Wednesday, February 29, 2012

An Actor's Budget


If money is so tight, you're stealing the toilet paper from your acting studio... you probably need a better side job.

On the other hand, it will could make a great anecdote when James Lipton asks you about your struggle before you made it.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Ode to the Bookstore

I headed to the Borders at the mall to grab a book for a friend's birthday gift only to find it had been replaced by a Toys 'R Us.  I just stood there, watching people rush in and out through the automatic doors, arms heavy with plastic bags stuffed with dolls and robots.  I just wanted to scream at them... "What are you teaching your children by giving them a Bratz doll?!  Give your child a BOOK!"

A few days later, I headed to the Barnes & Noble at a different mall to buy a new journal for my notes while I study with my new coach and develop my acting style.  Again... when I reached the top of the escalator, there was nothing but locked doors and brown paper-lined windows.  My heart broke a little as I turned to head back to my car.

I nearly threw a hissy-fit when I heard the Samuel French on Ventura closed its doors last week.  The crème de la crème... a bookstore devoted to making movies and theater.  I could spend my entire paycheck there!  I remember when I first moved to Los Angeles and felt as if I'd died and gone to heaven when I stepped foot in Sam French.  Walls of nothing but books on acting in film, in theater, directing, writing, lighting... I couldn't have been happier if I were a kid in a candy store.

What is wrong with the world?  Are people so busy on their iPhones and iPads that they've forgotten what it's like to hold a real book in their hands?  So easily the world has dismissed the pleasure in the crispness of the page as it's turned, the smell of the aging glue of the binding, and that final moment of the story that's as heavy as the back cover as it closes.  I love how books grow when they've been read; the pages swell with the life you breathed into them as you lingered over every page.  Half the pages end up having coffee stains or creases from all the corners you dog-eared.  A book is a living, breathing thing.

Maybe the world is changing and I'm an old-fashioned dinosaur, hanging on to the ways of the past.  It makes me sad to think that to our children someday, Shakespeare and Dickens will live inside a computer.  Bronte and Austen will compete with Brittany and Bieber on iTunes.  Libraries and little shops around the corner will be replaced with online beasts like Amazon.com. 

Well I may be a dying breed, but my reading will always come from a paper page.  My apartment is full of shelves stacked to capacity with books and I will only collect more as my life continues.  Although there's some irony in that you're reading what I'm writing from a computer screen right now, please don't give up on books just yet, dear readers.  If you haven't in a while, I challenge to you pick up a book this week and spend some time in it's pages.  Carry it around for a while.  I bet you'll develop more of a relationship with that dusty old thing than you ever would with a Kindle. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Someone Has to Win, Might As Well Be Me

All the envelopes have been opened and the winners announced.  This year wasn't full of surprises, though Meryl did win, which I didn't expect even though she had my SAG vote.  Now, the nominees and winners alike are off to amazing after parties and after-after parties until dawn.  (And trust me... I've been to post award show parties.  They are lavish and literally last until the sun comes up in Southern California.)

But if you're an actor who's name isn't on the guest lists, I hope you watch the Oscars and are still as inspired as I am.  Very, very true, Marili.  We should definitely not measure our worth as actors based on the golden accolades collecting dust on our mantle.  Being an artist is so much more than that.  And to be a successful artist, particularly in this business, you have to find motivation and validation from somewhere other than the statuettes you receive.  If you don't, no award will ever satisfy the void you're looking to fill. 

Someone once told me, "Anony, I've never known someone who strives for the best as you do.  You just have to be the best at whatever you're doing."  It's true.  No matter what it was, I was salivating over the highest possible achievement.  However, there have been many things I pursued that I didn't end up becoming the best -- I swore I was going to the Olympics for one sport, I just knew I would someday be the CEO in another industry I planned to enter.  I didn't just want to sing, I wanted to take peoples' breath away.  I never wanted to be average at anything, and though I didn't always achieve every little thing... there's a whole hell of a lot that I did.

Going for the Oscar has gotten such a bad reputation recently.  So many tell us that we should be happy and satisfied if we are someday able to pay all our bills from just acting.   Though we may never be famous, being a working actor should be enough... otherwise we're just greedy.  Those people are just trying to protect us.  Trying to make sure we're not striving for the awards for the wrong reasons.  Protecting us in case we don't achieve the ultimate... and therefore feel we didn't achieve anything at all... which is obviously untrue.  Reaching the ability to act for a living is an incredible achievement most actors will never enjoy.  We must find happiness in that.

But I'm going to be the one actress who says, I don't want to be just a working actress.  I want to be a great actress.  I want to be a name actress; an A-list actress.  But I am a dreamer, and that's my nature.  Not that being a great artist means you will automatically win an Oscar... or even that you're a great artist because you won an Oscar.  But I will win one someday just because it is possible.  We just watched a number of people win one tonight.  It's an achievement, the highest possible in our profession.  No matter what they tell you, it is possible.  And I'm going for it.

The Envelope, Please...


Oh Academy, you may be a big media ploy and a political machine, but I love you.  How could I not?  You're not only a wonderfully glamorous tradition but at the core, you're a celebration of one of man's greatest inventions... movies.  Movies teach lessons on love and life and adversity.  Movies stand up and speak for the people who cannot stand up and speak.  Movies carry us through the tough times and inspire us into our greatest selves.  Every person who had access to them has a cherished movie that has influenced their life.  What an awesome gift to the world.

Every time an envelope is opened, it's a Hollywood story.  It's someone's dream coming true right in front of us.  I love watching the winner hear their name, kiss their loved ones and ascend the glittery steps to accept the statuette.  I love the emotion in the speech and the absolute joy and appreciation in their voice.  That's not a ploy.  That's real. 

And Academy, though I'm writing this love letter to you from my sofa in my little Santa Monica apartment, know that my heart is on that red carpet today.  I watch knowing that someday, I'll be in that room.  Today I may be a few miles down the road, and several more miles away in my career, but I will be another Hollywood story.  I won't stop until I'm there.  I know it's possible, because I'm about to spend four hours watching dozens of people do it.  And if they can do it, so can I.

Someday, I'll be walking up those steps.  I'll turn and look at that room as I hold my Oscar, and in that moment I'll think... I guess I'm not so anonymous anymore... :)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

You Call That Fun? Yes. Yes I Do.

I arrived at work the other day and started chatting with a couple of co-workers who are around my same age.  As we bantered back and forth over Oscar predictions, dating and the weather, one of them asked me if I was sick.  At first, I was kind of confused, but then I realized that my voice did sound a little strained and possibly congested.

I took a quick mental scan… was I getting sick?  My stomach is fine, my head is fine, no symptoms.  I mean, I guess I was a little tired… Hmm… I wonder why I’m tired this morning… Oh.  Right…

“I was in acting class last night after work until about midnight.  Oh… and we were working on a scene in which I played a woman who just lost her brother in the war, so it was… um… kind of emotional.”

They both just stared at me.

I know, ladies.  I’m crazy.  I’m an actor and that’s what we do.  When you leave the office, you probably go home and open a bottle of wine, sit back and watch an episode or two of Glee.

But me?  I’m madly dashing to a little studio with a couple of lights and bearing my soul in front of a camera.  I’m living a moment that no one should have to face, yet thousands do.  I’m believing that the person sitting in the room is really handing me a letter from my dead brother.  The letter he wrote just in case the next mission was his last.  I look down at what’s really his handwriting spelling my name on the paper.  My heart is filling with so much pain and anger that I can’t keep the tears from falling, no matter how hard I try.  It's an experience so real, it lingers in my voice the next day.

Ladies, while you’re watching season three of The Unit… I’m actually living it.

And it’s fucking amazing.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Success is In the Air!

My co-star, co-producer, co-partner-in-crime for my play just booked a role on a great show!!  I'm so proud of him!  He's a great actor and deserves great success.  I truly believe we'll be walking the same red carpet someday.  Like Nicole Kidman and Naomi Watts, it will be fun to have known each other before our careers took off.  

Though I can't tell you who he is, and he doesn't know I write this, he deserves much congratulations and praise.  You may actually know him... so take a moment to pat the back of an actor in your life.  Trust me, they'll appreciate it.

Good luck to him!! Looking forward to all that is to come for us both.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Let's Sell the Small Screen to Those After the Big Screen

Only in Los Angeles will you see commercials aimed specifically at actors.

video

(And yes.  I was watching The Simpsons.  Shuts off the actor-chatter in my head after class.)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Next Level

Have you ever been riding a bike and realized that you were pedaling with a little too much ease and comfort? You recognize that it’s time to move up to the next gear. So you shift. Right away, the pedaling becomes much harder and the wheels start to grind. The muscles in your legs ignite as you push through the resistance, trying to get the gear to settle, but it seems to keep fighting you. Your mind starts to wonder if you should have stayed at the lower gear. It was easy, you were moving along just fine. Perhaps this level is too much for you to handle. But you keep pedaling in spite of the struggle. The gears keep resisting as your brain madly searches for a solution. Then it happens…

Click

What an incredible feeling. The pieces fall into place. The gear starts working like it’s supposed to. Your breath calms as your muscles adjust to the new momentum. You start to feel more relaxed and the joy of the ride returns. Then you look around, and notice you’re traveling twice as fast as you were before… and it feels magnificent.

I couple months ago, I decided to shift to the next gear in my acting craft. You see, I had gotten comfortable. I was good and fundamentally well-trained. I was a strong auditioner with significant callback and booking ratios. But I knew there was another level to be reached. I knew I had more potential, and frankly, despite a decent amount of success, I knew I could do better. I just needed to figure out how to get there. I was committed to elevating myself from a successful amateur to a competitive professional.

I worked endless hours, on my own and with other actors I respect, trying to figure out exactly what was blocking me from unlocking the wealth of talent I knew was beneath the surface. I searched for a new coach who could help guide me to the next level. I audited countless classes, and even enrolled in a few only to realize that they weren’t what I was looking for. I was frustrated with the battle between my desire to work incredibly hard and my overwhelming confusion with “At what?”

Damn those gears were grinding, my muscles burning and my eyes stinging with the tears of frustration. But in the last few weeks, I did find the class I was looking for, and I’ve settled into training with a new coach. Then it happened.

Click.

I pick up a script differently. I listen differently. I feel scenes differently. I act differently. That gear has finally clicked into place and my momentum is gaining.

This week, my new coach said, “You’re a totally different actress than when you walked in here a few weeks ago. You’ve come alive. Your fear is gone. It’s amazing.”

Damn, it feels good. It has taken a lot, and I still have much to learn at this gear… but it’s finally clicking. Can’t wait to see where this ride takes me…

Monday, February 13, 2012

Unrequited Love

(Start by reading this, particularly if you're new to the blog.)

When you woke up this morning, you may have thought it would be just another normal day.  Nothing of note on your schedule, nothing particularly special about February 13th.  But don't be fooled on the eve of Valentine's... my marlin is in town tonight.

My heart raced when I got a text message this afternoon that started with "Hey gorgeous" and finished with "grab a few drinks tonight."

I told him that I had plans.  

That wasn't entirely true.  Not a complete lie though, more like an exaggeration of the truth.  I did have plans... but not with anyone.  I had plans to finish addressing my postcard mailing.  I had plans to do laundry.  I had plans to watch sitcoms without sound to study for my comedy classes this week.  But the second I received that text message... I wanted to throw all my plans out the window.

Which is exactly why I didn't.

I can still hear his voice in my head from when he was here last October.  I can still see the fireworks that explode in the sky when he pulls me in for a kiss.  I can still smell him and the lights of New York on my pillow.  I can still feel my heart race and my mouth's inability to correctly formulate any audible words when I look into his eyes.  

But most of all, I can still feel the disappointment of the moment I realized I can't see him any more because I was starting to want more.  I broke the rules.  More is exactly what we'd settled into not wanting... And yet here I am, four months without a single syllable exchanged between us until today, and my thoughts are more occupied than Wall Street.  I have no business waking up in that man's arms on the morning of Valentine's Day.  That kind of thing can give a romantic like me the wrong impression.  And there's little worse than wanting more from a source that may not be interested in giving it.

So tonight I will lie awake, knowing my marlin is sleeping under the same city lights and palm trees as I am, wondering if he's out there thinking of me.  I'll spend the night knowing that I'm only a twenty-minute drive from the spot where he invited me to be on this very night.  That I could have been in that spot if I chose to go, but I've decided that if I am going to have anything with him, it has to be more.

And if he thinks of my kiss half as much as I think of his... he'll find a way to give me more.

May you be lucky enough to spend the night and tomorrow's holiday with the one you love.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

$0.45 Lady Liberties, Please

Okay, it's mailing time!!

I didn't announce the last two reps because I knew I would be upgrading in the near future, but now that I'm settled with a new agent, it's a great opportunity to get my name and face out there.  Remind all 57 casting directors on my target list that I'm around, working and gaining momentum. 

In the back of my mind the last couple of days, I've been brainstorming ideas to infuse a little creativity into the mailing.  Sure I could slap a mass-printed label on a postcard that reads: "Anony signs with XYZ Talent," but that's about as interesting as a lecture on the art of watching paint dry.  I want a little more... well, umph... than that.  Something that will make a casting director spend the one extra second it takes to think, "Hmm, that's clever," before tossing my post card int0 the trash. 

So far, I've ruled out knock-knock jokes and confetti.  Gonna make this ol' brain come up with something a little better than that.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Anony Has a New Agent

The phone finally rang.

I signed.  It's been a long time since I've been this excited about my rep.  A good three years, in fact.

Giddy-up!!

:)

One... Two... Three.... RING!

Pretty please?

With a blackberry on top??

Rep Meetings; Part Two


At this stage of my career, when I go to rep meetings, it's not like an episode of Entourage.  I'm not riding an elevator to the top floor and taking a seat on a plush leather sofa.  Assistants and junior agents aren't falling all over themselves to make sure I'm comfortable.  I'm not led into a big, glass-walled conference room, and my arrival certainly doesn't trigger the start of the meeting.  Nope, I still have to sit and wait for them to be ready for me.

Maybe someday Ari Gold and five of his minions will whisk me into a conference room with a view of the Hollywood sign while they pitch why I should choose them.  Someday.  But right now, it's walking up the flight of stairs, if there are any stairs, to cramped little offices.  No lobbies to speak of, no fancy furniture, just an agent sitting at a desk with a computer and a phone... helping feed the beast that is Hollywood.  And when it's over, I'm the one waiting for the phone call.

But despite the humble, (though still funky and quite charming), exterior of the agency today... I loved them.  They weren't the biggest names that attended my showcase.  In fact, I wasn't too sure I would want to be with them because they are a fairly new boutique.  Just two agents who had previously been with a larger agency, but split to start their own.  I was concerned that, as a new agency, they wouldn't have the clout to get their actors into big-time casting offices.  But as soon as I started asking around, I learned that everyone thought they were gold.  After this meeting, I want to help them become platinum. 

There was a funny moment when they first called me.  While setting up our meeting time, I asked if they wanted me to prepare anything.  She said, "Nope.  We just want to sit and chat."  Right.  I forgot.  They saw my work at the showcase.  They know what I can do... that's why they're calling... This is just a personality interview.  Anony's got this.

So while most girls my age are checking their phone every five minutes to see if their valentine called... I've already ignored the texts from three different guys tonight because I really just want to hear from one number.  I would love to work with these ladies.  I feel like a giddy little girl after my first date, wondering when they're going to call me again. 

I'll probably doodle the agency name inside a heart on my notepad in a meeting at work tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Rep Meetings; Part One

"Finish each day and be done with it.  You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can.  Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered by your old nonsense." ~Emerson

Today was a lot of things.  

It started early, as yesterday extended on until about one thirty this morning when I needed to edit my work in last month's commercial showcase into a demo disc.  Then it was getting up early to get to the office to rush all day with a big project in a time crunch.  Then it was a late lunch break in which I was neither lunching nor breaking because I had an interview with a potential new manager.  Then it was rushing back to the office to get as much work done before I had to zip over to acting class.  It was a full day, but it was a good day.

So this meeting was with a potential manager.  He has a great reputation and I could use a little boost getting in some doors.  I am a lot more on top of my game now than I was when I taking these meetings a couple years ago.  I prepared as if I were pitching a big product or service in some other industry.  I prepared packages of the materials I use to market this product.  I walked in knowing part of the battle is to win them over with personality.  I'm studying with a new coach, my level of skill has skyrocketed in a matter of a few weeks.  For the first time in my career, I unapologetically know I deserve to be here... and that they'd be lucky to sign me.  (Plus, it doesn't hurt that I have a meeting with a great agent tomorrow.)

In a lot of ways, it was a spectacular meeting.  I liked them, I had them laughing, I had them engaged, and when it came to that portion... I sang my little heart out.  But there was only one problem... I kinda feel like I bombed my monologues.  They were definitely not representative of my best work. Um, dang it Anony.  That's kind of an important thing to nail.  They weren't terrible, they just weren't amazing.  And in this town... you've got to deliver amazing, or someone else will.

But, surprisingly, I'm not dwelling on it too much.  I have the quote above posted near my nightstand so I see it every night before I set my alarm.  Finish each day and be done with it.  As I lie down to sleep every night, I take a moment to be honest with myself.  Did I do the best I could in that moment?  Am I giving it my all?  Yes.  All of those blunders and absurdities, they're just life.  And tomorrow is a new day.

I may be wrong, but I'm still pretty confident that it was at least good enough to get them to call me in for the cold read interview.  

(And we'll get 'em then, won't we guys??!)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Walk a Mile In Your Shoes

For me, one of the most exciting things about being an actor is the opportunity to walk around in someone else’s shoes. A lot of people claim that actors don’t want to be themselves, that they are somehow uncomfortable in their own skin and thus, feel the need to take on that of someone else.

Oh, baloney. It’s not about not wanting to be me. I like being me. I like my life and I wouldn’t trade it for all the gold in the world. But I act because one life lived in one lifetime is just not enough for me. There are too many experiences to be had. Too many roads to choose and paths to walk. I don’t want one of them. I want them all.

I wouldn’t want to be a lawyer every day for thirty years, but I’d really love to be one for six months while I film a movie. I wouldn’t want to be a doctor every day, but I would love to experience what it’s like to hold a heart in my hands and save a life. I want to be a deep-ocean marine biologist, but if I do that, I’ll never have a chance to open my own coffee shop. I want to own a ranch and spend every day working with animals and with my hands in the soil. But I can’t very well do that and then walk down Madison Avenue in a $3,000 custom suit, ready to negotiate a deal on the biggest account of my corporate life.

I want to go back in time and live without electricity or any other modern technology we take for granted, like the automobile. I want to travel to the future to fight intergalactic battles in zero gravity with technology that I’ve never even dreamed of. Granted, in films it’s all pretend, but when I’m in there doing my thing… it’s real to me. And if I’m doing my job well, when someone is watching, it’s real the to them too.

And it’s not just the optimistic side, there’s more than being a high powered executive or flying to the moon… I also want to see the underbelly. I want to experience the heartbreak of random violence, the betrayal of a lover, the fear of war and famine. I want to know how it would feel to be trapped in poverty in a broken home. What would it be like to feel cornered by the mob, pursued by the cops, or held against my will? I certainly wouldn’t want any of these as my own reality, nor would I wish them on someone… but there are people out there, living every day in one of those lives. I want to know those people and what they go through. I’m an actor because I want to spend time in every life that’s ever been lived. (Or ever will be.)


I was just approached by some budding filmmaker friends who are writing and producing their own short film. It’s a story of a girl who loses her way and turns to dancing and prostitution to make ends meet. The script isn’t finished yet, but it’s being written with me in mind to play the lead. I’m incredibly honored and excited to take on the role. Though it’s obviously something I would never turn to in my real life, I’m looking forward to finding the humanity in her situation and forcing myself to eliminate judgment and sympathize. Because there are women out there who are living that life. And I want to tell their story.

Monday, February 6, 2012

No Blondes, Please.

When it comes to breakdowns, sometimes a the example attachment can be helpful if the producers are looking for something really specific.  Sometimes, it's just overkill. 

A breakdown was released today calling for someone to play Jesus Christ.  Fortunately, the casting office attached the below photo just in case you were a little hazy on the generally accepted image of ol' JC.


Somebody go find the guy who works on Hollywood Boulevard.  This might be his big break!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Time For Another Change

If I had a nickel for every time an actor said, "My agent doesn't get me out," I would have a private jet fly me to my island in the Bahamas.  (And that's just the hustlers.  Hell, if you reduced it to pennies and include all the numskull morons who don't even do anything for their acting career, I could probably still buy that island.)  Unfortunately, I think I used my last real nickel in the meter at my audition today.  But in case you happen to have that arrangement established, here's another nickel for you...

My stinkin' agent doesn't get me out.

You may remember, but in case you don't, here's the quick recap:  I left my long-term but ineffective agent last summer, and shortly thereafter signed with another.  They didn't have a great reputation, and it wasn't somewhere I wanted to be for long, but I figured they may as well send me out on a few auditions while I search for a new home.  Then I took an offer and switched to another rep in December.  They didn't have much clout so I wasn't planning to sign with them, but when a commercial showcase in December was postponed, I figured I'd grab them while I could.  Again, maybe they could get me an audition or two while I hustled after another.

We've been working together now for just shy of two months, and guess how many times they've sent me out....

Zero.  Zilch.  Zip.  Sixty days and I haven't seen the inside of a commercial casting office.  I haven't even been close enough to smell one.  (Well, aside from the one I went to yesterday.  But I got that one myself.)

Do you know how many commercials aired in the last 60 days?  Bear with me... I'm about to do some math:

The average thirty-minute television show is actually only twenty-two minutes long.  Networks have to pay the bills, so eight minutes are devoted to advertising revenue.  (Generally, the same rule applies to hour long programming as well, just multiplied by two.)

8 minutes X 60 seconds each = 480 seconds
Divide 480 by 30, and you'll discover that for every 30 minutes of television, there are 16 commercials. 
If we're just focusing on primetime, that's 96 commercials.
You want to talk about the entire day?  768 commercials.

That's just one day. 768.

Granted, some are repeats.  Some are 60 seconds.  Some are film trailers and TV show promos.  Let's be generous and say only 25% are unique.

That's still about 77 192 unique commercials per day.  On one channel. (Correction... my fingers typed 25%, but my brain read 10%!!)

Sixty days of 192 unique commercials? 11,520.  I don't think eleven thousand commercials were shot in the last sixty days, but I would wager a day at SAG scale that on any given day in Los Angeles, there are at least 30 commercials being cast.

There is no reason why I shouldn't be shooting some of those commercials.  But I'm not shooting them because I'm not nailing the auditions.  And the only reason why I'm not nailing the auditions... is because I'm not getting in the room.  Some of those commercials should be mine, but I haven't even had a shot because I haven't stepped foot inside the room. 

Anyway, I'm not one of those actors who will sit around with an agent for three years while they send me on two auditions every six months.  My type is very commercially marketable.  My headshots are fantastic.  My skills are professional and polished.  I should be in commercial auditions at least 2-3 times a week.  And I need a team who can help me get there.

I gave these guys a shot while I waited for my commercial showcase to be rescheduled.  Well, it was.  Last week I performed five spots for a group of agents.  And next week, I have two meetings for new representation. That's movement.