Every flock of birds has its season and in the film industry, one trending conversation, apart from how The Wedding Party is turning water into wine (in the Middle East), is the lack of collaboration.
The theatre industry, for example, thrives on collaboration by the simple practice of it.
Director discusses the character with Actor and in so doing gets a better sense of his/her direction; Set Designer inspires the performances and blockings through his own creativity, everyone is better for such things.
In researching a future article on how we can encourage better collaboration amongst filmmakers, I was presented with this write up by fellow actress and HappyGirl, Anee Icha, which sums up my train of thoughts.
I thought it would be selfish not to share.
THE MAKER, THE ACTOR AND THE PANDER
I haven’t been in the Nigerian film industry for very long, 4 years is not long at all when I compare myself to my colleagues. There is always an incubation period in every field of work and the film industry is not exempt. This is the time where you learn the ropes, become familiar with the system, how it works and how it doesn’t work.
I’ve been told that how one handles this incubation period sets the tone for how far they go; whether or not they become a STAR! Well, that is what you’re told.
Here is what you aren’t. From my observation, the key to being a working actor here is not just talent. It is not mettle or merit. It isn’t elocution or enunciation. It isn’t even how attractive you are for the most part. These things have their place; their little corner in the massive room that is the filmmaker’s mind but there is one more thing that has gotten many an actor over the black hole of obscurity and into the warm embrace of the limelight. I call him the PANDER.
Let me introduce you to the pander.
Think of that exaggerated laugh at jokes that you do not find the least bit funny. Think of that call you make to a person that you would never ordinarily have an organic friendship with. Think of that eager nod that agrees to a concept being epic when you know it really isn’t. Think of that held tongue when you are verbally or otherwise skewered like Suya for the grill. Think of the silence when you have garish make up applied to your face and you go on camera with it because you don’t want to be termed a diva. Think of the compliance with a direction that you know could be ten times better if your input was put into consideration. Think of the gazillion likes you give to every single ridiculous, uninteresting, unrelatable post on their Instagram or Twitter accounts. This is the pander. I believe that actors perpetuate the narrative of being in need because they do not fully understand that the art of film is COLLABORATIVE.
The actor is a vehicle through which stories are told, not the fortunate stowaway who eats the scraps from the buffet table on a cruise. Actors are not charity cases and are not being done a favor when they are given a role.
When we can understand this, taking on a role evolves from being an opportunity that you are afraid to lose and becomes a responsibility the actor is duty bound not to shirk. Actors would stop begging for work and start looking for better ways to exercise their muscle so that when work finds them they are ready to deliver a stellar performance. Actors would act and filmmakers would expect nothing more from them than to do so.
In an ideal world this article would go viral and cause a revolution in the minds of both parties, however I haven’t been a practicing idealist for some time now. The filmmaker, the actor and the pander have become that famous three strand cord that is near impossible to sever.
Is it a product of cultural influence on professional best practice? Is it the tender age of our film industry and the ones operating in it or is it simply a case of sensitive egos that need constant stroking?
I do not presume to know the answer, as I myself must have clicked like on a plate of rice and chicken on Mildred Okwo’s Instagram page to get her attention a couple of times. Lol.
What I do know is that there is plenty room for growth and a deeper understanding of the craft for both parties and maybe this article will go a little way in fostering that growth.