About a year ago, a former teacher got in touch with me to ask if I would have lunch with two young ladies who were considering a move to Los Angeles. They’d been involved in school theatre and, of course, were bit by the acting bug.
I wasn’t entirely sure how to advise them. Being an actor has influenced every inch of my life. All of the best things that have happened to me have been because of acting, but so have all of the worst. Some of the worst has been much, much worse than I anticipated. Some of the best has been better. I would have liked to be more “successful” than I am, but I also think I’ve become (over time) someone who appreciates the journey of it all.
I have to say that it was harder than I would have liked to it be to look at two very young women and honestly tell them to “go for it” without any reservations. When I was young, whenever I mentioned wanting to move to Hollywood and become an actress, I would get hit with a barrage of unsolicited advice about how hard it would be. All of that advice just drove me more towards my initial goal, mostly because 99.9% of the time it was coming from someone in a small Virginia town who had never worked in the entertainment industry at all. What did they know?
I thought a lot about what I would say to these girls, because I really did want to give them something of value. Something that would actually help them if this was the path they ended up choosing. Because what I do wish I’d had, is someone who had actual experiences in this industry to give me advice or a helping hand. Because I certainly got the “it will be hard” message over and over again, but never got any advice about how to make things better. I wish I’d had a woman, specifically, give me advice about protecting my sense of self in a business that can rip that away from you so easily. Support for and from other women is so vital, and one of the reasons I love Ms. In the Biz so much. Having that sense of community is invaluable, and I think about what reading the wealth of lessons on this site would have meant to me in my teenage years.
The most important lesson I thought I could impart to them, though, was “don’t wait for someone to give you what you want, make it happen.” And when I said those words to these lovely young women, I realized that I needed to take some of my own advice.
I’m so lucky to have known and worked with so many talented women over the years, and my personal goal for 2016 is to create more opportunity not just for myself, but for as many of them as I can.
One of my best friends, Samantha Macher (who funnily enough grew up doing theatre with me under the direction of the same teacher who got in touch with me about lunch with these girls), wrote a play that features an all-female cast several years ago. We’d been talking about things we could do with the play, To The New Girl: Sound Advice for my Former Husband’s Wife or Mistress, for several years—and looking at the numbers in the infographic below made something click.
We’re creating a 100% female film (you can check out the Kickstarter that just launched here) featuring 10 directors, 10 actresses, and a crew full of women. Because more than anything, what I’ve come to believe about this industry is that you have to support talented people in your community.
In fact, I’m sending an email to those two young ladies who asked for my advice last year, asking if they’d like to be involved with this film. Because advice is great, but action is better.