My brilliant friend Katherine Fugate has a beautiful blog you should check out. She covers a range of topics, and at least 1/2 of her entries have left me in tears. Her post on being a Geniot is spot on and well, genius. I read it again today and wanted to share. An Excerpt:
The word “Geniot,” however, comes from the ultimate truth of Hollywood: one minute you’re a genius, the next minute you are an idiot. You, my sensitive friend, are a Geniot. The word Geniot, forcibly stolen from director Allison Liddi-Brown, has been turned into merchandise: hats, t-shirts, and the like, and a prop: a large handmade paper wheel, placed on my office wall.
You must also accept that once you walk down the red carpet and enter the magical land of Show Business, you are not just a Geniot, you are forever strapped to the Geniot Wheel. And the Wheel is always turning.
The top of the Wheel has the word Genius; the bottom has the word Idiot. Each day, depending on the studio or network’s reaction to the latest draft of a script or the box office of your latest movie, a large dart is placed on the word Genius or the word Idiot. One glance at the Wheel allows others to know precisely who and what you are that day, so they might adjust accordingly in how they greet you. This is especially beneficial to the cast, crew, and your significant other. While in production, it is recommended to check the Wheel hourly.
Ultimately, though, the biggest lesson of the Geniot Wheel is that you are not alone. So, you can’t invest too much time in what others think about you—because they, too, are strapped to the Wheel. They, too, will hit the top; they, too, will hit the bottom. And the Wheel stops for no one, so it’s best to remember that who you were when you were a genius is probably pretty close to who you are now as an idiot. Yes, their perception of you might have changed in this hour, but the only thing that really matters is your perception of yourself. You are still you, glorious as ever. So hold tight to that inner magic, watch the wheel keep turning, and smile like a Geniot.
Love it. Read the entire post here.
I love this image.
It’s good to be reminded of this dynamic as the performer, and also as the audience. It says volumes of what goes on behind the scenes to craft a performance, a project. Or look at it on a bigger scale -to build a career, a life. What we put on public display we hope is the best we have to offer- a culmination of hours, days, years of effort. I’m sure this applies to every career…every life. The behind the scenes work is 20 fold what we show to the public.
Perhaps this is why we value the validation of our peers. They get it. I hear jokes about actors being lazy…but it’s not feasibly to be lazy and successful when the competition is this fierce. Looks, luck or connections may get you in the door, but the depth and breadth of talent all around you means you must really have the goods, to book the job….or to book the one after that.
No, I can’t come out and play. I have work to do.
Pilot Season – the perfect storm that brings out the crazy in all of us. Where (even more than the other 8 months a year) each day has the potential to take you from rags to riches. Where the world is suddenly rushing past at light speed…and where you most acutely feel you are riding the comet to success, or standing perfectly still as it passes you by. It is exciting. It is panic inducing. I’ve had pilot seasons where I was so busy, it was a blur….my record is 9 auditions scheduled in one day. I’ve tested for pilots. I’ve booked pilots. I’ve also had years where I’ve gone the entire season without reading for a single project. I’ve had everything in between.
I’m starting this season with big dreams, and some bigger obstacles. The details aren’t important, but the pieces of my chess board were unexpectedly upended recently…so I’m starting the year without all of my ducks in a row. Maybe this won’t matter either way….but the odds – while always awful, today feel crushing because so much is out of my hands. I’m tempted to curl up in a blanket and hibernate. Sleep through pilot season and wake up once the opportunities I’m missing aren’t right before my eyes. I have to remember- all it takes is 1 appointment…it just has to be the right one. I also have to remember pilot season is not the only route to success… opportunities come in all shapes and sizes – and usually are not what you’ve been expecting.
So I sit here, amused that I have absolutely no idea what is around the corner. I only know:
a) It will surprise me.
b) I will give my everything to whatever comes my way.
c) My effort is all I have control over.
I feel READY. I’m ripe for the picking, bursting with flavor, a juicy f*cking peach…but you never know the appetites of the industry. Maybe this year they are on a cleanse and only gluten free-vegan-organic-raw-sugar free-Kombucha infused foams are on the menu.
I can’t complain….I signed up for this roller coaster ride. I shall remain optimistic and driven, even on days when everything is sprinkled with a dash of overwhelming and impossible. And though some days, if my career was a person I would want to punch it in the balls for giving me the run around – I will remember to be grateful for each opportunity coming my way – despite the size, the budget or the distance from what I most want. I have no idea what seemingly small step is leading to the next big milestone. I must focus on doing great work and trusting it is where I’m supposed to be.
