- Wayne Watkins
Don't Confuse Celebrity with Craft.
As an acting coach, I work with quite a few young, aspiring actors, a couple older character actors and even a friend or two who, over the years, I have convinced I am a genius and they cannot do without my mystical words of wisdom every week. They are friends, so they know I'm full of shit half the time, but they still like coming in to the studio to workout and listen to me correct their diction or help with a line reading. What I find with about 50% of my young students (read: 20-30 year olds) is a serious confusion about what it means to be "an actor." Actually, confusion isn't the right word. Ignorance, is the right word. I posted the title of this blog "Don't Confuse Celebrity with Craft" on my FaceBook account several weeks ago. I've been stewing over it ever since. Actually, the whole post read, Note to young, aspiring actors: "Being in a movie" is different than "being an actor." Kinda like pouring Drano down your sink doesn't make you a plumber. Don't confuse celebrity for craft. A very talented writer friend wrote the best comment, "...a great majority of people, particularly in that bastion of modesty known as Los Angeles, say that they want to be actors, they mean film actors... and what they really mean to say is, 'I want to be famous.' So, I'd have to say that MANY people who want to be film actors want to be famous, whereas most who want to be theatre actors want to work on the craft." That is true. Too true. Probably always has been in Hollywood. What set me off in this direction, today of all days, was my morning ritual of catching up on the news and sports and gossip and politics first thing in the morning. Do it every day. computer humming, coffee steaming, fingers dancing across the keyboard as I surf over to my feeds and stories and newspapers and start filling my head with...well, crap mostly -- but at least I feel like I'm staying on top of things. Today was typical.
As I scroll through the "Entertainment News" there is always a host of stories about reality shows (of course), the stars of said shows, models, breakups, etc. Basically, stories about people who are famous for being famous and nothing more. Some have even been in movies. One was called a "Bond Girl" because she was in Casino Royale as "Tennis Girl #1." That did it for me. Totally set me off. You are NOT a Bond Girl simply because you are in a James Bond movie. You have to at least have some lines and a really cool, sexy name given to you by the writer. You know, Pussy Galore or Holly Goodhead or Plenty O'Toole. Tennis Girl #1 is definitely not a Bond Girl name. I was off. And I was thinking about all the young actors I have known who didn't really want to put in the work to be an actor. They wanted to be famous. Didn't care how. "How do I get on a reality show?" "How do I get an agent?" "How do I get on a soap opera?" They come to guys like me to get the secret to being famous. Yeah, like I know, right? Like anyone knows. Like I wouldn't have used it myself somewhere along the way. (You've probably noticed that and Idris Elba and Tom Hanks "Cold Reading Workshops" or "How to Make it in Hollywood.") The business of acting is big. I'm not just talking about actually making movies and television and theatre. I'm talking about all the ancillary and content adjacent businesses that feed off of actors. books on acting, newspapers on acting, classes on acting, websites on acting, head shot photographers, casting director workshops, casting sites, acting coaches, cold reading workshops, camera technique. Topics like, How to Audition, How to Nail the Audition, How to Book a Job a 100% of the Time, How to Get an Agent, How to Get a Manager, How to Self Tape, What kinds of Gear You Need in Order to Make Self Tapes, How to Make It as an Actor, How to Make It While You're Trying to Make It. Big business. Cha-ching. Now before you jump my ass, I know, I am as much a part of the problem as I am the solution. I'm one of those people who profess to be able to help you become a better actor. The difference between people like me (and there are quite a few, even in LA) and those out to just siphon money off of naive young people who happen to dream of being Jennifer Lawrence's BFF is sizable. I'm one of those assholes who wants you to leave your ego at the door and work hard, try new things, read, vote, become involved and live a passionate engaged life. I'm the deviant that will explain the difference between your job and your career, your career and your life. I also will charge you a fair price for my knowledge and if you reach a point where I think I can no longer help you, I'll tell you so and stop charging your credit card. What we must never do as actors or as teachers of actors is to believe the hype of popular culture. We must understand the difference between Kendall Jenner and Meryl Streep. Don't get me wrong, Kendall is very attractive and has 141 million Instagram followers. But I do not want my students to aspire to be her. What I WOULD like to see? I would LOVE to see Kendall and Cara and Suki study acting as a craft. Or not. We have to turn off TMZ and put down Instagram and Tik Tok, or at the very least, realize it's bullshit meant to feed a hunger and not the real world of an actor. Celebrity is not acting. Acting can sometimes (rarely, I might add) lead to celebrity. Stay true, learn your craft, expect to have many jobs that aren't acting. Continue to dream? Most definitely. Continue to study your craft? But, of course. Just know that Kate Upton will probably never play Ophelia in summer stock and Channing Tatum, while he would certainly fit the type, would make a terrible Sergius Saranoff.
Rant over. Get back to work.