By Omoye Uzamere
We were sitting down in the actors’ holding area, chatting – some lying down, some sitting, some in awkward half-sitting half-suspended positions. It was one of those days… the rain had come again and shoot was interrupted, so we ate spicy grilled bush meat and a local brew. The scenario was perfect for conversation, but all I could think of was – what am I going to write about in my next article?
Then I asked a question: what are some things that displease you as an actor? A very broad question, but I am low-key a Union Leader and I always want to know if the struggle (which is real) is general or particular to one.
A younger actor said “PREFERENTIAL TREATMENT”. This actor finds it unpleasant when another actor, doing nearly the same or far less work, is given “undue” preferential treatment over and above everyone else simply because they have been acting for a long time. “Why should a supporting actor get perks that I do not have as the lead, just because they are so-called celebrities or old-timers?” Shouldn’t this be all about the work?
Aside: I hope that my colleagues won’t clamp up when I get in the room… lol… I respect their anonymity though and – ayam for de pipo! Plus, people will have a thing or two to learn from these little conversations.
While some of us agreed that it could be a little disheartening, we tried to explain why this happens.
In many companies, each year the longest serving staff receive Long Service Awards (10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35 years), which come with monetary compensation and/or other prizes. Having worked with a company for a number of years, growing up the ranks, they might get an official car, house or something of value that differentiates them from the other staff. It is a gesture showing that their contribution to their field of work is acknowledged and shouldn’t be any more.
In the case of an actor whose contribution is their popularity alone, I would have to see that as a personal statement of value. The producer who favours a celebrity over talent is simply saying what he/she values and the only way to combat that is consistency. If you are great at what you do and keep at it, it is only a matter of time, your value will show. The people who want, desire or need it will seek you out and pay for it. They will treat you with respect – value you.
I would like to be given special treatment, because my gift is special, but I might feel uncomfortable if I’m singled out and it’s overdone. I’ve already decided to share my trailer with my co-actors (but only the ones who buy me cheesecake and dark chocolate truffles – insert sly grin, Austin Powers style).
There is a delicate balance for the producer though, when an actor becomes difficult to work with because they expect a certain treatment or because they believe they’re the ones the audience comes to watch and make demands that cannot be met.
There is an even more delicate balance for the actor. You might say, “That’ll never be me”, but power is sweet and all sorts of things could happen between now and when your self entitlement grows to become a ravenous monster that eats up work opportunities and burns bridges one after the other; because the villain never thinks that if he destroys the world so he can rule it, there will be no world to actually rule.
It behooves you to find something that keeps you grounded, so that you know when to demand your rights and privileges as an actor and when to remember that you’re not on set (your job, by the way) for a certain type of food or hairstyl(ist)e.
That evening, (yeah we never went back to film, no thanks to the June/July rains) after a long thread of amazing conversations, we concluded that, though we may not agree with every practice, we must dwell more on the things that are important to us and aspire to be celebrated for the work we put in and the growth contributions we make. We must also be different when we arrive in the position we’ve once criticized.
Be the change people!
Read also: #ActingOutLife: Audition Tips (Pt 2)
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