I spent this sunny, spring weekend shooting a short student film in Boston. I am still very new to film, and even though I had a small, unpaid role, my six year old self who dreamed of being in movies was very excited. Heck, my 32 year old self was pretty thrilled too!
I was the only adult in the cast, and through some conversations I had and overheard between scenes with others on the set, I learned that I was the only actor on the set without an agent. The three children under the age of ten on set all had agents. I don't.
For just a few minutes, this realization deflated my joy a bit and I felt filled with self-doubt. Am I a failure? A fake? I felt like I was doing a good job on my scenes, but was I kidding myself? Was the underlying and undeniable fact that I don't have (and am not planning on getting) an agent enough to make my pride in the job I was doing and my own definition of success evaporate?
It felt that way for a bit. But honestly, I can tell I'm making progress, because my bummed out attitude only lasted a few minutes at most. One of the things I love most about getting older and more comfortable in my own skin is not that I'm never plagued by doubt and fear of being a fraud, but that the lag time between self-doubt and peace of mind gets shorter and shorter.
I think I'm doing just fine. I don't have an agent, and I'm not paid to do all of my acting jobs, but I love performing more than almost anything in this world. I love what it feels like to tell a story, to be able to share something emotional with a live audience or a camera and crew. Acting makes me feel beautiful and intelligent and purposeful. Performing is where I like myself best.
So I don't have an agent. This means that there's no one plotting my next project or telling me how to wear my hair or what roles they think I'm right for. That's one way to look at it, right? But I choose to see it a different way--in a way that is liberating. The change of mind doesn't even require a change of language: there's no one plotting my next project or telling me how to wear my hair or what roles they think I'm right for! See what I mean? I GET TO DECIDE about all those decisions and a million more that are all MINE to make. That, my friends, is sweet freedom and mystery, and yes, a whole hell of a lot of work, but something that I love.
So with the film being over, I am left to decide. Do I want to audition for something else? A play? A film? I could take a break for a few months if I want and take up a new hobby or watch every episode of The Office or Gilmore Girls just for fun. Work on writing my book. Plan a vacation with my husband and wipe my acting calendar clean for however long I please. I'm in charge.
I'm sharing this with you in hopes that it might resonate with any experiences you have had where you've felt unmoored, or where someone (maybe even yourself) has made you feel less for not playing by traditional rules or following a well trodden path. Don't mistake Artistic Self-Determination for a lack of direction. And no, this idea of Artistic Self-Determination is not new by any stretch of the imagination, but it is new for me, at this time in my life, and that's worth feeling good about.
What about you? I'd love to hear your thoughts!