How to Be a Dad

How to Be a Dad

A Dream with Deferred Interest

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Snuck in Real Steel premiere

I’ve come to a crossroads in my life, standing at the intersection of what feels like 100 different highways with as many signs all telling me that they are True North. It’s time for some re-evaluation. So, what does one do when one lives in Los Angeles and needs a moment of reflection? They go to a major movie premiere, of course, put on by one of the largest media producers on Earth with all the bells and whistles.

Red carpet premiere for Real Steel at Universal StudiosI thought I heard Hugh say, “I love!”

Last night, I went to a movie premiere for Real Steel, a new movie coming out this week by Dreamworks with Hugh Jackman (X-Men, The Prestige), Evangeline Lilly (Lost) and a new kid, Dakota Goyo. Like many other sci-fi/futuristic blockbusters, the trailers made it look like one of those visual juggernauts whose sole purpose is to melt your brain by way of your eye holes. But I went there in search of something and funnily enough, I feel like I’m on the verge of it because of this movie.

I got my passes and was ready to head straight inside the theater, on the separate anti-celebrity walkway of the red carpet, when I noticed an indoor skydiving place I had been to several times before. I said to myself, ‘You know what? It’s not your movie. Who gives a crap? Go ahead and do it.” So I did. I changed out of my “nice clothes” (read: jeans and a shirt), put on a t-shirt, jumped into that tube of propelled air and floated for a while. It was a great primer, even though my hair looked like it was styled by a hurricane, for walking past the screaming cameramen who definitely weren’t screaming my name.

If I hadn’t made this detail obsessively clear by now, I am an actor by trade — quite in addition to my many (few) facets of genius (dilettantism). I moved here when I was 19 with a dream in one hand and no money in the other. I migrated to the Land of Haze specifically to study acting and dash dreams of being mediocre in some other profession. I’ve made great films, been on TV and appeared in many commercials during my tenure. But I haven’t “made it”, if that makes sense. There’s a part of me that wants to give up on childish aspirations and still another that drives me toward a road less traveled.

Charlie Capen's headshotMy first headshot. Business whipping boy. Joke’s on me.

As I walked with my pass in hand, watching the flash-flash of cameras blind the ambulant actors, I almost tripped on my own self-pity. I wanted to be them for so long, practically growing up here in Los Angeles into the semi-adult I am now. I have friends who’ve made it big and witnessed in horror as others have squandered great opportunities. It’s hard to say why some people succeed. There are plenty of TV shows pretending to know the answer to that. Don’t believe them.

I forced myself keep walking that carpet next to The Carpet. I knew if I stopped, I would turn back. But I made it inside and wedged myself in my seat, 14 buckets of popcorn in my lap.

Note to readers: I don’t know if you are like this, but I can’t pass up free food or snacks. I’m like a starved animal. Put it there and it’s mine, all of it, and you can’t have any. If you meet me, be aware of this. You could lose a hand.

I sat down for the next two hours and watched the story of a man confused by his place in life, fighting himself to get where he wanted. I watched a son who clearly knew what he wanted for his own future with no guidance from his father. And I watched the two join together to fight and conquer metaphorical and literal opponents including their own personal voids, toward an end that was both a victory and failure. I saw, as most of us do, myself in the art of another.

In short, Real Steel was a raucous movie with some glamorous robot violence but it was still a family film, as Hugh Jackman had put it himself days earlier at a press conference about the film. I even got to shake the man’s hand, in between his daughter motioning to him to bend down to tell him something private. He never waved her away. The actor clearly had his priorities defined.

I feel as though I’m on the same journey, the same road to whereverthehell. But it’s time I stop trying to live like other people, other examples of how it was ALREADY done. Why should I define myself, as Jack’s character did, so precisely and cut out the possibilities that could be present but not yet revealed through my prejudices? Why am I comparing myself ALL THE TIME? How about knowing myself but being ready to be something better?

Anyone else have this going on or am I the only one walking this long and dusty road?

[ A trailer for a film, I co-wrote, produced and acted in… It’s called 3 Things. ]


25 Responses to “A Dream with Deferred Interest”

  1. Amit says:

    This is for you–IqqusnNQ and I admire your honesty.
    Actually, I think you should create (with Andy) a TV/web series, in spite of this hurricane hair, I think you both have what it takes. Movies are bigger than life, but life themselves are kinda big 🙂

  2. Not an actor (though I did think about going down that route, and was a stage actress all through high school), but I wound up going to college for broadcast journalism. My 19 year old self thought I’d be an evening anchor in a major market by now, and several of my classmates already are. It used to really, deeply bother me.

    I’ve written about it in the past, how this motherhood, and yes, even this blogging thing, has made me rethink the path I was on. I truly think I’m happier today, doing what i’m doing, than I would have been had I stayed true to my “path.” I’m a big believer of everything happening for a reason and other annoyingly optimistic things like that.

    You’re headed somewhere great, it’s just not a place you could have ever imagined at 19. I mean, how could we? I didn’t even understand text messaging then, let alone social media.

    • charlie says:

      I agree, holding on to outdated dreams is a fruitless enterprise. But to be devil’s advocate (which is apparently what I’m doing to myself in this post and in life), there are certain dreams that make up the fabric of our personality. I know people who’ve remembered their passion or their goals from a REALLY young and age, and realized that that was their true calling all along.

