“If it’s what you wanna do, just keep doin’ it…no one’s holding a gun to your head.”

Zack Orth

Okay, so he said a little more than that, but that was the gist of his answer to my question. My girfriend and I were waiting outside Uchi, and Zak Orth walks up….okay wait, let me rewind.

A little earlier in the day, I was driving to Central Market to get my girlfriend some flowers and some packaging for the gifts I had gotten her. I had just slammed through about 8 hours of work. Like on of those days, where you knock out a two-day to do list in one. So, I was a little fried from working at a break neck speed. I got to thinking about my acting career and pursuits. Bad time to think about those kinds of aspirations.

All sort of thoughts went through my head:

  • Why am I doing my job, and trying to build a company, if what I really want is to be acting full time?
  • That’s obvious, you can’t make a living just yet on acting alone
  • That’s because I’m living in the wrong place to make that happen
  • Why don’t I move?
  • Too expensive, too hard, too much…
  • With all those excuses, maybe I just don’t want this badly enough.
  • Maybe I’m going to end up just being one of those guys who doesn’t take the leap and pursue my dreams.
  • Screw that, I’m already pursuing them, just slowly.
  • I don’t want to give up on that dream.
  • Why can’t I just do both?
  • Why am I even questioning something so big??
  • I need a sign.
  • Universe…send me some kind of sign that I’m kind of on the right track.

I just asked for something, anything really to show me that I wasn’t just spinning my wheels. You can believe whatever you like, I know I do, but for me I like to look for signs. It give me some sense of direction.

So fast-forward…

Zak OrthZak Orth walks up. We are waiting outside Uchi for happy hour to start. I notice him immediately. I have been a fan/admirer of his work for awhile. Romeo+Juliet, Wet Hot American Summer, Vicky Christina Barcelona, Revolution, VEEP, the list goes on… I start to have that little shortness of breath and tension start in my stomach. This seems to happen to me when I am confronted with someone I have admiration for. It’s not just for meeting people with some form of celebrity either, it also happens with professionals I admire, acquaintances, professors, etc…

Me: (politely) Hey man.
Zak: Huh?
Me: I’m -uh- I really admire your work
Zak: (taken a little off guard) Oh, wow, thanks man.
Me: Yeah, for sure.

My girlfriend and I go back to talking. She asks me who he is, and I say actor. I for a moment think I will just leave the situation like that. BUT, then I remember asking for a sign. And, even if it’s not that, why wouldn’t I ask this guy who has a career I admire even just a quick question while I have the chance. I realize that while thinking through this dilemma I have gone silent, and my girlfriend is sort of quizzically smiling at me.

I turn back to Zak Orth:

Me: I’m sorry…
(he looks up)
Me: Do you -uh- mind if I ask you a question?
Zak: Sure, go ahead.

My brain starts firing way too fast, and my words become a bit jumbled and I say some things throughout the conversation that sounded fine in my head, but outloud sound a little convoluted, misguided, and maybe “amateurish”. I’m my own worst critic…I don’t have to be, but in this case, I definitely was.

Me: From one actor to another, what would you tell someone who is—well, I’m 28, I’ve studied a lot, I’m working some, I’m still plugging along….I guess 28 isn’t that long to have been plugging along…anyways, just what would you say to an actor about continuing to pursue….well, acting?
Zak: You live here?
Me: Yeah.
Zak: So, you go to the auditions here for the projects that come to town? Like uh…The Leftovers?
Me: Yeah, I went in for those but I didn’t get in…

Get in? What does that mean?

Zak: I mean, I would say keep going. It’s all a numbers game anyways, the more you’re doing the better chances that you’ll get something else. It’s what you wanna do?
Me: Yeah.

That answer came out right. Good job Austin.

Zak: Well, if it’s what you wanna do, just keep doin’ it.
(He chuckles, I chuckle)
Me: Yeah, you’re right…that’s really good…

About this time the person he is having dinner with comes back outside, and I realize I have probably extended beyond the quick question time limit, but my brain decides to go a little more…

Me: I mean I get jobs here and there…I was just driving today and was like, man I just need some kind of sign to show me that I’m not crazy, then you walked up and I was like well I could just ask him…it’s just tough staying motivated…

(He chuckles again)

Zak: Yeah…believe me I understand that, I go for months sometimes with no calls, nothing. There’s a LOT of downtime.(grabbing a glass from the other person) But, you just keep doing it man. I mean, no one’s holding a gun to your head right? So, really it’s your choice.
Me: Yeah. That’s really good stuff. Thank you.
Zak: Ah, for sure.

and here is where I could have stopped, but didn’t…

Me: I may quote you on that.
Zak: (laughs) Oh yeah?
Me: Yeah, I have this blog where I write daily rules, that’s a pretty good one…

Why? WHY did you just tell this man that you have a blog???

Zak: That’s cool.
Austin: Thanks. And, thank you again for the advice.
Zak: For sure, what’s your name?
Me: Oh…. Austin.

He got up and shook my hand. I introduced my girlfriend, he shook her hand too. We were introduced to the person he was having dinner with, we had some polite banter and then we ended the conversation. What a cool dude. I guess he is probably pretty well acclimated to people trying to put words together into sentences when first talking to him. He seemed to know how to steer a conversation pretty damn well. You get that with years of acting and confidence. My own experience just seems to run and hide when I meet those that I admire. I may be being a little hard on myself, but I always over-analyze when it’s someone I look up to.

Anyways, that was my awesome conversation. I hope it was as helpful to you as it was to me. And, in case you ever read this, thank you very much for what you said Mr. Orth. I’ll keep going.