Harrison Gilbertson started working in film as an actor at the age of 6 in the film Australian Rules. Since then he has starred in lead roles in 17 film/tv productions and worked with some top actors like Jennifer Connelly, Ed Harris, Geena Davis, Emmanuel Beart, Aaron Paul, Mira Sorvino, and Jason Issacs. He has also directed three music videos and has began to write as well.
Harrison isn’t on Facebook (respect) but you can follow him on Instagram @sloan_gilberton
Pic above: Harrison — at 19 years old, but he’s got a baby face so he looks that exact same 5 years later 🙂 — and his father Brian did a VisionQuest Bali Retreat with me in 2013. The fact that they were down for such a deeply personal adventure together really inspired me. Watching this father/son team in action gave me a glimpse of how I want my relationship with my son to be. Thanks, guys.
It was awesome to interview Harrison and hear about his world, hear about what’s happened since the retreat, and place a time marker in the relatively early days of an extraordinary life.
1:38 — Brief summary of Harrison’s acting career so far
3:13 — Film/tv projects about to come out
4:31 — Dealing with the unpredictability of the industry
8:18 — What do you love and what inspires you?
13:43 — Crossroads moments in Harrison’s life
17:34 — Why acting?
19:38 — How do you prepare for a role?
21:34 — Living your destiny; everything’s perfect
30:09 — Most fulfilling moments
32:52 — The Fear
43:47 — Message for future kids
51:09 — Reflections on Bali retreat with Dad
55:58 — Moving to New York
Recorded on Mar. 27 at Adelaide (Harrison) and Sunshine Coast (Rick), Australia.
Harrison: Yo, can you see me?
Rick: Hello Harrison. I can’t see you.. oh there you go. Alright.
Harrison: You chose the fan?
Rick: I stayed downstairs, yeah. And this is just a warning to everyone, I’m probably gonna get sweaty. I’m half nervous talking to my hero Harrison Gilbertson. But it’s also super hot in Queensland here.
Harrison: Yeah whereabouts are you in Queensland at the moment? Are you up in near Byron or…?
Rick: I’m up on the Sunshine Coast.
Harrison: Aw, beautiful.
Rick: Yeah, and it’s just a cooking… It’s one of those like humid humid hot sweltering days. It’s not even 9:00 a.m. right now so… And where are you?
Harrison: I’m in Adelaide at the moment at Mum and Dad’s place. I’ve been here the last four months. Just saving some money, and then yeah, off to London for a bit and then New York. It’s super exciting.
Rick: Awesome. I was just in New York with the kids.
Harrison: Oh yeah I saw on your Instagram. It looked like they had a great time.
Rick: Yeah. And there are some VisionQuesters out there, so I’ll have to put you in touch.
Harrison: Oh really? Yeah, oh did you do a conference out there? Is that right?
Rick: I did. I did an event, yeah.
Harrison: How did that go?
Rick: It was great. Yeah, they were like five VisionQuesters there, and then they invited their friends, and my sister was there, and it was awesome.
Rick: Yeah, so, okay, thanks so much for taking the time to do this and answer some questions. And I just wrote down a bunch of questions that I’m interested about your life, and your professional process, and where you’re at.
And the first thing I want you to do… Could you just kind of place us in the timeline of your career right now. Like you said that there are a couple things that you worked on that haven’t been released yet. A couple things in the pipeline. Like where are you at, say in the last couple years leading up to now and what are you looking forward to?
Harrison: That’s really nice. I don’t think I’ve thought about it that way.
But yeah I started super young as you know with acting. I was 6 years old. And then I didn’t get another job till I was 14, but I was playing water polo at the time and just being you know a school student and someone chasing a sport they loved.
And then I got my next role when I was 14, and sort of had to choose to go on that path, or stay on the other path. And obviously that was the more interesting path. And something I’ve always wanted to do.
So since I was 14 I’ve worked very steadily until I was about 23 or so. I took a bit of a break because I was feeling a little bit disenchanted I guess that break between having worked as a young man into becoming a mid-twenties man, I just felt a disassociation maybe, or I couldn’t really jam in that.
And then that came back with that break and I was reminded of how much I love it and how much it does feel like an integral part of my soul to perform that way.
And so then I got three rolls sort of back to back very quickly once the energy was back there, and the passion was back, and the strive.
So I did a film in Winnipeg, which has yet to come out, called “Look Away” which is a psychological thriller.
Rick: So wait, this is something that’s recent?
Harrison: This is recent. So yeah, this film’s coming out. I filmed it at the end of 2016 — so it’s been a while — in the freezing cold weather of Winnipeg. And it’s a really cool psychological thriller. I don’t really know much about when that ones coming out.
But I did that. And then followed it with a film called “Upgrade” which just won the audience award for the midnight section at South by Southwest. Which is really exciting.
I play a little sci-fi weirdo. A creepy like AI inventor with bleach blond hair and super anemic.
So I did that and then followed that with a TV show called “Picnic at Hanging Rock” which is coming out May 6th in Australia on Foxtel.
And then it’s been bought by BBC and Amazon and Canal Plus in France and Telekom Deutschland I think, which is a big German company. So it’s really exciting internationally. Looking like it’s gonna have a huge release.
And so that’s sort of it so far. And they’re just coming out and I’m just auditioning again now. And you know doing some other stuff too.
Rick: Alright. Sounds amazing.
So what’s it like to… like you get a part, you shoot a project, and then it might not come out for like a year or two years. And you’re a young man too. You’re growing, you’re developing, your changing physically, you know?
