It’s so easy to get caught up in the c-word. Oh, ya know, comparison. Even when we achieve impressively high goals, we don’t stay in that feeling of accomplishment as long as we should. It takes one measly scroll through Facebook to instill feelings of inadequacy and maybe even anger. Or is that just me? Lol. Then we wonder, “Does he/she ever feel this crappy emotion too? Maybe they’ve just got it all figured out?” Unfortunately, since we are all human, these emotions come and go. But, it’s about letting them go fast and minimizing how often they come.
I don’t know who the heck originally said this phrase, but they are spot on. “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Makes total sense, right? You book a guest star on your favorite comedy and could not be happier. That is, until you read the #blessed #actorlife post of your fellow classmate who snagged the lead in a short film. This comparison literally robs the joy from our own life and radiates negative energy out. This can be applied to all areas of life, not just entertainment. Why do we think the grass is greener when we’ve all got weeds the neighbors can’t see? Believe me, I suffer from this thinking too! The forward movement comes from focusing on our own growth, accomplishments, the small things that make us really happy and practicing gratitude. These healthy habits shift our vibe and mindset.
You might be familiar with the idea of “being impeccable with your word”. It comes from Don Miguel Ruiz’s book, The Four Agreements. Or perhaps Robert De Niro’s character in Meet the Parents and the “circle of trust” talk with his future son-in-law played by Ben Stiller may be more familiar to you. Surely one, if not both rings a bell and strikes a chord. Trust, and your impeccable word plays a huge part in your reputation as a commercial actor. You gotta keep your word. Period.
Commercial actors should never break trust.
THE UNINVITED CRITIC THAT LIVES IN YOUR MIND!
The battle is never between you and your fellow actors
It’s between you and the uninvited critic that lives in your mind.
QUESTIONS: Every time I leave an audition, I tend to criticize my performance and my fellow actors all the way home! I am not this mean to my worse enemy! How can I make auditioning not such a battle?
ACTORS: I don’t know of any actor that has left an audition room and not driven home with the uninvited critic buckled into their passenger seat!
I could have done better, I cried at home, why couldn’t I cry in that room? I knew I would forget that line! I can’t believe I asked if I could start over and over and over the critic in your mind torments your driving record all the way home!
I don’t know about you, but these days, the mere thought of adding one more thing to my plate makes me feel like my head will explode. And yes, decluttering is great, as are quick things you can do to improve your life/health/career, but during the dog days of summer, sometimes the best thing you can do is the old switcheroo. Here are a few ways I’ve found to switch one thing for another that helped me; hopefully, one or two will spark an idea for you, too.
1. Leave five minutes early instead of five minutes late.
There is a huge trust factor that the commercial business is run on. If talent does not come through on their end of the trust factor, the casting process would end in failure. Here are ten factors of trust casting directors depend on from actors.
You Look Like Your Photo
If we (casting directors) do not have a reel of yours to look at, we only depend on your photo. A physical look in commercials is very important because the entire message is a “quick read”. It is devastating and maddening when you come in for your appointment and look different than your photo. Some ways you can look different are looking much younger or older, or your hair is a different style or color. Perhaps your photographer made you look prettier/more handsome or not as pretty/handsome as you really are. If you are a professional, you will want your photo to look like you, not different. Looking different than your photo has caused a casting director to give an appointment to someone who is not right for the part.
I’m going to tread on some slightly new review ground this month. It’s all for you, the theatre enthusiast, that I enter this experiment. I’ve wanted to review the Independent Shakespeare Co. Griffith Park FREE Shakespeare Festival since I’ve been attending, which is pretty much forever now. But, the dates have never been quite right to review one of their individual shows, so, instead I will highlight the festival as a whole. And if I get you there with picnic basket (or Trader Joe’s bag) in hand, it will be worth it.
For the past 3+ months, I’ve been enjoying my first time back among the ranks of the fully-employed in 25 years. And I’m not kidding when I say “enjoy”—far from finding the 9-to-5 (or in my case, 8-to-4) burdensome, I’ve found it quite freeing, and in ways I wasn’t really expecting.
Since many, if not most, actors need some kind of day job to survive, I thought it might be worth enumerating what I’m learning from my new gig, how it’s shaping the rest of my life (including my creative outlook—and output!), and other reasons why that thing you may be regarding as a set of shackles could be the very thing that frees you.
“Successes are a bonus, but life is made of the process of following your passion.”
“…two weeks later, I was on a plane flying to Mauritius to shoot the first episode.”
