From director Nathan Ives, and featuring The Good Doctor’s Jasika Nicole, musician Griffin House, paper artist Jeff Nishinaka and more, Somewhere in the Middle explores the lives of five working artists, who aren’t household names, but who are making a legitimate living through their art.
Available from October 15 on Amazon, Somewhere in the Middle begins by exploring the childhoods of five very different people – two musicians, Aaron and Griffin; an actor, Jasika; a sculptor, Jeff; and a painter, Dan – before delving into their adult lives as full-fledged working artists. It was the hard times, struggling to succeed, that often defined them later in their careers.
Although Aaron’s father was a brilliant mathematician, Aaron was simply an average student in high school who “just didn’t dig it.” He moved across the country to Los Angeles to pursue his music career just as the industry began to decline thanks to the prevalence of piracy and free streaming.
Griffin’s mother labored as a social worker to provide for her family while Griffin played music on the streets of Cincinnati for tips.
Jasika’s mother struggled as a waitress without so much as a car to get her to work. Later, Jasika similarly struggled, even stealing money from her roommate’s laundry jar to buy something off the Wendy’s 99-cent menu before she finally got her big break.
Jeff’s father designed meters and gauges for airplanes. By second grade, Jeff realized he shared his father’s love of design, but in a different way, and began pursuing his affinity for art. He would later make a name creating elaborate paper sculptures in the lobbies of five-star Asian hotels.
Dan, the son of an ironworker, started as an illustrator to support his family before flourishing in the world of contemporary impressionism.
The film eventually examines the joys of being an artist, including the high of one’s work being appreciated, critically acclaimed and, perhaps most importantly, paid for by fans. As a young artist, meeting your idols, from jamming with Bruce Springsteen to ballroom dancing with Antonio Banderas to smoking pot with Willie Nelson, begins to elicit a real “pinch yourself” feeling. Like, “Wow, I’m doing this!”
The film then shifts to an exploration of art as a business. The struggle of being your own personal assistant, accountant, marketing manager, et cetera – all while simultaneously trying to create the art you love. The absolute craziness of sacrificing a steady income for an unpredictable roller coaster where a big money-making year might be followed by three years of scrapping.
From the outside, many see it as a perfect life; but in reality, it’s a tough job that can often put a strain on one’s social and emotional well-being. “Looking back, I can see how I always chose my career over relationships,” says Griffin. “Relationships are hard. Relationships with artists are borderline impossible.”
Doubt, fear, excess, anxiety about the future. Somewhere in the Middle takes viewers on a journey through the day-to-day minds of these artists. “My biggest fear is that I’ll never work again.” “I had to come to terms with the fact that I was an alcoholic.” “I’m never satisfied with my work.” “I definitely have regrets about choosing the life of an artist.”
In the end, these five artists share advice and wisdom with young people who are thinking about following their passions. While it becomes evident that an artist’s life is not for everyone, Dan offers up a succinct bit of encouragement for those with no quit in them: “Get in the fight.”
Somewhere in the Middle available from October 15 on Amazon. Other platforms to follow.