So what’s it like, that kind of gap between when you create work and when it’s released and seen? How does that go?
Harrison: Yeah… I think sometimes it’s really weird. I’ve done jobs where you know six months later I’m at the premiere, and I just go, “Wow, they did that quickly.”
And then there are other times where yeah, it’s two, three, four years… That was the longest one and that was around that time… I sort of took like a figurative breaker after I did a film called “Fallen” that had a lot of heat behind it. Momentum. Because it was like the Twilight/Hunger Games kind of franchise based thing.
And we all thought it was going to be a real gangbuster experience, so I thought you know at the time I thought, well alright I’ll take a bit of a year just to audition for the really really good roles, but outside of that I’m just going to be 21 — at the time I was — so just be 21. And you know go be in love and go party with my mates and experience life outside of the potential realm that I thought we were going to go into.
But then that film, you know, sort of like a year went by and two years went buy, and then three years. And then it only came out mid last year, but they released it in the Philippines. Which is a beautiful country, and we got to go there for the premiere.
But somebody filmed it in the audience. And then it went on YouTube. And then you know it’s done. No one wants to buy a film after that happens.
Rick: Oh no…
Harrison: So you never know what’s gonna happen. And that can be really hard. For four years we have an expectation or you’re holding a… you know financially, emotionally, your brain feels set that this thing’s looking like something.
I’ve learned not to think that way anymore. But just know that things are ever changing. And there’s no real rhyme or reason in the industry that I’m in at least. Because something could be huge that you thought was going to be really small. And something that looks huge could be a total flop and not do anywhere nearlywhat you thought it was going to.
Rick: Yeah. I imagine that from having been in it from such an early age you learn lessons like that. Like you have a different perspective as a young man. It’s more like you’re a bit more mature than people who are just getting into it, or just got kind of their first roles and can get really invested into you know what something could be.
But you might be able to have a little bit more of an objective viewpoint on it, like you said.
Harrison: I’m really grateful for that. I was talking with Dad, who you know very well obviously, about it not too long ago. Just saying it’s weird because it makes you feel… not disenchanted, but you do feel a sense of business to the magic of this world that… is like… can be not as nice I guess.
It’s like oh my God, yes, this is the coolest thing. But you still don’t know. And then when you get further into it you can start going, oh there is like a relativity. But you have to take everything into consideration.
But knowing at 24 is so much better than finding out when you’ve got kids around or a partner that you’ve got to financially support. You know now I feel very grateful that I’m aware of that side of how things can flow.
Rick: Yeah, yeah. Cool, okay. Let me get into a couple questions here. I’ve got them written down.
So kind of stepping a little bit into… We’re going to ask you a couple kind of personal questions about you, and then get into more the professional side, and then come back to some personal stuff if that’s all right.
Harrison: Yeah, yeah.
Rick: Okay. So what’s something that you absolutely love in life that — uh I see you’re bird tattoo, that’s awesome.
What’s something that you absolutely love in life that most people probably don’t know that you love.
Harrison: Um. I really… well I don’t do it at all anymore, but I’d like to, and I’ve got an idea of in the future doing it again, but I always thought if I didn’t do acting I would love doing carpentry or something.
I really liked it at school. I was really bad with the metric element of it because I’m bad at maths. But I like the shaving and the sanding and the shaping of wood. So that’s something I love. I like playing with wood.
Rick: That was one of my favorite classes in high school was woodshop.
Harrison: You just get into it, you know? You can zone out, and you know you shape that thing and suddenly the bell would go. And you know it would feel like it was five minutes, not 45 minutes.
Rick: Yep. Alright. When’s the last time you made something with wood?
Harrison: I think at school, haha.
Rick: Haha, me too pretty much.
Harrison: Actually at Dad’s work at the pageant I helped out after school and did a little bit of work with wood, but it was no more than a little bit of sanding. Not anything too professional. But I really enjoyed that.
Maybe I should start. Maybe when I get to New York I should find a cheap wood making a course.
Rick: Maybe there’s like a common space or something. Yeah, do wood shop for adults.
Harrison: I’ll make you a rocking chair because you’re getting so old now.
Rick: Alright. Just because I’m going bald doesn’t mean I’m old.
Alright, what are you grateful for in your life?
Harrison: Everything. I think I remember that activity we did in Bali actually. Whenever I’m not feeling grateful. If I’m feeling a bit despondent to things, Rick, you got us to write down, my Dad and I, to write down everything we’re grateful for.
And you just go through the list and suddenly you get to you know I’ve got fingers to hold this pencil hand. I’ve got hands to wipe my ass. I’ve got eyes to blink the dust out, the sand that could get in my eyes.
And you keep writing. And then I remember putting the pencil down. And you said, “Why have you stopped?”
And I said, “Oh, I just, I could write all day.”
And you said, “Good, that’s the point. Let’s go surfing.”
So I think that’s probably a rough answer. Maybe not such a concise one. But I think I’m just grateful for everything.
Whenever you’re not feeling grateful there’s always something to be grateful for. It’s just sort of removing yourself from whatever it is that’s gluing you into one particular perspective.
Harrison: Which you helped teach me.
Rick: Alright. Good habit. And I think you spread that message too.
Harrison: I hope so.
Rick: And my other favorite question: what inspires you?
Harrison: I remember Matthew McConaughey when he got the Oscar, and I don’t know how to say it verbatim, but I’ll paraphrase it. But he did this great Oscar winning speech where he said he’s got three people in his life, and it’s um… the main one is him in the future that he’s always looking up to you.
