I Love My Community

I am privately working with a new actress who is interested in learning on-camera acting and auditioning technique. She sat in as a guest at the Richard Lawson Studios scene study class one night and was really blown away by Richard, his teaching, the scenes that went up and the positive community that was present. She really wants to join the RLS, but because she is currently enrolled in school, her schedule does not permit her to join at the present moment. However, she did express interest in taking private coaching sessions just so she could get a head start on her studies here. Richard, being an incredibly busy person, referred her to me.

We have just finished her second session and she’s doing great. She has talent and potential. I’m excited to be a part of her journey. But what also struck me about this actress is that she told me on more than one occasion that she has no friends.

I did a double take when she first told me this. “You have no friends?” She answered, “No. I have no friends. Didn’t have friends when I was growing up either.” I thought to myself that surely she must be pulling my leg. She’s fucking with me big time. How can this funny, talented girl not have any friends? So, I asked again, “Wait, you have no friends?” She said, “Yep.” And I immediately said, “Girl, we gotta change that! You need some friends!” I proceeded to give her some advice on where and how she could make friends.

I suggested she find drama clubs or other extra-curricular clubs in her school. I suggested she find a strong, female mentor. I suggested she connect with her guidance counselor or program adviser. I told her to do a Google search on free groups that meet around town that focus on her areas of interest. She also goes to church and I told her to befriend the people there and get involved in volunteer work with them.

She acknowledged all of my advice and said that she definitely has tried all of that, but with no luck. I’ve only known her for a short period of time, so I don’t want to dig in any further into what is really going on. But again, I just find it so hard to believe that she has no friends. She said something at the very end of our second session that inspired today’s blog entry (and how grateful I am for my friends and community.) She said that she drove cross-country to move to LA. And along the way, she kept praying that her car wouldn’t break down. Why? Because she literally has no one to call. No one to reach out to if that did happen. She said she would have freaked out and/or died if she was stranded in the middle of nowhere with no one to call.

I want to dedicate this blog entry to my amazing close friends and to my amazing community of artists. I would not be where I am today as an artist and as a person without the strong support of my community. Community is VITAL for any journey a person goes on. Art is a communal thing and you can not do it alone.

Interestingly enough, right before she came over for our private session, I was dealing with a potentially life-changing crisis. I was scared and terrified. I wanted to hide. But because I have a solid core group of friends that I could call on, I got out of my own way and reached out for help. I reached out to hear a friendly voice, to receive guidance and advice, to receive peace of mind, to get my fears and concerns off my chest. There is nothing worse than keeping something inside and letting it fester and build. I called a good friend of mine and he was amazing in terms of providing emotional, spiritual and practical support. I called another friend immediately afterwards and he too provided emotional, spiritual and practical support. But he also added another component that moved me even further towards action and handling what I was going through.

After getting off the phone with these two amazing friends, I felt SO MUCH BETTER. I was armed with tangible plans I could execute to handle my crisis. I was no longer in my head. I was no longer at affect. I was in front of my crisis. I was in present time and proceeded to quickly implement their suggestions. Long story short, I was able to handle my crisis later that day with success. And one of the friends I called earlier offered to be there with me when I did so. Without them, I would have faced a darker fate.

I’m truly blessed that I have people to call. This actress doesn’t. Looking back, I realized two things:

1) I am grateful because I am surrounded by TRUE, ride-or-die friends that I have nurtured and cultivated in the time I’ve been out here in Los Angeles. It has taken me time to really create and manifest the kind of friends I want in my life. These people are my family. And as different as these two guys are, they are similar in many ways as well. They both provided near-identical advice. They spoke the same language. They handled me with love and care. I am surrounded by friends and a community of artists that speak the same language and that take care of each other in beautiful and honest ways.

2) I could have easily called up at least 10 more friends and they would have been just as helpful. An abundance of options. And they too would have spoken the same language that my two male friends did. This is what I mean in terms of really creating and nurturing the type of people I want in my life. There is a common through line that flows through each person and any one of these people would have provided their support without hesitation.

I’ll say it again: Community is vital. It’s why I love studying at the RLS so much. We are a community. We foster and protect that. We understand the importance of supporting each other. Your win is our win. You can not travel on any road by yourself. Pursuing any career takes a group effort. Pursuing life takes a group effort. You can not do it alone.

Recently, Richard gave an ultimatum to a fellow student and friend of mine: Get your apartment together in one week or you’ll be kicked out of class for all time. Basically, Richard put this student on “terrorist apartment”. This was the first time anyone has ever been put on terrorist apartment and it was drawn from the concept of “terrorist theater”.

