Monday, September 21, 2009
It's easy to become victimized by this paradigm, and even easier to enlist in it. A litany of unreturned calls, lukewarm responses, disappearing acts, and interminable holding patterns seems best dealt with by dishing them out in return. I've always maintained that no one resents a cynic more than a cynic, and similarly, no one resents a flake more than a flake. Encountering someone who has had their hopes dashed as often or more as one's self is a familiarity that breeds contempt.
Yet I've discovered, over the last several months, that there is no such thing as salted earth when it comes to making good on intentions. No matter how much of your inner fire has gone up in smoke, if you're alive, you've got fuel left to burn. And while it may seem simple to some, within the deflector-shields up milieu of Hollywood, just a small dose of integrity can blast away years of built-up heartache and disappointment.
Doing what you say you are going to do, and surrounding yourself with people who do the same, is no miracle. I hesitate to even say it should be considered rare. There are plenty of people out there that make good on their intentions every day, even if their amibitions are simply to clean the house or make it to work on time. Though when the stakes are higher, and the vision is grander, there are perhaps more opportunities for integrity to be challenged, results still come down to keeping your word.
I've been privileged over the last six months to live and work with a collection of people--six fellow artists and a galaxy of local stars who lent their gifts and support--that have forever altered my perception of Los Angeles. No more do I assume that my words or the words spoken to me are weightless. From out of thin air, together we made something wonderful simply on the basis of saying we wanted to.
Breathe deep. That's fresh air.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
I know all of us have great aspirations. Some of us want to be starring opposite Phillip Seymour Hoffman in the next Best Picture. Some of us want to be working alongside Spielberg on the other side of the camera. There are dreams of late night talk shows, comedy clubs, art openings. And while many of these things are still off in the distance... this is it. Here and now. While it may not be on the biggest stage, each of us is right now accomplishing what we have always dreamt of accomplishing. We are doing what we love to do, surrounded by people experiencing the same, and we are going to make people in our audience laugh, cry, and stare in wonderment.
I know it's easy for people to get hung up on where they're going, and not recognize how amazing the present can be. But this is one of the most amazing presents I have ever known.
Break a leg, everyone. Let's make this a night we'll never forget.
"Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars."
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
I'm utterly amazed at what's been accomplished in just the last three months, let alone the last three days! It 's maybe a bit of hyperbole and a bit of arrogance to continually heap praise on what we're doing here, but dammit, I'm just thrilled to be doing what I love with such awesome people.
I was looking over my schedule for September and shaking my head at all the things happening for me this month. I'm quite certain that all of us in Side Work are looking around going "Good GOD! How do I handle all of this abundance?" (Well, maybe they all word it differently...maybe it's more like "Good GOD! How am I going to edit this by Saturday?") And that's not even counting the projects we're working on away from Side Work. I hope when Side Work 1.0 wraps, we'll all remain committed to pushing one another to keep this intense creative drive going, because what I'm witnessing here is unlike anything I've ever seen. I used to be this way in high school and college, but I usually did everything alone--and burnt myself to the ground in the process. It's so much better to have some fellow drivers ready to take the wheel when I'm feeling a bit weary. I hope I don't come off as too laissez faire. I just know our vision is in capable hands no matter who's at the helm, and that at some point each of us will need to step up and deliver everything we've got.
I can't wait for audiences to see what we've put together, yet I doubt they'll ever understand the scope of what has gone into bringing Side Work to fruition. The editing sessions, the script revisions, the countless hours spent on media and promo material, the immense focus needed in order to paint or compose or choreograph, the photo shoots, the film shoots, the memorization...
I'm tired just writing about it. Or maybe I'm tired because it's 3:30 AM. Honestly, though, wow. I'm only patting everyone on the back here so non-Side Work readers can see that it's possible--albeit challenging--to function as normal, working adults even while every extra drop of time and energy is being poured into labors of love. Lack of time just can't be an excuse for putting off your passions, unless you're an EMT or particle physicist or something.
I've always believed that energy begets energy. It's like that first day back in the gym: you drag yourself there reluctantly, accomplish half of what you intended, and stare blankly down a long road to any real results. Yet the second day is much easier, the third even easier, and by the fourth day you wonder how you ever stopped wanting to feel this good. While natural highs aren't quite so handily packaged as the pharmaceutical, fermented, or herbal ones, once you get on one, they're just as addictive.
Let's keep this high going, even out beyond September 20th. Hey, we need some Vitamin C!
Sunday, August 30, 2009
And Saturday, we got all the other footage shot & photos taken. Thanks SO SO much to Travis for all his help, equipment & expertise, as well as his heat tolerance. It was damn hot in the valley!
This show is really coming together, people...
Thursday, August 20, 2009
This show also reminds me of college. But I've done theatre since college - I've done some plays, and some sketch... but it's all been kind of same old, same old. This is the first time since my good old Millikin days that I've felt inspired by everyone around me, moved by what we're readying to present to our audience.
You really are all INSANELY talented. And in such different ways - I love it. And we're going to BLOW PEOPLE'S MINDS. LITERALLY. It's going to get messy.
Okay, back to my side work...
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Only five weeks until the show! Sweet Jesus that's just crazy. Still, though, sometimes the best things are created when there's no time to overthink it. Or in this case, think about it at all.
I want to explain the beginnings of Side Work, but first I thought I'd share a little funny thing that happened tonight. My girlfriend and I have a tradition that whenever we are about to open a fortune cookie, we first think of something we'd like the fortune to address or relate to. For instance, we might say, "This fortune will be about my new job," and then we'll open it and see what comes up. More often than not, it's pretty astonishing the accuracy with which the fortune speaks to our subject.
