Saturday, October 19, 2013

Refuse to Fade Into the Background

Ignore. It's a pretty common word for the average American.  I think it would be fair to assume that most of us have used the word at least once this week.  Perhaps already today even.  We use it casually and apply it to a wide variety of subjects.  We might use it in reference to the car alarm on the street, perhaps a mildly aching knee, or even an email from an obscure acquaintance.  It's a benign word.  It doesn't inherently carry any particularly malicious emotions along with it's use like some words can.  And yet, it is one of the biggest demons an actor must battle.

In a conversation with a non-actor friend recently, I mentioned that this hustle is so agonizing sometimes because despite all your effort, your belief in your talent, and your passion, most of the time you're just... ignored.  I didn't make the statement in an effort to gain pity, it was more just a matter-of-fact commentary on the challenges that arise in pursuit of this dream.  This career is tough because, for the greater portion of your career (particularly early on), you and you're fabulous self are just straight-up ignored.  Not hated or despised or ridiculed.  Just ignored.  As if you were irrelevent.  

That concept stayed with me long after the conversation had moved on to the next topic.  I often become fascinated with words that we so often take for granted and end up launching full-on investigations into their meaning. According to Le Google, ignore is the verb -- the action -- of refusing to take notice or acknowledge; to intentionally disregard.  Actively choosing to not pay attention.

That is why the hustle is so emotionally draining.  You come to this city with more dreams in your pockets than cash, and with little more to sustain you than the gut feeling that you truly have something special to share with the world.  You descend up the City of Angels absolutely certain that you will stand out.  That you are unique, hugely talented and destined for greatness.  

...and then no one notices...

The city and the industry continue to bustle around you as if you weren't even there.  While you've certainly had some success, you've been passed over for more roles than you can count.  You try to increase your odds by postcarding/workshopping/interning/self-producing and yet, in the face of all your determination, you're barely even a blip on anyone's radar.  It's as if you were singing an aria in the middle of Grand Central Station during rush hour but no one is making eye contact.  Perhaps one or two people smile and throw a dollar in your ragged cap and say, "You're great.  Be sure to call me when you pick up a few more credits,"  as if that were some sort of encouragement.

As you watch the years click by, you start to do let that dark shadow called doubt through your door.  Perhaps it's you?  Perhaps you're not as unique and wonderful and earth-shattering as you had originally thought.  Perhaps chasing this dream was a mistake... 

Stop.  It's not.  You've got it.  Don't let them beat you.  You just have to demand to be seen.  Do what you have to do... stand on a box in that station, get a microphone, shoot fireworks... whatever you gotta do to grab some attention. (Short of violence, of course.)  Most importantly... Work your knuckles to the bone so that you can hit every note of that aria in perfect key. Work so hard that you stand out. Believe in yourself and don't let them ignore you.

Trust me.  Eventually they will stop and listen... if you make them.

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