Terrorist theater was created by master teacher and director Milton Katselas as a way to get actors-who should be working in the industry-working. If an actor had been in class for a while, but hadn’t been working professionally in the industry, then Milton or a fellow teacher would put the student on terrorist theater. The student then had six to eight weeks to book a paid acting job. If they didn’t, then they were kicked out of school for all time. They could never return, even if they won an Oscar. Terrorist theater lights a fire under asses and puts actors at a high level of cause. Because class means so much to them, and they don’t want to lose it, they begin to administer their careers at an exponentially higher level to get off of terrorist theater. They attack their careers in a way that they have never done before. “No” is not an option and they turn over every stone to book a job. It’s all about “yes” and they really understand the hustle it takes to get work. The success rate of terrorist theater is high and I have seen many students book paid acting jobs as a result of it.

So, this student was put on terrorist apartment because they have a long history of hoarding and it was affecting their personal and professional life. Previous soft attempts to handle their problem failed. Terrorist apartment was the final solution. Now, this student is a gem of a person. They put more hours into their career than anyone else. They put up more scenes in class than anyone else. They support their fellow artists more than anyone else. They are very talented and so fucking cast-able it’s not even funny. And so when this student was put on terrorist apartment, I became emotional because I knew how much they meant to me and to the RLS community. This student is like family and I didn’t want to see them go. And it was beautiful to see how quickly people in class rallied together that same night to help the student out. People stepped up and donated their time to support one of their own. I went over to their place with my friend Lindsay and we were there for three hours. It was such an honor and privilege to help and I felt a sense of spiritual rejuvenation. The community came together because this student is always there for them.

Look guys, what you put out there is what you get back. And I don’t mean in a superficial, fake, phony way. Give and support in genuine, loving, caring ways. Give because you care and because you give a shit. Give because that’s what community and love is all about. Because at some point, we will all be in a position where we will need love and help as well.

Find a community. Or build one. Know the type of people you want to surround yourself with and why and make that happen. Community is so important!

I am so honored, blessed and grateful to have my close group of friends, but I am also thankful to have an amazing and inspiring community at large like the RLS. There is nothing more satisfying than giving back and helping because there were times where I needed help and I received it. I remember a time when I didn’t have money for food. I was so strapped for cash. And I’ll never forget the delicious, hearty meals that DawnMarie Ferrara and Nayo Wallace prepared for me until I could get back on my feet. I’ll never forget how KC Sterling and Michael Manuel Sanders offered to design my first apartment in LA and brought my design concepts to life. I’ll never forget Jonathan Mateer for taking me into his home after I broke up with my ex so that I could start a new chapter in my life and heal on different levels. I’ll never forget Angie Russell and Michael Manuel Sanders for giving me rides home after class whenever my car was in the shop. Angie Russell for creating care packages for me. I’ll never forget Geri Atos for buying me a brand new iPad Air so I wouldn’t fall behind on my work when she discovered I was computer-less. I’ll never forget all the times Richard Lawson picked me up when I wanted to quit and encouraged me to go on. I’ll never forget Taylor Hawthorne for stepping up to be the first AD on a pilot I directed. I’ll never forget the countless persons that have hired me as a career administration consultant to put extra money in my pockets. I can go on and on. So there is no greater feeling than giving back.

Now, am I always able to give back? No. And when I’m unable to, I feel awful. But when I do give, I fucking give. Here are a FEW recent examples of me giving back to my friends and community: Being an extra on the set of a fellow classmate’s first short film that she wrote; going to see a fellow classmate in a play; going to see fellow friends in a hilarious monthly show called “Rise and Shine With Bette and Juliette”; giving money to a classmate’s fundraising campaign; texting my friend everyday to make sure she filmed her original character and uploaded the videos onto YouTube; watching and promoting various works by friends, classmates and peers on YouTube, on TV or in the cinemas.

Whether it’s the entertainment business or another business, you can’t go on the journey alone. And in your personal life, you can’t go on the journey alone either. Community is vital. Community is essential. Community has saved me. Whenever Richard talks about the importance of community, he always brings up this quote by American anthropologist Ralph Linton–and I couldn’t agree more:

“All human beings live as members of organized groups and have their fate inextricably bound up with that of the group to which they belong.”

Interestingly enough, this quote can be about positive or negative groups. Hopefully, you choose to create and cultivate positive groups.

Thank you to my friends. Thank you to my community. I would not be where I am today without your love, friendship, care, guidance and tough love.

By the way, my friend got off of terrorist theater! So go win that Oscar now and bring it back home baby!

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