Sunday, November 29, 2009

Giving Some Thanks

As I celebrated Thanksgiving this past weekend, I decided it might be nice to make a list of all the things for which I felt grateful. Much of what I came up with had to do with my personal life, so I won’t bore you with that. However, as I’ve written about many times in this blog, in the world of show business, work and life are often very intricately entwined. So as I sit here grazing on some leftover turkey, I thought I’d share a few points of gratitude I came up with regarding the connections between the two.

Despite the fact that my work life is not stable, generally speaking, I am. Yes, I’m moody sometimes. Yes, I’m excitable at others, but if you dial my number on any given day you can pretty much depend on the same guy you’ve always known picking up the phone. Somewhere along the line, I developed an odd equilibrium. I certainly have my bad days, but even on those occasions, I manage to hang onto a slender belief that eventually things will get better. And they usually do. I’m grateful for the ability to know that what I may feel about the future doesn’t really have much bearing on what eventually happens.

I make a living. Contrary to popular belief, I’m not sitting on a pile of squirreled away TV money. At times in my career, I’ve made (what I consider to be) quite a lot of cash and luckily I was smart enough not to blow it all on whores and crack (although I was at times sorely tempted!) Feast and famine are a given in my line of work and stretching those paychecks has over time, developed into nothing short of an art form. Would I like to be more comfortable and less worried about money? Sure. Will that day ever come? I doubt it. I know this because I’ve seen close friends hit the jackpot and along with their bigger paydays have come bigger and more expensive problems. I’m grateful that despite my ups and downs, I always made enough to the pay my bills, doing what I love to do. And I’m grateful for that.

I know this one is going to shock you, but I frequently doubt myself. It’s true. I’ve had a lifelong habit of comparing my talent and skills to those of other people and often feel like I come up short. This particular form of self-torture probably stems from my fundamentalist religious upbringing; an upbringing I’ve spent thousands of dollars in therapy trying to undo. I don’t much like raking myself over the coals, but it has, in its own twisted way, been good for me artistically. Those nagging doubts have pushed me to try harder and hopefully do better the next time. Doubt in and of itself is crap. But pushing past doubt is the definition of courage. And I’m grateful that I’ve demonstrated some of that along the way.

Nobody likes change. Everybody says they like it, but when it’s thrust upon them, they rarely do. Change is a fact of life and I’ve noticed that the people who embrace this reality and swim with the tide, tend to live happier lives. Because of my choice of profession, change is on my back pretty much every other day. I’ve morphed so many times, I’m shocked I can still recognize myself in the mirror. Friends often say “Wow. You’re always doing something new and interesting,” as if this were some wildly brave choice on my part. The truth is I keep changing hats for one very simple reason: I need to stay employed. Although I sometimes tire of reinventing myself so often, I have actually learned a tremendous amount from doing so. And learning is probably the greatest gift this life has to offer. So I’m grateful for that.

As Barbra Streisand once sang, “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” When I first I heard that song, I thought she was singing about codependency and it didn’t sound like something I wanted any part of. Time however has taught me that whether by choice or fate (and the jury is still out on that one) I am a citizen of an odd little world, populated with strange, wildly inventive folks who would have a hard time making a go of it in any other profession. The business is overcrowded for sure. Probably 75% of the people pursuing a career in entertainment, shouldn’t be. There isn’t room for everybody now and all those “Go-For-The-Dream” TV shows like “American Idol” are luring in thousands more hopefuls by the day. The way in which we are all interlinked is as strange as it is inspiring. As I mentioned earlier, having been in this for a while, I know a few extremely famous and successful people. Because of my teaching and mentoring, I also know quite a few people who literally started yesterday. I stand sort of in the middle, with a foot in both worlds. I have drawn such inspiration from my cohorts (both old and new) that I wouldn’t even know how to begin to thank them. Since I’m apparently in this for life, it’s nice to know I’m not alone in it. And more than anything else, I’m extremely grateful for that.

Copyright 2009 Quitcher-Bitchyn Entertainment, Inc.

David Dean Bottrell is an actor (“Boston Legal”) and screenwriter (“Kingdom Come”) who writes a weekly blog about being strangely middle-class in Hollywood at


Anonymous said...

"Giving Some Thanks" - this is one of my favorite pieces so far. Thanks. Without speech impediment I'd like to refer your style of sharing as witdom.
Reminds me of the show on MTV called Made. Where insecure pubescents are trained in whatever their idea for themselves is. Like say, meaningful titles, such as The Leader of Cheers, The Star of All Rock, The Queen of Proms, The Chief Chop of Karate, The Pop of Popular, Pegasus, lollipop, and eventually gum -pink bubble gum.
I think of it as specialization: Keeps the economy going and everyone gets to feel special.
After American Idol has run its muck on the hopefuls of the world the next step in the program would be a youth group that focuses 24/7 and solely on organic gardening.

Jennifer Owens said...

Last comment by me (Jennifer), cannot find my log-in info. But, thanks again for the entertainment and honesty you share.

Lisa said...

What a thoughtful and well written post David. It's great that you are so grateful to be able to make a living doing what you love. And not blowing the income like so many do. And yes, it is a shame that so many people just want their 15 minutes of fame and truly gifted people are being missed because of it.
Keep us posted on any future TV work because I live too far away to see you in the theater.