My boyfriend and I have been together for four years. When we first met he was working as a music supervisor for film trailers. He was great at his job, but still felt like there was more he wanted to do in the movie industry. I had always been very specific about my drive to be an actor. He, on the other hand, was of a lover of and a dabbler in all things film related. Perhaps he lacked direction at times, but I admired his versatility and enthusiasm. I encouraged him to explore what else he might like to do. “Maybe you should write and direct your own projects, or do some producing,” I suggested. My support was honest and whole-hearted. BUT I also felt good about being the cool, open-minded girlfriend encouraging her talented-but-unfocused filmmaker boyfriend to “follow his dreams”. Then something strange happened – something I wasn’t expecting – something that made me react in a way that was “not so cool”: My boyfriend revealed to me he wanted to be…an actor!
Okay, to be honest, this revelation wasn’t completely out of left field. I knew that he enjoyed acting. He had done plays in school as a teen, acted in projects in film school, and even appeared in comedy videos that our friends made. I just never thought that acting was something that he’d ever consider for a career.
Then my boyfriend was asked to be a narrator on his friend’s show “Drunk History”. Unexpectedly, that gig landed him a commercial agent. My boyfriend was excited, and so was I. “What a fun way for him to make some extra cash while he pursues what he really wants to be doing,” I thought.
As the weeks went by, the opportunities kept coming. He did some voiceover work for an animated series and was able to join the union, he was invited straight to callbacks for a Superbowl commercial one of his old film school buddies was directing, and he was talking to yet another filmmaker friend about throwing his hat in the ring for a T.V. role. Around this point, I began to feel a few pangs of something deep in my belly. Things were happening so quickly for him! Could I be jealous? I told myself I was being ridiculous. I quickly pushed those feelings aside and tried to be as supportive as possible. That was when my boyfriend revealed to me that what he really wanted to do – what he had actually wanted to do for a long time – was act.
I was shocked. After four years, why was I just hearing this now? Then my shock – and I am not proud of this – turned into bitterness. I started vomiting up all of that ugly jealousy that had been simmering in me. I was the actor in the relationship. I had been at this for years. I had gone to fancy theater schools, religiously taken acting classes, thrown myself into passion projects for no money, and had spent years pushing myself to grow as an artist. How could he just decide to do this now? What made him think that he had earned this? (That was the part where I got really shitty.)
I was being pretentious and defensive and gross. And I knew it. I just didn’t know why. I mean, I’m a newer writer. I don’t have a degree in journalism or years of experience in a writer’s room, yet I write for this blog and am working on a script. If another writer had told me I didn’t have the experience necessary to write, I would have been A) discouraged and hurt and B) curious why that person was acting like such an insecure asshole. Why was I being so hurtful…to someone I loved, no less? Someone I actually believed in? Why was I acting like such an insecure asshole? Why did I feel so threatened??
I had dinner with an actor friend of mine, and told him the story. This led to a whole conversation about what it takes to make a living in Hollywood. As my friend brought up, you can’t decide you want to be a dancer in the New York City Ballet and appear on stage overnight. But acting in Hollywood is different. There are many means to an end and no one clear path. Plus there are so many variables that can affect a career that are completely out of our hands. And if we’re being honest, sometimes publicity and buzz can hold more weight than artistry and craft. The conversation had strayed away from my boyfriend’s situation, but I think my friend and I landed on the real reason I reacted the way I did – the real reason I felt threatened. Perhaps this situation had brought up a very real fear of mine. Maybe I was secretly terrified that all of my hard work and training meant nothing in this business.
Then I had an epiphany. I was wrong. I was wrong. (I’m saying this twice because it was my bf’s only request when he proofed this.) As soon as I had figured out what I was so freaked out about, I realized I could let it go. There was no reason why my boyfriend couldn’t pursue an acting career. He had rediscovered a passion to do this work. He has a natural ability and desire to learn more. We could both be actors, just actors who had taken different paths. There really are many means to an end and no one clear path. Maybe that’s what makes Hollywood – and being an artist, in general – so exciting. Maybe instead of being frustrating, this can be liberating. It means it can never be too late to make a discovery, hone a different skill, or try something new. It means there really is room for everyone. It means we don’t ever have to feel stuck because things can always change. The more I started to loosen my grip on my preconceptions about my career path and what I thought I deserved, the more energized I became. Letting go of all that crap also made me realize I could trust that the hard work I had done in the past would never be for nothing…even if my boyfriend becomes incredibly successful with a different background. If there’s no one “right” path, then one person’s journey can never negate another’s.
On top of all that, I realized that there was a lot I could actually learn from my boyfriend’s approach to this business. He was having fun! He was open and honest about where he was in his career, and he knew he didn’t need to make excuses or try to compensate for that. To me, that seemed amazingly freeing. He wasn’t bogged down with worry or frustration or bitterness. He was excited to be in the game, excited to show up, and excited to learn. And as it turns out, he was reminding me to do the same.
So only one question remains…why aren’t we getting work from these pictures?!