The first play I directed garnered me an NAACP theatre award nomination and awesome reviews in the Los Angeles Weekly and Los Angeles Times. The first film I made was an official selection at over thirty film festivals and won Best Short Film at White Sands International Film Festival. The first short script that I entered into a script competition won me The Excellence in Writing Award at AOF Film Festival. I am currently in post-production on my first feature film which I star in and am very much looking forward to sharing. I am not telling you this to brag, but to hopefully inspire you to take a step out of your comfort zone so other gifts that you may have can be revealed. For the record, I never went to film school, I do not have a great vocabulary (always a work in progress), and I am not considered to be clever or wildly smart. I am average in that regard. Boringly average. What I do have going for me though is that I am a trained actor, so I’ve been exposed to and studied some of the best writers of all time, and I am wildly passionate about telling compelling stories. Whether I am producing wonderful stories, directing them, writing or even acting in them my love for storytelling is unquenchable.
Because this was all so new to me I struggled and had panic attacks every step of the way. On the way to the theatre on opening night of my directorial debut Sunshine For A Midnight Weary, I had to pull over to the side of the road because my heart was racing, palms were sweating and I was dizzy. It had suddenly occurred to me, “Oh God, what have I done! I’ve led these amazing actors through an eight-week rigorous rehearsal process and what if no one gets it?! What if everyone hates it? What if all the actors hate me afterwards? ” I was petrified. I took a few deep breaths; pulled myself together and arrived at the theatre pretending to be the confident director my actors had become accustomed to seeing. Not only did the audience love it, we got great reviews, it had three separate runs, and it’s also how I got my theatrical agent (I wasn’t acting in it at that point, but she was pleased to learn I was “also” an actress and requested to see me in her office on Monday morning). Boy oh boy am I glad that I gave directing and choreographing a play a try. That’s all it was. I thought I’d try it out because I genuinely loved the script so much and was encouraged to do so by my awesome friend producer/actress Tasia Sherel. I NEVER expected things to go so well!
After submitting my first short film The Encounter to over fifteen film festivals and getting fifteen rejection letters, I had had it. I was so confused. I remember thinking, ” Am I insane? Maybe I should just stick to acting. Am I the only one that sees the value of this story and the amazing performances my actors gave?” I thought about re-cutting the film. I thought about throwing it in the trash. I didn’t know what to do and I was having major anxiety. After having conversations with my dear friend Brianna, (who also starred in the film and won a Best Actress Award for it), I kept submitting it. Cut to: thirty official film festival selections and a handful of awards and nominations later. Thank God and Brianna that I kept trying. I would have never known what was possible had I not kept submitting, had I not kept trying. I’m an actor that wrote and directed a short film that people actually thought was worthy of receiving a few accolades. Who would have ever thought? Not me.
My second short screenplay came about after an incredibly low point when another project I was working on fell though. After spending months and months writing a script for someone else, I was told that they decided to go with a better, more experienced writer. My heart fell to the ground. I was stumped. Hurt. I cried. I thought, “well there it is, the confirmation I secretly feared and knew was bound to be revealed. My writing sucked. Who the hell do I think I am anyways I should just stick to acting.” The worst part was that there were elements in the script that I created and I absolutely loved. Then it hit me: the elements I loved were the parts that I added to the story. The characters that I created. And just like that, I pulled out an older script I had hidden, (it was hidden because of a bad critique I received) did a bit of reworking, added another plot point so I could include the new character that I initially created for this “other script”, and that is how The Untimely Concurrence was born. Last thing about this script, because I couldn’t get the words “we’re going with a better writer” out of my head, I decided to rewrite The Untimely Concurrence and then I submitted to AOF film festival. That year I won The Excellence in Writing Award. Oh, and that “other project” never happened.
To me, these are big wins for so many reasons. For one, I didn’t go to film school. I beleive I know how to direct because I am an actor. English is not my first language; I am always paranoid that I sound like an idiot. I feel I can sort of write because I am an actor. Also, my world completely opened up the moment I started creating my own projects. It has made me a better and smarter actor, and the best part is that I am always creating! My fellow thespians, know that there will always be those voices inside your head telling you that you cannot write, you cannot direct, you cannot produce because you are an actor. If you have a sneaking suspicion that you may actually be good at one of these other art forms, give it a go. I wholeheartedly believe that if you love storytelling and are willing to work your ass off, you can find fulfillment in other areas of this brutal yet fabulous business. Where there is a will there is always a way. You’ll never know though until you try.