Three and a half years ago, I could still tell my two kids (then 9 and 12) “let’s hop in the car and go on a trip.” Now there would be strings attached – pleas to bring friends along, complaints about being cooped up in the car together – it just wouldn’t work.
In August 2008, Tenley, Wayne Kevin, and I took a trip to Orlando. The “goal driven” part of the trip was to visit an open casting call at Background Entertainment, an extras-casting agency. The day after the casting call visit, we planned to spend the day at Wet ‘n Wild Water Park.
For several years prior to this trip to Orlando, I had ridden the waves of several emotional ups and downs (mostly downs). One of the lower points of that period was when I was visiting the St. Louis Arch and approached a staff person to ask if I could use my admission ticket for a slightly different time. It was a small housekeeping inquiry in the scheme of things, but the tone with which I asked it (it must have been sort of Eeyore-like) led the employee to say, “Smile, things aren’t that bad.”
As I began to claw my way out of the morass of concerns that had been weighing me down, I got involved with the FSU Film School (I got involved with the Film School because Tenley was auditioning, then Wayne Kevin who could barely read was auditioning … and I started going in to auditions because that was a lot more fun than sitting in the waiting area). My interest in filmmaking and acting started as a tiny spark. The spark got fanned considerably when the HBO Film “Recount” was made here in Tallahassee and I had an “extra” role as an attorney. That scene ended up on the cutting room floor but starting off an “extra career” on an HBO Film three feet away from Kevin Spacey was kind of like learning to drive in a Mazerati.
The trip to Orlando was a way to dip a toe in the water of the film business outside of Tallahassee. Background Entertainment had done the extras casting for Recount so I had met some of the staff already.
Here’s where the “kids say the darnedest things” part comes in. As we were driving to Orlando, Tenley said, “you seem happier now.” She was right. I was no longer alarming customer service people with my low affect; I felt more positive about the options in my life; and even though the acting/film world steps I was taking were very small, they were steps. (I had not realized my daughter was so tuned in to my low mood.)
And like my friend Jarrod, who had a “day job” but contributed such heart and commitment to so many FSU Film productions before his untimely death last year, I was discovering an avocation that, despite a lot of hard work, a lot of “hurry up and wait,” and a lot of unpredictability, made my heart sing every time I walked onto a set or interacted with the students. That happiness was not an act.