Few ‘civilians’ can appreciate the complications of safely communicating with fans, so I’ve decided to share with you an example of how the general public often interacts with us.
Today I received a typical e-mail request for a signed photo. For years, I complied at my own expense, simply requesting an SASE to handle postage. I had a drop box at the Post Office, knowing from past experience how unwise it can be to have fans writing to your place of residence. (But with cyberspace, people halfway around the world can determine my home address, phone number and sadly much more, with persistence and a modem.) So it goes.
Eventually I dropped my P.O. box, primarily because for every honorable fan that complied with the SASE request, many didn’t and I decided my life was not supposed to be about standing in lines and ponying up for additional stamps and envelopes.
I began to send the following e-mail to fans requesting photos:
I no longer accept requests to mail photos or autographs. Perhaps some day we’ll meet at a convention. The internet and personal printers now allow me to send this enclosed photo.
You might want to check out my homepage, www.tuckersmallwood.com, it’s FREE. And I’ve recently published a book of which I’m very proud, entitled Return To Eden. It’s a collection of essays about my experiences as an advisor in Vietnam, my life as an artist and my return to Vietnam in 2004. You can read the book or listen to the audio book. Look for it at lulu.com/tuckersmallwood.
The aforementioned fan e-mail was written with courteous care and I responded with my form letter and a scanned, signed photo (very high resolution!)
Here is her response. (Names are omitted to protect the reality-challenged;)
I have thought about your response and i have to express my disappointment regarding this. You stated that one day perhaps we will meet at a convention. I don’t think that will be possible as i do not have the money to travel these days. I am willing to donate a little something for your time and effort of signing your name to a picture I would be happy to provide in a SASE. With the amount of time it took for you to copy that template into that email and send it to me you could have signed a picture and your fan (ME) would be very pleased. I don’t think this is too much to ask. Think about this please. All of the years and money I have put out in paying to see the movies you have stared in and all i am asking for is a real picture with your real signature. Not a reprint or a copy or something i could print my self. I just really feel this is unfair and i don’t feel this is to much to ask of you. I just think this is how you could show me how much you appreciate me being there for you as a fan all these years. After all. If it were not for fans like me, you would not have a career in acting, nor would your book be a hit.
Very disappointed Fan,
Now my instinct was to write back and correct a few of her misconceptions…but I’ve been advised to stifle that instinct – and wisely so. I really should know better. But here’s what I’d have said:
I understand that you feel dissatisfied but you presume an obligation or relationship exists between us…and it doesn’t. My responsibility is to do the very best work I can, each time out. My career in acting exists because of my work, not because of fans. I’m not Johnny Depp or Sam Jackson (and by the way, their careers exist because of their good work, too, not because of any fan base.) If fans had any genuine clout, Space: Above & Beyond would still be on the air. And BTW, who ever told you that life is fair?
My book is not “a hit” nor do I ever expect it to be a best seller. I wrote it to help other veterans and their families understand how combat had affected our lives. I hoped that they might recognize their own problems, seek treatment and get better, as have I.
If you’ve enjoyed any character I’ve portrayed, I’m happy for you…but I don’t owe you a blessed thing. And when you understand that, we will both be happier.