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Actor Jeff Kirkman III Tells His Story; What's Yours?

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act July 22, 2013 at 5:19PM

Recapping... I did this in February of last year (2012), and got a few response, so I figured, a year-and-a-half later, with the site's audience now larger than it was back then, that I'd try it again.
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Jeff Kirkman III

Recapping... I did this in February of last year (2012), and got a few response, so I figured, a year-and-a-half later, with the site's audience now larger than it was back then, that I'd try it again.

I know that a significant chunk of S&A's audience comprises of actors, actresses, directors, DPs, editors, etc, etc, etc. Some are able to earn a paycheck utilizing their artistic and/or technical skills; others - and I'd say the majority - are what we've labeled the proverbial *starving artists*, working diligently, relentlessly, struggling to climb this incredibly steep hill, trying to reach some pinnacle of success - whether personal or professional. And still others exist somewhere between the former and the latter.

Where do you fall? And, as the title of this post states, what's YOUR story, and would you like to share it with the rest of the world?

Think of it as an extension of the successful S&A Filmmaker Diary series we launched almost 2 years ago. I'm looking for your individual stories of struggle and/or success, regardless of what rung on the ladder you are currently on, after all, not only is S&A just a source for news, its goal is also to become a community of cinema lovers where we can all share/debate/discuss/learn/teach/commiserate/etc.

Here's your chance. You might learn something; you might teach someone something.

What's YOUR story? You can email me (obensont@gmail.com). You can submit your story in any format - written, or even documented on video. I'll post as many of them as I can. Substance and presentation are key for consideration. 

And be sure to attach a photo (large size) for me to include, and if you have samples of your work, include them as well.

It could be a story about a current situation you find yourself in; or it could cover several days, weeks, months, or years of your career. It could be that you just want to vent your frustrations; aspects of, or people in this business that piss you off; aspects of, or people in the industry that encourage you. It doesn't have to be all negative, nor all positive. We're complex people, and so I assume our stories are as well.

First up this time around is Jeff Kirkman III, sharing his story below:

I’m a 27-year-old B.F.A-Acting (2013) graduate of the Theatre Arts department at Howard University from Cleveland, Ohio. I decided back in 2008/2009 that I should pursue acting after realizing it was my passion. This understanding came to pass as I worked in a family-run business (for no less than) 10-12 hours daily, but still found it necessary to go rehearse play(s) at my local community theater(s) for free. I figured this must be my passion if I’d do this for free as exhausted as I was. I’d gone through some incidents in which I felt that I no longer had anything to lose. I made the decision to pursue theater to know the craft for myself, not have it dictated and limited by a smaller market. A week after I applied to Howard University, I totaled my vehicle. I undoubtedly know that the Lord spoke to me at that moment. Telling me that I wouldn’t need this burden (an extremely high car payment) along this ride. And symbolically, I was reborn from this accident.  I got out of the vehicle immediately, and was totally unscathed. My outlook on life slowly began to change. What I found of importance became the things only of necessity. Finding clarity, I started to see my place in world unfold in front of me.

My tenure at Howard University wasn’t the easiest. Dealing with the awful landlords of DC area, enduring a short stint of “homelessness” (which had a profound effect on me), I was forced to mature in a way that couldn’t occur for me in Cleveland (it was just too comfortable). Throughout these trials, my studies never suffered. I learned about life from the experiences living in the District and from the nurturing of the professors I forged relationships with at Howard. I can say that I’ve been blessed to work with people that poured there all into my development. Most notably (among others), Professor Al Freeman, Jr. Prior to his passing, I’d never witnessed a human being literally give his all to what he loved until his very last breath. It galvanized me in a way that made me want to honor not only his legacy, but also all of those who came before me, those I’d worked with, and those whom I’ve yet to work with. On the day of his impromptu retirement party, he told us during his parting words with the class what I believed to be his artistic philosophy:

“We expect some of you, under our guidance, to surpass us even in the very field of our specialty. We shall see this come to pass with great gladness. You must increase. In you and through you, We, I, will find my own fulfillment”.

With that in my fiber, I now knew that being in this industry was/is my calling. It was time to take it up another level. I auditioned and was later accepted to pursue my M.F.A. in Acting at an elite institution. It was exciting, I felt like I’d made it in some sort of way. Nothing was going to stop me from pursuing this next endeavor. But, I was wrong. Due to the lack of clarity in regards to financial aid, I was forced to make the decision to leave the program after just one week of training. For most, this would be completely devastating (it is to a certain extent), but I’m actually finding power and glory in taking the bull by horns, thus controlling my destiny. To walk away empowered me because it would’ve been easy to just stick it out and have this particular institution attached to my name; but at what expense? I simply couldn’t see myself making this particular investment if it wouldn’t be to my total and complete benefit. Everything isn’t easy (and doesn’t) have to be. If it were, everybody would do it. But I know what I know, and my feelings don’t lie. Especially when they are so strong that you can’t do anything but succumb to them. It forced me to be honest with what I wanted for myself. I’d gotten used to doing things for the sake of others, being completely altruistic, inserting myself on the primarily back end of things. I had to consider my worth and what I stood for. I sat and prayed diligently for the Lord to place the best decision in my mind, asking him to make it really loud and clear the direction I should go in regards to the situation. In addition to this, I concluded that if I began my professional career doing things that I wasn’t completely comfortable with, I’d never be at peace with the mark that I’d make within the industry. For the week that I trained in the program, I didn’t get a full night’s rest. After I made the decision to move on from it, I slept through the entire night like a baby that has finally adjusted to a normal sleeping schedule. I felt refreshed as a result of it. Could this have been coincidence? Sure. But it is my belief that I had to be forced to come to terms with the particular kind of artistic life I wanted to lead.

So, I moved on.

Now, I’m in the Lion’s Den. Trying to make a way after putting my life on hold, including relinquishing a very affordable apartment in the DC area (which is EXTREMELY hard to come by), selling all of my furniture, and not working/promoting my brand because I was scheduled to be in school until the Spring of 2015. I’m behind the eight ball in a way that has fostered the need to move. All of my future plans in theatre, film, and television have been rescheduled for today. A fire inside of me has been relit, and I must satisfy this need to create. This industry if full of stops and starts, there’s no need to dwell on the past; it is better to moved forth (which is all you can control). Waiting for the next year isn’t an option, if I don’t work; I don’t eat. This doesn’t mean that I’ll begin to whore myself out to the industry and declare; “I’ll do anything for food”. Rather, it means that the business of Jeff Kirkman III has opened sooner than once announced. Let the collaboration begin.

This article is related to: What's Your Story?


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