I moved to Berlin three years ago in the middle of a freezing winter. In recent years global warming has made the winters here more bearable but when I arrived it was minus 20° celsius (-4°F) and the city struck me as unbelievably ugly.
Before that I had lived in Vienna, Paris, Byron Bay, New York and Los Angeles - all places known for either their beauty or their great weather. The German capital had neither. The usual reasons people move to Berlin are to be unemployed, to party or to “find themselves”. They want to flee, but I wanted to arrive. I moved to Berlin for one reason and one reason only: Work.
Vienna is a very small market. The film business is incestuous in general, but in such a little country you feel it even more, so I had to go somewhere with more breathing space. I was torn between London and Berlin, due to being an English/German native speaker. The States was out of the question because even though I've got the heavy Yankee accent and the American dental hygiene, my convoluted upbringing only provided me with an European passport. London is expensive and being a German speaker is not an important unique selling point there, whereas being an English speaker in Berlin can be. Thus Berlin was the winner. And it still is.
I took the risk to start a new life. Not just for a few months, and not just with what fits in one suitcase. I bought furniture, signed a lease. I had to grow up in order to grow in the other areas of my life.
It took me a while to adjust to the city's rough charm, the unsettling cadence of the local dialect, the loooong distances (Berlin is eight times the size of Paris albeit only having 3.5 million inhabitants), the transient nature of the people, the dirt, the weather etc. but today I can honestly say I love living in Berlin and despite all the craziness, I have never been as focused or successful in my life and my career. Despite Berlin “not being Germany”, I have become much more German - organized, diligent, punctual, responsible, tidy and routined - all things which I have come to find are indispensable for a successful acting career.
Berlin offered me the opportunity to find my own rhythm and fully focus on my work - one can still survive on €1000 per month in Berlin-- sure it is getting more expensive, but it is still incomparable to any other city I have lived in before. That means that my basic living costs are comparatively low, I can take risks in my career whilst having a great quality of life that includes organic food, running along the river behind my building, doing karate twice a week, eating out, opera, theater, cinema and so forth. Plus people are more relaxed, alternative lifestyles and life paths are much more common, which makes being an artist that much easier.
|On Set playing the same character at 16 and 30
(an instagram example)
There may be different ways to become a working actor but I know of only one: make it your number one priority and have your actions match your words. This is especially true in your 20s, when having a family and all the rest is not a pressing issue.
I was not enamored with Berlin, I was in love with Paris. Berlin was a marriage-of-convenience, while Paris was my passion. And I still go to France twice a year to smell the croissants, drink the wine, soak up the beauty, see the people I love and admire the handsome strangers. But I wanted more than passion, I wanted to build something solid with longevity. And who can do solid better than the Germans? The passion I bring wherever I go.