We’ve recently completed a four-part series on Jobs & Artists, exploring the realities of employment potential in our field, and some of the attitudes that could use a little adjustment. This, of course, is nothing new, but circumstances have certainly intensified in recent years, and spotlight the inappropriate expectations engendered in newbies by the academic programs they come from. (We’ll save that issue for a separate post.)
As frustrating as that expectation gap can be, we’re also far from alone: every artistic discipline walks the tightrope of dreams above the crocodile-filled sea of reality. A tiny handful of performers will become stars, at least for a while. Some succeed, and most will fail. This is true for all styles of music, theater, film, television, dance, visual arts, writing and the lot. In the end, we can only hope that those who enter into one of these fields knows what they’re getting into, or is at least adaptable enough to survive the attempt.
One of the best attempts at illustrating the truth about artistic careers actually exists in the film industry, with the 2012 documentary That Guy Who Was In That Thing. The doc is currently streaming on Netflix and is freely available online through Hulu (courtesy of IMDB):
In about an hour and a third, the film pieces together clips of interviews with sixteen recognizable actors (all male) and two agents (one female)– you’ll see a lot of familiar faces. The actors are intelligent, talented and very articulate individuals who know their business, and have stories to tell. They’re not rich, they’re not famous, but these guys work a lot, and by most standards, they’ve been exceptionally successful in a very difficult field. They also cover a lot of ground, with topics from everything to audition anxiety and odd jobs to toupees and jealousy.The film is surely something every actor should see. These moments were particularly memorable, and some will show you why classical musicians should see the film, too:
- If you run into these guys, don’t freak out (and please don’t wake up their kids).
- Don’t misspell Željko Ivanek‘s name.
- Matt Malloy first got hired by Robert Altman due to a trick with a live housefly.
- “Auditioning is ridiculous. It helps no one.” — Tim Omundson
- “It’s many steps, and you have to be talented and lucky at the same time.” — Donna Massetti
- “You never know why you get a job, and you never know why you don’t. It could be you get hired because you remind the director of his wife’s brother. It could be you don’t get hired because you remind the director of his wife’s brother.” — Wade Williams
- “There isn’t one part of what I do that I don’t like.” — Stanley Kamel
- It’s stated in the film that 99.4% of the Screen Actors Guild is unemployed on any given day. (The documentary was made just before the SAG-AFTRA union merger.)
- “It’s the consolidation of the business: there are just fewer films being made, there’s much more reality television, and the pay goes down. They keep paying less, and they say, ‘hey, they still show up. We pay them less, and they still show up.'” — Zach Grenier
- “When you go to acting school, the only roles they ever give you to work on are the starring roles…nobody ever seems to work on ‘how do you help tell the story?'” — Xander Berkeley
Ahem…any of that sound familiar?
Next step: don’t forget about the ladies! That Gal Who Was In That Thing, aka That Guy 2, was released in March, and is still playing on Showtime…