I hope you've had a glorious holiday with your families! Or if you don't happen to celebrate Christmas, I hope you had a wonderful week of eating Chinese food and playing in the snow. I say snow because I am blogging to you from temperatures that never grace the palm trees of Los Angeles. It is Cold. I am Cold. (Yes, that was two capital Cs.) I'm the goofy chick in the corner coffee shop bundled up in twenty layers of sweaters and hats and a gigantic scarf. Even though I act like a baby, running inside from the car to minimize exposure to the snowy weather, I secretly enjoy it. It is fun to get out of the unending summer that is Los Angeles and enjoy a few different seasons. Especially this time of year. Somehow Santa seems a little more jolly and twinkle lights give off a little more twinkle when surrounded by snow banks. If you can, it's worth it to get out of the city for the holidays. Los Angeles (and this career in general) are such a grind, you need to step into some fresh air every once in a while. (Both the literal and figurative fresh air). I was working right up until I left for the holiday. A couple days before jumping on the plane, I had to pop into a sound studio to do a little ADR for one of the movies I shot this fall. AD-what?? It stands for Automated Dialog Recording, also known as looping. Sometimes when you're filming, something happens with the sound. Perhaps an ambulance drives by or an airplane flies overhead, or maybe your wardrobe rubs the body mic taped between your boobs and it crackles. On-set sound pays close attention to stuff like that while shooting, and the director will start another take and "hold" the call for action until the sound annoyance is out of mic range. But inevitably, somewhere along the line, your best take will have a dog barking right through the middle of it. When that happens, you have to go into the studio during post production and re-record your lines. It's a bit weird. You watch yourself say the line on repeat (looping) and try to match your voice with your own lips on the screen. You get three beeps and then your line starts immediately, then three more beeps, and you try again. As a performer, you want to try to make it authentic and real, but it's this strange, orphaned line experience without the context of the entire scene. And did you grunt, or make any odd "thinking" noises? Yeah, you have to recreate those too. Still, looping is a necessary evil and every movie has at least a few. They stand out to me like a sore thumb, even in big fancy blockbusters. It's one of those things that makes you realize you've left normal movie fan world and entered into professional filmmaker world. I'll be in the theater and halfway through the movie I'll flinch slightly. My friend looks at me to ask "What?" I whisper, "Blech. Badly looped line." My friend just rolls her eyes and asks that I please stop ruining movies for her. Oops.
I may be an eternal optimist, but I'm not naive. The whole Sony-The Interview debacle could be one master-mind, sadistic, manipulative publicity stunt that we're all playing into. Anything is possible. Smarter people than me have been duped before. But if that truly is the case, they've duped our own government too. They've taken the exercise so far as to involve the FBI, the CIA and to elicit multiple statements from the POTUS himself. That's one helluva publicity stunt, on par with dialing 911 for a non-emergency. You can face jail time for that shit. However, maybe it's because I am an eternal optimist, I have a little more faith in our government. I believe if it truly were a publicity stunt, we would have heard that by now. I believe Sony really was hacked. I believe they were told it was in response to The Interview. I believe Sony was really intending to pull the movie until the overwhelming support of the people flooded their doors and they realized that not showing the movie was a mistake. A mistake that bled all the way to the first amendment of the constitution of the United States. The Interview is a movie I would have paid little attention too. I probably would have skipped the theater and just checked it out when it popped up on Netflix. I really couldn't care too much about the movie itself, but because it has become such a symbol of the freedom of speech, you bet your ass I've already bought my ticket to see it at one of the few places in LA where you can in the next few days. I'm going because no person nor nation state has a right to tell us what movies we can or cannot make. As Obama so eloquently put it, "That's not who we are. That's not what America's about." Okay I'm a patriotic sap. So what. But it's not just about what we do here in the star-spangled 'Merica. It's about the freedom for anyone around the world to have the right to criticize an oppressive regime. Sorry if you don't like that, boys. You've been overruled.
I went and did something last week. The decision was rash. I was in the heat of the moment, but I am not sorry. I love you readers and I love connecting with you. So I did it. I jumped on Twitter. (Oh god! What monster has this career turned me into??!) Tweets by @anonyactress Yes, it's an extension of my blog, but it won't just be tweets announcing new posts. When I can't find the time to commit to writing to you here, I'll write something funny or motivational there. Follow me both places to stay updated on all things Anony and let me know what kick ass things you're doing to pursue you're big dreams. We'll follow them together. Yours, Anony
Thanks to my mother's encouragement, I was an avid reader. I don't even remember starting the habit-- the "read for a half hour before bed" instruction mom gave my sister and I-- and I certainly don't remember considering it a chore. I guess I must have loved it from the start. I loved the stories the characters within them and how they made me feel. So from the time I was about eight years old, I wanted to write a novel myself. I used to get my mother's typewriter out on the floor and hammer away for hours on end. I probably started four novels before I was in junior high. They never really got much beyond ten pages or so, but I was inevitably pulled back to that keyboard to try again. Convinced I had a voice for writing, and driven by the strange satisfaction I found in watching people read my work, I decided to scale back and write short stories. They were always overly melodramatic and sappy, but I wrote dozens of them. Eventually I even found my way here... writing short stories to you for three years. It has been wonderful and fulfilling, but I still imagined that someday I would graduate (and find the self-discipline) to write a bona-fide, full-size novel. Okay. So maybe it isn't a novel, but writing this screenplay somehow feels like I'm doing just that. It's certainly my own story, a massive undertaking and I'm operating on pure instinct. There are times when I sit down to write and I just feel empty. Stuck. Where can I go from here? Do I have it in me? Is my premise frail and unable to support a feature-length story? Am I making it too complicated? Is it even any good?? Those are the times I would have stopped as a child. I would have become frustrated at the roadblocks and left it at ten pages. I've been really frustrated with the second act, feeling like I didn't know how to take what I'd built in the first act and carry us solidly to the end. I just couldn't come up with an idea that I believed in. But in the last couple of days, I had a breakthrough and an idea that I can't wait to write down. It was so obvious. How could I have missed it before? I've taken about a month longer than I intended to get this first pass down, but I don't care. I want to do it right. I'm doing it for that eight year old me who somehow knew I could long before Hollywood and fancy cameras and fancy dreams. In honor of one of my favorite screenwriters (and a great show that just came to an end), here is a beautifully written scene that is beautifully performed. I get goosebumps watching this and daydream about writing this well. Let it be as inspirational to you as it is to me. Take it away Leona...
If you've been paying attention to entertainment news recently, you've been hearing about the Sony hack. (If this is the first you've heard of it, Sony's computer systems were hacked and basically anything and everything about anyone who's ever worked with/for/near them has been leaked to the public.) Fortunately I haven't personally been affected, though the director of my film last week fielded a phone call from his lawyer between takes. "Yeah. Your name is out there." I admit I've been casually skimming headlines and first paragraphs out of sheer curiosity, mildly entertained by the candid emails sent between studio execs. Some people are up in arms because "X" exec was frustrated when "Y" star pulled out of their movie and shared what weren't exactly flattering opinions. It feels a bit high-schooly. Sure, more delicate words could have been chosen, particularly in a medium as permanent as email, but I hold nothing against any of them. We'd all be blushing if the world combed through our private emails with a magnifying glass. What actually does upset me is the alleged reason behind the hack. (I say alleged because I don't think it's still 100% confirmed.) Apparently it's Kim Jong-Un's response to a Sony film with the premise of an assassination attempt on Kim Jong-Un. I can understand that ol' Kim isn't so pumped about that. The Interview is probably a really shitty movie with bad-taste humor about someone everyone loves to hate. I imagine it's going to place Kim Jong-Un in pretty unfavorable light. If it were me, that would make me pretty crabby too. Unfortunately for Kim (and anyone else who's had to face intense public criticism and satire)... hurt feelings are not an adequate justification for stifling free speech. Neither are desires to preserve a certain image you would like to maintain. (Even if that's how you run things in your own country.) What upsets me the most? The hackers succeeded. Sony has pulled the film. Is it really that easy to block the release of a major studio picture because you don't like the plot? Precedent is a word everyone is throwing around today. It's a scary word and no one knows what the long term effects of this will be. My initial outrage was at what felt like a back down, a surrender in the face of blatant censorship. After I calmed a bit, I realized that there are so many other factors at play. Like, can the theater companies protect their employees and patrons from a hacking similar to that which has crumpled Sony? (**I am not even going to attempt to address the other threat. I cannot imagine that anyone would actually bomb a movie theater over a stupid movie that people will forget 10 minutes after they finish their popcorn.**) If those companies are not confident in their digital security, then perhaps we should take a moment to get that under control and revisit a release later. That's a smart and responsible move... even though my 'merica instincts want to go all cowboy and air the movie simultaneously on every tv channel around the world during primetime. Ironically, if it is North Korea (and not a Sony publicity stunt, which is an actual theory that is circulating, dear god let that not be true), the move will likely backfire. In reality, this has actually increased the awareness of what would have probably been a forgettable box office event. Everyone is now jonesing to see the film, myself included. We'll see how this plays out. Meanwhile, go change all your passwords and watch how you phrase your thoughts in heated emails.
