You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat

The Tribeca Film Festival just began in New York this week, and I couldn’t be more excited.  I’ve read lots about different film festivals (Cannes, Sundance, Toronto, etc) and the various movies that premiere at them but as I’m not an international movie star or even just been in a feature film or lived in a city that held one, I’ve never been able to go.  That’s why I am so enthusiastic about the Tribeca Film Festival!

And also because I’m praying for a glimpse of Robert DeNiro.

Anyway, the TFF is featuring many a free program this year, one of them being the Tribeca Drive In down in the World Financial Plaza right along the Hudson.  They set up food trucks, hand out free stuff, and screen fan favorite movies.  This year, they’re showing Jaws and the Goonies.

If you know me at all, then you know both of these films are among my favorite movies of all time.  I grew up watching both incessantly (and still do).

Last night, they screened Jaws, and I took myself on a much-needed solo date to see it.  As I was born in the 1980s, I only had ever seen Chief Brody, Quint, and Matt Hooper battle that terrifying shark on a television screen.  My parents, on the other hand, came of age in the 1970s, so they witnessed it all on the big screen when it came out in ’75.  As such, I’ve always felt that I missed out a bit on what made the film so awesome in the first place: the sheer size of a giant shark on a giant screen.

"You're gonna need a bigger boat..."

Watching Jaws basically in a harbor was probably the coolest thing ever.  I honestly couldn’t tell if the seagulls I was hearing were coming from the screen or the sailboats next to me on the Hudson.  It was a perfect setting.  Most of the audience was people my age or older who’d grown up with the movie in some way: either from seeing it in the 70s or the “handing down” of it from their parents who’d seen it in the 70s.  We all clapped together, laughed together, screamed together, and cheered together.  There was a kind of magic in the air.  A nostalgia made new.  Though the majority of the audience had seen the film before, for many of us (myself included), it was like seeing the film for the first time.

And it kind of GOT to me, you know?  I got this overwhelming feeling of happiness, love, and community.  All of us were here because we LOVED this movie.  We’d all had our own experiences with this movie; in some way, it had shaped us all.  Now here we were: all of us sharing this moment.  It made me realize how lasting an impact films have as opposed to other art forms.  Film lasts forever; handed down from generation to generation.  There’s something inherently special about that.

And I don’t think anyone can deny there’s something inherently special and MAGICAL about Steven Spielberg’s films from the 1970s and 80s.  There’s a mythical quality about them, you just can’t put your finger on; it’s just a feeling.  Paired with John Williams’ scores, I just don’t think it gets any better.  Maybe it feels like childhood or growing up.  I don’t know.  His movies from that time are…well, timeless.  Classic.  You never forget your first time seeing them.

Maybe that’s why last night was so special to me.  I nearly cried on the subway ride home.  I finally got to see one of my favorite Spielberg movies on a big screen for the first time…the way people saw it for the first time when it premiered in 1975.  The way my parents saw it.  And for just half a second, I didn’t know what year I was in.  It felt timeless.  I was under a spell.  We all were.

That’s the power of the movies.

And I HAVE to be a part of that.  I HAVE to be a part of something so beloved it keeps drawing people back to it 37 years later.  Something people pass down to their kids.  I want people to feel all the things I felt last night: the nostalgia, the magic, the joy.  I want to tell stories people love.  Make films that shape their lives and experiences in a way that MUST be shared with others.

I WILL be a part of that.

Advertisements

The Never Ending Pasta Bowl or How I Didn’t Audition for the Olive Garden

I worked yesterday at Grey advertising again, and they just happened to be having auditions for an upcoming national commercial for that shining beacon of all that is Americanized about Italian food (but you get great free, unlimited breadsticks!): the Olive Garden!

Ooh the unlimited salad and breadsticks...

Now before you get all excited and start thinking that you will be seeing me chow down on pasta Lady and the Tramp-style with some attractive fellow while you’re waiting for Modern Family to come back, I didn’t audition nor did I attempt to sneak into the audition. I was working reception, and thus, it would be inappropriate for me to try to crash an audition for which I had no appointment unlike the hordes of attractive child actors and adult commercial actors who did. While I would have LOVED to have the chance to say some line to my good-looking, fake family about how much I love the never-ending pasta bowl, I instead spent my day directing OTHER actors back to casting with a smile plastered on my face.

Ah the ironies of life.

Or is it just situations that suck? I always forget because I learned about irony, like most people in the 1990s, from Alanis Morissette’s song “Isn’t It Ironic,” which is probably not actually the correct definition. (But despite your incorrect definition of irony, I still love both you and your songs, Alanis!)

Anyway, as I sat ushering child actors in, it occurred to me that a lot of them probably have more professional acting credits than I do. Like, here I am, twenty-three years old with a college degree in acting but no professional credits, no agent, no SAG card, no AEA card. Here’s this like, eleven year old perky blonde girl who probably is SAG/AFTRA with an agent and a resume full of commercials and probably a couple random guest spots on Law & Order: SVU and Royal Pains.  How does this happen?!

I’m not sure I would have wanted to be a child actor where people expected me to always act like an adult and never get to completely enjoy my youth.  I think being a child actor would have made me not like acting as much.  It would have made me have to grow up faster.  Already I could see some of those children maybe being there with their parents out of obligation rather than for their own enjoyment because it was something THEY wanted to do.  There are plenty of child actors who have grown up into successful adults, but also plenty who felt like they missed out on their youths.

