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Friday, February 01, 2008

HOW COME ACTORS JUST WANNA COME IN AND CHAT? (edited)

I'm perplexed by the phenomenon where actors don't want to come in and read for roles. Apparently, if an actor has achieved a certain level of status they no longer feel the need to audition. They just wanna have meetings -- like a casting coffee date. It's an odd experience. They come in the casting room, sit in front of the camera, with the writer, director, casting director, the script is on the table, they're actors -- but they don't act... they just chat. "So, how was your day...what are you working on...I loved that movie...what kinda dog...you're baby's how old...wow, great meeting you." It's a big circle jerk and a waste of fucking time. Look, I've been an actor, trained as an actor, taught acting. I understand the demands and the often lack of appreciation for the craft. But auditioning is part of the actor's craft. It's half the job. I can only draw the writer comparison -- I have a pretty solid body of work as a writer -- features, episodic, produced credits. I don't walk into a studio to pitch for a gig and say, "You know my body of work, seen my episodes, let's just have a chat." I spend weeks putting together my pitch, my ideas -- it's my audition. Some gigs I get, some I don't, but pitching is part of my job. I understand, some actors have such a great body of work, you're lucky to get them for the role. Scott Glenn did not read for my pilot. When I found out he was interested, we pursued him. But Scott Glenn has a huge body of work. I had no doubt that he could embody the patriarch of this motorcycle club. My wife, Katey Sagal, is a perfect example of someone who still reads for roles. Katey has good "Q", she sells overseas, but because she was known as one character for so long, she constantly has to prove that she can do more. And she does. It's her job. Her resume over the past five years proves that. She inspired this character in my pilot. I wrote the role for her, so clearly I was certain that she could do it. But if someone else wrote this pilot, who wasn't aware of her dramatic chops, she'd definitely have to go in and fight for the role. There's this dangerous dynamic that happens with rising young talent. Some (not all, but enough) agents, managers and producers create a "your a movie star, kid" philosophy in actors. They put the ego cart before the work horse. I'm hearing that a lot as I continue to cast this pilot. "Actor X will meet with you to discuss the role, but they won't read." It's a bad precedent. Here's why -- the truth is, the people that I'm seeing are NOT movie stars, they've worked in movies. They're talented, they are accruing impressive credits, but no one in the middle of the country knows who they are. No one is going to turn on the TV to specifically watch Actor X. They only have the potential to be movie stars. Creating this illusion that they no longer need to go after roles creates an unaware (lazy) actor. The artist allows others to dictate thier choices, they end up taking the career-building, money roles, instead of the roles that excite and challenge them. Pretty soon they are just one of many, interchangeable faces. They do not endure. Suddenly the actor who wouldn't read is the actor who doesn't work. They get dropped by the agent and manager and they wonder what happened to their "movie star" career. Here's a contrary case -- Charlie Hunnam, a super-talented young British actor, fought for the leading role in this pilot. Yes, he's with WMA, so we had to do the casting coffee date, but then, he broke the precedent and came back and read for me. Knocked me out. The network was unsure about casting a Brit in an Americana drama. Charlie came in, nailed the dialect, nailed the audition and won the role. Landgraf gave him the gig in the room. Here's the deal, Charlie is not a movie star -- and he's smart enough to know it. He controls his own career, makes choices based on the work and not what others think he should be doing. He suits up, shows up and commits to the things that excite him. As a result of that, Charlie Hunnam will become a movie star. I have no doubt about that. I know I'm not David Kelley or Brett Ratner. I'm sure those guys get actors to read. But I am a guy with an exciting project with roles that could launch an actor's career. Roles that could turn Actor X into a household name. I need to hear the words I've written come out of the actor's mouth. Of course, it's an audition, of course it's a rough read, of course I weigh in the actor's other credits. But I need to know that someone is passionate about my characters. An actor who won't read disrespects the work. It was recently suggested to me that I should "woo" Actor X to get her on board creatively. I had to sell her the job, tell her my creative vision for the character, convince her it was a good move. Huh? I'm not a fuckin' wooer, a writer, I'm an artist. I want a collaborator not an employee. If I have to "woo" somebody, then clearly they don't have the same process that I do. I love actors. I respect actors. I treat them like gold. I guess I just want a little lovin' in return.

