I’ve been working professionally as an actor for five years now, but I’ve only really felt like I was ‘a part of the industry’ for about three years. It’s like most spheres of life in that sense; you have to earn your stripes, prove your worth, before you’re taken seriously.
It’s hard to explain what exactly triggers off that acceptance, or how long it will take… but once it comes, you start to feel like you’re a part of something much bigger than yourself. It’s ironic that a profession which embraces free spirits, rebels and misfits, who would never be able to hold down a job anywhere else would have ‘guidelines’, but there are some unwritten, unspoken rules that govern our fraternity.
Smaller, more obvious things like respect for your seniors are obvious, I’m sure; but there are interesting patterns of behaviour that I find endearing.
Things that make us all feel like a big family. For example, people will seek out the phone number of an actor, writer, or director to call them up and say that they enjoyed that person’s work, regardless of whether or not they’ve ever met. I know how much it means to me when one of my peers sends me a message complimenting my film, or my performance in it, so I make it a point to extend the same courtesy. Only when truthful, of course.
What If I don’t like someone’s film? I keep my mouth shut. There are enough people out there waiting to rip a film apart, why should it be done by one of our own? Sure, we’ll joke about it privately, but to the world at large, we present a united front. Do you think that’s hypocritical? Well, let me ask you this: you probably complain about your school, your college, your job; you’ll say your campus is rundown and falling apart, your boss is an idiot… but what if someone from another school, another company were to say the same things you do? Would you stand for it? I don’t think so. I think you’d punch that person in the face.
We settle our differences privately. Despite the extremely close and symbiotic relationship we share with the media, there are some opinions that are never shared with them. Some disputes that are never admitted. Because the greatest offense is taking your fight public, and including ‘outsiders’. Our business, like all others, is built on personal relationships. If your word means nothing, if peoples’ trust in you is betrayed… you’ll soon find yourself out in the cold.
This is a strange world to be a part of. It is inclusive and exclusive at the same time; loyal and supportive of those in favour, ruthless with those out of it. Warm and welcoming, but ready to cut you to shreds. In short, we’re just another big, crazy family like the millions of others out there. Probably not too different from your own.
Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org