Wednesday, March 26, 2014

***Actress Must Be Able to Cry On Cue

I always roll my eyes when that little footnote is at the bottom of a breakdown.  The first mental image I get is of a snooty, cravat-wearing director snapping his fingers and demanding that I immediately begin to produce liquid in rolling streams from my tear ducts. 

*Sigh*  The crying on cue dilemma.  Here's the thing:  the kind of crying a director wants is a physical expression of internal emotion, not the tears themselves.  But as the actor... sometimes that internal emotion expresses itself as tears... and sometimes it doesn't.  Tears -- the real ones -- are elusive and the minute you make it about achieving "the tear", they definitely won't come. Usually if you're in the right emotional space, you can eventually get there.  When you're shooting and your tears experience a bit of stage fright, it's not usually a problem.  You may just need a second take.  

However... the audition is an entirely different beast.  You usually only get one shot and it has to be perfectly timed so that the few moments you have in genuine emotional depth coincide the with the few moments you have in the room.  You have to bring yourself to and hold at the precipice of an emotional flash flood.  Then it's a balancing act where timing and concentration are EV-ER-Y-THING.  You have to be able to walk into the room in the exact state of mind you would find yourself in at the start of the scene.  If you've ever been on even one audition, you know how difficult that actually is.  

I had an intense dramatic read the other day involving the murder of a loved one, pretty heavy stuff.  First thing at any audition, I check the sign-in sheet to gauge how the session is running and estimate how long my wait will be.  I like to allow myself 15-20 to prep on-site before my name is called.  So I'll either hold off on signing in if I need more time, or jump on the list early if the waiting room is backed up.  When it comes to the crying game, waiting too long is just as dangerous as going in before you're fully prepped.   On this one, I sign in immediately, about fifth on the session sheet.  Perfect.   Three to five ahead of me is my ideal.  Gives me time to feel the pace of the in-and-out of actors cycling through the room and enough lead time to get myself completely prepared emotionally... but not so long that I totally burn out and exhaust myself before walking in.

(There is definitely an art to audition pacing; knowing how much time you need and how much you have.  If you don't quite understand what I'm talking about yet, keep up the grind and get back to me after 300 or so auditions.  You'll know exactly what I mean.)

As it gets closer to my turn, I begin to ramp up my emotional state.  I'm "in the hole", which means there's a girl in the room, a girl ahead of me (on deck) and then me.  Can't go too far yet, or I'll spend it before my turn. Can't lose focus and think of my grocery list or I'll deflate my emotional build. 

The girl ahead of me goes in.  I'm "on deck."  This is game time.  Once she goes in, I have about 3-5 minutes before it's my turn.  I concentrate on the work I've done for the scene and allow all that emotion to wash over me.  Just then, three producer-types walk up and wait to go in the room.  Great.  Three producers are standing four feet from me while I'm  a preparing-actress slash crazy person.  I concentrate on not concentrating on them.  (ha!)

After a minute or two, the door opens and the producers step in.... and another producer steps out and proceeds to make a phone call.  The associate asks me to give them a couple minutes.  

Sure. Sure.  No problem.  (I'm just dwelling on my dead imaginary family out here.)  Still, I'm fairly seasoned at this emotional readiness thing.  It's a little annoying, but I roll with it.  Imma professionale.  **Anony brushes dust of her shoulder.**

Then... the producer who is now outside on the phone proceeds to describe two of the auditions he just saw!  Luckily they weren't for my role, but I heard him say "We already saw two for the Melissa role, one was good... the other.... yeesh."  Ugh!!  I immediately block out his voice and walk a few paces away.  No criticism can enter my brain in this moment, even if it's for someone else.  Especially when I'm holding myself on the verge of tears far longer than the ideal audition situation.

Finally the door opens and the producer heads back inside.  I walk up, expecting the associate to wave me inside after him.  She stops me again... THE THREE PRODUCERS WHO JUST WENT IN NOW WANT BACK OUT.  

My god.  It felt like the dogs at my parents house.  In the door. Out the door.  In the door.  Out the door.