You know, always thinking if I’m gonna be 25 soon, what’s Harrison at 35, Harrison at 45?
What should I aspire to be at that point?
And what am I doing that might be holding me back? And obviously those things can take time to figure out. But what am I doing also that IS leading towards that vision of how I want to be?
Because we are all going to die at the end, so you want to make sure you get there and feel like you’ve done, you know, at least over 70% of what you wanted to I think.
You want to feel like you were chasing that notion, I think is important. There is an end to this, so every 10 years you should be aiming to do as much as you can.
Rick: Yep, so the future vision of the man that you’re going to be… that inspires you?
Harrison: Yeah, I think so. It was a Matthew McConaughey thing that he said. But I remember hearing it and at first going, “Oh, that’s a bit wanky.”
And then stopping and being like, “Oh, that’s actually really pretty profound to say that you should, you know, make a hero out of your own self.”
I remember speaking with you in Bali about it at one point where I was talking about idols that I had, or people that I looked up to, other actors or literature figures or whatever. And you said idolization is an idolization of yourself in those people too. Because the reason that you look to them or jam to them is because you see an element of yourself that you want to work on or strengthen.
I remember I was confused because one of those guys was a drug addict. And that freaked me out.
And that’s what you’re looking at. You’re looking at the good side of him, that’s what you’re talking about.
So you shouldn’t have that fear of why you idolize someone. Really think about what you see good, because that is what you’re seeing of yourself in a mirror reflection. Which I like a lot.
Rick: Yeah, I see it like those people that are our heroes, they’re like signposts. They’re like a few steps further down the track of doing something or fulfilling some purpose that we’re here to fulfill too. And that’s why they inspire you. There’s that same resonance.
Harrison: Yeah, I really like that. It was one my favorite things from that retreat.
Rick: Yeah. Can you tell me about one or two crossroads moments in your life? Like where some experience happened, you met someone, or you had some opportunity that actually kind of like changed the trajectory of your life?
Harrison: Yeah, I think… I mean the first one is the reason pretty well we came to see you, which is when my uncle died.
I think that was a really life-changing experience and for the better for me. Because I think when you’re seeing someone.. you know my uncle was only only meant to live for six months, but he lived for six years or so.
And so when you’re seeing someone at least once a week, if not more, constantly being with them, talking, and then going through the journey of life ending essentially, in the multiple moments were it nearly does and they live for another year or it nearly does, and then they do. And suddenly, oh, it’s happened.
And I think seeing death at that age of kind of you know… I was 14 when he was diagnosed. So between 14 to 18 it’s a pretty crucial development time I think for a young guy.
So to have death around that was a really important thing for me. Because it has changed my perspective, you konw? And that’s led to good things and bad things.
And there can be a sense of, “Well fuck it, it’s all short, so let’s go for it.”
Which can go too far. And then it can also be really humbling. Moments where you just have a natural sense of appreciation. It’s hard to ignore because you’ve witnessed the reality of life. Which is birth and death and the space between.
So that was probably the biggest crossroads in my life.
I think I was already a pretty open, spiritual person, but I think seeing the actual reality of the soul living at its vessel is… for anyone at any age… A very close family member of mine just experienced it recently for the first time in her 60s and was saying how it’s changed her entire perspective about life’s longitude.
So I feel grateful that I experienced that at the age I did, I think. Because it has been a guiding force.
And then I actually think I’m in the middle of one now, as probably another crossroads. I think I’ve gone through a point of having a lot of success as a young man in my career. And then I definitely had a lot of personal time the last few years to figure out myself.
After Fallen I went into the world of, you know, I want to actually be myself for a bit. My own age. And not be Harrison who’s always away chasing this really wonderful out-of-reach at times dream.
But it was quite brave to kind of step back from that and go, no I want to actually be a human being with my friends and live my early 20s and not hit 30 and have some weird childlike reaction to responsibility and go, “I just want to go party.” When all my friends are getting married.
So I feel like I’ve come out of that now. And now I’m really in love with my partner. And the idea of going to New York and London just feels exciting and different. It doesn’t feel like traveling again. Or I don’t feel as fearful as I have in the past.
Because I think I’ve gone through a massive transition now that is leading to a new exciting point in my career and as a human.
So yeah, I think I’m in the middle of a transition. Which is a good feeling.
Rick: So being in the middle of a transition right now, what do you focus on? Because in the transition times, there’s a lot of unknown in the transition times. Sounds like you’ve come through like kind of a period of a lot of unknown and stepping into a period where it’s now coming back in focus what you’re moving towards.
What’s the motivation? What drives you with acting and your career?
Harrison: I think from young age I’ve always wanted tell stories. I’ve always been a storyteller.
We think we’ve got footage of my first story when I’m two years old and I’m walking around the backyard. I’m talking about witches, but I’m clearly in my own movie in my head. I’m not interacting with anyone but myself. And loving it.
So that’s always lived in me. But also I’ve always had a deep consciousness for society and for people. I was raised by a mother and a father who, when I first saw bullying at school they told me to go talk to the bully as well as the kid who was being made fun of. Because that kid’s probably just as sad as the other one.
So I feel like I’ve had a deep empathy, and curiosity about humans for a long time. You know there is no difference. We’re all the same thing. We just have different experiences that lead us to how we are.
And so the opportunity to portray that and to become that person is such a cool experience selfishly in that you get to kind of understand what it’s like to have a different mentality all the time, as close as you can.