Tonight as I was about to open a fortune cookie, I thought about the prospects of success for Side Work. I opened the cookie, and was totally stunned when it said -
Well, you'll just have to read on to find out.
So. Side Work came about through my participation in Landmark Education's Self-Expression and Leadership Program (SELP). Not to get too deep into it, but the crux of the program is to create a project that takes a self-cultivated identity into the community. While success is certainly a goal, ultimately the intent of the program is not what becomes of the project, but what you become in creating it.
I've spent a lot of my time in Los Angeles bemoaning how much my fate is out of my hands: How I can't believe how sucky my job is, yet how I can't afford to not work it, how I'm late because of traffic, how I'm not being creative because I'm tired or don't have time, how I can't make it as an actor because of politics or arbitrary factors (or having to actually work for it), etc. etc. etc. I got to the point where I was so resigned that I spent the better part of two years doing nothing but drinking, getting high, playing videogames, and slogging through boring days at work.
And oh, the anger. The slashing, white-hot, uncontrollable fits of intense rage at nothing or everything. I got so good at suppressing my constant despair and disatisfaction that my body craved any kind of emotion at all, even terrifying leaks of pure insanity. Ask Todd. We laugh now at my tennis court tantrums, but behind the irrational clown hitting balls into the stratosphere was a very sad human being.
There's only one word for my identity throughout this period: VICTIM. And the real bitch about being a victim is that it's a self-propogating cycle. I became a victim of being a victim.
Another time I'll elucidate exactly the kind of hyperdrive you have to engage to pull away from this identity black hole, but for now suffice to say that it all begins with the word possibility.
From the beginning, Side Work was about possibility. So much of my experience of Los Angeles had been about what I couldn't do, what seemed unlikely or even impossible. Forget arguing for my limitations, I was going to bat for them. Getting myself to the point of thinking I could launch a collective of artists to spark their creativity and collaboration felt something like reinventing fire. It wasn't pretty, and dentists have yanked out impacted wisdoms with greater ease, but somehow I got there.
My SELP coach, who loved my project from the get-go, had to bodily pull me over the hump. I recall our conversation where I was hemming and hawing about how to set up the first meeting of Side Work.
He told me, "Just set the date."
"But I haven't gotten everyone's availability," I protested.
"Set the date."
"How? I don't know what day is best."
With a knowing laugh he again said, "Just set the date."
And so, I set the date. I reached directly into my ass and pulled out March 5th.
"Good," he said. "Congratulations, you have a first meeting scheduled."
"But what if no one comes?" I wailed.
I was skeptical. I even moved the date back three days to March 8th. I got confirmations, then cancellations. I worried about the location, the timing, what I'd say, if anyone would be interested, if anyone would come along with me at all.
And you know, he was right. They did come. Not everyone has stuck around, and some here now weren't there at first. It's morphed and shifted and grown and changed and become something beautiful.
Somewhere along the way, so did my life.
And that's all there is to it. Just set the date. Just make it up. Just create your identity any way you like it. Let fate do the editing.
That's how I began Side Work. Next time I'll talk about the artistic vision, and how it has shifted and developed.
Oh yeah, the fortune cookie. It had this to say about Side Work:
Small opportunities are often the beginning of great enterprises.
Well well well...
Thursday, August 6, 2009
this is nikki. i want to give a HUGE thanks to jamey for setting up this blog; he and todd both are just productive as hell (it really puts me to shame some meetings :) ) and i really appreciate all of the hard work you guys do to keep this group moving forward. thank you.
i'm also really proud of all of us for really devoting our time & energies to this show - remember when a meeting consisted of 2 hours of us each talking about what we were working on outside of side work? now our meetings are firework displays of brain power & creativity, and we've gotten so much done, not only on the artistic side of it but, especially yesterday, on the business side of it as well. to quote jamey from monday's meeting, "i love ideas." :)
and on a more personal note, this group has really done a lot for me. before we started, i was burned out & was seriously considering turning my back on creative endeavors, getting a "real job" and possibly moving away from LA. i felt like my career & success was out of my control and i hadn't felt the joy of creating for a long time - auditioning for casino commercials and poorly written student films and no-chance-of-getting-picked-up pilots just wasn't cutting it. i felt like an "actor for hire" not an artist. then i got jamey's email about putting this group together, and
that very first meeting at aroma cafe was the first time in a long long time that i felt inspired.
during my time in this group, i've hit quite a few mental brick walls and felt like i was really putting my creativity to the test; it hasn't been easy for me. but the ideas that have come out of me through this process have been well worth the struggle. not since college have i felt the freedom to explore my ideas, the comfort to to make suggestions, and the cohesive nature of a true team like i do in side work. thank you all for treating me with acceptance and respect; you've made me feel like an artist, and that's something i don't ever want to lose sight of again.
"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up." ~ Picasso
Just finished a terrific meeting with Side Work. I'm always inspired and invigorated by our sessions, but tonight in particular was a really generative convocation of artistic visionaries. We named a restaurant, watched the work of three members of our group on film, and went away with definitive missions to accomplish. Amazing.
I kind of feel like the proverbial hungry traveler stirring up some stone soup, tricking my fellow artists into throwing their bounty into an ever more marvelous brew.
The little kernel of imagination I nurtured through the Self Expression and Leadership Program is ripening into a true masterpiece, thanks to the assembled bright lights. Each time I return to examine Side Work, something new and wonderful has grown. Tonight, Johnny's short film with Todd's performance and Nikki's set decoration was another miraculous example of the latent genius that is unleashed when artists are immersed in collaboration and accountability.
I just can't wait to see what comes next.
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Until next time!
"Greater than the tread of mighty armies is an idea whose time has come."