Soapstars

The Strippers vs. Werewolves promo has spread across the net and seems to be generating a fair bit of interest. This is it, if you haven’t seen it yet:

Some of that interest is positive, some of it’s negative.

Some people chuckle at the concept and are expecting a comedy. Some people salivate at the implication of nudity (because it’s sooo hard to see moving images of naked women in the 21st Century) and are expecting to be aroused.

Some people pour scorn on what they perceive to be a badly made serious film. A few even get very irate when they realise the film didn’t have a huge budget and seem to be of the opinion films shouldn’t be made for anything less than millions.

I kind of expected all these opinions, to be honest; but the opinion I find odd is the aggressive hatred aimed at some members of the cast for being *gasp* ex-soapstars.

It’s very weird. The press love ex-soapstars. So do a lot of real-world people, you know, the ones you can actually meet and interact with. Show them a trailer with some recognisable faces in and they get excited. But not online. Online (or at least the portion of online folk who comment on horror-comedy promos) think ex-soapstars are scum and proof-positive the film-makers are scraping the bottom of the barrel.

There’s this idea that once an actor leaves a soap, they’re unable to get work again. Yes, that’s sometimes true; but then the default status for most actors is unemployed – it’s not a condition reserved for ex-soapstars.

From a UK film-maker’s point of view, soapstars (ex or otherwise) are a good thing. They increase the likelihood of financing and distribution, garner a lot of press coverage *and* they can act.

Apparently, some people dispute the acting part; but I think that’s unfair.

Okay, so the truth about actors is the same as it is for writers. Possibly even more so: line up 1000 actors and you’d be lucky to find one who can act.

If you can remember your lines and frown on cue – congratulations! You’re in the top two percent of actors!

Given the sheer volume of bad actors in the world (including all the people who say they’re actors despite never having acted in anything) and it’s statistically correct to round it up and say all actors are bad actors.

But not actually true. There are also a lot of good actors in the world.

Competition for roles in soaps is intense, it’s not like they can’t afford to pick and choose. A lot of already well established actors have their favourite soap and would love a guest role. You don’t get a role in a soap if you *can’t* act.

That’s not to say all soap actors are great actors either. In the same way not all painters are great painters – just because you’re not a genius who resonates throughout the ages, doesn’t mean you’re not good.

One thing soap actors are good at is getting it right quickly. The nature of the soap environment means they have little time to learn their lines and have to nail it in as few takes as possible.

By comparison, theatre actors may have months to learn their lines and weeks to rehearse. Film actors may have to learn their lines overnight but have multiple takes to get it right.

The script on a film can change massively between the first day of shooting and the last. Actors change, locations fall through, whole sequences are dropped because the schedule is too tight – it’s in a constant change of flux.

The schedule on a low-budget film (and in the UK, they’re all low budget) doesn’t allow for multiple takes. You rarely get time to film the whole script, let alone shoot extra improvisation takes.

The best actors, from a UK film-maker’s perspective, are ones who can take a script at short notice and perform it to a the best standard possible in very few takes. Ones who’ve had years of practice of working in high-pressure, time-starved environments.

You know, soap actors.

The fact they come with built in press attention and pique the curiosity of a large swathe of the population is no bad thing either.

A lot of very good films fail to get distribution or never get the audience they deserve because no one’s heard of anyone in the cast. One ex-soapstar generates inches of column space and can make the difference between financial success or failure.

The funny thing about people leaving negative comments about the cast on an online trailer is the cast have done a portion of their job – they’ve raised awareness of the film. Even if a percentage of people hate seeing ex-soapstars in a trailer – at least they’ve heard of the film and at least the film got financing and distribution for them to actually see it.

I’m not saying every film should have a soap actor in it; but I do feel fortunate to have worked with some over the last few years and I love watching the thrill of recognition on people’s faces when I show them a soapstar-laden trailer.

I can’t wait to see who’ll be speaking my lines next.

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Categories: Industry Musings, Strippers vs. Werewolves, Things I've Learnt Recently | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “Soapstars

  1. Agree completely. People think that anyone who has been in something popular CAN’T do something else. Dumb logic. Billie Piper went from mousey-pop-star to drama legend; Justin Timberlake from boyband to Hollywood; and look at how muscle-bound underwear-boy Marky Mark has done. Amazing people.

    Sometimes some people should shut up and take a look at their own failings.

  2. I Tweeted yesterday (to Phill) that I didn’t care about them; the ‘them’ in this case being soap stars. I also said that they couldn’t act. I was being facetious about the acting bit. As this blog post states, you don’t get a part in a soap if you can’t act. Although, I think it’s also fair to say the standard of acting is not always brilliant – it *can’t* be when so many scenes have to be shot per day. Sometimes the acting is brilliant, of course.

    Anyway, I meant what I said about not caring for the actors themselves. I don’t. Not really. Why would I? I don’t know them for a start. I’m sure most are decent people (people, on the whole, tend to be) and they’re clearly able to maintain a professional attitude in a fast-paced, stressful environment otherwise they wouldn’t get hired… and they certainly wouldn’t stay employed. But any emotional connection I make, if I make one at all, is with the character, not the actor. As it should be. I can keep the two things separate.

    And I don’t buy into the idea that actor A, because he played character X in soap Q, but is now starring in movie H, means that movie is going to be great… or even good. It might be, of course. It might be fucking amazing. I’ll wait until I see it before I decide though. And I’ll go and see it/rent the DVD if I like the sound of it not because it stars actor A specifically.

    Soaps are popular so it stands to reason the media will give the stars a fairly hefty amount of airtime/column inches. It’s not a difficult equation; popular actors/actresses help sell newspapers and magazines.

    And it also makes sense to capitalise, where possible, on these popular figures if it can help sell a movie or, indeed, *insert product here*.

    But this is the merry-go-round. The one everyone in the industry rides (or tries to get on), because, as this blog post states, it can mean the success or failure of a project. It’s about bums on seats. It’s just a shame that it’s an ‘*and* they can act’ situation, as opposed to the acting being the more relevant bit. Such is life.

    I realise I’m in the minority. I don’t suffer from any form of idol worship. I have a hell of a lot of respect and admiration for a lot of people but I’m not mental; I don’t think they’re gods or superheroes.

    As for the derision found online, regarding soap stars. I don’t care about that either. The internet seems to have a whole universe’s worth of hate going spare.

    I’ll go and see Werewolves vs. Strippers because it sounds like a lot of fun, was co-written by someone I respect/like – even though we’ve never met in real life – and hey, you know… strippers!

  3. Pingback: 2011 « The Jobbing Scriptwriter

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