But also to give it, you know? To go do a performance and have an audience member come up to you and say, “Oh man, that character, the relationship you had with your mother in that film is just like me and my Mum, ya know I used to help her clean…”
And you know that’s a really wonderful experience about acting, when you really believe in the craft of acting. Which is a really hard artistry to put into tangible terms. Because a lot of people it’s just you rock up and say lines and hit your mark and you get to go to fancy parties.
And then for other people it’s really about I guess sharing souls and putting your feet in other shoes. And trying to make a social impact if you can.
So that’s what I want to get back to.
Rick: Cool. How do you prepare for a role and how has that changed since you started as a boy?
Harrison: Well I think part of the transition I’m going through now, and what I’ve come out of the last few years, is that I think I also had to find my own version by trying different versions.
Because I haven’t studied acting. And I had a lot of support for my father and my mother and learned a lot on the set. But I was always seeing other people doing it.
And I think part of the choices I made in the last few years have also been… like it’s weird when you go through a transition and you realize that nothing’s changed at all. You’ve just changed elements, and then you’ve left those elements to continue the same thing almost.
But you’ve just had to go on a different path to get back to the same path. You know what I mean?
So I feel like with acting you know I’ve definitely… I tried the method thing with a couple of roles was and starved myself, and you know, really try to get into it, and I learned from that. And some of the work was really cool.
And other work I just look really tired because I’m really hungry.
And I wanted understand a dark sense of artistry I reckon. Because I’ve had such a wonderful life and wonderful career.
I think acting-wise the last few jobs I’ve wanted to have a more visceral experience. So emotionally and physically to really become a character and to kind of get a bit dirty with the character, which I’m really grateful I’ve done now.
Because I’ve done that I can take elements that are healthy from it I think. That do give a certain level of integrity that’s really interesting when you access it that way. But I think you can do it without draining too much energy from yourself. So I’m glad I’ve learnt that
Rick: If you could go back… so you’re only 24 now. Let’s say if you could go back five years. I usually ask people if you go back 10 years, but that’s like you know a really really young age.
So if you could go back five years and talk to your 19 year old self and give him some advice, either personal or professional advice, what would you tell yourself?
Harrison: Um… I’d say I think you’re on the right track, but there’s some bumps you might not need to have gone… no… actually I’d say keep doing the same thing.
I think everything’s perfect. I don’t know. I think if you said there’s some things that you could not have done, or some bumps you could have avoided, or some choices you could have been more clear with, then I wouldn’t be here where I am right now. I’m really happy with the way I am right now.
So I think I’d say just keep pursuing things with the idea of love and exploration, and eyes and ears open, and enjoy it.
Rick: Yeah. When we were at the retreat I remember asking you about what your experience was, as you’re on this path, pursuing your acting career from a young age…. I can’t remember what exactly I asked you, but you responded, you said that you kind of had this sense…
I said does it feel like it’s out of reach? Or are you just confident that it’s always been happening for you, and it’s still gonna happen?
And you said something like I have always just kind of had this sense that it’s going to work out. Or a sense that this is what I’m here to do. Something like that.
Can you tell me a little bit more about that?
Harrison: Well, I think maybe that’s what I meant before when I was saying the funny thing about transitions is that the goal never changes.
You just realized you’ve had the exact same pattern of thought, but you’ve just gone about it in a different way than you have before. And then you transition back, and then there’s another path going. But yeah, I mean I still, I feel steadfast. And I hope so much I’m not wrong.
But I’ve never been too worried about that aspect.
You know, even as you get older and finances become more of a thing. I’ve always felt a great confidence. It almost feels weird to say a GREAT confidence. That sounds like a powerful, strong, like you know, hairy thing.
But almost like a calm confidence. There’s just a smoothness that I just know… I feel like I’m doing the right thing, from a young age. And I feel like it is going to lead somewhere. And I don’t know where that somewhere will be I just don’t feel like it’s going to have a big bad ending somehow.
I just don’t feel like I’m doing the wrong thing. I never have.
My head’s a funny little thing. And there’s so many things that I freak out about. I step in and I pull out and I hesitate. But acting’s just always been smooth in my brain.
I just know it’s coming. It always felt like a matter of when, not if.
God I hope I’m not wrong.
Rick: So, you’re lucky to have… in my opinion you’re lucky because even though there’s so much unknown. Of how this path could unfold for you. And it’s a crazy world. And there’s so many people going for it and everything. But you know what it is and you’ve known from a young age.
And what I’ve seen from working with people on the VisionQuest… A lot of people don’t know what that thing is for them. Or they have that desire, but it’s buried beneath so much fear and fearful beliefs that they can’t even admit it to themselves.
So that’s why they come, you know? And I help them uncover that.
But man, your path is so unique because from when you were a boy you’ve you’ve been on it, you know? Do people sometimes come to you or do you attract people who are looking for that thing? And you’re able to encourage them?
Or I guess my question is, who do you find comes to you that you have an impact on in their life? And what do they get from being around you or relating to you?
Harrison: Um, I don’t know. I guess that would be in their head, not mine. The impact, or if there is an impact. I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about it too much like that.
But I suppose when I am out I meet a lot of people who say, you know, I’ve thought about getting into acting, or I’d like to, you know, what would be your recommendation? Or how did you go about it?
And it’s tricky because I think I have had such a unique process in getting where I am now. In that when someone else says, what would you recommend, I’d say well I’d probably recommend, if you’re 20 odd now is to try and get into one of the schools in Australia. And try and get an agent in Melbourne or Sydney. And then get some work in Australia. And then go overseas.
