Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Happy 1,000 hits!!

You and me.  We've reached four digits. 

That's pretty freakin' cool.

I'll see you here tomorrow...

"Making It" One Mile at a Time

If something is important to you, you will find a way to make time for it. 
If it isn’t, you’ll find a way to make excuses.

This morning I did something to break out of a nasty little habit I’ve developed in the last 2… okay, 3 weeks.  I actually got my lazy butt out of bed to go for a run before work.  I’ve been giving myself excuse after excuse recently when it comes to working out: 

“I’m insanely busy with work all the time.  It’s just too hard to get a run in.”
“I ran a half marathon earlier this month, I’m in great shape.”
“I had commercial class until 11:30 last night, I deserve to sleep in.”
“I’ll wait until my Thanksgiving food baby subsides, then I won’t feel as sluggish.”
And the most honest of them all… “I just don’t want to right now.  My bed is too freaking comfy.”

But guess what?  All those excuses mean I’m not making any movement towards the fitness goals I’ve set for myself.  Nope, those excuses are actually moving me further away from those goals.  And because my chosen profession is directly tied to my image, it also means those excuses are moving me away from my career goals. 

Now, we’ll save the scathing entry about Hollywood (and the world’s) unrealistic expectations for beauty and perfection for a later day, but we have to acknowledge that image and physique are part of this job.  So making the time to work out is part of this job. 

So this morning, as I was about to hit snooze yet again, I decided I would get up and run one mile for my career.  Nothing big, just one mile.  Just ten minutes.  But it was one mile more than I ran yesterday when I planned to run 5.  One mile more than the morning before that when I planned to run 5.  And if I get up tomorrow and run one mile and do it every day this week, I’ll have run 7 miles more than I did last week.  And the week before that when I planned to run 20, but ran zero. 

I believe that’s the answer to being one of the lucky smart ones who actually “makes it” as a successful actor.  Everyone deals with the ups and downs of this grind.  Some days you’re so motivated, you can get up and run a marathon.  Some days you just feel like hitting the snooze button five times.  But from now on, every day I feel tired or frustrated or barely hanging on to this dream, I’m just going to “run” one mile.  Do one tiny thing for my career instead of nothing.  Send one postcard, attend one seminar, read one chapter in a book on technique, take five seconds to send one email to an industry contact to stay in touch…

I bet all those days of little one-milers will add up to quite a distance over the course of a year.  A distance that would have been zero.  Or even worse, like sliding back in the wrong direction.

I’d rather keep this career moving forward every day, even if it’s one mile at a time.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Christmas in July??

But wait... it's almost December in Los Angeles and yet... it's 85 degrees.  As a girl who grew up in winter temperatures that dipped into the negatives, I will never get used to twinkle lights in palm trees or "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" on the radio when I have the AC on because I broke a sweat hauling my groceries to the car.  Yesterday, while my parents were buried in snow back home, I was standing outside Starbucks staring at the snowman paintings in the window... I was in flip flops and a sun dress.

'Tis the season to be jolly!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Anonymous Improv Coach


Did your skin just crawl?  Did you shudder at the sound of that word? 

Well, get over it.  Right now.  Because improv training has rapidly become an absolute necessity in this business.  I had a callback this week for a project with an ensemble cast.  It was a chemistry read of sorts because the callback consisted of everyone auditioning at the same time by playing improv games together.  (That is... after everyone got up, one by one, and did their monologue in front of a room full of the competition.  Talk about psych-out!!)

But once we got to the games, some people were the improv equivalent of nails on the chalkboard.  They were just breaking improv rules left and right, making it impossible to keep a scene going with any direction.  I'll admit it, I'm not the world's most brilliant improv performer, but at least I know the basic rules and techniques.  If you and I are paired up, at minimum, I won't drag you down.  Which is exactly what happened at this audition.  

At one point there were two girls up -- one with improv training, one clearly without -- and I cringed when the girl without training just kept setting up road block after road block.  The poor actress who knew what she was doing was working double-time to try to make the scene work, which I'm sure the casting director could see as well.  But still, I was frustrated that we didn't get to see what the girl with training could really do because she was too busy cleaning up the mess the other girl was creating.  I'm sure it probably irked her as well.

You need to take at least one class on improv.  I know it's scary and you feel naked because you don't have words on a page, but this is a must.  Not only will it help you in auditions like this one, but it will help you with your scripted work as well.  Even commercial casting directors love to see it, in fact, some insist.  Also... your future audition partners will thank you instead of wishing for a parking ticket to be waiting for you when you leave the room.

