[FILM] How to be a Movie Star
- Want To Be A Movie Star?
There seems to be a perception among the general populace that being
an actor or even a movie star isn't that difficult. I bring this up
because it feels like every day, at least a dozen Asian Pacific
Americans seem to appear out of the woodwork, determined and
convinced that they will be the next Tom Cruises and Julia Roberts'.
Usually these folks were pursuing a different career path (doctor,
businessperson, lawyer, etc.) before deciding to give it all up to
follow their dream acting.
So for any of you reading this and contemplating a career change
because you're thinking, "If Adam Sandler can make it, then how hard
can it be?" read on for some humble words of advice.
DON'T DO IT: It's a tough business. As an APA actor you will have to
struggle. Just making enough money to earn a living above the poverty
line will be difficult. You'll be begging for a one-line job on some
inane TV show playing some stereotypical character you would
otherwise ridicule. If there is any other job or career you even have
a remote interest in, do that. Choose acting only if it's the last
option; if you would rather die than do anything else. And even then,
think long and hard before you make the leap.
TRAIN AND LEARN DISCIPLINE: Usually when someone approaches me and
says they're thinking of becoming an actor, they ask one of two
questions: 1. How do I get an agent? 2. How do I make a lot of money
doing this? The answer to those two questions is irrelevant. If you
want to act, the first and only thing you should be worrying about
is: How do I become a good actor? And the answer is to train, learn
your craft and be disciplined. In other words, put in the hard work.
Take classes, do student films, get involved in theatre, study the
great actors and great films, read, learn as much about the world as
possible all these things will help make you a better actor.
Remember there are thousands of others out there who are fully
committed to their crafts and careers. Become one of them.
DON'T DO WHAT OTHER ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICAN "STARS" HAVE DONE: There
are very few examples of APA actors who have made it to "stardom" and
most of those who were able to make it have not been able to sustain
their star status for more than a few years. Why? My theory is that
these actors have relied too much on Hollywood to take care of them.
They expect Hollywood to keep offering them roles, but at some point
those offers will dry up and Hollywood will move onto the next hot
This is an area where I think we can really learn from the African
American filmmaking community. There are major African American stars
who have managed to sustain long-term careers (Denzel Washington,
Halle Berry, Wesley Snipes, etc...). Most of these stars got to where
they are because they supported African American filmmakers (and vice
versa). A good example of this is Samuel L. Jackson. He got his big
break in films working for Spike Lee (leading up to his breakthrough
performance in Lee's "Jungle Fever"). He parlayed that into a
Hollywood career but once he gained clout, he used it to support up-
and-coming black filmmakers (i.e. Kasi Lemmons' Eve's Bayou, which
Jackson appeared in and co-produced). This relationship based on
mutual support is less evident with APAs. If you're lucky enough to
cross the threshold of stardom, build relationships and develop those
who will support you for the long haul, because Hollywood doesn't
care about you.
HAVE WHAT IT TAKES: Finally, keep in mind what writer-director Robert
Towne (Chinatown, Mission Impossible) said: "What was once said of
the British aristocracy that they did nothing and did it very well
is a definition that can be applied to movie actors. For gifted
movie actors affect us most, I believe, not by talking, fighting, f--
king, killing, cursing or cross-dressing. They do it by being
photographed ... a fine actor on screen conveys a staggering amount
of information before he ever opens his mouth."
What Towne is referring to is that "movie star quality" that thing
you either have or don't. Very few possess this quality. If you
happen to be one of the lucky few, go after your dream with
everything you've got. Despite all the negatives I described, we need
APA movie stars, because in Hollywood being a star means you have the
power to make a difference. If we want to see some real changes in
the way APAs are perceived and presented on both the big and small
screens, we need our own movie stars who are willing to make that
Philip W. Chung is a writer for film, TV and theatre and co-founder
of Lodestone Theatre Ensemble, an APA theatre company. He is the
writer/director of the forthcoming APA horror film Children in the