When I first moved to Seattle I used to tell my San Francisco friends that the Seattle artistic community was much more accessible than the San Francisco artistic community.
- I meant that in Seattle I could be at a party or an opening and walk up to the casting director for one of the Equity houses and we would have a conversation about our mutual interests; but in S.F. I’d have to know the secretary of the mayor’s brother to even get in the same room as a casting director for an Equity house.
- I meant that in Seattle I could go to a party with a bunch of painters and meet a playwright and a musician and make new collaborative working partners or friends.
- I meant that I could post a notice on a theater list asking for writers and get a mix of playwrights, literary writers, non-fiction writers, and that the connection would keep growing and that we could meet to work together for 3 years every Saturday morning.
- I meant that I could be cast 30% of the times I auditioned, instead of 5% in the Bay Area.
So, perhaps that was all true. But, as I think back on my time in that rainy city, there also is another side. It seems to me that there was a distinct lack of professionalism, of follow-through, in Seattle to balance the availability of resources.
- For example, I was cast in 4 indie films and 2 TV shows that never shot. None of them even called to say, “Don’t come to the location; we’re not shooting.”
- Another 3 films I was in were shot but never edited.
- Actors who worked with me on writing screenplays or stage plays to self-produce and showcase our mutual acting work flaked out every time they got a project that was further along, and eventually flaked altogether on the collaborative self-promotion.
- A director-playwright cancelled a show the instant actors in rehearsal gave her their feedback on their characters.
- A director extended a play script by adding a half hour from the film version to the stage script–making the play 190 minutes long; he did this so an actor could “get a few more lines and make it worth her while.”
- A local cable TV producer called in actors for a screen test, kept them for over 2 hours; never even reading some of the actors; instead, actors sat around while the writers changed the script back and forth.
- A commercial producer called in actors for what he called an “audition;” he taped our readings; later we found out that he edited the tapes into a pilot/pitch (using our un-paid work) to sell his concept to a sponsor; then he cast the infomercial out of L.A.
Though I recognize that many of the projects I’ve described were independent projects (only the infomercial could be considered a professional project), I still think the lack of professionalism is disturbing.
In contrast, in San Francisco, the not-yet-professional folks were driven to finish projects and not to tarnish their reputations because they wanted to make it to a level where they could be paid for their work.
Here in Seattle I get the feeling that to remain an unpaid hack is okay.
That might be true for some folks as long as they’re having fun; however, the other part of that attitude is the lack of respect shown to their fellow participants in the process.