Don't think twice about seeing Don't Think Twice
Yes, I know that’s a pretty hokey title for a post, but my Dad really loved it.
Don’t Think Twice is a 2016 movie written, produced, and directed by Mike Birbiglia, best known as a stand-up comedian. It follows an improv troupe as they deal with fact that the theatre they have spent years performing in is being closed down. While dealing with this challenge, one of their members is cast in a ‘Saturday Night Live’ type television show. It’s a story about a group of artists having to decide what’s really important to them, and whether to keep their troupe together.
I’ve seen the film more than once, and each time I do I find it resonating in new ways. I can’t express how inspiring and touching it is. This isn’t just a movie for improvisers, it’s a movie for all artists who have ever struggled with what it means to be an artist.
The characters in Don’t Think Twice have all hit a moment of re-evaluation. With their improv troupe dissolving before their eyes, they have to ask themselves matters to them? What kind of life do they want? What do they think is worth struggling for? Each individual has to come to terms with how they’re going to move forward in the face of their changing circumstances. As in reality, it’s not easy for any of them. They have to deal with the fact that not all opportunities are without consequences, and sometimes what seems to be a failure, is actually a success.
When I was a fresh twenty-something heading into the entertainment biz, I had romantic ideas of what my life would be like. I learned in school that there were certain things that I could come to expect from being an actor: I’d be poor, it’d be hard, but I’d be living my dream. Who doesn’t want to live their dream? Being poor and working hard seemed small prices to pay.
But theatre school left out a lot. I didn’t anticipate how much I would dislike the job itself; not the acting part, I love that, but the job of being an actor. Being an actor is not just acting; it’s building your brand; it’s auditioning; it’s taking classes and keeping your skills fresh; it’s building connections with others in the industry and keeping on top of industry news and trends. And on top of all this, because it is contract work, it also means having a secondary job to cover the bills and the other costs of acting. I’ve found the job of being an actor very challenging, and have often had to re-evaluate why I want to be in this industry. For a time I was very disheartened about performing; I was poor, and not working on shows that fulfilled me as an artist. I even took time away from acting to figure out if it was what I really wanted. Two questions kept at me during that time away:
Is getting the chance to perform worth the struggle? Why do I want to be an actor?
During my year of questioning, I realized that what truly mattered to me was creating work that fulfilled me. It’s not enough to be performing, if I’m not proud of the piece I’m in. Since then, I’ve made more of an effort to keep my artistic soul happy by turning down work that doesn’t excite me, and putting more effort into writing.
Birbiglia has created a poignant film about the struggles of individual artists, while also highlighting the beauty and strength of the artist family. The friends we make in the industry do become a kind of family; and like any family, sometimes they can be frustrating, self-involved, or lazy, but they also support and understand each other. There’s something about creating with others that in turn creates connection; there’s something special about having a shared experience. This movie explores those connections when things get tough.
See this movie if you love improv, or if you love acting, or if you’ve ever struggled as an actor or artist. See this movie to be inspired to question what kind of struggles you want in your life.