Saturday, April 24, 2010

Reasons to Fail

Today, I had a conversation with a friend of mine. Just to give you some background, he's a fellow actor who has taken lots of classes over the 6 years that I've know him, but has yet to work as a professional actor. He's had two different agents in that time, but asked not to be sent out on anything that required dialogue because he wasn't ready for it. He is very healthy, fit, and looks-conscious. Today he told me that the thing he hates about the business is the fact that it is looks-oriented, and that there are hardly any roles for black people (he is a black American). An imaginary needle scratched loudly across my mind's vinyl. "What?" He said it again, using different words, and I just couldn't let it go.

It reminded me of a conversation I had years ago, when I was still new to the L.A. showbiz scene. I was in a play with a VERY talented actress/dancer who had been in L.A. for quite some time with only a couple of credits, and I couldn't understand why. "Jeez, this industry must be really tough if she can't make any headway." Then came what was to be her often-sung refrain "Hollywood is scared of a beautiful black sister. They won't put us onscreen." Riiiiiight.

When things aren't going well, it can be tempting to blame someone else. Anyone else. The business, the casting director, your mom... And for the sake of argument, let's say you actually have a reason to blame someone else. So you blame the casting director because you prepared all weekend for your audition, went in READY, and they tell you that they decided to use a different scene. Blame, blame, BLAME. Feel better? Nope. Know why? Because you gave away your power, you gave yourself a reason not to succeed, and you're NOT going to book the gig. It's so much more productive to look at the situation, acknowledge that it sucks (if it does), let that go, and get to work on the task at hand, i.e. building your career, preparing for your audition, etc.

So, to the first friend, I said "That's not true. That. is. not. true. Yes, there are shows where almost everyone is "Hollywood beautiful" (not to be confused with "REAL-LIFE beautiful"), but there are also people of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, sexual orientations, races, and gender identities who work CONSISTENTLY. There are still shows that have all white people (which I think is ridiculous in this day and age unless it's essential to the script), but more and more shows are starting to show cultural diversity." "Yes, but" he began "they can only be character actors." Oh, is THAT all? His argument had no teeth, and wasn't grounded in anything real, so I declined further comment.

As for the other actress, these days we mostly communicate via infrequent "pokes" on Facebook, But if it ever comes up again - if I EVER again hear her say that they won't put black women onscreen, I'll have to hand her my reel.

Do NOT give yourself a reason to fail. Use that time and effort to find reasons to succeed.

--Nicole

2 comments:

Michelle | When I Grow Up Coach said...

Love this perspective & love ya even more for articulating it here. Amen & hallelujah!

Nicole J. Butler said...

Thanks Michelle. It just seems like such a waste to expend valuable time and energy focusing on the can'ts, shouldn'ts, and won'ts.

Let's hang out in the YES aisle! ;o)