Life and Hollywood: an open letter to younger me

My amazement of film began when I was very young.

I remember being six and TV Ontario was playing a film where Charlie Chaplin was sitting on a bench with an actress, a silent scene playing out. The guy who was narrating the film started talking about how the characters on screen “love each other” but off screen that’s not the case at all. It showed them fighting. 

Instantly I thought, “This is incredible. They’re pretending and creating a reality that looks real but it wasn’t real. It was magical.” 

I never suffered from not knowing what to do in life, what I have suffered from is people stopping me from doing it and having the courage to fight around that.

I grew up on film sets all over the world, Los Angeles being one of them, and that was thanks to my father, who’s a filmmaker. I could brag about his accomplishments – but that hasn’t helped me over the years. Nor is he me. 

First lesson: just because you have a family member in the film industry doesn’t mean you get the part. In fact, I auditioned for a part and was on the verge of getting it (in Canada), only to be told that because I was his daughter I wasn’t going to receive it. It made no sense, but it happened. Doesn’t make me less proud of him in his work and his teachings, but sure as hell discouraged me.

You learn, even at a very young age, what you need in the acting world. You need an agent, and basically you learn fast that you have to deal with other people to help you get a job. It’s not like some professions where you study and you’re brilliant, you pass your exams, and your credentials on paper help you land the job. That isn’t acting. 

In acting, you constantly have to present yourself to the best ability and realize you may not get picked – it’s an insane life of rejection. You’re always living on the edge, you’re very emotional, you have to be open to things and often you don’t know how to turn that off – well I didn’t when I was growing up.

I also didn’t have a stage mom mother like a lot of other teenagers had, you know, the mother that pushes hard for you to land opportunities and their life revolves around making you a “star.” I’m my own stage mom. 

Looking back I wish I was more proud of the decision of controlling my own career: booking my own appointments with agents, getting myself into Toronto, putting my portfolio together – all as a young teenager. 

Instead I was concerned, worried, stressed, frustrated, insecure – I wish I embraced my rebellious and independent nature more. I also wish that when certain moments came into my life I capitalized on them more, right away. Opportunities only come so often and once you get your foot in the door you need to jam it through. And for everyone giving an opportunity to you there are ten others ready to take it away, or get under your skin, or frustrate you…or all the above. 

I remember being told “how dare you make a music video” after I had been asked to do so by a music artist who was displeased with the work that the previous Canadian company had done. Apparently, I couldn’t just accept such a proposal and had to go through “the process” that is required when major corporations are involved. “You have to be able to communicate with us so we can decide if we will go forward, that’s how the Canadian system works.”

Again, people trying to stop me. 

So, I left Canada and found my tribe in the U.S., specifically in L.A. I quickly found out that Americans are very open to artists, everyone has a place in the arts. I wish I could’ve maybe tried to stick it out in Canada, but I didn’t have the patience nor the muted tongue when it came to B.S. grant applications, which are a major part of the Canadian film industry. 

I’m not putting down Canada, but I’m not feeding the machine with lies I once told myself: it’ll change, this will get better in Canada, there will be more parts, there will be more variety, it won’t always be so streamlined, there won’t be so many regulations, you will find a place. Over 13 years later and I still haven’t returned, except to visit family and do the odd gig here and there. L.A. is home.

In the States if you find something you want to do you go and make it happen–you don’t worry about getting a grant to fund a film. The Coen brothers got money from their dentist. 

So younger self, again don’t get caught up in roadblocks, find a way around it, create, make it happen. 

While in Canada there were few opportunities to learn and create, film schools and programs weren’t as prevalent as they are today. But, within six months of me studying at the NY Academy I had a 60mm camera in my hand and made four short films. 

I may not be famous or a big star, but I’ve taken what I learned and made a name for myself. I’ve learned that it’s OK not to know everything, not to put yourself through the ringer–it’s OK to have empathy for yourself and go through the process, it doesn’t all “just happen” in an instant. It can, but when it doesn’t that’s fine, it’s not because you’re not deserving. 

Sure it’s different for every individual no matter where you are in the world. There are obstacles, but being fearless and going for it, is what you need to drill in your head. 

As actors all we want is the audition. Everyone should watch Casting By, whether they’re wanting to enter the film industry or just want to get some sense of it. It’s all about a remarkable women who fought the industry and has forever left an impression we only dream of making. 

So younger self, through the pillars and the slaps in the face, my advice comes with three simple words: just keep going.