I was having a long distance conversation with an old friend recently and one of the first things he exclaimed when we got on the phone was "Hey, Mr. Hollywood! How are things up there?!" I forced a laugh and a smile as I always do, followed by a "Nah, brah. No Mr. Hollywood here" just hoping to divert the conversation elsewhere as soon as possible. I seem to be getting that greeting more often from people back home.
Coming from a small town in Hawai'i, I guess I understand why people would say that. Despite still having such a LONG way to go in this business and so much more to accomplish, I know that just by me leaving home, I've seen and experienced much more than the average person from Hawai'i and maybe, to some, that may appear "Hollywood". I get that. I know that just by working steadily in this industry, and meeting/working with some of the people that I've worked with, to some, that may look "Hollywood". I get that. But the longer I'm in Hollywood, the more I realize how much I'm NOT Hollywood.
Hollywood is an amazing place filled with amazing opportunities but it exists in a bubble and on a pedestal where if you don't know who you are when you get here, you could lose yourself. I've seen many people lose themselves in the facade that is "Hollywood glamour". I've met people who think they've "made it" just because they moved here and people who do extra work on a feature film and go on Facebook proclaiming that they've "acted with Brad Pitt". I've seen what this place can do to your integrity. I've seen how the pursuit of money and fame could harden your heart towards the things and people that really matter, making you think that what you're doing is more important than it really is. And while I do feel that life has already hardened my heart in many ways, I don't want my heart to be "Hollywood" hard because that's a very selfish texture.
I believe that your drive as an artist (or in any profession) shouldn't be a selfish one. Whether you're an actor, filmmaker, dancer, painter, etc, your drive and your passion should lie in the innate need to express, create, and share. The riches and the spoils of the business is merely a by product of your hard work and it may or may not come so enjoy the journey. But the moment you start doing it for your own selfish gain, to me, that's "Hollywood". And that's just not me.
This place is a necessary evil to help me achieve my goals and tell the stories I want to tell but the bubble and pedestal where Hollywood sits is a trap. Many times, even the relationships here aren't even real. What's real and important is the passion for doing what you do FOR OTHERS. I want to bring stories from the islands to the world and I want to be able to provide for the people I care about in doing so.
I know who I am. I'm still that little Hawaiian kid running barefoot on the asphalt (although these days I'll probably be walking instead of running), playing his ukulele on the beach, and shamelessly eating a small village's worth of poke and poi. I'd rather put my feet in the sand than in a new pair of new shoes and if surf shorts were appropriate attire for going out in LA, I'd be wearing that all day, everyday. So if you're looking for "Mr. Hollywood", I haven't seen him.
Stay hungry. Stay focused. Stay humble.