There is much to admire in the talent that is on display in the American entertainment industry. I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the finest actors, of standing on film sets as they use body and soul to turn pages into a careful approximation of the human condition.
Some of these great talents I have come to admire, even love. And many have even managed to eschew the American fixation with celebrity and the culture of entitlement that the entertainment industry — and the ridiculous money that is layered over the industry — manages to nurture and exploit. Don’t think it doesn’t require professionalism and strength of character to stay true to yourself and to the work, when from every point on the compass, people are telling you how much more attention and cash and respect you deserve.
But just when I am ready to give all credit to those who labor in front of the camera, I find myself on set and I catch a glimpse of the assistant directors directing traffic, or the grips and sparks setting up, or the hair and makeup people rushing to last looks, or the propmaster sweating the details. And doing it all for union scale, twelve hours or more a day, five days a week.
And it’s at that point that I am thankfully reminded, again, that this grandiose misadventure in visual artifice is only possible through quiet, quotidian professionalism. I have worked with a lot of great actors, many of whom have been delightful and thoughtful human beings. But I am most proud of having been a part of some of the finest television production crews ever assembled in New Orleans, in Baltimore and in southern Africa. These folks are the ones who mitigate whatever shame a grown-up pretending to be a writer — or maybe a writer pretending to be a grown-up — feels about a life misspent in make-believe.
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