Tuesday, 25 September 2012

What exactly do actors want?

This is a question I have been thinking about a lot lately. I’ve been trying to figure it out for years but recently the question has become a lot more important to understand. Like most creative people, actors are a varied group with different ideas and preferences of what they do and don’t want to do as an actor or actress. But they’ve all chosen essentially the same field, acting. They may come at it from different ways, some are film and television, some are interested in the web and others are theatre focused. And there are even different techniques for getting into those fields, all of which I have looked into in order to understand the way an actor approaches each and why, with varying results.

To focus the main question though, I want to try and put forward some of the conclusions I have come to and sort of put it to other people to tell me if I am right or wrong, and perhaps where I can modify my ideas to gain a better focus.

First and foremost, actors want to work in their field. It seems rather obvious to put forward that idea but I know so many actors who are passionate about the craft and expend an incredible amount of energy, creative or otherwise, trying to get to a point where they can afford to act 24/7 and live off that. A lot of people in a creative field can say that about themselves, but as it was put to me recently, actors are in front of the camera and in some cases that can cause problems because more than anything, the optics of being too visible can make them less in demand. I imagine that’s part of the reason that Hollywood actors don’t take every role they are offered, as I am sure once you get to a certain point you’re offered more than you can handle.

Secondly, they look for work in something they can emotionally connect to when they take it on. This is where I think actors tend to differ from others in some ways. When a grip or a P.A. or even to some extent, directors, writers and DOPs takes on a role, they don’t necessarily have to emotionally connect to the material. It’s better when writers and directors do because it shows in the work eventually, but with actors the ability to feel the character’s feelings or draw upon something that will express a similar feeling is such a central part to what they do that in many cases they have to go about creating their own content just to find something that has what they want.
And this is where I have the most trouble figuring actors out. I know how to emotionally connect to my own material and create characters that are, I hope, emotionally nuanced and interesting to an audience. But between me and the audience are the actors who bring the characters to life for that audience. Since I can’t go about sending my scripts to every actor I meet and/or connect with, I’ve been trying to figure out how to express the characters in a few sentences or a short paragraph. This is what’s keeping me up at night recently and I figured blogging about it might help me figure it out.
So far I am not really sure I have figured it out. Are there some elements to a character description that just pop out at actors? Are there certain types of characters that are just naturally popular among actors or is it all an individual preference? Should I just take a shot in the dark and hope for the best?
What exactly do actors want?

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