But it’s hard because for me I got an agent because I got a film in Adelaide, which isn’t the biggest place in the world, it just happened to be casting. So they were shooting here. A role of a little brother.
And then I got a manager in Melbourne, which helped me because there’s more opportunity there in Melbourne and Sydney for film work. And then the first film I got in Australia was an American based film shooting in Australia, which hardly happened. I think it may have been one of the first times it had happened, at least in that recent time, where a big American actress was in it.
So it meant that I kind of had an immediate entry point to the U.S. market because I’d just done a film with an Academy Award winner. And you know there’s been so much fortune in the way things have gone. Little elements that are just, you know, a really lovely little fruit here now.
Rick: You’re like, “follow your fortune.” Haha…
Harrison: Haha… Yeah, but I know that’s not for everyone. I’ve also met so many people that it’s been a really hard slog, who are way more successful, and are really enjoying it, but they have to really fight and work hard.
And so there’s I guess a level of subjectivity to the way it’s been for me.
But yeah, I think the main thing is just you gotta do what you love. And I think the question that people get confused about is like, I’m doing this thing financially, but I really want to do what I love. And everyone does want to do that.
But you can still — and this is hard to say because I am doing what love and I’m doing it financially — but I think the main thing is if you love something you should just do it. And if it’s not going to be your financial avenue you can still go to an amateur theater and be in the musical once a month, and you just get that break from your work, where you love to sing, and you can do some Hello Dolly and have really good time.
Or you know if you love playing the guitar, but you’re not at the level or you’re at the age where you can really just join a band anymore or whatever, then just go home and play the guitar for an hour.
I think it’s this idea that finance means happiness. So if something you love has the finance with it, then you’ll be super happy. But I mean I know for a fact that a lot of the people I’ve worked with who are doing what they love and are financially good aren’t happy. Like I don’t think that’s what brings happiness.
It’s about just loving what you’re doing or loving your life or loving an element. But I know there’s so many people who are way more unhappy doing what you’d think would make them happy.
And that you’ve got to be appreciative of what’s going on. You’ve got to be having your own outlet, or you know even if you’re acting, you love acting…
That’s like writing and directing and painting, because I enjoy those, because they’re not financial. But I can go and explore another side of myself in them.
So I think the main thing is just being appreciative, isn’t it?
And you know following where you’re at in your journey and what sort of signposts are popping up for you.
Rick: What has been one of the most fulfilling moments of your life? Could be personal or professional.
Harrison: Well recently, I’ve become an uncle about seven months ago, and that’s been really cool. There’s something about seeing a little baby that has your blood or has resemblance to.. you know my sister, he looks just like my sister as a kid. So therefore there’s a similarity in the way that my sister and I look as well.
Having that little guy around just brings… I don’t know. I mean you’d know it as a father, it must be 10 times the feeling, but there’s just immediate bizarre sense of protection and reciprocation and like wanting to learn from them, and you can see how important you are to them as well.
That’s been probably the most recently life altering beautiful thing.
Rick: Yeah, it’s amazing. I like to say you can’t fuck with birth and death. And those are the two things that you’ve brought up that have been two of the most impactful things in your life.
Harrison: Maybe it’s just because they are the only things that really matter. All this other stuff, it’s just about enjoying life. That space in between. And making the most for yourself.
But that is the reality, isn’t it? There is birth and there is death. That’s the only two things we know for sure. Everything in between is just our enjoyment of whatever this fucken is.
Rick: And that those two things… you don’t control them, you know? Like all you can do is completely trust and surrender. Both of those processes. Like when a little soul, when it’s time for that little soul to come into this world, you can’t stop it. And all you can do is trust it, you know?
And look at that, like you wonder, what is this kid gonna bring into this world?Who’s this boy or girl going to become?
And then the other side of it too is just as miraculous. Like that soul or that consciousness has come in. They’ve lived their life. And now they’re on their own time, you know?
Harrison: To whatever is next, or is not next, or whatever has been. Yeah, I think it’s that fear as well. Like the in-between. The choice of do you fear that, you know?
What’s this kid’s life going to be what’s going to happen or do you just trust? Fear and trust are the two things in between I think, the two pathways you get to choose. You’re either a fearful person or a trustful person. As you’re in between those two stages.
Rick: Ya. That reminds me, you know the VisionQuest process has been a co-creation with my participants and the people who have done it and it’s been improved and refined through the conversations that I have with people on retreat and the people that I coach and stuff.
And you said a phrase that has — I think it was in an email you sent me — that’s become part of the core material.
Harrison: Oh, tell me.
Rick: You said something like — this was maybe a year after you came on the retreat — you said there have been some moments when I slipped back into the fear, but then I remember to just sit and breathe and watch the trees and watch the birds, and I know that everything is fine.
I guess the reason that that made an impact on me, and that I remember it, is just kind of putting a name on the fear. And when I write it, like when you sent it to me, I think it was not capitalized.
But then when I use that phrase “The Fear” I capitalized the T and the F. Like it’s just this thing that’s not personal. It’s like if you’re a human being at this time in the world, The Fear is going to kind of mess with you. And it’s nothing personal. Like it doesn’t have anything really to do with you.
It’s just being a human right now on the Earth, that there’s The Fear. I think there was there was something in that that impacted me. And you just mentioned it again, the fear or the trust. What is that? How do you relate to that concept of the fear?
Harrison: I think it’s just, it’s to do with the way that we’re governed, isn’t it? Do you choose to kind of govern yourself, which brings fear? Like government in its actual form brings fear, because we’re trying to control and you’re trying to create and persuade things to go your way. Or to go, if it’s actual government, to go your country’s way.
