“Nick George is an Acting Classes Coach at The Playground. Here’s Part 4…”
When I’m teaching at The Playground Conservatory here in L.A and I meet young actors who have recently moved from out of town to give acting a shot in earnest, it’s hard for me to not be reminded of my move to L.A as an 18 year old.
Before I moved to Los Angeles a lot went into the decision to pack up my car and move west. I didn’t know how actors went about trying to start a professional career. There wasn’t a Playground Conservatory yet and I hadn’t heard of Gary Spatz (a guy who has helped train young and hungry actors from every corner of the country for over 20 years).
In retrospect, I was very lucky to meet him. But before I moved to L.A and would have the opportunity, I would need to see that pursuing my dreams was even possible. In the last blog, I was writing about heading home to visit my family for the holidays and being a senior in high school. I knew that the somewhat belated conversation about what was coming next would be on the agenda of holiday table conversations and I was bracing myself.
Two nights before Christmas my father and I got in the car and drove out along the same stretch of road that two years prior had literally collapsed before our eyes, sending us in to what had since become known to us as our “alternate destiny.” The road was still closed and under repair these many months later so we drove as far as we could to the top of the cape overlooking the ocean.
We sat in silence for a long time and as the conversation eventually unfolded, I remember my dad saying that it seemed unfair that some parents require of their children that they should know what they want their life’s path to look like at 18 years old. My dad told me his story of being 18 and going off to college right after high school because “that’s what was expected of him.”He described it as “just getting on the bus with the rest of the high school grads”.
He told me that in his life he had changed career paths many times and was still searching for something that fulfilled him.
To my surprise, he said he thought that college was a fine place to go and explore one’s interest but that it needn’t be a deciding factor for the rest of life and wasn’t even entirely necessary for the happiness and fulfillment of a person. I had a sense that my dad had always felt this way but again it was interesting advice coming from a guy who had earned a couple of masters degrees and who was now having the “college talk” with his son…It took the pressure off.
In his opinion, the wisest thing for a young person to do was to explore and follow their interests and passions after high school. I told him that the thing that had captivated me most while at school in Montana was drama and acting and that if I had my choice to keep doing what I wanted I would keep exploring that. My dad said “ well… you do have that choice and I support it one hundred percent”.
I told him about a new film called Goodwill Hunting that I had gone to see recently in the theatre and that the movie and the performances had inspired me so much that I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Whatever those guys were doing on the screen, I wanted to do too..Could I try and do something like Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Gus Van Zandt had done? Was that even possible?
We talked about various strategies for “going after acting”. One thought was acting colleges and conservatories. These seemed to have a long list of merits and pitfalls. It seemed that paying a hundred thousand dollars or more to get an acting degree might yield an interesting four years of experiences and some skills but definitely wouldn’t put me any closer to having what everyone knows is a very elusive professional career as an actor. Very few even from the top conservatories can just jump right in to a professional career.
I remember my father saying something to the effect of “I feel like acting may be one of those endeavors where one is best to go to the front lines where it is happening and just dive in where you can…I mean skip getting on the bus and thumb your own ride!”
I mentioned that I had heard that there were a lot of first rate independent acting studios and teachers in L.A. and New York that offered top notch training from working professionals and that they are right on the front lines of where things happen. I could get my training there and do college later if I decided I wanted or needed to….
“Or there are also some amazing community colleges in California that offer great arts and acting training, I’ve heard,” my pops riffed as we watched the waves crashing on the rocks far below. “Go down, get your bearings and blaze your own trail”.
And thus, less than 2 year later and not more than a mile from where we had been launched off the side of a mountain, the new seeds of the adventure were sowed. I sat on it for a few weeks after returning to school in January and then I decided that I would move to L.A immediately after high school and give acting a solid shot. I would
enroll in the acting program at Santa Monica College, (a well known local junior college in the area which had trained for a time, such actors as James Dean and Dustin Hoffman.) and see what life in the big city was all about.
So after a short but formative time on the stage in Missoula Montana, I was about to hop into a substantially larger body of water, in fact, I was going from a lake to the Pacific Ocean.
Next week: Culture shock and a country boy in the big city!