6 comments:

Jordan said...

Nice post, Kurt. I think you're 100% right. You want the gig? Earn it!

neo_aa said...

Actor X? Is that who's starring in Species X? Your a funny guy, they're is no stopping you!

k e l s said...

This post here is so true. Hard work will get you here,and if you really want the gig,you work hard to nab it. Katey Sagal is a good example, as she has had to work hard to prove others what she was capable of. Keep up the blog,I enjoy hearing your point of view. ^_^

Tucker said...

Fucking brilliant. I feel like I'm coming late to the party.

You know, this seems to touch on what I feel is the most pervasive problem in our society at this moment: an overwhelming sense of entitlement. I'm a fledgling filmmaker (actor, writer, the works) mired a bit too much at the moment in the bill-paying 'real life'. (Which is to say my preference would be to be working on film all the time to pay the bills, but I'm currently outside of the industry and find that too much of my day and focus gets devoted to this job rather than to what I would love to be doing.)

I work for an internet retailer and more and more we find that customers want to dicker with us to get the most "free" shit they possibly can or they don't feel we deserve their business. It's no longer about added perks that hold special meaning. It's expected that we'll take losses to include all sorts of things for the same price as - or even lower than - the competition just because it's a product we offer. They feel entitled to this simply because they took a breath this morning and clicked on our site or gave us a call.

I know, that sounds like a pretty isolated gripe and perhaps something not worth mentioning. It's but one example, though, that speaks to a larger attitude that seems to exist nowadays; the same attitude that you're talking about. Actors who believe that just because they've done some work and have some decent credits (or even just some credits) on their CV that they no longer have to audition. They no longer have to work to get things. They are entitled simply because their face has appeared on-screen before.

Yet look at the most respected actors. They work constantly to get to where they are and they endure because of it. Yes, many get to the point in their careers where they are familiar enough that a reading or a screen test doesn't become necessary. Certainly Scott Glenn, like you mentioned, has shown his talent and the depth he brings to all of his roles, so you know that you are getting a professional and an artist of high caliber. And even many of your 'character actors' get to a point where someone says, "Get me that guy for my flick." But they've all put in their time, scripts or sides in hand. In fact, how many have actually won over a director or casting director when they wouldn't have been considered based on their previous work?

That's the importance of auditioning. This idea of entitlement needs to be weeded out.

Alright, ramble over. Thanks for sharing a great thought.

- mt

Juley said...

wow! This post really got me. It's very interesting to hear about the "movies' world". I was actually shocked when I read about those actors. It's very sad how people are so conceited. You're totally right! Wtf?? They think they just come in,chat a lil bit and they get the role?? It's really unbelievable! Thank God there are normal actors as well. Take Katey, she knew she was gonna get the role but she went to the audition and read all the same! Every actor should be like that. Although,that's really sad most of people see her as Peggy Bundy. They don't even try to treat her as Katey Sagal.
I really enjoy reading your opinion about things. I'll keep reading! ;)

m0rb1dt3x4n said...

Fuckin damn straight hoss! I was actually looking you up after a talk a buddy of mine and I were having about a commercial he had seen for a new series that looked promising to be honest from the 10 sec clip that FX threw together cant tell enough about it but the idea agrees with me. With the R.O.T. Rally roughly a week away it has got all my buddies pumped up for some fun. If you wanted a cast you should have come to Texas bro. The whole actors being too good for a reading shit I was a fuckin extra on a few films and still had to prove myself once or twice. So I can see where a nose in the air actor could be a bitch. But like I always say "Fuck'em!"