Mayfield: ‘Just go for it’ isn’t good enough
Vail CO, Colorado
Earlier this week I was listening as an actress who has had a long and very successful career in TV and film lectured a class of would-be stars on the realities of show business.
“Remember the hardest part of acting on camera is getting the chance to act on camera.”
And with that she launched into a grim but accurate description of the difficulties of landing a part. She admonished the class to aggressively pursue any opportunity to put themselves on the screen. “It doesn’t matter what the part is or what the movie is about … just go for it!” The class nodded in eager communal agreement. I wondered if they hadn’t just committed themselves to a process that might quickly lead to pernicious cinematic projects they wouldn’t normally see let alone participate in. I suspect this is why the pornographic film industry has little difficulty finding new talent or why participants for idiotic reality shows continue to line up outside TV studio doors.
Such is the nature of the business and, at least according to this experienced teacher, one either submits to the process or sits it out altogether.
As I listened, I wondered if such conventional reasoning allowed for the perversion of other systems. It didn’t take long before I was pondering the process of choosing our next president.
Listening to the candidates endlessly speak generally about nothing very specific, the corollary between the two industries grew increasingly clear. Both appear to be systems with participatory requirements that, if not rigorously followed, preclude involvement of anyone who questions the process. The candidacies of Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich might be good examples of the innate inequities of our current system. Although both men have managed to keep their candidacies barely alive through grassroot support, neither candidate has any hope of breaking through the entrenched system currently in place.
Mr. Paul’s and Mr. Kucinich’s reluctance to play along with a system that has degenerated into media-fed popularity contests paradoxically precludes them from being seriously considered at all. “It doesn’t matter what the part is or what the movie is about … just go for it.!” Say anything that will please the farmers in Iowa, the Yankees in New Hampshire, the out-of-work auto workers in Detroit, the evangelicals in South Carolina or the gamblers in Vegas … just go for it! Our current president employed just such a rationale (along with a little help from the Supreme Court) to garner eight years in the White House. A plethora of astonishingly stupid decisions quickly revealed how ill-prepared he was for the office but he had played the system well and for that he was well rewarded.
The Sundance Film Festival is going on this weekend just a few mountains west of here. Sundance was begun by film folk tired of trying to break into a system that was based on the “Just do it!” philosophy of filmmaking. A forum was created in Park City that allowed for entree without adherence to an ethically ambiguous prerequisite. It thrived and is now, many would say, in need of its own reformation. Nevertheless, Sundance serves as a model for actors, directors, screenwriters and others who seek to develop systems that encourage creativity and innovation and refute the prevailing conventional wisdom.
One cannot help but wonder about, indeed even wish for, a similar revolution in a political process where more than just multi-millionaires or pious platitudes shape the presidential race.
Rich Mayfield is the author of “Reconstructing Christianity: Notes from the New Reformation.” E-mail comments about this column to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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