Meryl Streep, Robert de Niro, Susan Sarandon, Keanu Reeves, Bill Nighy on Rejection and Not Giving Up

I watched a group of American actors talk last night about auditions.  It was a real eye opener.  They had all achieved great success, and they all said auditions were a nightmare, and that for every role they did get they had often had anything from 30-50 rejections.  Year after year after year.  Hard to imagine now, isn’t it?  Imagine not recognizing the talent of any of these great actors.

Susan Sarandon said  you’re acting with somebody who’s just reading a part and can’t act, into a vacuum, and nobody gives you any feedback, it’s hideous.  And all the rejections were very hard to take.  For Bill Nighy, they were torturous and traumatic.  He said he was very pleased to be older now and to be able to pick his roles, not to have to do auditions any more.

I loved Meryl Streep’s response – that you can’t make people love you.  All you can do is do your best.  And if don’t get the part you know that they’ve lost out on your great interpretation of the role.  But you can’t take it – any of it – personally.

Robert de Niro said just be yourself.  Don’t try to impress anybody, because you’ll either get the role or you won’t, and there’s nothing you can do to change that.  If you’re just yourself you have the best chance, because nothing is getting in the way of what you can really do.  I liked that.  No pretense.

Keanu Reeves – looking quite delicious I have to say – said it’s daunting and demoralizing.  You go to an audition prepared, vulnerable, full of hope.  You often get nothing back in return, and it’s terribly painful.   But, he said, it’s also an opportunity.  He didn’t elaborate, but somebody else had said you come away from these painful experiences and you’re really forced to decide how passionate you are about acting, whether you’re willing to go through the pain.  I imagined  that’s what Keanu Reeves had in mind.  The painful experience helps you make your choice.

All of these unpretentious people have done great things, played amazing roles, directed wonderful films.  I don’t get to see them just being real too often, I suppose because interviewers usually ask such dumb questions.  There’s so much media crap about celebrities, most of it utterly untrue.  The reality of their lives, what they have to go through to achieve, how long it’s taken them, passes us by.

In the mass portrayal of a wildly over-permissive world of seductive glitz and glamor, it’s easy to forget that that world is actually inhabited by ordinary, real people, some of them with huge courage who have been through hell to get to where they are.  One thing the actors and actresses  I saw last night all had in common.  They didn’t want to do anything else.  Well, two things.  They didn’t give up, in the face of tons and tons and tons of rejection.

It gave me courage.   You can’t take on other people’s ideas of what’s the right thing to do, can’t take on their rejection or their criticism.  You have to chart your course, keep revisiting it to make sure it feels right, that it is actually where your heart and soul are pulling you.  And you just can’t give up.  You’ll have plenty of people saying you’re not being sensible, it can’t happen for you, you should do it this way, you should do it that way.  How do they know?  Truth is, they don’t.  You’re the one who knows.  You’re the one with the mission.

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Being real is all you’ve really got

I’m flogging a dead horse here, but something is still on my mind.  A while ago somebody said my blog is boring.  I thought I’d got over it, but obviously I didn’t, because I haven’t wanted to write anything since then.  I’ve felt so ashamed of myself.  Couldn’t imagine why anybody would want to read my blog – haven’t even wanted to read it myself.

So was that person wrong to say what they did?   Of course not.  They aren’t responsible for my raw nerve.  And I didn’t realize that old belief (that if I’m real I’m worthless and what I contribute is meaningless) is still so alive and easily activated.  How could I have known that part was still so active if I hadn’t been told I was boring?

If I was sure I was okay, the words wouldn’t have resonated.  I’d have laughed or come back with a quippy retort; never given it another thought.  Wouldn’t it be great to be that innerly strong.   Well, at least now I can do something about it.  The hard things are the most precious gifts.

I wonder if anybody’s that strong?  Probably not, it’s probably a pretty human condition that we all wrestle with, more or less.  I watched some American film actors talk about auditions – Robert de Niro, Meryl Streep, Bill Nighy, Susan Sarandon, Dustin Hoffman to name a few.   I respect those people for what they’ve accomplished, and how they’ve weathered their storms.  They all said auditions are a nightmare.

