women in film

Rogue Waves and Wipe Outs

Women make waves.

In troubled political and career times I think of Mary Ann Hawkins. A pioneer in American surfing, Hawkins caught the world’s attention after a feature in Time Magazine lead to her work as a Hollywood stunt double for Lana Turner. She broke a world record for holding her breath for 2 minutes and 15 seconds.

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Mary Ann Hawkins, from the Encyclopedia of Surfing (by Matt Warshaw)

She toppled wave after wave and opened a swimming school, having taught over 10,000 people to swim. She quit surfing in 1983, shortly after her son drowned while working.

Life is unpredictable and strangely coincidental. It can be beyond cruel, but it can also be rewarding. All you can do is give your best to the world, and not worry about if the world will give back to you. You are here for a purpose.

The everyday strife that an actor experiences is not unlike surfers. Athletes either win the game, or they don’t. They sink, or they swim. But they keep playing, they keep chasing wave after wave- despite knowing the life-threatening risks. We ride the feeling of hope and wrangle that euphoria while it lasts like the drug that it is, knowing that we will crash eventually. But my recovery rate is phenomenal, and that only came after years and years of rejection beatings and flaky promises.

I want to spare new actors from pain. I want them to learn from my mistakes. But my mistakes have made me bullet proof, and I wouldn’t trade this life for any other life in the world. Strength is earned, not given.

Get out there and own it, like Mary Ann Hawkins did. Manipulate it. Ride it… then crash, knowing that another wave will surely form, but this time you are ready and waiting to catch it.

-Satu

 

 

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Brunette Ambition

Trying to find your place in this world is a daunting task, even when you are certain of your destiny. When there are hurdles left, right, and center, one must ask: Am I on the right path? Is this what I’m really meant to do?

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That brunette ambition. It’s all over my face. #werk

Having an unshakeable dream is a beautiful thing. But as I’ve come to notice (particularly after reading Sophie Amoruso’s “#Girlboss“) beware of your dream becoming your obsession. We’ve all heard the stern warnings of those who came before us “don’t let life pass you by.” In the end, I want to look back at my career and life and feel like I did enough. But I imagine that no true artist feels that way. Not the ones who created until death, anyhow.

When an actor has been plugging away for a certain number of years (let’s say, the proverbial “takes 10 years to make it,” or even 15. Shoot, maybe 18, professionally?), there is a time when you start analyzing and piecing together your career and seeing what the next big move is. Particularly when, from your perspective, it’s been moving far too slowly and there are several things out of your control (casting directors, the right agent, managers, publicists, lawyers… and so many other crucial “team members” that not every actor can afford to keep the machine going). A radical change is necessary. Sometimes it’s a bold haircut. Sometimes it’s a total 180. Sometimes it’s a different kind of performer skill. And other times it’s swimming into other creative areas in the field.

I can’t begin to express how thankful I am that I began with a B.A. in Communication Studies, studying such courses as philosophy, art history, film production, and documentary filmmaking. I’m thankful that I worked in TV production for my internship and then after my internship. I’m thankful that I kept up my filmmaking skills before and after drama school, so that when the despair of post-drama school creative voids set in, I was prepared to write and direct two short films and a pilot. Because after 7 years in New York and 5 years in LA, I needed these skills to make my bold entrance as a writer, director, actor, producer. No one is going to write that incredible part for me, at least not yet. I’m at the mercy of sub-par character descriptions and dialogue at the no/low-budget level. A great script is one in a million (okay maybe… a thousand). And the number of actresses that get to say those precious words are few and far in between. So here goes, I’m giving it a(nother) shot. I’m writing my own destiny.

It’s ultimately unsatisfying when you can’t crack the puzzle that is becoming a working actor hitting the pavement during pilot season with the best of them, auditioning 3-5x a week. You feel like you’ve tried everything, every photographer, every headshot, every outfit, every 5th tier agent. But you are simply not even invited to the dance to begin with. It really just boils down to supply and demand, and like any product that the public hasn’t seen before, you need to show them why they need you, why they can’t live without you.

The most important thing I learned since graduating from drama school is that writing is the greatest skill any of us could possess. Because my #1 goal is to be a working actor, I will do whatever it takes that doesn’t involve destroying my moral compass.

Pick up that pen. Ask “What would Bowie do,” and do that.

Time to see about that haircut 🙂

Satu