“Do you see movies differently?”

That was the question a good friend of mine asked me the other day.  He has nothing to do with the entertainment industry (that’s why he is sane) and was curious to know if I saw movies differently since I work in entertainment.  I imagine the fascination of the question stems from the same logic that if someone spent their entire life as a car designer, does he/she think, feel, and perceive the environment around them differently than the average driver every time he/she steps into a car.  I imagine this logic would also apply to painters attending an art show, off-duty chefs dining out, porno stars regarding sex, etc.

My answer?  “No.”  But it wasn’t always that way.

Prior to my working in entertainment, I loved movies fantastically just like any other child.  The excitement elicited from the anticipation of seeing a film was pure, innocent, and unjudged.  There wasn’t a hint of doubt or skepticism regarding the movie I was about to see.  I didn’t ask questions about reviews or what other people thought.  I wasn’t expecting anything, positive or negative.  I was just looking forward to partaking in a fantasy and going along for the ride.  I was thrilled purely at the fact that I was about to see a movie, any movie.

This pure, cinema excitement traveled with me at the start of my entertainment career.  If anything, choosing to become an actor gave me a legitimate, professional reasons to watch a ridiculous amount of movies per week.  In my early years, I think I was averaging 15+ movies per week (many of which I saw in the theaters).  My main goal was to increase my cinematic vernacular and study the greats.  I wanted to see how “the great” directors crafted their films and how “the great” actors carved their way through them.

And then it happened – I started to judge and formulate opinions.  What was once a pure and innocent experience started to become a dissection of what’s good, what’s bad, what could have been done better, and what sucked.  Conversations at dinnertime and at professional gatherings were the same but much more detailed.  Personally, I think a well thought-out opinion on anything is great.  I think it leads to energized and exciting discussions that are key to the evolution and growth of our learning and life experience.  But sometimes having such strong, judgmental opinions can taint and hinder an experience which was once born of pure fun and genuine interest.  I suppose if anyone isn’t careful, life passions can easily fall into various potholes of cynicism, robbing the individual of the joy and excitement that initially attracted them to those passions in the first place.

The grass is always greener, right?  Whether it be in the arts, business, academics, medicine, adult entertainment, etc., becoming cynical or jaded is not abnormal.  I consider it totally normal.  In some ways, cynicism or jadedness is a barometer for how much we divert off or away from our passion line.  The further one diverts or strays away from their pure elements of attraction, the greater the ugly head of cynicism and jadedness rears itself.  The further one diverts from their true path, the more disconnected one can potentially feel and the more challenging it becomes to maintain a positive outlook.  The more one diverts, the more challenging it becomes to maintain happiness.

Which brings us back to my friend’s question.  “Do I watch movies differently?”

“No, Yes, No.”

That’s my answer.  As a child, teenager, and young adult, and perhaps at the very beginning of my Hollywood career, I watched movies with magnetic attention and pure awe.  But, as my career progressed, I started to lose that joy (to be honest, I think I lost it for some time).  I speculate that it was a mixture of the constant professional rejection combined with knowing what’s really behind the Curtain of Hollywood Oz peppered with the normal speed bumps of life, like maintaining money and finding the right honey, that led to a more judgmental and critical view of what was once something I just purely loved.  Plus, the chasing of fame, power, and big money, I’m sure, didn’t help either.  There was even a significant period of time that I couldn’t watch movies at all (especially the ones I auditioned for but did not get).  It’s no accident that at this same dark period of my journey, my work as an actor suffered.  I had strayed very far away from my passion line due to the flurry of curveballs that life and Hollywood blinds you with.  The irony is that it takes some time to become aware that you’ve strayed away from your original path or are, in fact, completely fucking lost.  Luckily for me, I have a few really good friends in the business (and a few out too) as well as a few family members who are not afraid of keeping my ass in check.  As much as it’s hard to hear, it’s good to have friends/family who’s opinion you truly value to call you on your bullshit when you need it most.  I have been called on my bullshit and I have called other’s bullshit as well.  I suppose a tight and trusted “bullshit ring of safety” is a great thing to have in life and a very necessary thing to have in Hollywood.  I love my bullshit.

I love movies again.  I can enjoy movies much like I did before Hollywood and almost like I did when I was a little boy.  Can I judge them critically?  Yes.  Do I do it on my own accord?  No.  I tend to subscribe to the Roger Ebert method of Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down.  It’s either up or down (just like a penis).  Nothing in between.  Up.  Or down.  It’s strange.  When I throw out all the other mumbo jumbo, all I’m left with is a simple criteria – “Was I entertained?”  That’s it.  Did I learn something or did I have fun?  Yes or no?  It’s very easy.  And, from a professional sense, I think it’s no accident that I love auditioning again.  Funny how things work, huh?  Oh, and if you’re wondering how many thumbs down I have given since I’ve learned to love movies again, I’ve given only 2.  And you want to know what’s scary?  2 thumbs down is less about 1% of my total.  The rest?  Thumbs up, baby.   : )

Have you had a similar experience of something you love becoming something you question which ultimately becames a love again?  And it can’t be a person (unless it’s Tom Cruise, Hiroyuki Sanada, Julia Roberts, or Maggie Cheung)  : p


