I’m dusting off my blog from the Telluride Film Festival, where Rachel and I just watched a tribute to Robert Redford. The tribute was one-part lesson in his filmography told through clips of films he acted in from ‘The Iceman Cometh‘ to ‘A River Runs Through It‘, and one-part interview. Robert Redford is 77 years old. I am 37 years old. He’s slightly older than my father.
Given the age difference, and Redford’s iconic status in the film world and to lovers of his work, I knew it was a big deal to see him this morning but I couldn’t really tell you why. Until now.
The majority of the clips they showed were from movies that debuted before I was born. I found myself completely converted to a Redford fan as he made me laugh, choke up and cringe in the roles he played in movies like The Candidate, The Way We Were and Jeremiah Johnson. At the end of the sequence of clips, I was so excited to see him come out and speak. But there is no way I could have been prepared for what happened to me while listening to his interview.
Redford, or ‘Bob’ as both the interviewer and he referred to himself as, was as alive now as he was in any of those early clips. He was curious, but full of insight from his own experiences. And he was (and still is) an artist, discovering who and why he is.
The interviewer couldn’t stop referring to Redford’s “Body of Work”, and at first this really annoyed me as it sounded cliché for a film festival. But after a while, I started thinking about this in the context of my own life. Right about the time I did that, Redford started talking about his own inner confusion as a young actor who left his first love of painting to become an actor because he was feeling drawn to it. And then how later in life, when he embarked on his directorial phase, his early training and practice as a painter enabled him to sketch storyboards that translated beautifully to Directors of Photography.
This inner confusion is something I deal with everyday, and I think many other people do to. The feeling that we are not really doing the work we love. A guilt that we sold out to make money, or help others realize their dreams rather than our own. The obsession with dissatisfaction… dissatisfied with our status, our capabilities, our recognition, our wealth, and sometimes even ourselves when we realize we are wrong in being so dissatisfied. It’s all pretty maddening actually.
And so the only thing that I can do, is work. In spite of the crazy conversations in my head, I get to work. I’ve worked through every major emotional conflict of my life. It’s what I know to do.
But it wasn’t until this morning that I really considered my career as a developing Body of Work. And that is a powerful and easing thought for me today, and hopefully for a long time.
It affirms that I’m still developing. I’m still figuring it all out. I’m still learning a craft (or three). I’m still very, very young (you gotta see what Redford physically does in his new film ‘All is Lost‘ in his late seventies). And along the way, if I give myself to the work, I don’t have to worry about having it all figured out. Being able to do good work that I can be proud of, and do it with great people, is a great way (for me) to deal with dissatisfaction.
So far, I can look back on my developing Body of Work, and see so many things that I could never have seen when I was in the middle of it. And when I look at the people ahead of me in age and experience, while they may have grown up in a different era with different values, getting to work is a common ground for us and a place for me to pull from their experience and apply to my own. It helps when I feel anxious about success (both desiring it and hating myself for being shallow enough to desire it), acceptance and being true to myself… to know that as long as I get back to work, the wacko conversations between my head and my heart quiet down and the answers start to appear on their own.
I’m here to do the work I’m doing today. Tomorrow, that work may be different, but it will still be my work.
Thank you Robert Redford for this morning and sharing your Body of Work with me. It’s pretty awesome.
PS – Thank you Belcourt Theatre for inspiring me to take this trip.