Note to Self

There is a scene in La La Land that sums up my career as a woman in film and TV right now.  Mia has gone back home to Boulder City after one too many rejections and Sebastian has followed her because a real opportunity has come knocking.  One of the tiny handful of audience members at her disastrous one-woman play has seen something in her and wants her to audition for a big-time movie.  Mia’s not going.  All the rejections have hurt too much and it’s time to grow up, maybe acting is a pipe dream and she doesn’t have the talent to make it.  After so much “no” she can’t imagine a “yes”.  She cries and Sebastian calls her a baby.  She goes, she gets the job.  Of course she goes…no-one likes a quitter and it would ruin the ending if she didn’t.

Emma Stone stars as Mia. Lionsgate

Her ending was guaranteed because Damien Chazelle wrote it.  No-one is writing our stories, they’re in our hands.  But the point has to be that we don’t know the end.  The past is no guarantee of the future so just maybe there is a “yes” on the horizon, a “yes” that will be the start of something worth all the “no”.  What else are you going to do anyway?  No-one got into this malarkey to get rich.  Well I certainly didn’t which is just as well.  I got into it because I wanted to tell stories that could touch people’s hearts.  It’s a privilege to help someone tell their story.  And just maybe…if you can reach someone through a good story well told, you can make them look at a subject through new eyes and you will have changed one person.  That one person will change others.  Reach people with storytelling and you can change the world.  Slowly, I’ll admit, but again…what else are you going to do with those storytelling skills you’ve been honing since you were 3, improvising soap opera plot lines with your Care Bears on the stair landing?

They can’t beat you unless you let them…and all that jazz.  Think of all the women you admire.  Every single one of them has faced down the voices that pull us all to the ground, both internal and external.  They picked themselves back up and took up space.  Even if you feel that you’re not allowed to be at this table, take up space.  No-one has any more right to be here than you do.  Pretend you’re brave even when you don’t feel it.  I do.  No-one will ever know the difference, it looks exactly the same.  If the world knocks you down, get back up.  Every single time.  Walk tall and everyone will assume you know something they don’t.  You do.  You know that you won’t be defeated.  Go to that next audition, send that pitch, make your film, write that script.  This time might be the “yes”. And if you need a cheerleader…I’m in.

By Lesley Smith

Lesley is a freelance documentary maker . You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.