learn how to say “fuck it” to failure itself and pursue experiences that your gut is telling you to pursue
I had the pleasure of interviewing Jackie Jorgenson, a 4x award-winning actor who studied Comedy Writing and Performance at Humber College (the only program of its kind in North America) and also has a Harvard certification in Greek hero stories. Her work has been screened internationally, including at last year’s ArtPrize, the biggest public art event in the world. Now, her comedic pilot teleplay is an official selection of the Broad Humor Film Festival in Los Angeles, which she will be attending, over Labor Day weekend.
Thank you so much for joining us! Let’s show everyone you’re a normal human being. What are your hobbies, favorite places to visit, pet peeves? Tell us about YOU when you’re not at the office.
“When I’m not working, I like to do yoga, meditate, knit, or read. I also love spending a day on the couch binging Netflix. So, when I’m not required to think, I like to really dive into a day of not thinking.”
Can you tell us something about you that few people know?
“Last fall, I was getting pretty frustrated with the progress of my career. It felt like my hard work was doing nothing. So, I bought a $2 Etsy psychic reading just for a lighthearted way to blow off steam. The psychic said that the winter would be a good time for me, and in fact, that very winter I didn’t just win my first acting award for best supporting actress, I also won two best actress awards. It was an alright time I guess…”
Do you have any exciting projects going on right now?
“I’ve written two pilots, one comedic and one dramatic, which I will star in, and I’m also in the middle of writing two feature films, again, one comedic and one dramatic. Here’s a light breakdown:
“Based on Experience, teleplay — an office and buddy comedy which explores how problematic work environments impacts relationships outside of work.
“Love & Legacy, teleplay — in this matriarchal regency era, one family fights for intersectional social equality while also trying to maintain status in order to survive.
“Untitled Romcom Feature Film — under the guise of a typical romcom, this film depicts a woman who falls in love with her own damn self when she loses a man she’s fallen for to deportation and discovers she’s capable of so much more than she ever imagined.
“Untitled Medieval Political Drama Feature Film — an exploration about how one tyrant in power creates a global impact, and how this reign also impacts other rulers on a personal level, plus cool costumes.”
Many people say success correlates with the people you meet in your life. Can you describe two that most impacted your success and why.
“I can’t narrow it down to two people, but I can narrow it down to three, all of which I met in college.
“Kirk Jorgenson is my husband and a hilarious stand-up comedian who not only supports me in taking major leaps in life but is always willing to provide honest feedback on my work. A lot of our mutual struggles through the immigration process and finding career success has shaped me as an artist.
“Hayley Simpson is an award-winning writer who has had ups and downs with me but doesn’t shy away from the hard stuff. We used the experience of our friendship falling apart in our film, Lucky. She’s also provided me with support in various ways over the years, but most notably by casting me in her comedic pilot 1099 which chronicles a small town midwestern woman who gets caught up in a ring of assassins.
“Mary McDonald is a co-creator of the hilarious podcast Shania Saturdays which celebrates all things Shania Twain. She’s also supported me in various ways throughout the years, including stepping in as a director on a fashion film shoot which otherwise would have been scrapped. She’s also who I go to when I need to talk all things mystical and astrological even through neither of us actually really believe in it (or, so we tell ourselves).”
Leaders always seem to find ways to overcome their weaknesses. Can you share one or two examples of how you work outside of your comfort zone to achieve success?
“I think it’s really important to make a consistent effort to learn and improve skills.
“So, I not only study subject matter that I’m working with through courses, and digesting various media, but I also try to learn skills that would actually come in handy when performing it on screen.
“Since I love all things costume drama, I’ve developed my skills in knitting, needlework, and gardening. I see it as an opportunity to fully live the action and then be able to focus on the emotion of the performance in the moment.”
The concept of mind over matter has been around for years. A contemporary description of this is having mental toughness. Can you give us an example (or two) of obstacles you’ve overcome by getting your mind in the right place (some might call this reframing the situation)?
“My husband and I got married in Toronto in June of 2014 and by September of the same year he had moved back to Michigan so we could begin my green card application. There are several ways to obtain permanent residency, but our route was to live apart for the first year of our marriage so he could prove to the government that he was setting up a home for me while I worked from Toronto to prove that not only was our marriage real, but I could also be a valuable citizen of the US. If the application is denied, you must wait five years to reapply. Needless to say, among other stressors the process provides, this sat in the back of my mind that whole year.
“Midway through March of 2015, I had put my cat down on a Friday, was let go from one of my jobs the following Monday, and then in April I was let go from my second job. I had to support myself on what little money employment insurance would provide and considering my little one-bedroom basement apartment cost $1,200 a month, I was hemorrhaging money. Plus, in case it isn’t obvious, I wasn’t feeling emotionally GREAT. I wasn’t excited about falling asleep alone in that quiet apartment, and I wasn’t excited about getting up the next day either. So, I decided that I needed to take advantage of the situation. I had all this spare time. I might as well use it.
“I created two no-budget short films that summer, Howard, and Lucky. Both have gone on to win awards, including a Best Supporting Actress award for my work as Jenna Howe in Howard. I also decided that it was time I invest in myself and create a substantial writing portfolio and acting reel. So, that’s when I wrote both my dramatic pilot teleplay, and my comedic pilot teleplay.
“The beauty of my work is that it wasn’t a distraction from my troubles; it was a magnifying glass. I sat down and looked at my past, my current worries, and my potential futures. My work allowed me to finally surrender to it, and I discovered that no matter what would come to pass, I was grateful for having experienced so much love, support, creative expression, and joy.
“Just as a side note, my permanent resident application was approved, and I’ve been living happily with my husband for three years now.”
What are your “3 Lessons I Learned from My Most Memorable Failure”?
“Right after I graduated college, I was working part time, making no money, and I also wasn’t booking any acting gigs. I decided I’d cold email all the talent agencies in Toronto, and if it didn’t work out, it’d be time to get a full-time job.
“Only one agency responded to my cold email and when I went in, I bombed the audition. They didn’t see my character as being a strong enough choice, and then asked me to perform a single joke from a larger character piece I previously performed that (I didn’t even like) and I wasn’t fully able to replicate on the spot. I was so embarrassed by this meeting I thought had ruined my career.
“But, in time, here’s what I’ve learned from the experience:
What unfiltered advice can you give aspiring stars regarding how to avoid common mis-fires in starting their career?
“When I first started, I felt as though I had no control over my career, and it was everyone else’s fault for not finishing a project with me, not casting me, or not supporting my work. By focusing on elements, I couldn’t control, I not only stifled myself, but I became a person you likely wouldn’t want to work with anyway.
“I highly recommend focusing on yourself. How can you improve your career by learning new skills, creating your own opportunities, taking classes, or submitting to opportunities? Ignore how much praise you may or may not be getting and focus on spending more time on a project that makes you happy. The work you put in will snowball and you’ll feel much less dependent on others for career growth.”
What is the best lesson you learned from your worst boss?
“My worst boss was actually the inspiration behind my comedic pilot, Based on Experience. At work, I would take note of frustrating and problematic interactions, like, I’d literally write it down in my phone. Then, I eventually turned it into something productive.
“It also allowed me to be more mindful about how that work environment impacted my other relationships, which is why the pilot is a mix of an office and buddy comedy. Now, the teleplay is an official selection of The Broad Humor Film Festival which I’ll be attending in Los Angeles over Labor Day weekend.
“From working there, I learned that it’s important to pay attention to the difficult moments in life; not just because you learn from them, but also because you notice what negativity you’re passing onto others. Writing my experiences, specifically, was helpful in validating it and working through it from a perspective somewhat detached from my ego.”
What is one “efficiency hack” you use consistently in your life to keep your time and mind free to focus on your strengths and passions?
“I love to make lists. It helps me see what tasks need to be taken care of right now, what can wait, and how long I have to complete each item. For someone like me who’s an actor, writer, and filmmaker, it also helps me separate the different roles from each other and work more mindfully in the present moment. Plus, I don’t have to worry about forgetting anything if I have a list of tasks to refer to!”
All actors or musicians have sleepless nights. We have a term we use with our clients called the “2 a.m. moment.” It’s when you’re wide awake and thinking not-so-positive thoughts about your business choices and future. Can you describe a 2 a.m. moment (or moments) you’ve had and how you overcame the challenges?
“I haven’t had sleepless moments of worry in a long time. That said, while I fall asleep, I do consistently have existential crises, but that’s also basically my resting state. One of the little negative voices in my head likes to tell me that I’m wasting time, but I try to stop my mind mid-thought with ‘no, I want to sleep now.’ And typically, after a few deep breaths, that’s that.”
Nobody likes to fail, and we sure don’t like to admit we failed. Can you describe a moment when you confided your most closely-held business issues/problems to someone close to you, and how the conversation(s) helped you work through the issue?
“I had a clarifying conversation with my husband one night after we attended a film screening of my work. I said, ‘I want to be an actor, so I need to focus more solely on it.’ He said, ‘You do? I didn’t know that.’
“We had been together for about six years at this point, so this was not a new focus of mine. When he responded to me, I realized I had been letting fear get in the way of not only pursuing my dreams, but even admitting them out loud. I was denying myself the chance of success in exchange for the facade of safety from failure and judgement.”
What’s on the drawing board for your next venture?
“As I’ve mentioned, I have two pilots in development, and two feature films I’m writing. I’m also cast in Hayley Simpson’s show, 1099, which is in development. Beyond that, I’m excited to say that I’m not sure what opportunities lie ahead for me as an actor. I’m simply excited to be heading to Los Angeles to attend the Broad Humor Film Festival and celebrate my work, as well as fellow Humber Comedy alumni, Hayley Simpson and Andrea Holz, who also were selected for the festival: Hayley for 1099, and Andrea for her feature film, Stalker Friends.
What did we miss? Feel free to share any other thoughts or advice on overcoming failure, initiatives you’re currently supporting, any other relevant information you would like to share with the readers.
“The one thing that completely changed my career, which people don’t often seem to pursue, is learning all about marketing. There are fantastic, free courses at Hubspot which make it so much easier to learn how and why you market yourself and your craft. It created a lot of confidence and ease with social media, sending press releases, and creating promotional materials for my work.”
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
This was really awesome! Thank you so much for joining us!
Originally published at medium.com