010 | the first cut is the deepest.

I was waiting for it. I knew it, I could feel it. I wanted to put a disclaimer on my good news. I wanted to say “Don’t tune in. It’ll just be a disappointment.” And it happened. And this was me trying not to feed my insecurities, to “love myself” as I’ve been continuously advised to over and over. This was me not indulging the harsh critic in my head and sitting back after having put in my time and effort, and letting the world do what it will with my work. And it did what it does: Taught me yet another lesson. 2021 just don’t quit. Actually, it’s this creative life, this choice of the arts, that just don’t quit. The thing itself is doing what it does best: Kicking our sweet lil’ butts and making us want it more because like the delusional fools we humans are, we find hope and positivity in the failures or else we’d wither away to dust.

I shot a role for a pretty big deal show. The episode aired. They cut me out of the scene. My scene co-stars are in the end credits, I am not. There’s a lot of clichés and phrases the average person knows about the Hollywood grind, and this here’s one of ’em: Left on the cutting room floor.

Why are you so positive, Bree? Seems you’ve had a shit year, could’ve used the win, no? Hells yea, imagine the sweet impressive intro to my updated acting demo reel that nice plum of a scene would’ve created. Imagine the tasty screencaps that would’ve littered my Insta & IMDb. The hashtags. The comments. The follows. The algorithm salivating at my jump in popularity. One audition notice from my agent, one day preparing a song and my voice, two amazing minutes in the audition room, one whole weekend in another city– while on vacation– being put on hold, then booking it, paperwork, making plans to cut my trip short to get back to Toronto ASAP on a bus through a blizzard in order to get on set the next day, borrowing my friend’s car because the set’s out in the middle of nowhere and I can’t call a Lyft to a closed set at 3am to pick me up, waking up and warming up my singing voice at 5am, sitting through a hair and makeup transformation, keeping my voice warm for over 16 hours on a freezing cold set with heat-packs under my toes in the uninsulated shoes part of my costume, taking off and putting back on a big bulky winter coat with each take, and most importantly, getting to meet and work with some of the most amazing people putting their all into their own art, whether it be acting, hair, makeup, wardrobe, directing, audio, set design, props, culinary, or just organizing the whole damn thing– and I would do it all over again. And then again, sit here in the now, a full year and a half later, with 5% sureness of seeing myself on screen and then laughing out loud because, of course.

“Huh. We’re intrigued, let’s try you” casting

That credit on my resume has paid me back tenfold as other casting directors have decided to give me a try based on my being able to book this role. And that’s exactly what the goal of booking is at this stage of my career. To keep playing this game, you gotta have a player moving around the spaces. And it wasn’t just any ol’ day-player role. I think they were only supposed to book one actor, but I was actually able to awe them in the audition room, made their heads snap back. So much so that they added my character last-minute to the scene (my co-stars were #43 and #44 on the callsheet, I was #44a). In essence, I got to serenade the 300+ extras on-set that day, throughout each take, throughout this massive warehouse that was silent except for my voice floating through the rafters. I got to perform for a crowd, I got to perform for a director at the top of his fuckin’ game who I never could’ve encountered otherwise. So I wasn’t a fit for the tone of the episode as it was shaping up to be in the editing room, but I was a fit that day on set.

The long game. That’s what this thing is. Not an “I’ll try this for a bit and if I’m not the next Angelina Jolie in three years I’ll pack it in and go back to school” detour that romance book writers seem to think it is (why I can’t seem to enjoy the movie/rock star trope despite suspending my disbelief for practically everything else for them sweet feelings). I already did the school thing, twice. I did the full-time office career thing, three times. There’s a reason why my brain and heart couldn’t settle, why this is for the long haul (with side-jobs, of course). Keep awing. Keep doing what I do best. Bit by bit. One day I’ll be everyone/most people’s fit. Sure, that production had the money to pay me handsomely for a “Huh. We’re intrigued, let’s try you” casting. But guess what– they did. Keep going, Bree.

If anything, I did it, I achieved this rite of passage. So many actors, so many cutting room floors. Couple of years back, a co-star drove me back to Toronto from Hamilton where we had been shooting, and he told me about this awesome multi-episode guest spot he’d shot for a major network show– and that entire storyline got cut. If he can get through that… And a couple of weeks back, one of my favourite podcasts, The Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santos, featured the heartbreaking casting/re-casting story of the lead role of Full Metal Jacket. Just fucking beyond brutal. So if this disappointment was my lesson for whatever return to equilibrium I needed, I’ll gladly take it. Because I know it’ll only get me ready for the bigger mountains, and perhaps I won’t get sideswiped by the monstrous avalanches that come at me then and get right back up on my feet to hitch a snowmobile ride down the mountain.

To keep playing this game, you gotta have a player moving around the spaces.

