"A long time ago I told myself I wouldn’t go to New York until I was getting paid to go there and do what I love. Thank you @jamesfrancotv, and #rabbitbandini for the opportunity. #adderalldiaries.” -This was my last post on Instagram from around 30,000 feet as I descended into JFK International Airport. It wasn’t until stepping off the jetway and seeing my driver holding a sign with my name on it, that I accepted the fact that I had come to New York City to shoot a scene in a movie with James Franco.
Sure, go ahead and argue it was only one scene with two lines, but it was two lines opposite who could arguably be the most sought after actor in America right now.
Feels like progress to me.
“Mind if I roll the window down? This is my first time in New York.” I asked with every ounce of tourist dripping from my chops.
“Go ahead. And welcome. What brings you here?”
“Oh, yeah? What kind?”
I paused for a minute. Thinking to myself before speaking through a growing grin.
“I’m an actor.”
A few moments went by before realizing I was laughing out loud. For the first time in my life I actually believed it. I owned that sentence. I accepted it. I had earned it.
I am an actor.
I arrived at Professor Franco’s (as we have come to call him at our Monday morning “Breaking Rad” sessions at UCLA) house late. Everyone was asleep. My call time wasn’t until 7am. James’ was expected at 5am. After an hour or two I was finally able to settle my excitement enough to make myself comfortable on the couch. I looked over my scene a few times before passing out in enough time to get a couple hours of sleep.
I arrive on set just after 7am. James has been shooting since 5am with a wrap time of 12pm. He has a matinee of Of Mice And Men to get to so two hours gives him just enough time to get to the theater and prepare for the show. Our scene is the last scene of the day. We are a bit behind schedule, so keeping this in mind I know we won’t have many takes for my scene. No pressure, right? Yeah, right.
Pamela Romanowsky, The Director, is the first person I see when I arrive on set.
“Hey! Ky from Studio 4 right? Welcome! I’m Pamela. We are excited to have you. Walk with me over here and let’s talk about the blocking”.
“Awesome! Sounds good!”
I am an actor.
Everyone settles into place as James arrives on set. We rehearse the scene a couple times while James keeps busting my balls over an overly flamboyant character I had played last Monday at Breaking Rad. We are both sitting watching a computer monitor. It’s dead silent. He slowly leans into my ear.
“I think you should do a revival of your character from last Monday’s class”
We crack up laughing.
“I thought you would never ask!” I shoot back.
We laugh and joke around for a minute before going back to our ones for a first take. It’s a simple scene and it runs smooth. A few takes and a couple setups later and we are done.
“Alright everyone, that’s a wrap on Ky Soto from Studio 4!”
The crew gives me a round of applause. I’m embarrassed but extremely thankful. If you were to ask anyone who was there, I’m sure they would tell you I blushed like a 12-year-old schoolgirl. But I didn’t mind.
I am an actor.
I could go on and on about the rest of my time spent with James in New York, but I would like to try and make a different point here. James Franco doesn’t have to open a school for acting. James Franco doesn’t have to fly me to New York to say two lines in his movie, and he definitely doesn’t have to fly across country every week to teach classes at three different universities. You think he does these things because he needs the money? Come on, people. We are talking about the Wizard of Oz here. He does these things because he truly wants to. Through Studio 4 he is giving us opportunities that bypass the Hollywood machine completely. I know actors in LA that would kill to get the kind of breakdowns we get delivered directly to our inbox. If he is willing to give us the opportunity, don’t you think it’s our responsibility to show up? To put in the work to be prepared when the opportunity comes our way? Through him or any other avenue? If someone at that level in the business is willing to give us a place to study, to hone our craft, as well as an opportunity to work, the least we could do is show up as prepared as possible and ready to act. I’m not talking about coming to set prepared. That’s a given. I’m talking about our day-to-day lives. Start raising our own lives up to art and what the theater can teach us about it. Using our own hearts, bodies, souls, and minds to learn more about ourselves and give other human beings an experience. To truly find out what it means to give ourselves over to something that is greater than us. That’s the least we could do in return. We have to search our own hearts and ask ourselves “Why am I doing this? Why do I want to be an actor?” and challenge ourselves to examine what we say we care about the most. Studio 4 is a growing family. We must challenge each other to stretch our hearts a little farther than we did yesterday and question what Hollywood defines as success. Work towards living up to the standards of ourselves. Take responsibility for this honorable craft called acting. This beautiful art form that I have seen change lives first hand. It has changed mine and through it I continue to challenge myself to work a little harder today then I did yesterday.
We packed our bags and left our families. We said goodbye to best friends significant others. We made a choice and took a chance on ourselves. We turned our back on comfort in pursuit of truth. Celebrate yourself for that.
I am an actor.
Now say it like you fucking mean it.