I spent several years living comfortably as an artist. Sure, I was poor, living off of a part time job and being treated to random care packages by family members long after I left college; but I was happily single and getting by. The intangible rewards I had received by living a life of exploring and expressing my creative gifts compensated my spirit more necessarily than my lack of riches had interfered with providing me physical comforts.
To that point, it was the life that I had chosen. Love your work; live with your lifestyle. I’d rather be poor than hate my job. So my job was to be a half-employed writer and filmmaker. And then something big happened: I fell in love.
“How does one balance their art with their lifestyle?”
ALIENATED Movie’s Writer/Director Brian Ackley
I instantly committed to sharing my life with this person, starting with moving in with her in a brand new city. The rippling excitement that comes with starting a relationship soon rolled into a wave, and after a few crashed over my head I started to see the problem: my new partner was not interested in sharing my old lifestyle. It just so happened that she wanted to live above the poverty line.
This realization would kick the cartridge off the turntable and spin our worlds into action. The cornerstone of any relationship is compromise, so to return to the musical metaphor, we’d dance to the same song until our steps were in sync. For my part, I’d have to bring in a steady income, which meant relying on work experience that I was trying to move away from. For her part, she’d have to allow me free time where I could be creative and/or continue contributing to my start-up production company.
We danced, not without stepping on each other’s toes. Just as your getting your footing, there’s always a crisis ready to sweep in and have you start again: medical expenses, taxes, car problems, etc. Sometimes it’s an opportunity that throws off the rhythm. I had taken a few opportunities to travel over the years, but we couldn’t afford for her to tag along. Her job kept her at home. She’s chased her own opportunities, too, leaving me at home because of the circumstances.
Send the record spinning. The thing to keep in mind is that we were always dancing to the same song; we were always getting better even when it seemed we were going backwards.
“Communication plays a big part. As it turns out, I think the movie that I made played a cathartic role in the way that I deal with this issue.”
ALIENATED Movie’s Writer/Director Brian Ackley
A great example of this was when I returned to New York to film my latest feature, ALIENATED. Writing the script was briefly taxing on our relationship, only because I insisted on writing for a few consecutive evenings, parting from my usual writing schedule for the sake of the material. But it was filming the script that was more severely taxing, for several reasons. Like any faithfully committed partner, she wished that she could share the experience with me, especially since it was a highly unique experience and a personally fulfilling one. I was so overwhelmed with our production that I couldn’t sufficiently communicate all that I thought and felt.
So how does one navigate through such an exhausting maze? How does one balance their art with their lifestyle?
I think the trick is to keep spinning. Keep the record moving. Never have we denied each other’s opportunities. Never have we thrown guilt as a weapon. We give each other the space that we need, and then when the time is right, we play the music again to reconnect.
Communication plays a big part. As it turns out, I think the movie that I made played a cathartic role in the way that I deal with this issue. Alienated is about a man who witnesses a UFO but doesn’t know how to tell his wife for fear she won’t believe him. At its core, it’s the story of a marriage decaying from a lack of trust and communication. In part, it’s a wildly exaggerated version of what could happen to my partner and I should we lose the respect we have for each other.
Respect seems to be the pivot between what you want for yourself versus what your lifestyle/partner needs from you. You can take turns playing seesaw, moving up and down at equal pace allowing your partner to flourish as much as they’re willing to support your enrichment, or you can move toward the middle, where you’ll come so close you’ll share the same experience. Either way you spin it, the rhythm will come from your respect.
Brian Ackley’s second feature film ALIENATED won 13 film festival awards and was picked up for distribution by Gravitas Ventures and is available now on VOD. Check out Brian’s prior Film Courage posts ‘Do Filmmakers Have to Live in NY or LA?,’ ‘6 Things Film School Didn’t Teach Me,’ and ‘Taylor Negron: Getting To Know A Familiar Face,’ and ‘8 Ways to Shoot 100+ Pages in 6 Days.’