Because, of course, reality hits and many of us found ourselves needing to balance our talents and dreams with the drudgery of paying bills and sending our own kids into their bright futures. Getting the balance right between love and necessity has been excruciating at times. Do you still tell your kids they can do anything they want? And how many of those kids now struggling with failing worldwide economies will give up on creative lives, and how many of them are destined to be the future of our creative culture? Our writers, our philosophizers, our artists, our dancers, singers, musicians. You know, those people who make life worth living, who bring it its poetic beauty, its incomparable ability to turn a mirror on life and say: Yes, this is what it looks like if you step back a bit; this is your tragedy, your struggle, your strength, your frustration, your petty greed, your jealousy, your epic courage.
Maybe it’s my own life experience that wants to play this rather sobering thought against an amazing experience I had a couple of weeks ago on a film set. This production is the best possible example of how we can support the creative geniuses of tomorrow. As an added bonus, it nurtures those geniuses who come from at-risk backgrounds and who might never otherwise have the chance to explore—and then discover—their unique voices.
The REMIX Project is a non-profit organization (recently awarded Best Youth Organization by Toronto’s Now Magazine) that dedicates itself to bringing the arts to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and neighbourhoods, offering them the chance to explore their talents and skills in a safe, nurturing environment. And most importantly, developing those skills so that these young people can have a serious foothold in the business of the arts. Their City Life Film Project is the component that deals with film and, together with Temple Street Productions, they provide not just the training but the mentors and the equipment and the extensive crew that filmmakers need to bring their visions to the screen. Participants have to apply to get into the program and are chosen based on their storytelling skills, and then after a 3-month intensive, three projects are chosen for production.
I had the incredible honour of working with one of these brilliant voices of tomorrow. Kimberly wrote the script loosely based on a day in her own life when, as a lonely, disenfranchised 14-year-old girl, her mother had a postpartum breakdown. A 15-minute short, it goes from scary to heartbreaking with breathtaking speed. There were only four of us as actors on set: the one playing the child, the one playing the mother, one as the stepfather, and myself as the doctor. Kim had to not only create a visual story through the camera, but she also had to take the actors deep into the heart of her real-life crisis.
We actors had to find gut connections to this story and convey them in an honest and soul-baring way. This is not an easy task for an actor. It might seem so, but it takes an enormous amount of trust and courage. Kim, barely 20-years-old, actually took our hands and expertly guided us into the mire. She was articulate, passionate, compelling and direct. In all my years on a set, I’ve rarely worked with a director I trusted as much as I trusted her. I knew if she didn’t see it on-screen, she wouldn’t be shy to tell us we needed to go “150%”. I’ve also never worked with a director who so directly related to their on-screen story that each creative discussion and each scene ended with their face bright and open, tears rolling down their cheeks, heartfelt expressions of gratitude or wisdom or personal confession pouring from their mouth. They talk about the directors who get naked with their actors for a love scene; this director got emotionally naked with us—and yet never forgot to do her very difficult job as a director. Kim has it all.
At the end of the day, I did what I do repeatedly with my own kids: I told Kim—despite every indication that it is a an exercise in futility to be an artist—to keep following her dream, to never let anyone tell her that a young black woman couldn’t/shouldn’t direct, to keep telling her stories.
Maybe in life, we can’t do what we want to do all the time because of bills and obligations. Maybe we have to get a “joe-job” or even a good one but one that doesn’t feed the soul. Maybe we will feel frustrated because we can’t be full-time artists. But maybe, just maybe, we have to keep forging ahead with our stories (or music or paintings or ideas) in every other moment there is. It would be a terrible shame and loss for all of us to lose even one Kim to “cold, hard” reality.
Thanks to organizations like REMIX for allowing these dreams to breathe and grow.
Deb: This is such a fascinating subject, Barb. On a personal level, the only way I can relate to it is through the boy. The boy who wanted to be a surrealist when he was twelve. We encouraged him. When he was thirteen and wanted to be an actor, he asked us what it would be like to be an actor in the theatre. We said, “If that is what you live for, then the art on your wall might be the posters from your shows and your passion can be the fact that you get up each day and get to do what you love. If for any reason you have the desire for stuff—houses, belongings and the ilk—then you might want to match your dreams to a dollar sign. But make sure they are still your dreams.”
I think each generation has a share of this. I was born in 1954 and my parents supported me 100%. I think there were parents through the 60’s, earlier, and right on down the line who did not support this theory, but I think there were many, including my parents, who did. There were also artists who became same despite their parents. It is the way of the world. Your parents are artists so it was a no-brainer for them, and lucky for you.
Your experience on this recent set was a game-changer and I think that is FABULOUS FOR YOU!
But, despite all the evidence to the contrary, I side with you and with the Kim’s of the world.
Follow your Dreams. Life is short. Life can be sweet. But follow your dreams. It is essential to survival.