Monday, November 25, 2013

Close Does Count in More Than Horseshoes and Hand Grenades

Just found out that I didn't end up booking either play.  

I guess it's reassuring to see that I'm definitely doing something right because both came down to me and one other girl.  (Are you sensing a pattern here?) But in what can only be described as irony, the first play went with the other girl because I just looked too young and the second because I didn't quite look young enough.  It's that classic story they always tell us actors to describe how arbitrary booking really is... it's just a little more annoying when it actually happens to you.  In the same week.

One casting director tells you you're too tall and you turn around and another says you're too short...  Or too young/too old/too hot/not hot enough... there is some random silly thing that you have no control over that will knock you out of the running at some point.  It's frustrating, but it's inevitable.  Still, you and I have been around the block to know that it is never about the one job.  It's about getting in there and nailing it and making fans in the room. 

There were seven people I made solid impressions on during the five rounds of casting I had last week, including one I've been trying to get in front of for a year.  Though I'm not walking away with a role today, you bet your britches I'll be watching their next projects like a hawk for any parts that are right for me.  Coming this close will definitely help me get in front of them again, and someday the part will be right for me.  Stay tuned to see how it pays off down the road.

Friday, November 22, 2013

My Ears Are Burning

I think it's weird to know that people are talking about me right now.  Well, maybe not right this exact second, but generally the last few days.  There are literally teams of people on two separate projects who are mulling over Anony as the female lead in their productions.  I wonder what they're saying, sitting there with my headshot in their hands...

Okay guys, stop trying to make me talk about it!  Just cool it.  I'm trying to focus on other things, yo! 

(Clearly I'm terrible at this part.)

It's a Small Town, Really

One of the perks about being a professional actor in Los Angeles -- and trust me, very few sentences begin with that phrase -- is that we get to see pretty much every movie for free.  Something you want to see?  Guaranteed that at some point there will be a screening of it somewhere in this city and all you need is your guild card to sit in the plush studio seats and enjoy.  I take advantage of this perk whenever I can.  I feel like it's a little restitution for all the hardship this industry puts us through.

So last night, I was trying to keep my mind off my pending auditions like a good little actor, and took a friend to see a screening of a great film that will release in a couple months.  Twenty minutes into the movie, in walks a character who looks strangely familiar... the actress was my partner for one of the chemistry reads on Wednesday.

Sometimes there's no getting away from it.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Morning After

Yesterday? Amazing.  Filled to the brim with auditions and me just loving every minute of it.  An entire day devoted to the hustle.  Callbacks for great roles in great projects with great feedback.  I've worked hard the last few days preparing the twenty-ish pages of material and I truly enjoyed playing with them in the audition room.  No in-room anxiety about booking the jobs.  Just honest-to-goodness pleasure in getting to perform them, even if it ends up being just this one time.  I ended yesterday on the couch in an exhaustion coma, but with a smile on my face.  That little smile you get when you're utterly content.

Enter today, and with it, the hard part.  While I've already heard from one CD that my read yesterday was "terrific", no decisions have been made yet.  And guess what?  It's on with the hustle.  It's time to let these roles go and move on to whatever is ahead.  Nothing was perfect, but I felt solid and completely happy with my performances.  I gave them my 100% best shot.  Whatever happens next is completely out of my hands.  While I feel I nailed them, would be great in each role, and being in either production could bring big opportunities my way, I cannot hang success or failure on whether I book or not.  So best to put it all out of my mind and get back to the hunt for the next audition.

Like I said.  This is the hard part.  Way easier said written than done.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Someday This Will Be the Norm

Today was one of those special days.  Those days when, halfway through, I have to pinch myself to make sure I'm actually awake and not just dreaming.  It was a professional actor type of day.  If this career were a ship, I would have to admit that it doesn't always float along powered only by the winds of acting.  I still have to get out my paddles and row with a survival job to stay afloat.  For now anyway.   But today was one of those glorious days that tasted of things to come.  Of the times ahead when acting is all there is, days are full of auditions, and the promise of projects dance on the horizon.  

First, as luck would have it, both callbacks were scheduled for nearly the exact same time this afternoon. And naturally they were on complete opposite sides of town.  So last night, after some schedule scrambling with the casting directors, I was able to arrange arriving a little early to the first, and late to the second. (I also begged the LA traffic gods to be forgiving just this once.)  Plus, it didn't hurt that I let it slip that both these auditions were callbacks, and both final round chemistry reads... in a town where everyone waits for someone else to take the first big risk, it never hurts to appear highly sought after.    

