In my last blog post, I talked about the importance of my relationships with family, friends and my overall community during the pandemic. As I continue to explore the concept of the "home in my heart" in part 2 of this blog post, re-evaluating what matters most to me in the wake of the pandemic, I will move on to take a deeper look at my relationship with work and my long-term career.

Film Career Considerations

When the original lockdown happened, forcing both the film industry and my martial arts school to shut down, Chris and I found ourselves in a position where neither of us were working. Thanks to CERB, we had enough money to pay the bill and wait out the pandemic until the film industry started up again, but we made the decision to close our dojo, not knowing when it would be feasible to teach again in the foreseeable future. This gave me time to think long and hard about my chosen careers and how they might evolve in the future.

I enjoy being a stunt performer, and have had the privilege of doing a lot of cool work over the past decade of my career, but I also realized that as I get older, I'll need to consider how that career will "mature." I did all the online courses required to be an apprentice stunt coordinator, since I had the time to do so. Before the film industry was back in full swing, I had the pleasure of getting to work as a stunt coordinator for a friend's short film, "Kiri and the Girl" (to be released on Apple TV on April 11), working to keep the child actors safe as they ran through woods, perched on logs, etc. It felt good to work on a production team that valued my skills, and I have since coordinated two other short films, "Trick or Treat" and "Niyebe." While I don't see myself being asked to take on any high-action shows as a coordinator at my level of experience, I do think I have the organizational and managerial skills to handle managing performer safety for lighter action productions, and am continuing to keep myself open to taking on such opportunities should they come my way.

Stunt Coordinating on Kiri and the Girl
Stunt Coordinating on Kiri and the Girl
Stunt Coordinating on Niyebe
Stunt Coordinating on Niyebe

Having chatted with other stunt performers who have matured in their careers, I was encouraged to consider developing my acting skills if it was something that interested me, as stunt actor work is something that older stunt performers tend to move toward as they age. Having been involved in high school drama in my younger years, it was something I felt comfortable exploring more, even though it had been a long time since I took acting classes. I was also encouraged by the fact that the film industry was starting to focus on representing more BIPOC performers in film, TV and commercials in the wake of all the racial injustices that came to light in the world over the course of the pandemic. I ended up getting an agent, Brenda Wong from MVM Agency, who took me onto her roster. I also took a few Zoom-based courses, one on audition self-taping, as well as an Acting 101 class with Michele Partridge, to brush up on my skills. Since then, I booked a day-call actor role on a TV series called "Balestra," and have had a few callbacks for few commercials, all of which has been encouraging. What I like most about getting more involved with acting is that it is helping me to get more in touch with my feelings, while learning about the human experience more deeply, as I work on relating to characters whose experiences in life are very different from my own. I intend to keep developing my acting skills to explore this field further as part of what I do in film.

As far a stunts go, I'm pretty far from being put out to pasture, but the pandemic did make me think long and hard about what my future in film held for me, so I could use the downtime to work on skills that would serve my future. In addition to the acting and stunt coordinator training, Chris and I also spent more time working on our stunt driving, another skill we can continue to do as we age without being as hard on the body. It was also a form of training we could do that wasn't affected by COVID restrictions. We already had a Crown Vic equipped with a stunt break, so it made sense to focus on it, taking classes with Rick Pearce at The Reel Stunt Driving School.

I was grateful when the film industry came back in fall 2020, and was happy to have a number of stunt opportunities come my way when it did. That being said, the film industry wasn't the only career path I explored during the pandemic.

A Call to Coach

During one of my calls with my sister during the pandemic, she told me that she had been telling one of her friends about me and what I was doing with my life. Her friend asked her if I had ever considered becoming a life coach. This was intriguing to me. She thought I had many of the qualities that would be ideal for such a career, and thinking more about it after our chat, I decided to look into it.

One of the main reasons why I became a martial arts instructor was because I wanted to share the sense of empowerment I got from it as a young teen, along with all the mental benefits of discipline, willpower, grit and resilience. These are all things that a life coach helps with, among other things. The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. I feel that the communication skills blend so well with what I learned in my university degree in communication. I also think these skills will also come in handy when working with people as a stunt coordinator. I eventually signed up for a 6-month life and wellness coach certification program that was offered over Zoom through the Canada Coaching Academy.

Since then, I completed the program and am committed to continuing to get 100 hours of coaching experience with clients, the required amount for becoming certified with the International Coaching Federation. This is not a requirement for running a coaching practice, but I wanted that level of experience before I refined what my official offerings as a coach would be, as well as my personal approach to serving the people with whom I work. I am getting close to finishing those hours, and have learned a lot in the process. I plan to keep coaching a handful of clients as the work is incredibly rewarding to me, and if something ever happened in life that prevented me from being able to work in film, it's another avenue in which I can work and make a living doing something that's also fulfilling to me.

Teaching Martial Arts

After we closed the dojo, I found myself missing teaching. Fortunately, I discovered a way to teach within the confines of the lockdown, and taught my kids classes over Zoom. I'm glad we did, as it gave them all something to look forward to that also allowed them to bond with their parents as they trained with them as partners while we taught and guided them over Zoom.

As COVID restrictions eased, I eventually started teaching private lessons in our basement to a few stunt performers and former students as well. I realized how much I enjoy teaching, especially in person. I started dreaming up how I might run a new dojo should I open one up in the future. Chris and I have a lot of ideas of how we would like to change our approach to teaching our self-defense oriented martial arts program, and we are continuing to refine these ideas. We have every confidence that we'll get the perfect set-up for us to resume teaching in the future.

In part 3 of this blog post series, I'll talk about how my interests, hobbies and passions have been influenced by the pandemic, and what I foresee for them moving forward.