What the heck is a hyphenate? Here’s an example:
You’re at a party, and you meet this lovely gentleman. You ask politely, “What do you do?” He answers, “I’m an actor-writer-producer-director-manager-model.” You pretend to see a friend at the other end of the room and excuse yourself briskly.
A hyphenate is someone who has a million job titles. And in Los Angeles there are more job titles floating around than citizens.
For today I’d like to discuss why I think you should never be a hyphenate and then I’ll discuss why you should always be a hyphenate. Confused? Good, that’s the way I like it.
Pretend for a second that I’m John Q. Producer and we meet on the street. We strike up a friendly conversation and I politely ask what you do. And like that creepy guy at the party you rattle off a thousand job titles. Maybe I’m interested in working with you, but now I don’t know in which capacity. If you said you were an actor I’d consider you for my next project. If you were a writer I might read your script. If you were a director I might watch your demo and see if it’s up my alley.
The vast majority of people who introduce themselves as “writers-directors-actors” have never written or directed anything professionally. I’m not arguing that you need to be published or have sold a screenplay to call yourself a writer, but is it in your best interest to lead off with that in your introduction?
You say: Eitan, what the heck are you talking about? You write short scenes, a blog and other stuff you haven’t told us about yet, shoot actor headshots, you produce a showcase AND you’re an actor. Why are you telling us not to be any of those things ourselves? Do you not like competition?
Please, you’re not competition for me. I’m way better than you.
When I meet people I say, “Hi, I’m an actor.” Why? Because it’s my primary focus as well as being the one job I can talk about the most. If I started saying, “I’m a writer.” I’d have to explain about this blog and the scenes I wrote which have been done in the showcase I produce. Hardly as impressive as my flash of brilliance on Ghost Whisperer or the Las Vegas commercial.
Once we are talking for a while I happily mention the showcase and my photography. But if I only have a few minutes to make an impression, I’d rather lead off with the actor stuff.
There’s no one way to be successful in this industry. Dozens of successful actors got where they are because they either wrote, produced or directed their own films. Love him or hate him Vin Diesel (or as I like to call him, “Vinny-D”) wrote, directed and starred in the film Strays which got him in front of Spielberg. If it wasn’t for the fact that he didn’t pigeon hole himself he’d still be a tele-marketer with a really awesome voice.
Actors really owe it to themselves to try break into the “biz” from other angles besides acting alone. Try writing something for yourself. Grab a camcorder and shoot your own short film. Team up with some friends, chip in $100 each and make a decent short film. It’s another great way to be proactive instead of sitting home all day waiting for the phone to ring.