But not all of you will take my advice.  So, in case you and I are ever paired up for an improv during an audition, I'm going to give you a quick run-down of the ground rules.  (But seriously.  Go take a class.  I don't want to have to write a blog about you blowing my callback someday.) 
  • Everything is "YES!"  -- Your scene partner says you're wearing a purple speedo in the middle of a court room.... your answer is always, always, ALWAYS, "YES!!"  If you defy what your scene partner has given you, you are blocking the scene and that's a big no-no.  Don't judge, just go with it and have fun justifying why you're in a court room in your purple speedo.  (You were taking synchronized swimming lessons and forgot about your child custody hearing??)
  • When the improv starts, you and your scene partner's very first responsibility is to label the who, what, and where with your first few lines:
    • Who are you?  What's your relationship to each other?  ("I'm so glad to be having a drink with my best friend from kindergarten...")
    • Where are you?  Be specific... not just the store, but you're in a comic book store, or a cowboy boot store.
    • What are you doing?  If you started a pantomime, you need to label what's in your hands (or your scene partner's).  If your scene partner labels something you're doing and it isn't what you originally intended.... let me hear it... YES, you accept it and act as if that's what you've been doing all along.  
  • Don't ask questions!!  Make statements.  Something that would call for a simple yes or no answer can be okay (ideally, later in the scene), but anything open-ended will kill your scene partner.  Your job is to tee-up interesting information for your scene partner so it's easy for them to react and run with it.  Instead of asking why he is here, tell him that you know he's here to steal your cracker jack prize.  He should immediately accept your offer, and somehow respond to justify what you said, "Yes, I have been following you all day.  I know the cracker jack ring is in your pocket and Mom told me I could have it."  (See how he also got more specific?  The cracker jack prize is now clearly a ring... oh, and maybe he's your brother??  Your turn to add more information...)  Are you getting the idea on how this works?
  • And finally, try not to eliminate your problem, kill your scene partner or die.  This one is a little more abstract, but don't send your scene partner out of the room, or leave yourself, because then you won't have a scene.  You need to make sure you're both there so the scene can keep going.  If your scene partner is crying, don't try to comfort them... it seems counterintuitive, but you should actually make them cry more.  In fact, be the reason they're crying.  If your scene partner is looking for their keys, don't find them!!  Start complaining about how they always lose their keys, which will lead to all sorts of improv arguing bliss.  
These are the basic rules.  Learn them.  Live them.  Be them.  

I'll see you out there...

Friday, November 25, 2011

Gobble Gobble

Happy Thanksgiving!!  I hope you were able to spend the day surrounded by your closest friends and family, eating great food and sharing lots of wine and laughter.

This is such a wonderful holiday.  In this fast-paced, success-hungry, new iPhone obsessed world, it is a day that slows everyone down and forces us to sit and give thanks for how lucky we are.  Because we are pretty stinkin' lucky.  

The other 364 days of the year, we're all complaining about what we don't have.  We're selfish, greener-grass-seeking, the-world-revolves-around-me children.  Nothing is ever enough -- not in our careers, not in our possessions, not in our relationships.  We're all striving for more and better... which is a very good thing to strive for, as long as you can remember how lucky you already are. 

Thanksgiving is a beautiful day that pops up once a year to remind us of what we should be doing every day throughout the year.  Be hustling after more and better, but be grateful for the amazing gifts you already have.  Don't lose sight of them as you focus on all the things you want in your future.  Don't forget that while you may be a starving artist, living on dreams and ramen noodles, you are already one lucky son-of-a-gun.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Notes From the Last Seven Days