It's that time of year when the Hollywood train comes to a screeching halt because of the holidays. Everyone is sick of everyone else, so they head out of town to spend quality time with their families. Then after a couple weeks, they can't stand them any more either so they become anxious to get back to the industry and started on the looming pilot season. Yesterday, I think one breakdown was released that I could be kinda/maybe/sort of/barely be right for. It is S-L-O-W. But that's great news for me because I am 100% in writing mode. I am determined to get this screenplay draft done before the end of the year. Then my story partner (let's call him Sin Nombre) and I will team up to do the "real" writing in 2015. So I'm sitting at my computer in my jimmy jams, typing away for hours at a time. It's excruciatingly slow, but there is a long way to go. I feel like I'm bringing a baby to full term and birthing the bastard. Part of my DNA will be in this script. At times it screams at me and wants more but I don't know what it wants because it's a baby and can't talk yet so I pull my hair out trying all sorts of different things to try to make it happy. Is it hungry? Is it tired? Is it teething? Ahhh!!! It's my first and I feel totally lost at points and wish it could just write itself so I can go have a glass a wine and watch the Newsroom finale. Okay, enough baby metaphors. It's a challenge, to say the least. I recently just completely threw out what I had written for the second act. Threw it out. Like if I had written it on paper, I would have crumpled it up and thrown it on the floor. Possibly burned it. As I was explaining my newest plot points to Sin Nombre, I just hunched over, mid-sentenceand defeated, "This sucks," I said, "It's boring as hell."
He laughed, but I figure if it's boring to write, it's going to boring to watch. So I cut that shit out and went a different direction. I think I've written 150 pages of screenplay by now for the modest 60 I currently have to show for it. Still, that's 60 pages more than nothing and well on the way to having a feature film script. A bad ass feature film script that I would die to make because I love this story. That passion is truly the greatest motivation on the planet. I could write forever on a story I'm passionate about. Here's to the next 50 pages. Let's write them.
Almost as quickly as it arrived, my shoot is over. I'm trying to let go of any fear about my performance. (And also the fear that fifty million people will see that performance. Oh god...) I doubt it will be bad. It may just be forgettable, which is actually not a terrible worse-case scenario. I am not pursing this career under the irrational belief that I am perfect and I doubt this will be the last time I worry about bombing. It was the best I could do in that moment. I gave it my all and that is enough for me. Plus, I still walk away with the credit, which is actually the most important part of this entire job... picking up a recognizable film credit to inch me closer to the day when my resume gets me through casting doors.
Despite the hiccups, it was absolutely wonderful and my heart ached when I had to leave. I ended up spending an extra day on set after I wrapped to hang out and get face-time with the crew. I also used the opportunity to just watch the veterans and learn how they worked. Just spending time on a set that large, sitting in video villagewatching the shot is a front row seat to how the business really works... and how my future will look.
This is my first studio movie and though the budget was super tight, it still felt fancy to me. I had my own trailer. Production assistants fell all over themselves to bring me anything I wanted. The director was super attentive and instantly knew my name when I walked on set. Craft services walked around with little trays of finger food to nibble on non-stop. (I kept joking with them that I just wanted to smell it, because pigs in a blanket and quesadillas do not help an actress get the next job.)There were cameras everywhere and police with barricades to keep the prying eyes of the public out. I went out to sight-see around town and people asked to take a picture with me when they found out I was in the movie (and I said yes because I'm human and I wanted to indulge in the fantasy too.) Everything was a grand ol' production and a caravan of endless trucks, trailers, star wagons and lighting equipment. I badly wanted to be there all day every day, leading the entire movie.
I will someday. And you'll have been with me every step of the way. Let's get there together.
I told you I'd always be honest with you. So here goes... It's not always perfect.
Sometimes it starts off rocky. While flying to location, your plane can be rerouted mid-flight. Then after you've taken off and landed two more times, finally making it to the destination, you check your email to find an updated script distributed. This email is followed by another email from the production secretary urging you to please read the updated script because your scene "has definitely changed."
That's an understatement. Your scene is completely different. Like all the work you did to prepare doesn't really apply anymore.
Okay. No biggie. It's actually better now you have more lines so you roll with it.
Then you have to ask wardrobe for a bigger size pants because you're not a size double zero like most women in this industry, so when the PA comes around for your breakfast order, you'll just have coffee and a banana, thank you.
Then you get to set and your celebrity co-stars are all buddy buddy with each other and a bit standoff-ish and it just feels like you're the dorky 3rd wheel trying to insert yourself into their fun. (You think that's awkward in 7th grade? Try doing it as an adult when the cool kids are fucking movie stars.) But you have to for the sake of scene chemistry, so you make your best effort to not be shrinking violet or human prop and somehow manage to make a few people laugh.