October last year, I was sitting on my couch on a rainy Sunday night, throwing myself a pity party. The party involved me sitting in sweats, eating Postmates, and watching murder mysteries. I hadn’t left the house for the entire day. I was ignoring text messages and just generally feeling really sorry for myself. I had been to countless auditions that month and hadn’t booked a single job. I felt lost. To top it all off, and I had acute bronchitis. I mean oh my god, how long do you have?
For staying power, play in the moment.
Whether it’s the weather, or the uncertain state of the economy, or the endless grind of politics, things have been a little grim lately, a little serious. And while the tendency during hard times is to bear down and get serious along with them, I am starting to believe that the answer, while wholly counterintuitive, is to ease up—to play.
People—and I include among “people” everyone from audiences to casting directors to colleagues to fans (present and future)—are starved for levity and passion. Those can be hard to muster in the face of grim times and prospects, but as artists, it’s our job to lead the way. We have to be the change we want to see in the world, to get all Gandhi-fuzzy on you; we have to put aside that life is hard and times are tough, and get back to the spirit that brought us here: play. But how do we, the artists, get ourselves there when the getting is hard? How do we keep ourselves fresh and alive, and, if you want to get down to it, marketable?
American Pastoral, written by John Romano and based on the book by Philip Roth, is a fascinating but uneven look at a family in 1960s America. There are some good performances throughout the film, and the cinematography by Martin Ruhe is excellent. Even though the film never quite takes off, its examination of the American dream in one of the most turbulent times in our nation’s history is definitely worth a look.
The film begins like a hazy dream as Nathan Zuckerman (played by David Strathairn) makes his way to his high school reunion. Zuckerman reminisces fondly about a local legend, Seymour “Swede” Levov (Ewan McGregor, who also makes his directorial debut with the film) a sports hero and a man destined to be great. Soon, Nathan runs into his old friend and Swede’s brother Jerry, who gives him the bad news that Swede has passed away. It turns out that Swede, despite being primed to live a life of happiness and privilege, wound up being surrounded by tragedy heartache. Jerry tells Nathan the whole story, which encompasses the main plot of the movie.
Soon after graduating high school, Swede marries his high school sweetheart Dawn (Jennifer Connelly), and they have a daughter Merry (played by Dakota Fanning, in the best performance of the film). Merry has a stuttering problem, which her therapist believes can be attributed to a desire to live up to her parents’ expectations. Merry’s relationship with her mother is cold and distant, while her relationship with her father has issues of its own. Most of the action in the film takes place in 1968, a politically and culturally chaotic time (and quite apropos for the film to come out this year, with all that is going on in the country), and Merry becomes involved with a radical political organization in the city. When a local business owner is murdered by a bomb, the police show up at the Levov residence looking for Merry. Did she have something to do with it? This question is at the center of the remainder of the film.
American Pastoral has interesting moments throughout, but it never quite gels. The performances are pretty good across the board, although neither McGregor or Connelly are fairly wooden in their portrayals of Seymour and Dawn. Fanning is excellent as Merry, as are Ocean James and Hannah Nordberg (who play Merry at ages 8 and 12, respectively). The character of Merry is at the heart of the film, and Fanning must go through an incredible transformation—from innocence, to disillusionment, to a soul that is lost and gone forever. This is quite a task for the young actress, but she pulls it off beautifully. If for no other reason, the movie is worth seeing for her nuanced and tragic performance.
The movie plays out like a book, which makes sense because it is based on the 1997 Philip Ross novel of the same name. This weakens the film at times, however, as we feel like passive observers watching the action unfold. Part of this is due to the historical nature of the film, with the narration making us feel a step removed. While it may work well in novel form, bookending the film from Nathan Zuckerman’s perspective, a character that we never meet in the 1960s world of the story, gives the audience a sense of disconnect. A great example of bookending a film in the current time period, while flashing back to another era, is A League of Their Own. But that works incredibly well because we see the entire film, including the beginning and ending, through the protagonist’s eyes. In American Pastoral, on the other hand, a side character takes us into and out of the main arch of the film, so we are left feeling somewhat empty when all is said and done.
While this is not a great film, it is still a good one, and there are enough elements at play that make it worth watching. The setting of 1960s America and the search for an American dream that may not even exist is extremely relevant in 2016 America, and Dakota Fanning is terrific as the tragic Merry Levov. You do not need to see this one on the big screen, but it would be worth a rental at some point down the line.