I stumbled upon an insightful video this past week and although it wasn’t specifically targeted towards actors, I find it to be an inspirational gem that is absolutely relevant and applicable to our industry.
The video urges us to examine our outlook and adjust our perspective to create a more positive experience of our circumstances. It highlights the way in which our brain is hardwired to function “below the line” (operating from a threatened place where one finds fault in everything and feels as if there is not enough) instead of “above the line” (operating from a curious place where the goal is to learn and play to feel fulfilled so the rest can follow).
I find this particularly poignant for us actors. There are a plethora of reasons to feel we are not enough, and for many, it is the challenge as we face the inevitable rejection this industry serves up. The list of potential threats (perceived threats, mind you) are endless and many times, faceless. We rarely ever get concrete answers to our questions (Why can’t I get an agent? Why am I not getting called in? Called back? Why did I not book that job?) and so much of the industry is shrouded in mystery and laden with factors that are simply out of our control.
I know far too many actors whose default setting is to blame the industry and/or pick themselves apart… and my hope is that these folks fight the biological impulse to stay below the line and embrace living above the line.
I prefer to reflect on what I love about this craft and feel a wave of gratitude every time I am called in for anything. It is my opportunity to play, to tell a story, to create a character and to learn. The very nature of acting, auditioning, being on set, coming to We Make Movies, is perpetual learning. That, in itself, is fulfilling.
I presumably watch too much television, but it’s because I’m in the habit of trying to watch everything I go out for. While this sounds torturous to some (or like a colossal waste of time), I find it really educational and in fact, it eases my neurosis about my own work. It is interesting to see the choices other actors made with the same material (or how they were directed) and most often, the person who booked the role I auditioned for is completely different than myself (much older, much younger, of the opposite sex…). It is a relief to recognize I don’t have control over what particular needs the casting directors and producers have to meet. I can only do what I do and those arcane factors that go into casting a role are out of my control. I accept it and move on.
Last week I went to a festival screening of a feature I auditioned for last year. I was originally called in for a supporting role and then was called back to read for a supporting lead. While I generally shake off auditions as soon as they have happened, this one stayed with me. I really wanted to book this one. I really wanted to play this character, tell this story and work with this director and cast (some of the cast was already attached). I felt I did a reasonably good job but never got that second call back.
The film turned out to be really well done and the lead and supporting lead duo was a huge part of that success. They had incredible chemistry and I completely understood why they were cast opposite one another. During the q&a session, it was revealed that the two had originally read together at the initial reading while the script was in development, and that they had always been slated to play those roles due to their amazing chemistry. Once again, relieved. It had very little to do with me or my work and it was completely out of my control. It was all part of that casting enigma and in this case was already predetermined. I was just lucky to be called in at all. Accepted and moving on.
Living. Above. The. Line. That was the original point of this piece. Let’s all choose to own that we are enough. There is no big conspiracy against actors and if we do our work, remember to play, continually learn and create more opportunities for ourselves, we can quite literally, be unstoppable.
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Sapna Gandhi (sapnagandhi.com) is an actress and content creator who loves words and is thrilled to be able to integrate her passions and contribute to the filmmaking community. Although her roots are on stage, she enjoys working in television and film. In an effort to negate being typecast, she co-wrote/co-produced/co-starred in Broad Strokes (5 Days. 5 Themes. 5 Directors. 40 Comedic Micro-shorts) and is looking forward to telling more stories through her fledgling production company, Elegant Grotesque. Gandhi was born in England, raised all over The States, holds degrees in English and Women’s Studies, and trained at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco.