Actors and their past performances

I strive to focus on the present and try to avoid looking too much into the past or ponder too much about the future. Yet recently I have had to find and watch many of my old performances. I have reacted to those different performances in various ways and it made me think a lot about how other actors may feel about their performances.

Some actors are incredibly critical of themselves when watching themselves back. Others look back and think of all the ways they could have done things differently. It can be very difficult for actors to stay objective and to not quickly rush to the conclusion that they're terrible.

Though I didn't fall into every trap in the book, there were some performances I watched back that I initially felt dissatisfied with, where upon seeing the final result I thought to myself, "If I had known it was going to be like that, I would have done it differently!" But there are some old lessons I then remembered and also some new things I realised, some reassuring reasons why actors and their past performances are not terrible, which I thought would be interesting to share.

In one cartoon I was watching back that I voiced for, I seemed to be speaking quite slowly and as a result, I felt like I was coming across as a bit dull, which when you're meant to be entertaining kids isn't a good thing. Yet when I thought back to the job, I remembered that I was directed into this style of read. In addition to this, the gig went very smoothly and they repeatedly said I was doing a great job. That's how they wanted the character.

In another video I found that I heard my voice in, I was disappointed at how flat I sounded. I remembered for some of the takes I submitted that I was on the brink of tears. Had I misremembered how I sounded? I got concerned about this enough to go back and find the files I sent them – I had sent 5 takes plus some extra bits and there was a varying level of emotion submitted, including a couple of takes with very strong emotions… yet what they went with were some of the flattest takes. I realised that it's the director and editor's choice to pick what will be in the final product.

I mean, when you think about it, if the client wasn't happy with what you did, they would have asked for more takes. If they weren't at all getting what they wanted, they would have replaced you and even if they did replace you, there are a million reasons other than you being terrible as to why they may have done it, commonly it turns out that you're  just not quite what they wanted – it's not that you're bad, it's just that you're not what they need.

Before people see a performance, it often needs the approval of numerous people first. So if your performance makes it, clearly it is enjoyed and deemed just what they need from multiple sources. I guess I'm drifting towards this conclusion: it's obviously what THEY want and how THEY see it in their mind, even if that is different from how YOU see it or how YOU feel about it.

There are some lessons in life that hit you straight away and others that take time to realise. One of my mentors, the brilliant Richard Horvitz, once told me something that's his paraphrasing of a Woody Allen quote: 80% of this is showing up. It's only recently as a result of this experience that this lesson has begun to really sink in. Though it can be hard to accept, I guess your job really is to just show up on time and do your thing as best as you can.

Posted on June 6, 2017 .