The Honesty Experiment

If you’ve been following #honestyexperiment as put forward in my last post, you know now that

  1. I have no compassion
  2. My ego is through the roof
  3. I am messy
  4. I compete with every living being
  5. I’ll sacrifice my views in order to obtain success

The responses (Yes, I check them, because I can only stop my need for validation so much) haven’t varied too much- mostly focusing on the other person, or lifting me up to not feel bad about myself.  I began my postings with this-

disclaimer: I am not proudly owning any of the #honestyexperiment These are things I despise/am embarrassed about myself. Point is, I suck.

Perhaps people are taking each post at face value or think I’m in a depression spiral of self loathing.  Or, maybe we’re all pretty awful people so no one is too disgusted with my behavior.  Or, maybe everyone is already too aware of my failings and is far more grace-filled than I am and willing to love me anyways.  To me, the picture I am painting of myself is pitiful.  I wouldn’t touch me with a 10 foot pole.

Last Saturday, I climbed Mt Baldy with some friends.  My ego assumed I was in the same athletic shape as my friend, an IronMan Triathlete.  I was not concerned at all about the difficulty of the hike.  The night before, I began to pray “Please keep us safe on the mountain, free from injury-” and I stopped myself.  We were going on an adventure, taking a risk, pushing ourselves, and I was praying for safety?  Why would safety have anything to do with that?  The familiar words of Mr Beaver rang in my ears:

“Course he isn’t safe.  But he’s good”. -The Chronicles of Narnia

I re-routed my prayer to say “Let this be an adventure with great memories made”.

So, how did it go?  One of the worst hikes I’ve ever done.  My slowness was a burden to the rest of my group, I’ve still got some gnarly blisters, and on the way down I was positive my legs would collapse underneath me.  I barely walked the next day and it wasn’t until Monday, after a steamy epsom salt bath that I could use my muscles semi-regularly.  #egofail

When we only show the positive side of ourselves and never “lead with the worst of me” (Dear Evan Hansen), ego is front and center and the whitewashed tombs we present become more and more dead inside.  It’s not about embracing your flaws.  It’s about recognizing you’re a fuck up.  You take beautiful things or exciting experiences and dump your ego all over it, making it less of what it was.  It’s placing yourself above the thing, the person, the idea, the situation.  You might think you’ve won after all that, because you’ve “maintained control”, but you’ve sacrificed the beauty, the pain, the risk, the honor of truly living.  And I don’t know about you, but that’s what I want.  To truly live.

 

 

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The Comparison Game

I’m going to level with you here.  I compare.  Constantly.  My competitive drive hungrily jumps on every setback I experience and starts to decipher why it happened.  This inevitably means comparing myself to whomever succeeded in the midst of my failure.  Comparisons rot your soul, but I do them because they’re an attempt to make things alright.  To find a reason I failed that is outside the territory of my talent.  God forbid I think of my skills as anything less than divinely inspired.

A few weeks ago I had a callback for a film I felt really good about.  I paid for coaching to make sure I did my absolute best, and the director and producers were totally on board in my callback.  I had hoped and somewhat expected to get the call that I booked it within a day or so.  I’ll save you the anxiety: I didn’t.  So I looked it up.  I almost can’t help myself but to go and see who got the part.  I lie that it’s in order to analyze what I could do better, but in reality, it’s to find/fabricate a reason to prop up my ego.  The winner?  A woman 15 years older than me (so it wasn’t even my demographic! nothing I can do about that!) who had been on Baywatch and was clearly selling a very sexual image in her career.  I patted myself on the back that sexuality is something I have never and likely won’t ever sell- I’m more of the funny, weird best friend than the sexy seducer- so not only am I more talented than her (I don’t have to rely on my sexuality to get roles, I’m a gifted actor and funny!) I also didn’t stand a chance because she was older and had way more credits.  Whew.  Off the hook.

It’s almost as if it’s not enough to win or lose.  Everyone else has to lose, too.  When I don’t succeed (which is more often than not) my obsession with fairness and world of scarcity steps in and screams

“But what about me?  Will I never get my piece of the pie??”

