Me Mentor You? No.
WARNING: This is my truth – today. Doesn’t have to be yours, and might not be mine tomorrow.
A couple weeks ago a young, talented actor asked if I would consider mentoring him. Now, while flattered, I pretty much flat out said no. It would take a few conversations to completely explain it, but while I can look at my career as a success, that each job I’ve booked or book I’ve sold or screenplay I’ve optioned is a success… it’s not at all like I’m the CEO of some billion dollar company, and I have any actual answers.
All I have are my own experiences, my own stories… As I later explained, I see it that he and I are at the same place in our careers. While I have done dozens of commercials and TV shows, we are both one audition and one call back and one producer’s session and network approval from being a lead in a TV show, or an audition and a call back from being a lead in a career changing film. I think I further blew his mind when I told him that he might actually be closer…
Unfortunately, some times in show biz your “success” makes people think they know what you do…
“Oh Tom, he does commercials.”
“Tom isn’t right for this.”
“Tom is a character actor.”
“Tom, no he’s more a guest star…”
“Tom, I think he’s writing books now…”
“Tom, no doesn’t he do dramas?”
“Tom isn’t serious enough for this sort of role.”
“Tom, no isn’t he busy doing YouTube videos?”
Unfortunately some times when people box you into something, thinking they know what you do, based on what they’ve seen or heard you do in the past, sometimes you don’t get a chance to go any further.
“He just does…” “She just does…” “They’re more a…”
I’ve enjoyed getting to know this younger actor and I’ve been open to answer questions he’s had. I’m no role model. I’ve made mistakes. He’ll make mistakes. There is absolutely no magic answer. Not one creative path is the same. Best advice, which I gave to a parent the other day, who was asking me a series of questions on behalf of her 14 year old child wanting to be an actor… Best advice, be born a billionaire. Second, be born into some A listers show biz family. Third chance, hope you have a close personal friend or relative at the top of the business, though I know many people that having that hasn’t helped them in the slightest.
You can work EVERY SINGLE MINUTE and never achieve a goal, or sit by a pool drinking bloody mary’s and spill a drill on your white shirt which leads to a conversation with some Hollywood big shot who just for shits puts you in her film. There is no ladder of success. Some go from cage fighting, or baseball, or YouTube, or Reality TV, or Broadway, or wherever… to leads in TV shows and films.
Like there was no spoon in the matrix, there is no ladder to really climb in show biz. You can shoot up. You can slide down. You can forever stay the same. The biz is run by people looking to make money, and who think they’re creative… Where often the most talented and creative people don’t make a hint of money.
Oh yeah, and it keeps getting harder. The top continue to make more, the bottom and middle continue to be chipped from.
Sorry if this is bumming you out.
Anyway… one question he asked was whether or not he should live his life, or work his ass off… To which I replied something like, Yes, and I don’t know, and who knows… I doubt when I’m minutes from death I’ll think about most of the acting, writing or singing successes I’ve had. I doubt I will wish I did one more National Commercial, or three more lines on one more TV show. I would imagine I’ll think of relationships I had. Conversations I had. Friends I’ve loved. My family. Parents. Siblings. Nieces. Aunts. Cousins. Uncles. Mountains I’ve climbed. Roads I’ve driven. Canyons I’ve hiked. My trip to Burning Man. My backpack and train through 9 countries in Europe. Glaciers I’ve walked on. Songs I loved. Books that affected me. Pets I’ve cared for…
What he shared with me a few days ago touched me enough I wanted to share it with you (of course I got his permission to do so).
“Thanks for your conversation, advices, honesty and wisdom! Really enjoyed it and appreciate it! … Today I took a day to write letters to the people that l love cause I realized what you told me! There doesn’t have to be a separation between the work and my life. What matters is our dreams, creativity ,people, relationships. At the end that’s what we portrait as actors: life. So we better start living and acting on our own!”
I do what I do because I love it. I love the creativity of it. I love the freedom of it. I love the expression in it.
I write this blog because it helps me express, and possibly helps both me in writing it down and others in their journey. I always love when I hear from people that somehow something I did, wrote or performed in impacted them in some way, even if it’s that they laughed when they saw a commercial I was in.
– Quiche Out