Monday, March 8, 2010

The morning after ... and a few thoughts about "winning"

It’s the “morning after” after in Hollywood this week as the post-mortem begins on this year’s Academy Awards presentations and telecast on Sunday night. I’ll leave that dissecting to the experts. I have something else to impart.

I haven't been much of a fan of award shows, in general, and not just because I have never won anything (it was an honor just to be nominated!).

I think the whole idea of awarding “the best” of anything leaves too many people feeling disappointed, feeling left out, feeling as if the hard work they did that they were so proud of meant nothing to anybody else.

The business of acting is a tough place to live. As multi-award-winning actor Hal Linden (Barney Miller) told me in our interview for our Web series Inside the Business of Acting, “Acting is a journey, and you have to be prepared never to succeed, and it was just they journey that made it worth it.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Tony Award-nominee and television star (One Day at a Time) Bonnie Franklin told me in another interview for our Web series, “This business is tough; it’s tough on families and it’s tough on your soul.”

In other words, if this is a line of work you wish to pursue, you had better pursue it for all of the right reasons and none of the wrong ones.

Recognition can be a great thing. An award from one’s peers for doing the work you would do anyway is icing on the cake of having gotten the job in the first place. My longtime client and friend Isabel Sanford earned the Best Actress in a Comedy Emmy Award for her role as Louise Jefferson on the long running, hit TV series The Jeffersons. It was a honor she cherished, but it was also an honor that came with certain responsibilities. To be crowned “the best,” comes with a set of qualifications and the expectation that you will continue to uphold the title in all that you do – an impossible task for anyone.

Indeed this is a tough business that forgives little. It’s nice to be awarded and rewarded, but it’s much nicer to work at something that gives you pleasure, that fills your spirit and that brings you joy (whether it brings you any money is another story entirely).

So, to young, new-to-the-business actors who seek success at the highest level, I urge you to define success as something achievable through hard work and personal advancement. Do not ever attempt to define yourself or your career in terms that others set.

Awards are nice, I'll say that, as long as you recognize that if/when you’re up for one and you’re not a winner, that you are clear that you're not a loser either.

I do salute the winners of last night’s Academy Awards. But, I also salute the work of every other artist and craftsperson in the business of acting who goes to work every day there is work to do and happily, passionately and eagerly does the work they were born to do, whether someone else recognizes their achievements or not.

Just a few thoughts on this “day after” the Oscars as I was thinking about all of the wonderful actors I represent, those I know, those I have taught, and those who have touched my life. And the winner is … you.