4.27.2012

Why Actors Are Better (and Better-Off) Than Writers.

Writing is, in case you aren't familiar with it, god-like fun. Whether you are J. K. Rowling or the senior scribe at OctopusXXXFanfic.net, there's a reason people write fiction and screenplays and lyrics and such, and it is not (unless you are the truest form of hack) about money or making the world a better place. The joy of writing I believe comes, ignobly, from two things:

"And THEN he says.... OH YES GOD I'M A GENIUS."
1) You get to put words in other people's mouths.


2) You get to control what happens. 

Okay, maybe that's actually one thing. But the theory goes: the Real World is out of sorts with its potential for beauty, and you, the writer, get to correct it, by making the train leave at the right time, the hero say the best three words in the language, the aliens arrive with the appropriate lights and flourish. Somehow the omnipotent powers to make this happen have been bestowed on anyone who has the ability to type.

If screenwriting or playwriting is your thing, the thrill is even more visceral, because at some point or other, actors are actually going to speak these words out loud, and do their best to pretend to believe them.

Anyway, that's why I prefer writing to acting.  I don't really "get" acting, although I understand it has something to do with applause and mirrors. And of course the acting profession is compromised by its close relation to a hundred things which tend to leech at the soul, that is, lying, self-analysis, obsession with personal appearance, and for the sake of rent-paying, giving all your passion and interest to lines like, "This pudding is the best I ever had!'" and "Take me now, before Daddy comes home."

To my mind, writing is just a better gig, because besides the aforementioned omnipotent powers, you can do it in your underwear without makeup. 

BUT, there is one way in which Actors definitely have it over Writers, and I think it's this: the sheer number of people in the competition to be heard. 

Los Angeles has a sub-population of approximately 54 billion actors vs. roughly 72 billion screenwriters (according to the last census, which allowed for hyphenating of job title). Because anyone who can type, seriously, can be a god with a laptop in their underwear.

And then there's the harsh fact that actors age, and they have to figure out how their real age affects their career, and they will get limited opportunities based on what age they appear to be.  And they have to face and make a hard choice about their greatest love, based on biology.  This is a serious, real-world reckoning of self that writers basically don't have to deal with.

Writers age, and they're still writing. They don't go away. I've met writers in their sixties, with very impressive credits on shows from the 70's, who are today trying to to start their own web series, because they can't shake the bug.

So, based on this unscientific example, I have deduced that every dude who wrote one episode of One Tree Hill, or an 80's slumber party movie that you never heard of, is still kicking around LA, chasing the next gig. (Or, with the advent of youtubes and personal blogs, creating their own gigs.)

Actors, for good and practical reasons, pursue becoming a star. (If you're a writer and have this idea that you are doing it to be a star, you are, again, a true hack, and deluded besides.) Stardom is a good gig because at some point you can make the choice to stop acting, because the stardom fuels itself. (Do we know when was the last movie Angelina Jolie was actually in? Anyone?) Then, in their highly-scrutinized and -subsidized way, these stars-gone-nova are able to go back to living their own life.

So, at the end of the arc for actors, there is this dream of freedom. With writers, it's the dream of power.

Of course, some of these ex-staff-writers and former-aspirers have moved on to real jobs as content aggregators or dishwasher salesmen or whathaveyou, but the ones that still have that (really kind of infantile) desire to speak as Gawd, these writers are everywhere. Their stories are their kids, and they never have had their dream beaten out of them by Time. That dream is still the ultimate fun, and they hold onto it until the day they die.

- inspired by David Mamet's "Bambi Vs. Godzilla," which contains many similar rants

No comments: