Monday, January 30, 2012

Feels Like Ages...

...since I was able to write to you.  But know that all this time I haven't been writing, I've been Little Miss Busy Body.  I have much to tell you.  Check back soon...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

No Bug Zone

Most people would agree that, in the duel between the bug and the windshield, the bug threatens little damage.  But people aren't thick glass.  And sometimes you're just cruising along, and a bug comes up out of nowhere and knocks you flat on your back... and then you lie like that all weekend.  (Like I have been for the past 3 days.)

I had a very productive weekend planned.  But all those plans went straight out the window when I woke up in the middle of the night Friday.  I was awake from about three until seven, unable to keep anything in my stomach.  Not even water.  It was awful.

My biggest concern, was the commercial showcase that was set for Monday evening.  And the two mandatory rehearsals over the weekend.  I'd been planning to participate since December.  I wasn't going to let it get away.  So I was in bed all weekend, woke up about fifteen minutes before I had to leave, threw on a cap, zipped to the studio, struggled through rehearsal, and then went back to bed.  Finally, yesterday afternoon, I felt better, just in time for the show.

And it went ridiculously well.  It went so well, I couldn't sleep last night out of sheer excitement.  Now I need to catch up on my sleep and get my immune system back to 100%... so I'll be ready in case one of the agents decides to call with an offer.  

I went in, worked hard, didn't allow my unexpected bug guest to derail me, and delivered strong performances that I'm completely happy with.  Halfway through, I realized it was a little breakthrough for me.  Despite the presence of five agents, any one of which I'd love to have, halfway through the showcase I realized I wasn't nervous.  There were a couple moments I could feel the excited nerves rising, but I focused and managed them.  I used to shake ever so faintly in the middle of really strong auditions, when I could feel I was nailing it.  The excitement would burst out of me.  But this one, it just felt natural and easy.  It felt great to watch the playback and see I executed exactly what I intended.  And it felt incredible when one of the other actresses came up to me after it was over to tell me she loved my work, and she couldn't wait to be working at such a professional level.  

Offer or no offer, I am proud of that.

Take that, you nasty little bug!  

Friday, January 20, 2012

Shit _____ Say, Hollywood Style

It's funny because it's true.  It's also why I can't stand most actors.

If only I had a nickel for every time I heard, "It's really slow for my type right now."

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Anony Goes West

I want to begin my rambling tonight by first saying, hello to you, readers.  Although this forum is generally a one-way-communication-type deal, I know you're out there reading, and when you comment, I listen.  When you email, it's me who reads and responds.  When you have a specific request for a topic you'd like me to address, I'm here.  I will never think you're being too forward or stepping out of bounds to reach out to me.  You are the reason I'm here, instead of writing in the pages of my now neglected journal.

I will also say right away, I don't have all the answers.  I'm only qualified to give my opinion, which is just the humble perspective of one single person (who happens to do a shit-load of research and works like an animal).  But it's ultimately up to you to determine how much that opinion is worth.  You are free to agree or disagree, and voice either opinion in these pages.  I'm just here to tell you my story, and I hope it can help you with yours.

That being said, a few days ago an anonymous commenter asked me to weigh in on the big question.  That major decision (almost) every actor has to make... do I move to Los Angeles?  When is the right time?  (I say almost because a couple of you lucky bastards grew up here, and because you've been doing it since you were five, you're probably a lot further along in your career than I am.  But I always joke that my parents probably did me a favor by raising me somewhere else... they saved me from being a washed up ex-child-star has-been with a waning career, but a growing coke problem.  I wouldn't want to be that.)

The truth is, moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting is a very personal decision.  I could no sooner tell you who, between two eligible candidates, you should choose to marry.  You wouldn't want me to choose who you wake up next to every morning for rest of your life.  What I want to wake up next to may induce your gag reflexive.  (I like mine in suits, but you may crave more rock 'n roll.)  Similarly, even if you know it is what you want... I could also never tell you when to say, "I do."  There is so much that plays into that decision, and just like the move to Los Angeles, it's one you'll have to make on your own.

I can, however, tell you how I made mine...

I went to college for something other than acting.  I was in theater when I was younger and always dreamed of being in movies, but when it came to choosing a major, I decided to be more practical.  But as I was about to finish my undergrad degree, I realized nothing would make me as happy as working in front of a camera for the rest of my life.  Shortly thereafter, I performed in a talent showcase and attracted the attention of a few industry professionals in Los Angeles.  Among them was my future manager.  He told me, "You need to be in LA if you actually want to do this as a career."

After that showcase, I couldn't get the thought of Los Angeles and a career in this business out of my head.  Despite the fact that I still had a year to go in college, and that I was living with a long-term non-actor boyfriend who was not interested in relocating... nothing could subdue my desire to be in Hollywood.  I was consumed with the need to be here.  At that point, there was no option.  Within four months, I packed whatever I could fit in my car and started to drive.  The distance was easily a two day road trip, but not for me.  I had only $500 to my name and I knew I needed every penny once I got to LA.  So I drove all night to avoid the cost of a hotel room and charged gas the entire way.  (Side note: I am not suggesting you operate your life with such reckless abandon.  I'm pretty sure that every guidebook and half-intelligent person would say this was a recipe for disaster.  I've just never been very good at thinking of consequences, plus I'm pretty fearless when it comes to change.) 
There was only one fleeting moment where the brevity of what I had just done caught up with me.  My then-boyfriend had ridden shotgun to keep me awake for the drive and help me get settled.  I drove him to the airport to fly back a few days later.  As I stood in the airport lobby looking up at him as he went through security, and effectively out of my life, I remember panicking for a split second...

"Oh god, what the hell did I just do?"

But then I took a deep breath and did the only thing I could.  I walked back to my car and resolved to accomplish what I had come here to do, no matter how hard it would be or how long it would take.  And I'm happy to say, though there have been ups and downs, I've never looked back.

So, my two cents for anyone who's contemplating the move?

My manager's advice was right.  If you want a career in TV or film, you will need to be in Los Angeles.  However, only you can know when is the right time.  You also need to prepare yourself for a bigger reality check than you can possibly imagine.  (In fact, even if you're completely prepared for that, it will still get you.  I promise you that.)  I can almost guarantee that even once you move here, you will barely even see the inside of a casting room for a major project for at least a year and probably two.  But during that time, you'll be learning.  You'll be taking classes, researching the business, making student films, and getting acclimated to a town that eats dreamers for breakfast.  How long that learning period lasts will be unique to you based on how much experience/skill you have before you get here, how much internal drive you have (and are able to maintain), and how adaptable you can be to pretty much the most mentally and emotionally demanding lifestyle on the planet.

The big question I think you should ask yourself, is where do you want to start that learning curve?  What is best for you and your personal needs and fears?  You can start wherever you are, or move to a mid-sized market to get your acting sea-legs.  Learn what it's all about -- how to audition, how to hustle, how to develop your own unique skill and process.  For some people, staying in a town they're familiar with will provide much appreciated stability through the rough early stages of a career.  Getting a head start wherever you are (and NYC is certainly one of the best places to get a head start) can help you come to LA with a little more experience under your belt.  (Plus, you'll probably have worked your way up to being a big fish in a small pond.  Once you move, you'll have to adjust to being an average fish in an ocean again, but it's better than a minnow.)   

Or if it's more your style, you could just jump in the deep end without a life vest and head directly to Hollywood.  Just be aware that you'll probably flail around, half-drowned for a while before you learn to swim.  But when you start to figure out how to keep your head above water... that's when it gets really fun...

Either way, commitment is the key.  Stand behind your own decision 150%... because if you're waiting for someone to give you permission or a boost... you're going to be waiting a long time, my friend.  Better to just get after it yourself, 'cause Hollywood and your career ain't waitin' either.

Good luck!!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Anyone Selling a Time-Turner?

There's a bit in a Chris Rock stand-up that sort of stuck with me, and I actually think of it quite often.  (Wow, did I really just write that?  Didn't I mention I gather advice from literally everywhere?)  In a very funny line of jokes about the difference between having a job and having a career, he describes a job as having too much time.  Too much time from when you have to clock in at the start of your shift until when you can finally clock out.  When you have a job, you're just watching the clock until you can punch out and head home.  But when you have a career, there isn't enough time in the day.  You could work for 24 hours straight and still need to get up early to put in more time.  That's how I know I'm building a career, not a job.

There just isn't enough time in the day to get it all done, but I'm chipping away at it.  My list has nine thick black lines crossed-off... only 35 more to go before the end of March.   

I'm staying up a little bit later than I should so I can at least get a couple words in to you.  I've been busy, but I want to tell you about the mailing I put together for the fifteen indie film casting directors I'm targeting now that I'm SAG.  I want to tell you about the hours I spent this weekend visiting dozens of little theaters, looking for the perfect space for my play.  I want to tell you about the SAG screening I attended and saw a casting director I've been going after, but I didn't say hi because I blanked and didn't trust that I had the right name in my head attached to that face.  Then, I want to tell you how angry I was after I double-checked and realized that I was right... but only to find that he'd left and I'd missed the opportunity.

I want to tell you about all of that, but right now, I have to get to bed since I have two casting workshops this week, an audition, more theater scouting for my play, and two rehearsals for a commercial showcase I'm in next week.  

Holy moly.  I wish I had Hermione Granger's time-turner necklace right now.  It would be incredible to have the Hollywood-hustling equivalent of taking Divinations and Potions at the same time.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Whole Top Diamond and the Bottom Row's Gold

I ran after my mailman today to give him a mailing I've been needing to send out.  We stopped and chatted for a minute and he told me I have a nice "grill."  That was a first for me.  I've been told I have a nice smile, but it's never inspired urban slang before.

Thanks mom and dad for forcing me to wear braces.

Friday, January 13, 2012

I Can't Be Jinxed

"Well, Nuke's scared because his eyelids are jammed and his old man's here.  And we need a live... is it a live rooster?  We need a live rooster to take the curse of Jose's glove."
~Crash, of Bull Durham fame (go rent it)

Athletes, actors, musicians, fire-swallowing baton twirlers .... all guilty.  Somehow the nature of performance breeds superstition.  Perhaps it's because there is something unexplainable and magical that happens when you play the game of your life, when you hit the high C, or when you breath dynamic life into your character.  We're all looking for why, of all attempts, this was the one we hit out of the park.  And frankly... we're looking for why all the other at-bats were pathetic ground-outs. 

We live in a world where even getting it right and being seemingly perfect for the part does not guarantee that you'll book.  In fact, most of the time you won't.  Most of the time, you'll walk away wondering what you could have done better, or just differently, that could have been the difference between: "Hello, my name is Anony and I haven't filmed anything for two months" and "Hey Anony, I saw your new Turbo Tax commercial yesterday... and also five times today."  (Despite the fact that everyone and their poodle auditioned for that one, I thought I booked it.  I was sure.  They were sure.  Then the higher-ups decided to use "non-actors" and ruled out anyone with IMDB credits.  It's my temporary personal opinion that those higher-ups are stupid.)

But at least with that one I knew what happened.  And the other 99.99999% of the time?  It's deafening, confidence-smothering, soul-crushing radio silence.  It's waiting by my phone for days, keeping it on vibrate when I know it should be on silent but there's absolutely no way I can miss a call.  It's heart attacks at the sight of unknown numbers on my caller ID.  It's endless picturing of what life would be like with this credit to my name... followed by accepting the picture of my life without it.

Then it's replaying the audition in my head more times than KIIS FM plays the latest Katy Perry single, desperately searching for the moment where it went "wrong" so that I can have an explanation.  It can't be because I'm not the right look; the breakdown could pass as my physical description in a missing persons report after I've gone AWOL when I've had enough of this torture we call a career.  It can't be because I'm not good enough; not only do I know I am, but my coach has said I'm one of his best students and the casting director for the last commercial I booked called me exceptional.  Can't be that I smell bad... I mean, I shower regularly.  What the hell is it, then??!

Ahhh, it must be because I didn't wear my lucky shirt.

That's why most people buy into the superstition... "I didn't book because I told people about the audition before I went." "I didn't book because it's that casting office, and I just can't get arrested there." "I didn't book because it was Friday the 13th."  Crash also says, "If you believe you're playing well because you're getting laid, or because you're not getting laid, or because you're wearing women's underwear, then you are!"  (Suuuch a great movie.)

Well sorry Crash, and I'm sorry if this is a shock to the rest of you... but none of those have ever been the reason why someone didn't book.  (And for god's sake... don't wear women's underwear unless you're a woman.)  They're all just things we tell ourselves so we can feel safe knowing that there was something that caused our perfect audition to go unnoticed.  And what's more, we can then recreate the circumstances of a booking -- i.e. using a "lucky" shirt -- to give us a false sense of control.

But you're better than that.  Don't get caught up in the extra energy it takes to worry about wearing a lucky shirt, and the inevitable and hugely counterproductive panic when it's dirty and unwearable on the day of a big audition.  You'll start to do the worst thing possible.... buy into your own bullshit and lose jobs because you were focused on the mojo you think you don't have because it's attached to your missing lucky underpants.  I once had a friend and roommate who freaked out at me for not putting my Christmas decorations away by "twelfth night," a transgression that would have given all of us bad luck for the entire year.  She had also recently had a panic attack.  I rest my case.

So on this Friday the 13th, when everyone else is staying in because they've convinced themselves that something bad is going to happen... go out there and book your first pilot.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

La La Land

Generally, I feel like Los Angeles is probably like most other large cities in the United States.  It's not some fantasy land.  It's a big, bustling metropolis crowded with lots of mostly normal people trying to lead mostly normal lives.

Then again...

When I took my family to the theater in December, we had to wait to cross the street for a moment between takes of the massive ganster shootout (circa 1930) filming on Hollywood Boulevard.

Another time, I was waiting at a light thinking it was taking extra long... when a Gotham City chase scene complete with SWAT trucks and a low flying helicopter raced through the intersection.  I guess Batman was out for happy hour too.

Earlier this week, I drove home from dinner and noticed a red carpet entrance to some party with paparazzi flashing more bulbs than you'd find on the New Years Eve ball.

And yesterday, I ran out to the mall food court near my office to grab lunch, and strolled right past an Emmy-winning star of one of the biggest shows on television.  Just chillin', looked like he was waiting for someone.  Nobody bothered him; it's not the first time we've seen an industry heavy-hitter.

I smiled and thought, just another day in La La Land.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Grit and Bear It

I have always believed that people are brought into your life for a reason.  That the intersection of your two lives, be it for a moment or a decade, occurred at the perfect time to teach you exactly what you needed to learn at that point in your life.  I always strive to recognize the nature of the lesson and to remember to use whatever it taught me as I forge ahead.  I’m often analyzing the people in my life, searching for things I can learn from them.  Sometimes it’s a lesson of inspiration... sometimes it’s about learning what to avoid.  Both can be used to transform yourself closer to the person, and professional, you truly want to be.  Because every person can teach me something, I’ve found that I now understand and accept that friends come and go and I emerge from the experience (good or bad) without regret. 

For nearly two years, I dated an attorney laden with major (but well disguised) emotional issues.  The experience taught me a great deal of things including how to argue like a professional, how to recognize manipulation, and how to stop giving fifth and sixth chances and just walk the fuck away.  All very helpful lessons, but a longer story than Blogger would allow me space to post.  However, he did also teach me some minor points, like what it really meant to press your nose to the grindstone. 

Attorneys work ridiculous hours under unbelievable pressure and constant deadlines.  They will sometimes disappear into the caverns of their office for weeks at a time just trying to stay on top of it all, sacrificing their weekends and social life.  Twelve hours at the office, seven days a week, slaving over documents in stacks taller than me.  How many actors do you know who put in hours like that for their career?  Okay, how many do you know who tend bar a couple nights a week then sit on their ass and complain that it's just so hard to do it all?  I know a lot like the latter.

I once asked Mr. Ex (when he was Mr. Boyfriend, Esq.) how he had the discipline to keep working so incredibly hard, day after day.  He told me that when it gets really demanding, he just remembers to tuck his chin, grit his teeth, brace himself and power through it.

"What else can I do," he said, "stop going to work?  Not exactly why I get paid six figures.  If I couldn't find a way to push through the pressure, I better find another career."  

After seeing what real discipline and hard work looks like, I knew that if I was honest with myself, most of the time I could be doing more for my career.  The difference between a law firm and Hollywood is that no one is breathing down your neck, slapping on deadlines.  You have to do that for yourself.  You won't get fired for not putting in the time and effort for your career... you just won't get hired in the first place.  And if you are out there working hard, it's going to be a lot to handle.  Those who succeed are the ones who learn to take the beating and keep pushing forward, no matter how much is thrown at them.   

Not even two weeks in, and this new year has already loaded up my plate.  In addition to the 3-month list of career to-dos -- a list that spawned a, "Shit girl, that's one serious list of goals" comment from a friend -- I am also researching and choosing a theater space for my play, auditing and selecting a new scene-study class... and I just made the decision to move, so I'll be apartment shopping until March.  And let us not forget the full-time job, which has been demanding some extra overtime lately.

I'm feeling slightly overwhelmed.

But I'm taking this moment to remind myself to just grit my teeth, stay focused and power through.  If I can't find a way to push through the pressure, I better do something else...  And since I'm not going to do something else... I better find a way to push through the pressure.  It may mean a few sacrifices here and there, like the weekend I just spent doing very little weekending, and the first date I'm going to have to cancel so I can put together a new mailing I intended to do this weekend.  But the hard work will have more pay off than throwing my hands up and complaining that it's too much.  These are the times it's the most important to keep pushing forward.

Because while someone else buckles under the pressure, I'll button up my overcoat, tuck my chin and forge through the storm.  As long as I have a nose, it will be pressed to the grindstone. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

For Your Consideration

I got my first awards season mailer today. I expected it to be just a disc in a flimsy sleeve, complete with the ticker that runs along the bottom of the screen and reads, "For your consideration for the 2012 SAG awards." Nope. It was a full-sized, shrink wrapped DVD like you would buy at the store.

That's a pretty sweet perk of this business. Movie night at my place tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I Am Dragon... Hear Me Roar

"Without goals, and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination."
-Fitzhugh Dodson

I love the new year.  It's the time of year that brings awareness to every individual's state of being.  When the first of January knocks at the door, everyone takes a thorough inventory of their life and acknowledges where they would like to make improvements.  Resolutions are made, cigarettes are tossed into the trash, toxic boyfriends are left behind, ice cream is banished from the freezer.  January yields a surge in gym memberships, casting workshops fill up quicker than a binge drinker's bladder, and today's lunch line at the salad bar extended around the block.  Only the cold-hearted and supremely arrogant are immune from the effects of the motivation brought by the promise of a fresh start in a brand spanking-new year.  (Though ironically, they are arguably the ones who need it most.)

2011 was very very good to me.  I will forever look back on the 2011 New Year as the moment in time when everything "clicked" for me.  After years of spinning wheels, and even abandoning the wheels altogether, it was 2011 when I began to climb a mountain.  

To start my climb, I broke that mountain down into phases.  Instead of going after the summit right away, I tackled the sloping hills at the base.  I entered into "Phase I: Creating the Brand."  I evaluated myself and decided what my three most marketable and easily accessible character types were.  Then I completely reconstructed my business around them... new headshots, new reel, official website, business cards, post cards, stationary.  Everything was integrated to have a cohesive brand and feel that reflected not only my look and type, but also my personality.  Once I had the proper tools in place, I began with "Phase II: Brand Awareness."  This consisted of evaluating who my target casting directors would be, seeking them out in workshops, sending notes and postcards and getting my Name out there. 

I set small but concrete goals in three-month increments.  I only focused on what I could accomplish in 90 days.  I wrote down every detail, breaking it down to the smallest tangible task.  I wanted to give myself the satisfaction of drawing a thick black line through an item on my list as many times as possible.  It feels incredible to draw that line.  Out-of-this-world good.  And as the page gets more and more congested with thick black lines, they get more and more satisfying to draw.

When I sat down last night to write out my next set of goals, I decided to review my old 2008 list.  It was a list I made with my ex-manager six months into my life in Los Angeles.  (After I spent the first six months learning stupid baseline stuff like Santa Monica Boulevard runs East and West and Sepulveda is pronounced suh-PULL-vu-duh, not Supple-VAY-duh.  Yep, those first six months were devoted to learning and correcting all those little tells that betrayed me as fresh from LAX... well actually I drove here, so more precisely, fresh off the Grapevine.) 

That 2008 goals list contained my first real plans for my initial moves in this business: get an agent, book a commercial, get SAG eligibility, book role in a feature film...  Those were literally the items on my list.  Unsurprisingly, most of the goals on that list remained unaccomplished for 2008.  In fact, most of the goals remained largely unaccomplished for 2009 as well.  So in 2010, I packed that list away in a box in the top of the closet, right next to where I'm pretty sure I stashed my motivation to do anything as an actress. 

But then 2011 came knocking at my door... and I gladly welcomed him in.  Last night, as I was looking at my 2008 goals list, I realize that I'd accomplished them all in 2011.  I booked commercials, features and pilots.  Without a theatrical agent, I even managed to get myself repeatedly called in for co-star roles on a primetime NBC television show.  Not only did I become SAG eligible, but a full member and also booked an AFTRA principle contract.  If this career really is a mountain, then I am looking back on some serious altitude gained in the last year.  Most of the mountain still lies ahead, but I've made it up the first scramble, I'm past the main trail head. 

Yes, 2011 was a very strong year.  And guess what?  It wasn't strong because I got lucky.  It wasn't strong because I got discovered.  It was strong because I busted my ass and made my own luck.  I worked hard and smart, day in and day out, and I saw substantial results.  And let me tell you, there are no greater motivators to push forward than real, observable results.

So 2012 begins "Phase III: Building Momentum and Refining the Brand."  A new year to build on my first real year in the business.  2012 is the year of the Dragon, which is a year of prosperity, luck and success.  I'm a hundred times more confident and motivated this New Year than I was 365 days ago... 2011 may have been strong... but 2012 is going to roar.

Get your goals down on paper, and help me breath fire all over this town...

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Here's to a Big 2012!

I'm pumped up, jazzed up, fired up and ready to rock 'n roll as a hard-working, motivated and veritable success factory this year.  Let's get back to the Grind.