Thursday 16 May 2013

Knowledge / Ability / Talent Scale

I meet a lot of young actors. And often, we have these wonderful conversations about actors we love, styles we adore. The actor speaks about the importance of subtlety. I nod in agreement, saying I like the acting to seem almost imperceptible. They agree wholeheartedly.

And then I see them act, and it's awful. Wildly over the top. 

An artist can have a level of knowledge that they can't yet reach in their work.

Some actors are born with natural ability. They stood up on stage at five years old and all the parents said "wow, she HAS
 something." This actor, filled with confidence and a sense of entitlement, fails to take the time to truly learn the craft. This actor is constantly in a huff, wondering why she's out of work.

A good career happens when the knowledge is high and the ability is high. 

And that's why it takes so long to get great.

This isn't just about actors, I was using them to make a point. It's about all artists.

The amount of talent in each person, of course, varies greatly. But talent isn't the defining factor.

A weird thing happens in this industry. What happens? You land a job. And eventually, you land another one.

For example, an actor is starting out, and they can only get student films, nobody else wants to know. So they act in seven student films, and they're all terrible.

Yet the actor, armed with a huge amount of new knowledge and experience, starts getting cast in short films and web-episodes by talented independent film directors.

And then, two years later, the actor gets a line on a TV show and a small paid role in a feature film.

These things happen, in a gradual upward trajectory, based on the knowledge and experience that the actor has been building.

The actor could potentially fear a return to dull student films, but it's unlikely. So much has been learned and the actor now knows how to audition, how to take a meeting. The actor knows how to land a project, at a particular level. 

This is all knowledge, learned through being active in the game.

The actors who are at home, bitching about the lack of opportunities, are often the most talented actors around. That's why they're moaning, because their natural ability isn't being recognised.

It's because they're missing out on the crucial ingredient: knowledge. These actors apply to castings with a few clicks, and wait for opportunities to land. Or they nag director friends for roles every two weeks. They can't figure out why life is so hard.

And you ask them how many books they've read recently, ask them if they're getting together with other actors and working on their craft, and they aren't.

They think talent is enough. They think the film industry is an episode of X Factor.

And if you think I'm bitching about actors, let me tell you writers and directors are exactly the same. If you're not out shooting every week, then spending your evenings reading, watching, learning; then you're not really going anywhere.

The more work you do, the more ability and skill you attain. Meanwhile, the more old movies you see, the more Danny Boyle interviews you watch and the more classes you attend, the better you get.

Sometimes the artists with the least talent succeed. It's because they somehow seem to instinctively know that hard work will get them there.

It does.

And that's valid, they deserve it. You can't rely on talent, it's not the most important thing.

Care to share?

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