Fortunately I was able to just roll with it and gave a fantastic "crying on cue" read for the five producers who decided to stay in the room.  It was that yummy kind that's so emotionally available that I have to fight the tears back (which is what happens when we're doing our job well).  It was the good kind where everyone exhales at the end because the emotion in the room has just changed, just got heavy, just got real.  

I walk away feeling great.  Knowing that I nailed it (regardless if I get it or not), and grateful that I pulled this out of my hat to redeem myself after laying a stinker in the same office two weeks ago.  

I guess they forgave me  :)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Viral Video Report

Just doing my part to make sure you're up on all the best of the hustle-related virals in case they haven't popped up on a social media feed near you.

This is pretty funny and sooo the joke we all hope we're lucky enough to make someday. 
But oh, Bradley... that hair... 

Friday, March 21, 2014

When Your Ship Hasn't Come In

Have you been anxious for good news?  Have you checked the blog since last week?  And checked again?  And again? And again?

I'm right there with you.  But unfortunately, no news.  :(  It's looking like I didn't get it.  Agent and I feel like we would have had an offer by now. The cruelty of this industry is such that even when you're pinned, it's not likely that they'll call you to let you know they went with the other girl.  You just watch the shoot days silently drift by like a sailboat that's so far away you can't hear or see a thing... but you know there are actually people on that boat having a great time.  Lots of people, including the girl who got the phone call you never got.  

And there you are, left standing on the shoreline.  Fighting back tears, pretending like you don't care. 
But you do.  You do every time.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

I've Been Pinned!!

Does it hurt?

The question my mother facetiously asked when I told her. No it doesn't hurt. In fact, this kind of pinning is a really good feeling! And it couldn't have come at a better time...

I walked out of a co-star audition yesterday feeling sick to my stomach. My read just felt... off. Flat. I'm not sure what happened. Maybe I wasn't totally in the moment. Maybe I was thrown because the casting office changed locations within the studio and I walked up thinking I'd be used to the space, but then I wasn't. Maybe it was because I overheard the CD tell the girl before me, "Oh my god, yes! I loved that" and I didn't shrug it off like I thought I had. Whatever happened, halfway through my read I thought... "Ooh I can do so much better than this." Then I made an even worse mistake: after they quickly thanked me-- the universal audition language for "thanks, but no thanks" -- I just walked away.

I should have asked to do it again. They know me, they know I'm good. This is the second time they've had me read in as many weeks. It was a short scene and I was the last of the day. I'm sure they would have let me give it another rip. But I just walked away. Then proceeded to beat myself up for it for the next hour.

After a couple poor me texts to my mother and an ugh I'm so frustrated with myself for blowing an opportunity text to another actor, I decided to email my agent. I told him I felt pretty blah and would it be possible to ask them for a do-over.

To which he replied... well, you just got pinned for the pilot!!

I had basically given up on the audition I had last week for the pilot. It felt amazing, really funny and a great reunion with one of my favorite CDs. But when Friday, the weekend and Monday went by without word, I figured it had gone to someone else. I wasn't terribly concerned, I knew the CD would have me back. But as it turns out, I've been pinned for the role!!

Now what does "pinned" mean? It's not a booking... yet. It means I'm on a very short list of actors (also pinned) who are the finalists for the role. It's very similar to the "on avail" you would get for a commercial project. Essentially, the production is letting me and my reps know that I'm a final contender and could I please keep the shoot dates available for them.

Yay!! My first official pilot audition and mamma brought home a pin!! So within an hour and half from feeling lowest of the low for bombing an audition and feeling (yet again) like nothing lay on the horizon... Team Anony morale zoomed back up at the prospect of shooting my first pilot! Fingers crossed that I'll have even better news for you in the next few days!!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Public Misbehavior

Something you already know: Getting an audition is hard. I don't mean the kind for a student film or a micro-slash-no-budget webisode series. Submit a photo to enough of those, you're bound to get called in sooner or later. I mean the auditions for movies that actually screen in theaters or shows that actually air on television. Those auditions are insanely difficult to land. You know this. If you don't, you probably googled for the definition of anonymous and somehow, twenty clicks later, ended up here. (If that's you... welcome to the real hustle behind your favorite entertainment.)

