Friday, March 13, 2015
The Hiring and Firing of Actors
In the immortal words of Wil Wheaton...
..."Don't be a dick."
Have I ever fired an actor for this? Yes. Will I have to again in the future? Very likely. I don't like doing it. But as I've been known to say, "If I wouldn't have a beer with you in my free time, I won't opt to spend my work time with you either." And this lasts from the day we meet, until the day you are done working on my project. I've had people say, "You don't judge on talent alone?" Nope. The checklist is as follows:
1) Do they look the role? Yes. Great, call them in to audition.
2) Can they act? Do they make me want to watch them? Yes? Great, bring them in for call backs.
3) Talk to them a bit, get a feel for who they are, hear them read a few times...and now I ask, do they understand the role? Does it flow from them in a way that works? It does? GREAT!
4) Are they easy to talk to? Do I like them? Do they seem to get along with others at the audition? Do they speak to me with respect? Do I want to spend my time dealing with them while I work my ass off, for not money?
If the answer to items in #4 is mostly no...then numbers 1-3 do not matter. Repeat...DO. NOT. MATTER.
Why does this motto work? Well, in the past it has saved me from working with actors who looked down on me/didn't respect me (for age or sex), weren't committed to the project, who didn't play well with others. It also has this amazing side effect! It creates a project atmosphere of fun and a cast (be it for a show or a photo shoot) where everyone gets along and enjoys each other.
I once overheard an actor of mine say, "You know what makes her a great director? Her casting." It was said by a man named Pete after doing his 4th show with me, at an after show cast hang out. He doesn't know I heard him. But I did and it meant the world to me. They teach you that 90% of directing is casting, so what he said was a nod to me, not a slam on my directing ability, as some might think. Funny thing is, he was/is right. Casting is my strong suit. And if I'd known that earlier in life, I'd have become a casting director...but we won't go down the roads of, "what if's. "
Now, same applies to modeling for my books. Except it goes more like:
1) Do they look the role? Yes. Great, contact them about the job.
2) Are they good at communication? Do they get back to me? Are they interested in the project? Yes? Great! Meet with them in person.
3) Talk to them a bit, get a feel for who they are, tell them about me and the project in detail, see how much they want to be involved (and not just for the money).
4) Are they easy to talk to? Do I like them? Do I want to spend my time dealing with them while I work my ass off, for not money?
And again, if the answer to the items listed for #4 are mostly no...so is the ability to cast them. Or keep them cast if they prove to be...well...a dick.
I say all this today because I am stuck at a precipice. I have cast an actor in a role for a project who is behaving...well, like a dick. As always, I'm torn; do I fire them or do I wait to see if they pull their head out of their ass? I usually wait. Give them a few chances. Then find I shouldn't have hesitated...for usually the replacement of them improved the production/project immensely. Is that because the new person was a better actor? Not necessarily. Sometimes, sure. But more importantly, with them gone, everything fell into place because the new person wasn't a pain in my ass.
So why am I hesitating again? It's a valid question. So I'm writing this out to find the answer.
My hesitation stems from multiple facets: A) They fit this role so well that losing them hurts my creative soul. B) The fact that originally I adored them. They were funny, great at communication, invested in the concept, and I connected with who they were as a human being. Which is not as common as you might think. C) Lastly, because hunting for a replacement sucks balls.
On the flip side...
A) It's New York. No offense actors of the city...but you are replaceable. B) I cannot beat myself up for being wrong about someone. It happens to us all. My bruised pride and my broken heart (and yes, it does break my heart to be betrayed...doesn't it break yours?) are not a good enough reason to hold on. C) Lastly, I need to suck it up! Put on my big girl panties and accept that this business sometimes sucks balls.
So I have been debating on what to do. I have attempted to reach out to them to figure out what the hell is going on. But without a reply I am stuck in a dark room without a window or door. I greatly wish to save the friendship and the booking of the job. But I have reached a point where I will have to make a choice. Without information I have to guess. And I hate guessing! Plus, let's be honest, not replying to someone (be it text, email, or by phone for weeks) is not only rude but unprofessional. How can I trust them with my work if I cannot trust them as a human being (to give a damn, shall we say, about who they are and how they treat people)?
Someone once asked me if I have ever blackballed an actor. The answer is yes. I've done so on only four instances that I can think of. For those who don't know what this entails, it means I alert other directors/producers/etc. of this person so they do not have to deal with what I went through. Why? Because...
1) You cannot act like an asshole in this business and expect to get work (unless you are so talented or bring in such an audience with your name that the money talks louder than your asinine behavior). 2) Because I love my friends with all my heart. I respect them and encourage their talent. I support them and would never wish them strife in doing what they love, and may make little to no money on. 3) Lastly, I believe in karma and the idea of, "do unto others as you'd have them do to you" is important to me.
And that right there is the reason for my delay! (See...I new if I write this out I'd figure it out!) It comes down to the concept that I'd want someone to give me another chance. So I wait and tend to give the benefit of the doubt until I cannot do so anymore. But let's not confuse this with being weak or being afraid to call an actor on their bullshit. I'll do it in a heartbeat when pressed. But I'm not a fan.
Thing is, the project is more important than my hurt feelings. PLUS, that's the business. And everyone has to learn that it's not always about them. They touch lives everyday. And if they touch mine, and make it worse for wear...I will cut them loose. And it will hurt me, greatly. But I'm resilient. I will be just fine. And I can promise you...it will come back to bite them in the ass. Karma is real and I've seen it happen to those who have gone out of their way to belittle or beat me down (personally & professionally)...without me having a hand in it at all.
So I shall wait a bit longer. Give them a chance to re-establish their good name and be more than happy to keep them on board...but without information/communication I am stuck with little choice.
I hope that changes. Because I thought the world of them and their talent. It'll hurt to fire them, but if that is what needs to be done, then so be it. I will not allow toxic people who treat me like less than a person to exist in my life. And neither should you. Be it personal, business, or a mixture of both.
So please...actors/models out there...know that your actions affect everyone, not just you. And sadly, sometimes who you are as a human being, how you treat others, causes damage...and bad manners are a dick move.
Don't be a dick.
Don't make me (or any director) be one either.
Side Note: Also...I should say that if you ever send a letter to a director, after acting like a dick, and just out and out resign from the project without an actual reason (or one that is obviously BS), you're still a dick. Don't be. Man up, as they say, and just be honest. If you are genuine and real, and not a douche, the director will see that and you wont get blackballed and you will not burn a bridge you might need someday. Cause folks, you never know who is going to be behind a project you want later in life.