And they all said you can’t try to please people, can’t force them to like you or your performance.  You have to be yourself and do your best.  Some will love you, some won’t.  When they don’t, you learn not to make it about you.  And at least you have the knowledge that you stayed true to yourself.  What’s the point of being anything if you’re aren’t being true to yourself?  Easy to say, difficult to do, especially when starting out on a journey, no matter what it is.  Difficult but not impossible.  And it’s a learning curve.

As for where I’m going with my blog, dreams, and desire to be independent and earn doing something meaningful; to make my life whole again, I can’t say what the destination is.  I can’t say I’ll please anybody, or that I’ll achieve fame and fortune.  I can only say that it’s a learning curve because there isn’t a formula to follow.  There isn’t one for anybody.

Everybody’s lives,  desires and dreams are unique and meaningful to them.  I’m doing the best I know how with mine, and that best is constantly under review as I move up the learning curve.  I’m sure we’re all doing the same.

Click here to read what my dreams are, and what this donate button is about.

What a little moonlight can do

Woke up this morning wanting to  run until I hit Cairo.   Or Europe to visit old friends, the US to visit new ones, London to visit the Queen, New York to meet Jack in Central Park, a film studio in LA to chat with Robert de Niro and have him hang his arm around my shoulders and say “whaddya think?”    Or George Clooney.

Notice there’s no music in there.   Why is this so @#%*ing difficult, what’s the point in having a voice if you can’t find it?    What’s the point in wanting to reconnect with it and get out there into the world with it if you don’t feel like singing and your voice is as dry and dull as a piece of damp cardboard?

Bloody hell.   Don’t feel brave or optimistic.   Feel stuck, wish I could give up and not care.   Did exercises with throat tight as a drum; some part of me wailing in total inner tantrum, I need to do something differently.   Don’t know what, can’t identify it.   All I could do was just do the exercises and hate them.   Then I made up songs.   Didn’t enjoy them though.

Sang along with Billie Holiday.   She’s the only one I have who doesn’t intimidate me on days like this.  Got to this song which usually lifts my spirits.   I always forget until I sing it.

Oooh, what a little moonlight can do…you’re in love / you’re heart’s a fluttering all day long / you only stutter ‘cos your poor tongue / just will not utter the words “I love you”…wait a while till a little moonbeam comes creeping through / you’ll get bold, you can’t resist him / and all you’ll say when you have kissed him is / ooooh what a little moonlight can do.

It’s a beautiful day outside and I’m miserable, how ridiculous is that?   My heart calls for something I can’t solidly identify.   A little moonlight, that’s what.   Not getting enough stimulus, maybe that’s all it is.   You can’t just work and work and work at things that don’t even bring any return yet, and not take anything in.   You run totally dry.

I don’t know where the balance is, today.   This week I’ve been better at time management, doing piano, singing, blog, script, some articles, and work.   My voice doesn’t feel any better for it, but it probably is, at least it’s been exercised.   Blog’s fine, traffic comes and goes, articles on Searchwarp get great feedback – and hey, I won a competition, that was fantastic!

Piano is much better for playing every day.   Work – I’ve done as much as I can except for yesterday when I didn’t even get to it.   Script – 5th draft is done; story holds together, has all the requisites – car chases, helicopter crashes and pursuit, red herrings, impossible odds, and a pretty cool love story if I say so myself.   Perfect for George Clooney.  Hmmm.

So I guess all in all it’s not so bad.    Still frustrated, though, still need stimulus food.    I spend 90% of my life in a room with a huge window that looks out on a world that’s so beautiful and exciting to me, but I don’t quite know how to be part of the banquet in a way that isn’t just in my head.   Really sick of head stuff.   Really want some down and dirty, v. pleasurable, stimulating, fun, fulfilling earthly human experiences.

