As a teenager, many years before I ever dreamed I would (or could,) take the plunge into uncharted waters to become an actor, I used to watch a TV Series called ‘Fame’. It was a television spin-off from a Movie directed by British Director Alan Parker a couple of years earlier. It premiered on UK TV via BBC1 in 1982.
The question beckons: Why am I talking about a thirty year old American TV series everyone has either forgotten about or have never even heard of. A good point but stay with me on this, I like to take my time getting to the point. In my writing at least.
The reason why the idea came to me about writing this piece has a great deal to do with recent events that have tested my character and who I am to a great extent. When you know who you are, what you want out of life, what your dreams are, your aspirations, ambitions – When all that is continually mocked, belittled on a daily basis, one will always begin to judge, to question themselves, with every putdown and mockery about your abilities that comes your way.
One person (and it was one person and one person alone,) who on a daily basis over a two month period did all this, and it really made me evaluate what I was doing. It was not the first time that I had done this. When auditions are not coming your way, letters from casting directors go unanswered, as well as those to agents one may be seeking representation from, all these things at some time or other, take their toll. And it was more intense because I was getting a great deal of BS that was nasty, personal and offensive. The problem was this person had no background in the performing arts, nor had they ever taken a single acting lesson, for if they had they would soon realise that criticising someone for being in showbusiness for ten years where no one knows who you are, is as near sighted and stupid a statement as anyone could ever make.
Unless ‘Mommy and Daddy’ are wealthy beyond anyone else’s means, nothing if anything seldom falls into anyone’s lap. And even if ‘Mommy and Daddy’ did pay for everything, success is not always a guarantee but it lessens the odds against failure. Well, my parents were not wealthy – Far from it! Anything and everything, I have so far achieved, has been by hard work, perseverance and a certain amount of blood, sweat and tears. And ‘Sacrifice’. Let’s talk about Sacrifice.
In the Movie and TV Series of Fame, the leading dance teacher was played by Debi Allen. And one of the first instructions to her class was: –
“Fame costs and this is where you start paying.”
In other words if you want to achieve anything (in this case ‘Fame’,) then this is your starting point. Attending her classes and working your ass off, with hard work and a positive mental attitude.
Debi Allen was probably the ideal person to play the character of this dance teacher because it was tailor-made for her. This is a woman who went through the process, became a professional dancer, then choreographer. One of the things she had no shortage of was drive and ambition. That drive also led her to become a director and film producer, even going so far as to hire the Legendary Film Director Steven Spielberg, to direct her production of Amistad. She achieved all this via hard work and a great deal of sacrifice.
Nothing is ever achieved without an element of Sacrifice. The bigger the dream, the bigger the ambition, aspiration, and the bigger the sacrifice required. Nothing comes easy. All this was lost on my Nasty Critic but then ignorance of the facts is always bliss.
Anyone who has ever trod the boards in theatre or any kind of showbusiness endeavour, knows that it can take many years of being in work (and out of work for that matter,) before one achieves any kind of credibility, let alone fame on any scale. There are many factors involved. One is doing the right kind of work, being seen by the right people. And that is just the window dressing. The real hard work is remaining in work, getting to as many auditions as possible, building up a good reputation, getting the work and getting known by people. Not just those who will work with you but everyone from the runner/stage hands upwards. You can never be liked nor loved by everyone but if you treat people properly, with interest, get to know them, and what they do, that will stand you in good stead as you progress with your career. And if you can’t or are not prepared to do any of the above, then you need to be doing something else.
The above is as true with casting people as it is with your fellow professionals. They are the gatekeepers with the keys to a fantastic, fabulous career. You are at their mercy, as you are with everyone else until you have established yourself. And even when you do establish yourself, the rules remain the same because there are other stratas in showbusiness to climb and bigger more profitable roles to claim as your own. So a good solid reputation is vital if one really wants a career, let alone a successful career in showbusiness.
Everything is about Sacrifice and if one wants to achieve anything successful in life, then one is going to have to pay the price. That price. No one gets anywhere without paying that price.
We have discussed Fame, why it costs and Sacrifice. Let’s talk about why nothing comes cheap nor easy.
This should be something of a no-brainer. In fact one of the reasons things have never been easy despite all the other reasons above, has been everything literally costs. Formal training (which I did by the way,) then the continual training via workshops which costs, most of which I could never afford, even when I was working nine-to-five jobs. Always felt that was a factor that held me back. How could you improve on your abilities as an actor when you can’t afford to attend workshops? The irony to that statement is that I have attended numerous workshops throughout my career and got a great deal from them. It is when it came to courses such as the real meat on the bones type such as Method Acting, The Meisner Method of Acting (some of which I actually did,) that the costs became prohibitive. If you cannot afford the fees that puts paid to that ambition until you do. The Method training, I have had to do myself via books, as they were cheaper than spending thousands, I don’t have. Once again the sacrifice one has to make in seeing opportunities pass you by. Alternatively, there are those who throw money at every course and workshop going and achieve nothing. What can you say but Sacrifice. We all make it one way or another if we want something badly enough.
Fame costs and nothing comes cheaply nor easily. Something to consider before writing people off and putting them down. But then everyone deserves a taste of power before they are through. Something to also consider if you are putting people down but doing nothing yourself to move forward in life. Again something of no-brainer. But still something to consider or rather, reconsider.