Actor 101: The Monkee’s Effect

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One of the hyphenates that I place in my CV is that of consultant. Usually this takes form as an acting coach for my students, but on occasion I also do career and marketing consulting. No matter the topic I like to drive home the principal of the Authenticity Economy. If you are honest about yourself and your intentions people are attracted to that and are more inclined to want to work with you or buy from you. I like to say that people will buy you a lot quicker than they’ll buy what you’re selling.

This is not a new concept, people like Gary Vaynerchuk and Jeffrey Gitomer have been selling books and producing videos and live events based around this idea for years. It’s a simple idea, but one that people don’t necessarily come to on their own. In my experience people try very hard to please others. They look for expectations and then follow them to what they hope will be success. This can work, if it didn’t people wouldn’t do it, but it isn’t what sets people apart. Giving people what they want seems like a good idea, but here’s a fun fact: people (read: your audience) rarely know what they actually want. They have expectations, but rarely know what they truly desire. When you try to deliver “what the people want” you don’t necessarily share you or what you’re good at. There are times that these crossover, but that is rare – otherwise you’d see nothing but superstar office workers in every workplace. Shockingly people tend to be very nervous about sharing themselves, even though that is typically a powerful source of success.

This is where The Monkees come in. Just in case you didn’t know, The Monkees was a very popular television show in the 60’s that was designed to be an American version of the Beatles – something the network figured the audience wanted. They made the show, played it, and it FAILED! According to a documentary about the show, it was one of the lowest testing shows of all time. Normally this would spell the end of a television show, but the producers and network really felt they had something special. They had a great deal of confidence in the talent they had cast and felt that if the audience knew them as well as the production team knew them that they’d warm up to the show. All four Monkees were featured in screen tests that showcased their personalities, you can still see these on YouTube. These were played before the pilot for a new test audience and the change was immediate – the show was a success! People were ready to connect to these guys who they felt they knew as opposed to some mad capped actors that were being put upon them.

Connection is a major goal for actors. We need to connect to our audiences and to our fellow actors. In an esoteric way we need to connect to the the characters that we play. Connection cannot be made by “faking it” it needs to be genuine. It’s the difference between being just an actor and being a good actor.

The posts that I’m making on YouTube, my Operation: Television’s Curtis Andersen vlogs, are part of my effort to make a genuine connection to my audience. It’s the secret to YouTuber success that networks and old model entertainment professionals fail to recognize. Audiences are created and drawn to YouTubers because they connect to their authenticity, and likewise turn on those YouTubers that lie to them, even if it’s just the appearance of a lie.

I’ve watched a lot of people in Hollywood do their best to try and “give them what they want,” I’ve done it myself, and it never gets you where you want to be. I see this way too often with starlets who think their way into the industry is bikini photos and playing “the sexy baby” (30 Rock did a great episode on that). Can it work? Sure, but the shelf life is very short and the chance of you being able to leverage that into a different career is small.

That doesn’t mean authenticity is a golden ticket to success, people might not connect with you at all. Not much you can do about that. But if they do then it is much easier to maintain.

Do you have questions about The Monkees Effect? Ask them in the comments.

See you next time!

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