Making a movie changed how I feel about my body
When I cast myself as the lead in a romantic comedy short I wrote and self-produced, I was apprehensive to say the least. The prospect of putting together a film shoot with just friends, volunteers, and myself was so daunting. Also, one week prior to shooting, I was weighed at my annual check up. Apparently, I am currently at my heaviest weight as an adult.
My appearance is something I have been self-conscious of since I was a husky twelve year old; yet I always wanted to act and make movies. In case you haven’t ever been to a movie, actors who are overweight are often not cast as romantic leads, if they are cast in the lead at all. I used to think that once I was “thin enough,” I would be ready to finally make my dreams of Hollywood dominance a reality. Well, there I was, about to make my dreams a reality, and I still wasn’t “thin enough.” So, I could continue to put off chasing my passion till I went down a size, or say “The heck with it!” and shoot the film anyway.
I chose the latter. The process leading up to the shoot was one of the most nerve wracking experiences I have had in my life. I kept expecting the whole project to collapse at any moment, and there were several moments where that very nearly happened. If I wasn’t stressing over getting location photos or finding someone who could do sound and had their own equipment, I was stressing about my weight. Mind you, I have a nasty habit of stress eating, and even though I have been running three times a week, taking long walks on my lunch breaks, using the stairs instead of the elevator, and eating (mostly) sensible meals, I was still a wreck over how I thought I would look on film.
For all intents and purposes, I should have felt great. But when you want something more than anything you’ve ever wanted, for some reason, it’s easiest to assume the worst then the best. So I figured the whole project would collapse, and if it didn’t, I would look terrible on camera anyway. So no, I was not at my most confident when I woke up on filming day. When the crew began to gather, on time, as promised, I became an entirely different person. My focus became razor sharp and my anxiety was immediately replaced with excitement. All of my focus was on rehearsing my lines with my costar, getting my microphone strapped on, and learning my marks. I didn’t even blink when our sound person asked me to lift my shirt and clip my microphone to my bra, right in the middle of the set in front of several crew members. This was no time to be shy.
Everything was running smoothly except for one thing: the weather. The day was sweltering and our set had to have all the windows shut to keep out exterior noise. Oh, and there was no AC. My anxiety started to ebb back when the camera overheated and my face grew sweaty. But when the camera cooled off by a fan and our PA dabbed my face without smearing my makeup, my focus returned and my confidence grew.
Whenever I began thinking about my appearance, it immediately distracted me. So I just put those thoughts out of mind, an idea that felt impossible to do not even twelve hours ago. What put me at ease the most was how accepting the crew was of my role as producer and actor. These incredible people trusted me, and this was my first time working with any of them. On top of everything else, these folks were so much fun. Turns out, we all love Doctor Who and are crazy cat people; what are the odds? In the couple of days since we wrapped, I realized that while I was on set, I was too busy to worry about little more than the shoot. There were so many important details to worry about that day, and my weight just was not one of them.
Thinking about all the undue stress I brought upon myself seems kind of silly in retrospect. But then again, how often have we all let the pressure to be thin nearly get in the way of what we want? How many of us stopped ourselves from approaching that special someone because we thought to ourselves “Why would they want me?” How many of us decided not rock an awesome outfit because it wasn’t “flattering”? Or like in my case, how many of us waited to pursue the career we wanted till we “lost a couple of pounds”? So many of us live partial lives, immediately assuming we’re not good enough because we are not “thin enough.”
Moving forward with this project was not easy for me. I couldn’t just choose not to care about how I looked because my culture drilled into me for years that as a woman, my looks were the most important part of me. In the end, I wanted to make this film more than I wanted to look good on camera. I am still flying high! I said that I was going to do something, I did it, and I did it well. We came out the other side with a film in the can, a credit for our resume, and new friendships made. None of this would have happened if I let my fears over how I look hold me back. I know that I am worthy of love and success, wherever I choose to look for it. Loving my body no matter what is not easy, and it never will be. But now I know what I am capable of when I finally let go of my fear: anything.
Adrienne Gomez is a lover of film, comedy, feminism, and the various combinations of the three. Read her blog at www.adriennecgomez.tumblr.com and follow her on Twitter @adriennecgomez.