“I find I’m so excited I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it’s the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.”– Ellis Boyd ‘Red’ Redding (The Shawshank Redemption, 1994)
One man’s garbage…
To be a contender in this fierce business I have to do great work. Like most actors, however, I have in my back-catalogue a number of pretty shaky performances. Some of them lurk online or lie hidden on a forgotten tape, disc or hard-drive – waiting to be sniffed out.
What does it cost me when someone uncovers my overacting in a student film, or that ropey accent on an audition tape, or the fight scene that looks more like a pair of amorous baboons? How do I stop these botch jobs setting me back? How am I supposed to hide this garbage?
How envious I am of those lucky few actors who, at the outset of their careers, by profound good fortune, are shot out of a canon to the top of the business, surrounded by an army of professionals who make them appear to have only ever possessed the seasoned skill of a Brando or Blanchett.
While they string together an untarnished catalogue of show-pieces, I’ve mostly worked with other creatives-in-development producing results that are, all too often, half-baked. And then I make the big mistake: I let these ‘half-baked’ attempts hold me back – I start to make comparisons, my insecurities rise and my confidence falls. Yes, if I want to improve I must be honest about my limitations, but it’s all too easy to forget the realities of fortune and favour in this uneven business and fall into the trap of thinking my limitations somehow make me inferior. My resources may be inferior, but my potential is certainly not.
Let’s face it – I am not surrounded by an army of professionals protecting my image. Even if I had been, the highs would come with inevitable lows (and if I’m being completely fair – some of those ‘lucky’ few actors shot out of the canon go splat).
So, what do I do with these bloopers, blunders and boo-boos?
The fact is that my progress as an actor, the good and the bad, is going to be on record. What other people think of it is also beyond my control. I can’t hide from these facts. So here’s the deal:
There is no such thing as a failure – only a result. And every result offers me a lesson – a nugget of knowledge that helps me grow better at my craft. The best acting I ever do will be thanks, in part, to my worst. One day, when my skill is undeniable, a catalogue of performances reaching all the way back to my fumbling beginnings will stand as proof of my commitment to my art and a never-ending drive to improve; a testament to humility and tenacity; and a beacon for all those actors out there, ashamed of their slips and trips in this tricky business, that we have nothing to hide.