To paraphrase an old joke, “Do you have to be crazy to be and actor?” Answer, “No, but it helps.” The idea here being that actors have to have a pretty big ego to think they can make it in Hollywood. And sometimes, that means they have an inflated, or irrational ideas about their abilities, and that may govern their behaviors.
Actors have to take enormous risks, spend years struggling to make a living, doing odd jobs like driving for Uber, just to get a foot in the door. In addition, they have to open themselves up, in auditions, on stage or on a film set, to reveal their innermost faults, flaws and vulnerabilities.
Some actors have exhibitionist tendencies, but some are highly sensitive and shy. Some actors are outgoing, but many others are not. In any case, actors have to cope with plenty of insecurities about their careers and about performing.
And it’s not just actors. Almost everybody who aspires to “make it” in Hollywood is going to go through similar life experiences. They’re faced with various financial, social and psychological insecurities. They have to think about spending maybe fifteen years trying to succeed and accept the possibility that it doesn’t work out. They have to live with that all the time.
The competition is fierce in this town, especially for actors.
Millions of other actors are struggling to get auditions, to get parts in plays and films, and to get representation. They have to be tough on the outside and vulnerable on the inside. They have to persevere against insane odds.
You, as an aspiring writer will, no doubt share many of these same insecurities. You have to open yourself up, too. You have to share your innermost secrets and fears, except on paper. You get to hide behind the keyboard.
Consider this; your goal as a writer is to sell screenplays and see your work produced. And if you’re successful (and if you’re reading this blog, you will be) you’ll find yourself at some point on a set with these ”crazy actors.”
If you find work on a television show, you’ll most likely wind up being on the set quite often. If not on the set itself, you’ll probably be watching rehearsals or run-throughs, to see how the show is shaping up, so more rewrites can be done.
If you sell a screenplay, you’ll probably want to be on the set to see your work realized. You may also be asked to be on the set for last-minute rewrites. Hopefully, this will be a fulfilling experience for you.
Let’s say one of these possibilities presents itself and you’re going to be meeting actors on the set. Of course, producers, directors and studio executives will also be on the set, some of them possibly possessing huge egos themselves.
How do you prepare yourself to meet the actors?
You should know that you might be meeting actors (or others) who will avoid eye contact with you, throw tantrums, or otherwise exhibit “crazy behaviors.”
One thing to keep in mind is that when you’re on the set, it’s not really your movie or TV episode anymore. You wrote it, but don’t expect actors, directors and power-brokers to treat you well. Keep in mind the power structure in Hollywood. Producers, directors and actors are powerful. Writers, not so much.
No matter what, always be respectful, discreet, and gracious to anyone on the set. That includes crew members, and production assistants. You don’t want word getting around that you’re critical, temperamental, snide or have an attitude.
Remember, on the set, almost everybody outranks you.
Be careful what you say. Be polite. And If you’re asked to get coffee, do it cheerfully.
As for the most powerful people on the set, and this usually means the actors, some of them may display an array of undesirable character traits.
Especially watch out for these behaviors from the power-players or the movie stars; they might be extremely demanding of excessive admiration, they may lack empathy, they will probably be speaking more than listening, and they probably won’t remember you or anything you talk about.
The worst of them tend to they blame others around them, including you, for anything that goes wrong. Similarly, they tend not to take responsibility for their own mistakes, they like to tell others what to do, and they don’t like to be challenged.
At the extreme end of the spectrum, they may humiliate you; make demeaning comments about you, (sometimes disguised as a joke). They may treat you as if you’re not there at all. They might be outright verbally abusive. They may throw tantrums if they don’t get their way.
Keep your distance.
The best advice if you find yourself on a set is to have minimal exposure to the more famous (or famously-crazy) stars. Stand back. If you need to communicate with stars about the script or scene structure, or dialogue, try to do so through the director.
If the star talks to you, keep it short, be discreet, and have an exit plan. If you somehow get drawn into a conversation with a star, make sure you’re talking about them. Talk about some of the other movies you’re seen them in. Keep everything upbeat. Be complementary.
Don’t let them draw you into an argument or a difference of opinion. If you can’t avoid a longer conversation with a star, and find yourself stuck with one, don’t share too much about your private life at least not at first. Hollywood narcissists have been known to use your own vulnerabilities against you in some way later.
If you witness some extremely narcissistic behaviors, such as humiliating a production assistant, for no good reason, let it go. Resist the temptation to come to the assistant’s aid. Again, that’s what directors and producers are for.
Don’t spread gossip about a star.
Don’t go around talking about the stars behavior, even if it was way out of line. Remember, gossip gets around. Be prepared to witness some unseemly actions, diva-like behaviors, and try not to let it phase you.
Your relationship with these powerful, difficult people may change over time. You may be on a TV show for years and end up interacting with the actors more often.
As you move up on the writing staff, or sell more scripts, you’ll be taking meetings with the actors, and maybe even seeing them at holiday parties, at lunch or in the parking lot. Even, then, you’d be well advised to be careful.