Can I say though… I feel worse for my loved ones who’d been waiting with me for this episode to air. I almost feel like they’re more heartbroken than me? I wish I could take that disappointment away for them, that they could only enjoy the highs in this acting career. I’m the one who signed up for the lows, they shouldn’t have to feel bad for me. But goddamn, their support throughout everyday is something, something huge. Because on the other hand, it’s jarring when you have important people in your life that don’t support your life choices, and I’m finding out that even with this career low, their negativity doesn’t get proven right– I’ve learned too much this year to let that happen. They just get to continue sitting out of my life.

Therapy’s still going. Two very loved people in my life are still gone. And I’m still struggling. And I’m being told I have to “love myself.” It’s not some self-help bullcrap. I have to legitimately love myself for the human I am, and place myself in a better place in my heart and mind. So if today’s setback was an opportunity to start putting that into motion, I hope I treated myself a bit better than I normally would’ve.

006 | the gig i didn’t get.

The second time I met my now sister-in-law, my brother took us to lunch at one of those comfort-food Chinese restaurants where the portions are a’plenty and the ambience is as easygoing as pizza night at home. I tried to be an enjoyable human and not indadvertedly point bright flashing arrows towards my depression and low self-esteem. I ended up trying to make a joke about how aimless I was in terms of my career– having just moved on from a retail sales job to an executive headhunting/business development role I had no business being in because I have never ever been driven by sales and profit– to the complete dismay of my family.

Me: “Oh, I wish I was one of those people who knew what they wanted to be from a young age, then went to school and studied exactly that and now they’re a boring accountant!”

Future-SIL: “My sister’s an accountant.”

My bad. Goddamn, my bad.

But you get it. You decide on a career for its job opportunities, you complete the training, you apply to the jobs, then if you’re feelin’ fancy and adventurous, move onto another company and move up the ladder– but you’ve always got that one field to comfortably move around and adjust within.

The only job I’d ever declared from a young age was actor.

But for my parents sake I declared doctor– medical, not academia. No one wants an overeducated woman, I hear. From my mother. And the Bengali aunties who inform her of these things.

To my friends I declared myself a future med student by day, bartender by night. My head was mostly filled with tropes from ’90s blockbuster films and novels beyond my social comprehension. I’m pretty sure every twenty-something character was pulling some sort of sexy double-duty like that in a big city.

To myself, sitting in front of I Love Lucy marathons every weekday afternoon, I was reassured that my tendency to laugh too loudly and react too bigly was the best life I could ever live.

School extracurriculars to expand on this performing lust never came to fruition in elementary school. We moved constantly in the middle of school years. Singing publicly was being muddled within choirs. Acting was something shy-person me was never encouraged to try though I was desperate to feel it (until high school when my brother pushed me into it! What! Story for another time!). I remember one summer we learned American Sign Language and performed Mariah Carey’s “Hero” for an end-of-term school concert. Yes, I was registered for summer school in order to get out of my parents’ hair, but really, can’t begrudge ’em since when else would I have learned ASL?

The confident superhumans unaware of their own limitations.

While we were all signing the lyrics, one girl, Wendy, was selected to sing it. Long curly hair, supreme confidence, she jumped at the chance to sing solo and goddamn she sucked. Like, so hard. Thirty-six year old me who has now watched and applauded numerous gifted child singers is still horrified by how awful she was. I stood in the second row, my sad signing hands barely visible to our audience of parents, and seethed for not having had the courage to raise my hand when the teacher asked for someone to sing. I felt helpless in wanting to sing solo and so loudly, not along to the radio in my parents’ car, but loudly and proudly to this audience of bored adults.

But that’s who wins, that’s who always wins. The confident superhumans unaware of their own limitations. I bet when they hear the phrase “low self-esteem” their instant reaction is that iconic Mariah Carey gif. And why not, it’s such a pathetic way to face life.

It’s ok, we can say it. In fact I’ll say it first. I wish I was dumb and aloof. I wish I wasn’t aware of how I can come off. I wish my brain didn’t make me feel an everlasting wave of embarrassment the morning after a performance. Don’t worry, I have mentally fortified myself through my late-twenties and now into my thirties. I mean, after the wave of political and cultural idiocy we’ve been over-inundated with for a good few years now, we’re all done holding back. But to have spent so much thought and energy on holding myself down, it’s… it’s annoying.

I think I just want to leave it there. I’m only throwing out the facts here, as the analysis is the work I’ve done since and who I am now. Sometimes I ridicule myself/marvel over how I live my life, similar to how parents form their children’s lives– classes, projects, and practice time– but instead all entirely focused on the development of my own self. The self I’ve always wanted to be. If that makes me selfish, so be it. I can be aloof, too. Purposely, though. I can on purpose pretend not to care. And if you do it long enough you can sorta convince yourself you don’t.