Monday 31 May 2010

Are you famous yet?

I am compiling a complete list of oppressive/ignorant/hurtful/difficult questions that people ask, and once we have all the questions, we can decide on the right answers. I'll get started; let me know more questions in the comments section..

Are you famous yet?
Why are you still working here?
What if you don't make it?
Are you talented enough?
Have I seen you in anything?
Are you rich yet?
Any progress with your films yet?
Are you still trying to make films?
Did you hear about that guy who made a film for $1 and got into Cannes? Have you thought of doing that?
Do you want to hear my idea about a a Sci-Fi film about the devil and death and life and vampires and good versus evil where the devil plays chess and did you know my idea is totally amazing and original?
Why don't you get a real job?
Have you ever thought about making a film that people actually want to watch?

These type of questions are often asked in an innocent way, and are not consciously meant to upset or belittle; but quite often, they do. I have talked to many actors, even quite successful ones who get stumped by the question, "Have I seen you in anything?". The subtext of the question is actually "Well what have you acted in then? Have you made it? Are you earning money?". It's not as friendly as it first appears.

A couple of years ago; I was a producer on a feature film. We had no money, no time; we had nothing at all really. But we did it. A giant achievement. And I remember going for a meal with my friends the day after shooting-- absolutely drained and tired from the hectic two week, 14 hour a day shoot -- and, my friends had decided to have a 'what are you doing with your life?' day. And they hit me with the questions--- and I was absolutely flattened, despite the fact I had just achieved something monumental.

Part of getting experience and succeeding in the industry, and with yourself; is not being oppressed or angered by the questions, the insults, the accusations; etc. I am quite good at this now, but some still irk me from time to time. Anyways, I'd like to build a full list of these types of questions, and then we can look to find the right answers.

This should be fun!

Care to share?


  1. It's not really a separate question, more of a follow-up to some of those. "And how old are you again?" Brutal...

  2. Haha, Jess, I did think of that one but didn't quite know how to write it. But the way you did is perfect, I really *feel* that, ouch!

  3. How about: "You do know that hundreds of women try out for those parts, right?" or "The people who've made it in the film industry might just as well have won the lottery. You feeling lucky?"

  4. My personal favorite, though it applies to my career choice as a writer it works just as well in this context: "Well what's your real job?" cuz you know, writing/filmmaking/acting/etc is not a REAL job, just a wacky hobby

  5. Are you sure you are what the industry is looking for? (Referring to age, race, height, weight, the length of one's legs, the shape of one's left ear, the thickness of one's pinky finger...)

    Mind you, the question 'So what do you do exactly?' is a pretty common one. Unless you're a corporate money making machine most of the time the type of society we live in won't look kindly upon you.

  6. The response to all these questions should be a question of your own:

    "Do you know I've got this gun?"

  7. My absolute favorite passive aggressive question I've ever received was (When I told someone I was an actress): "So that means you make a living at lying, right?"

    At which point I went off on this person for a half an hour at which they were really REALLY sorry they'd ever opened their mouth.

    My other favorite response (not as much a question) is "Artists are just selfish." Which is true, it's much more selfish to try to create something beautiful and inspiring and original to give to the world than settle for a job you hate and make the rest of the world miserable with your self-loathing.

    Needless to say, I don't deal well with passive-aggressive snide commentary on my life or career choice.

  8. My favorite I got literally one year into graduating from grad school and getting out there and starting to audition for legit stuff

    "It's been a year already and you're not famous yet, shouldn't you consider a career change"

    Umm, yeah I guess everyone just magically becomes "famous" in a year.

    I've also been told by relatives "oh you're an actor? I know a girl who is an actor and she's only been able to get a herpes commercial so far".

    And despite having shot 4 commercials since January, a feature film, and more, I've already been told 2x by family members "you're just never gonna make it, just give up"
    haha :-)

    I think people just don't understand that in this business it's about longevity and perseverance. Sure there are some out there who get lucky and blow up right away, but most actors work for years before they get recognition. It's part of the biz.

    Needless to say I also get ALL of the questions you posed at the beginning of your post haha :-)

  9. As if that's not the case with any job! You have to work to get recognition, for years! So , why is it such a big deal when you're an actor? When you're a young lawyer fresh out of school, slaving away in the corporate world for ridiculous hours and crap pay, no one will question you. Instead you get a pat on the back and people are so so impressed with your hard work. And no one will ask you after the first year why you haven't made partner yet. Such a double standard.

  10. Ophelia--you are so right! It's true...I say the same thing all the sister is in medical school..that's 10 years of studying right there before you actually even get to start to make good money...

    Also, I think people have this false conception that you have to be famous like Tom Cruise to make money in movies and be able to live off of it comfortably. I don't need that much money! There are lots of actors out there who make very good money and aren't uber famous.

    personally, I don't want to be one of those super famous actors--you have no privacy and cameras are always up in your face....what you do becomes about your personal life and not your work...

    people think being "famous" equal "you've made it".... I know a guy who does just voiceovers, and he pulls in half a mil a year! no one knows who he is..but he's doing what he loves!