“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