Last night I hosted a private improv workshop. I invited friends and former students. Fifteen people signed up. Eight people showed up. Some cancelled the day of. Some cancelled an hour before. Some sent me regretful emails today apologizing for missing.
If you’ve not heard of it before, there’s a stereotype in L.A. that people are flaky. And that stereotype certainly comes from truth. Ask anyone who’s hosted a party, a lunch outing, or anything else. People cancel at the last minute or simply don’t show without any notice.
But why is that? It’s easy to summarily label people as ‘flaky’ and then not think about it anymore. I think that’s pretty lazy. And we are the human race, damnit. We are better than lazy one-size-fits-all labels. I think there may be a percentage of people who are straight up flakes. They make plans and then don’t prioritize them or write them down. They don’t care about other people’s feelings very much or at least not enough to do anything about it. However, I think these people are much smaller in number than we think.
Of the people who cancelled on me last night, one got a last minute callback audition for a movie, one got told by her boss at the last minute that she had to work til 8PM (instead of 5PM like she was told the previous day), one had a geniune family emergency and didn’t even think to text me, one got swamped with work that he didn’t anticipate, etc. Every one of them had a legitimate excuse/reason for not coming despite their RSVP.
Do I think any of them are flakes? Nope. Unless I found out they were lying to me (possible, but highly unlikely in my opinion) then I believe them all to be people who genuinely wanted to come, but found themselves in a situation where they just couldn’t do it. I’m not about to hold that against them. And I’m certainly not going to label them flakes.
I think the ‘LA Flake’ is a lazy way of dealing with a real issue. And that issue is: L.A. attracts people who stuff their lives with important and sometimes last minute priorities. Most of the people I know in L.A. came here by choice and not birth. They want to make something of their lives that is different than what their hometown would have allowed. They want to be writers, musicians, directors, editors, actors, etc. They are ambitious people who are trying to (or successfully already are) get into some very chaotic and competitive industries.
I’ve had to cancel last minute on people before. I always feel terrible when it happens and I try not to do it, but it still happens. And that’s because to a certain extent, I’m not in complete control of my schedule. If my agent tells me I have an audition and I didn’t previously tell him I couldn’t audition that day, then you better believe I’m going to that audition. And if that means I have to cancel lunch plans, then so be it. I hate to cancel, but I know that if I bail on the audition then my agent will be less likely to send me out again. I’m putting him in a terrible spot if I flake on him.
The problem is that L.A. (and I’m sure other towns as well) is a breeding ground for last minute work opportunities. That’s a good thing, unless you’re really a stickler for keeping your appointments. Do I cancel plans with my friends or with a potential employer? The sad truth is that we’re almost always going to choose the latter. And if we want to be taken seriously in this town in the entertainment industry then we have to choose work. It’s just part of the game we’ve chosen to play.
So, I don’t believe that L.A. is full of flaky people. I believe L.A. is full of amazing people who are just doing their darndest to make it in this crazy world we call entertainment. So, consider this a one time apology for all the future times I bail on the thing I told you I would do with you. I still love you. You still love me. But L.A.’s a hard place to live in sometimes. And that means making those choices. And if that makes me ‘flaky’ then I guess that’s what I am.