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Tanya Vital's Blog

Monday, 13 February 2012

Coming To Terms With a HELL of a Script


As Actors we are exposed to many different types of text, image and action, which we then have to bring to life. Most of the time it’s great and even if it isn’t necessarily depicting something we would do personally, we enjoy the challenge of stepping outside of our comfort zone. Whether it’s a theme or genre we have lived or not, we usually relish the thought of how we will give the bare bones some meat. This is what it’s USUALLY like for an Actor.
There are on occasion those times when we receive a script or piece of text that we know instantaneously does not suit our “type” and we will never get the part no matter how good our audition. This can be very disappointing, especially if we have invested some emotion into the piece when learning lines.

Then there are those times that when reading the script, you’re physically repulsed by every word and action and deep down inside your little pink naive hopeful heart, you want to reach your ‘Go-go Gadget’ arm right down into the script, back in time to the point of pen and b!tch slap some sense into the Writer. This is rare, but happens none the less and happened to me very recently.
I personally have had some beautiful, heart- touching scripts that have felt like the Writer secretly knew of that time when I was heartbroken or sad, or was even hiding in a bush somewhere, spying on me when that absolutely amazing thing happened and they wrote it down purposefully for me to relive for others to relate to.

But again on the other hand, I have also had some scripts that have gone against EVERYTHING I stand for. Scripts that have made an absolute mockery out of very serious social problems and injustices. Scripts that have been so utterly offensive in every way that I could no longer bare to read another word. Scripts that have been so ethically un-abiding that I have had to literally call my Agent and say a) Have you read this crap and  b) I don’t want to audition, but if I have to AND I get the part, I will berate myself mentally for the rest of my days.
I know no Writer sets out to offend and as a novice Writer myself I even worry that sometimes my words are out of date, or that I’m getting too carried away again on my proverbial Soap Box and losing my audience. I understand the difficulty of trying to get a point across, but yet keep the piece entertaining and commercial at the same time. I totally get that again even as Writers, we must sometimes try and write outside of our comfort zone and address issues that we either do not understand or have never experienced. I get it - It’s hard! I take my hat off to the many brilliant Writers I have had the pleasure to work with and meet; you all have a very frikkin difficult job and I appreciate you.

I’ve been fairly comfortable in my career, but even though I have been acting professionally for over 10 years, I still haven’t yet ‘made it’ as they say.  ‘Made it’ to me means that I’m still up and coming, still striving forth to a better level. I haven’t yet ‘made it’ to the top of my game, there is still more progress to be made and I am hardly at a point where I can pick and choose parts at will. Like I’ve mentioned before in other posts, according to many in the Entertainment Industry, we have to ‘fake it until we make it’, or play our “type” until we become respected/renowned enough to have the luxury of being able to accept or decline parts. Bottom line – the rents due and if you want to act you better take the parts you’re given.
This notion seems to upset society. That somehow as Artists we live for free in some dreamlike Tree House in Middle Earth, busily contemplating our navel, being fed gold covered grapes by Tinkerbell & co. until our Agent calls with a job. NO SILLY BOY/GIRL! We have bills and shish too. Of course most of us choose this profession for the beauty, the art, but just like my mum’s 9-5, it’s a job and it better bring in the bacon! If we aren’t auditioning or acting, we are busy trying to somehow GET to audition and act. Spending money we don’t have on ways to market ourselves, re-train ourselves, and keep our tools sharp and USUALLY all of this on top of a “normal” job too. So we then have to SERIOUSLY question how much we hate said repulsive script. Is the hate enough to go without rent money or can the shame/hurt/pride be brushed off with a glass of red?  9/10 times it’s the latter.

There is no hiding from bad acting, bad directing or bad writing. Although we in society tend to think each other stupid, in actual fact even the stupid can usually tell if something crap, so how do we as creative Artists, work together to make a good piece of work that we and others will enjoy? How can we get the best out of a difficult script pr piece that tackles uncomfortable issues?
Actors, with every script we are blessed with we must somehow, some way find a glimmer of something that we can like or even begin to love about the piece. Find something, anything on which we can build some kind of a foundation, considering it isn’t too repellent. Find some area of understanding that you can cling to – to lead you forward.

Writers, forgive my boldness, I have some suggestions for you too:

·         Do not make a mockery of very serious social problems. That is not to say you shouldn't address these issues with some humour, Comedians can exhibit some of the most radical political views and often comedy is the best way to get a difficult point across, but there is a difference.

·         If you do not understand something, but want to write about it, perhaps some research would be good? We don’t want to always write about something we know – I hear ya, but we can also tell if you haven’t got a clue what you’re writing about, which in turn makes Actors look like we have no clue what we’re talking about and it continues.

·         I’m also ALL for creating awareness about cultures, races, disabilities and sexes; this sometimes involves the use of stereotype – which isn’t the devil. But please DO NOT resort to cheap offensive comedy to get a ‘half stepping’ laugh. Show us you can be clever with the comedy, shock value is overrated and shock never lasts long. Most audiences like to be stimulated intellectually (Oh no they don’t shout the Commissioners & big wigs of TV production companies everywhere). Well actually yes – yes we do.

·         Don’t try to be ‘down with the kids’, semi-using their lingo to make your piece seem cool and then in the very next breath make a mockery of the kids.

·         Don’t be bigots and try not to condescend (this note I take on board myself for my own writing). Audiences can tell when they’re being spoken down to, or force ‘educated’.

It's that simple, but you'd be amazed at how many don't follow the basics. I of course, will be taking all of my own tips into account in my own written work and will expect some other ‘up and coming’ know it all to put my ass in check too when the times right. Thanks for reading, I look forward to more collaboration and compromise in the future.


1 comment:

  1. Great post Tanya. Some sound advice offered there from the actor's perspective. That you have experience of writing for the stage too is very helpful in giving you perspective. Collaboration and compromise between the writer and the performer is necessary; it is a symbiotic relationship and they both feed off one another. Your striving for higher quality scripts will lead to stronger performances which, in turn, can only make for a richer experience for all. Thank you for striving. Best regards, D




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