HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star)
Updated November 14, 2010 12:00 AM
A few weeks ago, I was asked by the staff of Sharon Cuneta’s new show Star Magic if I could make a guest appearance and give an inspirational talk to the young performers who were vying for the chance to be the Megastar’s own pick to succeed. I grabbed the opportunity since I have much to share with these young ones who are just about to embark on the exciting and crazy journey I began 41 years ago.
From the outside, showbiz seems like a glittering community of winners who have armies of adoring fans, make a lot of money and have an easy life. What I tried to tell these young performers is that this image is largely illusory. It is illusory in the sense that things do not necessarily come that easily to anyone, and that no one and nothing is preordained or destined to succeed. Things can and do go wrong. Not everyone is able to achieve what they set out to do. But great things do happen and have happened to “successful” stars, largely because they put a lot of hard work and good attitude into the mix.
I listed some rules on how to survive, succeed, thrive, and most importantly, remain sane in Tinsel Town where, from the point of view of many fans, the harsh rules of real life seem to be suspended and another set of magical procedures operate. If you plan to get your feet wet in showbiz, it would be best to know these rules by heart and heed them. They have worked for me over the 41 years I have been in the biz.
1) Accept that you will never stop auditioning. No one ever gets big enough to be rejected. While it may seem that shows and movies are made around certain big stars, there are instances when these same “special” people also face rejection. Leah Salonga and Charice Pempengco still audition. It is part of the job. The point is, you never stop proving yourself.
2) Be kind to people on your way to the top; they are the same people you will meet on the way down. I am talking of the scriptwriters, directors, production people, makeup artists, musicians, production assistants who bring you water and make life comfortable on the set, technical people, alalays, etc. — the mainstays in the business who see careers come and go and watch stars rise and fall. Someday, they will tell a story to other people about how you treated them. They will remember and talk about your acts of kindness as well as your fits of brattiness and ill temper, not to mention your delusions of grandeur and egotism. So be nice to them.
3) Practice, practice and never stop practicing until your performance becomes completely “accident proof.” It is tedious and hard work to keep doing the same songs through the years, but believe me, it pays off. Even performers who are less talented than others can make themselves more “accident prone” to perfection by simply practicing constantly. Practice makes you really good, even great. And great performers, even on a bad night, still deliver the goods.
4) Treat fellow performers with the greatest respect. But reserve the highest respect for your audience. Your audience is king. Always give your best. Your audience will appreciate the effort you put in and will be loyal to you throughout your career.
5) Continuously recreate or re-imagine yourself. That’s how to remain competitive. Always be ready to create and project “surprise and delight.” In showbiz, one who remains static cannot hope to be always employed.
6) The net effect of all performance is to take your audience to a place where they have never been. For a long career, make sure you take them to places they will want to revisit again and again. Take them through different emotional states with new songs, stories, ideas, revelations and engage them with topics that truly matter to them like the timeless mysteries of life, love, humor, sex, friendship, conviction, etc. Show them that your act defies the average and the ordinary.
7) Always be present and paying attention. The world is full of opportunities and things to exploit and transform into material to entertain. But be fully aware that a slip of the tongue or careless action can easily spread and ruin you, so watch yourself as well.
Always come on time. “On time” means 30 minutes before the designated time. If you make this a habit, you will be loved by production people and will earn a reputation of being reliably present. They will want to work with you again and again because you do not cause trouble and destroy schedules.
9) Say what you mean and mean what you say. It may not seem like it, but a lot of people inside and outside the entertainment world can and do detect bull**** when they hear and see it. How many corny birthday tributes have you seen on TV that really moved you? How often have you seen through the insincerity behind the “heartfelt” greetings delivered by showbiz people? In the same vein, accept that not everyone will like you. But act in a way where as best as possible, you are being true to yourself.
10) A truly great performance always comes from a true place. Be sincere, honest, and learn to express yourself in the best possible way. Honesty is always refreshing. How does one make an honest performance doing the same material over and over again? You do this by being present and adding a new element each time. It can be any small thing like adding a melodic inflection where there used to be none. You do this to make it “true” for you. The philosopher Heraclites said that you never cross the same river twice. He may as well have talked about performances. It’s a different audience each night. You can also project a different aspect of you each time.
11) Don’t believe your own press releases. Humility will always serve you well. Pride will ruin you. Be grounded. Many people get carried away by adulation and end up living a life of grandiosity of self that is nowhere close to what they are in real life. Know how to tell the difference between who you really are and what you are projecting.
12) Learn from every performance, your own and others’. Learn to be a good audience so you know what works and what doesn’t.
13) Take valid criticism graciously and learn from it. The only way to improve is to always be open to valid criticism and suggestions.
14) Know that nothing lasts forever — not fame, not wealth, not even talent. But know that this also applies to failure. You can pick yourself up when you fall. You will always have another chance. And when it is time to go, leave with gratitude.
15) When you sing, just sing. A performance is just a performance. This may be puzzling, but it is really simple. Don’t muddle up the task by trying to make it bigger or other than what it is.
16) Have a life outside of show biz. Many people I know live only in this crazy world and have no respite out of it. There is a bigger world outside that can ensure your sanity and remind you of more enduring values than what you live with in showbiz.
17) Save your money. If you can, set aside 60 to 70 percent of what you earn, and do this religiously. Nothing is sure in this business. You could be here today, and gone in 15 minutes.
18) Never do drugs. Stay away from vices. Some people think they perform better with drugs. That is pure delusion. They just feel they do but in reality, they do not. Avoid toxic people who do drugs.
19) Know when you are “on” or “off.” Showbiz is about performance and projecting to your public. That’s when you are “on.” But make sure you are not “performing” with friends and close relatives. No drama, pretension, affectation and projecting here. That can be annoying and disturbing to people who really care about you.
20) Always make time for your own personal enjoyment and rest. Everyone needs some downtime and privacy. This also means you must limit what you share about yourself with the public. You need your quiet private space to be able to discern what is true and what is not. And no, the public does not need to know your pap smear results, or about your toxic relationship with your mother.
21) Pray before every show and start the prayer by saying thanks for the last one. This was the APO’s practice from the beginning of our career until our last show in May. Praying centers you to the performance you are about to do and makes you perform better. And inviting Providence to participate in the show is always a great thing. And gratitude is always good.
* * *
Please join me in these workshops I have scheduled.
1) Photography Workshop in Dumaguete on Saturday, Nov. 20. Meeting place at AVR-Grade School Dept. St. Paul’s University. It will be from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fee includes lunch, certificate. Please call Chinky at 0916-4305626.
2) Basic Photography Class on Saturday, Nov. 27, from 1 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, QC. Cost is P3,500. Call 426-5375 or 0916-8554303 or write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
3) Songwriting Class: Learn the rudiments of songwriting. Learn what makes a good song. And yes, actually write songs during the workshop and after. Dec. 4 and 5, 1 to 6 p.m. Student must play guitar or piano. Fee: P5,000. Call 426-5375 or 0916-8554303 or write me at email@example.com.