How To Be A Better Actor - Workin’ 9-to-5 - Beverly Hills Playhouse

Workin’ 9-to-5

In case you haven’t heard, The Biz is full of gossip. People sleep with each other. Then they break up. They do stupid shit at parties. They get married. They get divorced. They are “difficult.” People talk about people. It’s a shocker. In another stunning development, because of the many intense, small and ever-changing ecosystems in this business  (read: film sets, play rehearsals, and acting classes), you could find yourself in a holy-smokes relationship in no-time-flat, invested fully in any number of ways, discover within eight weeks that this investment was perhaps ill-advised, and yet somehow you keep doing it again and again and again. New people, intense feelings. New people, intense feelings! Quite a ride. It’s part of The Deal,  part of why a lot of people love the business – they thrive off a bit of emotional chaos and the highs and lows of it all. Artists can be manic high-low people, fueled by emotional responses, and it all fits together a certain way.

I’m not judging. Been there myself many times. But the downside:  the number of hours of work, focus, administration and creativity utterly lost to the distraction, emotion, and heartbreak that revolve around what is too often just petty stupid f___ing gossip.

And nights are dangerous, aren’t they? The downside part of the Showbiz Holy-cow Intensity Thing tends to be particularly downside-y as the hours creep. The later it is when you’re sending a text, the more trouble you’re asking for, right? The emotions, the neediness, the loneliness, the gossip, the ratio of bad decisions per 100 – it all skyrockets between 9pm and sunrise.

So, while conceding utterly that Showbiz relationships can be intense, needy, short-lived and overly emotional, I offer the following two Advisable Policies For Life in Showbiz:

1. Keep all business communication (including that regarding class, rehearsals, etc.), and all communication from the new people in your life, to business hours. Set ’em as you wish. 9am-to-5pm. 9am-to-6pm. Whatever.  If you’re communicating, particularly by text or email, after 6pm – it had better be with your significant other, or someone you’ve known for years, so (we hope) the trust and the parameters have been established. If you have to communicate outside that group after 6pm, ensure it is utterly dry business communication. All incoming communication from fellow students in class, people who might want to get you in bed, people who are seeking to get you out of bed away from whomever you’re in bed with, solicitations to gossip…. All these communications go unanswered until 9am the next morning (if even then).

2: Share nothing of negatively-tinged emotional content via text or email, don’t initiate or attempt to resolve emotional topics by text, email, social media. You could apply this universally and probably live a much happier life, but let’s say this should absolutely apply to anyone who isn’t either a significant other or someone you’ve known for years where, again, the trust and the parameters have been set. I fail on this many times a year, so I know the terrain as well as anyone, but I have learned the hard way to try my best not to communicate electronically about emotional subjects or thorny business issues.

The amount of friggin’ drama I have confronted over the last two years, mostly in relation to class dynamics between students (and too often between students who really barely know each other – the new people-intense feelings “friends” that are so frequent), that has been fanned and set ablaze through overly emotional text and email messages (usually sent after 9pm), has been utterly dumbfounding. Text is good for: “Confirming rehearsal at 8pm?” or “Can you buy eggs on the way home?” It’s really, really, really BAD for: “Listen, the way you spoke to me today was very hurtful, and frankly, just speaks to the kind of person I’ve always suspected you were. And by the way? EVERYONE thinks this about you.” Ugh. It’s comical. You might think I’m making it up, but I would guess at this moment, a lot people who are reading this essay now wonder whether the NSA has provided me personal access to their electronic communications. That right there is a hybrid of some text/email in the chain of every gossipy junior high school-level blow-up that has occurred in the last ten years or more.

Try it for a month. From 6pm-9am the next morning, the only people you communicate with by text/email/social media are romantic partners, family, or people who have been solid friends for, say, at least two years. And don’t get negatively emotional via electronic messaging of any sort.  

I think you’ll find the emerging quiet a bit more conducive to the work you need to do.

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