If actors didn’t struggle, they wouldn’t be able to represent the human race. I came across an interview by the Screen Actors Guild Foundation with Matt Damon in which he recounted his early endeavours with Ben Affleck to pursue an acting career.
After having no place to stay, “Ben showed up […] and that was when we were really running out of money. He was on our couch and […] he didn’t fit […] and all this shit was in our living room […], so we got really serious about writing. And that was the place where we sold the script [of Good Will Hunting].”
This was also the script that then won a well-deserved Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Their sticky situation was a blessing in disguise for them and ultimately for us who watch Good Will Hunting and get an opportunity to understand characters like Will and Sean.
All aspiring actors and creatives risk poverty and uncertainty when they choose to pursue acting/art/writing professionally. When successful actors are interviewed, it’s almost a guarantee they’ll be asked about odd jobs they had in the past to make ends meet.
I love to hear those stories. First of all, they’re hilarious. Second of all, it takes them off the pedestal I automatically put them on. Experiences I can identify with bridge the gap fame creates between celebrities and myself. It gives us hope. A hope to create something I never deemed possible.
A career in the film industry is hard – no doubt about it. It’s unpredictable, financially insecure and you will face rejection, criticism or concern from your family and friends. It’s highly possible you’ll have to defend your choice again and again and continually choose not to give up – the battle in the mind seems unending.
But, that being said, I am so glad this is the case… in theory more than practice. Times of desperation build our character. They force us to endure and to cling onto hope – if we choose to do so. Desperation causes us to wrestle with questions we want to avoid asking…
Are my current aspirations worth pursuing?
Why am I here?
What is the purpose?
What really matters?
Why am I who I am?
What is worth fighting for?
What do I want to see happen?
Where do I want to make a difference?
What can I offer to make that difference?
Boy, am I glad pursuing art is hard…
Art reaches hearts like nothing else can. It rises above being mere entertainment because it comes from a place of struggle. Not always financial struggle, but emotional, creative and/or philosophical struggle. When art comes from this vulnerable place – we can all identify with it to some extent or another.
Struggle makes you re-evaluate your choices. It brings the best – and the worst – out in you.
Desperation can be the biggest source of creativity – if you choose to channel it right.
In his pursuit to become an actor, Sylvester Stallone got to the point where he had to sell his dog to get by. That was also the time during which he wrote the script for Rocky. This in turn, garnered three Academy Awards… and he got his dog back.
Jim Carrey discovered his gift for comedy during his teenage years when his family lived out of their van for several months because his father lost his job. Because of his boldness and commitment, we are able to enjoy his comedic and dramatic stories he tells.
Charlie Chaplin grew up with an alcoholic father. His mother was mentally unstable and he spent most of his childhood in orphanages, yet that did not seem to hinder him from becoming the iconic actor he became. All his wealth “didn’t seem to derail his artistic drive” either.
Dustin Hoffman “lived below the American poverty line until [he] was 31.”
Halle Berry was a struggling actress in the beginning and found herself jumping from homeless shelter to homeless shelter.
Morgan Freeman never fails to give absolutely believable and profound performances. But bear in mind, it took him 50 years of perseverance before getting ‘success’ in his career, if you count fame and awards as success.
Obviously, these are success stories of actors we all know. They have a platform to share their experiences. But I always wonder how many success stories there are that we just don’t know of because the end result wasn’t fame, or an Academy Award.
Now, I do not wish poverty, depression or misfortune on anyone, but I do want to encourage those that are struggling to view this as an opportunity to rise above your circumstances and to channel your desperation towards creativity. Don’t dwell in desperation, but use the growth that comes from it to reach others.
Oftentimes comfort is the biggest threat to creativity.
Comfort and wealth isn’t bad. But don’t see it as the ultimate fulfilment of your life, enjoy it when you can, but don’t let it be a blockage to your creativity.
Failure, mistakes and struggles are so valuable – yet we’re so scared of them.
Desperation is a blessing in disguise – if you let it be a blessing. For all else, it keeps you down to earth, allows you to be human, allows you to learn from mistakes. It can be the most helpful springboard to reach and exhort others through your unique experiences and creativity, or you can let it define you and be a curse.
Channel desperation right. Choose to treat it as an opportunity. Celebrate the highs and lows of life – your own and those of others.
Viola Davis put it better during her Academy Acceptance Speech:
I became an artist—and thank God I did—because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.”
Don’t give up fellow Actors, Creatives and Dreamers!