The question Michael posed this week is a good one; however, that article itself was a little unsettling to me.
What I got from the article, in the barest and most simplified version I can put it, was “Don’t quit your day job. You won’t be able to do what you love as a career. If you do you’ll hate yourself. Have fun doing Oliver Jr. the rest of your life.” Like I said, super simplified. Mr. Godin does go back and forth between the success stories and the failures, but he really focuses on the negative.
Of course any actor trying to make acting his career will find himself doing some things that he doesn’t necessarily want to do. If you ever happen to watch the show Entourage on HBO, this problem comes up a lot when the main character has to choose between fighting for a project he really wants, but may not get, or doing a fluff film like Benji set in Alaska for the paycheck. It doesn’t necessarily “bastardize” his art, as Mr. Godin puts it, if he chooses to do the fluff film, it just helps him live to fight another day for his passion projects that come in the future.
Now the main question Michael put forth is whether or not a writer should take a script reading position or an actor helps in a casting office to get their foot in the door? I have said it and will say it many times through these postings: do anything you think is worthwhile to garner exposure and experience.
There are many reasons these positions could be beneficial to an artistic person. From the actor point of view, if I started working for Claire Simon Casting (a prominent Chicago casting agent) I would be able to see almost exactly what they see day in and day out. Who they hired, who they didn’t, what they liked about this person, what fatal flaw this person did to not get hired, all of these things I can see or hear about while working in that office. Everything I learn there I can apply to the way I handle myself in an audition. Just by being there I am improving my own knowledge and skills.
If the learning experience isn’t enough reason to take the job, the relationship certainly is. Almost any person in the arts knows that it’s not always what you know, it’s who you know. If you need any more proof of that sentiment just watch a Paris Hilton movie and you’ll realize that there is no way that she was hired on her acting skills. Hopefully after working with someone who is so connected in the Chicago arts scene I could maybe benefit from one or two of those connections. Whether it’s a photographer friend of theirs who can help me with cheap headshots or being considered for an actual part, it is all beneficial to my career.
The last benefit to working for an artistic place such as that would be just the overall understanding of being in the arts world. The hardest thing I have to face between having a money making job and trying to make it as an actor is scheduling. I think a casting agent would be far more understanding if you had to take a little bit longer lunch for an audition than your manager at Happy McFunnerton’s Kid Party Palace. The casting agent’s success depends on people like me doing that exact thing while the other job just wants you back in the damn mouse suit. I’m not trying to put down the general public, but people involved in the arts “get it” way more than many other people do.
Overall when considering a position like this that is closely related to your craft but isn’t it exactly, remember that this business is all about playing the game. It’s very hard to do things like Heath Ledger did (R.I.P.). He was a fantastic actor that said no to films over and over again until he chose great projects he wanted to do. Yet still he had to do A Knight’s Tale to even put himself in the position to be considered for a project to say no to. Do what you have to do to get ahead sometimes so that you can do what you want when you are ahead.