Thursday, November 10, 2011

Every Which Way But Straight

The arts and entertainment industry is one that no one really understands.  We just have really good guesses on how it works.  I think this lack of true understanding is what causes most people to give up and pursue something else.  I've known people who try everything, or what they think is everything, to become successful; constantly getting new headshots, continuously taking classes, jumping from representation to representation, all with the same lack of results.  It leaves them drained, without money and full of self-doubt.

I've stopped trying to "understand" the industry and just let myself go with the flow.  Let me share with you some personal examples of why trying to understand the industry is futile.

I received a call not too long ago from the very first casting director that I ever auditioned for when I first arrived in Los Angeles.  I didn't have any contact with him for over FOUR YEARS and out of the blue, I got a call asking me to audition for a project that he felt I was a good fit for.  Apparently, I had been kept "on file", which was my very first personal experience where being kept "on file" didn't mean "in the trash".   =P  The first question that he asked was: "Are you still acting?"  "Of course I am!  I'm in it for the long haul!" I replied.  It's a valid question though as most people who have dreams of overnight success start moving back home after 2 or 3 years.

Had I really made such a good impression on him in my one minute audition from over four years ago?  It was my very first audition, I had no idea what I was doing, but they didn't know that.  They saw something in me.  Something that made them want to call me years later.

I sent in a voice demo for my audition and a few days later, I received a nice email saying that they weren't able to book me for this project, but would keep me on file for future projects.  Hopefully it won't be four years until they call me again.

More recently, I auditioned for a show about a modern family (hint hint).  They were looking for an Asian male, mid 20's, an Ivy League slacker kinda guy who lived in Gardena (a predominantly Asian neighborhood).  I went to the audition on the Fox Studios lot and saw a bunch of people that looked just like me.  We all auditioned one by one and went about our day.  The next day, I got a call from my agent telling me that I have a callback.  I'm back on the Fox Studios lot, but this time, there were less clean-cut Asian American males and more mixed ethnicity actors.  Many of them were a mix of Asian and African American, with some sporting full afros.  "Hmm..." I thought to myself, "maybe they're going in a different direction with this."

I gave the exact same performance at my callback and went about my day (you'll notice I don't dwell on auditions nor play the "what if" game).  The show aired a few weeks later and I watched the episode, curious to see who they picked to play the part.  The door opened to reveal a Caucasian male, neither Ivy League nor slacker, just a regular looking guy living in Gardena.  Baffling, right?  But these are the kinds of things that we will never understand.  Why did they put so much effort into looking for an Asian or ethnic person and then cast a Caucasian person?  Why did they leave the character in Gardena?  It defeats the Gardena reference if the character is Caucasian.  These are questions that will never be answered, and for me, don't need to be answered.

This is just how the art and entertainment world is.  Why is someone's art better than your art?  Why is your art better than someone else's art?  There isn't a concrete answer.  If you spend all your effort trying to figure it out, you'll end up unhappy and back home after a few years.  The important thing to think about is "what's next?"  Don't dwell on what's already happened.  Focus on the future and what you can do to make you and your art better positioned to be picked next time.

While we may have figured out that it takes three licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop, we will never know what makes the entertainment world go 'round...  But it sure is fun to try and figure it out!

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