An actor who auditioned for my latest film Octavia: Elegy for a Vampire just balked at our offer to participate in the film (I offered a part!) The actor interrogated my partner: “How much and when will I get paid? What are you shooting with? And what do you intend to do with the film after its made?”
We wanted to reply to this lost soul:
“We’ll pay you what that silly television show paid you to shake your ass for a bunch of rich gangsters in “cool” 1920’s gear. Sound good? We’re shooting with AK-47’s (we no longer believe in cameras). And we intend to hide the film in an insane asylum until it burns down and someone can find it in 50 years.”
I have no idea what has happened to the Actor. There is a strange new breed of actors that have come of age in the new millennium, actors reared on proxy, business kits, the internet, American Idol, and marketing showcases. Actors have always been a strange, insecure, odd breed of artists. They are, actually, the odd man out even among artists themselves – because their art is inextricably bound up with social systems, the zeitgeist, the ebb and flow of capitalism and getting ahead, etc. And I understand this. It is a harsh world and one must be crazy to be an actor. The rejection, the disappointment, the nutjobs who manhandle your career, the evil back-stabbers who thwart a good audition, the jealous types who make sure you never get a good role or opportunity — I know it happens. I’ve seen it. I’ve experienced it. But that’s also why I stepped back and away from the tide of Show Business and why, at the tender early age of 21, decided completely that mainstream Entertainment Industrial complex wasn’t for me.
I have no tolerance for actors who aren’t artists and I really don’t know what to say to actors who actually care about Hollywood. I look and crave for the actor who wants and NEEDS to act – to save his or her soul. Not to feed a mortgage or dignify his parents greed or justify their own egotistical cravings.
I have swept floors and worked in warehouses in 100 degree weather in the middle of New Jersey to feed my own habit as an artist and to ensure that I could remain true to myself. I don’t judge others who do what they have to do – either for money or for the proclivities of their soul — but I cannot for the life of me understand the sad pathetic insulting requisitions and inquiries made by actors who APPROACHED ME and submitted to our ULTRA-LOW BUDGET SAG film only to try to play “Mr Hollywood Big-Shot” when we offered them a part.
For all you lost in the wilderness:
I am Dennis Leroy Kangalee. I am not Darren Aronofsky. I am not Steve McQueen. I am not Kelly Reichardt. I do not say this to disparage these talented individuals, I say this to clarify: even if I had the support and access to money that they do, I’d still make my films the way I have always approached cinema and theater and I would still be only concerned with expressing my own madness and trying to find some peace within.
Actors are emotional athletes. They should not be Corporate Soldiers. If your concern is “what camera” a director is shooting with and NOT about the character or the ideas of the director, etc – then something is wrong with you.
There is utter transparency with my work, my reputation as someone who has NEVER EVER sold out, bought in, copped out, or stood down. I’ve had my work screened in Burkina Faso, Paris, Berlin, and New Orleans when the establishment at the NY TIMES refused to acknowledge my work or that of any other ‘African American art’-filmmaker’s work. I am a man who has wiped down counters and cleaned fridges in order to pay my actors, musicians, etc. And I am proud of that. And I take great offense when I post what kind of union film this is (they are even lucky I am dealing with a such a corrupt organization such as SAG), and yet get treated like my work is not as “important” as the mainstream independents’ is. My work is actually more important. And, frankly, we need directors and writers and actors and producers who challenge ALL status-quos and try to make films that are less like a real estate deal…and more like a poem. Here’s my suggestion: When you walk into an audition and ask Spike Lee or Martin Scorsese what they intend to do with their films and get a response, then I’ll reconsider my righteousness.
But only a little.