Leap of Faith

xo-prelude-to-a-kiss-LACMA Why do we set our hearts on something, and then wander in another direction? Maybe we aren’t ready? Or maybe, we still don’t believe we’re ready.

I’m about to turn 27. In June, I celebrated my 4th anniversary in Los Angeles, the city I decided would be my home after graduating with a theatre arts degree in May 2011. Even before I was old enough to verbalize it, I wanted to be a storyteller. I thrived on imagination, on pretending to be something other. This is something all children do well, perhaps because the world is still so new to them – nothing is set, or permanent. Everything changes. Maybe that’s why I enjoy working with children: they remind me to step outside of my certainty, which despite their reverence for me being a “grownup”, is really not very certain at all. But like actors, grownups are often good at pretending everything’s under control.

ross denyer turns five years old

22 years ago, celebrating my 5th birthday in style!

The past few years, I’ve been very uncertain. I always told myself it would be a tough business, and so many people told me the same. But no amount of preparation equates to the experience: you will be rejected, constantly, even if you do good work. Often times, you won’t even be given the opportunity to show if you can do good work. I’ve kept track of all my auditions, writing down not only the technical stuff down like where/when/who and whether or not I booked it, but also how it felt. It’s remarkable to look back on some of these notes (and to be transported back into those rooms) and remember these intense blips of joy/sadness/longing/frustration/(hopefully well-hidden) desperation! In my first couple of years in Los Angeles, I auditioned a lot (over 100 times, which as an unrepresented non-union actor is a statistic I’m proud of), and I booked a lot too, including my very first audition (that was an incomparable thrill, I truly felt like a child again!) But for various reasons, the past two years have been a bit more of a wandering, which I now believe was necessary: I needed greater stability, and (perhaps more importantly) I needed to trust myself.

In the process of finding those qualities, I became more involved with tutoring and for two years, I worked at an educational center helping young children to read. My tutoring expanded into other companies and freelance, and continues to be a source of financial stability and deep personal satisfaction. But while I was at this tutoring center, during the summers, the hours were long and intense, and my ability to film something or even get out for auditions was stunted. It’s true that in the past two years I found time for other creative avenues – I co-produced and directed a web series in New York, I won a scholarship to a screenwriting workshop and wrote a sci-fi pilot…and yet, I was afraid that I’d strayed from my reasons for coming to Los Angeles.

wanderer-above-the-sea-of-fog

“Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog” (1818), by Caspar David Friedrich. Metaphorically, I think we’ve all been here.

My love for storytelling has led me back to the writings of Joseph Campbell many times. In The Power of Myth, he says:

“The achievement of the hero is one that he is ready for and it’s really a manifestation of his character. It’s amusing the way in which the landscape and conditions of the environment match the readiness of the hero. The adventure that he is ready for is the one that he gets … The adventure evoked a quality of his character that he didn’t know he possessed.”

At the end of May, I quit my job of two years at this tutoring center, just before its busiest summer season. In June, I struggled to adapt to that loss of stability, which included losing many other regular tutoring clients for the summer season. I submitted to auditions regularly, sought stability where I could, and questioned my potentially foolish decision to take “a leap of faith”. But in July, just a few weeks ago, things started to change: I was getting auditions, and I was booking them. After months of barely even getting in the room, let alone getting the role, I won three parts in the same week. Last week, I was on set for two different projects every day. And I was so happy, because it felt like my desire had reconnected with my existence. It wasn’t until I was sitting down for dinner with friends, and they asked me about my recent adventures, that I realized what had changed: “for whatever reasons, I just feel ready now”. Joseph Campbell was right.

xo-santa-monica-beach-ross-denyer

A still from the short film ‘XO’, in production. Pictured on Santa Monica beach with actress Tara Brown.

5 thoughts on “Leap of Faith

  1. Hey Ross! Just wanted to give you a shout- this is a gorgeous website btw- and say that I can relate a lot to what you wrote. This life is transient, fluid, uncertain, and sometimes a bummer but also exciting, liberating and full of magic. Keep telling those stories !

    • Hey Stephanie, great to hear from you (and you have quite a lovely website yourself!) I’m glad you could relate, and I appreciate your comment especially, because it encourages me to not be afraid to share my doubts as well as my successes. It’s good to know I’m not alone in these experiences.

  2. Wow! What a great essay! I bet you were a great tutor. Hope you don’t leave it forever, but I understand your desire to pursue your career. As a 77 yo who has switched careers several time, You need not feel uncomfortable about doing other things during those “interims.” Graduated from Sem 51 years ago. In between church employment I was a District Mgr of Phila. Daily News,, Education Coordinator for NC Dept. of Corrections, Adoption Worker for Holt International Children’s Services. A year ago, we moved to nearby Twin Lakes Retirement Community in Burlington and guess what? I lead worship every Sunday afternoon at the Memory Care Center! Love the challenge of relating to those who were once very sharp but now declining mental capacity. I am sure God will find a place for your acting talents wherever that may be!!

    John Weinbach

    • Thanks, John! I’m actually still tutoring, just not at the previous location. Now I have much greater flexibility in terms of who I work with, and when. But yes, you’re right, our work is constantly evolving, and goes through many transitions. I hope you and Rhoda are happy and enjoying Twin Lakes!

      -Ross

  3. Pingback: When To Say No | Ross Denyer

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