  1. No, you’re not alone. In my senior year of high school I wrote an essay about how embarrassing a cotillion class I took in eighth grade was. It was no big deal, just a throw away first person piece, but people responsed to it. One draft and done. Then came college and academia and analysis and learning to write a certain way, second guessing myself, holding back, rewriting to death, etc. Took me about five years of serious unlearning to get back to my 17 year old self, and write an essay half that decent again. I think I’ve found that unfiltered, unvarnished boy, but damn, you have to fight like hell not to let him drown…

  2. I don’t work in the entertainment industry, but I owned and have seen many films. When I was 10, I saw my first foreign film. At 15 I got my first DVD player for my birthday and I went crazy with watching movies not filmed in English. I just got hook. I wanted to watch films not made in America for awhile. After I turned 21, it became a chore. It got so boring and tedious. I just didn’t get the same feeling I got when I was 15 when I saw the Korean film “Attack the Gas Station”, “Irma Vep” and “The Heroic Trio” both with Maggie Cheung (I worked her in, lol).
    Currently, I am sitting on a backlog of 10 films that I want to watch, but it seems like I can’t because it feels like work. I have a movie collection that will put most people to shame (720 & counting) and a big ass list with all the films that I will want to see before a die. Maybe I should become an actor and see if I can feel the same way about movies before it started feeling like work.

  3. Roger,

    I’m glad that you are the more cynical person here to give a more balanced outlook on Hollywood. I made an earlier comment on Phil’s open letter (part II) but haven’t seen it published yet.

    Thanks for your humility and your honesty.

    Being jaded or cynical is totally normal, I think, insofar as you are making a solid point from an experience in the past. It’s great to be optimistic, but someone who hasn’t walked your shoes will never know how it feels. I’ll never be truly empathetic — to yours or any other story — because being sympathetic is usually good enough for me because every story is unique.

    I hope that you pick it back up and strive to be your best. If this is what makes you happy, sans the money and fame, by all means, keep pursuing with purpose.

  4. I don’t think I’ve had the same up/down/up relationship as Offender Roger in any aspect of my life that I can think of off-hand (I am not in the biz), but my priorities have changed over the years….

    I’ve always luved movies. I’d watch almost anything….usually didn’t care too much for gross-out (un-scary) “horror” movies though. A few of them were disappointing and wasted my time. Others taught me things or gave me insight and self-reflection. Most of them were entertaining and/or made me “feel” something, so they did their job.

    Similar to @Shaun, I’ve managed to amass a huge collection of DVDs too (several that include Tom Cruise, Hiroyuki Sanada, Julia Roberts, and Maggie Cheung…and works by Offenders too!!). I tried to seek out Asian/foreign films and many “Hollywood classics” and “special editions” instead of solely focusing on the weekly releases of the latest “blockbusters” from the Hollywood-hype machine. I tried in vain over the years to “catalog” my collection….could never quite keep up and also had to re-build/start over a few times due to loss of data. Heh…even had dreams of starting my own DVD store just so I could have access to a movie database to better keep track of my stuff. LOL. And yeah, I even managed to make duplicate purchases several times because I had forgotten about what was in my existing inventory. D-O-H!!

    And then I got married and we had a child. I/we haven’t been to a movie theater in close to 5yrs (daughter doesn’t like loud places). I also stopped buying DVDs, except for the occasional “kids” or “educational” type for my pre-school aged daughter….though realistically, I probably have a several year’s supply of age-appropriate animated and kid/family-friendly movies on DVD for her in my existing collection. The “Death Stare” from my wife whenever I would get within 500 yds of a DVD section in a store didn’t help either. LOL. I did valiantly risk injury/death though and finally recently got my own DVD copy of Offender Iris’ Academy Award winning screenplay for [Letters From Iwo Jima]…..which I still have to find time to watch. ~sigh~

    I’ve also begun re-selling parts of my collection. They just take up too much physical space…..and I also realized how much $$$$$ I spent acquiring them over the years. Can you say, “DUDE, where’s my (nice) car??” SCARY. Of course, “used”, they’re not worth anything close to what I originally paid for them. Even MORE SCARY….. 8”-(

    Now, IF I HAVE “TIME”, I view online (Hulu.com and others), or pick one from my huge backlog….some still sealed/wrapped/unopened; or even BETTER, I play with my daughter or maybe watch one of her favorites with her for the gazillionth time.

    I still LUV movies and appreciate the hard work and dedication to your craft that all of you in the industry here at YOMYOMF subscribe to. I may not watch as many movies as I used to, but those that I have watched have helped to shape me into who I am. The stories, performances, and images have touched me. Many of my fondest memories are of watching such-and-such film with friends, or the films have allowed me to experience life-changing historical events and taken me to magical places….events and places that I would never be able to experience otherwise.

    I hope to leave some of the “better” works in my existing collection to my daughter and hope to instill in her the same sense of appreciation for and enrichment from movies that I have experienced.

    [Thumbsup!!], and thanks!! 8-D

  5. I’m not sure if I ever got cynical about something I enjoyed but I did look at things differently. I used to be in my high school drama department (doing some performing but mostly creating sets and lighting and such). To this day, I can’t not look at a live performance without thinking about the angles of the lights and the orientation of the actors and objects on the state. It’s hard for me to watch the show now.

  6. @blogger, FYI, all your comments are going straight to the spam folder. I think it might be because you are identifying yourself as “blogger” so you may need another moniker. But keep the comments coming.

  7. Thanks for sharing all. Much appreciated on a Friday late afternoon.