It’s all personal

I hope you can forgive me for another movie reference.  As an actress, so many of my touchstones come from the world of cinema.  As I noted the other day in my post There’s No Place Like Home, I watched the movie You’ve Got Mail with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks.  It’s a wonderful movie and one that was fun to revisit for a while.  It’s funny how things hit you differently at different times.  Since I’d seen it a bunch when it first came out, I was reacquainting myself with some of the great writing Nora Ephron did on this film.  But this time, a section of dialogue jumped out at me which it hadn’t done before.  It was when Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) goes to Kathleen’s (Meg Ryan) apartment after her store closed because he’s found out she’s sick with a bad cold.  She’s not very gracious about the visit and is not polite to him at all.  He says to her “It wasn’t personal“.  She replies “What is that supposed to mean? I am so sick of that. All that means is that it wasn’t personal to you. But it was personal to me. It’s *personal* to a lot of people. And what’s so wrong with being personal, anyway?”  He doesn’t quit know what to say to this challenge so he replies very eloquently “uh, nothing“.  She retorts, “Whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal.

This stood out to me as if Klieg lights were shined directly on the text.  My whole life I’ve been told I take things too personally.  In business, when I was passed over for a promotion for someone that was still in the training program, I was told this was nothing personal, just the best decision for the business (really?  it had nothing to do with the fact his salary was half of mine?!).  In acting when you are the product, you work your entire career to not take the rejection personally.  You are too blond, brunette, tall, short, green eyed, female, whatever.  How on earth those comments can’t be taken personally is beyond me!

It is personal to me as I’m sure it is to the majority of people walking around.  Dismissing customers, comments, complaints & suggestions with a flip “It’s not personal” does a disservice to the integrity of a human connection.  It’s saying your priorities are more important than the other persons.  Sometimes it’s an easy cop-out to a difficult situation or a way to avoid a truthful confrontation.  But don’t fool yourself, it may not be personal to you, but it’s very personal to the other person.  Remembering that fact may help find a better way to express yourself.

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7 Responses to “It’s all personal”

  1. Peter K. O'Connell Says:

    In acting (voice or otherwise and I’ve never been an otherwise kinda guy) they are NOT rejecting you even if they say you are too blond or too tall or too gorgeous.

    What they are saying is “your look, your sound your countenance does not match the sound or look that we have in our heads for this character.”

    Casting is not objective, it is subjective but from the point of view only of the casting director or producer. It is vision of a character that they have in their head; they often see it sooo clearly that anything outside of their very tiny box doesn’t get considered.

    The look or sound for these casting people needs to be blatant to what their vision is that no one else on the periphery is considered.

    So rather than reflecting badly on you for not being chosen, the casting choice is a reflection on the myopic vision of the producers…a vision they are entirely entitled to.

    It is about the PRODUCER. Or as our friend Philip Banks is fond of saying “It’s not about me!” When you don’t get chosen, it’s not about Pam.

    I hope this helps.

    Best always,
    – Peter

    • Pam Tierney Says:

      Peter, this is one area where I really don’t take it personally. It’s all about matching the wallpaper they’ve already put in the room. My reason for pointing this out is to caution those that are in the business of picking talent to remember that these are people, not couches and to remember your humanity when in that position of power.

      • Peter K. O'Connell Says:

        Now see “the business of picking talent to remember that these are people, not couches and to remember your humanity when in that position of power” makes that much clearer to me but I am dull from two holiday parties so maybe I should just back away from the computer before I cause real trouble.

      • Pam Tierney Says:

        Yes but your enthusiasm is wonderful!

  2. Philip Banks Says:

    Beautifully thought out piece as always.
    “Oh it’s NOT personal” is simply a phrase used as a great hiding place.

    “It’s not personal, you are a great voice over and the fact that I don’t like you will not deter me from hiring you” Do you know any actor who would seriously object to hearing that? People tend not to object to “it’s not personal” remarks, only the consequences.

    In a world increasingly pre-occupied with beauty we have to be on our guard against people who are ugly where it can make a difference, on the inside, and we also need to ensure we don’t become like them.

  3. Bill Redding Says:

    I don’t have any direct replies to the comments in the conversation above, except that I enjoyed reading them and I appreciate the “its not personal” statement in the world of acting. I can add, Pam, that I was just looking at your photos on your web site and I think they are good looks and you could play a good range of roles. The one that my eyes are drawn to the most is the one in the lower right hand corner.

    – Bill


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