New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts , 2015
There will be times when your best isn’t your good enough. There can be many reasons for this, but as long as you give your best you’ll be OK.
GRADUATION SPEECH EXCERPTS
“When it comes to the arts, passion should always trump common sense. You weren’t just following dreams, you were reaching for your destiny. You’re a dancer, a singer, a choreographer, musician, a filmmaker, a writer, a photographer, a director, a producer, an actor, an artist. Yeah, you’re fucked. “
“The good news is that’s not a bad place to start. Now that you’ve made your choice or rather succumbed to it, your path is clear, not easy but clear. You have to keep working. It’s that simple. You got through Tisch, that’s a big deal. Or put it another way: You got through Tisch, big deal. Well, it’s a start.
“On this day of triumphantly graduating, a new door is opening for you: a door to a lifetime of rejection. It’s inevitable. It’s what graduates call the real world. You’ll experience it auditioning for a part or a place in a company. It’ll happen to you when you’re looking for backers for a project. You’ll feel it when doors close on you while you’re trying to get attention for something you’ve written or when you’re looking for a directing or choreography job.”
“How do I cope with it? I hear that Valium and Vicodin work. Eh, I don’t know. You can’t be too relaxed and do what we do, and you don’t want to block the pain too much. Without the pain, what will we talk about? Though I would make an exception for having a couple of drinks if hypothetically you had to speak to a thousand graduates and their families at a commencement ceremony. Excuse me.
“Rejection might sting but my feeling is that often it has very little to do with you. When you’re auditioning or pitching, the director or producer or investor may have something or someone different in mind. That’s just how it is.
“That happened to me for the role of Martin Luther King in Selma, which was too bad because I could’ve played the hell out of that part. I felt it was written for me. But the director had something different in mind, and you know, she was right. It seems the director is always right. Don’t get me wrong. David Oyelowo was great. I don’t think I would’ve cast a Brit.”
“If they find themselves with a talent and a burning desire to be in the performing arts, I tell them when you collaborate, you try to make everything better, but you’re not responsible for the entire project, only your part in it.
“You’ll find yourself in movies or dance pieces or plays or concerts that turn out in the eyes of critics and audiences to be bad, but that’s not on you because you will put everything into everything you do. You won’t judge the characters you play, and you shouldn’t be distracted by judgments on the works you’re in. Whether you work for Ed Wood, Federico Fellini, or Martin Scorsese, your commitment and your process will be the same.”
“By the way, there will be times when your best isn’t your good enough. There can be many reasons for this, but as long as you give your best you’ll be OK.”