By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act August 2, 2013 at 11:31AM
Recapping... I did this in February of last year (2012), and got a few response, so I figured, a year-and-a-half later, with the site's audience now larger than it was back then, that I'd try it again.
I know that a significant chunk of S&A's audience comprises of actors, actresses, directors, DPs, editors, etc, etc, etc. Some are able to earn a paycheck utilizing their artistic and/or technical skills; others - and I'd say the majority - are what we've labeled the proverbial *starving artists*, working diligently, relentlessly, struggling to climb this incredibly steep hill, trying to reach some pinnacle of success - whether personal or professional. And still others exist somewhere between the former and the latter.
Where do you fall? And, as the title of this post states, what's YOUR story, and would you like to share it with the rest of the world?
Think of it as an extension of the successful S&A Filmmaker Diary series we launched almost 2 years ago. I'm looking for your individual stories of struggle and/or success, regardless of what rung on the ladder you are currently on, after all, not only is S&A just a source for news, its goal is also to become a community of cinema lovers where we can all share/debate/discuss/learn/teach/commiserate/etc.
Here's your chance. You might learn something; you might teach someone something.
What's YOUR story? You can email me (firstname.lastname@example.org). You can submit your story in any format - written, or even documented on video. I'll post as many of them as I can. Substance and presentation are key for consideration.
And be sure to attach a photo (large size) for me to include, and if you have samples of your work, include them as well.
It could be a story about a current situation you find yourself in; or it could cover several days, weeks, months, or years of your career. It could be that you just want to vent your frustrations; aspects of, or people in this business that piss you off; aspects of, or people in the industry that encourage you. It doesn't have to be all negative, nor all positive. We're complex people, and so I assume our stories are as well.
I'm an actor from Baltimore, Maryland, living and working in Chicago.
Having since graduated with an MFA from The Theatre School at DePaul University in June 2011, I've been very lucky, and I don't take that fortune for granted, I'm just too hungry to rest on success; even as my focus shifts back and forth between navigating the climb as an actor and being a half-assed screenwriter with no discipline. But besides all that, a few things have become clearer to me in my chosen profession.
The first thing is that, since before DePaul, or even when I was studying for a BS in Mass Communications at Shepherd University in West Virginia, as an actor, with my skin color being what it is...and the history of it in the United States being what it is...I know that nobody in Hollywood is looking for me. Yet.
Because according to the money folders in this business, I'm not a sought after or marketable type. At least not as much as the most sought after, marketable type, which is the 18 to 34 year-old, Taylor Kinney, Chicago Fire dude—or, young white male.
The second thing I've become more aware of is that it's my responsibility, besides all this acting stuff, to create situations where I am a marketable type—beyond the stereotypical—and where I can help produce stories about the people that do have my skin color, trusting that it will resonate with someone in another "market" who doesn't have my skin color, and that they'll buy them.
I chuckle when I see a feature in Variety, which doesn't have much variety at all, heralding the "10 New Actors to Watch" or whatever, and it's all lighter-skinned European faces. White. And not to two step into a tangent, but we all have color. Pigmentation, melanin—whatever. Some of us have eumelanin, others of us have pheomelanin, but technically? we're all people of color—if I can be so bold to say that and not get karate chopped on the neck in the comments section.
The point is that I don't see myself up there and there's no reason why I shouldn't.
Although, the comment I've read the most explaining away the lack of presence, which I've grown too cynical about to take seriously anymore, is that a film or tv show with a predominately black, African-American, darker-skinned—whatever word you want to use—cast does not sell overseas.
So, what you're telling me, is that regardless of the quality of the writing and the acting, the direction and the production, blahzay blah, it's the skin color that brokers the deal?
You're telling me that, as a black person, I should be able to connect with Michael Fassbender, or Jessica Chastain, or any white actors on that screen, but if it's a black actor up there, and you're white, you can't connect in the same way to that person's experience? You can't buy that? You can't sell that?
I call bullshit.
And my personal crusade against that ideology is not boycotting. It's not stamping and shouting. It's doing the best work I can and making sure that, in addition to my knowledge of the history of my ancestors in this country, my personal experience is present on that screen or stage. Because I want to invite that person in the audience who does not look like me—especially them—to see that we are connected through emotional experience.
And the marketability of that emotional experience has nothing to do with the color of my skin.
That's my story, for now, and I'm sticking to it.
Thanks for letting me ramble.