Stop the Exploitation of South African Actors: An Urgent Call for Basic Rights!

SA Guild of Actors

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What Kind of Actor are You?

by Darren Kelfkens

Acting is the most minor of gifts and not a very high-class way to earn a living. After all, Shirley Temple could do it at the age of four.

Katherine Hepburn – Actor

As a director and actor I have had the opportunity of working with the best and worst actors that South Africa has to offer. From the consummately professional to the tardy and utterly talentless. Although, to be fair, the marginally talented yet direct-able goofball can often be more appealing to a director than the ego-centric, self-aggrandizing genius.

So what is it that is expected of you on a professional set? In pursuit of professional longevity, let’s consider those sins for which you will invoke the ire of the director and wrath of the entire crew … and for which you will seldom be forgiven.

Yes! You will wait for the crew and the director. They are late because they are working! They have been working for hours before the first shot of the day. All those lights and cameras were rigged to shoot ‘your’ magnificent performance. The make-up and hair truck, or room, was prepped and ready for ‘your’ arrival. Those beautiful clothes (which you abhor) were selected, cleaned, ironed and laid out to assist ‘you’ in ‘your’ performance. Long after you have left the set and are basking in the glow of your brilliance; that self-same crew will be packing, ironing and cleaning in prep for the arrival of the next batch of ‘stars’. You already have the coolest job. You get all the adulation. Don’t disrespect those who carry you to those lofty heights, by being late.

Believe it or not, this crew has seen better actors than you come and go. They are not impressed by your fame, your talent or ‘your process’. What will impress them is your professionalism. Get them on your side and they will applaud your brilliance and carry you through those dark moments of insecurity which are integral to your craft. They are a group of immensely talented film-makers who never get the recognition they deserve. Their talents build your career. They HAVE seen it all, and when they see ‘it’ in you, they will tell you, and you will know that you are becoming an Actor!

When I come up against a director who has a concept that I don’t agree with…I’d be more prone to go with them…I want them to have control, otherwise it’s going to become predictably my work.

Jack Nicholson – Actor

I work with two types of actors. The first type is the ‘I have a PROBLEM with this scene’ actor. Inevitably this actor is confrontational, judgmental of the writing and ill prepared. Beyond their own performance, they have little understanding of what is required of the scene and have left it to the last minute to ambush a weary crew and director with their ‘motivational’ issues.
The second type is the ‘I’m really struggling with this scene’ actor. This actor HAS invariably done his/her homework and is honest enough to admit to an inability to arrive at a suitable interpretation. A blank canvas – a director’s delight.

Real acting begins once dialogue is out of the way. Watching an actor fumble through a scene without knowing their dialogue is akin to watching a carpenter trying to hammer in a nail with a banana. It’s a small industry; you will work with many of these people again over the coming years. Blemish your professional name at your peril.

I never said actors are cattle, I said all actors should be treated like cattle.

Alfred Hitchcock – Director

Let’s get some perspective: In Hollywood terms, you work on a tiny production, in a tiny industry, in a tiny country, on a tiny continent at the arse-end of the world! So if your CV compares to those of Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep and your mantelpiece is bedecked with Academy Awards, then yes, you are indeed a STAR and I’d love to work with you on my next project!

It’s a glorious day when you first climb into your car and drive to a set with that dizzying, self-affirming thought ‘I am an actor!’ Be proud, you’ve worked hard to get here. You are one of a brave few who has beaten out millions of wannabe’s. The actor’s journey into this wonderful industry is intoxicating, exhilarating, terrifying and immensely gratifying. If you want it to last beyond your first job, respect your craft, your director, your crew and your fellow actors. Be a team player…and leave the adulation to the fans.

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