Getting a casting director for a major project to give you one of the five-minute time slots in a session is beyond difficult. It's like a Black Friday door-busters with the iPhone 10 on sale five years in advance for $2.00. The crowd outside is enormous. The line stretches into the next three zip codes. People are crawling all over each other to get a precious five minutes inside. It's an absolute battle just to make it through the doors.

But you work hard and one day, you finally get invited into the room. Now the real pressure is on. Now you have to create magic in those five minutes. You better make sure you give it the best five minutes you have. There is nothing worse than walking away from an audition knowing you wasted all the work it took to get it because you didn't prepare enough, were thrown by being late on the drive over or simply let the pressure of the moment get to you.

Do what you have to do to be able to walk into that room with nothing but your A-game. For me... that means I sacrifice some "coolness" outside.

Everyone has their own process in the waiting room. Some actors are chatters. Some actors are pacers. Some actors like to stand in a corner and deliver their lines to the drywall six inches from their face. Me? I 'm a walker. I like to be up, walking around (usually in circles, figure eights or pacing). I try to be conscientious of other performers and go down the hall or outside. I also usually mutter to myself, do facial stretches, bbbbbbbbbbb with my lips, "yee yah yow", jump up and down. I'm trying to make sure I'm in my body, from the top of my head to the tips of my fingers and toes. I want to be loose, alive and in the mindset of my character...

So pretty much I look like a crazy person. I'm talking to myself, sometimes walking rapidly back and forth, making faces and gesturing at invisible people near me -- or sometimes real people who just happened to be unfortunate enough to walk by right as I need something to react to. It's pretty much everything your parents told you not to do in public unless you wanted to be carted off to an institution.  Today I had to do a very comedic scene for the pilot that was incredibly heavy on reactions, wordless expressions that absolutely have to be clear.  And funny.  More than one golf cart whizzed by me as I muttered to myself walking around between the sound stages.  Some golf carts carried industry people who are used to this kind of thing, but others had tourists visiting the lot. 

I'm sure I raised a few eyebrows. I'm sure there are some who chuckled at me under their breath. I don't care. I've walked away from auditions before knowing I wasted them. I can't let that happen when the difference between success and failure are the five minutes in a room. Those five minutes can change everything. Make them count.

"Ladies and gentleman.  If you take a look to your left... No, that's not a woman suffering from schizophrenia.  It's just an up-and-coming actress hoping to land her first pilot. " 

It's all part of the working studio tour. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

P-Season: Month 3 Roundup

If you're wanting to learn the rhythm of pilot season -- or if you already know and are just keeping track with me -- now that we've entered March, most series regular roles in the majors have been cast.  Every second article on Deadline is about who's attached to what, which projects that Who has done before and what big-name agency has them on its roster.  There are certainly a lot of series regs still up for grabs, but a vast majority of the slots have been filled by now.  

By "up for grabs", I mean well-repped, fairly well-established actors are still being seen for them.  The rest of us are trying every way we can to let this town know we're here too.  Trying... sometimes succeeding.  Sometimes not.  I didn't get into the room on any series regulars this year (yet?), but I put tape together for at least six of them.  No real bites, but it's solidly some of my best work to-date.  I know it sounds cheesy, but even the experience of preparing six roles and shooting self-tapes of that magnitude (my agent would certainly watch too) was one heckofaneducation.  

While all the Names who find themselves entering March without an offer start to get sick to their stomachs, right now is an exciting time to be an up-and-comer.  As the leads fill up, the CDs start looking for faces to plug into the smaller roles.  And guess what?!?  On Thursday I have an audition for a co-star on a pilot!!  

I'm getting in the room for a pilot!!

                                    During pilot season!!

                                                             On a studio lot!!


So what if it's a small role.  It actually has serious potential to recur should the series get picked up.   

But let's not get ahead of ourselves.  Most importantly, it's also for a casting director I've auditioned for at least 3 times, so I know he likes me.  In fact, he was the very first legit, network CD that called me in.  He loved my silly cover letter.  That was three years ago and he (and his associate) still remember me for it to this day.

Hardly any actors take them seriously any more... but a good cover letter can be a powerful thing...  Just sayin.

Hello pilot :)