That produces fear and anger and vulnerability and all these words that I think fall under that fear.
Or there’s being trustful, which is that, you know, this idea we’re talking about. About the two books stops of being born and dying. We don’t really get a say. I mean I could hang up from this thing and get hit by a car, or I could live till I’m 110 years old and see Trump fuck the whole world up.
You know like it’s… we don’t know what’s going to happen. But if you sit there in fear you miss out on what you can do to fight against what you fear, I guess. If you’re living in the fear you can’t see the option to do anything about it. Or to actually make the stance for what would make you feel more trusting in the world.
So I think the fear is the cloud that we have to kind of get through in order to find the trust. But without the fear you can’t know what the trust is and what you want is.
I just think being a guy who can lean towards anxiety and a bit of a depressive state somtimes, fear is something I’ve become very aware of, especially in the last few years. But that is what governs it. You know, the reason you go skydiving, and you tell someone about it, and they go, oh I wouldn’t jump out of a plane at 1,500 feet.
That’s fearful to them. But then they would do something to you where you’rel ike, oh that’s fearful to me. So fear’s like relative and subjective I feel. But trust is something we can all have, societally and personally. And if you have that then, kind of like when they say if you get hit by a car and you let your body go limp, you have more of a chance of surviving because your body will look after itself.
Rick: Laughing… You’re flying through the air, and you’re like, just breathe, just ragdoll it.
Harrison: Laughing… Ya just breathe, man. It’s perfect. I trusted this would happen.
But really the physical sense of that. I remember someone telling me that if you fall off a skateboard, and you kind of go like this, you’re more likely to break or fracture or something.
But if you fall — and you see the professional skateboarders just kind of like land on their ass and glide — you’re less likely to hurt yourself because you have that kind of trust and that calm.
I don’t know. It’s a hard thing to talk about, fear. I don’t really know if that was a clear answer or not.
Rick: Well, I think it’s just good to talk about. Because sometimes you’re in the fear. Like someone could be listening to this and be like, oh I’ve never really thought about that before. There’s just The Fear or the trust. Or the love.
So sometimes just to say, you know what, I’m in The Fear right now. And it really has nothing to do with the reality of what’s happening. Like I’m okay. I’ve got I’ve got food. I’ve got air. I’ve got water. I’ve got shelter. I’ve got more than everything that I need.
And so to just say, hey this is just a viewpoint right now. It’s just a passing cloud. A mental state. You know that’s… you’re gonna be in it sometimes. So sometimes just to have a label to put on it can be helpful.
Harrison: I think yeah. When I was a little boy my Mum used to say to me about “the committee” when I was in bed. Which is the same thing of labeling thoughts. I’ve a really rushy brain. And she said, well it’s just your committee is having an argument.
So like try and imagine six characters that are the six sides of your personality, and that they’re all around a big table having an argument about something. But remember you’re the overhead so you can say, guy’s I don’t want to have this argument anymore. You gotta be quiet.
But these sort of things, I think having a picturalization of the sensation. As you just said, the fear. You know like having it as this kind of thing that lives inside all of us, that rears its ugly head once in a while. Once you have an image, you can get to know that image, and you can picturalize hanging out with the fear and going, you’re such an ugly motherfucker, but hey you’re not the worst thing in the world, because you’re also teaching me something.
And then you can kind of have a connection with your anxiety, with your depression, that’s a tangible thing. A physical thing. In your imagination. Rather than this thing that we’re running away from always. This cloud that judges us and makes your heart beat cold ice and all those sorts of things.
You can kind of understand that it is part of you. Like it’s something that is good for you, to be fearful. And it’s good to be anxious. Because it teaches you what you really want.
It’s only if you’re running away from it that it actually causes the deepest pains and the mistakes, essentially. Or regrets. I think.
Rick: What do you think has been one of or the most fulfilling role that you ever have ever done? For any reason. What really filled up your soul?
Harrison: Um… I think recently performing in “Picnic at Hanging Rock” really was fulfilling, because it was such a lovely character. And I can’t say much about it because it hasn’t come out yet. But just a really really beautiful person to play. And a confused person. And you know speaking of what we just were, someone who’s affected by the fear massively.
And so when you get to play a character that goes through a journey around a particular sensation… you can find an element of yourself that seemed a lot closer to access, because there’s more of a significant sensability almost going on in their life that you can go, oh I actually know this very well. But in a different way to how that character knows it.
And that brings back the thought of everyone kind of being connected and the same. It’s just with these different journeys. But the sensation is the same. I was going to say before when we were talking about the fear, and you know how it’s not relevant to this, it’s relevant to what you’re experiencing.
It’s like I’m sure there’s some person out there right now who really loves to sing, but can’t sing in the professional way they might want to. But they go to a karaoke bar, and they sit there, and they walk away, and they feel stupid about it. And like no one was even listening or whatever. And they’re living in that fear.
But that’s in… you know World War II when all the bombs were going off and all these things that were happening around, there was still that person. Or Medieval Time you had to go off down a road and empty the sewage or whatever, who was just there singing along and going, oh well no one’s going to listen to me, I never get to play in the Queen’s court.
You know, none of these things change ever.
Rick: Yeah, just the clothes and the backdrop.
Harrison: But those sensations are just… I think they are there. I think they’re guidelines for becoming who you’re meant to be. The guidelines don’t change. It’s just the circumstantial physicalities around us. You know the trees look the same.
