When you first discover your passion, you will quickly come up against your first no. It will feel harsh, and it may even come from someone who cares about you. I discovered my passion for Acting when I was in my last year of high school. I sought out advice from several people on how best to pursue it as a career. The overwhelming response was, “don’t.” Or, “are you sure.” Luckily for me, I was stubborn. You will notice me being stubborn is a recurring theme of this piece.
Having graduated High School, I was adrift in a sea of doubt. Although I knew I still wanted to Act, I did not yet dare to pursue it. I had neither the grades nor attention span to go to University, and so I took a year of General Arts and Science, or as I like to call it, expensive grade 13. That year spent doing what I had no interest in doing prepared me to apply to Theatre School. I had one goal, and that was to make a living doing what I love. I didn’t care if I was the next Jim Carrey or Rachel McAdams. I admired them for what they achieved, but that was never my goal.
Theatre School was a very jarring experience for me. It was the first time in a long time I felt the sting of continual failure. I wasn’t resilient enough yet to understand that was the point. Each time I bombed an acting exercise or performed far worse than I knew I was capable of, it took a toll. I was informed after that at several different points in the program; it was not believed I would make it through…but I was stubborn. The lights finally came on in the last year of school. My motivation switched from how can I best impress my teachers to how can I do my best work. Oddly enough, it was that very switch in mindset that would lead to my success and graduation.
Having graduated from Theatre School, I was once again cast adrift. Nobody tells you about the tremendous crash you experience after leaving an environment like that, but it was the first of many I have had to power through. I switched my mindset to action. I sent out approximately 200 resumes and headshots to Agents and Theatres all over Canada. In return for that, I received absolutely zero responses. 200 Noes. I had to let that sink in for a while. Not one person was interested in what I had to offer. Acting is one of the few Art forms that require you to ask permission in order to do it. Or so I thought.
After a healthy breathing period, I set to work building my resume. I would take on any independent gigs I could land. Fringe Festivals, One Act Festivals, and getting together and creating work with friends (who were also in a similar place as me) became my outlet. If people were going to tell me no, I was going to figure out how to go around them. I did this for another three years before I relocated to Toronto in order to pursue film. I ended up renting a room in a bug-infested house run by a lady who frequently made inappropriate comments about the eight individuals staying there. Again, I applied to every agency I could find in Toronto. Fifty applications sent out and 50 more noes. Funds quickly dried up, and I found myself licking my wounds back in my hometown. I hadn’t even lasted four full months.
Once again, I started taking on any projects I could find. I kept building my resume. I kept developing my craft. I started saving up for my eventual return to Toronto. I was determined to break through and find my definition of success. In 2010, two years after returning to St. Thomas, I went back to Toronto to try again. Again I applied to every agency I could find in Toronto. Fifty applications, 46 noes, 4 with interest. This time was different. I signed with an agency and booked the very first job they sent me out for. My first television gig. I couldn’t wait to tell my parents. I remember laying on my bed, staring at the ceiling and wondering about all the possibilities the future held. I went on several more auditions after that. Each time another no. No. No. No. Each one chipping away at my confidence. Each chip was affecting my performance in the next audition. Until the day, my agent informed me they were dropping me. They don’t give you a reason. I sat on the stairs of the Keele subway station for about 30 minutes.
I didn’t wait around to lick my wounds this time. I had another Agent within two weeks. I was back auditioning and booking jobs in no time. I stayed in Toronto for a total of five years before a few realizations dawned on me. Although I loved being there, hanging out with the friends I had, and had made. My life needed to involve more than commiserating about the industry whilst waiting for a big break to come along. Over five years, I went to at least 100 auditions. I was told no at least 90 times.
I didn’t return to St. Thomas in defeat this time. I returned determined to marry the woman I love, settle down, start a family, and figure out a new way forward. I kept performing shows when they would arise, but I didn’t seek them out as actively. I decided that I needed to apply the business skills I had developed to my craft. In 2017, I started Rail City Theatre. I set to work developing the business and finding out how I could be successful and achieve the dream I had set out to 17 years earlier. In 2020 if things hold, I will be able to live off my creative enterprise.
I was and am currently fortunate to have people in my life that will not let me stay down for long. I now teach kids that failure is okay. That it is temporary. That you will fail far more often than you succeed, the attempt is what is more important. The development is key. Be better than you were yesterday. Be stronger than you were yesterday. You aren’t in competition with anyone other than yesterday’s version of yourself. I’ve learned that criticism stings when you lack confidence and is helpful when you are secure. I’ve learned that the path to success is not linear. Sometimes it will feel like one step forward and two steps back. Since the launch of Rail City Theatre, I have encountered several failures. My ambition exceeded my ability to execute. I tried to do too much too fast. I didn’t always follow the advice I would give to others. I have had to pivot several times since starting. The only reason I keep pushing is that I believe I can do it. Luckily for me…I am stubborn.