Monday, 21 August 2006

"Acting Up"; Life as an Actor

The 2nd forum I attended was "Life as an Actor", with Lorraine Bayly, David Field, Susie Rugg (she was Bronte from Home and Away), and Chris someone, a recent Ensemble graduate and actor in a new comedy series - and hosted again by Garry Maddox.

A lot of the talk was mundane stuff about how these actors started out, and the best and worst jobs they've had etc. The only discussion points that interested me, really, were about what to make of all the downtime you're likely to have as an actor, and what it's like dealing with rejection.

Lorraine Bayly related that, even though she'd been really lucky and had always worked fairly constantly, she found she really needed some downtime in between shows. She acknowledged that it can be depressing when you have no work on, but that the time to refresh and regenerate after weeks or months of hard work on a role is vital to keeping yourself sane and healthy. She said she had a nervous breakdown at one stage during (or maybe after) one of her TV show roles - working ridiculously long hours and shooting 2 hours of show every week.
I guess it easy for her to say really, when she's been so successful and never needed to worry about paying the bills. But still it's a good reminder that even when you're doing the best job in the world, the work you absolutely love, you do need time off.
And I think that's probably double-important when you have a family. You just can't work constant long hours without time off and expect to keep your relationships healthy and your children nurtured.

David Field had some great comments about rejection. I can't remember exactly what he said but he started with an "ah well, that's life" type comment followed by "no really, it totally f*#ks with you. I can't stand it" (please excuse my hazy paraphrasing). I just loved when he said that because it's another reminder that even fame and success doesn't guarantee you contentment all the time. He also said (in response to an audience member's point that it's easy to pick and choose your roles when you have the luxury of previous success) that no, there's never luxury. You're only as good as your current role and there's always hard work, rejection, hard times... no matter how successful you get.

Oh, that was the other point David made - he said it's absolutely important to know what your politics are, what your beliefs and values are, and to stick to them. The example he gave was that he would never take a role that glorified white America - no matter how much they paid him or how long he'd been out of work (that's when the guy in the audience made the comment about luxury). Basically - there's no point selling out, you'll just end up hating yourself for it. When the guy in the audience (he was one of those big-mouth people that has to join in on everything!) said that was easy for him (David) to say, and that what was he supposed to do as a struggling actor desperate for work if he was offered a McD's commercial, given that he thinks McD's are evil. David then said well, you change your perspective and you take it as a learning opportunity - if you've rarely been on a set then you spend the time you're doing that commercial learning everything you can - watching what the different crew people do, watching how a director works, etc. Lorraine Bayly also chimed in then with the idea that everything you can possibly do is a learning experience.

The other interesting thing about this talk was the vast differences between the two younger actors and the older ones. The Chris chap was sooo fresh from graduation and working in his first job, you could just see the "I know all about that"s flying out of his brain with everything he said. I'm not being mean - I'm pretty sure I was the same both when I finished high school and after I graduated college. You think you know everything - at least as much as the older people who have been teaching you. Chris was saying that he first realised he wanted to be an actor when he was 12 and he "realised he could do a better job than Arnold Schwarzenegger". David leaned into Lorraine next to him and said quietly "careful!". Susie Rugg was also overtly confident and argued a few points with Lorraine Bayly as if she had just as much experience as her.

I feel so old talking about the "young actors" like that, but it's so true. I guess I've recently reached the age where I've realised I really don't know nearly as much about everything as I used to think I did. And I can see the younger people who are in the frame of mind I was about 5 years ago - so naively confident about everything. I really don't miss being like that, I'm so glad to be excited about growing and learning and meeting all the people who have so much more knowledge and experience than me.

Well, that was only going to be a really quick post because I didn't have much to say... but, uh, I guess I did. :-)

Gotta go, Grey's Anatomy is on...

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