“My greatest periods of growth have come when I have been in solitude – usually surrounded by nature. I have found that I self reflect more during those times, discover more of my genuine interests independently of anyone else’s opinion.”

Kevan OhtsjiAbout Kevan Ohtsji

Born and raised in a suburb of Vancouver, Kevan discovered his love for performing from an eighth grade drama class. Idolizing film greats such as Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino, he discovered a world forged by dedication to craft and integrity to character. In college he began intense years of studying with as many teachers and coaches as he could find to help hone his craft. His first role was in Cristophe Gans’s (Brotherhood of the Wolf) Crying Freeman. Since then you may have also seen him in Smallville, Stargate, Need for Speed, and Race to Mars. He has also worked alongside the likes of Morgan Freeman, Jeff Daniels, Lothaire Bluteau, and Joshua Jackson.

Always willing to assist aspiring filmmakers and the continuance of art, he has supported independent film and sat on the executive boards of the Vancouver Asian Film Festival, and the Powell Street Festival. He has  also written up in numerous magazines and trade journals.

Kevan has certainly been a mentor to me, and I am thrilled to have him be apart of this project.

 

 

The Interview

1. What is the force that drives you forward? What fuels your ambition?

Knowing that seemingly small experiences can positively affect people in large ways. There is a ripple effect. A cheerful “good morning,” holding the door open for a stranger, a genuine smile to some during your commute… film, tv, art, media has the potential to reach such a large audience. If my being a part of a project enables, inspires, or simply puts an audience member in a more thoughtful state to be nicer a person in their life — whether it be to their lover, co-worker, family, acquaintance, or a complete stranger — then I feel like I’ve done my job as a human being.

Fuelling this means being apart of projects and having the privilege to embody characters that say something about the human spirit in all of its manifestations for better or for worse. The more truthful to life in all of its insecurities, ambitions, fears, moments of happiness, destructiveness, longings, obstacles, defeat, release, and growth, the more profound it can be in the eyes of the viewer. It becomes more a mirror into our lives in all of its beauty and ugliness. We’re all biased beings to our own viewpoints and beliefs, but if we can become more open to another’s even for a brief moment then perhaps we can be more compassionate than before.

2. Can you talk about your greatest “failure”? (something that led to your most significant shift in consciousness, and made you who you are today).

I don’t really view anything as a “failure.” Not succeeding at your desires at a particular time is simply that – that is always room to grow and expand, and for timing to be more favourable.

When I was a kid, I was very shy. I remember feeling very strongly about many things but having difficulty getting my thoughts out into words. The more important things were, the more emotions I would have attached, which would then be even more difficult to verbalize. In hindsight perhaps this fuelled an aspect of myself that ‘acting’ later helped me to fill.

I’ve had my share of ups and downs in relationships. Without getting into details, I do have to say that they have taught me so much about putting myself in other people’s shoes, and taught me more about myself than I thought I knew. I have been blessed to have experienced such great moments, from which to cherish, to reflect upon, and from which to grow.

Professionally we all start wherever we are. And hopefully we grow from there. I know that when I first began I had so much invested in getting it ‘right’ or feeling it so much that I ended up emoting.

Now I view that as akin to grinding my skin on sandpaper, all in the name of suffering for my art. Another destructive thing I used to do was to view not getting the part as a rejection. It hurt. It really hurt at times. Now I take try to take things a lot more in stride as they come, and not take things personally, because they are not. I know that so many factors are out of my control, and I’m just a contender coming into a room to do my best rendition of a role in its given circumstances.

As far as shifts in consciousness go, I know my greatest periods of growth have come when I have been in solitude – usually surrounded by nature. It’s not that way for everyone, but so far that’s been my personal observation of my own life. I have found that I self reflect more during those times, discover more of my genuine interests independently of anyone else’s opinion, become self destructive and then have to grow from it, look for attributes and shortcomings from which to appreciate how far I’ve come and what I need to work on. In short I have discovered more of who I am, and have become less judgemental of others as I recognize they are all at different stages of their own life journeys.

I must say that the exception to deep reflection in ‘solitude’ is with yoga. I only just discovered it for myself a few months ago. I had a pretty biased viewpoint that it wasn’t masculine enough for me… thankfully I tried it, and after a few classes found I really enjoyed it. I find that yoga is a great mind, soul, and body experience.

3. Are you happy? What does happiness mean to you?

I am. Happiness to me is being able to feel joy in almost any context, and irrespective of how other people gauge success. No need to measure up to anyone, other than to yourself.

4. What do you think is your greatest strength? What is your greatest personal challenge (something you struggle with)?

I think my greatest strength has been curiosity coupled with trying to find the good in any situation, and in being open to fresh perspectives.

My greatest personal challenge has been to stop being so hard on myself.

5. What do you love about what you do?

I love the feeling of connection. On a television or film set I love that everyone there is working on a common goal and there is a certain cohesiveness to that. I really enjoy the people.

From an artistic side, I love getting inside of a character – delving into their backgrounds, their passions, their dreams, their fears, their guiding belief principles for better or worse.