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Searchwarp, Bridget Jones, Marc D’Arcy, Google, Paris Hilton, Robert de Niro, Oprah and I

Very few people leave comments on my blog and/or use the rating thing.    They look nice, those red stars, especially the 5 stars.    Confession?    I’m the only one doing it at the moment.   Oh God, am becoming self-congratulatory like Paris Hilton.   Hope Google doesn’t punish me.   Sometimes they do.   Have to remember Google isn’t God.

I digress.   Traffic to my blog has gone from 12 to 750 a month.    Whoopee.   Altogether, 2,600 page views of 300 blogs, in 11 months.   But on Searchwarp, in 5 months I’ve had over 22,000 page views of 65 articles and probably 600 very bloody nice comments and generally good ratings.

Hmmm.   Well I’m not giving my blog up, because it’s mine sweet mine and I love a challenge.   That’s not totally true, I like it when it’s conquered and down on the ground v. dead and I stand with one foot on its belly, my sword raised triumphantly in the air.

Always wanted to be noticed, discovered and applauded but was so damn uncool.   Plus I hadn’t done anything that was discoverable.   You see the difficulty.   Now, with Searchwarp?   Heaven, I’m in heaven.   I might even be making it into the cool group.   My experience is a bit like Mark D’Arcy telling Bridget Jones he loved her just the way she was.

Notwithstanding which, this morning I woke up to the thought Gaaahhhh!   What if I never break through?   Time is marching, what if there isn’t enough time?    Panic.   Dooom.

Then I remembered.   Hang on, I’ve got a completed script and I got it to Robert de Niro.   Granted it could be in his toilet, but perhaps I could send him a reminder to take a dump more often.    Oh that’s disgusting.    Plus, I’ve got a visible blog which Oprah or any publisher or film producer could see any day.   And all sorts of other writing projects.   It’s fine, I’ve got that all covered.

It’s the flipping singing.  that’s.  not.  flowing.   She said with gritted teeth.

‘”Well, it’s probably not meant to be, so stop feeling sorry for yourself and just focus on your writing.”
“No, I don’t want to, I want both” she said petulantly, sulking, thoroughly bothered, a bit flushed – probably menopausally.
“Well, you’ll never get anywhere really with either one unless you focus.”
“Mind your own business.   I’m a woman, I can multi-task.”

Probably the problem is just gritted teeth.    Need to ungrit them.

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2010 World Cup Soccer in South Africa

I really like my Bridget Jones take-off idea.  If I do it well enough maybe I’ll get a Colin Firth type man in my life.  And a job with a screwball producer.  Hmm.  Not so sure about that part, but for certain I’d get a film deal and become important woman of substance.

Last night I scrabbled about for a justification.  Why can’t I copy her?  Apart from all the obvious reasons which are too many to list.   Then I saw it.

Aha!  Helen Fielding slyly and patently obviously took her inspiration to satirize – let alone a character’s name – from Jane Austen.  Cleverly, unabashedly, unashamedly.  Got applauded for it, and I’m included in the applauders, I’m one of her biggest fans.  But what if Jane Austen had been alive, though?  Would her book have been labeled a rip-off?

So why can’t I do the same, only I’ll take my inspiration from Helen Fielding?  I know what, I can call my heroine Bridget Jones.

If Fielding’s publishers ever came after me I could plead a pretty good case in court, don’t you think?  Then she and I could jointly write a book about the war between us – and get another film deal.  Bridget Jones vs. Bridget Jones.

I want Mark Darcy!”  “No, he’s mine!  I want him!  Give him back!

It’s a brilliant idea,  Yes!!!  At Last!  My troubles are over, am woman of substance.  Am confident, world famous and important script and novel writer.  Ooooh.  Phone.   Probably it’s Oprah, or Robert de Niro.  Unless it’s Colin Firth of course.

What’s all this got to do with the title of this blog?  Nothing.  I got sidetracked.  I’ll tell you about 2010 World Cup Soccer in South Africa tomorrow.  If I’m still around.  If I haven’t already been hauled away to Hollywood.