  • Don't mess with women and their potluck dishes.  I had inadvertently selected the same dish another one of my girlfriends wanted to bring to our Turkey Day dinner... wowza!  I guess it's like wearing the same dress down the red carpet at the Oscars?  When that happens, I wonder if those actresses ever try to imply that the other did it on purpose...  (Seriously?!)
  • Karaoke in Koreatown is kind of creepy and entirely awesome at the same time.  Once you get past the fact that they don't have any country music and most of the other songs are listed in Korean, you'll have a blast!  Private room karaoke is the way to go.  Fact.
  • Football: A.) the greatest sport on the planet; B.) my favorite team is awesome and officially going into the post season and; C.) they say the Home Depot is where you meet men?  Ladies, since you won't find a Depot on Wilshire Blvd, might I suggest you go to a local bar and watch a college football game.  Trust me, sit down with a brewsky and cheer for a team (any team) and the puppies will come drooling.
  • Surprisingly, my short-term agent needs are actually being met.  You may recall from my little rant session that I'm not exactly in love with my current agent.  (If not, refresh your memory.)  But despite their less than impressive reputation... they got me out on my second commercial audition this week.  Keep 'em comin'! 
  • Over the last few days I've actually had two interviews and secured an offer for commercial representation from another (better) agency!  But I have a feeling I can get an even better one from a showcase I'm signed up for in a couple weeks.  I told these guys that I was really interested, but will be traveling for a couple weeks and need to follow through with a couple meetings I've arranged for when I get back.  Sure!  Just let them know what my decision is, they'll wait... um, I like that.  A lot.
  • If you learn one thing from me, let it be this: return your library books.  I forgot to return two that were sitting under a stack of papers since September.  I now owe the Los Angeles Public Library about $100.  I always wondered how they continued to stay funded...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Ones That Get Away

You will not get every role you want.  If you and your sanity intend to survive intact, that is part of the business you just have to learn to deal with.  I’m not talking about not getting every single role, that’s a given.  You quickly learn that you will not get most of the roles you audition for.  I’m not even talking about not getting a role that would be really good for your career, even though those are hard to lose too.  No, all of that quickly becomes somewhat routine.  It will just roll off your back because you’re auditioning for the next one in a couple days anyway. 

But every once in a while, a role will come along that you really really really really want.  Not because you haven’t booked in ages, or because it’s a good one for your career, but because you just want to play that role for the fun of it.  Like you picked up the script and the heavens opened up and golden rays fell upon your head while an invisible choir sang, à la Sword in the Stone.  The role you know you could knock out of the park if it were yours.  You may feel that the stars aligned, the character may as well have your name because it was written for you and you were born to play it.

…And you may have to watch someone else play that role.

A couple months ago, I came across a script for an indy short and I instantly fell in love with it.  Not only was it an incredible script with a very high production value, but the character just happened to be one I’ve always wanted to play.  Every ounce of my being wanted this role and knew I would be perfect for it.  I was so sure it was mine, I went home and spent hours playing with the script before I had even been invited to audition.

Guess the director didn’t think I was born to play it because I didn’t get it.  Bummer.  But I still loved the project, even if they didn’t see me as the lead.  So in an attempt to shake off the heartbreak and just move on, I signed up for the newsletter from the director so I could at least keep updated on the film’s progress and hopefully see a finished copy. 

I’m starting to slightly regret that decision... I got an email with photos of the first few days of shooting.  Photos of the other girl in what should have been my costume and location, stills of her reading what should have been my lines to my co-star.  That stings. 

But I do remind myself that it’s just part of the business and this one will most definitely not be the last like it.  I'm no genius, but I imagine it will only get more and more difficult as my career progresses and the stakes get higher and higher.  Someday we won’t be talking about an indy short, we’ll be talking about a Scorsese feature or a summer blockbuster.  You may want it like crazy, and you may have to watch some other name in the opening credits.

But the booking pendulum will swing my way just as many times as it doesn’t.  And for now, this feeds my fire to hustle after the next big one…

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Words to Live By

When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy.’ They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.
- John Lennon 

Friday, November 18, 2011

You Have One New Voicemail

I get out there and hustle after a lot of my own auditions.  Sure, I've had representation, or at least the guise thereof, for a few years now with what was more or less my first agency in Los Angeles.  Over those years, the auditions dwindled in quality and in number, until it basically amounted to a cattle call in a blue moon.  We'd settled into a pattern of having very little contact with each other and zero excitement in our partnership.  So last July, I did what these little boots were made for, I walked.  (On a side note, I'm actually pretty amazed that I was the one who did the walking, considering I had taken one of those years completely off from doing anything to move in the direction of becoming a professional actor -- a piece of information I did not share with my agent.)

Now I'm still working on assembling my dream team, but last month I signed with another rep house (for the short term) and they sent me out on my first audition this week (more on that later).  But one commercial audition is not exactly momentum in a career.  So I'll say it again... I get out there and hustle after a lot of my own auditions.  Without the assistance of an agent, I've managed to get myself seen for just over thirty projects since June, not counting those bizarros I passed on.  It's a lot of work, but that's why we're the ones keeping 90% of the pay for each booked job instead of making a 10% commission.

