Tuesday, 23 July 2013

It's not ego it's selling soap

by Greg Bepper

Actors often get a raw deal from the outside world branding them as egotistical. I hope that this article may enlighten and give food for thought, to those of you not involved in show business. To my peers, it may help you explain your 'look at me' behaviour.

Don't get me wrong, yes we have an ego, I don't really think you can be in this industry without one, but there are two varieties of ego lookatmeus

The inner ego:  This is the very personal one. The one that makes the actor smile inside when an audience applauds or they get a good review or receive genuine accolades from their peers. It's also that satisfaction when the actor knows they 'nailed' a performance. 

The outer ego: The public one or should I say the perceived public one. The one that seems to do nothing but talk about themselves, viewed as self absorbed and brands the actor 'up themselves'. This is the ego I want to dispel, right here, right now. 
 
It's only business
Anyone in business, be they; the owner or employee, that makes a living by selling a product or service, talks about and promotes their product/service during the course of their working day. This is how they make money, this is how they pay the rent. 

I have yet to come across anyone who brands a butcher, baker or candlestick maker an egotist because they talk about their wares. Never heard of a shop assistant being called egotistical because they outline the benefits of an electrical appliance. Why? Because they are not the product or service. 

Now lets look at it from an actor's perspective. When I talk to my students about this side of the business, I bring it down to it's simple form; an actor is a cake of soap. In other words, they [the actor] are the product.

So, just like any other salesperson in any other business making a sale of a product/service, the process is the same except in this sale the actor being the product. They talk about how great they are, the benefits of using them, their past track record, their advantages and any other attribute to make the sale (get the part). That is how they make a living. This is how THEY pay the rent.

With this in mind it is easy to see how the outside world brands this as 'bignoting', 'swellheaded' ... egotistical. 

I found this comment on a Facebook post in reply to a Hugh Jackmans' status update. I think this makes my point.



Look at me, I'm brill 
Actors are also perceived to be the world champions when it comes to 'name dropping' 

So let's go back to our cake of soap. If a product or service is promoted as the preferred brand by a celebrity, do people accuse the manufacturer, provider, sales assistant of name dropping? When you talk to your friends about work colleagues, are you accused of name dropping?

This is the same as actors talking about who they have worked along side or who has contracted their services. The obvious  big difference is that your work colleagues may not be known to thousands or tens of thousands or millions of people. To the actor, these are just their everyday work colleagues and some just happen to be famous. 

The equivalent in the everyday life of people not in 'the biz' would be; the writing of your resume. To gain employment your prospective employer wants to know all about you, your skills, experience and personal thoughts to assess if your the right person for the job. You fill the resume with details of how great your are, how skilled you are, how experienced you are and all the companies and people of note you have worked for and along side. 

The difference here is, that when you get the job the focus changes to the business and no longer on you. For the actor the focus is always on them.

Don't believe your own PR
Publicity keeps the actor in the minds of their audience and most importantly; Directors and Producers. This is the equivalent to our cake of soap being advertised or talked about through newspapers, glossy magazines and online. 

Generally this publicity is generated by PR (Public Relations) gurus or publicists, either contracted by production companies, the actors agent/manager or the actor themselves. 

It's all about keeping our cake of soap in the public eye. The generated story must have a 'hook', something interesting, something appealing, something that is unknown. This where the actor [product] can be seen in whole new light, similar to a cake of soap having a new formula. BUT, just as in advertising the product claims can be over exaggerated.

Barbara Llewellynn, Leonard Teale, Anne Lambert, Megan Williams
Early in my television career, I was lucky enough to be in Australia's first teen drama series Class of 74. The majority of the cast were aged from mid teen to early twenties. The story lines tackled ground-breaking 'tabou' teen subjects that by today's standards would be seen as very tame but it was headline making stuff back then.

As the shock died down and the ratings levelled out the publicity mongers needed to find a new hook to keep the show in the press, so they turned to the private lives of the actors. 

I remember being constantly telephoned by the television station's publicity department and my own agent for stories outside our lives on set. 

As the program was a five nights a week, most of our long waking hours were in rehearsal or in the studio, so not that much time for an outside life. Our snippets of social life were given the 'spin' treatment by the publicity machine to make them newsworthy.

A prime example that will always be burned into my memory is 'Young stars sex romps and orgies on island hideaway' Eye catching headline you must admit, but the facts spun more than a clothes dryer on steroids. 

This story emerged from two of the young cast members liveing in a rental property on Scotland Island in Pittwater, Sydney. Occasionally, a few of us would trek over there on the weekend for a BBQ.. end of story. Although they were fantastic lunches that continued through to night, full of laughs and merriment, I don't recall a single romp and I'm sure I would remember an orgy!

The age old saying "there's no bad publicity" is a double-edged sword in this profession. I have seen careers blossom due to off screen/stage antics (real or not) and also seen them flushed down the toilet by it as well. No more so than this day and age we live in of social (access all areas) media. 

So next time you see or read about an actor spruking about how good they are or shaking your head in disbelief on their latest fall from grace or adventure, give them some slack. For just like you, they are also trying to make a living. 



