Forgive me, acting Gods and blog readers, for I have sinned. You see, although I’ve had a faint inkling for the last year and a half, the past six months have solidified a long standing hypothesis of mine into a full fledged, life changing truth.
I have discovered something about myself that in hindsight makes so much sense, yet took a lot for me to accept considering the last five years of my life and, well, the entirety of this blog. So behold here a baffling revelation and some brutal honesty (which I may regret when the effects of this glass of wine wind off…)
The Beginning Of The Acting Dream
I fell in love with movies at a very young age. Growing up in one of the smallest towns in one of the smallest countries on the planet, movies exposed me to worlds, emotions and people I would have never gotten to experience otherwise. I was also creative and imaginative; I drew pictures before I ever learned to ride a bicycle (which comes before walking in Holland) and made up stories before I could properly write. On top of that I was fascinated by human beings, and loved to play dress up and pretend to be someone else.
So it only made sense that movies – where storytelling merges with visual art – won my heart. More than that: I had to be involved in that magical world of movie making. I didn’t know much about the jobs that would allow me to do this, so seven year old me naturally leaned towards acting. After all, actresses got to wear the pretty dresses, fall in love with the charming male leads and play the kick-ass characters.
The First Signs
Thus I decided to join theater classes. And that’s where the struggle began. I was rarely satisfied with the characters I got to play (even at seven years old, yes) and had tons of unsolicited ideas for the productions I was in. When I dug up flyers of old plays and performances for my visa I discovered they even gave me writing credits – something I’d completely forgotten.
Unlike the comments I received about my writing and drawings though, nobody ever told me I had an extraordinary talent as an actress, or belonged on the stage. I did a fine job, sure, and I know I’m actually a pretty damn good actress when I feel free, but that’s exactly the issue: I’ve always put so much pressure on acting, that I’ve been unable to feel free and have fun with it.
So why, if I didn’t have fun and didn’t get much by way of encouraging affirmation, did acting become such a must? My cheesy, mushy and fully unsubstantiated theory is that it started at school.
How Acting Became The Be-All & End-All
I’ve never particularly fit in well. Kids in the neighborhood roller skated, played ball games and did athletic stuff, at which I sucked on an epic scale. I preferred drawing, writing stories, and putting on plays and playback shows in our garage. I was also very straightforward and highly inept at playing the social games girls play – though not for lack of trying.
In high school these things really came to the forefront, and for the first few years of it I was a very anxious, unhappy and isolated teenager. It was during these years that I grew a strong desire to be seen, to prove myself. If I became an actress everybody would finally notice me and like me – or so I believed.
And so acting grew more and more important. Add to that my nothing-is-impossible belief system and an unwavering determination, and voila: an obsession was born! Three whole years, my comfortable life in Amsterdam, great friendships, being close to my family, all my savings, a good relationship, and a substantial part of my sanity: I sacrificed it all for a chance to get a US O1 acting visa.
In 2013 it finally paid off. Off I was to LaLaLand.
Actually Living The Aspiring Actress In Hollywood Life
But then the reality – the actual day-to-day of being a foreign, female actress in an oversaturated age category in Los Angeles – began. Auditions weren’t artistically interesting; they were mostly for commercials, theatrical ones few and far in between. And when I did get a theatrical audition, most of the time it felt like such a chore to prepare for it. Because the roles were uninteresting (receptionist #1), the productions amateurish, the writing poor: things a starting actress can’t be picky about. So I did everything I was supposed to, but not much more, filling me with anxiety and guilt. If I wanted to be an actress so badly, why was doing the prep work so challenging?
The Beginning of The Age Of Writing
To get more control over my career I started writing. I’d been writing since I was a little girl and my blog had gotten a great response, so why not write screenplays? It started as a means to an end but soon became all consuming. I’d wake up thinking about my stories, and would fall asleep thinking about them. My mind, it appears, has only has two settings: obsessed or not interested. There’s no “just” liking.
Writing was just so gratifying. I could actually use my brain, research allowed me to learn all kinds of new things, and meet all kinds of interesting people, and most of all: I didn’t have to rely on anyone hiring me. No casting director or producer or director. I could write whenever I wanted. It soon got to a point where I didn’t want to go to auditions for non-professional (read: SAG-AFTRA) productions anymore, because it would take time away from writing. Yet I could never admit to myself that writing had become more or equally as important as acting. That just made no sense.
Storytellers Versus Entertainers
But then I started to get to know some writers, and things began to click. I never particularly understood the dramatic, narcissistic and unreliable actors I met. I didn’t get the constant need for selfies, the fleeting nature of their relationships, the showiness. And yes, I know I’m generalizing ridiculously here. What I’m saying is I just never really personally clicked with most of the actors I met.
But that’s on me, not them. Because when I started to hang around writers, that’s when I finally felt like I’d found “my peeps.” Those hot-tempered, sarcastic, creative but analytical, socially slightly unadjusted workaholics: those were the people I understood.
To finish it off I had an enlightening conversation with a very nice actress (I told you: I was just generalizing for effect!) about being a storyteller versus being an entertainer, and it made me think. About the fact that I don’t like putting on make-up (I made up allergies as a child to avoid stage make-up). About the fact that I generally dread headshot shoots. About the fact that the quality of the story as a whole is often more important to me than which role I actually play. I realized that I, definitely, was in the storyteller category.
So What I’m Trying To Say Is…
I’ve been cheating on acting the past year. A lot. I was obsessed with finishing my screenplay, creating a package for it, starting another, and devising plans to actually get them made into movies. Because of that I just couldn’t muster the patience to audition for student films, zombie shorts and poorly written, ultra low-budget features anymore. And I felt so guilty the whole time.
But now that’s over because I’ve accepted what many people apparently already knew: I’m a writer. And the signs are with me this time: my teachers in school always complimented my writing, the producer of the show I was an actress on asked me to write for him, my first ever screenplay got selected for a prestigious Dutch screenwriting festival, and my first English screenplay just made the top 10% of The Academy’s Nicholls Fellowship – arguably the most prestigious screenwriting competition in the world.
Does this mean I’m quitting acting? Of course not. I’ve just started caring a little less, and don’t have the tolerance to let the career treat me like a super dependent girlfriend anymore. For legit auditions for legit productions I’ll still put in the effort, but it’ll be without the neediness.
And, ironically, this caring less situation has made me have much more fun with acting than ever before.
So, in conclusion: I’m still doing the whole acting hustle and always will be doing so. But I’m a more exclusive hustler now, the high-end, classy kind. Gone are my street walker days.
Sorry, but what other analogy can a girl from Amsterdam come up with? ;)