An Interview with Pip Andersen: Titled ‘Stay Humble’
Tracey Duke Interviews Pip Andersen
At just 26 and with a film & free running career already in the bag, Pip Andersen is back home, in the South West, after a year long stint in L.A.
Set to become one of the region’s most sought after photographers, we talk integrity, rejection and the future, with a man who literally stared death in the face, for a living.
Make no mistake, despite film credits on Star Wars and a reputation as one of the most fearless free runners, in the industry, Pip Andersen has his feet firmly on the ground. When we met, in Coffee #1, on Wellington’s high street, I found him to be relaxed, confident and genuinely buzzing for the next stage of his career.
So tell me Pip, you’re fresh back from a film career in L.A; stepping straight into your next role, as a photographer. What is it that draws you to the camera?
In short I just love it! I love how it gives you the chance to capture something in a person that, without that tiny moment in time having been preserved, you may not otherwise have noticed.
I’ve had the benefit of many years working in the film industry; I’ve spent a lot of time with some amazingly well experienced camera guys and photographers.
I’ve also had quite a bit of time, between jobs, when I would work with the camera; just experimenting really. I realised, pretty quickly, that I loved it and I was getting some good stuff down.
I’m really enjoying pursuing a career where the focus is no longer on myself, but rather on whoever is in front of my lens; hopefully capturing an image they like and they can feel good about.
Photography is absolutely where I see myself & my plan is to establish myself as a photographer. I’ve begun to promote myself via Instagram and Facebook and I’ve also got the new website up and running now.
You mentioned spending periods of time between jobs. That uncertainty, as an actor, must have been tough for you.
To be honest it’s all I’ve ever known. As both a free runner and an actor, you are working as a freelance; there’s always an element of uncertainty. I think the hardest thing for any actor, is learning to deal with rejection. It’s hard for anyone to be constantly judged. It’s tough when you have several job interviews, each month and you’re constantly hearing that you just needed to be taller/shorter/thinner/younger.
The whole process of securing that role, is really tough. The most enjoyable part is, of course, once you’re on set; which is this tiny bit at the top of the ladder and which you rarely get to. Yes, I got there a few times but, even if you get a job, especially at the beginning of your career, there is no guarantee that will continue.
So much of the industry is outside of your control. That’s tough for someone like myself who comes from a free running background where I need to be 100% in control of every element.
That sounds really harsh. Did you ever get to the point where you were able to brush off the rejections?
I learnt to toughen up. You literally have no choice but to do that. If anything though, it’ll stand me in good stead for the future. Rejections are part and parcel of life; I’ve learnt that they help you to grow as a person.
And what about the decision to come home? When did you make that?
To be an actor you have to really love what you do; it’s a lot of hard graft for, often, not a lot in return. I did really, really love it! Perhaps too much. Perhaps to the point where my love for it and desire to succeed was almost blinding me to what was really important to me.
I’m a Christian and my faith is very important to me. After a while, I came to a point in my life and career where I felt really confronted with the reality that my actions and choices were not lining up with the beliefs I had.
One example would be trying to determine just how far I would go, in order to secure that big role. When you want something so much and work so hard for it there’s always the danger, that when someone offers you a role that you’re not happy with, you’ll take it. You never plan to do that, but if you’re three years down the line and not working and then someone goes ‘Oh we’ll give you £16,000 an episode but there is nudity and there are sex scenes’, all of a sudden, that choice to stand by your values, becomes a lot more difficult. That’s partly because you need the money, but there’s also the pull of thinking ‘well if I do that then it might open a door and I might get a job that I do want’.
I didn’t, and don’t ever, want to say yes to something that is going to cost me my integrity and compromise my beliefs.
So after feeling so confronted, and humbled, by this, there was really no other option but to walk away from acting. It was not something I ever expected to do but, it is, without a doubt, one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It felt so freeing to step out of that career in order to remain true to my beliefs.
I had been doing a lot of photography shoots for friends and it just became clear, at that point, that this was the next step for me. Unfortunately, my US visa didn’t permit me to earn an income from photography so that, in turn, meant making the move back to the UK.
