Getting PAID to Play!

“The mark of an educated man is one who gets paid to play.” ~ Alan Watts
In 1986, Dire Straits released, Money for Nothing, a song that compared the easy life of musicians to the working class. “I should have learned to play the guitar”, whines the manual laborer in the song. It’s a perfect lyric articulating the myth that artists don’t work. Really? An artist’s life is actually so challenging that most humans would rather dream about it than live it. Yet, our work can be easy if we play the game full on.

Trailer shot / on location for #hbo #hbomax “White House Plumbers”

I was shooting a scene with two movie stars last month. The production was HUGE, and they’d already been filming for five months. While I was excited to work with these famous actors, I had an entirely different feeling once rehearsal began. I felt no awe when we and the director were playing, I simply felt at home. Even the scripted scene was playful. It was very “meta” to see four artists play in order to create a scene about….playing.
Why we get paid to play.
I got this particular job without an audition, which pleased me, but then I kept questioning why I got hired. Anyone could have done this simple role. Why me? Then it hit – I got this job because I know what I’m doing. My years of experience assured them I’d be comfortable working with stars. (Trust me, not every actor can do that). I know camera set-ups / on-set lingo, and my comedy skills guaranteed that I’d know exactly what the scene needed from me. It takes a lot before an actor can play in front of an entire crew while cameras are rolling. Yes, our job is to play, but it’s built on education. So yeah, pay me.

On Set / Trailer shot for #allblktv “For the Love of Jason”.

Alan Watt’s quote, “The mark of an educated man is the one who gets paid to play” has been modernized into “work smart, not hard”. But his phrase isn’t about working, it’s about play. I think we get paid to play as soon as we live life like a game. What I mean by that is, if we just “roll the dice” (try stuff), wait our turn (be present), “pull a card” (explore), place a bet (take a risk), etc. while knowing there are no real consequences – because we always get more turns – then our lives will overflow with delight. We educate ourselves on how the game of life works only when we play, and inevitably, we get better. So get in it, win a few, lose a few, and keep playing!

Did a Life-Changing Event Influence Your Career?

In 1997, I biked the Twin Cities => Chicago AIDS Ride 2. It was a personal achievement that taught me life lessons, and ultimately fueled my move to Hollywood. I can’t possibly contain the entire experience within the confines of a short blog, so here is a[n edited] copy of the thank you letter I gave to my donors (bad grammar and all) that expressed my transformation:


Devil’s Lake State Park, Baraboo, WI

” . . . I’ve procrastinated this Thank You letter because I couldn’t figure out how to express it. I think the overwhelming feeling is incredulity. I still can’t believe that I did it.  . . . . What you don’t know, and I didn’t know until now, is what an incredibly immense impact this ride has had on me. I will never look at a blade of grass, a butterfly, the sky, a lemonade stand – anything the same way again. You all contributed to something more . . .  Again, it’s incredible to me that I was able to . . . ride my bike (halfway) across the country  . . . . The funny thing is, if I really knew what I was getting myself into, I never would’ve done it. Really.

I’m so glad I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. Once I was in it, failure was not an option. It’s the thing worth having that puts us through the most. I wanted to cry so badly on that fourth day. Every time I had just worked my ass of . . . getting up one hill, there was another, and another, and another. I wanted to stop, to cry, to yell, to just stop mid-peddle and collapse, but there’s that thing within us that pushes and convinces, and in the middle of it all, just carries us through.  . . . Looking at the next hill from atop the one I just climbed, I saw it huge and impossible, and I planned to not do it, to rest, to walk my bike up.HILL I had this thought process every time, and every time I pushed on through. I went beyond believing until I actually knew that every hill was not as big as it looked. I broke through an illusion.

So when it’s all over and I’ve traveled 470 miles, put my body through hell, put my mind and soul through cleansing, my best friends are waiting for me at the finish line, the country’s been made aware of the dying, and I’m tan and muscular and exhausted and lonely, I cry. I just cry and cry and cry and can’t believe it. It was the most difficult thing I’ve every done in my life and I will never do it again. But then again, every hill looks harder than it really is . . . Thank you for contributing to this life-changing event. I am forever grateful,

Sincerely, Doreen”