To Be… Or Not

There is one topic that has come up on this site more than probably any other.  It is a topic that has been broached here both dramatically and logically, seriously and humorously, negatively and positively.  It is something that I have wavered back and forth on for a very (very, very) long time, and my posts here reflect that.  It’s the one thing I just can’t seem to escape, no matter what.  Tired of the dramatic entry?  Fine, me too.  I am talking about my idea, and dream, of making movies in Hollywood.

Shock!  GASP!  I know, I know… I’m talking about this AGAIN.  This time, though, I’m fessing up as to why I haven’t done it.  For a brief window of time back in 2005 I was pursuing acting, but that rather quickly fizzled out (I’ll talk about that below).  The question here is, why don’t I just do it?  I’ve talked about acting since I was 5, I’ve loved making movies since I was 10, and quite honestly it’s the only thing I could imagine doing for a living and being content in that alone (regardless of wife, kids, etc.).  Yet, I still haven’t.  Fears?  Not really.

More like hesitations… ;-).

Another long, personal entry ahead?  Indubitably.  Worth checking out?  Depends how much you care to know :).

Alright, semantics aside, why have I not pursued the life of a Hollywood fella?  If I love acting, writing, and directing so gosh darn much, what’s my gosh darn problem?  Well, let me tell you, gosh darn it :).  While making movies is everything I want to do, pursuing that life is also coincidentally a path filled with everything in life that makes me uneasy and terrifies me.  Not fears, though… hesitations.  Remember that :).

I’ve been looking for a job for months.  Why?  Well, for money, obviously.  The problem is, I’ve been trying to find a job that I wouldn’t hate – no sales, no hectic corporate office environments, no this, no that.  Why such negativity, though?  Why can’t I instead focus on the kind of job I DO want? (Why does this entry have so many stinking questions?)  I’ve been struggling to find a career path or even a job, just to maintain, because there always has been just one answer as to what I want to do – make movies.  And, in the back of my head, I always know that.  I don’t want to just have a day job and make movies on the weekends.  My interests and ambitions have always been much larger, and when you know what you want but aren’t doing it, you can’t try to find something else to replace it.  You can – but it won’t last.  That emotional collapse I mentioned in my last post, while a build-up and release of other things I won’t go into here, was sparked by this desire.

For some reason, I started watching clips and interviews of Gary Oldman the other day – my favorite actor, indeed, and someone who’s performances (and career, to a degree) I aspire to.  The idea was again thrust into my head, amidst all of the other things going on in my life, of acting.  Gary Oldman was 27 when he played in Sid & Nancy.  I’m 27.  I’m not him and he’s not me, but it’s not my talent that I doubt.  It’s never been that – I know I’m good.  It’s not the acting that’s given me trepidations, it’s… other things.  So anyway, this thought percolated over a day or two, about acting, and it culminated that particular evening as I sat in my room watching a movie montage set to music (one I’ve linked before).  Besides whatever else burst through the emotional dam at that moment, a large part was (and often is), why am I not doing this?  Again… it’s those darn hesitations.  I actually planned on getting to this part sooner – but apparently I had some things to set up.  What I really wanted to write about here is basically a long list, for me and you, of every reason I’ve ever given myself, every hesitation I’ve ever had, and every emotional hurdle I’ve run across to keep me from pursuing the one thing I’ve always loved.  So, here we go:

1. Compromise
Mmm, my favorite word in the world in regards to creativity ;-).  The compromise I’m talking about here is two-fold.  First, it’s the compromise of interest.  As an actor, in order to get noticed, sometimes you take roles that you’re not necessarily in love with.  For me, that’s a very hard idea to wrap my creative heart around.  If I’m not interested in something, creatively, I have a hard time investing myself in it.  Plus, I don’t necessarily want to compromise what I consider an art (and I don’t want to hear any comments saying “snob” because it’s about my creative satisfaction, not what others may think), by shilling the newest Blackberry in a commercial to make ends meet.  The second part comes from the writing/directing end, and though I’ll talk about it more below, the idea of movies as a business is hard for the little boy who grew up making his own work without having to worry about the corporate concern on the bottom dollar.

2. Uncertainty
I don’t have a cell phone I regularly use.  I’m not a huge fan, and the other day I took a hard look to try to really figure out why.  Yes, I love the simplicity of life where mobile phones weren’t the norm, but I finally realized why.  Conveniences aside (never my issue), cell phones are an excuse for uncertainty.  That’s why I’ve pushed against having one for so long – I HATE uncertainty.  Obviously nobody knows what will happen day-to-day, but I’m talking about a life without daily plans, where the day’s activities can be changed and altered all with the dial of a cell phone.  Ask my friends… I’m always trying to push for verifications on specific times and locations.  I don’t like leaving things up in the air; a fly-by-your seat type of a life.  However, the realistic pursuance of the acting world in Hollywood would be extremely uncertain.  It doesn’t leave room for a 9-5 lifestyle (which, I ironically don’t enjoy… it’s just those fea- hesitations, again), as I would be bounding from audition to audition, trying to get shifts covered at whatever part-time job I have.  It’s a lifestyle of constant change, where the only stable factor is myself with an ever-changing environment.  This leads right into the third thing…