I had a 1:00 in North Hollywood, which ran late, but the director said, "Only because I know you're short on time, we won't do the redirect, but I don't even need to see it anyway.  You're so strong, I know you could handle it without any trouble."

Then I jumped in my car to zip back to the west side for callback number two.  En route, I received an email from my commercial agent about an audition tomorrow.  Great news, but after a little discussion we decided I wasn't quite right for it, so we passed.  Flash forward four freeways and forty minutes later, my commercial agent is calling me again with questions about another project they're pitching me on.  She'll update me on that soon and promises to come see me if I get one of these plays.

I finally arrive to my next callback at 2:45 and pair up with my chemistry partner.  We run our scene a few times, get comfortable with each other, try to make some sort of a connection.  In about fifteen minutes, this stranger and I have to stand on a stage in front of ten people (we've barely met) and make them believe we're falling in love with each other.  Using the words someone else wrote.  The CD prepped us a little going in and said, "I need the energy between you two to be electric up there. It has to be HOT."

Okay, sure. Yeah yeah.  What was your name again?  You cool if I kinda grab you at this part?  I'm so sorry if I have coffee breath, I ran out of gum on the way here.  It's been a long day already.  But... uh... let's go get 'em, huh??

P.S. I love my job.  It's 100% insane, but god I love it.

Monday, November 18, 2013

And Then There Were Three

Today I had the first of two callbacks scheduled this week.  It's for the title character in a great play, dark and gritty.  It's at a great theatre and funded by one of the biggest houses in town.  It's being cast by a CD who does a ton of indie films and my agent is ecstatic that I've made an impression. On the way out the door in a hushed voice so the next actress in wouldn't hear, the stage manger smiled and said I nailed it.

I have intel from an insider that I've made it another round.  Apparently it's down to me and two other girls.  The final cast to be determined after a round of chemistry reads.

I have a callback for another play on Wednesday, so this week is off to a good start....

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Hazards of Networking

If you're like me, you're still a mostly unknown actor. I have finally reached the stage in my career when, in a group of people larger than say, five, someone will have seen my tv episode and everyone has heard of the show. In fact, there's a high probability that some of you have actually already seen me on tv... but nah-nah-nuh-nah-nah I won't tell you who I am. :) But even with that, I am still a total unknown. No one is stopping me on the street asking for an autograph. No papers are printing my name. No designers are begging me to wear their clothes on the red carpet.

To get from here to the next level -- which is still having an unrecognizable face, but at least a handful of recognizable credits -- it is a numbers game. I'm not established enough to be brought in to auditions on my resume alone (if you somehow missed my foul-mouthed tantrum on that subject, you can catch up here.) So my job right now is to generate as many audition opportunities as possible. Since we end up booking only a fraction of the projects we read for, we have to up bring up the numbers. Getting one audition a week, or -- eek -- one a month ain't gonna cut it. It would take waaaay too many years at that rate to get any sort of traction. And as if the general pressure of trying to just make a reasonable living weren't enough, we (and particularly us ladies) have the added awareness of the age-equation. The older we get, the more difficult the road.

There are way too many ways I'm working on this to mention in a single blog post, but one of them is attending premieres. I've worked my way into the indie film world and have been lucky enough to land a few invites to some of these red carpeted events. Let's be honest, they're for small films and there aren't many big stars there. I'm not rolling up with a driver, I'm wearing my own dresses and I don't have a publicist holding my jacket while the photogs snap my shot. I have two goals while I'm there: 1) get a picture on the carpet, and 2) walk away with business cards in my clutch.

The first goal is pretty easy. Most Hollywood events, even these ultra-indie types, have at least a small step-and-repeat. (That's the industry lingo for the panels behind celebs with all the sponsor and film logos. It comes from the actor's job to give an interview with one camera, then take a step down the red carpet to the next media camera and essentially repeat the same interview.) The picture above is a big one, but the ones I get to walk on are really just a single panel and seem kinda silly to me. I (the person) loathe being the dope who stands in front of the panel while someone snaps my picture. IT FEELS SO LAME AND WANNABE to me. But in the end, shots of you like this, when used correctly on your website or social media pages, do actually give the perception that you're sort of a bigger deal than you are. That's why publicists charge $3,000 a month to get their clients "out there". So I swallow my pride, grit my teeth, ignore my inner monologue and get the stupid shot for me (the actor) and for the sake of my career.

