Thursday, January 28, 2010

Look what I found in New Brunswick!

Every once in a while I come across someone who has It.

I don't know what It is, but I know It when I see It, which isn't very often. This time, it was in New Brunswick, shooting this last job, casting for the role of the daughter.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Marie Michele Vienneau.

She's fifteen years old and until a couple of weeks ago, had never been on a set. And I'll tell you right now she's got what it takes to make it big.

Sure, she's adorable. But what she has goes beyond adorableness. She has a magical combination of confidence and innocence, awkwardness and grace. Mostly, she has a natural ability to make the camera fall in love with her.

I've seen this before. I've cast other people who have It, some of whom have gone on to success. And some who haven't.

Danny Fehsenfeld, the actor who played the lead in 'Burning Passion' has gobs of It –– although his It is more like Kevin Spacey's, an ease on screen that makes you wonder whether he's actually acting. What's weird is that Danny will tell you acting is pretending. And yet with him, I swear acting is being.

Ruthann Lentz has It, too, and I'm not just saying this because she's my wife. In fact, it's kind of the other way around: I fell in love with her because she has It. She hasn't gone on to fame and fortune either, but that's probably my fault for getting her knocked up twice and taking her out of the game for four years.

Which brings me to reality.

People can have It and not make it big. There are other factors. It takes skill and determination and luck and opportunity and timing and connections and hard work on top of It to find success in a business as brutal as film.

When we wrapped, I took Marie Michele aside and gave her some advice. Here's what I told her:
  • Learn to speak English like an American. That's where the opportunities are.
  • Don't ever do anything that makes you uneasy. If you're okay doing a sex scene or comfortable with nudity, fine, but it must be your choice.
  • Don't ever get a boob job. Gwyneth Paltrow and Charleze Theron didn't get to where they are with fake boobs.
  • Move to New York or LA if you feel you need to, but don't do it because you feel you're supposed to.
  • Find a teacher you connect with and work hard at your craft. Aptitude is not enough. You have to develop your skill.
  • Do the acting because you love it, not because you want to get famous or rich.
What I didn't tell her, but wish I did, is that success is hard. Extremely hard.

I sometimes wish I had the power to confer success on people like Marie Michele, Danny, and Ruthann, but to be honest, it wouldn't be fair to them if I could. Success is earned. When it's not –– I'm convinced –– you end up with Lindsay Lohan, who I've never met in person but I'm sure is utterly dripping with It.

I'll be keeping my eye out for Marie Michele. I'd love for her to make it big. And not just because I'd be able to say I found her first.


  1. I disagree. Success is not hard. It's easy. Recognizing it is hard. Perhaps the hardest part is understanding that your definition of success will change and knowing it's ok to change with it. Seeing myself on TV is great but seeing my kids is mind blowing. I ooze Success!

  2. I enjoyed reading your “sage” advise to this young and possible future artist, it mirrors many conversations I have had with painters, photographers and other various artist over the years regarding the creative process, and the confines of real life (diapers, mortgage payments, new city, new wife / husband, fired, hired, etc).

    It is a fact in the truest sense that talent, while important, is no guarantee of success, often drive, will power, desire and best of all, sheer dumb idiot stupid blind luck help significantly.

    Often time a relationship connection is more important, than fantastic ability, and just being in the right place at the right time is the best of all angels of mercy for anyone in the creative fields.

    For some success is defined by the size of the paycheck, for some just to create on perfect piece of work is the height of success, for others it is steady work at what they love doing that is the acme of attainment, as with many things in life it is how one defines their needs and lives which determines what is perceived.

    Just as it is true in other creative fields, a painter can work, and work, and work producing a lifetimes worth of excellent art, and only be recognized within the confines of his small area, this is the case for the vast majority of individuals who work in creative fields.

    We live in a culture that, for good or bad, can reach down and make someone the “Flavor Of The Month” showering upon them access to money, food, and sex beyond their wildest imaginings, yet only to be replaced in an a seeming instant by another new individual.

    I deeply respect and am moved by the actress who has created strong performances for 30 years, or the sculpture who has consistently produced good and moving work for 30 years, both happy in their work and seeking to only excel within their own personal struggles, and in the end who are only known within the boundaries of their limited milieu.