      Maybe we’re endowed with a certain sense of purpose from early on?

  3. Chris says:

    Charlie, I applaud your self-honesty and curse your rugged, yet boyish handsomeness. BTW, “…whose sole purpose is to melt your brain by way of your eye holes.” Made me LOL.

    • charlie says:

      Self-honesty… that’s one way to put it. I guess I’m trying to work things out in the private arena of a public blog. I’m that moronic.

      I snickered at myself for that line too. And you know EXACTLY what I’m referring to, don’t you?

      • Chris says:

        Maybe “self-honesty” wasn’t the best way to say what I meant. I was mainly referring to this bit, which also stood out to me: “Why should I define myself, as Jack’s character did, so precisely and cut out the possibilities that could be present but not yet revealed through my prejudices?” I’ve been thinking a lot lately about who I am and where I’d like to be, trying to let go of my presumptions about how that’s going to happen.

        I do know exactly what you mean! I hadn’t thought of it that way before. I occasionally refer to something as “visually striking” (thanks for that, Netflix), but your description is far more appropriate.

  4. Mike says:

    As much as I would hate not seeing you visit us to help us out at our company as our top marketing and social media go-to guy, I do wish for the day that your acting takes up your time and pays your bills, and furthermore I look forward to the day I have to call your agent (or Avara) to arrange asking how you are.

    It is kind of odd how many things you do. Oh wait, that’s right, sleep is not one of them. What a difference 8 “bonus” hours makes.

    • charlie says:

      Sleep is for the poodlemen.

      • Mike says:

        Thank you for the title to my next album, “Sleep is For the Poodlemen”. Yes, NEXT album. My first was titled “Meat the Squish Puppies”, back in 1995. You’d have to ask my brother Eric if a copy of it exists anywhere (last I heard it was okay’d by one Sony A&R guy, then shot down without mercy at a “higher up” Sony A&R guy).

  5. Natasha says:

    I love this Charlie. I think that our dreams are constantly evolving, as are we as individuals. My dreams of 5 years ago are so far off of anything that I am doing today or hope to be doing in the next 5 years. And yes, I think knowing who you are and being open to the possibilities that present themselves is a great way to live and perhaps even to realize dreams we never even knew we had!!

    • charlie says:

      Thanks, Natasha! It’s a bit weird to work these things out in public, but comments like yours show there are thoughtful people on the internet. Lol.

      Good to know that our dreams can evolve without feeling like we’re giving up. Know what I mean?

  6. Jason says:

    It is interesting how once can really relate with movies with real life.

    Makes you think is this the path I’m on and can I change my direction with the current state of my life.

  7. I’ve commented on this site before about this, I think – my mind is fried. I have been in that same situation several times, and am currently deciding something similar – in terms of life vision.

    I’ve also had many friends and clients (actors and writers) struggle with those same questions. Some made it, and some packed up and went home, and as far as I know, they didn’t have regrets either way. At least they haven’t shared them with me yet.

    There is no right answer. But,…if you did end up packing it in or choosing a non-hollywood path, you have already accomplished more in a few years than most actors and writers accomplish in their entire careers. Commercials, short films, etc. That’s respectable work in my opinion.

    • charlie says:

      Thanks, Craig. Means a lot.

      I think you have hit the nail on the head. The other consideration to look at, is that we now, more than ever, have the opportunity to wallow in our indecision. Generations ago, they knew they needed to build a nation or an industry. Where are we now?

  8. jetts31 says:

    Its what drives me everytime I post something. To get to that place that so many others have reached. When I want to quit, I think, those people I so admire (and slighty envy), were in my nameless/faceless unknown shoes too. They kept going which means so do I too. Keep at it. You’re stuff is great & inspiring and I admire you guys and I’m slighty envious too 😉

    • charlie says:

      For you, writing is that place. It’s the starting and the end point. It’s the journey. It’s the language.

      Am I doing too many things? Or do I just enjoy driving myself crazy with so many interests? Will any of them allow me to continue the journey, in and of themselves?

      • jetts31 says:

        Some people can’t be pinned down by one thing. Artists are artists. They paint. They draw. They write. They recite the poetry they wrote. They perform. They are not confined to parameters. Their spaces have no walls. No ceilings.
        All of these things? Without them, there is no journey. I think, could be wrong, but all of these things drive you. Yeah its nuts, crazy, kinetic, and frantic but aren’t all the great artists and parents tortured just a little bit?

  9. Charlie,

    I know EXACTLY what you are talking about, especially after living in LA for a dozen years myself. Just wrote about it a few weeks ago:

    Good luck on your path. It’s not an easy journey. Believe me, I know.


    JJ – The Dude
    Twitter: @DudeOfTheHouse

  10. Jerry says:

    Wait, my new favorite blogger is also the co-star and co-writer of my favorite short film, 3 Things? That’s my yogi, friend and favorite actress Rachel Jackson you’re smooching and swapping eyeglass frames with there! I have seen your film and loved it.

    I can definitely vouch for your talent, but I know that’s not always enough in this town. Hope you’ll keep at it, though. I’m a fan of your work!

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