How do you feel about getting old? Maybe not in the physical but in an artistic way… Last Saturday evening UCLA Film & TV Archive did a mini-retrospective of two early features Flow and Drift that I made. I got a Facebook message from a friend who said “Thank you for friending him” as he showed Offender Justin’s and my early shorts in his cable program. In fact, Offender Justin shot “Fall 1990,” a majority of Flow when he was still an undergraduate at UCLA. In fact, it might have been his first and last DP gig. Correct me if I am wrong… my memory is fading!
Honestly I haven’t thought about getting old. I just kept making films the summer I graduated from Berkeley. I’m sure it will be challenging watching my early works and I’ll cringe at all the innocence and the rough edges of my craft. Nevertheless I still have the same enthusiasm and excitement about making films… and I still feel very much a beginner.
Maybe I’m a kid who refuses to grow up. How about you?
I’d be especially curious in hearing how Offender DHH (David Henry Hwang) feels as I was studying David’s works in college—before I became a filmmaker—and now I’ve worked with David and we are on the same blog!
ROGER: Getting older as an actor in Hollywood, in general, isn’t a great thing. Especially for women. The business tends to employ more youth than the aged. All that being said, what I love about getting older in Hollywood is being able to read a script or play and being able to see all the creative directions I could take a character or plot line. That wasn’t always the case. In my 20’s, I remember reading scripts and just not knowing what to do – I couldn’t see or feel it. I certainly could say the words but there was little meaning, feeling, or true, deep creativity involved. But now, 20 years later, my ability to be genuinely and authentically creative is much more at my disposal. I suppose 20 years of the Hollywood grind does yield a certain, hidden ability to bring some color to the black and white text on the page. Looking forward to the next 20…and hopefully still having a head of hair!
DHH: As the Oldest Offender, I’m best qualified to address the issue of aging! Similar to Quentin, I’m starting to see my earlier plays “revived,” i.e. given new productions in NYC and elsewhere. Signature Theatre in NY, which devotes an entire season to the work of a single author, is currently doing a season of my plays, including two earlier shows and one new one. I was grateful for the honor, but also anxious: what would it feel like to see plays I wrote, in the case of one called THE DANCE AND THE RAILROAD, almost thirty years ago?
With DANCE, which tells the story of two Chinese laborers building the American Transcontinental Railroad in 1867, I eventually decided to basically leave the script alone. Sure, there are moments I find rough and unpolished, but there’s also an energy and intuitiveness to my writing as a 23 year-old that’s pretty exciting. So I’ve come to think of these early pieces as kind of a “psychic snapshot” of who I was at that point in my life. It’s like looking at yourself in your college yearbook; you may not like your hair, but that’s who you were.
By the time the revival of DANCE opened, I ended up feeling pretty proud of my younger self. Moreover, I’m incredibly lucky that someone still wants to produce my twenty and thirty year-old plays. So if we’re lucky enough to grow old and remain working as artists, we should just count our blessings.
PHILIP: It seems like some of my fellow Offenders have “aging” on their minds as this is a topic that has surfaced more than once in recent ATHs. In my mind I still feel like I’m 18–obviously that’s not the case but I don’t think too much has changed in my outlook on life since then–hopefully things are even better with experience. Life is still an adventure.
ANSON: I only really work in short form projects like webseries, PSA’s, and commercials but I’ve also helped produce a feature doc and experienced a few feature films being made. So age and experience is still brewing in this artist. But what I have learned from my short experience is that you are faced with issues of art vs. money, or in my current case, Youtube views. The world is changing where a girl is talking into a webcam twice a week becomes more popular and money making than a well directed and produced short film. Maybe its a good thing that I don’t start my own talk show sitting on the toilet every morning and giving the news (hmm that’s a great idea). But I do hope I can create more videos/films that people can appreciate both today and twenty years later because of the vision and message I try to convey.
IRIS: I know I’m getting old, because I keep thinking, “They just don’t make ‘em like they used to.” I look at the YouTube fare and I feel like Clint Eastwood’s character in Gran Torino. “Get off my lawn, kids!”
ALFREDO: It’s a trade off. The buoyancy, the lack of second guessing, the naive optimism, the having fun of it all – of youth – fade away. In its place you get a degree of skill and competence that feels effortless: Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 hour” rule of becoming good at something. There’s almost nothing of mine I’ve written, though, whether a week ago or 20 years ago, that I don’t think, “Ooh, shit, is it too late to tweak that?” But, on balance, the more I put in toward that 10k, the less I cringe. And with any artistic endeavor, there’s the all important “x factor:” no matter how much or how little experience you have, sometimes you hit the bullseye, sometimes you don’t.
DAVID: My goal is to be the oldest director to win the Academy Award. I’ll just make my movie now and wait til I’m in my death bed to release it. How can the Academy not nominate and vote for a story like that? Dream on!
I’ve been there so many times comparing myself to other successful people in the business and seeing what age they’re at to make sure I’m up to par. I stopped that thinking at like age 35 and just did what I like doing and it feels good.
BEVERLY: Although I stopped acting about 2 years ago, I will say, I agree with Roger saying that the industry is not nice to women as we age. And I must say, I resented the business for telling me to lie about my age because I find the last few years as AMAZING. Alfredo is right, there is less buoyancy, but but but!!!! There is something wonderful about reading a script as an older adult and seeing the nuances better. Life itself becomes more nuanced. When I was younger there was so much black and white to everything. Now everything is actually really beautiful in various shades of tones and all things inbetween.
Since I’m no longer in the artistic world, I will say this: I truly enjoy artistic endeavors made by people who don’t try to be younger to attract a younger audience than they are. I look for voices echoing the challenges I face now…and there are few who do write about that. And maybe less that actually get greenlit by major studios. So sad, as I find my life as an older female incredibly fantastic. At least we will always have sexy french films to celebrate us.
EMMIE: As an older person, it’s nice to have a climb behind you (the career/technical climb). You feel like you’ve put in time & effort, and achieved something (that said, I’m starting some new projects and have giant super-steep hills facing me! but it’ll be fun).
My perspective towards art in general has changed a bit. I still think it’s amazingly important to spend your life working on projects you believe in, but now I appreciate relationships and non-work stuff way more than I did when I was young.
It seems that doing art always keeps you feeling young in a sense – enthusiastic, optimistic, hopeful, intrigued, experimental, etc. I do notice, though, that I’m now more aware of the time & energy it will take to get through new learning curves.