When you’re living in an ivory tower of ambition and perfection, you have to work hard to manipulate the losses to become wins.  In the end, though, we’re all losers and that’s why it’s so amazing that we get to win.  Grace can’t set you free if you’ve no idea you’re a prisoner, right?  So, for the record, I’m a loser.  I thought with all my self deprecation and “truthfulness” others would see I’m a complete mess.  But people keep telling me I look like I have it all together, so I must be selling a lie somewhere.  Let’s end the game, shall we?  I’m starting what I will call

#honestyexperiment

wherein I will make it abundantly clear (to the detriment of anyone’s good opinion of me) that I am a loser.  Not in the carefully crafted seemingly negative commentary that is actually said to make me look good- i.e. “I use dry shampoo until I can’t get away with it anymore!” AKA- I don’t give a shit what others think, which is cool- but reality and vulnerability and doubt and anger and whatever else makes me feel like the most pathetic human being on the planet.  No ego props, no justifications, just truth.  (hopefully without hurting anyone I love- that’s not my intention)  If you and I can both be aware of how much I suck (and maybe how much you do too), I think we can make positive headway into humility, shedding our hubris, and ending the comparison game.

Let’s play.

You can follow me on here and @brittanydjoyner

Note: This experiment is inspired in part by a great podcast series I’ve been listening to on Alternative Wisdom, by Rob Bell.  I highly recommend. 

Being a Christian in Hollywood, pt 5

If you missed pt 1 of this blog, you can catch it here.

If you missed pt 2 of this blog, you can catch it here.

If you missed pt 3 of this blog, you can catch it here.

If you missed pt 4 of this blog, you can catch it here.

We are in pt 5, the final part of my series on Being a Christian in Hollywood.  I’m wrapping up my thoughts on the future of my place in the industry as a Christian.  By now you know I don’t want to do horror, reality, faith based films, simulated sex scenes, or nudity.  Some actors (Christians included) have argued for working on whatever project comes my way, and not imposing filters.  I can see that point of view- “you’re a character, it’s not you”- but I guess I just want to have more control than that.  I look at a story.  If it’s one that needs to be told and I like the way it’s being told, I want to be a part of it.  Otherwise, it’s just a paycheck and time spent away from the woodshop.  I’m a storyteller.  And a performer.  Not singularly an actor.  My stories are told through improv, theatre, film, TV, spoken word, writing, singing…I’m not in love with just acting.  I’m in love with weaving a tale that will touch souls and bring them to hope, reconciliation, redemption, living better lives.  Therefore, I’m not looking just to act in whatever comes my way.

In my search for my unique voice that I began last year, I came to understand that stories of reconciliation, vulnerability and hope were themes that I cling to.  These are the stories I want to tell.  Here are some great examples of stories that touch me and energize my desire to ignite passion in others with a similar tone.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.  Oh, this movie.  I can’t get enough of it.  From the kick ass soundtrack to the gradual change of one man’s life from risk-averse to living to the fullest, this film makes me laugh, cry and hope all at once.  This is a story that can be told again and again and again.  It’s not affected.  It’s not cheap.  It’s vulnerable, it’s real and it’s lovely.  It does this all without resorting to cheeseball family film territory, or rated x content.  See, it can be done!  Watch this immediately.  Repeat on a rainy day.  Then buy the soundtrack and tell me which song is your favorite.  Mine is Step Out.

The Philadelphia Story.  This is one of the most perfect films ever made.  Tracy Lord (played to acidic gold by Hepburn) is taken on a journey over 2 days of self discovery, humility, forgiveness and relocating her heart.  The dialogue is flawless, but there is so much story told in visuals as well.  The character change hinges on a line spoken to Lord by her estranged father- “You have everything it takes to make a lovely woman except the one essential.  An understanding heart.  And without that you might just as well be made of bronze”.  Out goes the model of calm, cool and poised, and enters the radiant, loving Tracy, pliable to life’s adventures.

Cinderella Man.  I can’t.  Just thinking about this movie makes me tear up.  This is the story of boxer Jim Braddock, and his fall from fame to poverty during the Great Depression.  Though he’s down on his luck “I didn’t always lose”, he somehow maintains hope, resolve, honesty, ethic, gratefulness and pride during a time so bleak that any man would crumble.  Without resorting to sappy throughlines, a beautiful story is told about the power and resolve of the human spirit.  If you can watch this film and not feel hopeful about living a good and meaningful life, you are a sociopath.

Emma.  As you know, period films are my world.  From the corsets to the restrained yet poetic speech, these films never get old for me.  This is the adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel by the same name of a young matchmaking woman who is blind to her own feelings amidst the chaos of alliances, pride and the simple act of growing up.  Ewan Macgregor as Frank Churchill alone will make you giggle your pants off.  Watching the evolution of one woman from naive, prideful, yet kind, to real, vulnerable and honest is a delight.  This movie has inspired a lifetime of trying to be a Yente for me.

