I sat down to write this blog as a rant about flaky people, and actors in particular. We’re casting a couple roles in the film noir-inspired one-act play fest – P L.A.Y Noir – that James and I are producing, and held auditions last weekend. When looking for actors, I first reached out to people whose work I know. When the friends I wanted to bring in who were right for the roles we needed to cast weren’t available, I asked for referrals from friends whose opinion I trust, and when that still yielded few results, I resorted to my least desired option and posted a public casting breakdown.
Why would I be so reluctant to cast an actor whose work (and more importantly, work ethic) I don’t know? Here’s why. When putting together one round of auditions, I easily invested at least a dozen hours of my time contacting people, narrowing down selections, contacting more people, reviewing resumes, sending out audition sides and directions to the audition location, and then printing out/stapling/highlighting the appropriate sides per character. I’m not complaining, because it’s a job that needs to be done, but I just want you to know that putting an (organized) casting session together is not a small feat. It takes some doing.
As last weekend was a holiday weekend (Easter/Passover), I called actors we were interested in to check on their availability. I talked to several of them on the phone; several others left me voicemails or emailed me to confirm that they were available to come in. All told, by the Thursday evening before our Saturday auditions, I had confirmed 13 actors to come in and read for us.
By Friday afternoon, three of the actors who the day before had told me they were available had cancelled. One of them had a legitimate excuse; the other two were pretty lame. One girl actually had the nerve to tell me to call her the next time I was casting something. Yes, because that’s exactly what I’m looking for: someone who’s not even reliable enough to show up to an audition that they confirmed the day before. Next.
By Saturday morning, another actress had cancelled on me. Another flake, another lame excuse. Something like, ‘the thing I was going to later that day got moved up by a few hours.’ Really? Now we were down to 9 actors. Still, not too terrible. Let’s see if they actually show up.
All told, out of the 13 who originally confirmed, we read six actors that day. Out of the 9 left on the ‘confirmed’ list, two never showed, and one called me to cancel while were at the audition (her story, that she got held up at another audition, I actually believed). One of the no-shows didn’t surprise me, because, when I called to invite her to the audition, she answered her cell phone while on the treadmill at the gym, talked to me while running (I’m not joking), and when I told her why I was calling, it was clear she had no recollection of submitting for the project, and no idea what I was talking about. A-mazing.
So what is the moral of this story? As I said in the beginning of this post, I originally sat down to write a rant about flaky people. But it has been several days since these events occurred and my irritation has subsided, so I’m looking at this from a more philosophical vantage point. What strikes me as fascinating is why all of these people who claim that a successful acting career is their dream, who are striving to succeed in one of the toughest businesses on earth, when it comes down to actually having an opportunity to do what they say they love, would waffle. Is it self-sabotage? Fear of success?
And lest you think this was just an isolated incident, we’re holding another round of castings this weekend, and I’m experiencing a similar phenomenon. So what’s the deal? I can only speculate. But I do know this: while actors seem to be particularly guilty of the crime of flakiness, it’s not just them. More and more, I’m noticing the phenomenon of the ‘maybe’ commitment. In other words, agreeing to a commitment and sticking to it – a plan with friends, a job, a date, whatever – only if something better doesn’t happen to come along.
I know that stuff happens. Life intervenes. Things come up. Plans change. Have I never bailed on a commitment that I’ve made? Of course not. But I can tell you this: in my life, as well as in my experience producing theater, the people who are reliable, the people who show up when they say they’re going to and who do what they say they’re going to do are like life rafts. They are rocks of Gibraltar. It shouldn’t be this way, but unfortunately it is. Because, here’s the truth: if you are a person who consistently and reliably follows through on your commitments, you are one person in ten thousand. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in or how you choose to make your life, this act alone will make you stand apart from the crowd. Because it does not matter what you say you’re going to do. Talk is cheap. It matters what you actually do.
Think about it.
Until next time, friends.