I want to talk about fame and acting. I think it hurts people more than they realize— I know it hurt me.
You know the metaphor about the carrot dangled in front of the horse? Fame is like that. It will always be out in front of you. No matter how famous you become, it will never feel like you are there. Satisfaction will always be out of reach.
But there is something more detrimental to a person than just this endless need: if you focus on fame you won’t achieve your full potential. The reason is simple. Your attention is split: one part of your focus is on your work and another part on guiding your work to where you feel it will achieve recognition.
It makes sense that we would gauge success by our level of fame. We’re taught that. Everywhere you look, every magazine or chart or tally of likes – fame is used as a measure of success in acting. Because fame can be measured it stands out. But how is the goal of your full potential presented to you? How do you find it? How do you measure it?
The problem is, we don’t know what our full potential looks like. And we don’t know how to gauge where we are in relationship to it. And more difficult than that, our full potential means going into the unknown. Completely. It is an experience of discovery every step of the way.
From 1936 “An Actor Prepares” Stanilavski said:
“Now remember firmly what I am going to tell you: the theatre, on account of its publicity and spectacular side, attracts many people who merely want to capitalize their beauty or make careers. They take advantage of the ignorance of the public, its perverted taste, favouritism, intrigues, false success, and many other means which have no relation to creative art. These exploiters are the deadliest enemies of art. We have to use the sternest measures with them, and if they cannot be reformed they must be removed from the boards. Therefore … you must make up your mind, once and for all, did you come here to serve art, and to make sacrifices for its sake, or to exploit your own personal ends?”
The key statement for me is this: “if they cannot be reformed.” Stanislavski implies that there is an opportunity to be reformed. If you are stuck on fame, and if success in acting and becoming famous have become synonymous for you – you can find your way out.
So here goes, how to reform yourself if you are hooked on fame:
In the beginning there is no separation between you and this need. You’re so used to it that you can’t identify the feeling. A desire for recognition and a desire for acting seem to be one and the same and your desire for fame, even among your peers, is infused into performance. So the first step is to separate the two by making a conscious decision to identify what is driving you.
If you’re working on a scene, reflect on what went through your mind as you acted. Look for the desire for recognition, after the fact. It takes a strong will to do this because this is not a pleasant thing to look at. Who wants to be a person desiring recognition? But f&^% it. Do it anyway. Do this three, four, five, or as many times, as many times as you need, until you are able to recognize and very clearly identify a moment in your acting when you made an adjustment for the simple reason of making you or your acting ‘look good.’ Write down what you discovered. Go into as much detail as possible.
For example, maybe you were in a fight scene and you yelled. In that moment of yelling, you pushed it a little harder – just for the affect. Look at that moment in detail. Recall the feeling of pushing out the anger. Notice the separation from the scene and the focus on yourself. Notice the control that it requires to make that decision. Can you find the feeling? It takes time to isolate it, peel it back and see it for what it is. It takes a real will to see your actions truthfully.
Now ask yourself: how did that action benefit the story? Look at that feeling directly. Did that moment add or detract from the story?
Your answer will be- it detracted from the story. And your job is to benefit the story. So the next time you go into that scene, you’re going to find it easier to give yourself over to it. You’re more self aware. You won’t lose yourself in that need as easily as before. It won’t be perfect, but you won’t ever go back. You’ll just start to recognize that quality more quickly and easily, each time it comes up.
When you do this you’re training your body to go in the direction of your pure work. You can reform yourself. You can live freely without this need for recognition. This desire has been pumped into you from everywhere you look, but the only joy to be had is the joy in acting is to act without the desire for success. And ironically, you’re more likely to achieve ‘success’ in acting the more you drop that desire anyway. It’s a win win situation. 🙂 Do it.
Drop that desire, and come home to yourself. Fulfill yourself.