Film Courage: How old were you when you arrived in Los Angeles?
Choice Skinner, Actor, Director and Acting Teacher: Oh, that’s a good one. Ooh…I don’t want to lie or get it wrong…I was…
Film Courage: What hit song was out?
Choice Skinner: That’s a good one. That I remember. Aaliyah’s ‘Are you that somebody?’ I remember that being on…listen moving to Los Angeles was like a serious culture shock. Okay, because I came from Atlanta/Augusta.
And lived there for years and then I had this R and B artist that flew me out around Thanksgiving time and we were working on this second album (which never saw the light of day unfortunately). But I remember going down the 101 because the 101 always freaked me out. It was just like I’m not used to these types of freeways and I remember ‘Are you that somebody’ by Aaliyah being on…because I thought it was so odd that baby “Ahhha” in the song. I’m like Timbaland is crazy. He’s got this baby going in there, but this is a dope song.
So yeah…whatever year that was…1998? I might have been? That was 20 years ago? So I probably was 28. 27-28.
Film Courage: Okay, what were your expectations, when you were driving down the 101 (by the way, the 101 scares me, too. So I can see why. But it’s also invigorating at night. It’s so beautiful. And there’s a sense of possibility you’re like “Wow. This is Los Angeles.” But still it is scary. What were your expectations at that time?
Choice Skinner: I thought in a year’s time I was going to have probably five hit records on the radio. I was going to win an Oscar (not an Oscar, a Grammy) and I would be able to buy my mom a house. Yeah…that was a rough time because for how many years that I have been working on doing music and having the success that I did have and living in Georgia and having my songs on the radio and stuff, when I moved to LA that didn’t happen.
And it was just a rough time. I mean I was living with the artist’s family. I didn’t have my own place and it was hard finding my place in that company. And I was seeing where things were going to be at that time. So what you had on one hand, I had expectations on where I wanted it to go but I was also seeing where it wasn’t going to go. And that’s tough especially when you are working with someone so talented because you say “Hmmm. I see where you’re headed and it’s not good.” And if that’s where you’re headed, what’s going to happen to me?
Everything happens for a reason. You know, I look back at my music career and I say man…and I still love music. If I had an opportunity I probably would work with somebody and come out with an amazing record.
But I didn’t get the love that I get in film, I didn’t get that love in music. And so you have to go where the love is reciprocated. As much as I love music, it wasn’t loving me. As much as I love film, it loves me. And that to me…you know it’s like any relationship (you know what I mean?). It can’t be one sided.
So my expectations were (I assumed) I would have at least five songs on the radio. I was that good of a music producer and a songwriter. But it wasn’t meant to be and I had to accept that, I had to accept that. And making that transition helped me to move into Film and Television.
Film Courage: We talked about early flexibility and it goes back to Darwinism is the species that survive are the ones which adapt. So you’re talking about you saw even though you loved music, it was everything you wanted to be, what was that moment like when you realized…I mean how did you even see that? How did you see as much as I love this, this is me, it’s not going to happen?
Choice Skinner: I’m probably speaking the tale of many people who got to that point and quit the industry rather than making the adjustment. I think there is a point to where everyone gets to in their life and goes listen, because it’s really all about love. All we are looking for as human beings is love, we are all looking for it. Some of us we find it in entertainment, some of us we find it from our children, from the spouse that we’re with, we find it from our family, we find it from God, we find it from religion. We find it the way that we need to find it. And when it’s not reciprocated, it’s a very powerful and painful thing. It was a cathartic moment for me. I remember being on my knees and just crying. And saying God, why did you bring me out here? This is not going to happen. What do I do? Do I go back Augusta? Do I got to New York? What do I do? It’s not happening, I’ve been struggling. I was a personal trainer. I was working at a gym. I did so many different jobs. But I think when you listen to that inner voice (Oprah calls it the “aha” moment), I believe it’s just an epiphany when you wake up and you go Maybe that’s just not the way it’s supposed to happen.
And if you let go, becomes sometimes God will say Be still and know that I am God. And I’ll go Okay, what does that mean? What is that level of faith? Understanding that if you wake up in the morning that you are breathing, that you’re eating, that you have the capacity of your limbs and you’re still moving forward and you have a roof over your head. You have food to eat, you have clothes on your back. He’s giving you everything that you need, so you just have to make that adjustment and the adjustment for me was Okay, music was not the way. But getting into film (years later) needing to work on the music which moves any film, I had all of that experience. And I said Well, wait a minute? That’s what that was for!
So I snatched that big pearl and I took it and put it into my big collection of jewels. And now I realize…okay now all of those years of doing that, no different from me being mugged or going through the violence that I went through in Brooklyn as a kid which got me into the martial arts. All of those years of music, helps me as a film director. It helps me to teach my actors because they don’t know 80’s music or 70’s music or 60’s, and 50’s, and 40’s, and 30’s. I know all about that because I spent so many years in music. So now when I’m teaching them a little something about acting, I’ve got a little extra resource that I can give them through lyrics that they’ve never heard because all they listen to is current music.
Man…how powerful is that? When I’m telling them Hey listen to Bruce Springsteen and he was singing this in this song. Or listen to Richard Marx when he’s talking about it don’t mean nothing. And this is attributing to your acting career, your singing career or your dancing career. And they’re going Wow! This is amazing stuff. They’ve never heard these songs, I have.
Question for the Viewers: Have you had an epiphany about your career? What was it?