There's an event I went to that I want to talk about.
A couple weeks back, I attended a shindig at an acting studio where high-profile agent came to speak. I liked a lot of the stuff he had to say, and then I went home. Pretty successful night.
But I think it was successful for a completely different reason.
Now, I don't want to sound too much like I'm passing judgement on the people I'm going to talk about. Because the reason I was affected so much is because I entirely one-hundred percent understand where these people are coming from.
The room was filled with actors who wanted to break into the industry, myself included. Something I noticed once I got in the room and people were getting seated was that there was a strange energy flitting about. I couldn't quite place my finger on it at first, but the best word I settled on was "nervousness."
I found it strange and it kind of threw me for a loop. I thought this was going to be a simple talk followed by a Q&A - are we going to be asked to perform or something?
Well, no. But in away, yes, in the minds of about 75% of the people attending. Once the man of the hour entered the room, everything shifted again. The people around me started to subtly (not so subtly in some cases) perform for the agent. "Get me represented" they seemed to say. Not verbally, but everything about their body language and vocal timbre screamed it.
It was especially apparent during the Q&A. People bending over backwards to be polite as polite can be to this agent, treating him like he was the goddamn Queen of England ("Excuse me, sir, I have a question sir if you don't mind sir - oh, and thank you so so much for gracing us peasants with your presence m'lord, you may notice that my tongue is perfectly angled for licking your testicles...").
And then of course, there were the people trying to show that they knew acting or that they had the chops to be THE ONE. It was fascinating really; even though I was part of the assembled audience, I felt like I was also an audience of the audience.
And so the Q&A was done and the "members" of the studio got to have a few minutes of one on one time with the guy (I left before that happened) and once the general assembly broke the guy was swarmed. I was told later that there was a woman who blocked his path from leaving the main room until he would speak with her.
The experience has really sat with me for a while. It's been about two weeks or so and I still find myself reflecting on this short little event I went to.
In a room filled with people who wanted to impress, I realized something about myself:
I don't care about impressing people anymore.
And that... is a huge goddamn personal victory for me. If there's one thing that followed me throughout my high school and college years, it was this desperate need to be told how amazing I was, especially by my "superiors." Get great grades, kill that scene, own that role, make 'em shower me with praise.
And... all that is nice. But I don't care anymore.
I want to be a great actor because the act is fulfilling in and of itself, not because it makes a professor smile and pat me on the head. I want to be a great writer because I have stories I want to tell.
I want to be a great artist because when my art connects with people, I know something transcendent has happened - greater than me, greater than them.
It's a shift; I'm not doing it for me or for them - I'm doing it for it's own sake. Art is a machine with gears upon gears that never stops turning and the best I can do is throw myself into those gears and let myself get chewed up and spat out by the machine over and over.
Don't fight the machine. Throw yourself into it.
I'm not saying I don't do art for others. Of course I do it for others - doing it just for myself is cool and all, but this shit I'm doing has gotta be experienced by more than just myself. It's just that my intention in doing it for others has changed.
Don't do it for approval. Do it for that moment of transcendence.
To bring it back around; the reason I was so affected by the people in that room is because, at one time, I was all of them. I understand them all on a level that makes me ache.
I wish them all peace of mind. And for my part, I'm glad that I am slowly but surely, sloughing of the the skin of the person I don't want to be.