. And some are doing a terrific job. But I did see one thing that gave me pause.
I saw studios that make such promises as that their approach to training will make acting “easy” and “fun”. In some cases, they went on to glibly ridicule the great approaches to acting that evolved in the last century or so, as if they were talking about some dated hairstyle that now seems both disastrously misguided and quaint at the same time. I found the level of disrespect and outright mendacity here nothing short of breathtaking.
What makes it so awful is that there is a part of all of us that wants things to be easy, but this part is not the part that acquires stamina, builds careers, and finds the faith it takes to confront adversity. Assertions that acting can be easy fosters the wrong part of those who are drawn to it.
And such messages are already everywhere in our society. We are all relentlessly bombarded with images of grinning celebrities, coiffed, styled, and made-up for the camera; this torrent of images suggests that an actor’s life is an extended cocktail party or romp on the beach, interrupted by the occasional awards ceremony. These images are inescapable; even those of us who know the truth of most actors’ lives are vulnerable to them.
Add to that the fact that the acting that most people consume has been packaged and polished: editing, musical underscoring, CGI and camera angeles all conspire to create an impression of effortlessness and flawlessness. It’s hard for people drawn to acting NOT to get the impression that acting must be easy and fun. To speak as an authority and validate such misconceptions is truly unconscionable.
The reality of pursuing a craft is quite different. As Mohammed Ali famously said, “The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.” Bette Davis said: “you have to love the sweat more than the lights.” It takes 10,000 hours. It’s “a terribly demanding pursuit that will require not only more than you realize but more than you will ever possess” according to the great teacher and actress Kim Stanley. It involves “seriousness of purpose”, according to Uta Hagen. This is a common refrain on my blog, as you can see.
That’s not to say that there is no fun in acting. Of course there is. It’s just that that is far from all there is. And it’s not that some things about acting don’t come more easily to some people than to others, or that sometimes people don’t try too hard, or that they are never too focused on doing things right, or that they never overthink things. All of that happens, and when it does happen, teachers everywhere address it. But to confirm the misconceptions of new students of acting that what they are embarking on is going to be “easy” or “fun”, or, worse still, that the acting teacher maestro will make it so for them, is irresponsible, if I’m being nice, but criminal is more like it.
In my messaging about my studio, I try to focus on the value of what I do, rather than on what is wrong with what other people do. But when I see things like what I described above, it really chaps my ass. I need to express myself about it. I hope you’ll excuse me.