On a dare, I auditioned for A Christmas Carol when I was 9 years old. This was for a production at McCarter Theater in Princeton, New Jersey – one of the best regional theaters in the country. When I was cast as Boy Scrooge, it didn’t take me long to realize that getting the part had some serious implications for my 9-year-old self.
Two weeks into rehearsals, I had a meltdown when I realized I had signed on for a “real job.” Fortunately, this happened in the privacy of my own home. My parents listened to me cry for an hour. When I was through, they explained to me what it means when people say, “The train has left the station.” They explained that the people who make their living by producing these shows – from the director, to the tailor who fitted my costume – were counting on me, as part of a team, to do my best work every single day.
The rehearsal and performance schedule was challenging for everyone in my family. We organized our lives around it and my older brother spent his birthday at the theater. At the end of the run, my parents said, “Well, I don’t think he’ll want to do that again.” And it wasn’t because it was a bad experience. Not at all. It was great. In retrospect, that season of acting in A Christmas Carol was one of the best times in our lives as a family.
In other words, my parents were wrong about whether I would ever want to continue acting. My mother began to help me find casting notices and I was on the set of my first short film two weeks later. Film, like theater, opened my eyes to all the resources it takes to produce a show or film – even a short student film. I developed so much respect for the people who were in film school.
I began doing short film work and some of them were accepted by festivals. Soon, I was cast in my first feature, Hide Your Smiling Faces, led by a team of amazing young filmmakers out of New York University. It was their second feature as a production company and it went to major festivals, such as Berlin and Tribeca. After that experience, I was lucky enough to find an agent. Then, when I had enough professional work under my belt, I joined SAG-AFTRA.
At 15, my life as an actor is mostly about auditioning and I am so thankful for the opportunities that come my way. I am not imagining that I will be the next Leonardo DiCaprio, but I will press on because I love acting. I know success takes time and preparation and luck. I am already in awe of all the talent I have been exposed to at a young age, both in front of the camera and behind the scenes.
One day, I was listening to NPR and listened to an interview with CreativeFuture CEO Ruth Vitale. She described a recent visit to a school where she was to speak at an assembly. The principal of the school told her that she should be prepared for the kids to “zone out” after a certain period of time. Much to both of their surprise, the assembly turned out to be the best received event of its kind the school ever had.
That same day, I visited CreativeFuture’s website and signed up to join their cause and receive their newsletter. As I mentioned, I am determined to put in the hard work because I love acting. I now realize that part of that hard work will include joining the creative community to make sure there is a future for myself and my peers who want to make art their career.
Most recently, thanks to CreativeFuture, I became aware of an FCC plan that would put at risk the livelihoods of many of the hard-working independent filmmakers I’ve worked with on projects such as Hide Your Smiling Faces. The creative community is mobilizing to oppose this set-top-box proposal because it threatens to make piracy even worse. Piracy harms all creatives, but especially those of us who are just starting out.
When I was 9 years old, I never would have guessed back that one audition would change the course of my life and turn me into an advocate only a few years later. I just love what I do and I realize that a lot of people simply do not realize what it takes to make a movie and how many people are involved to bring us the entertainment we all love so much. If this FCC plan makes piracy even a little bit worse than it already is and, at the same time, destroys jobs, I #StandCreative™ and oppose the FCC’s plan to “unlock the box.” I urge you and all my fellow young creatives to join me in telling FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to hit pause and come up with something better.