We had the good fortune of connecting with Robert DeSanti and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Robert, what role has risk played in your life or career?
The first thing that comes to mind is a poem from the Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters. It is described as a set of monologues spoken by the dead in a midwestern cemetery and it explores very taboo and grim topics at times. I always read them as very human poems. The one that struck me the most was by George Gray:
I have studied many times
The marble which was chiseled for me —
A boat with a furled sail at rest in a harbour.
In truth it pictures not my destination
But my life.
For love was offered me and I shrank from its disillusionment;
Ambition called to me, but I dreaded the chances.
Yet all the while I hungered for meaning in my life.
And now I know that we must lift the sail
And catch the winds of destiny
Wherever they drive the boat.
To put meaning in one’s life may end in madness,
But life without meaning is the torture
Of restlessness and vague desire —
It is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid.
I read this at a time in my life when I was much younger and needed this. I frequently go back as a reminder.
This poem to me is about the sorrow, the regret, of not doing the things you want in life. It drilled home in such a visceral way to me that we regret the things we don’t do in life. Not taking the leap into a career that will bring you fulfillment. Not taking a chance on love. Not picking up that hobby. Not visiting that place you always say you’d love to visit. The way I view risk is it’s much much MUCH more dangerous to do nothing and that, in fact, is the real risk in life.
Going out and actually doing has been the entire driving force in my life. It’s very hippie dippie to say that ‘life is a journey’ but I view life as a journey. The more I go out and do things and meet people the more it has fueled personal growth, understanding—of myself and others, and I think that is how risk has shaped my life—by avoiding it. To me the success in life is the ability to never stop growing. I’ll be the first to admit that I am flawed in many ways but I don’t stop pushing myself to do better and be better, day in day out, and question everything I do and experience.
This personal growth in life is what plays into my career choice. I am an artist—I write, act, direct, produce, and paint. The job of an artist is to experience life in all its beauty (the good and the bad) and report back to those who are unwilling to do so. I can’t do this meaningfully if I don’t experience life. I have nothing to say if I don’t go out and experience life, take time to question what is and isn’t, and pour that into my work. If I did nothing I’d have nothing to say.
I don’t know where I will end up in life but I know that along the way I have made incredible friends and have had amazing experiences. I’ve sobbed on the sidewalk uncontrollably and been lost overseas. I have had those I know die. I’ve been hurt and caused pain. But through these hard times, and good times, I’ve learned to pour the growth I get from reflecting on these times into my work to have an honest and original point of view.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I suppose my art is mainly film. Acting is my first passion and what drew me to being an artist but along the way I picked up and found love for writing and more recently directing. I produce quite a lot as well and am in the process of starting a creative agency/content company with my cousin because the opportunities are growing so fast. I also produce with a company called Spork Productions that is owned by a really good friend of mine, Geoff Ryan. I have produced shorts, features, trailers, web-series, and photoshoots. I ran catering events for a few years and I am blown away at how much that actually shaped my ability to produce at a high level! Everything you do really does play into all aspects of your life.
The thing I am probably most proud of is a film I recently finished. I had an amazing set of creative collaborators and it was a real labor of love. It’s a dark comedy called The Epilogue of Gregory Archambault. It’s about a suicidal writer who can’t commit suicide because he’s not satisfied with his suicide letter. I wrote, acted, co-produced, and co-directed it. It’s very much my love letter to the writing process and the writers who have inspired and continue to inspire me. I love artists and really care about the mental health of them. My hope is that this film will be enjoyable while also bringing forth more awareness and a constructive conversation around the subject, and psyche, of artists. It is currently starting the festival circuit and I am really excited for people to watch it and see how that conversation can grow around the film.
To ‘get to where I am today’ has been quite a journey. This topic is something that is a bit of a cliché for an artist but also something that finds it originality in how uniquely specific our path is to ‘us’. I graduated from finance school before going to The William Esper Studio to study acting. I graduated and went out into the industry where, like many, I have been rejected hundreds and hundreds of times. I have patience in many ways but I’m also a ‘just do it’ type of person. This caused me to start writing and producing and creating my own work because I got into acting to actually ‘act’ not to just ‘audition’ all the time. To quote Frances Mcdormand — “I’m not an actor because I want my picture taken. I’m an actor because I want to be part of the human exchange”. While doing this I have served tables, catered events, worked Oscar parties, done odd jobs, manual labor, you name it. It’s part of the gig as much as it sucks.
I lived in a house with 9 other people for almost 4 years trying to get myself a little ahead in life. I found I’m not good living in close quarters with that many people for that long. I did make two life long friends through that exchange so I have that to be grateful for. I’ve dealt with mental health issues like many artists that are brought on by the industry and have had to go to therapy and read books to help me figure it out how to safely work through it. I read a book called ‘Change Your Story, Change Your Life’ that changed my life! I, like many, have and have had over identification issues and often that ties to your mood. Once I really dug into that and reshaped my life and stopped over identifying with certain parts of being an artist my life opened up in so many beautiful ways.
The lessons I’ve learned along the way are to be honest. It’s okay to make mistakes because you are human but it’s your duty to learn from them. It’s okay to be selfish but do more for others than you do for yourself. Don’t try and please everyone because that’s impossible. Not everyone is my cup of tea and that’s okay. That goes both ways. I’m not going to be everyone’s favorite person either and that’s alright. Work hard and take care of those around you. Invest in PEOPLE over everything else. And one of my favorites is sometimes to just relax and do nothing!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I don’t know if I can give an itinerary but I can rattle off some of the things I would show them if this was their first time visiting. I would absolutely drive north and then come south on the PCH so they could witness that beauty. I remember my first time. In that moment I understood why a dog gets so much enjoyment from sticking its head out the car window and staring off. I’d make sure they saw Venice Beach. I’d prob hike Los Lionnes as well as Runyon Canyon (so they could experience a stereotypical ‘LA’ hike). Runyon is a great workout too. I would drive them down Sunset as well as Mulholland Drive. I really enjoy riding bikes around the Abbot Kinney to Rose Ave area. Good for grabbing a few drinks and some great chef inspired food! There is also a great energy in that area. After writing this I realize how much time I spend near the beach! Haha. I would also take them to a show at UCB on Franklin. I’ve never seen a bad show there. I love that place.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Where to begin! I owe my life to so many people, places, and things! I was having a talk recently with a friend and we were talking about mental health and specifically the mental health of artists. I brought up how The William Esper Studio saved my life. I was at a very tough place in life and I took a chance on going there and it shaped my life in ways I can’t even figure out yet. All I know is that the people I came in contact with through that program taught me how to be a better, more open and empathetic person. The program gave me purpose for what I felt was the first time in life. My teacher encouraged me and made me believe I had something to offer the world. The community of artists made me feel. Through this program my life has blossomed into what it is today and has shaped me into who I am today and I couldn’t be more fulfilled with the journey I am on. I don’t say it lightly when I say I owe my life to that place. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about how my life could be different had I not gone to that school.
Lexi Johnson Adeshola Adigun Jay Bennett