Meetings and the Actor

A lot of people accuse actors of being dumb and/or crazy. A lot of people aren’t that far off base. In addition, however, I would say that all actors who pursue a career are certainly brave. Most people don’t dare, they take the easy way. Everybody hears about how tough it is to become an actor when they are growing up, and this is absolutely true. Going after a career in acting is an act of insanity, and it does seem pretty stupid when you can get a nine-to-five job and some kind of guaranteed income. But no matter how idiotic and loopy, it is still an act of bravery. And it is decidedly American. Because in this country, we believe in the American Dream, and there is no greater example of it coming to fruition than those few actor celebrities we see in the news every fucking day. So my hat’s off to all actors who go for it. My hat’s off to myself, too. I’m swell. I love me. No, really.

However.

Acting seems to the outsider to be an awesome way of living. There is no office, no cubicle, no boss to constantly torture you. And none of those stupid, boring meetings! But wait. An actor’s life is all about meetings. In fact, meetings are the main part. And if there is no office, then you have to drive to every damn meeting and they are all over the place because the people who call them are in different office buildings in different parts of the sprawling suburb of nothing called Los Angeles. And if you ask me, the meetings with the highest stakes for most working and middle class Americans that aren’t criminals are job interviews. Especially in our current economic climate. And guess what most of the meetings an actor has to go to are? They call them “auditions.” But all they are, my friends, are job interviews.

Then there are the arbitrary other meetings you have. Like meetings with your agents. My agents are always asking me why I don’t swing by their offices to say hello more often. There are two really good reasons I have for not doing this. One, I already am in my car way too much, and the idea of driving any damn place just to “drop in” sounds like a bus driver’s holiday to me. Two, going somewhere with no real purpose always makes me feel awkward. I mean, I get that it is important to make sure your agents keep you in their heads…but isn’t that kind of their job? And don’t get me wrong, I really like my agents, they are all very cool people from what I have seen. But that doesn’t change the fact that I feel awkward just popping in to say hello and winding up sitting down on the other side of somebody’s desk and yammering while he or she clearly has work to do. It’s just odd. I don’t like it.

I tell you these things so I can tell you this one story in particular. When I first started out, I signed with this theatrical agency (not the one I have now) and the man who ran the agency, and owned the agency, and named the agency after himself, had a policy of taking any new client out to lunch at the Hamburger Hamlet around the corner from his office. Now, I signed with this agency because I liked one of the agents that was working for this guy, not because of him. However, he was the boss and he wanted to take me to lunch and I really had no choice. I was (as I still am) a struggling actor, so a free lunch didn’t sound so bad even if I did have to endure all those awkward first meeting questions, “Where are you from? Where do you see yourself in ten years? What kind of work do you want to do? Who do you look up to? What’s your favorite color?” And this guy was a large man. Not tall large. Fat large. And he had a big gray beard and he was…well, creepy. I had a pretty good idea which team he was playing for, and that doesn’t matter to me, but regardless of his gender preference, I am pretty sure his targets were very young and there was probably often some form of coercion involved. So the simple act of sitting down at a table at a restaurant with this guy was already uncomfortable, but then things got much worse once we ordered our food. I ordered a BLT, which I knew would be big because the sandwiches there are huge, but he ordered at least six different entrees, all for himself, and all of them involved some kind of hot cheese as an ingredient. When the food came, the entire table was covered in hot dishes but there were only two of us. He began to spoon all this stuff into his face, jumping from one dish to another, chewing with his mouth open and asking me all those dumb questions. There was a spider-web of cheese strings all over the table. There was cheese in his beard. I have never seen so much hot cheese, and I used to frequent a fondue restaurant, so I know from hot cheese. Watching him eat was one of the ugliest things I ever saw, and I barely got through a quarter of my BLT.

And what did that meeting accomplish? Nothing outside of filling that dude’s belly with cheese. Why? Because it was a meeting. And this is corporate America. And the acting profession is no different from any other. It’s all meetings and hot cheese. (And by the way, a year after that hot cheese meeting the agency closed because this hot cheese lover was accused of embezzlement and fraud.)


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