Stranger Than Fiction.  Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman alone make this consummate piece of art worthy of a lifetime of watching.  Marc Forster and Zach Helm make what must’ve been one of the hardest stories to tell- it’s about a man who discovers he’s a character in a writers book- how do you even do that??- immaculate and real and funny and true.  I love this movie so much, I feel like I’ve saved the best for last.  Not only is it another story of a man deciding to finally live his life (I’m sensing a trend here), it’s done so cleverly and literary it will make you think for days.  I can’t praise this veritable masterpiece enough.

These are a few examples of stories that are told brilliantly without any of the elements that I am avoiding in my acting career.  True, they aren’t made that often, likely because it takes far more effort to make something lasting and meaningful than it does to throw together another trite action film, but when they are.  Oh.  My heart sings.  That’s what I want.  This is my future.  And if I can’t be a part of others telling these stories, I’ll make my own.  Because they need to be told.  Humanity needs to hear that their life is worth living well.  That their pride and misconceptions of others only keeps them from loving fully.  That the hard choice is sometimes the best choice, and worth fighting for.  That’s how this Christian plans to make her place in Hollywood.

Know where you came from

This is a hard one for me.  Because of my pride, I like to think that everything I’ve done, and all that I’ve experienced is due to my own effort, and mine alone.  The hard core individualist within me cries out for sole ownership of any venture I take on, assuming that my hard work entitles me to a 200% share in everything.

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Last week I watched a very well made film, Suffragette, which told the story of the women who championed the female vote in England in the early 20th century.  It painted a very bleak picture not only of working class London, but also of the struggle for equal rights that women from the most poverty stricken to the upper class were shouldered with.  One doesn’t have to imagine too far back to a time in America when as a female you didn’t have a right to vote or hold property or to certain jobs.  Yet as a mid-30’s female, who grew up in the mid 80’s and 90’s, I can say I have never shouldered that burden.  I have never even considered the alternative to what I have.

It’s easy to forget those who have gone before you because of our myopic view of time.  It’s because of those women who risked and even lost their lives for a cause they believed in, that I could easily stroll over to the park last week and vote in our municipal elections.  It’s because of people like my mom (don’t tell her I wrote this) that I have absolutely no glass ceiling on my dreams of being whatever the hell I want to.  It hasn’t always been this way.  And it won’t always be this way.  Know where you came from and who made that possible, but also pave the way for those after you to know an even better tomorrow.

Don’t be that guy

Is there anything worse than that person who says stuff like “I’m way more talented and I should’ve gotten the role, but <insert the name of the person who did get it> knows the director personally/has done a show there before/has TV credits so they have more star power”.  Hi.  I’m Brittany, and I’m that guy.

I auditioned for a new musical last month.  I felt pretty good about it.  They had me sing 2 songs, so they must’ve liked the first, then had me stay to do a scene, which must’ve meant they wanted to see more, and then asked me to the dance callback later that night, which must’ve meant they liked me.  I performed well in all of them, and felt pretty confident at the end and throughout.  And then, nothing.  Not an email, not a call.  Nothing.

I had mostly moved on and let it go until today.  While doing my work, I decided I’d look up the theatre and see who was cast.  And….And…research them to see why they might have gotten the part.  Well, this girl is clearly not a great singer.  I’m way better.  I remember this girl at the dance callback.  Her voice is ALRIGHT, but her dancing was atrocious.  That girl?  Huh.  Can’t really find much about her, but she’s done a bunch of theater out here, so they must’ve thought her experience counted for more than her talent, of which I obviously have more of.  Ugh.  Right?  I’m grossed out just thinking about my thinking.  I’m all for not falling into a pit of despair everytime I don’t get cast, but the trouble with this way of thinking is it’s all things I can’t control.  That’s why it’s harmful.  If I said ‘she’s a much better singer than me’, then that means that if I really want to succeed, I better get my butt into some voice lessons and get better.  It’s like the person who wants to lose weight, but cancels their run everytime because it’s rainy or they’re feeling under the weather, or something came up.

A far healthier response would be for me to take responsibility.  If I really did do my best, and it was to no result, then either I’m not as talented as I think (God forbid!) or I am in a shitty career that isn’t based on who is best for the job (duh).