The day after I made the decision to stop, I rang my agents and told them. Ironically, the day after that, the roles started coming in!
Oh how typical! Did you see that as a test of your decision?
For sure! It was like ‘Well, will you stand by your word? Are you going to be a hypocrite now?’
Don’t get me wrong, we’d just set our lives up there; it wasn’t an easy decision to go home. At end of the day, though, I’m really glad that I stood by my values. If dropping acting helped reinforce that, then great.
So what would you say is the biggest lesson you’ve come back from L.A with?
It’s probably humility. It was hugely humbling to be willing to accept the mistakes I was making and to admit to myself, as much as anyone else, that I wasn’t living true to my beliefs.
I’m not trying to get to a point where people look up to me. Being idolised is what I don’t want. If it’s something that happens, because of what I’m doing, then fair enough. I’m certainly not going out of my way to become famous, or for people to think that I’m better than them.
But there’s a big difference between being idolised and inspiring someone.
Of course. You can be humble and inspire people or you can become proud and be an idol. That understanding is probably the biggest thing that’s affected my life.
So what’s next for you personally Pip?
Well, I’m looking forward to becoming a Dad and to understanding what that means. My wife, Becky, is expecting our first son in August; I’m planning on being very hands on and being around as much as I can for them both.
Parenthood is a game changer, for sure, but there’s a month left before the baby arrives. Tell me, if you could master any skill between now and then, what would it be?
I think it would have to be the guitar; some kind of funky classical style. It would be amazing! If I had one superpower, it would definitely be the ability to copy a skill and to perfect a talent straight away, without having to practice and get the 10,000 hours in to master it.
You mastered free running though. You must have started at a pretty young age?
I was 14. I’d practice before school, after school, all through the weekends and the holidays; it was all I did. I remember getting to school every morning and being all hot n’ sweaty. I’d sit there all day, just waiting for the bell to ring and then I’d be back out there as soon as it went.
If you want to perfect anything, you have to get the hours in. But, unless you love what you’re doing, there’s literally no point. Life’s too short for that.
For a guy who’s not yet 30, you strike me as someone who’s very wise. Who’s been your biggest influencer?
My faith, as a Christian, is definitely the biggest influence in my life, along with my parents. Throughout my life, I’ve watched them pursue many different career paths; growing their own business and dealing with the successes and struggles that come with that. I’ve definitely been influenced by their fearlessness in taking risks with what is important to them.
Wise and values driven! Which do you hold closest?
Integrity. I hate hypocrites; it’s probably my least favourite thing in life. You know when someone’s like ‘yeah, yeah, yeah. We’ll help you out’ And then they don’t! That really bugs me!
Let me go deeper on that one. Asking for help, or accepting help, is a skill that many of us have yet to master. How do you feel about accepting help?
I’m ok with it. I guess that working on a set, where 200 people are all trying to make one shot look perfect, gets you, pretty quickly, over that fear. You have to be able to work well in a team. You have to be able to ask for help and delegate, otherwise the job just isn’t going to get done.
And what’s the hardest thing you’ve found about working in team?
I guess it’s that people, sometimes, aren’t great at their jobs and you want to do it better. I’m always looking at ways to do things better.
Problem solving has always been a massive thing for me; I love doing rubik cubes and big, 3000, piece puzzles that you actually have to really concentrate on. Sifting through 3000 pieces looking for something specific; I could do it for hours.
Anything that helps you look at a situation and think, ‘right, I need to do this, this and this’ is good. It’s like with the free running; I’m looking for every angle that could possibly go wrong and always making decisions about which area needs more focus.
That phase of my life was never going to last forever, but the skills and practices I learnt during those years, will.
Pip, it’s been amazing to meet you. Thank you so much for your time. Let’s wrap this up with a final question. If you could give your 40 year old self some advice, what would it be?
Pip Andersen is a Wellington based, freelance photographer, working across Devon & Somerset. We’re proud to have him as part of our freelance team here at Grow Exeter.