Show biz is a tricky trade, ripe with temptation, but for those deep in the real deal, wide-eyed awareness is needed to avoid a fall through the stage trap door.
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My darling Singularians, a little word association. Ready? “Los Angeles.” What leaps to mind? Ok, traffic. After traffic. A one and a two and a … Hooray for Hollywooood, the place where if you have talent, know the right people, work your tail off and then get lucky, maybe you can become a star. Perhaps you too, may find happiness playing Tevye in the all-female version of “Fiddler” at the West Covina Falafel King.
TO BE OR NOT TO BE
Dear Marnie: I want to be an actress. What do I do? I am 18 and I don’t know anyone important in Hollywood. Please Help! — MACBESS
MARNIE SAYS: Your delightful moniker suggests you have the soul of an actor. “To be or not to be” one who eats, however (OK, I’m crossing my Shakespearean lines), requires the courage of the Biblical Barak and the hide of a Presidential one. (I know it’s missing a “c.” – but couldn’t resist).
Getting It! Your Personal Strategy:
* First, act! Yes, my thespian, study your craft by doing. School plays, community theater, church, camps, wherefore there “art” a stage, make it your world. Move. Now. Join.
* Get educated. True, many of our finest thespians, didn’t go to university. And yes, great acting schools are an alternative. But in my 100 years of experience in “the biz,” the best and brightest know more than “The Method” … and not chewing the scenery. My dear late friends, Sir Nigel Hawthorne and Charles Keating were fountains of knowledge about literature, history, geography, language, music — and finance (so they knew 10 percent wasn’t double their salary). You’re still debating stage left vs. right. Passions turn — as do fortunes. Be brave. Don’t be dumb. Plan-A may turn into “Plan — (and proceed through the alphabet).
* To turn “pro” contact a small, independent manager or agent. Warning! There’s no business like show business for attracting scoundrels and charlatans. Make sure your agent/manager:
— has come recommended
— actually has clients (and what kind?)
— doesn’t try to schmooze you into a “package” of “lessons and expensive photo sessions.” (Read: upfront gelt.) The only thing you should pay for are head shots (photos) with a photographer of your own choosing.
* Finally, you. If you’re not willing to risk: famine, failure, rejection, criticism, shlepping to cattle call auditions with 300 other hopefuls, then after 3 hours hearing: “NEXT” after you’ve recited two lines, you may wish to reconsider your career choice.
Still determined? Then you will be ready to take on the sacred covenant that binds your heart to your art. In my book, daring to dream is the highest, the noblest, the most profound thing we humans can do. That … and the ability to sweat, starve, and endure holes in your ego the size of moon craters … just for the privilege of trying.
WASP IN SON’S NEST
Marnie: My son James, 26, is an aspiring screen writer. The problem is his girlfriend Cyndi is also a writer. They’ve been dating seriously for three months. First, I’m not a “stereotypical” mom who wants to “hold onto her son.” I’ve always gotten on well with Jimmy’s girlfriends, prior. Cyndi is extremely opinionated and controlling. When James is with her he is withdrawn (very unlike him) and bows to her viewpoint, which she expresses with great arrogance (her eyes roll, and the sarcastic, “Puhlease!”). We have an old friend who’s a famous producer. He’s always said when James has something substantial to show him, he’d be glad to see it. After a great deal of work, James made a small, excellent film which he put online. When we discussed sending it directly to this producer, Cyndi insisted things “aren’t done that way.” Even James was perplexed. This is just one example of her dissuading him with her rigid points of view. My friends say I shouldn’t interfere, but Marnie, the very thought of this woman terrifies me! – To Speak or Not to Speak
MARNIE SAYS: Actually you are “typical” – you want to use your contacts. Thank God for that. Now, if you saw your son headed for a wasps’ nest, what would you do? Say, “If he’s willing to risk a little anaphylactic shock, hey … he’s 26?” If your instincts are roaring — heed and act. Or I’ll do it for you.
Getting It! Your Personal Strategy:
* WHEN NOT TO BUTT IN: When mom wants to turn umbilical cords into bow ties for sonny.
* WHEN TO BUTT IN: When the girlfriend could be a little stinger.
* BBM (Bad Buttinsky Method): You could be direct. You could tell him how you feel. Text him about her controlazoid qualities and give it a “jealousy among writers” finale. But direct is risky. He may defend, deny, and then condemn you – when they break up.
*MBM (Marnie’s Buttinsky Method): A better way is to allow Jimmy to drink from his own reservoir of suspicion. All you need do is gently nudge the suspicion from his hormones to his head to help him arrive at his own scary conclusions.
YOU (In the basic neutral tone): Cyndi sure was adamant over not sending that film. What was that all about?
HIM: Not sure …
YOU: You think our pal, Big Producer, meant his offer to see it?”
HIM: I guess so …
YOU: And you believe your film was worthy?
HIM: You know I do!
YOU: Hmm. If you’re good, the film’s good, the offer’s good. What could possibly be the reasons Cyndi thinks this is no good?”
HIM: [THINKING THINKING THINKING]
YOU: It’s hard to find someone who understands creativity and can be truly trusted. Essential, if an artist’s to survive longer than – I don’t know – the life cycle of the wasp.” (OK, improvise.)
*Repeat same, obviously modifying according to the nature of her “offense” … often.
See it? Not one accusation, tonal twitch or the word “witch.” With luck, James will “get” the dialogue, change the cast … and maybe even ask you why you didn’t offer up a review.
NOT THEIR BUSINESS
Dear Marnie: This may sound immodest, but I’m starting (finally) to achieve some success in the arts, the writing and production end. I admire your answers and want your take on this. At a holiday party, I met a guy who rambled on about how he knew “all about” my work, as he sold insurance to people “like me” and studios. Then he rattled off ideas etc., implying that what I do is easy. Needless to say, he was a jerk. This is not the first time this has happened. Many people seem to think that any fool can act, write, or produce creative ideas. Back to that night. No matter what I said, he just nodded arrogantly, as I grew angrier and angrier. Can you suggest a fast response to shut these people up? — Wanted: A Zinger!
MARNIE SAYS: A mature artist (never mind an advice duenna) would tell you to turn on your loafers, offer up the Basic Sigh — and run for the cheese balls. But, I too have had to fend off remarks like, “So … you write a soap opera, huh? Hey … my kid got an “A” on her 10th grade term paper, “The Stooges: A Retrospective.” She’d be great at that!” Therefore, on behalf of anyone who has ever worked their fingers to niblets perfecting their art or craft I consider shutting up blowhards part of the Clean Air act.
Getting It! Our Personal Strategy:
* Assume an excited tone (think Andy Hardy putting up the playhouse).
* Say, “How fortunate … running into a fellow expert!”
* Add, “I’m just about to start a new project! And based upon what you’re saying, you’d be perfect! We’re doing a TV version of Atlas Shrugged … from the POV of Atlas. Now, our problem is, should we use a VO, OC or TFB on the Colorado burning tag?” [INSERT YOUR OWN TECHY BUZZ] What do you think?”
* When he sputters, say, “And here I thought we could work together … and then, I could learn all about your business! Pity.”
Copyright © Marnie Macauley / 2016Singular Communications, LLC