But when you're auditioning for your own projects as much as I do... every phone call from a number that isn't saved in your phone book will make your heart race.  I stare down at that caller ID and I wonder if it's the casting director I've been waiting to hear from on this project or that.  Then I do what every normal person does when they are expecting a really important phone call... I let it go to voicemail.

I turn the ringer off, careful not to hit "ignore," because we all know that's what happens when you're calling and get sent to voicemail after one ring.  I stare at my blackberry screen, waiting for that little red light to start flashing, proudly proclaiming I have a new message.  My fingers shake as I dial my voicemail.  Thoughts of whether I've just booked my first national commercial shoot through my brain at light speed as I enter my password.  My annoyingly pleasant voicemail lady reminds me to review the old message that will be deleted soon.  I anxiously listen long enough to hit resave.

You have one new voicemail.  Yes!!  I would like to listen to it!!  What kind of a stupid question is that?  I press one...

Have you ever noticed how looooong it takes for the voicemail to list the date and time the message was left when you are desperately hoping it's that message you've been waiting for?  It's excruciating.  It's torture.  It's worse than being stuck on the 405 freeway during rush hour after you've downed a gallon of water at lunch and made the fatal decision to "wait till you get home" to take care of business.  It is living hell.

Finally, the message starts.... "Hi, this is Jane.  Just reminding you of your dentist appointment tomorrow.  We'll see you at 2:00 pm!"

I kind of hate Jane right now.  Sometimes the universe has a twisted sense of humor.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Technology is Changing This Business

This industry is evolving every day. I'm not even going in for roles in major studio films yet, and I'm astounded at the ways technology has changed what we do. My agent doesn't even need hard copies of my headshots anymore because submissions are almost entirely online. I can even do them from my phone while I’m waiting in line for a latte. Discs with your demo reel are basically obsolete as now everyone just wants a link sent to them to view it on the web.

At one casting facility, you actually get to go home and watch your auditions. Yeah, the official read you gave the casting director because it's been uploaded to the website. It's an incredible learning tool, and a great way to keep your agent/manager/acting coach in the loop on exactly how you’re doing out there.

The casting directors can also leave comments on your auditions. Not all of them do, but it's so awesome to get even a smidgen of feedback when you're used to mum being the word unless you've earned a callback or booked. Here are my most recent audition comments:

"So good you were called back!"

"You did good, you had fun with the material. You have a good look for this too. We'll see what the director says."

"Well done splitting attention between your bear suit friend and the parents/son at the table. You looked like you were having fun, and that's what the character was supposed to be." (This one is quite funny now, being read out of context...)

And here's the feedback I got for the film audition I had this past Sunday:

"Great smile, Great tone, Hit the character emotions well, took direction greatly."

No offer for a callback yet... but I imagine that this is a good sign.

Monday, November 14, 2011

City of Angels

There are a few words that come to mind when the average person thinks about Los Angeles: traffic, crime, celebrities, smog and flakes.

The traffic isn't so bad once you learn the patterns and to avoid the freeways and major side streets during rush hour (or hours). You get used to it.

Crime? Well... lock your doors, try to steer clear of certain neighborhoods and don't walk down dark alleyways by yourself at night. You'll probably be okay.

You can pretty much avoid the smog if you stay out of the valley and the celebrities pretty much avoid you wherever you go, so there's no problem there.

But the flakes? They are unavoidable. They're absolutely everywhere. LA is full of a bunch of really seemingly nice people who make obscene amounts of unfulfilled promises. Mostly because no one knows who anyone is (or will be), so they'd rather just flake on "plans" instead of admitting that they really didn't want to go to begin with. When you first move here from Smalltown, America, it can be very confusing and sometimes painful to think you're talking to a real person, only to find out they were a classic LA flake.

But once you learn to differentiate the real from the flake, and here's what LA doesn't get a lot of press on, you'll find that there are some incredible people here. Smart, ambitious, fun-loving, warm and supportive people. Once you learn to weed through the fluff who look at your bag before they look in your eyes, you'll make some of the best buds you've ever had. I have a diverse circle of friends composed of some in the industry, some not, but they are an amazing group of people.