It’s just the way the fences are built and the way the coffee cups look and the way we wear your favorite football team’s hat. And nothing else really changes.
Rick: Yeah. One of the reasons I like doing these interviews is because I guess it’s sort of like a marker in time.
And you, as a young man, and me, as an almost still young man, there’s gonna be a time, universe willing, that we are old and gray and can get on YouTube or whatever the next version is and watch this interview, you know? And just look back in wonder at how these really are the years. I mean this is kind of like the golden age of our lives or whatever.
It’s going to continue for decades and decades. I don’t think it’ll really end for either of us until we stop breathing, because we’re both doing what we love to do. We are endeavoring to live our lives with purpose and touch people exactly the way that we were put on Earth to do. So I don’t think that’s going to stop until we stop breathing.
But to like look back and remember where we were at, each of us in our careers and our personal lives and our families and our love life. Everything.
And I don’t know… I can get teary thinking about that.
Or our kids. Looking back and watching with our kids. And they’re like, “Oh my god, Dad! You were a baby! You look so young!”
Even me at 41 years old. My kids in 10 or 20 years are gonna be like, “Dad, you still had a little bit of hair! Look at you, you look so young!”
And I’m sure you can appreciate thoughts like that, with how you love stories, and contemplating birth and death.
If you have kids someday, and they’re watching this right now, and they’re not even a glimmer in your eye yet, what would you want to say to them about their lives? Or anything?
Harrison: Oh, just that I love you, and I hope you’re loving yourself and doing what you love. And I hope you’re being good. I hope you are in the pursuit of the common good. That’s it. That’s how I hope I raised you. That you’re pursuing the common good. And that you’re being good.
Laughing… Good, good, good.
Rick: Beautiful. I heard “good” and I heard “love” a lot of times. I love it. That’s good.
Okay, let me look at my list here.
Harrison: Wait, what would you say? What do you want to say?
Rick: Let’s see… to my kids? Yeah… man… I would say… I would say follow your heart no matter what.
Rick: Yeah, and they do that with how we’re raising them. Their Mom and I really try to interfere in their lives as little as possible. Let them make as many decisions as possible. And you know sometimes we step in and limit certain things or direct certain things. But for the most part they have tons of freedom.
My son, he just turned eight… it’s a little bit too hard to tell the level of self-responsibility, you know? He’s still such a little guy.
But my daughter at 13 years old has a sense of self-responsibility that I don’t know if I even have that now. At 41 years old.
And they’re both so full of life. And so confident in their own way. And their will is so strong. So I think they’re at another level from — you know, I have amazing parents — but I think it’s just an evolution of kids coming into the world now and the parents growing up with a certain open-mindedness.
So yeah, it’ll be exciting to see. My point is that I think that they will have that deeply deeply. I think we all have it, but they just won’t have lost it. That sense of follow your heart. Do what you love.
And my version of that sense of do the common good, you know, do what’s good for people… that just happens when you fulfill your purpose. Our purpose is the unique way that we’re here to uplift and empower other people.
My wish is that they learn that lesson early on. Just how good it feels to be of service to people and fulfill that purpose and their unique way.
And they’re probably both… even Jaya’s a bit young for that I would say right now. I mean, she’s tons of help she’s amazing. She’s got two little baby siblings and everything, so she gives a ton
But yeah, that’s my wish. That’s my wish for my kids. They experience that sense of fulfillment from serving and fulfilling their purpose.
Harrison: Yeah, I think it’s a pretty good point. I like that.
Rick: What do you love outside of acting?
Harrison: Um… Nothing good. Laughing!
Rick: And good lovin’. And talkin’ to Rick.
Harrison: I don’t know. I feel like there’s a point where it’s pretty hard to answer things like that. I don’t have a specific answer.
Because there’s things that I love. I love taking pictures. I love listening to music. I love watching films. I love kicking a football even though I was never good at it. I like to surf but I’m not the best surfer. I like to swim.
There are things that I could say that are more simple.
But I feel like I’ve crossed the point or at least feel like I had crossed the point where I just love whatever comes each day.
I was talking to my folks the other day, I was having a bit of a lie in, which I can do a lot, where I lie in bed. Sometimes I’m not actually sleep. Sometimes I just like waking up, and I’ve nothing to do that today because the nature of my work. I can sit there and stare at the ceiling and just think. You know like thinking. I really enjoy thinking.
So I like that. And then there are things I like that aren’t good for me, but you know you balance those things out. Some things I REALLY like.
But it’s just going on the journey I think. I don’t know. I think life’s amazing. Definitely I can get down about life, and as we said, the fear can get in the way and that can take a hold of you.
But even now I’ve sort of learned to love all those aspects of what make us human, outside of what we do. You know the question being outside of acting.
So I think I just like existing.
Rick: Beautiful. How can people follow you or stay up to date with what you’re up to?
Harrison: Well, I’ve only really got Instagram as the only social media that I that I use. Which is sloan_gilbertson. Which is my middle name. Because my Mum kept her name when she got married, but didn’t want to have a hyphenated thing. So my sister and I both have Sloan, her maiden name. As our middle names.
And then because I want to honor that side of my family too, because my screen name is made my given name, which is Harrison Gilbertson. Because Harrison Sloan Gilbertson would look like that on film screen.
So sloan_gilbertson, which is the Instagram name, is because I’ve got this idea now of setting up a kind of co-op in the future with other photographers and writers and philanthropists, that would be Sloan Gilbertson. Which will be in honor of my Mum and my Dad. It’s kind of like a cooperative art space and giving space. So that’s in the early early days.
