I used to make movies. Ten years working on local Utah sets, many of them my own, in capacities ranging from actor to working behind the camera in producer or assistant director roles. I won awards in college, fell in love with the creation and seeing a project through to the end, and I developed some meaningful relationships. But, there came a day when I needed to hang up the hat and move on.
That moment came abruptly, and unbeknownst to me. When it did, however, it took all of four seconds for me to say, “Ok. It’s time to leave that behind.” There was no internal debate. No second-guessing. I had no crisis of self at any point thereafter pushing me back into the fold of film. I ended a career cold turkey, without much of an eye-blink at all.
And let me tell you, the weight that lifted off my shoulders on the fifth second was astounding. I had no idea it was there. One moment I was looking into my next audition or interview, and then the next I was relaxed and laying on the floor with a smile on my face.
I was baffled concerning how happy I felt. Only God had known what was needed, and His guidance and questions led me to something I had never before considered.
For all the reasons why this was the case, and why I’ve stuck to this decision, I wish to concentrate on one primarily. This one reason accents perfectly why I continue to do improv, and why improv keeps me more than just afloat. With improv, I’m able to enjoy the water, and sometimes even rise above it.
Because in improv, we only succeed when we’re having fun and making the other person look good.
One of the saddest aspects of the film industry, and a growing concern in the world’s climate is that the majority of people don’t believe in helping each other, and almost everyone thinks that what they have to offer and provide is the most critical piece of what is happening. For a movie specifically, this is ironic, considering that they’re comprised of so many working parts, that when one person fails the entire machine suffers. A movie, literally, is a business that one person cannot do alone effectively. Only when the selfless unite does anything of worth get accomplished.
But for however many reasons that exist to these people, so many of them don’t believe or don’t practice that.
That night I said goodbye I was allowed to make a profound choice and change in my life. This choice led to feeling this heavy load of something I loved so much taken away that resulted in a resounding fact that hit me like a sack of bricks. This selfishness, and proud ignorance in people is what will never entice me back into the realm of film again. But I’m still left with everything else. Herein come the optimism and light.
But real quick, for a much-needed disclaimer, not everyone is like this. And towards the latter end of my time in the film industry, I was able to find people who possessed integrity and laughter, who understood not to take themselves too seriously, and who worked hard to encourage and support those around them. These are so few and far between, though, that the prospect of facing the muck and mucous of this world with every new project dissuades me from being willing.
Thankfully, when not contractually obligated to every other part of life as one is to work, the selection and distillation of atmosphere is more naturally handled and tastes much better going down. But I don’t believe in being hypocritical, and I don’t consider myself someone who takes the easy road to complain about what once was had and why it was had, and how everyone else should ne’er have it again.
I believe in learning and application, and that means being honest about a situation for oneself, and not for anyone else. For me, this happened, in a very black and white manner. I don’t regret any time I spent making movies, nor do I regret the environments I chose to be a part of because of those films. I don’t regret the choice to leave, nor do I feel remorse at being able to describe, honestly, what the scene was for me. More importantly, I realize what I value, and I deem to be of immense worth. So I spend time evaluating and looking for places that embody what I seek. This valuable lesson has meant the world to me over the years, and also why I’ve stayed in improv for so long.
In improv, the same kind of environment as being on a movie set is present, and yet, somehow within the community (and especially within the troupe I perform with) people focus on their teammates more than themselves, and everyone succeeds. There is camaraderie, love, smiles, genuine affection, care, and a whole host of other positive things that buoy up the group.
Of course, there are those people who wish to enter into this world, wanting to enjoy what we’ve created, but for a whole host of reasons that belong to them they cannot willingly participate without consciously or subconsciously warping, poisoning, or changing it to suit their needs. Whenever these people try this, wanting to make it all about them, they don’t last long. Everyone feels what they bring. Everyone notices the darkness they work so hard to spread. The difference between what I find in improv, and what I didn’t find on most movie sets, is that this small group of people will do something about that darkness, and either try to show the selfish person what light is like or else politely part ways with them.
The courage to act on what is wrong, instead of resolutely soaking in it, is something I respect and value greatly. Comedy is such a vulnerable, volatile entity without adding in a lack of integrity and selfish tendencies; so to be surrounded by such a high caliber of people inspires me to better.
Have fun. Make the other person look good. These simple phrases are just a few of our troupe mantras, and I’m proud to be able to see the difference it has made and continues to make. I love having friends I call family, because I know they’re willing to bear me up when I need it. I also know they’ll trust me to do the same for them. “A rising tide lifts all boats” is a perfect description for the improv I’m familiar with.
It is a driving inspiration for positive change and impactful relationships in my life. For this alone I’m humbled and grateful.