You want direction and fulfillment, pay attention to life’s moments and connect the dots you discover along the way.
I guess the best place to begin the story of dots is when the Oscar bait film, La La Land (2016) came out. I wanted to see it, but I was living in Augusta, Georgia and while studying film during my senior year at Augusta University. Now, the thing about the Home of the Masters is it’s not the best place to experience art. Though the downtown area does its best, it’s unfortunately not economically viable… except for the ballet strangely enough. Here’s an example of what I mean. One day my dear friend, D. B. Thomas and I went to the cinema to see Nicolas Winding Refn’s film, Neon Demon. We had the entire hundred plus seat auditorium to ourselves. Sad, but again, there’s not a strong market for art over there, so you’re safe to assume Damien Chazelle’s musical didn’t make it to the local cinema… until it was nominated, but that’s getting ahead of the story.
In the latter part of 2016, D. B.’s cousin needed to be picked up from the Atlanta airport. So, I along with my brother and D. B.’s girlfriend tagged along making it a road trip with three goals in mind. First, we pick up the package then we buy a ton of stuff from H-mart and finally, before the long trek home, we see a film in an arthouse cinema! So, we google search “art-house-theater in ATL,” drive to the Tara Cinema and see, you guessed it, Jackie! No, we actually wanted to see Moonlight, but we decided to catch La La Land instead. It was a perfect movie to end a perfect day.
A year later, after graduation, I moved to Oklahoma to begin my acting career. During the span of 13 months, I earned enough credit from commercials/film work to get noticed by an agency in Atlanta which was fantastic for a number of reasons. One, my family was moving back South so it was a perfect transition of returning home, two, it’s freaking Atlanta… the Hollywood of the South and three, it was a tangible progression of forward movement in my career. As Andy from The Office would say, “Oh, it is on, like a prawn who yawns a dawn!” However, I counted my chickens before they hatched.
Early 2018, I moved to Marietta where a family friend didn’t mind me sleeping on her couch for a few days and with the help of my parents, I designed a game plan. 1. Find a place to live. 2. Find a job and 3. Get roles. Now, here’s the thing no one in college tells you as the diploma nears… “Life is stupidly difficult after graduation.” In the first three weeks of living in an Atlanta hotel room with my parents, brother and dog, I learned anything within Hotlanta’s perimeter will charge you an arm and a leg for rent. So a roommate situation was the way to go! I interviewed three potentials. The first was an old woman who lived in a home which smelled of mold, the second was a single parent with a noisy kid, and the third was later found out to be a registered child molester. On top of all this, I couldn’t find a job. The towel was about to be thrown. My dad was spending all this money, my mom was pulling her hair out, my brother was on his summer break and even our poodle was depressed. But, they supported me and I owe them everything.
Every day within those three weeks, I searched for jobs on LinkedIn and stumbled upon a job titled, “Associate Manager – Tara Cinemas.” The La La Land road trip came back! I applied online, printed out my resume which stamped work experience from the age of 14, put on a suit, drove to the theater and shook hands with the General Manager. I told him I had zero experience in a theater, but I am the man for the job! We sat down for 45 minutes and I told him my story. Soon after, I was offered the position. I will always be grateful to my Cinema GM at the Tara for taking a chance on me.
While that was going on, without my knowing, dad reached out to a work acquaintance who lived in the area. I’m here to tell you, if someone is willing to be your friend after a handful of years, you do everything you can to keep them around. This woman’s maiden name means ‘angel’ in her ethnic heritage and there no other way to describe her. She allowed me to rent a room in her mansion by cooking, cleaning and walking her a cocker spaniel as to help me get economically grounded. I graciously owe everything to her. I probably wouldn’t be able to live in the apartment I reside in now.
Now for the third step: Get roles. The whole reason for the tribulations above is to be an actor, but I learned more about the tactics of business during my acting experience than I did about art itself. Being an actor in ATL is not about showcasing one’s talents of improvisational memorized wordsmithing, it’s a simple skill of beating the odds when it comes to supply and demand. A few stories of mine regarding acting are for another blog, but here’s what I’ll say to the ‘want-a-be actor’ in the area. There is a surplus of both the talented and the not. Unless you’re the Brando of our generation, struggle is promised simply due to an intense amount of competition. The perception of being a actor is what everyone thinks it is, but it’s also one of the most unstable and inconsistent types of employment. Take this for consideration, I have many acting acquaintances who’ve lived in Atlanta for years and to my knowledge the biggest role one person has obtained is being a speaking extra on Netflix’s, Stranger Things.
The decade of the 2010’s is almost over and here I am as a writer of the screen. Granted, as of the moment I’m not an Anderson, a Coen or a Stone, but I do believe I’m where I’m supposed to be occupationally and I had to go through all that heartache to get here. Life is weird. So, connect your dots and 2020… bring it on!