Friday, March 29, 2013

As A Shoot Day Approaches

I'm a nerd. 

I know this.  You know this.  I'm a big dork who loves this job.  This week has been an exciting adventure into the next level of my career.  It's my first time on a big show, and I just have to admit it to you if no one else...  I'm stupidly giddy over little things like getting the official call sheet and seeing my name listed under the cast.  Someday, this will be as normal and trivial as getting a phone call or pouring a cup of coffee.

But right now, it's huge.  It's crazy exciting.  It's calls from the 2nd Assistant Director.  It's wardrobe fittings.  It's makeup and hair notes.  It's a fancy call sheet with the logo of a famous show.  It's a one-liner shooting schedule.  It's a DOOD chart with my name on it.  (I didn't even know what a DOOD chart was until I got one.  By the way, it stands for "Day Out of Days" and grids all the characters in the episode and the days they work... But I don't yet know if you pronounce it like "dude" or just say the letters D-O-O-D... hey, I'm new at this.  Stay tuned for an update on that.)

Someday this will all be as routine as brushing my teeth, but right now it's exciting because I'm a nerd and it feels like my first day of school.  When you wear a fresh ribbon in your hair with your best new outfit and the bus driver tells you to settle down in your seat and keep your arms inside the window.  But what they don't understand is, you're finally a sixth grader.  That's, like, so much bigger than being a fifth grader. 

My jeans are pressed and I have my new Spongebob backpack filled with freshly sharpened pencils, crisp notebook paper and a first day of school grin plastered from ear to ear.  Who cares if the big yellow bus doesn't come for another two days.  I'm out here and I'm ready to go because the big day is just around the corner and I can barely keep my feet from wiggling out of my scuff-free, patent leather mary janes. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Do As I Say, Not Always As I Do

There are very few things that are within your control in this business.  In fact, one of the first real obstacles every actor must overcome in order to be successful is the mental obstacle of learning to build a career in an unfair industry.  Most educated, most talented, most attractive, most qualified, most dedicated -- all things that will never consistently guarantee you get the job.  Neither the masters in fine arts you hang on the wall nor the long list of designer coaches you've trained with will default you into a role when they're looking for a little more Audrey and you're just too much Marilyn.  Too tall, too short, too bubbly, too dark, too young, too old -- all things that can (and will) knock you out of the running at some point.  The key is to learn to not have to be everything to everyone all the time.  You can't control it; you can only be you.  The actors who are confident and comfortable with being just themselves are the actors who build long-term careers.  

That being said, do not sacrifice the things you actually do have control over.  Though at times it doesn't seem like it, there is a long list of things over which you have complete control.  I've mentioned some before, and I'm sure I'll touch on others later, but today I want to tell you about my audition last week for a movie that I botched. 

Yeah, you read that right.  I know you come here for inspiration and for a guiding light in the navigation of this business, but sometimes our mistakes are our greatest teachers... and I'm no different.  

It was a great opportunity, a nice supporting role in a made-for-TV movie that was already getting press.  It was for a wonderful indie casting director who does TONS of movies, and I would die to be on her good list.  I finally got in to see her and for a role that was right in alignment with the types of roles I'd like to continue to build into the brand I'm developing for my career.  Glorious opportunity. 

Then I shot myself in the foot before I even walked in the room.  I (more or less) have control over how and when I get to the audition.  Allowing myself enough time to battle the inevitable LA gridlock in order to arrive at the office on time and stress-free is something that is entirely within my control.  I pushed it too close and spent the 40 minutes in traffic freaking out that I was going to be uber late for my glorious opportunity audition.  What's even worse, I was also getting increasingly angry with myself during the drive and how stupid it was to leave late.  Of all the things that can knock me out of the running, carrying stress from the drive into the room with me is something that I have the power to keep from happening.  I was supposed to be "bubbly dream girl" in that room, and while I pulled it together and gave a decent read, it wasn't booking material.  It wasn't my A-game.  

My job is to bring my A-game.  Every. Single. Time.  Letting a stressful drive get in the way was within my control to prevent.  Lesson learned.

An actor's second biggest mental obstacle to overcome?  Learning to let go of a bad audition.  Because guess what?  Despite your best efforts, they will still happen from time to time.  

Yep.  There's another thing you can't control.  Welcome to this crazy life.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Playing Dress-Up

I went in for my wardrobe fitting today.  It's funny how even the parking on a studio lot is directly correlated with your status.  When you audition for the itty-bitty co-star roles, you have to park your car outside the lot and walk-on.  A drive-on is a privilege reserved only for actors of a greater significance.  Either you're auditioning for a series regular on a pilot or you're a celebrity guest star, only then can you drive on for the audition.  Otherwise bring quarters and enough time to walk halfway across the lot in order to get to your casting office, 'cuz baby, you're parking outside. 

But things are different when you actually book a role.  I got to drive on today.  I'm cheesy and this is my first major booked role, so little things like that are secretly exciting to me.

I walked through the rows and rows of talent trailers, wondering who was in them (and daydreaming that someday I would be) and reached the wardrobe department where two very wonderful women took me into a cozy little room.  There was a large mirror to section us off from the other sweet lady at a sewing machine, and the rest of the active lot.  I quickly glanced around at the extravagant costumes on bust form displays, then noticed there wasn't any sort of a changing curtain to duck behind.  I hesitated, kind of waiting for instructions to disrobe, because though I am not exactly modest in wardrobe departments, I didn't want to start undressing myself right in front of these ladies if that wasn't the proper protocol.  This is my first time on a major TV show after all, and no one gives you a heads up on the actual logistics of the process.  

I quickly said, "I'm okay to change right here, right?" 
They laughed and said, "Of course honey, it's just us."

I wanted to clarify that I wasn't being self-conscious, that I was more asking out of respect for them rather than any shyness on my part.  I decided it was best to just let the momentary awkwardness pass and started to shimmy out of my jeans.  I laughed to myself thinking, what an odd thing I do for a living... show up, strip down to my skivvies in front of perfect strangers and let them try various little outfits on me like I'm a doll. 

All in a day's work.

Fresh Role for Sale

I can't write long, I have to get to sleep.  But before that, I have to read the new movie I'm auditioning for on Wednesday.  I can't just let it sit on my computer unread.  That's like an eight-year-old at the fair with a twenty burning a hole in his pocket; there is no rest until it is burned on something on the midway.  If I'm ever going to get to sleep tonight, it will only be after I've read the entire script.  It's biology.  Or something.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

This Is Going to Be a Good Year

Holy smokes, I just realized something... Right now I'm making more money as an actor than I am for anything else.  It's not a lot, but more than half of my income is coming from acting.  Wow.  So that's what it feels like... Pretty freaking awesome.

Let's keep doing more of that.  Hell, let's make it 100%.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Right Brain Left Brain

Like most actors, I was born with the creative gene.  I have loved art and music and performance since I was a little mini-Anony.  Most of the credit goes to my incredibly talented mother who was always guiding us kids through the magical land of self-expression through arts and crafts.  Painting, sewing, ceramics, leather work, dreamcatchers... we did it all.  Yes, we made dreamcatchers.  In fact, I could still make you a dreamcatcher.  Oh yes, that is a skill I still possess.

Creative genes, sure.  But what makes me really lucky is somehow, I was also blessed with the mind of a business person.  Somewhere in my family bloodline, there was a gene for looking at the world through the eyes of an entrepreneur and it was passed down to me.  I almost went into a more traditional corporate line of work before I made the business decision to combine my favorite hobby with my future profession.  I figured I'd be successful in any career I chose, so why not capitalize on the passion I have for getting in front of a camera and use that as the fuel I'd need to get to the top.  I simply wouldn't have had as much internal drive to become a superstar accountant because I don't exactly get giddy with delight when I stare at a balance sheet.  (Quite the opposite, in fact.)

Where am I going with this, you may wonder?  Like most actors, I'm absolutely ecstatic about the role I just booked.  Can you hear me, way in the back??


I have dates booked on hold for a huge studio in town because one of the biggest shows on television felt that of the thousands of women who submitted, I was the one for the job.  Casting has called my agents for my "quote" -- which is the industry lingo for what I demand to be paid -- FYI, since this is basically my first co-star, my quote is scale-plus-10... which is industry lingo for the minimum wage.  (Salary negotiating power comes later.)  I have wardrobe selection, special effects makeup, and of course the actual filming to look forward to.  I have an incredibly fun role opposite the star of the show and I am Pumped.  Yes, that's Pumped with a capital P.  That's my artistic side getting fired up.

My business side?  While many actors will sit back and enjoy the wonderful position that is having an upcoming role and shoot dates on the books, my business half is not one for sitting back.  The other half of my brain tells my artist side, "Yeah yeah, good for you.  But how can we parlay this role into another co-star?  How can we use the momentum to hustle after the next big step in my career?"  One co-star does not a career make.  A single role by itself means nothing and is wasted unless you can use it to book the next one.  That's my business side talking.

So yesterday, when I heard about a guest star on a different show that was very similar to the role I just booked, my business brain saw an opportunity.  The casting director for this show had seen me at a workshop and called me in before.  I know a guest star is still a little bit of a stretch for a girl with only one co-star credit, but I figured it was worth a shot, especially since the roles were so similar and casting already liked my work.  I had my agents pitch me for the role pretty hard using my recent booking as leverage.  No news yet on whether they're bringing me in, but at the very least,  it's a reminder of my face and name and that I'm still out there... and that I'm booking. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Shift

I've been here in Los Angeles for just shy of six years.  In those six years I've chased this dream with varying degrees of intensity.  Some years I was green and tentative and eager to please.  For some years I was angry and discouraged and withdrew from the hustle completely.  Still others I was centered and confident and ready.  I've spent six years of my life noticing the doubt behind other peoples' eyes, and even more difficult, I've spent six years facing or swallowing my own.  In six years I've been asked the same sequence of questions nearly as many times as I've been asked my name:

"What do you do?"
"Oh, I'm an actor."
"Oh yeah?  What have you been in?"

This seemingly innocent question inevitably follows any declaration from me about my chosen career.  I end up stammering about how I've done a bunch (six years worth) of obscure, independent projects -- which admittedly is code for barely paid unpaid and unlikely impossible to have been seen.  No one says it, but they don't have to.  Every actor has seen it... maybe it's a slightly raised brow or the tiniest of eye rolls.  It's almost imperceptible to the untrained, non-actor eye.  But it's there, I've seen it for the last six years of my life.  It's a dismiss.  To everyone outside this business -- and most of the people in it -- you're not really an actor until you've done something people recognize.  You may as well be claiming to be an alien from Mars.  Until you show some bona-fide space rock, no one is going to buy it.

Today has been the first time in six years that it's been different for me.  Jaws dropped and eyes widened when I shared the news.  No smirks.  No eye rolls.  No dismissals.  Just mounds of congratulations and countless Facebook "likes".  I know in the end it doesn't matter what anyone thinks, but it was so special to finally have something "to show" for the last six years of my life.  Some teeny bit of evidence that I'm not crazy, that I can actually do this, that it just might be possible.  For once, I didn't have to put on my armor and guard my heart and soul from the endless judgment and dismissal from everyone around me.  Trust me, the load of our own self-doubt is sufficiently difficult to bear.

To every last one of you out there who ever doubted me: 

You should just sit back and wait.  I'm only getting started.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Big Day

Holy shit.  I did it.  I got it.  

My agent called and it's mine.  I just booked my first recognizable TV credit.  

And it's not just kinda recognizable.  It's a giant neon sign in the middle of a dark room.  Everyone in this town knows this show.  Everyone in your town knows this show.  

Direct quote from my agent: "Anony, things are going to change for you after this."

Bring it on.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Welcome to the Hustle

Let me tell you how this business works:  You walk off the plane at LAX and producers start knocking each other over to offer you the lead in the next summer rom-com.


It's more like this:

February - begin studying with wonderful coach who helps you make a breakthrough in your approach
August - coach hears of a role in a play with industry peeps attached and sends your info
Later in August - you bust your butt in a 45 minute audition, and though you don't get the role, you are asked to understudy the lead
September - you keep busting your butt for a show that you're not actually sure you'll ever get to perform
October-December - you keep busting your butt to attend many of the shows and watch another actor perform the role you've spent countless hours putting together in case you get called to perform, but that call doesn't come.
January - you get a different call, it seems another cast member has left the show and they would like you to take over a different role for the final month of performances.  You bust your butt again to get caught up on a new role
February - you throw your heart and soul into every minute you're on stage in every performance
Later in February - the show closes and your heart breaks a little as you say goodbye to what has become a huge part of your life and career
March - you hear about a role you could be right for that's being cast for the big big TV show for which the playwright (of the play you were just in) used to write... so you ask if he can pass along your information to his folks still on the show
Later that day - your headshot and resume lands in the hands of a current writer for the big big TV show, who replies that she remembers you from the play and will get your stuff in the hands of casting
Today - you leave yoga to a voicemail from your agent with an audition for the big big TV show

So this one audition is just over a year in the making.  It's at one of the biggest, perhaps the biggest, casting offices in town.  And guess what?  It ain't no series regular.  It isn't the lead in this year's summer blockbuster or next year's pilot.  All that work is for a small co-star role with a couple lines. 

That's how tough this town is.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

P. S.

To all of you who have written me wonderful emails in my absence, my sincere apologies for not getting back to you yet.  My blog-cation included email as well.  I will get to you all eventually, so hang tight and keep up the good fight!!  


Anonymous Yogi

My shins sweat.

I was in what seemed like my millionth downward dog in yoga class today and noticed the tiny beads of sweat forming on my shins.  Okay, who am I kidding.  They were not tiny beads.  I've vowed to always be honest with you...  They were streams of glistening body juice running down my legs, arms and face.  I giggled to myself and thought... I need to blog about this.  

So here I am.  Returning to the warm feeling of keys beneath my fingers and the soft glow of the computer screen on my face.  It's like feeling the sun finally come out on what's been a cloudy morning.  It's a long, deep stretch down to your toes that you haven't done in ages.  It's a yawn big enough it can make you sneeze.

Existence as an actor is this weird thing where you're constantly in limbo... working day in and day out in a side job to pay the bills while waiting for your "real" job to take off.  You put a normal life, and it's normal milestones, on hold while you hustle after an elusive career.  You try to maintain hobbies and a social life so you can experience some semblance of normalcy, but sometimes it feels like you're just trying to keep yourself busy and distracted from that nagging inner worry that your break will never come.  It's a tough existence to maintain.  Sometimes the hustle takes over, sometimes the distractions do.  I don't know if that's just life, a normal cycle of waning and waxing of the internal drive, or if it's my own particular demon to battle.  Either way, I'm finally emerging from a waning period. 

Life has come at me hard over the last few months.  Struggles in my personal life, particularly the financial kind, robbed me of a significant amount of motivation.  I needed a little mental break, and I took it.  I've been operating at a kind of half-capacity for a few months.  But I needed it... and half-capacity is better than zero capacity.    

Another truth, readers... I went and got my heart broken.  Not the heart break of the constant rejection and brick walls of Hollywood.  That I'm used to and can take in stride and let roll off my back.  I mean the real, honest-to-goodness falling out of love kind.  You know what I mean, it happens to everyone at some point.  In the end, I'm grateful for it as it has lead me directly into the arms of what's turning out to be my next great love... the practice of yoga.  Yep...  I've turned into one of those cliche, mat-carrying, warrior-posing actresses that fill up little studios every morning all over this town.  

(Polite pause while you uncrinkle your nose at the thought.)

Give me some credit though!!  I don't wear makeup to class and dear god...  I vehemently refuse to pay $68 for a Lululemon tank top I'm just going to drench with sweat in ten minutes.  I also will not be caught dead saying things like, "OMG I had, like, six gummy bears this morning.  I'm sooo fat."  "You're so not!  Hey, by the way, did you ever hear back from that one producer-guy?"

Blech!  I hear that conversation happening around me every time I stand in line for coffee.

But guess what... I love the mat.  In yoga, we are taught to bring the focus back to our breath.  To slow down and focus on ourselves and our centers.  It could be just all that twisting and stretching, but my internal fire has been reignited.  Not only has it helped me and my sweaty shins deal with the lingering emotions at the end of a grand love affair, it's also getting this little booty into camera shape.  Which is excellent because I just filmed another commercial today, I signed with a new publicist who is bringing in film offers and I have two awards shows coming up in the next two months.  Things are heating up and getting sweaty here... and it ain't from my Chaturanga Dandasana.

Wanna come?  I'm bringing you with me.  Let's go give this town a little hell.