Honestly, I wanted to be famous.
I thought being a Hollywood movie star would make me the happiest most content
individual in the world.
I packed up a 14 year professional career in the industry, along with the belongings I could afford to pay overweight baggage for, and was off to the place where dreams are made, where everything is shiny and you are immersed in your ideal world of acting, writing, creating, learning and gazing at that big ‘ol Hollywood sign! Yay me!
And then I arrived ….
Everyone’s story is different, there is no formula. There are the girls who get discovered whilst our here on holiday with no visa, the boys who are standing in line at the supermarket with no credits, the people who never even thought about being an actor until someone said “you’d be perfect for this role.”
There are those who slog it out for 20 years before catching a break. It’s not fair. The longer I’m here, the more random it seems. You just think you have the next step figured out and it all turns again, a bit like the moving staircase from Harry Potter.
Everyday thousands of actors and wannabe actors are taking the plunge and moving to LA. But lets face it, if you want to be an actor, you move to LA. I always liken it to wanting to be the best anything. You want to be the best lawyer, you go to the top law school and apply to the best law firms, the same with doctors, teachers, scientists- anyone who wants to reach the top of their game. You go where the best goes and where the work is. For the film industry, and me this place is LA.
They say if you want to do theatre go to New York. If you want to do TV/Film go to LA. That’s the rule of thumb. Although, lots of shows are casting out of NYC these days. I also just prefer the weather here…
This is a bizarre place, but every day there is a new way to try if you have the patience, resilience, determination, a slight amount of insanity and a need to struggle and punish yourself for sins committed in previous lives. Yes it’s like quick sand, but if you can keep up, the opportunity to get a group of like-minded passionate people together here and create is endless. Whether it is a play, short film, indie movie, webisode or a scene for class, you can hone those skills and do what you love, in spite of the many challenges this BIG pond represents. I’m doing it now with a friend of mine from work. We are working on a short film. I also have just finished filming a great scene adaptation of an Oscar winning movie for the University of Southern California. It not a lead role on “Mad Men” yet, but the point is, I’m keeping the tools sharp. Your training and upkeep of these skills is so important. Preparation meets opportunity and then there is no room for error.
Since moving here I have learnt so much about what I do. My skills and respect for my craft have grown immeasurably. I was lucky to have had a very strong training in South Africa, and that has stood me in very good stead here. Everyone is in class. My father, and acting coach at college, said to me “ remember there will always be someone better, prettier and more talented than you, watch and learn from them. The moment you think you’ve cracked it, you’re dead in the water.”
Well, even though I agree with this, Hollywood turned that upside down a little. What he should have said was “ it doesn’t matter how talented you are, what experience you’ve had and if you are the most stunning looking woman in the world. This is Hollywood baby, it’s all random. Give it a shot and see if you land on your feet.” Ha, Hollywood, you infuriating unpredictable beast.
I think the biggest question I had to ask myself was why do I want to do this? Why give up my family, friends, home and flourishing career at move to the furthest point away from South Africa that I could.
My stock response was what I truly wanted to believe. I wanted this so I could be the best at what I have chosen to do with my life. Work with the best people, bring the best scripts to life and grow as an actor. My friends and family were so bored of hearing about me moving to LA. They eventually looked at me, nodded and patiently waited for the record to turn over.
But now I also have discovered a new reason for being here. I really want to inspire other South African actors to do it. I think we are where Australia was 10 or 15 years ago in the eyes of the LA TV/Film industry. It took the Cate Blanchetts and Hugh Jackmans to put Australia firmly on the map. We are just poking our heads out and dipping our toes into the water – which is mostly safe. With projects like District 9, Tsotsi, Elysium and now Black Sails we are definitely growing. I want to help build South African talent out here. I suppose this is one of the reasons for writing this blog.
When I stepped of the plane and moved into a hotel, I had no idea where to begin. I learnt through trial and much error which paths to take and which wasted precious time. I don’t believe this information should be kept a secret and allow other South African actors to fall into the same traps. If we want to grow as an industry in LA, with a reputation for providing solid top-notch talent, we need to help each other along the way. Hopefully this blog will help with this as well as be mildly entertaining to read.
Check out our ZAUSA Facebook group for South Africans living or moving to LA. We’re all here to help.
As for being famous? Of course I still want to be famous, everyone does! But I am ok if it doesn’t happen now, I can now honestly say I just want to work. Please just let me work!! Preferably on something good, something that stretches me, something that I can be proud of. Right now, I’m proud of the fact I’m taking the risk. To me that’s half the battle, and half the fun. To me, that’s living!