Written by Rhonda Musak
Grace. Take a moment to breathe it in…grace. Such a beautifully small word, ripe with elegance and strength, style and dignity. Choose to stand in the place of grace and the path unfolds with ease and possibility; choose the opposite and pay the price for what might possibly be a very long time. This business–show business–is just too elusive, changeable and outrageously unpredictable to choose to operate from anything less.
It was with much cringing that I recently listened to a friend recount a story of graceless behavior. My friend, Tim I will call him, is part of an ongoing project that involves casting actors. In short, Tim cast a particular role with an actor he thought best for the role rather than someone he personally knew who had their heart set on being cast. As a result, Tim received a bottomless cavalcade of recrimination from this disappointed actor. Knowing Tim—who is professional to the core—along with the demands of his project, I imagine he will not even consider working with this actor again.
My mother used to say while I was growing up, “Into every life a little rain must fall;” a sentiment that is readily applied to life in this business. It’s easy to consider that actors are the ones who continually put themselves out there, but truthfully the same goes for directors, producers, agents, casting directors and, yes, even coaches. Anyone in this business most likely has their heart involved at some level.
I recently read an interview with Jodie Foster in The Hollywood Reporter. She spoke about two particular projects that she worked on as a director—one over the course of twelve years—that she ultimately was not able to get off the ground. If I were to consider someone who has enough power in Hollywood to create whatever they wish, I would definitely put Jodie Foster on that list. As I read, her interviewer remarked that her “sense of loss is there and perhaps always will be,” but nowhere in her interview did she assume a blame and anger filled victim stance.
In choosing to operate with grace, it is that deep level of disappointment that gets taken home and shared and worked through with loved ones. There is polarity in everything and losing projects is probably the number one liability in this business: even if you want a particular project with all your heart and think you are perfect for it, there is still very much a chance that you will not get it. It is just the plain reality of this business.
It makes me think of a beautiful, grace-filled practice that I learned from the work of Rosamund Stone Zander & Benjamin Zander in their book, The Art of Possibility. The practice is called “Being the Board.” Imagine yourself as a chess set. Rather than viewing yourself as a piece on the board—a chess piece that can be moved around willy-nilly by the hand of fate—you instead assume the position of being “the board on which the whole game is being played.” In essence, if you are the board in the world of show business, then being cast or not being cast is just a part of the game that you have chosen to play. It’s not outside yourself happening to you, but inherent in a much larger choosing on your part.
I wonder what different results might’ve ensued had the actor who did not get cast in my friend Tim’s project responded with grace? Perhaps instead of accusation and blame, this actor could have benefited by receiving helpful feedback asking, “Is there anything about my work that I might be able to strengthen that would put me more squarely in the line of consideration for next time?”
One thing that I know for sure is that this gift of grace would have been a positive contribution to my friend Tim’s day, not to mention a hugely positive contribution to the actor’s own career.
Rhonda Musak is the owner of NYC acting studio, Art & Soul Acting. As an acting coach and an Erickson-trained, solution-focused life coach, Rhonda blends powerful acting techniques together with transformation solution focused life coaching; a dynamic combination that insures that students learn sustainable acting tools as well as know when to use them and why.
For more information about acting classes, private acting coaching in person or via Skype, college prep program and the Art & Soul Acting Book Club for Actors’, please visit www.artandsoulacting.com