What MAKES Sammy Run? – WHEN YOU REFUSE TO LEARN, THE BRIDGES WILL BURN
Remember, the Disney World ride, “IT’S A SMALL WORLD AFTER ALL?” Well, I can promise you that same theme holds true for the entertainment business.
It’s an extremely small business and word gets around.
Now, I believe when the bad word spreads, Hollywood does LOVE comebacks and anything – to some extent – is overcome-able, however, why put yourself behind the eight ball to start? And why make yourself have to work even harder at an extremely hard business to begin with?
You see, I come into contact with so many people who suffer from one of the BIGGEST forms of self-sabatage: FEAR OF SUCCESS.
Now, to combat this phobia, one must first understand it:
You see, FEAR OF SUCCESS = FEAR OF FAILURE. They are the exact same phobia. Once you understand that, THAT is half the battle.
"But Sam, what has that got to do with not learning and burning bridges? And how does that tie in to this being a small business?”
I will show you. A few weeks ago, Federico Castelluccio – who many of you know as the character of Furio on THE SOPRANOS and yet others of you know him from his hysterical supporting role in MADE w/ Vince Vaughan and Jon Favreau, and yet others of you know him as a hip and talented painter on the NYC scene – was with me at a BEST OF THE FEST – GOLDEN DOOR INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL OF JERSEY CITY event, where his film LILY OF THE FEAST was playing. He said to me, “Sam you know Joe Piscopo (the famous actor and SNL comedian), don’t you?” And, I responded, “No, but I have a mutual friend with Joe.”
“Joe is a good friend of mine, and we were just talking last week.”
My mutual friend is on good terms with Joe, and I am sure that Joe and Federico had a pleasant conversation about me. However, if Federico, who I directed in
POLLINATION * was not on good terms with me – or Joe wasn’t - do you see how everyone seems to know everyone in this business? Federico and I get along well, and I know Joe likes my friend, and seems to like me. In this case, it could have worked against me.
Now, about the FEAR OF SUCCESS thing – this kind of phobia holds back actors from getting the success they crave, desire and deserve. They begin to flake on people, then, words spreads on what a flake you are. Here’s an example: One student, who shall remain nameless, inexplicably didn’t show up for one of my classes recently, with no explanation, no excuse (and we all know what excuses are, really), and no return phone call. This came on the heels of me giving them two opportunities to work on sets of mine, acting, producing, free trips toL.A.
Adding insult to injury, this particular student had been slacking off for quite some time, and had even resorted to lying to me to get out of another class. Their acting has gone backward – and I say this NOT to be mean in any way, shape or form – and now they can’t even be counted on to attend class or run errands for me, as they used to. And in their one chance to prove to me their range, they couldn’t even be counted on to remember their lines.
Hence, I have cut ties.
But, my point is that this actor knew what the consequences would be and threw caution to the wind anyway, all the while telling people how dedicated they were to their craft. They have now thrown away years of working with me, learning from me on sets, and in my classes. They cannot even count on me for a reference.
Think I am being harsh? Well, guess what – most people in this business are much harsher than me. And, oh by the way, this same actor, recently flaked on another director after offering to help them out. No canceling. No phone call. No excuse. Nothing.
That shows you two key things:
- Failure to learn from their mistakes. And …
- As a result of this failing to learn, the bridges with myself and this other director have been burned.
The only two theories are stupidity or FEAR OF SUCCESS. I will choose to believe the latter.
Another person recently missed their third consecutive class – after never having attended one. Let me explain: one “new” student was offered a special reduced price class and then proceeded to miss each and every class after being offered that deal. The third – and final blow – came this past class, when I received an e-mail stating their job called them into work on their day off (Saturday), as they were traveling to my class. On the heels of two other misses, my thoughts are this, their answer should have been:
“Sorry, I have plans, on the way to an acting workshop, that I’ve paid for, and can’t miss.”
A very understandable explanation.
Remember, my classes are very different. One student described them as “if you are waking up and about to go to set. It's an exciting feeling like none other.” And, as I say, each class is an audition. That showed me that that particular student/actor did not have the dedication to even keep their word. And, I am a working director/producer in the process of casting several new projects.
Not smart. Not cool. Yet this person is seemingly committed to making it. I offered the reduced-price class based solely on their talent. That says I saw something – something – in them. They responded by missing three straight classes.
Can you say, “FEAR OF SUCCESS?”
Here’s a tip: When a director or producer, one that has worked with Academy Award Winners and Academy Award Nominees, takes an interest in you, give them your best.
I seem to trumpet the same names every week – while others drop off the list – and I have no problem with that. One name I keep bringing up is Samantha Tuffarelli – she won the WILL YOU BE MY NEXT GREAT SUCCESS STORY contest here at ForTalent. She recently had her best class with me … and that is saying something, because all of her classes have been excellent.
I asked her to perform a difficult scene – the very scene that helped Courtney Hogan win an ACCOLADE AWARD OF EXCELLENCE for LEAD ACTRESS. I asked her to do it very late in the day, during a crazy 11-hour day (yes I told you my workshops were different), and after giving her very personal direction about this character that has remained one of the favorite characters I’ve ever created.
With little time, much pressure, and much emotion hanging around her, she did the scene and BLEW EVERYONE AWAY – including MYSELF … ESPECIALLY MYSELF!
That’s what great actors do – they act. They don’t make excuses, miss class or show up late to set. They don’t require 19 takes to get one usable one. They don’t forget their lines.
I’ve told all my actors in the workshop, including Samantha, how directors and producers alike, wish to work with actors that make their lives easier – not harder. Yet some foolish actor always thinks they can beat the system.
Samantha not only gave an amazing performance, but she has helped to coach younger actors that look up to her, such as Mariam Giorgadze, who not only had her best class, but seemed to follow in Samantha’s footsteps. And after Mariam did that same emotional scene that Samantha did, it was the latter that helped her come down.
I’ve watched Samantha do emotional scenes – with real emotion, real tears, and all she seems to need is a minute to compose herself afterward and she’s on to the next scene. THIS is the kind of stuff that impresses me. Not people telling me obvious false compliments to appease me.
Remember, in theory, if you flake on me in my workshop, you just may flake on me on set. So, why burn a bridge with me … or anyone, for that matter?
And, remember, every time you burn a bridge, it’s not just that person you are burning the bridge with – it’s their friends and their contacts.
Now, remember me telling you it was a small business? Well, Ms. Tuffarelli found herself in New York City, one day after impressing me and the entire class, when she came face to face with one Mr. Federico Castelluccio. Normally an imposing sight at nearly 6-foot-2, he was a mere Teddy Bear, after she told him she knew me.
They had a nice conversation and Federico explained to her how I asked him to come to my class and critique them, maybe act in a scene with a student. Have some lunch with us and share his war stories. Sam implored him to come – told him what a great learning experience it would be for her and the others. And she gave him her card.
Imagine now, if Sam had been the one to blow off class? Imagine if she had quit? How could she have gone up to Federico and told him she knew me? She knows how impressed with her talent, work-ethic and who she is personally I am, that she absolutely was right in introducing herself. However, if one of these other students had done the same thing – do you think I would recommend them to Federico, when he and I spoke?
It really is a small business after all.
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Film / Theater / TV, Writing
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