Then I work the reception room. There is an art to this, and somehow I was blessed with the gift. I usually go to these things by myself so I don't have to worry about entertaining someone I've brought with me. Being alone also forces me to engage in conversation, make connections and ultimately leads to that beautiful little dance of the business card exchange.

Every once in a while there are men who misunderstand friendliness for flirting. Most people get it -- I'm an actor, you're a director, you've just premiered your film, you get why I'm talking to you. If we make a connection, we'll exchange cards. Others aren't quite as astute. I have about a million of these stories for you, but a couple weeks ago there was one that took the cake.

A younger man started chatting with me and he immediately started trying to impress me. I can sniff that garbage a mile away. He went on about how he knew the lead actors and producers of the film (that's the bait) and how he was writing, directing and starring in a feature that was conveniently about to go into production (that's the hook). Then he wants to leave the reception and grab a drink alone. (Yeah right. Sorry dude, I'm here to make business connections, not land a date.) I politely declined. He tried a few more tactics, which only forced me to be more firm until he finally realized he wasn't gettin' any. (p.s. guys... don't force us to be rude!) I have never seen a man handle rejection so poorly. He got really awkward and stormed off mumbling about how I would want him when he was famous.

What?!? Really?? I couldn't help but laugh to myself, it's all part of this crazy crazy town. After that, I went over and exchanged cards with the film's director.  Boom.  Objective number 2 accomplished.

Don't be that guy. (And don't be the girl who falls for it.)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Your Regular Serotonin Injection

Look at this puppy. Just look at this squishy, floppy pile of puppy perfection. 

There is not a stress in the world that can't be cured by little miss adorableness here. I just want to cuddle up and coo into those ears she'll grow into someday. She might even catch up to those paws as well.  

And all is right in the world. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Call and Response

Sometimes you call out but get no response except the echo of a vacant room. Other times, the universe hears you and sings back, loud and clear.

The day after that little tantrum, I had a full on sob session in my car on the way home from a screening/talk-back at which the innocent star mumbled something about "falling" into acting. Casually shrugged off his start in the business as something he did for fun when he was young that just "grew on him" as he went along. The poor actor meant nothing by it, but in that moment, sitting in the audience... I absolutely hated him. Now, I'm not a hater. But I am human, so in that moment, all the anger and frustration I was feeling and keeping tightly sealed just below the surface came up in my face and I projected on to him. How unfair is it for me to be working so hard to even get an audition and this guy was handed a career as if it were free-role Friday??

First of all, I highly doubt the road was as smooth as this actor made it seem. We all tend to gloss over the hardships once we're on the other side of them and he did mention something about eating gas-station pizza every night during the hard times, so I know the man faced his fair share of struggle. And don't worry, I didn't make a scene. I doubt even the person sitting next to me even knew that those words had hit a nerve in me. But I did cry like a freaking banchee in the car on the way home. I mean full on, snotty nose, hiccup inducing waterworks. The people in the cars next to me must have thought I was losing it. For real.

If you're new to this grind, be prepared for times like these. They happen to all of us. It's just the nature of this beast we decided to tame. Sometimes you just have to muscle through and keep pressing forward in the face of little to comfort you. Other times you're lucky and salvation comes just at the very moment you need it.

For a day or two I was a bit of a mess, falling into traps of doubt and fear, wondering if I was really any good at this. Somehow, the universe/god/buddha/whateveryoubelievein heard me and responded with a few big reassuring hugs.

It was in the email from the big-time producer who somehow knew I had gone after this film, thought for sure I was going to get it, told me I had a lot of talent and that someday things would happen for me in a big way.

It was in the amazing two theater auditions I had... and the two callbacks that are already scheduled for next week.

It was in the audition that felt like the best of my life, when the Emmy-nominated director said, "Who did you coach with on this? You didn't? This is all your own work? You should be very proud."

It was even in the silly game show I taped (at the request of a CD who nearly cast me in a national commercial two years ago) and won more than three grand.

It's less that I needed those affirmations -- because we actors have to get used to not needing validation -- but more that I just really appreciated them. They came at a time when I was vulnerable and they felt particularly special.

