Hi all. I’m having a day of doing nothing to try to recover a bit from this awful bug that has kicked the hell out of me and my wife over the past few days. I’d like to thank all those at Nurofen for their kind support and also Jameson’s.
So while I sit before a warm fire in a lovely B&B in Rush, soaking heat into my back and speaking as little as possible, again, I’d like to write something that may be of interest or help to some… a response to several conversations of late with actors.
It’s timely I think after last night’s Academy Awards for us to realize that the distance between us and “them” is not as great as we may think it is… or as great as Hollywood may want us to believe. There are no gods. Often it feels like and seems that we will never be on that red carpet. But those people are just like you and me. There, in the glamour of it all was a girl I saw on stage years back here in Dublin. I met her briefly so long ago and I don’t know her, but I wonder how many times she was told there’s no point trying to be an actor in white Ireland when you’re black. Acting opposite her is an Aussie I made a short film with years and years ago, the pair of us skulking around a set with barely a few bucks to our names.
You see, I’m not dropping names or claiming connections. I’m really not. Joel probably wouldn’t even remember me if he saw me and Ruth certainly wouldn’t. I’m trying to offer this to my students who come out of The Applied Art of Acting’s immersive and immensely creative environ to then have to face down the real world that all actors have to face. And that can be depressing and difficult. And it’s deeper than just being concerned about whether or not you will succeed. It can be crippling. It can shove you into a dark room. It can make you not want to leave it. It make it impossible to even come to the Studio to practice the thing you love the most in the world. But you have to come. You have to get up and go in. Otherwise, you’re lost.
What you have to do, at the core of it, is remember that wonderful full-time, creative playground you found in The Applied Art of Acting and make the WORLD your playground. This industry is now your creative playground. The course is over. You may be a new kid in the playground, but the playground belongs to you as much as it does to anyone else. There will be bullies in it who will tell you that you don’t belong, but go around them. They’re only doing that to defend their own corner of the sandpit. They’re just afraid. Go play with someone else.
I’m not saying you WILL make it big. For obvious reasons not all of us can. But what is a true and absolute and unalienable fact is that you CAN make it big. Not that you WILL but you CAN. The potential is there. The possibility is there. It was there for Joel and Ruth and they worked hard, probably against enormous odds and got there. Did they have terrible times of doubt and despair? I don’t know them well enough to know. But I bet they did. Did they let those times defeat them? Possibly yes… momentarily… but certainly not permanently.
Are there great shed loads of actors out there equally as good as Ruth and Joel who haven’t made it to those echelons? Yep. You betcha. And that’s the way it goes. But you see, even if you don’t get to that red carpet, guys, it’s just a red carpet covered by people who worried and struggled just like you. Most of them have had or probably still do have therapists on the payroll. Under those gowns and tuxedos are artists with skin and bone just like yours. All of them would have had to go the toilet during the ceremony at some stage and take a piss. Crude I know, but that’s the facts of it.
The last thing I ever want any of my students to think is that I’m filling them full of crap when I say they can make it. Because it’s not crap. Will they make it? That I don’t know and can’t control in any way other than to promote them at every opportunity I get to those connections I’m lucky enough to have made in this business. But I can’t promise success. Nobody can. And if they do, go play with someone else. Quickly!
I think about sitting on the steps outside the old Gaiety School with Mo Dunford, smoking a rollie and him asking me what I thought his chances would be. Should I give it a year and give it away? Should I give it 5 years? I suggested 10. 10 years later he looks like he’s home. But is there ever such as thing as that either?
We all have our stories. I was the ugly kid, the dumb kid and the untalented kid. I was the kid who was told he was an idiot and a fool to think he could have a career in the Arts. I was told this by many, many awful people and also by several people who actually cared about me and thought they were helping. I STILL have people throw blockages in the way of the things I think I can offer, and I probably always will have those in my life. Along the road, however, there was one teacher… just one… at the end of my high-school days, who pulled me aside and said, David, let’s talk about what you can bring to the world. Not what you WILL bring to the world, because no one knows if this will work at all, but what you potentially CAN.
All it takes is one voice to slice through all the other noise. And then it takes you. You, and your voice. The voice inside you that despite your depression and anxiety, quietly reminds you that you have something to offer. It’s that voice that draws you out of that dark room, to look around the corner to see if there’s anybody out there you can work a scene with, write a short film with, film a brilliant monologue with. It’s that voice that says, go on, knock on that casting director’s door again. They might tell you to fuck off, but hey at least you knocked. And then knock again in a few months time and let them tell you to fuck off again (and by the way I’ve never been told to fuck off by a casting director in my life. But I know that’s the fear.) It’s that voice that says, you might mess this screen-test up, but hey lets throw the kitchen sink at it anyways.
You see, you never know what’s around the corner, but you have to keep going round them. It might be a dead end, it might be a little job. It might be something that seems ordinary and turns out to be extraordinary. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve accidentally run into huge opportunities by exploring what seemed to be a kind of banal avenue. Just go there. What’s to lose?
Around that corner could be your dream job, or another thing you never imagined yourself doing, but found you loved. Hey, the love of your life could be around that corner! But you have to get out of bed and look.
Nobody gets anywhere alone. Very rarely anyway.
I try to be that teacher’s voice for you guys, because it is a true voice, not a voice of false encouragement and platitudes. I can try to help you cultivate your own voice, and during the Applied Art, of course that voice calls strongly! But once you’re out, you have to keep it lit. You have to keep it lit yourself, and you have to let it call out brightly inside you.
See you in the Studio.