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February 11, 2023

Want to be an interesting actor/filmmaker? Get a hobby! 

by Jessica Cohen

Does your entire life revolve solely around your craft? Whether it’s acting, writing, producing, etc? By that I mean: Do you have a life outside of what you do, or try to do? Or is every waking moment about your job, your goals, and how to get ahead, without room for anything else?

That was a lot of questions, but it’s something to think about. If you answered yes, no, yes to the three questions above, let me introduce you to something called a hobby. In all seriousness, being passionate about your craft is a wonderful thing. It means you are committed and serious and you love what you do. What could there possibly be to complain about? But if you make said thing your entire existence, without room for any enjoyment or pastimes or things that could actually help what you’re passionate about, is that a well-rounded life? Are you really experiencing the world around you and enjoying what life has to offer?

I’d argue that everyone should have at least one (but ideally multiple) hobbies, or things in our lives we enjoy doing besides our “main thing(s)”. Having other things you like to do will make you a happier, more unique person. And here’s the catch: doing other things will actually help you with your main thing, whatever it is.

Here are a few suggestions for hobbies that are great for anyone in the industry, as well as give you an edge with your craft. I’m no expert on out-of-the-box hobbies, so if you think of something else, such as, uh, toy voyaging or beetle fighting (yep, actual hobbies) go for it!

image 1
Do you have a favorite book? I have too many to count (it may be cliche, but I love The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.)

Reading: Personally, I love reading so much. It’s one of my favorite things to do. Being a reader means getting to experience new worlds, meet interesting, complex characters, see different plots, read wacky writing styles, learn new things, and be inspired. You never know just what you read that can inspire your next project, even what you could try to adapt! Reading is the gateway to creativity and imagination, and I don’t know about you, but it’s such an amazing feeling reading a book you connect to in some inexplicable way. There’s nothing like it. Anyone can read. And the reason it’s on this short list is because of what I said: it can inspire you and teach you new things. It’s also a great way to relax. So, make a Goodreads account, go to your local library or bookstore, and let yourself be transported. You won’t regret it.

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A pandemic-related piece I did in 2021. I’m still learning and improving.

Creating Art: Creativity takes many different forms, and one of them is creating artwork. There are many different mediums, such as digital, pencil sketches, paintings, sculptures, and the list goes on. It’s a way to decompress and let your imagination run wild, and by the end, you get something you’ve created. If you’re like me and you often start something before finishing, that’s okay! The process of art, while potentially stressful sometimes, can ultimately be therapeutic and so much fun. I use Procreate a lot, but I’m also trying to draw more by hand. I’m admittedly not the best, but it’s a wonderful hobby and a way to try something new. (I even have an art Instagram I occasionally post on to keep me motivated, @jessahasart.)

image 3
What’s your favorite movie? Mine is probably Tick Tick Boom. Andrew Garfield, Lin-Manuel Miranda, a powerful story, and amazing music? Yes, please!

Watching Films: This is hopefully somewhat obvious if you’re in the film industry. Like reading, it allows you to be transported and experience someone’s work. But this time, instead of words, it’s everything: lights, costumes, dialogue, cinematography, acting, and it all comes together. Watching films can be the spark of inspiration you need. Even if you don’t pursue another project after a film, it’s a great hobby, because it helps you appreciate the industry you are in even more.

image 4
My current home of Austin. Lots of different people live here.

People-watching: Watch people in public places. That’s it. School, work, the mall, grocery store, movie theater, bookstore, movie set, park, mattress store, Disney World (oh, especially Disney World!). Everywhere you look there are interesting characters and interesting situations, and we just have to actively look for them.. We’re often so caught up in our own worlds that we struggle to see the people around us, and this hobby gives you a chance to sit back, relax, and observe.

image 5
I couldn’t find a good picture of me baking, so here’s Jessie Mueller singing “What Baking Can Do” from the musical Waitress. I love musical theater, if you couldn’t tell.

Baking: I’ve recently gotten into baking more than I used to. There’s something so nice about it, both the process and having a finished product at the end. It’s a really stress-relieving activity, which is important because there is a lot of stress in the world. Especially when you are trying to make it in this industry. There’s constant rejection and low self-esteem and bad people and hard work. So much hard work. Sometimes you just need a hobby that soothes you and leaves you peaceful and satisfied. And with a piece of cake. Or banana bread. I love banana bread.

Screen Shot 2023 02 11 at 9.04.02 AM
My dog and I hiking in Santa Fe, NM, in 2020.

Hiking: Being outdoors in nature during this age of constant social media is a must. Hiking can ground you and make you focus on your surroundings, no matter where you hike. Many people in the film industry struggle to stay in shape because of the constant movement of this business, and it can be hard to take a break from it all to do something relaxing. But hiking is good for you, and it can certainly provide you with inspiration if nothing else.

Out-of-the-box hobbies: I mentioned this earlier, but doing something that you both love and that sets you apart from the crowd is amazing. There are lists upon lists of interesting hobbies you can do that 98% of the population has likely never believed were valid activities. But prove them wrong! Some of the most interesting ones I found are:

  1. Lemonade bottle collecting.
  2. Trainspotting.
  3. Navel fluff collecting.
  4. Extreme ironing.
  5. Hikaru Dorodango
  6. Geocaching.
  7. Chess boxing
  8. Robbery selfies (I don’t condone crime, but that honestly sounds kind of cool).
  9. Aquascaping.
  10. Building houses made of incense.

I’d go on, but you get the point.

Hobbies are great for many reasons. They can inspire, relax, and puzzle you. Most of all, they make you interesting and show people you have a life outside of your craft. So, what are you waiting for? Become a lemonade bottle collector today!

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Jessica Cohen

Jessica B. Cohen (she/her) is an actress, writer, musician, singer, aspiring filmmaker, and all-around performer currently living in Austin, TX. She has written multiple screenplays, including a feature, short films, and TV episodes, and hopes to film something of her own in the near future. She won a B. Iden Payne award (excellence in Austin theater) in 2021 for "Best Original Song", and loves all things musical theater (she's currently working on a musical of her own). She has released a few songs on all streaming platforms, which you can look up under "Jessica Brynn Cohen". You can see her in Richard Linklater's Apollo 10 1/2, streaming on Netflix. As a BraveMaker intern, she is so grateful to be a part of its mission for justice, diversity, and inclusion. Follow her on instagram @Jessa.cohen!
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