Most of the waiters and waitresses I work with hope to become actors, singers, screenwriters or any of the ancillary positions swirling around the entertainment industry. They are all pretty, bright-eyed, optimistic and enthusiastic. Most of them come from somewhere other than California and, one day, most of them will wake up to the hard realization that they need to make a living, and that the dream won’t be providing that paycheck after all, let alone fame or fortune.
Los Angeles is a tough city. It beckons and promises with stories of attainable success; it lulls you into golden-lit days that make you believe: you want to get out of bed here and do, in the certainty there is a place for you. Waking up to the much harsher reality makes for a pretty hard landing. Because we are programmed to dream and, in LA, we are encouraged to dream big.
With the stream of awards that the movie La La Land has been winning, this city is openly discussing, once again, but maybe with more honesty, what it takes to make it here, the sacrifices and unbearable compromises that are necessary, from the small ones that whittle away at the dream every day, to the cruel ones depicted in the movie.
On the radio, I heard a commentator put forth the theory that the only path to success might be the crazy option. That trying the unexpected, the original, the one thing that is not programmed to work because so outlandish might be the only way to succeed. Instead of following the usual path of auditions/interviews/downright begging and accepting odd jobs, it might pay to do what others are not expecting. Most of the movies in the running for the big prizes this year are not conventional Hollywood blockbusters: the story of a poor gay black kid; a disquisition on grief; an African-American family drama with a lot of spoken lines and no change of scene; a musical.
Against the odds, they all got made because they found someone who believed in “crazy”, who believed there would be an audience for crazy, for unconventional.
I always suspected there was a value to finding your craziness and sticking with it, and not just on the grand scale of a Hollywood movie. It leads to others who can be inspired by it or will inspire you in return. It leads to community, if not fame and money. It leads to love: I see your craziness and I accept it. And you.
At the base of it all, it’s passion. Without encouraging passion, the crazy option will never see the light of day.
Today, when, in the States, we commemorate Martin Luther King Jr, seems like a good day to remember to honor passion and never crush it, wherever we see it, even when it doesn’t suit our preconceived notions.
The world can only be changed with passion and a kernel of craziness, whether on a big screen or down here, where most of us operate.
On this day, of all days, let’s remember to be worthy of our dreams. As crazy as they might be.