When I’m in the woodshop, building furniture, problems inevitably creep in.  One of the recurring issues is splitting wood.  Happens all the time.  This is usually due to 1 of 2 things: 1. I always buy the cheapest wood possible at Home Depot.  If I spent $4 more per board, Id get better results. 2. I was rushing and drove the screw in too fast.  Sometimes, it’s both.  But if I really want to eliminate the problem, I’d take my time, check for square, and buy better wood.  Even then, sometimes the wood still splits.  Because it’s wood and you can’t fully control how it will react.  In the end, however, it’s simply not worth it to me to spend more to get better wood.

So, I’m left with this.  Though I love musicals and I would dearly like to be in one right now, it is simply not worth it to me to fully invest my time and money in pursuit of them.  So, it’s still possible that I could get cast in one, and I will continue to pursue them, but it’s of no use to compare myself to the other people who are busting their tail off to get these roles.  Don’t be that guy.  Don’t be me.

Not fitting in

I can recall very few instances in my life where I felt as though I “fit in”.  This could be partially due to my contrary nature- for unknown reasons, my strong inclination is to do the opposite of whatever is being done- or perhaps I haven’t found my true ‘tribe’ yet.  At a beer commercial audition yesterday (note, I do NOT go for these commercials- they are a younger demographic) I was surrounded by young 20’s actors, and we were asked to talk about our favorite bonfire or music festival experiences.  I smiled and nodded as one by one they named off Lollapalooza, Coachella, and rattled on about a drum circle they were a part of on Venice Beach.  When it came to me, I was, for once, out of words.  The last bonfire I was a part of was youth camp in Texas in 1997.  One of these things is not like the other.  I’ll let you guess who.

After, I was asked to go to my agents office to pick up tax info.  As I opened the sleek doors, the big screen TV was playing some movie I never cared to watch, and the stereo system was blaring euro-pop music.  With my ears bleeding, I walked up to reception and shouted “I’m here for my tax forms”.  Mostly I wanted to berate them for making me drive an hour to pick up something they very well could have placed a stamp on, but instead I smiled and asked his name before shout thanking him and walking out in my mom attire.  I’m in good with this agency, but boy, do I not fit in.

Perhaps I would fit in with a more spiritual crowd, you might say.  Nay, I say, that’s been tried as well.  A few years back I attended a creatives spiritual retreat.  I like to describe it as artists hopped up on Jesus.  That’s totally me, right??!  I was very excited to go to the sessions and learn about songwriting, and come away from the weekend with a renewed connection between my creativity and my spirituality.  While the weekend was successful in that sense, the camaraderie was non-existent.  Why?  Well, I’ll tell you.  I don’t speak hipster.  Between the big glasses and hanging pod sofas I was wandering around, hoping to find genuine, connected conversation.  Instead I found a drum circle and dreadlocks.(what is it with drum circles?)  Again, square peg, round hole.

Sometimes I think it might be nice to find innate comfort and belonging within a group.  But then I remind myself that comfort leads to stifled creativity.  If I fit in with everyone around me and no nettles pricking my body, I wouldn’t have the same opportunity to observe.  To study.  To find stories and tell them.  So, this me that is not like the other will go on not fitting in.  And live to tell a good story about it.

No one owes you a damn thing

I heard something I needed to this morning.  Walking my new dog, Scout, I was listening to a Rob Bell podcast titled ‘I may vacuum out my car tomorrow‘.  In it, Bell talks about starting new ventures and creations and failing.  I know I’ve heard these ideas iterated a million times by others, and recently in Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, but it’s a lesson I can’t seem to learn.  I have to be told again and again and again.

Bell says that in his experience, only 1 out of 10 ventures will go on to success.  He’s got multiple books sitting on his computer that aren’t meant to be published.  He did the work anyways, because one more failure just brings you closer to that 1 in 10.  The part that most resonated with me that he spoke about was not waiting for any kind of money or opportunity to create.  Just pull out your phone, go in your backyard and make it.  Doing a DIY cheap version of your idea first is the best way to create.  Why on earth would someone back an untried idea that you have- who do you think you are?

No one owes you a damn thing.

I may be (in my mind) quite talented, driven, and ready for success.  But so are countless others.  To expect anyone to invest in me, most especially without having gone out on my own to prove what I can do, is, at best, naive.  At worst, hyper-narcissistic.  I have made my own work in the past.  I usually don’t wait on someone else to invest in me or hand me anything to create.  But I do feel a wall of resistance in not having a theatrical agent.  I’ve tried countless times, but that wall just doesn’t want to fall.  I tend to look at it as a stumbling block to my success.  If I believe the above to be true, though, I have no excuse for not creating every moment that’s available to me.  So, 2017.  Let’s create.  I’m excited to see what happens.