Then cameras start rolling and all the words falling out of your mouth sound flat as a pancake. Then you get all in your head and actor-y and terrified that you're bombing royally.
But you know it's your job to let all that go and just do your best in that moment. So you do, and you start to have fun. You try to be at peace that it may not be your best work ever, but it is what happened today. And that's okay.
Then later, while you and the camera assistant goof around with props while more important people make decisions about the next shot, she leans over and says your work has been great. You thank her profusely and a weight lifts because oh god you needed to hear that (even though you know you shouldn't.)
Then back in your trailer at the end of the day, you call the most experienced actor you know (who also happens to be one of your closest friends and a regular on multiple shows) and he reassures you he has gone through the same thing and that there is "literally 0% chance you weren't great."
So at the end of the day, you grab a pint with the producer friend who got you the job and laugh and let it all go.
(Then later, on your anonymous blog only do you admit that before you went to sleep, you said a little prayer to all the gods you don't believe in that your friend and the camera assistant and the complimentary director were right.)
I finally got through a busy weekend of jobby job shifts, making the extra bucks where and when I can since I will be out of town all next week to shoot the movie. Ahhhh! I'll be out of town next week to shoot a big movie!!! Let's just enjoy that for a moment.... Deep breath in... And out... Damn that feels good. Hanging out with a friend tonight, I found myself especially goofy and smiley and blissfully playful. That's how I know I'm doing what I love: the pure and uninhibited joy that eminates from the core of my being right now because I'm about to play in front of a camera. It seeps out my pores and tickles the little patches of super sensitive skin between my toes. I love the creativity and the adventure and I even love the pressure, that demand that you do something amazing... "Camera rolls... now action...." Let the magic begin!
Oh what a relief it is to have an upcoming project. It's such a break from the ever-present anxiety of wondering if you'll ever work again. It's tough during those long stretches when you have been working your tail off but haven't booked anything in months. It's tough inside your own head, but it especially stings when someone asks "So, anything coming up?" and you're forced to just shrug and say "Nope. Not yet" trying not to feel completely vulnerable and worthless and like you're doing it all wrong.
Does anybody get really good at that part? I mean, it totally bothers everyone, right? If you're not phased by that question, kudos to you brother. I have definitely gotten more confident during the non-booking stretches, more comfortable with replying "nope" without having to attach some sort of apology or excuse or explanation as to why I'm not a household name yet. But I still feel totally judged... because I am... and by people who don't have a clue as to how ridiculously hard this career is. I know I just have to stop caring and most days I do a pretty damn good job of that, but I'll be honest, some days are more difficult than others. But then you book a big movie. A movie with a budget in the low millions. A movie that people all around the world will see. Then when people ask if you have something coming up, it is exponentially more fun to say, "Heck yeah I do!" (Added bonus that I can just say the title and people know what it is.) With this movie booking, I started to hear something new from all my friends and family. They're starting to say things like:
"Wow, you're starting to take off."
"You've been busy this year."
and "Your resume is growing so fast!"
It cracks me up because to me it feels like my resume is growing at an excruciatingly slow pace. It still feels like I've had a very long year of almosts and close calls and looooooong stretches of no shooting. I feel tired from pouring every ounce of energy in and not really catching a decent break yet. But if I stop myself and my self-judgy actor brain, Irealize that I have had a very respectable year. Considering two years ago I didn't have a decent credit to my name and barely any ultra-professional experience. Now I've worked on a number of indies and have a major television credit and a major film credit. (I'm also 70 pages into writing my first feature script!) It's not everything, but it's something to build upon. Definitely something to be proud of.
If you're in The States, I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday last week surrounded by your loved ones! If you're not.... I hope you were still surrounded by your loved ones! I had a great little holiday-- or "Friendsgiving" as we hip transplants now call it-- filled with way more food than eight people could possibly consume in an entire week. It was glorious. I took way more than my share, including two servings of pie. Okay, three. I didn't end up getting that movie. The one where they loved me so much that they asked me to do another tape for a major supporting role? So like, they were clearly into my work and even if I didn't get the bigger role (which I would have been a weird casting choice for anyway) I'd at least get the smaller role, right? Right??! You would think, but no. I didn't get it. I even got that cliche email from the producer... "The director really liked you but we went another way..." Gag. Whatever. We move on. So I thought I'd add extra whip cream to my three servings of pumpkin pie. We're heading into the holidays after all and this industry pretty much closes down until after the new year. I figured I was safe to overindulge drown my career sorrows in sugar and wine and carbohydrates. Tisk. Tisk. This is Hollywood, Anony. You're never safe. I got a phone call. I got an offer for yet a different role. I got the movie. I'm shooting on location in the south next week. (!!!) Shit.... I gotta get to the gym!!!