But that’s what I’m using right now. Because some of these films like Fallen, I’m grabbing all those lovely people that follow me and give me good love. And I’m sorry I don’t always write back because I’m just not really good at contacting people I haven’t met before. it makes me feel funny. Laughing.
But I appreciate it, and I like… I never know what to say. And so I just say I love you and thank you.
I’m starting there. And that’s the plan to keep going.
But you know, keep an eye out. And maybe follow Rick and then Rick will keep posting about it, and then you’ll know when I’ve got a film coming out.
Rick: Man, I LOVE sharing it when you have a new film coming out or a bit of work coming out. It’s makes me very proud and very happy to share with our community.
Harrison: I appreciate it. That two weeks that we had with you were life-changing. For sure. So I really appreciated, man. It’s definitely a part of the mentality, and I believe the practical side, of what’s come since. as well as the emotional spiritual side. So thank you.
Rick: Yeah, my pleasure. Is there anything else that you’d like to say? Anything at all?
Harrison: Just thank you again, man. I’m just really grateful that I got to have this experience with you all those years ago. It was 2013 right?
Rick: I think 13. Five years ago.
Harrison: Crazy. Yeah.
But I’m just so grateful. You know we learned so much. And it brought my Dad and I closer.
There are still moments where I’ll have an experience from the day that’s very very beautiful, and it will be the sensation I connect to waking up with you and Dad and Lija in Bali in those two weeks. Those moments of watching the sun rise or set.
And just the quiet calm you can allow yourself. Just to be in a place. Or when you are feeling the fear, or upset… I remember talking to you about some of my anxieties when we were there, and you put on Aloha Ke Akua by Nahko. And I sat there in the hammock listening to this song that just entirely transcribed my thoughts.
And often my thoughts and my deepest anxieties and pains come from what he talks about in that song predominately.
And you know these sort of moments of just allowing yourself to be cool with that. And to relax with that. And not let it be overbearing or stressful. But that it’s okay.
And to see yourself being someone who experienced the fear massively as a young man, who lived through leukemia, and I think someone like yourself can teach you these wonderful things.
But it doesn’t come from just an open lovely person who hasn’t really experienced anything tough or damaging. To know that you’ve talked to us and we were learning from someone who has experienced that other side of life is the biggest gift. Because you know it’s coming from absolute pure pure connection. Not from just reading The Alchemist a couple of times.
But thank you.
Rick: Yeah, yeah, thank you so much. So much magic happened that week.
We were drinking a lot that week to, at night. We had some good dance parties. That was funny.
You know pretty much on the retreats the last few years most people don’t drink at all. And I look back on those first couple years of retreats, when it was really just… I didn’t really have an opinion on it one way or another.
And I would always just join in because I kind of just make the space and let you guys fill it. And guide this journey, trusting that whatever happens is exactly what’s supposed to be happening.
But it’s funny because yours was quite a party retreat. And it was so fun. I remember us never waking up with hangovers. Going to surf in the morning. Your dad throwing up from surfing.
Harrison: That was so funny. I remember going to that… when we jumped over that fence from Single Fin, where it was some fancy hotel with all these tourist people. And dad was… haha… there were all these young girls and guys running around very scantily dressed.
And I was, “Whoa!” And Dad was there kind of, “I don’t know where to look.” Remember?
Rick: Yeah, yeah, haha…
You know , your relationship with your Dad made an impact on me too. That’s the kind of relationship I want to have with my boy, and and my girl. It’s something I’ve mentioned a lot of times: this amazing young guy brings his Dad on a retreat as a thank you for all he’s given you, and how he’s supported you in your career and your life.
And it’s just so touching and so inspiring. So yeah, it was a real privilege just to see you guys and help you guys get even closer. And have some fun together.
Harrison: Yeah, well we always talk about it. And as you know I want to do it again soon. It’s just trying figure it out with schedules because he’s busy, I’m busy.
But that week will never ever ever lose its power, I think for both of us.
Rick: Cool, well thank you so much Harrison for making the time. And we’ll have another one of these sometime, maybe you’ll be in New York.
Rick: I wish you luck. Actually just one more question: why New York?
Harrison: I think it just suits my personality more. And as we were talking about, you know, trying to fight through things that don’t work for you… there’s elements of Los Angeles I can really enjoy. It’s the hub of what I do in the film industry. But it’s a city that I just don’t jam with. And I’ve tried and I’ve tried I’ve tried. But it just doesn’t suit me all that well.
And I know I need to be in America, and I really like New York, so I went, well, fuck it. I’ll just go to New York then. I’m still pursuing my goal. I’m still close to that hub. There’s a lot of people that fly out of New York to go to LA.
And why live anywhere unless you’re happy there? So hopefully I’ll be happy in New York. I think I will be. I think it’s definitely my bag.
Rick: Yeah. I think it’s super exciting. New York is fucking awesome. And I hadn’t spent much time there until my parents recently moved from California to Virginia. So now when I go and take the kids to hang out with my parents, the last two years we’ve stopped through New York on the way.
So um, it’s funny how that works out. I’m spending more time in New York, and Hawaii these days, since they moved to Virginia. So I look forward to catching up with you over there in the next year or two.
Harrison: Absolutely, man. Just you let me know when you’re there. I would love nothing more than to get a dinner with you guys.
Rick: All right, all right, cool. Thanks, Harrison. And have a great day and I look forward to seeing what comes next for you.
Harrison: Thank you my brother.
Rick: Okay, I love ya!
Harrison: Bye mate!
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