© 2011 Timmy Tamisiea. All rights reserved. How I imagine Mathew McCounoughhey waits for a call back.

23/365 – If The Actor’s Life were Everyone’s Life

If The Actor’s Life were Everyone’s Life

I'm not an actor, but I play a lawyer on TV.

If there’s one thing an actor may know better than most is the sting of rejection and disappointment.  While other people work hard for months or years to find a job and receive a dozen rejections, the light at the end of the tunnel is that when they are hired, they just have to keep the job.  Meanwhile, the actor or artist will have to go through that process over an over and over and over because most of their jobs are last longer than a few months to, maybe, a year. And most times they aren’t even paying jobs.  But, the actor keeps doing it because there’s something stronger than a paycheck involved.  There’s some desire to create.  And this is the roller coaster that most businessmen and women rarely face.  I actually wouldn’t wish this routine on them – well, not all of them.  The jerk off who kicked me out of his house when he was supposed to find an apartment with me in NYC . . . .that businessman can suck it.

Why's everyone call me "moon face"? They wouldn't if they knew I was really Dawson.

See, the auditioning process (the counterpart to the job search) is grueling.  The old saying almost always applies: you’ll get the part when you don’t care.  BUT, you want to care and you need to care or what the hell are you doing this for?  So, businessmen, doctors, lawyers – listen up, because I’m going to give you a little taste of the acing life with the best parallel universe I can conjure.  It’s a comparison I imagine only freelance graphic designers and writers can really relate to.

LAWYERING, Y’ALL

I’m just picking this randomly.  I’m not picking on Lawyers – many of my friends and family are lawyers.  This is just an exercise.  Now, imagine this world, Lawyers.  You only need a bachelors to practice law.  There is no Bar Exam and no certificates.  Any Joe-Schmo can quit his plumbing/buisness/doctor job and say, “I’m a Lawyer.”  And they are.  You can get an advanced degree in Law, but those programs are extremely competitive – 8 people per class in most instances.  And it doesn’t necessarily guarantee you anything but the opportunity to teach law.

The Masters of Lawyering Arts Class of 1957! All 12 of em! And so angry!

Only a few, lucky individuals practice law regularly.  Yes, in this reality there are no law firms and each job is a “case” by “case” affair. Unfortunately, those cases are few and far between and highly competitive.  So, you work at the Chicken Shack slinging fries and asking your boss for an hour every once in ahile so you can “audition” for a client who has an upcoming case.

THE LAWYER AUDITION

It’s your lunch break.  You have an hour to rush uptown to some municipal building to “auction” for the new case “Fillino vs. Jones.”  It’s right up your alley.  The part calls for a lawyer your height, your weight and who can do cross examining.  That’s you!  To a tee.  It’s in the bag!

You enter a hallway where 35 men and women are all sitting around in their best suits, reading over the docket and practicing their pitch to the lifeless white walls that are enclosing them.  A man – say, a law clerk – sits at a desk towards the other end of the hallway.  He’s in charge of taking a copy of your resume and, say, proof of a law degree.  You chat him up in order to make a good impression but he seems completely uninterested and a line in forming.  So, you sit and wait as names are called and those lawyers enter a small 10×10 space.  You hear the faint murmurrs of their best pitches through the concrete brick wall and then one by one they exit – flashing a fake smile to indicate that they think they did good – a psyche out.  But they NEVER really think they did good.  It’s a delusion because the “cleint” never flinches or gives a sign of how they feel about the pitch.

For my second monologue, I'll be doing myself, from some movie about a small angry Italian.

A lawyer next to you makes small talk.  And by small talk, I mean nervous ramblings and ingenue “good luck” speeches that you know they’ve used millions of times before — because you do the very same thing.  It just a way of not thinking about whats’s behind that door.  “Where’d you go to school.”  “I just got done doing the The State of Illinois vs. Billy’s Fart Shop.”   “I’m taking a Closing Arguments Class at The Law Store.  My teacher’s thinks I have a future in closing arguments.”   Ugh.

Sweaty palms and nervous foot twitches echo through the hall as the minutes click away and you realize that you were supposed to “audition” 35 minutes ago.   Your name is called and you force a smile through gritted teeth as every nervous habit you ever didn’t know you had comes to the surface.  The law clerk escorts you in to a bare room.  At the far end is a 6 foot table with three clients sitting behind it.  The Law Clerk introduces you and hands your materials off to the group.  You sit and make MORE small talk.

Nailed it!

They look over your resume . . . “Oh, you represented Sally Forester in 2005.  I know Sally, she’s great.  How was that?”  Before you know it, you’re babbling, trying to sound casual and cool but, instead, overstaing your role in that case.  You were a minor part of the litigation team but you didn’t indicate that on your resume.

“Well, Mr Pants, give us your audition.”  So, you stand, look at the ground, then . . . BOOM – you spark up into an overly prepared, overly repeated pitch about how great of a lawyer you are and and how much schooling you’ve had and it’s all very dramatic and loud and then you remembered you’re not supposed to yell at the passionate part but build to it and your already yelling so it looks awkward when you tone it down and then you sit at the part about being a personal lawyer because that’s what your “lawering” coach told you to do and then you flub a line but keep going and try to make it look like that was part of the plan and then . . .

You’re done.  “Thank you so much, Mr. Pants.  We’ll be making our decision by Wednesday.”  You exit and the only thought is ,”That was pretty good” – no, don’t think that – it was fine.  Yeah.  Just fine.  If you start thinking it was great, it will be bad and if you start thinking it was bad, then it will be bad.  Just think . . . neutral.

