I spent 22 years in a corporate marketing career in the beauty industry, before my life shifted into acting. During that time, I must have heard the mantra “perception is reality” at least 1,000 times. But, is it?
Perception is grasping things with our senses, insight or intuition. There’s room for individual interpretation. It can be very subjective.
Reality is fact. Something is real.
A good example is a highway mirage.
I’m sure we’ve all experienced them. It looks like there’s water across the highway; but when we approach it, it’s not there. We perceive water; but it’s really refracted light. Only the highway is real.
Each year $44 billion dollars are spent on market research.* Yet, 80% products fail.** Why?
Customers tend to be very matter of fact in explaining what they are looking for in products. Yet, interpreting the research can lend itself to perceiving what the customer wants rather than what the customer really needs. I attended many meetings engaging in heated discussions about research results. Personal agendas can even come into play.
I tended to be very sensitive to consumer needs. I remember a time I was developing a new product to add to our existing line. Our advertising agency came up with several ad campaigns; and management made a choice. I thought the chosen ad was offensive. I was new to the company and wondered how I could challenge the decision without being insubordinate.
Here’s where I used market research to my advantage. Working with market research, a plan was recommended to spend $10,000 to confirm the ad decision was the right one. After all, it was important to protect the overall business. Management agreed. The agency was not happy. My favorite argument from them was “what if it comes back as offensive.” That was the point. I’d rather spend a small amount of money as insurance before spending millions of dollars to pay for advertising that might have a negative impact on the overall business.
I, nervously, flew to Los Angeles to attend the meeting that would address all the nuances of producing the commercial. There was a lot riding on this research. The results were faxed to the hotel. They arrived when I did. I breathed a sigh of relief. The research proved we were right. I stepped back and let management hash it out. The ad was changed. The product launch was a success; and I received a surprise bonus.
Is Acting Perception or Reality?
I believe it’s both.
Pursuing a career in acting has been one of the most fulfilling yet frustrating experiences. It’s a very subjective business. What is a person sensing when they’re watching a performance? Different strokes for different folks.
Yet, an actor must portray a role from a truthful place for the audience to perceive the story as real. An actor must become one with the character. This takes training and the ability to tap into truth.
In 2016, I had the good fortune to attend a screening of the movie, Fences.
There was a Q&A afterwards with the cast, specifically Denzel Washington and Viola Davis.
They both reprised their roles from the Broadway play. Film is a different medium from theater. On stage, the actor must reach the back of the theater and performances need to reflect that energy. Film is much more intimate. The camera is right there, especially in close-ups. The camera will read anything that is not “real” in the performance. Actors are often given the direction to be small to capture that intimacy.
During the Q&A, Viola recounted a scene she was struggling with in the movie.
As the director, Denzel asked her what she was doing. She answered, “I’m being small.” He said, “I don’t want you to be small. I want you to be truthful.”
I’ve often wondered what does the direction mean to be small. My acting teacher of ten years has addressed this head on with me. He has said “It’s not about being small. It’s about being connected.” In other words, being connected is all about being real. That takes work. It takes being invested. Then the truth comes through. Every thought, every emotion, every action is perceived as real because they are real.
Dreams Become Reality
The perception of acting is that it is an irresponsible career choice.
The reality is I’ve become responsible to my true self. For most of my life, I stuffed the dream so deep inside that I lost myself. My perception was that I was truly was corporate. I played that role. I had to strip away the veneer and allow myself to break. This was a painful process.
I had to let my dream burst forth. My dream of acting is my reality. I don’t JUST perceive myself to be an actress. In the very depth of my being I AM an actress. It is my vision and I’ve written it down. That makes it real.
I have done all I know to do to bring this lifelong dream to fruition. I’ve taken risks and listened to my heart. There have been twists and turns and surprises along the way.
When a dream is nurtured, it is no longer a perception. It is a reality.
Because of this, I stand firm that…it’s never too late to go after your dreams.
**What Percentage of new products fail and why? By Lonny Kocina, May 3, 2017, MarketSmart Newsletters