Author: Greg Bepper © 2013
Artistic Director
Greg Bepper's Thunderbolt Theatre & Film Productions
thunderbolttheatre.com

    



25 comments:

  1. Great, great post m8. I think musicians struggle with the same things. It's interesting working with kids, and watching 'egos' develop. It's been my experience that the environment plays a huge roll in perception. Who people surround themselves with can dictate a lot of these situations.

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    1. Thanks Jason.. Yep goes for anyone that puts thenselves out there in the entertainment industry. I always try to keep my kids I teach grounded as possible, especially my teens. I try to instill it's more about the work not the accolades, cheers

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  2. I have never been to concerned about the tabloids of what sort of ego an actor has, rather I look at an individual trying his/her hand at this business, capability ! you either have the desire or you don't. everyone is an actor (no disrespect to paid individual in this craft) in his/her lifetime, and the majority of individuals enjoy having drama in their life story..I take my hat off to the professional actors who seem to have an exceptional ability to "slip in and out of skins" portraying other persons. of course as in all areas of life there are good apples and "alternate" apples. anyway your article is great, keep up the great work Greg..you are making a difference ! cheers Have a FAN..tastic (excuse me, could not help myself...lol ) Week Greg

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    1. As always, thank you for taking the time to read my articles and your gr8 comments. The slipping in and out of skins is the fun part. ... Pun excused ;) Cheers m8

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  3. All part of the 'cutting down tall poppies' syndrome, I guess - which is always a pity. I like the 'name dropping' cartoon! Hey, you know that Greg Bepper guy - you know, from The Class of '74 - I've talked to him a few times (well, typed to him anyway!) ;-)

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    1. HahaHa!!! ... Yeah I know him.. what a bighead! ;)

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  4. Very nice articles.... i feel everybody is an actor and a product....

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    1. Thanks Jay... yep, we all have to sell ourselves, cheers

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  5. Difficult to find a balance...these days it's all about media and tabloids.

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  6. We all have a mission, a "product" and a gift to share. I appreciate this article very much. YOU ARE SPOT on dear heart.

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    1. Thank you Mary.. we certainly do!

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  7. I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to read this one. Thanks, Greg - Jason Wagner

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  8. Selling oneself whether on stage or in an office is never easy - thanks for a great article Greg

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    1. Thank you Joan... no it's not but gets easier as the years roll on

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  9. Greg, thanks for sharing this article. In my opinion, Ego is a very important tool with a useful purpose. It is how we use this "tool" that is important. Acting uses ego in a very interesting way!

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    1. Thank Ronald... Yep, we all have it. A gr8 tool indeed.

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  10. To be successful in selling, and remember each of us succeeds in life to the extent of our ability to sell, selling our families on our ideas, selling education in schools, selling our children on the advantages of living a good and honest life, selling our associates and employees on the importance of being exceptional people. But to be successful in selling our way of the good life, we must be willing to pay the price. - Earl Nightingale

    The majority, maybe all of the negativity takes place in the stands. The price is paid on the court by those willing to take it on. Great read.

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    1. Gr8 quote Michael. Thank you... I agree!

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  11. Personally, I think some people just have to have something to complain about and a star is just easy pickings. How many of the complainers would pass up the chance to be in the same spotlight? Not many, that's for sure. They are just selling their own brand of soap. LOL

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    1. You're not wrong! The higher you get the more peeps want to shoot you down.

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  12. I love your words. People need to push their ego aside often times, and stop accusing salesmen of having on! HA

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    1. Thank you Tyler... Yep, ego has it's place & time.

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  13. Interesting perspective which lines up with a theory that I've developed over decades of observation.

    You are what you do.

    The impact of that might not be significant until you realize that if you are what you do then every else is what they do as well. The need to "cut some slack" might be more widespread than you propose here.

    Let me give a literal example in a completely different (non-related) domain and maybe you'll get what I'm suggesting - there might be a universal truth to your message:

    Over a decade ago I started working on a project for a courier company. Essentially I wrote a "fedex in a box" solution for them. Couriers -- at least the inner city ones -- live and die by the second. A dispatcher running "the board" has to play a massive game of chess in under a minute each and every minutes all day long -- aligning on the road vehicles and drivers with new incoming calls of various classes (economies, urgent and rushes) and yet keeping al the present deliveries on time.

    Now here is where it gets interesting (and I get to the point)

    When we met with the dispatcher to discuss product development no matter how complex an issue I presented --- hey take you time and think this over it has important implications I don;t need an answer today and we don't want to get something this important to the project wrong -- we also got an answer in under 1 minute.

    They were what they do - they decide complex things in under a minute and if it's wrong we'll re-route later on.

    We even tried to bring that to there attention but it's a "so deep" thing that they couldn't even see it in themselves.

    I wonder how many people are simply so busy being what they do that they too can not see that in themselves?

    Of course that is a disaster just waiting to happen in software development (and brain surgery and host of other domains I'm sure) but you see my point and how in a very similar way you're saying the same thing - you are what you do - your an actor ergo you act (or at least do all the things that actors do).

    Just an amusing observation and nice to see yet another confirmation of this phenomena I've observed...

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