I had a couple of hours to kill before my appointment, so I thought I’d duck into the movie theatre, a little local art-house, and catch a flick. I saw something I fancied but I wanted to know how long it was to make sure that it wouldn’t make me late but I couldn’t find the running length anywhere; not on the poster, nor the menu, nor among the myriad literature on the bar. I asked an attendant but she looked at me as though I’d just landed from Mars, and said she didn’t know. I pressed her on it, so she went to ask someone. When she came back, she said; “all we know is that the program finishes at six-fifteen.”
There was a time, not so long ago, when staff at art-house theatres knew about cinema, they prided themselves on it, they could be snobbish about it even. It was more than just a job, they believed in cinema, they felt connection to it, they were passionate and committed. All too often these days, they are operated by people who don’t care, who see their work as simply functional money-getting, their shift is merely an hour-by-hour churn. They work in the cinema but they take no pride in it. And frankly, it’s dispiriting.
It’s not just in our cinemas we see this attitude either. It’s repeated in almost every walk of life. Everything is functional. It’s all just something to get through.
It seems sometimes that people go into acting simply because it’s there. Simply because they can. They have no interest in acting itself, in it’s history or in other actors. They just grind through auditions, learning how to schmooze, hoping to get lucky occasionally. It shows in the results of their work – passionless performances, trivial, boring, timid, lacking creativity and provocation.
The audience however, loves actors who are forceful, committed and generous. We get a sense of anticipation, of excitement. The intensity of our focus increases when faced with an actor who has real purpose, who has something to express, who truly wants to create, who works so hard at their craft that they turn themselves into a walking work of art. These actors don’t think of themselves, they think only about what they can give to the onlooker. They are the great actors, they are the actors who inspire us, who thrill us, who delight us. After all, they know what the audience wants because they started out as fans themselves, hanging around cinemas and theatres, watching plays and movies, and they aspired to move people in the same way they were moved by their heroes.