Oprah, Robert de Niro, Charlize Theron and the audacity of hope

I went back to Oprah’s website today, saw it in a different light.  There are some great photos of her as she is, celebrating her new network.  What an achievement, I don’t know what was the matter with me the last I time I logged on.   I didn’t see the part where she was calling for women in their 20’s – maybe she got enough responses.  Whatever, she’s opened it up, and there are no age or gender restrictions.

The category is just “do you have a dream”.  Well hell, yes.  Scores of them, actually!  Lord, how to pick one.  And write about it in 1500 characters.   I picked my film script, what the heck.   This is what I wrote:

I have many dreams!  One is to see my film script made into a film.  It’s about a woman who can’t remember her childhood, has nightmares & epilepsy, is in debt, hates her business, has no friends, fantasizes relationships (incl. one with Robert de Niro who becomes her inner mentor/father-figure).  She’s in denial that her life is out of control until bankruptcy forces her to face her truth. She goes back to where she grew up, to try & remember what she’s forgotten.  Her violently traumatic past re-enacts in the present,  taking her to the brink of losing her sanity & her life.

But she triumphs, claiming her life back from the past.  Steps out of history.  It’s a thriller/drama with lots of complications & is a heart-warming story about triumph of the spirit & the power of  truth.  1st prize would be for Robert de Niro & Charlize Theron to play the main roles.  There are other major roles, could be a really good cast.  Set in NY, Cape Town, Zimbabwe.

Feel very passionate about this!  Got it to Robert de Niro who was (coincidentally? don’t believe in coincidences) in CT the week I finished the nth draft!  Didn’t speak to him though.  I long for this film to be made, even if it has to be re-written by a more experienced hand than mine.

Bankruptcy, by the way, turned my life around.  It was the best thing that ever happened to me!  I know first hand that denial imprisons you & truth sets you free.  Thanks for this opportunity, Oprah.

It’s true about Robert de Niro.   I’d written the book 6 times, and then the script who knows how many times.   I got to a point where I needed some input from a filmmaker I could respect.  I typed “END” and said “I wish I was in the same town as de Niro, then I could at least walk to wherever he was, and try and give him my script”.   The next day somebody said “he is in town”.

He was here for a hotel opening.  Charlize Theron as well.  He was staying at the hotel but she wasn’t, and I couldn’t find out where she was.  Tried to get into the hotel opening, but was stopped by men in shades, tuxes, walkie talkies.   Invitation only.  Then I called the hotel and said can I deliver something for him?  I was told no.  I called the Tribeca Institute  (he’s co-founder) in New York.  The guy spat at me “call his agent”.  I asked if he could give me the number.  He slammed the phone down on me.

Found the agent anyway, called him in LA.  Got his PA’s PA, who said “no way”.  Jose.  He was very friendly and apologetic, but said it’s a closed system and unless I’m represented by a high profile agent I can’t get to de Niro’s agent, and he’s the only one who accepts scripts.   So I said thanks, nice chatting.  And to myself I added “I’m not giving up.  No way.  Jose.”

Ended up delivering it to the hotel anyway.   The receptionist asked “is Mr. de Niro expecting this?”

“Oh, I’m not sure, he might be” I said casually.  How did I know any different?  He may have had a dream about me.

He got it, I know he did (concierge told me).  Didn’t phone me yet, though.  It’s so strange, this world of writing a film script, and the hopes you carry about it.  The hierarchical system you have to find a way of breaching without pissing people off.  I spent a lot of time on the script, it’s very real to me in that sense, but the actuality of it being accepted is so completely outside of my experience.   So all I have to go on really is hope.  Faith.

The audacity of hope.   Why shouldn’t it be me?  No reason at all.  What a giant step out of history that will be.

Be passionate, be real, take risks!

Logic can be so seductive, and seem so sensible – and be so completely wrong, in the long run.  It’s easy to forget that any conclusion is only as good as the information that backs it.

