Guest post by Jesse GrothOlson
Good actors can consistently, effectively, and compellingly connect with an imaginary situation. They communicate the production team’s story and engage a large cross-section of the populace. Popular actors connect with a character that they have become famous for and deliver a trusted performance that is both marketable and profitable. At the end of the day, most viewers don’t care what those people are really like as long as they can deliver.
The Business of Acting
Are all good actors popular? Not remotely. Are all popular actors good? Heck no! Most popular actors represent the tiniest cross-section of the talent pool. They either aggressively marketed themselves or had some other inroad. They understood that their skills are a product like any commodity, so they positioned themselves to network with the people who can maximize their product’s exposure.
Once actors become known, they guarantee revenue. Producers know what they can spend through on the actor’s fan base. Is this always a direct one to one? No, but it is enough of a factor to allow other investors some risk comfort. Like any investment it could go south at any time, but at least the actor’s track record promises quality storytelling.
Where does that leave the actor’s artistry? Some actors are puppets for the director to micromanage. Some have risen to the level of producer, allowing them to have a financial and artistic stake in the product. Others are known as creators of their own unique content. No matter what level of marketability an actor achieves, one thing is universally present: they must be compelling.
There are three things that actors never want to be on stage with: animals, babies, and fire. These three behave with absolute honesty and pure impulse. They’re unscripted and raw, impossible to not watch. That is the level that every actor must strive to achieve. It’s possible, but hard. Many layers of distraction on a set range from shooting non-sequentially to acting on a green screen. The ability to juggle all of those demands is monumental and the need for focus and clarity of intent is infinite.
To create an alternate reality, actors pretend. They play. They approach an imaginary world with a vulnerability and innocence that is only seen in children. They surround themselves with strangers in a completely false environment and bare their souls to a scrutinizing lens. Embracing a false truth and stripping away safeguards, they perform in a way that is repeatable, tunable, and rich every single time. They play a chord of emotional notes using their mastery of language, physicality, and expression. They know their bodies, minds, and souls.
The Importance of Actors
Actors are invaluable. They’re artists and commodities; they’re the point of emotional connection for an audiences and a tool in the director’s belt. When they make their job seem easy, they become victims of their own success. They’re not to be worshipped or idolized, but respected and protected. They make it their life to analyze and master living in order to affect in us a message of Truth. They can be needy and annoying (I should know. I am one), but don’t automatically discount their needs. They are asked to do incredibly vulnerable and valuable work. Treat them accordingly.
Jesse GrothOlson is assistant professor of Cinema & New Media Arts and director of the theatre club at Houston Baptist University. An award-winning actor, he has an MFA in Performance from the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, and has taught acting and directing at multiple universities, as well as private coaching for actors in Hollywood. He is also well-versed in technical production for film and theater, serving as a production designer, stage manager, sound designer or lighting designer for more than 75 fully staged plays, films, commercials, and music videos.