THE LAWYER WAIT

How I imagine Mathew McConaughey waits for a call back.

It’s Monday.  You have TWO WHOLE FREAKING DAYS to think about this audition.  You avoid other “auditions” because you don;t want to have a conflict if you do get the job.  It’s not too bad at first – the waiting.  You just want to work.  Even though this is a non-paying case, it would be nice to do it . . . but then agian, who cares.  Right?  There’ll be millions of cases to “audition” for in your life.  This is just one in many.  But your denile keep creeping up to bite you as you allow thoughts to escae about how much you really want this.

Wednesday comes and this case that you finally convinced yourself you don’t need . . . well, now you are pretty sure that if you don’t get the job it’s the end of all life as you know it.  You’ve been in a rut and you NEED this case.  But no one calls.  Your anxiety raises and you begin to majorly doubt yourself and the life you’ve chosen.  Maybe you should go to grad school and get a Masters in Law.  Then you can join the “Law Union” and “audition” for more high profile, high paying, professional cases.  At least with a “Law Masters” you coiuld teach Law, if the whole Lawyering things doesn’t pan out.  Maybe you should take a class in Real Estate Law – this trial thing is killing you.

What do you mean I didn't get the part?

Whoa, you’re getting a call from an unknown number.  Oooohhhhhhh this is it.  You decide not to answer it because if its bad news, then you don’t have to reply with a saccrine reply.  You don;t have to accidentally burn a bridge.

NEW VOICEMAIL: Hi, Mr. Pants.  This is Cindy with the Circuit Court of Poopy County.  We saw you haven’t renewed your membership from last year and we’d love to see you in the courtroom for our new season of cases.  We’ll try you again tomorrow and hopefully we get you signed back on.

Damn it.  Well.  No call.  No call at all.  Not even an e-mail.  Why can’t they just tell you “yes”, “no” or “I don’t give a crap”?  Why? Because clients have no obligation to inform you if you didn’t get the case.  They only inform you if you did.  It’s standard procedure in dealing with lawyers.

THE ACTOR BOOMERANG

Player, please!

You are in full depression mode.  But, you pick yourself up by those chinos and starry looking for “lawyer auctions” for next week in the The Courtroom Want Ads.  You’re well aware that your ego and sanity will go through this process again and again and again.  And when you do land a case, you’ll work your 40 hour-a-week “day job” and then have client meetings 5 nights a week and some weekends for at least 4 hours.  You’ll desperately be trying to earn “lawyer points” so you can finally join the union and get healthcare and be allowed to auction for bigger cases.  That may take 10 years.   Meanwhile, if you have some free time, you’ll keep sending out your resume to “agents” in the hopes that one of them will want to represent you . . . .

THE LAWYER LESSON

If I put rainbows around my occupation, all my dreams will come true . . . fart.

Now, this isn’t how it is for all actors,  Eventually you get past the self doubt and neuroticism.  However, it creeps back in every once in awhile.  You get better and become proficient with your craft or move on to something else – law school perhaps.  Still, if you start to make a living acting, the rejection never really leaves.  Unless your a Hollywood actor and then auditions aren’t even a part of your vocabulary.  The thing is, most mainstreamers don’t realize how steep the sucess curve is for actors as comparison to other careers.  At 30, when they’re making a sizable chunk of change, maybe own a house, could be married with some kids . . . The actor? – well, they may JUST be starting to make money at it.  And money is a loose term.

Once, when I was down about auditioning for 10 acting MFA programs and getting into zero, a friend’s wife yelled at me, “Why can’t you just get apply for an acting job like everyone else?”  Like it’s that easy.

One of the biggest misconceptions about actors is that success is Hollywood.  WRONG.  SO FREAKING WRONG!  No!  Actors can make a great living in large cities and small towns, doing regional theatre or voice over or small professional theatre.  There’s a million way to be a successful, working actor, and Hollywood is not the only way to be a working actor.  So when an non-actor asks an actor what they’re doing and they say, for instance, “I’m playing Malvolio at The Chicago Shakespeare Theatre,” their first thought is almost always, “Oh, well, keep at it and you’ll be on TV soon.”  Ugh.

SYMPATHY PAINS

Now, the big question you may be asking is – why are you making a big deal out of this?  Well, I hear on a daily basis, “Actors are so needy,” or some variation of that.  If people could see how hard an actors life can be they maybe they would understand.  Like the idea that everyone would wait tables for one month just for some humility.  Maybe some people would gain some understanding and compassion if they had to auction every night for a month.  Still, I know that acting is a choice.  My good friend, Bill Fellows, once said to me – “Tim, me all make our choices.”  And actors, you made yours.  Many times an actor will be asked, “Why do you want to be an actor,” to which 90% of the time the answer is, “I don’t how to do anything else.”  BULL SHIT.  You are not slaves to your profession.  Don’t treat yourselves like you are.  We all have choices.  As soon as you take ownership of that choice, the more control you’ll have over your profession and your well-being.

In all my years on the force, I've never seen anything like it. He received a BFA in acting.

The other reason, is that there’s nothing worse than to see the ones you love go through that shitty roller coaster and know there’s nothing you can do.   I’ve been through this myself, I’ve seen my brother go through it, many of my friends and my wife.  I can give them words of advice or tell them the sun rises tomorrow, but in the end, you have to let them be mad/sad about it.  So, I just wanted to vent, on their behalf, to those who have belittled the acting profession without ever having walked in an actors shoes.  It’s can be a hard and demeaning path.  But it can also be just as rewarding and fulfilling as any career out there.  But, ultimately, it’s a life of uncertainty.  And some compassion goes a long way.

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