For example, take the “logic” that says if you want success you have to work out what people want, and provide it.  Seems pretty sensible.  Seems statistically supportable.

I’m always reading articles which say that if you’re writing and you want readers or success it’s no use writing what you want to write, you have to figure out what your audience wants.  I can understand how that seems logical and based on common sense.  After all, I read what I want to, and I tend to look for what I’ve been interested in so far. But for writers – and publishers, I guess – to conclude that I only want to read something similar to what I’ve liked so far, and won’t be attracted to a new voice and way of writing, a new perspective, a fresh way of thinking, is just dead wrong.

Publishers, agents, producers, some teachers, even writers, are always making two mistakes.  The first is thinking that the potential audience  won’t respond to the energy, the thrill, the excitement an author conveys when they write on something they’re passionate about.   The second mistake is thinking that the audience doesn’t like what’s new.  It’s ridiculous: marketers and manufacturers are always looking for new perspectives and new products, because they recognise that LIFE CHANGES, that people need newness.  Newness is the lifeblood of the commercial world.   And it is the artists who create the newness which we all crave, yes?

Yet publishers, producers and agents are always telling writers and artists that they must conform to some nebulous idea of what the public wants – which is in fact a formula they the publishers et al have created out of what’s been done.  What is it with these guys?  They’ve got to be the most ignorant bunch of humans ever.  And they don’t seem to change from generation to generation.  Somebody should write a book, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus and Publishers, Producers et al are from Some Other Alien Universe.

Look at anyone who has risen above the masses – haven’t they all been complete individuals?  Haven’t they all been rejected by agents, publishers, producers, you name it?  Haven’t they all been told “nobody will want to listen to you / watch you / read you / buy your art because you’re too different”?  Yet they’ve shot to great heights of fame and fortune – not because they adapted themselves to “what people want” but because they gave free reign to their passion and individuality.  And it always turns out that the audience was utterly starved for something new.  Oh yes.  It’s been proved time and time and time again.  Fred Astaire (can’t act, slightly bald, can kind of dance), Charlie Chaplin (too silly), Sidney Poitier (should get a dishwashing job), Walt Disney (unimaginative), Oprah Winfrey (reputedly fired as a reporter for being “unfit for tv” – boy was that a mistake!), The Beatles (guitar music is outdated), Elvis (probably too sexy) , J.K. Rowling (very big publisher oops), Stephen King (ditto).

Publishers and “authorities” are bullies, that’s all; egotists trying to hold onto their power, trying to control their world.  They can never have enough uniformity, it keeps them safe.  Or that’s what they believe.  But here’s the curious thing.  They could be so much safer if they recognized talent and newness and understood how much it is craved by the multitude.

How misguided can you be?  And really, aren’t there already enough people spewing out formulaic crap that has no life in it, is predictable and utterly dull dull dull?

The funny thing – right, it’s side-splittingly funny – is that the authority bullies never ask anybody real what they like.  They don’t actually speak to anybody and say “excuse me, what do you think of this or that?”   Their bullying isn’t based on anything real at all.  It’s not clever, it’s not perceptive, it’s not street smart.  Ever.  It’s based on their own fear-driven, control-freak-driven narrow-mindedness.  Greed might play a little role in there.  They don’t think they’ll make so much money if they take a risk on an individual.  Well the joke always ends up being on them.  Always.  Think of all the publishers who rejected J.K. Rowling!  They must kicking themselves.  And they deserve all the bruises they self-inflict, that’s what I say!

All of us, artist and audience alike, we’re all human, we’re not sheep or lemmings.  We all have hearts and souls and minds and we all long to be touched by somebody’s passion – and when we are touched by it, we all register it.  I know it’s true, because if it wasn’t the bright individuals would never rise above the mundane, to shine like stars for the rest of us to be inspired by.  There’s real logic for you.

Personally I love to hear somebody say “whatever you do, don’t try to please people.  Be real, be passionate, take risks”.

Robert de Niro said that.  Good on you, Mr. de Niro.