Monkey business

Within the
film or show business in general, actors are often considered a different
breed. They look like normal people but behave differently. Many of them seem
to fast-forward their lives, being greedy to consume marriages and ideologies.
They experiment with social masochism, seeming not to care about other people’s
reactions. The wild, eccentric and unpredictable actors. Drunk, filled with
lust, spontaneously jumping into anything that might provide a new dose of
emotions.

The
stereotype is unjustified, of course. I have friends who act. There is a vast
amount of actors I have worked with – good hard-working and reliable people.
There are intelligent actors. There are actors who live in balance with
themselves and people around them.

But still,
there is something in the profession. I think performing publicly strongly satisfies
one of the most basic human desires, the need to be seen and recognized. Many
actors consider themselves shy, and their choice of forces them towards the
greatest fear: fear of exposure.

The need
for exposure and feeling sick about too much attention is sometimes almost
bulimic.

Pamela
Tola, a very bright and talented young actress and photographer made a book
about acting (Miksi näyttelen – Why do I
act?
). The book contains interviews with other actors and short comments on
the subject. It becomes obvious to the reader that especially for those new in
the profession, life can become really hard. Tearing themselves open publicly,
with the possibility of cruel criticism, can be sometimes too much for a fragile
soul. And we are all fragile souls.

An actor is
a professional who uses himself or herself as a tool – all the fears, hopes and
memories are material to work with. Building a fictitious character is not
(only) about pretending to be someone, one has to actually become someone else. Imagine becoming a serial killer, a victim of
gang rape or Adolf Hitler – starting to see the world through their eyes and
living their lives. It can be psychologically consuming.

This is
obviously true of any storyteller, even a writer, but nobody is as directly and
as completely in the game as an actor. A writer can write happy ends to all of
his life traumas (or kill the ones he loves most), but an actor follows the
lines drawn by the writer like faith itself – ending up in death or misery, or
glory, without being able to influence the course of events. (This is a cliché
but aren’t we all actors on the stage of life?)

Acting is a
challenging profession. I used to think that they were pussies, whining for
nothing and using cheap show tricks to get attention for themselves. Not
anymore. With great admiration I follow those who have the calling and talent
to change themselves – and come back.

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