I had a very auspicious beginning. The first day of my first acting class, led immediately to my first audition, which led immediately to two major job offers. Although due to circumstance I was not able to accept the jobs, that validation convinced me this career path wasn’t entirely crazy. It gave me the confidence to be brave enough to give this career a go. Months later, I moved to Los Angles feeling like I would be employed within days and on warp speed to ‘making it’. It never occurred to me to consider the odds.
Which is actually a good thing. The odds are impossible and if you allow yourself to truly admit to the numbers, you would be paralyzed in fear – or headed home to start plan B. I love/miss the insulation youth gives you. You are brave without realizing it. Audacious swagger seeps from your pores, blind faith is the pheromone you give off. You arrive a bright shiny penny that has no idea what awaits it.
I’ve had a couple of difficult years and I feel a bit like I’m waking from a slumber, from anesthesia of heartbreak and loss and disappointment. Now I’m on the edge of the cliff ready to dive in. Every career ebbs and flows, but when the years start to pile on, it’s a whole new reason your confidence can begin to shake like a leaf. My career is a shameless flirt. Teasing me like a stripper. Batting her eyes at me, dropping one item of clothing at a time, giving me a glimpse of the goods to keep me interested, but staying just out of reach. Leaving me frustrated. Alas, I am sick of this casual ‘flirtationship’. I’m looking for commitment. Give me the (brass) ring.
When I first moved to LA I assumed I was on the same playing field as everyone else – it was calming to be so naïve. I quickly realized that much of my competition had been working professionally since they were children, even infants – and had resumes, connections and on-set experience that was 20 years deeper than mine. Whoa, wake up call. I want to take comfort in the fact that I’m the one who now has a hefty(ish) resume – but the quirk of working in this business, is that A+B doesn’t necessarily = C. It might as well equal monkeys or mason jars. This business is like a platypus – it’s super cool, but you don’t really understand it (is it a bird or a mammal? Part duck, part beaver?) and you have a hard time describing it to others.
This is a career where you are constantly starting from scratch after each gig. Your job is fulfilling the needs of the character and it’s basically a level playing field in terms of what you bring into the room. The finances of the project may dictate that your resume gives you more sway, as might your prior connections, but not always. In fact, it is horrifying to realize that sometimes the only sin you commit is being familiar…just the fact that you already have an established relationship with them, can sometimes work against you. Can stop someone from seeing you in a new way. You have to push for the chance to change their minds, to SHOW THEM that you are more than what they expect. More than they imagined.
In this business I fluctuate daily between being amazed, downright flabbergasted that my life is so fantastic, and being paralyzed by how agonizingly far my life is from what I hope it can one day be. So much is beyond our control….but hard work and bravery are rewarded. Tides turn every day. Fortunes change. Circumstance shift. Almost anything can happen at almost any time. Even (some version of) this:
(*Shout out to PulseStudios for making/sending me this hilarious photo… and no, I’m not stalking BP, nor is this supposed to represent ‘ideal’ – just thought this image was too funny to keep to myself).
So shake off the disappointments. Let go of the ‘what should have been’ or ‘almost was’. There is no room in your heart to hold on to complaints, heartache, or the bitter pill of ‘not yet’. Stop telling yourself the same old story of how it didn’t work and how high or frightening the stakes are. Remember, you are a juicy peach, it is a new year, a new pilot season, a new beginning and anything is possible. The past? Well, that was just foreplay. The best part starts now.
I can’t wait.
I’m planning to share a list of my own tips and advice for new actors, soon – but this jumped out at me today. Its a great little blog from casting director Risa Bramon Garcia listing the top 15 things actors do that make her happy. No, it’s not about bribing her with flowers, getting featured in a tabloid or reaching a certain number of followers online. It’s about inspiration and responsibility. Here are two that caught my eye:
11. You understand the power of fear, that it’s a force, not an impediment. You take risks in spite of your terror. You let it fuel you. You do what Yoda says: “Feel the force!”
12. You’re courageous. You embrace the struggle and find a way to love it, knowing that the creative spirit grows from battling through the night, that this is the force with which we create. You’re willing to do whatever it takes.
Read the full list here.
The Hollywood Reporter holds actors roundtables a few times a year. The participants change: sometimes women, sometimes men, comedians, over 40, under 40 etc. The discussions are usually quite interesting and almost always shed some light on the process of acting. It’s eye-opening to hear those in the limelight share many of the same fears and frustrations as those of us hoping to make it there. These particular roundtables are with the leading contenders for awards season this year.
Interesting how readily the men admit how difficult the business is for women. Hmmm.