But seeing all these children coming in to audition and knowing they probably have a longer professional resume than I do put things into perspective for me.  Then I thought about how much lengthier my CHILDHOOD ACTIVITIES resume is than theirs, and I realized I was the one with the upper hand.  I got to play baseball and go to the pool and have sleepovers and play in marching band.  I got to have family vacations and go to normal schools.  I have experiences that make up for my lack of professional ones; experiences that cannot be replaced by SAG cards or Olive Garden commercials.  I may not be where I want to be professionally, but when I DO get there, I’ll be happier and better educated.  I’ll be better adjusted.  I’ll be grateful.

And when I get acting work, I’ll celebrate  with my REAL family…but maybe not at Olive Garden.

Who Am I Anyway, Am I My Resume?

Like many people my age, I am in the throes of an identity crisis.  I am rapidly approaching the date marking my one-year anniversary of being a college graduate.  I do not have a steady income or a job in the actual field for which I (or rather, my parents) spent thousands of dollars in training at a private university.  Also, I don’t have a boyfriend (or god forbid, a fiancé), much to my extended family’s chagrin.

In short, I’m a little lost.

I don’t know what I’m doing with my life, and to be honest, that scares me sometimes.  I’ve always had a plan or known what I was going to do day-to-day because of school or my family.  We all grow up with a safety net, and the minute we reach a certain age, it’s yanked out from under us.  Once it’s gone, we’re in control of everything, and that is a lot of pressure to put on our shoulders.  Sure, we’ve been preparing for that pressure our whole lives, but until you actually feel it, you have no idea how much it can weigh on you.

Psychologists and news commentators believe my generation is self-absorbed, whiny, and spoiled.  They say we’ve been given more opportunities than any other generation and grown up with the latest technology, but we squander it by using our education and technology to complain about our lives and detach from society.  We’re branded as lazy and ill equipped to do “real work in the real world” because we majored in philosophy or world cultures or acting – things that actually interest us – and don’t want to sacrifice our principles to work a job for the sole purpose of just making money (even though eventually, many of us do).

So naturally, all these psychologists and news commentators don’t think the quarter-life crisis actually exists.

But I’m here to tell you it’s very real.  Though I’m about six months away from being twenty-four years old and thus, not a quarter of a century old yet, I still feel this aimlessness sinking in.  Who AM I?  What am I supposed to DO with my life?  Which direction should I head?  There are so many questions and never any tangible answers.  No compass.  No map.  No schedule.  I am the only one who can answer these questions and decide where I’m going and what to do, and that kind of controlled chaos is terrifying.

Though I suffer from the general form of quarter-life crisis I’ve been talking about, my real identity crisis can be pinpointed to the decision between film and stage.  All my life, I’ve been training to be a stage actor, taking dance classes and voice lessons and acting classes, doing shows.  I’ve always loved musical theatre, because it let me do everything I loved in one space of time: act, sing, and dance.  It’s the best of it all.

But over time, my interest in film grew.  I’ve always loved going to the movies, but as I got older, I became more interested in how they were put together, different directors and their styles, cinematography.  I would study certain actors I liked and look for all their nuances.  I started keeping up with what was in pre and post-production.  I read about Italian and French cinema and watched every indie movie I could.  I followed the awards season religiously and forced my family to play an Oscar prediction game every year.  I basically began having a not-so-secret love affair with film, and that’s where the guilt began.

As you all know by now, I have a degree in music theatre from a rather prestigious, if lesser-known, music school.  All throughout college, I felt as though I had to put my life and interests in a box.  I was there to study music theatre, and that’s it.  Though I had an excellent educational experience at my school, one I cherish, it was far from a perfect place.  There wasn’t a lot of room for exploration outside your chosen field of study, and I certainly felt that if I committed to studying music theatre in college, I wasn’t allowed to do or be anything other than that.  I felt like I had to be all about music theatre all the time and couldn’t be interested in anything else or I’d be branded a – GASP – traitor.

So I stuck to the plan: finished my music theatre degree and moved to New York City.  I audition for stage projects (unsuccessfully thus far, I might add).  My friends audition for stage projects (some more successfully than others).  And the nagging guilt is still there.  I want to do music theatre, I do, but I don’t know who I am in music theatre right now.  Nothing seems to fit.  And the only place I’ve been feeling a sense of belonging has been the few times I’ve filmed at NYU.  I haven’t felt boxed in by how I look or what “type” I am; I’m just me playing a character and saying lines to a camera.  It feels good and right.  And that’s where I feel guilty, because I’m here in New York with a music theatre degree, and I think I want to pursue film instead of musicals.  Even the idea of moving to Los Angeles at some point down the road doesn’t feel foreign or repulsive to me anymore; ME, the girl who has wanted to live in New York City her whole life, wouldn’t consider living anywhere else.

I’m so tired of feeling guilty about my own life.  I’m tired of feeling guilty that I have a degree in one thing but I don’t necessarily want to pursue that right now.  I’m tired of feeling guilty about hating open calls for a stupid chorus role or rolling my eyes when someone talks pretentiously about some obscure, brand new musical.  I’m tired of feeling guilty about knowing more about what’s going on in the film industry than I do about Broadway.  I’m just exhausted by all this guilt.  It’s MY life, and I don’t know why I’m letting my guilt (or how I might be perceived by others) run it.  I have to take control, because there’s no net to catch me, and the leap or fall is mine alone to take.

I don’t know who I am or who I’m GOING to be, but I have to trust my instincts and stop apologizing for or feeling guilty about them.  I know who I’d LIKE to be, and I have to pursue that whole-heartedly and hope for the best, and I’ll be damned if anyone tries to make me feel bad about it.  I will not be boxed in anymore; I will not be categorized.  I am not one thing, I am MANY things, and I will explore and develop all these things inside of me because that’s what life is about.  Life is a series of identity crises and you have to get lost in order to find yourself.

So I’m lost.  Big deal.  I’ll find myself soon.