Here's what I've come to believe: artists have a responsibility to the world, a responsibility to honestly convey the way they see things, in the hopes that they are representing the way one or two (or maybe a whole lot) of other people also think or feel.
I don't think I've ever gotten a bigger compliment than when people who see my film, The Videoblogs, in which I played a depressed female character (rarely seen on screen), say, “I relate”.
What a gift! I've never felt more connected to my audience. Especially because I was scared as shit that people would think me a downer after watching the film. Even though everybody loves Eyore. Right? :-)
When I was 18, I did something many wee actresses want to do. I auditioned for NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. I got in, despite the fact that I had never acted before (Ha! I fooled them!) and then I was in big trouble because I genuinely had no idea what acting was.
So, four years later, I got a BFA from NYU, an amazing bullet point on any actor's resume -- one that gets you the occasional "Wow" or maybe an impressed nod. I did, however, also get an amazing foundation from that school, specifically from the Stella Adler Studio of Acting, where super cool people like Marlon Brando, Sydney Pollack, Salma Hayek, Robert DeNiro, Cybill Shepherd, and Judd Nelson went. That last name is most impressive to me because I can recite every one of Nelson's lines from The Breakfast Club (“Smoke up, Johnny!”). I have never met any of these people but, as an actor in NYC, I've waited on some of them!
But then I graduated and the big question was, "Now what?" I did what any other New York actor does or thinks they need to do and auditioned by day, waited tables by night and drank too much with co-workers after-hours. Soon the latter part started to eat up my days and I was stuck in this endless cycle of waking up late, with just enough time to get to the restaurant, and then starting the cycle all over again. Needless to say, my work, my real work suffered.
I had no idea what to do because I thought I was doing everything I was supposed to do, and frankly, what I thought I deserved. I figured, this is part of the life, right? This is being a starving artist, it's what we do, it's who I am.
Here's the thing: There's nothing noble about being a "starving artist." There's nothing noble about not allowing yourself to be happy or comfortable or to enjoy life for the sake of your art and whatever fantasy you think that sacrifice will make come true someday, maybe, if only.
So, what is the answer to "Now what"? It's two-fold:
- Make your own work.
- Be kind to yourself.
Currently, I produce, write and act in collaboration with those whose work I respect and whose values are like my own. I do this because I want to create work that is meaningful to me, and also want to have more control over how those films get made-- as well as over craft services ;)
I also work a sustainable "day job," one that allows me to have a beautiful apartment, take vacations, get massages once a month, and just treat myself well. And when I started treating myself better, my work flourished. I have to keep a "back-burner" list because I have so many projects I want to work on. Creativity is abundant.
That transition from the cycle of crappy job after crappy job, working paycheck to paycheck just to make rent, to the point I'm at now, isn't simple. I had to change my entire belief system, beliefs I defined myself by, and the work isn't over yet. I have, however, gotten to the point where I'm ready to pay it forward.
If you need help making the transition to a better life, one in which you have the safety and security to create and be the kind of artist and person you want to be, consider contacting me about one of my services. Or if you think we might be a good fit to work together on a play or film, shoot me an email and let's talk.
Thank you for taking the time to visit. I look forward to our collaboration.