Tides Change

I just lost my first role.

Disclaimer: This isn’t meant to be a bitch session. It’s meant to acknowledge the loss of the role, explain the situation (albeit from only my side – but this isn’t “Brian’s Blog AND the other guy’s Blog”), and to capture the lessons for me, and for anyone who’s reading.

The “animated” short film, Drexel, is actually a puppet production, a la Avenue Q. No animation at all as far as I can tell. I went in, auditioned fairly cold – I had read the script a few times but hadn’t made any distinct choices on how to voice the character, I just played the character’s choices in my own voice – and got the part. Then after the first table read, during which I had actually made some choices (probably should’ve just made one and stuck with it rather than contrasting a few different ones but who knows), I asked for the director/producer’s feedback. That’s important – had I not asked for the feedback, I’m sure he wouldn’t have even bothered telling me that he liked my audition read better than he liked the full table read.

So I asked him to give me some character cues & some existing characters that he had in mind, and then asked if he’d read lines with me to make sure I was getting where he wanted me to go. The rest of the dozen or so cast members had already left, apparently fully satisfying whatever expectations the director had of them – again, he offered no constructive feedback unless asked for it. We read lines for about half an hour, with him trying to direct (after the third re-direction, he said “I don’t have much experience directing actors”) me back in to the same voice he thought he’d heard at the audition. Eventually, we got to what I thought was a happy place, and he wished me a bon voyage for our trip to Hawaii. I left thinking I knew what he wanted and that I had gotten the voice 99% of the way there.

Less than 18 hours later, I got an email from him as we landed in Hawaii, saying he needed to go back on his word and offer the Drexel role to another actor.

After three days of ruminating on it, here are my conclusions.

1) It’s for the best.  This role would’ve sucked up major sections of my next 7 weekends, and it would’ve been grueling puppet work (which the director didn’t seem to have done before either) under hot lights with multiple takes of every shot. His aggressive schedule had us shooting 12 scenes, one at a time, over several weeks – but I would’ve been in every single one of them. And let’s not forget the complexity that comes from the fact that he’s shooting 12 different scenes in a 21-minute short – ambitious even with the best cast & a really experienced director. None of the shoots included more than 4 characters at a time though, which also meant limited opportunities for the fun that comes from a full production. So while it would’ve been GREAT to have a lead role in any production on my resume, this one probably would’ve been a REALLY challenging one to get done.

2) Not all people are meant to direct.  Not for nothing, I don’t think the director of this thing is going to get what he’s expecting to get out of this production. He didn’t have the guts to proactively ask for exactly what he wanted – he waited for me to ask if I was giving him what he wanted, as an example. Then he didn’t have the ability to get me to exactly where he wanted – if he hired me without feeling confident I could do it, shame on him; if he fired me because he couldn’t give me the direction I needed to do it, also shame on him. If you’re putting your own time & money into a production, and asking available actors to donate their time to be in it, you’re setting yourself up for failure if you can’t figure out how to get what you need out of your cast. I’ve had limited experience, for sure, but I’ve never seen someone in charge of a production that didn’t know how to ask for what they needed from their cast & crew. Begs the question of whether or not they actually KNOW what they want, which is their main purpose as a director.

3) Voice work is tough.  I was honestly surprised to have been offered the role in the first place, given my serious absence of distinct choices. Then I made some distinct choices after being given the role, and those choices were not liked. Then, I tried to take direction to make the right choices, and either wasn’t getting the right inputs or wasn’t delivering the right outputs. My facial expressions and goofy look didn’t add anything to the character; only my voice mattered, and I didn’t have any confidence in that (and any confidence I inspired in it with others was short-lived, apparently).

4) I prefer to be fired in person or at least on the phone, and not during the first 10 minutes of my island vacation.  Sorry, but sending me an email (albeit a nice & apologetic one) that I get on my phone, firing me after Day 1 on the job without even an offer for another chance at it, is not the pinnacle of professionalism.  Don’t think it’d happen in any other industry, either.  Nor does it offer me any chance to get constructive feedback on how not to screw up next time. Plus, I know a guy (J. Snyder) who I think would actually be a great Drexel & who has a ton of voice experience – but now I don’t even get the chance to give a referral. Sure, I could send an email back to him with that referral, but that’s not something most folks do – voluntarily communicate with the party that just ended the working relationship & offer additional help, even in referral form. (Plus Snyder’s in L.A. these days & is gainfully employed – probably wouldn’t have worked out logistically – but that’s beside the point.) I just think this guy took the conflict-avoider’s path, and it seems like an amateur act.

5.) Tides change. Maybe he thought he knew what he wanted, maybe he didn’t and still doesn’t. Maybe there’s a reason my next 7 weekends just cleared up. There’s probably a reason for not even being offered the chance to try again – I’m definitely a humble actor who willingly seeks out feedback & tries to improve, but that doesn’t seem to matter this time. In any event, I’m not letting this stop the momentum I’ve got going. It’s embarrassing to publicize getting a lead role and then be fired from it, sure. Sometimes the tides just change. But they always change for a reason.

PS – being in Maui, 8 steps from the beach, has definitely helped soften the blow to my blooming actor ego. And so, of course, has my wonderful wife. Now that I’ve written this, I think it’s time for a snorkel. (That may be the only time in my life I get to end a blog entry that way.)

This entry was posted on Saturday, October 31st, 2009 at 10:59 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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