I got together with an actor friend a couple times over the weekend to help each other work on scenes for our upcoming auditions; mine for a film yesterday, his for a play today. And for the past two days, we've been exchanging break-a-leg texts like, "Here's to us both getting callbacks!!" Man, it feels good to have someone like that in your corner.

I've also been exchanging emails about the upcoming annual LA Family Thanksgiving Feast. Many of us are transplants and will be traveling home for the holidays to be with our biological families, but this group is so close, we plan a second holiday to overeat with our second family.

We may not have an adequate public transportation system, Botox may be an epidemic, and you
may will get reamed in parking costs wherever you go... but Los Angeles is an amazing city full of amazing people. God, it's good to be here.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Everything I Need to Know About My Acting Career I Learned by Running Marathons

I ran my first full marathon last year mostly just to cross it off my bucket list.  But as I started to train, I realized it was teaching me about my acting career in more ways than I ever expected:
  • Most people are content to stay at home or cheer from the sidelines, but you're actually out there doing it.  Be proud of that.
  • Don't kid yourself, this is really tough.
  • Reaching the finish line will be a lot easier and less painful if you do your work to prepare.
  • Reaching the finish line will be a lot easier and less painful if you have fun along the way.
  • You may be surrounded by countless people, but you're really only racing yourself.
  • Your body will always, without fail, try to give you every excuse to trick you into quitting.  You have to remember that the mind controls the body, the body doesn't control the mind. 
  • You will have good days as well as off days.  Learn to accept that and just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
  • It takes serious time and effort, and there are no shortcuts.
  • Reaching the finish line is totally possible and feels ridiculously good.
  • Ten feet past the finish line, start to plan where your next finish line will be.
The only time the Southern California sunshine is annoying is when it's been cloudy for two days so you wear long track tights and sleeves to run the Malibu Half Marathon like I did this morning.  It wasn't my best race, but I finished and collected another nice little medal. 

And to the girl with the beautiful "You inspire me" sign one mile from the finish.  Whoever you are, thank you.  I loved that sign.  It made me think of you, readers.  I was passing the 12 mile marker and I couldn't wait to finish to tell you about it.  You inspire me to keep running... and to keep up this Hollywood grind.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Notes From Home

 A Facebook post from one of my best friends from high school:

"Anony, I love seeing your cute butt on TV so often.  Can't wait to see what you do next!"

I'll tell you what.  Words like that can keep a girl warm at night... And pounding the Los Angeles pavement by day.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Sometimes, you’ve just gotta go for it. You may feel crazy and stupid and off your rocker, but just throw it all out there anyway.

Case in point: I recently had a commercial audition for a multivitamin. The spot was a girl running around, being all happy and athletic with a healthy, multivitamin-infused glow about her while the voice-over raves about the benefits.

Here’s how the audition went…

“Okay, so we’re just going to have you run in place to the beat of the music and, you know, be happy and throw a few dance moves in there. Then pretend that you’re, like, running along the beach and have to jump over a branch or something. In the spot, you’ll actually be jumping into an animated world.”

"Okay… Can you clarify 'dance moves' for me??"

“You know, graceful, kinda ballet-ish. This one is all about personality, so just go for it.”


So I did. I threw it all out there. I convinced myself that it was the most exciting and fantastic thing in the world to be running in place with "dance moves" to weird music in a cramped little office with hot lights and 3 dudes watching me. Even when my brain was racing when they asked me after a couple minutes, “Do you have any… other moves?” I just kept throwing whatever I had out there. And when they bet me that I couldn’t do a cartwheel in such a small space, I took that bet. And I won. I made damn sure those guys were laughing as I said thanks and walked out the door.

Then I walked to my car thinking, “What the f was that?!?”

The next day I was put on avail.

Just go for it. I didn’t ultimately book it, but the casting director did email me with a big thanks and a, “You made three fans in that room.” I'll take that.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

This is My Career

There are varying opinions on pretty much every decision you can make about your career.  You can have completely opposite advice come from two (more or less) reputable sources.  You will have people tell you to get in a commercial class, get in a scene study class.  You need an agent, you don't need an agent.  Move to LA, don't move to LA.  New headshots, your headshots are fabulous.  Less cleavage, more cleavage.  You need to be union, avoid the union as long as you can.  Emailing casting directors is okay, under no circumstances should you email a casting director.

