What Would Ira Do?
By: Jess Canty
Thought I would share a quote that a development executive recently shared with me recently from the incredible Ira Glass.
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not.
But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit.
Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this.
And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work.
Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions.
And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
Now obviously he is talking about writing/producing radio - but I think it applies to any creative endeavor.
So how do we apply it to acting?
Go look at your last talent report and find something we've submitted you on and pull the sides from showfax and prepare the audition. Tape yourself. Watch it. Be critical. Then do it again in class. Get feedback.
This is why we and your agents will tell you to be in class. This is why you need to look at auditions as just one more opportunity to do work.
This is why you need to find a way to not wait for permission to practice. So put yourself on a deadline every week and prepare a set of sides.
Cultivate your taste. Watch good TV. Watch terrible TV. Watch great old movies. Watch great new movies. Have opinions. Figure out what you like. What do you love? What do you think is shit? What do you think misses the mark. Can you explain why? Can you defend it? Re-act a bad performance in your head. How would you have done it differently?
Jerry Seinfeld in Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee spends a lot of time with his guests re-counting great comedy bits. Bits that they could have done on Seinfeld. They talk about WHY something is funny. And WHY something may not be funny. Or could have been funnier.
And most importantly - when you're given the opportunity, can you deliver? Will you be able to force your skill to catch up to your taste? Because at each step in this game, that is what is being asked of you.
Please don't think it gets easier.
You book your first co-star and then you'll want to be a guest star. Is your skill up to snuff?
You do a few guest stars and guess what? Can you carry a show? Now you're offer-only. Will you know WHAT show to choose when you get there?
And what happens at that moment when your skill DOES catch up to your taste? Will you have the stamina to sustain it? Will you be able to continue to deliver? Continue to choose the right projects? Continue to push yourself?
Try to do as much work as possible. In class. With a friend. Alone in your room. And fight your way through.