In other words putting myself in someone else’s shoes, and finding a way to relate that to my own life so that I can perform the scene truthfully. In doing so, I have found that my awareness and compassion to people in my regular life has grown.

I love a story well told. I love a story artistically told. I love the human desire that birthed the concept of the project to come to fruition.

I love the strength and courage of authenticity.

6. What is the one habit that you’ve implemented that has had the greatest impact on your success so far?

Persistence, and always giving your best. I realize that I am always going to be learning and growing. That growth comes from falling down and getting back up, it comes from living life, it comes from heartache, it comes from gratitude for the wonderful experiences and people that I’ve been fortunate enough to have been blessed with. I feel that always giving your best in the here and now is the most important trait in any endeavour, and that in the long run chalked full of “successes and challenges” you’ll be growing but only because you’ve given your best.

7. How do you deal with doubt?

I used to have lots of doubt. I tried to focus more on what I wanted, and why I wanted it, which far outweighed the negative shell of doubt. As I’ve gotten older, if I have doubt I try more to acknowledge the feeling and then move on, rather than being consumed and ruminating on it.

I came across a saying recently that really resonated with me. It was that fear is simply excitement without the breath. I really liked this idea, and then when I became a little fearful about a small change I was going through, I thought of this and though okay I’m actually just exciting about this and took a deep breath.

I felt my perspective began to shift and I was looking at all the positive potentialities of this situation, rather than being limited to fearful thoughts.

8. Is there a quality that you think artistically successful people have in common? What is it?

I think there are a few qualities that really stand out. In big bold letters: BEING AUTHENTIC. The practice of getting up after being knocked down, and being positively motivated.

9. Do you have any advice for artists? Perhaps advice that you wish you’d been given when you were first starting out?

Trust your gut. Consciously think of what you would do if you knew you couldn’t fail, those are your dreams. Next think about why you want it, this will serve as rocket fuel to propel you forward when hit with obstacles, and then create a mini road map of how you can go from where you currently are to the direction of your dreams.

And most importantly, enjoy the journey. I had been told that many times, but honestly I feel like I understand that phrase better as I’ve gotten older. Enjoy the journey, because no matter where you are there is always the next minute, the next week, and the next year. Enjoy the moment of where you are now, because in a minute that moment will become the past.

10. What is your happiest memory (could be related or unrelated to your field).

I have two that quickly come to mind.

One is when I was working on a mini-series in Montreal. We were on a break as lighting was being set up for the next shot. I was outside with most of the cast and a few crew members. They all knew my girlfriend at the time had just flown into town and transport would be picking her up and she would be joining me on set. I was very excited for weeks. As I was chatting with another cast member, I heard a collective round of “awwww”s. I turned to see the transport van door open, and my girlfriend’s smiling face. She and I ran to each other and embraced. It was like a magical scene out of a movie, that seemed to unfold in slow motion. In that moment, life was perfect.

The second memory that comes to mind, is when after coming close to series regular role and not getting it I was up north in Yellowknife shooting a short film that was unpaid. For some background I had a done a short film in Kelowna a few years previously and the directors of it recommended me to a first time director who was going to shoot a short film in the Northwest Territories. The director contacted me and explained that it was a passion project, that there was not enough money to pay me, but that she would fly me up and provide accommodation for me.

Her project was a period piece set during WWII, and I was to play the husband of a Japanese woman who loved the play the piano. My character was that of a fisherman who ends up getting sent to an internment camp. My parents and grandparents went through the internment in Canada so this type of story really resonated with me.

When I arrived in Yellowknife, the director, cast, and crew where such beautiful amazing people. After an evening of seeing the northern lights from my hotel balcony, the next afternoon between one of the shots, I dipped my feet into Great Slave Lake and looked out across the water. I thought to myself, how in the world did I get here.

How is it, that a kid from Burnaby with a dream to be an actor, get to being flown up to Yellowknife performing in a beautiful story set during an era that my parents and grandparents lived through? And then I thought of how fortunate I have been and how many amazing wonderful experiences I have been blessed with. I had been previously bummed out from not getting a series regular role, but in that moment with my feet in the lake breathing the summer air in Yellowknife I felt so happy.

11. What is your favourite book? It could be about your craft, or maybe just an excellent story. If that is too difficult to answer, who are your favourite authors?

My favorite book is Siddhartha. Two of my top favorite authors are Paulo Coelho and Haruki Murakami. A really great book I read recently is actually written by two local authors from White Rock and is entitled “One Great Year.” I had the privilege of meeting them (Tamara and Rene) for lunch and drinks and they two of the most lovely people you could meet.

Check out the favourite books by the other interviewees

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IMDB: Kevan Ohtsji

Watch Kevan’s Demo Reel


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Kevan Ohtsji: Growth comes from falling down and getting back up, it comes from living life, it comes from heartache.
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These conversations are about the creative soul. They are the true experiences of creatives with their own creative impulse, and they are the private (made public) reflections on what creativity feels like on a very personal level. All interviews are conducted by Christine Bissonnette
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