You will waste your life (and career) away trying to follow every bit of advice people give you.  You might even get dizzy from all that flip-flopping.  Ultimately, it really comes down to what you feel is the right choice for your career.  Because it is yours.  It's not your agent's (or even the agent you would kill to have).  It's not the casting director's; it's not your acting coach's; it's not even your mother's.  Think about that.  This is your career and you make the decisions.

When I first moved to Los Angeles, I was in a showcase and attracted the attention of a big-time manager.  As a fresh transplant with absolutely zero credits to my name, he helped me get my feet under me and take my first steps.  He was invaluable those first few months as a manager, fan and a friend.  He even fronted the $65 for my first subscription to Actors Access and allowed me to pay him back with the money from my first two acting gigs.  He got me meetings with four great agents in town -- one (the biggest) passed, three offered.  Any would have been good, two would have been great, and I went back to my manager with the one I wanted.

"Wait just a little longer, I'm trying to get you in to see so-and-so," he said.  Well, after a few weeks had passed and no fifth meeting, I finally got the courage to speak up.  I wanted to accept one of the offers because my instincts were saying they could lose interest and disappear.  He apologized that he got caught up in something else and promised to make the phone calls that day, which he did.

Yeah, we missed it.  We waited too long and I lost all three offers.  All three.  Ouch.

There were a few other instances where my manager, who I genuinely like as a person, unintentionally hurt my career.  (And in all fairness, I made mistakes too.)  But I was frustrated because my instincts had been triggered in each situation, but I had always deferred to my manager's decision, assigning very little value to my own opinion.  I shouldn't have taken a backseat in the decision-making in my career because I later realized that those instincts were spot on.

My manager did end up getting me signed with an agent, but she immediately moved to a smaller agency, and then left the business entirely within 6 months.  Over the course of the next year, that smaller agency replaced every agent in the office twice and I ended up getting lost in the shuffle.  (This was right about the time my frustration level reached burn out.)  Since I'd made the agency a little money, I was still on their books, but none of the agents really knew me (that's my mistake) so they were basically only sending me out on mass cattle calls.

Then that manager dropped me.  Double ouch.

Well, I've done a lot of growing up since then.  Granted, you're not always right and it's very important to listen to the advice and counsel your agent and/or manager gives, but I no longer trust it as career gospel.  It's important for me to understand why he/she thinks this move is a good move for my career... and if I'm ultimately not convinced, I go with the decision that instinctually feels right to me.  Because it's my career.  Yes, decisions need to be well informed and strategic.  You need to know exactly where you want to take your career and how this decision will get you there.  (And if you find yourself in a position where there's constant disparity between your opinion and that of your representation... you're probably with the wrong team.)

Needless to say, I don't believe having a manager is the answer or key to a successful career.  But it does have it's benefits.  And now that my career is much further along than when my ex-manager and I parted ways, I am finally open to the idea of adding one to my team again.  November is usually a time when agents and managers evaluate their roster in preparation for the upcoming pilot season.  I think I may send out some materials to see if I get any bites.  I'm not determined to hire one, but if there's some interest and I like what they have to say, it may be a good time.

More on that to come.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Tomorrow Was a Great Day

Do you know how I am absolutely positive that this is what I love to do? 

Yesterday it was this.

Then I spent nine hours on set today with an incredibly talented cast and crew.  Freakishly talented.  So unbelievably talented that it took all my strength to hold my horrified reaction in my closeup because the actors were so committed to their outrageous characters I almost lost it. It was an itty-bitty no-budget project, but it has been a group effort and will be a very well-made pilot for a web series.  Nine hours went by in a flash, and I am on cloud nine.  

Let's get back to business.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tomorrow is a New Day

I wonder if it's the condition of the artist to feel emotions deeper than the rest of society.  Though I suspect everyone feels the same way, sometimes I'm convinced everyone else has all their stuff together a lot more than I do.  Sometimes I think I may bipolar with the peaks and valleys of emotions I go through.  Today has turned into a little valley for some reason.

Maybe I'm coming off my carefree vacation high and am just settling back into the routine.  I may have stayed up a little later last night than I should have.  Maybe I'm a bit lonely.  Maybe it's the nightmare I know I had last night but can't remember the details of.  Maybe I'm feeling a little frustration at my lack of motivation to get to the gym.  Or perhaps that I'm shooting tomorrow and skin decided to misbehave a little today.  Maybe I've allowed last week's auditions, and the subsequent radio silence from the casting directors, get to me a little more than usual.  