So if you're struggling, remember that it's just a down swing. I have them, you'll have them, everyone does. Even the big big celebs have rough patches. There's only one thing that will follow a down swing... that's the up swing.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Words of Wisdom Wednesdays

True Words.


Perhaps the most important:

And because you know how much I love it if it's written on a mug:


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

So This is What It's Like to Lose My Mind

Last week when catching up with a friend on The Facebook, I half-jokingly described my existence as follows:

"I spend 80% of my waking hours auditioning for work on camera, preparing to audition for work on camera, busting ass to try to get more auditions for work on camera, working out to be in shape to work on camera... and every once in a while, I get to actually work on camera. When I'm not doing those things, I go to screenings to watch other people work on camera."

We laughed, but it's essentially true. Every morning I get up early and research the latest castings, connect with my agent on what's out there that's right for me, and what connection I have with that office. I audition when I can. I prepare self-tapes when my agent can only convince them to watch a link instead of calling me in the room. On my own dime. Multiple times a week. I send postcards, thank you cards, thank you gifts, connect with casting directors and producers on social media platforms. I attend workshops, screenings, premieres, networking mixers, industry Q&A panels, film festivals... anything that has the potential, however remote, to put me in a conversation with somebody developing a project somewhere. I work rooms, exchange business cards, follow up with emails, send updates to stay on radars. I have checklists and databases full of names and details so that with a single click I can pull up a contact history and see exactly how and when I've communicated with him/her in the past. If it's been too long, I make an excuse to reach out. I schedule coffee meetings, lunches, and happy hour drinks. I attend other professionals' events to support and promote their work even when it doesn't include me. I practice yoga and go for long runs and obsess about eating incredibly healthy to stay in shape. I get callbacks and "so talented" with regularity. My agent raves that I'm so proactive. I literally do not know one other person who devotes as much time and energy into this as me. Day in and day out. I know we shouldn't compare, but jesus christ! I live and breath this shit. I write a fucking blog about it!

And yet BARELY ANYTHING IS HAPPENING. Auditions are still few and far between, I haven't booked anything in a goddamn half year. Granted I'm going after bigger roles than I ever have before, but I feel like I'm going mad. How the hell do you stay focused on doing everything you possibly can when NOTHING is going on????? How do you stay poised, flexed, ready to pounce on the slightest opportunity should it wander by and not go completely bat-shit crazy when it doesn't?? When does it happen??? When will I not feel like I'm shouting in the middle of a vacuum and no one can fucking see or hear me. When will people stop saying, "She's great, buuuut we'll bring her in when she has a few more credits." That is my least favorite, yet frequently heard, phrase right now. I could go all Fight Club on the next person who dares to utter it in reference to me.

I feel like I'm in the middle of that SATC scene when Charlotte and Carrie go to the affirmation workshop.  In response to Charlotte's genuine fear that it's not working, the presenter says something totally NOT helpful like, "Maybe you're not really out there. You just need to really put it out there."  This video sort of cuts it off, but Carrie grabs the mic and essentially says, "Oh she's really out there, bitch.  She's putting absolutely everything on the line, so the least you could do is give us something more useful than that bullshit non-advice."  Well... more or less that's what she says.

I know I still have to live my life, and I do. I socialize and I date and I have hobbies and do stuff for fun here and there when I can, much like any career-focused person would. But my god, I am seriously putting it out there. I feel like I'm crouched in starting blocks, propped up on my finger tips, tush in the air waiting for that gun to go off.... But. It's. Just. Not.

But there is one ingredient in this mix that is essential: TIME. It's the tricky part and there is no set amount. For every different recipe -- yours, mine, his, hers -- the quantity is completely different. Some need only a dash. (Bastards!)  Others, barrels. Yet it is essential. It is inescapable. And my god, the waiting is crushing. Perhaps my recipe calls for a year. (Or maybe a decade? Help me!) I don't know. Either way, the only thing there is to do is to keep doing what I'm doing, keep believing and putting it out there.  And just be ready. (Patience is not a genetic gift I was given. It is hard. Oh so hard, folks.)

But I have tasted the high highs. I have felt the pure joy of acting for a profession. So no matter how long this business is going to make me wait for it, I will.

Anything else would just be settling.  And I will dream my life away before I do that.