3. Change in comfort levels
This can kind of meld with the others, but it’s certainly a separate factor that’s held me in all on its own.  I’m a cheap guy, I don’t have many expenses, and I don’t live lavishly.  I am, however, very used to a certain lifestyle.  I don’t like L.A., I’m an Orange County boy, but commuting from here to the L.A. area constantly would be a bit of a strain.  Plus, I don’t exactly imagine affording a place out here on my own with whatever retail/restaurant job I have (so as to have a flexible schedule), so that means I’m living in some less-than-nice place out there, or I’m finding roommates.  Basically, pursuing this dream would not only uproot every comfort level I have (and like), but it would most likely put me into living situations that I’m either tired of or would rather do without.  I’ve been trying to find a decent career for this very reason – to be able to afford living on my own here.  Yet, this itch just doesn’t go away… no matter how hard I try to kill it ;-).

4. The business of movies
People make a living on movies.  Not just actors, but everyone in the crew.  Of course, studio executives like to make money, too – quite a bit of it.  As I mentioned previously, the idea of not making movies purely for their artistic merit, but for the idea of profit, irks me.  It may sound like a contradiction – I want to make a living doing this, but I don’t like the money angle.  Money is fine, it makes the world go ’round, but since movies are produced by companies to make cash, there’s just that extra level of crap to deal with.  I get it, I’m not questioning the reasoning – it’s that idea of compromising or having to fight (and potentially lose) to get something made without it being corrupted for the sake of “improved profitability.”  Sure, I could work independently, but honestly – many of my ideas for movies aren’t low-budget indie pictures.

5. I’d be going alone
Okay, sappy part here, but genuine none-the-less.  Sure, I’d have the support of my friends and family, and every stranger and acquaintance I’ve ever mentioned movies to… but there is that one person I wouldn’t have – the girl.  Friends are invaluable to me, but even still, there would be rough days ahead when all I’d want to do is come home and talk to a special someone, and I don’t have that someone.  It’s a small thing, yet one of the biggest.  The one gal I dated, for the beginning period in which things were great, gave me the strength to take on the world.  I don’t see it as much of a coincidence that the only time I started to seriously pursue acting was during this period.  Nothing can turn me on and satisfy me as much as working on a movie – absolutely NOTHING (and in a world of women, babies, and hilarious animals that’s saying a ton), but I know that not every day would be great… and without that sort of “mobile comfort” I’ve never thought I’d have the strength to push through it all on my own.

6. Hesitations = Fears
Numbers 1-5 up there?  Forget them.  They are very real hurdles I face, and every single one is based on genuine emotional/mental deficiencies, but forget them all.  It’s all bull.  The main reason that I haven’t gone after the one thing I really want is like I said in the beginning.  I’m terrified.  TERRIFIED.  Pour every single one of these hesitations into a pot, along with a few more I may have missed, and you have the culmination of every single thing that terrifies me in life.  Petrified is a better word – because it not only scares me, but causes immobility.  I don’t like being scared.  I don’t like roller coasters or thrilling things – I like being safe and sound.  That’s just a personal taste, not a bad thing, but it goes beyond my dislike of the physical sensations of being flung around a track at high speeds.  It holds me in from things that I want.  So, ironically, pursuing the one thing I want, scares the willies out of me.  Unless you know it yourself, I can’t begin to explain how hard it is to live a life in which you know what you want – but are too scared senseless to do anything about it.

And that’s it.  There isn’t a grand conclusion of me finally realizing what I need to do to make my dreams reality, because I already know what to do.  I know what I want, what avenues to take, I know it all… I just have to do it.  It isn’t about getting inspirational comments or reading great stories… I just have to do it.  Oddly enough, my favorite story about a movie being made was posted online just yesterday.  The story of Rocky.  I can’t tell you how much the story of Stallone’s victory, the lovable character and his fantastic arc through the entire series, and the love story of two “losers” finding each other has always meant to me.  Both the story on film and the story behind the first movie are inspirational tales of a “million-to-one shot,” and anytime I hear it I feel ashamed.  That’s right… ashamed.  Constantly.  Not from the disappointment of others, but from the disappointment in myself.  I have stories to tell.  GREAT stories, that’ll make people laugh and cry.  I have the ability to bring other people’s characters to life in ways that I know entertains others.  I can do this, and I want to do this.  I just haven’t.  Rocky had Adrian to love him, Mickey to support him, and Butkus to hang out with, but he had to go out in the morning and jog alone by nothing more than sheer will, and in the end – he got into that ring by himself.  Oh yeah, and Stallone just happened to be 29 when he made it happen.  I’m 27.

If I can kick my own butt, though, if I can finally pull myself out from beyond all of this fear and pursue this, and if I can succeed, and if I can end up on some stage some day accepting an award, I’ll smirk and say very quietly into the microphone, “Yo, Adrian… I did it.”

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About Mark Mushakian

Just a man who loves God, women, kids, dogs, movies, and every other lovely thing in life :)
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