Or maybe it's a million other reasons why this life can get inside your head and kick up dust that settles on your heart.

This is tough.  Days when I get home from work and have such little motivation to do more than lie on the couch and fall asleep with the TV on.  When it feels like more than just being tired and lonely.  I'm not sure what the secret is.  Do you just let it go and give yourself the day?  That's always tough for me because I inevitably end up feeling guilty that I didn't do anything productive.  Mad at myself because I know that the people who succeed are the people who push through those feelings and be productive anyway.

While most of the time I believe that's true, I did allow myself to just relax a little tonight.  Because, as much as I hate to admit it, that is important too.  (Lest I make this classic actor mistake again.)  And although I just had a weekend away... let's be honest...  One doesn't recover from Vegas overnight.  :)

A little TV, a little reading and early to bed to get some beauty sleep.  After all, the sun -- and the camera --  will come out tomorrow.  It's only a day away.

Monday, November 7, 2011

No Time to Sleep

In my humble opinion, sleeping is about the most annoying "have to" in my life. Outside of being snuggled up against someone sexy during a rainstorm on a Sunday morning, I don't enjoy staying in bed. I get bored and start to feel guilty at how unproductive I'm being. I wish I could function on 2 hours of sleep a night, and if I could, I would. There is just too much to accomplish in a mere 24 hours if you sleep 8 of them.

Back from Vegas for one day and already hitting the ground running. Here's a little of what's on my plate this week:
  • New postcards and note cards with my new headshots arrived today. You bet I've already written ten of them to send out.
  • Took inventory on how well I'm keeping up with my mailings... I'm a little behind. Better hit it hard this week and weekend. I want to try to be seen for another co-star or two before TV goes on holiday.
  • Audition for a great little short tomorrow
  • Shooting the pilot for a new web series Wednesday
  • Need to schedule a makeup of a commercial class I missed (Wednesday night?)
  • Casting director workshop Thursday
  • Research and character work for my play, rehearsals Friday or Saturday
  • Meeting with my agent to review headshots Saturday
  • Half marathon on Sunday morning
  • Feature film audition Sunday afternoon
  • Oh yeah, and 40 hours at my jobby-job (That's another annoying "have to" for me right now.)
Yeah, baby! That's why we all call it The Hustle!!

Okay. It's almost midnight. I guess I have to sleep now.  Nighty.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Time Away

When I first moved to Los Angeles, I was obsessed with not making "classic actor mistakes."  I did not want to end up like the thousands of men and women who flock to Hollywood every year with misplaced expectations only to blow all their money, lose focus, waste their time, get into trouble... basically do everything but create a successful career.  Then, defeated after a year or two that yielded minimal credits, crawl back to the cornfields of Nebraska to begin filling out bank teller employment applications.

No, that wasn't for me. I vehemently told myself I wasn't here to party; I wasn't here to socialize; I wasn't here to spend days on the beach; I wasn't here to shop till I drop.  I was here because I was going to work hard and be successful at this odds-against-me profession.  So I did very little of the above.  I felt that every penny I spent on something other than classes or headshots or books on acting was a wasted penny.  And I certainly didn't have spare pennies to be throwing around town.  I didn't drink, I didn't go out to dinner, I didn't buy anything to make a home out of my little apartment in the valley, hell, I didn't even sleep on my face because I was convinced that over time it would make my face wrinkle... soooo not good for a leading lady.

Then I woke up 14 months later absolutely depressed.  I had the same amount of close friends as when I first moved here... a big fat zero.  Everyone I knew was just an acquaintance because I'd never accepted their offers to socialize.  Acting had a fine start, but I wasn't exactly testing for series regulars.  I was frustrated at the progress that seemed so minimal compared to the energy I had expended to get there.  So I ended up making another classic actor mistake... I started to doubt myself and I totally burnt out.  I lost motivation to push forward and so I stepped away completely because I just couldn't think about it anymore.

You've heard it before, it's about balance.  To succeed in this career we have eat, drink, and sleep acting.  You have to want it so intensely that it should feel like a constant fire in your soul, a fire strong enough to carry you through the tough times ahead.  But remember that it's just a career... not your life.  It is important to maintain the life outside of the career, because that's really what it's all for anyway. I gave myself permission to take 2010 off from almost everything acting and to just focus on finding me again.  I revisited those hobbies I had abandoned because I wouldn't allow myself to spend money (or time) on them.  I went to parks, museums, theater and live music.  I finally joined the wonderful people around me for drinks after work, beach days, Dodger games, nights out dancing in Hollywood, and trips to Mexico.

Then I woke up 12 months later, and realized I had built a life in Los Angeles.  And for the first time since I moved out of my parents' house, I felt like I had a home I was proud of.  I had amazing friends and pictures of our adventures all over my well-furnished apartment.  After my first class back with my long-time acting coach, he said, "You've been working on your own this whole time, haven't you?  I can see it."  I smiled and said, "Yes," because it was the truth.  I wasn't sitting there with scripts, but I was working on myself while I was away.  Finding the balance in my personal life made me a better actor.

This weekend is one in which I've scheduled a little more life than acting.  Perfect timing because I've been a tad on edge this week, still waiting to hear back on a couple auditions I nailed last week.  I fly to Vegas this evening for a little me time.  Me the person, not me the actor.  I'll be back Monday rejuvenated and ready to focus on the last push before the holiday season sends this town into a two week hiatus.

Hope your weekend will be filled with lots of life also.  See you on the flip side...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

It's Only Money

Two years ago, I had dinner with a working actor I had met along the line to chat about some of the things he was doing to make it in this crazy business.  At that point in my life, I had spent two years in Los Angeles kind of fumbling around, not trusting my instincts and was supremely frustrated at my ineffectiveness at making waves for my career.  Not much was really happening for me aside from a few short films and bit parts in non-union features.  I wasn't exactly supporting myself on acting.  In fact, I was barely supporting myself with anything.

So I had dinner with this chap, hoping to be inspired to somehow get myself out of this slump.  He was describing the mailings he did, the classes he took, the workshops, etc.  I remember wanting to do all those too, but feeling the heartbreak at not having the cash to fund it.  He stopped me at one point as I was in the middle of a woe-is-me song and dance, and said to me, "You realize you've said, 'If I only had enough money,' about four times already."

"Yeah," I said, "My budget is really tight right now."

He went on to say, "Stop coming from such a place of lack. It's only money.  Sometimes you'll have more, sometimes you'll have less, but there will always be more coming in.  Change your attitude and change your reality.  You have enough money now."  I realized I had turned into one of those Debbie Downer victims surrounded by negative energy and lack.

Now, I've always admired those people who can sit down and run the numbers on exactly what they make each month and plan it out to the dime.  They only budget for this much on gas, this much on groceries, this much on entertainment.  I always thought that was the secret to living comfortably within your means, whatever they may be.  But I could never force myself to plan it out like that; I've never been a budgeting kind of girl.  I know basically where I am (sometimes more accurately than others) and I use it as I go along during the month.  (Yes, that sometimes means I have been in the situation where there's a little too much month left over after the end of my money.) 

But after that dinner, I decided that I would change my mindset.  I decided to stop worrying about all the money that I didn't have and stressing over budgeting the little that I did.  I decided that I would just conciously make an effort to change my thinking. It's only money -- a mantra I've reminded myself of many times since then.  Like when I went to a friend's birthday dinner and intentionally ordered one of the least expensive things on the menu only to find out that we were all splitting the bill equally.  I have some financially comfortable friends who didn't bat an eye at the... *gasp*... $80 per person tab.  It made my stomach hurt.  But I threw down my hard-earned cash and reminded myself that, "It's only money."  Every time I wrote yet another freaking $68 check for a parking ticket, I took a deep breath and said, "It's only money. There will be more."

I'm not telling you to be financially reckless, you've gotta work hard and be smart.  But I can tell you that aligning your mental state with what you want is exactly how you get it.  I didn't make another futile attempt at budgeting. I didn't penny pinch like a hoarder.  I realized that I already had enough and that even more was on its way and took advantage of opportunities the universe gave me along the way.  I now make more than three times as much annually, I take whatever classes I want, send mailings, and shoot with photographers I love.  I have minimal debt, an actual balance in my savings account, a 401K and health insurance... none of which was the case at that dinner 2 years ago.

It's only money, there will always be more and will it be delivered to you.  Like today... when I got a wonderful little email.  It was regarding my first AFTRA contract role that shot one day last August.  "Anony, you're rate for that shoot has been bumped up 375%.  We'll just go ahead and send you a check for that."

Um, thanks!  I guess I'm good on December rent.

I'll keep up the hustle, Universe.  You just keep sending the money.