ASK

When I was thinking about the changes that I want to make this year, the work ASK came to mind. In an effort to limit embarrassment, pain or being a burden, I have made a habit of trying to come up with the answer or solution myself. Whether that is anticipating someone’s answer or just trying to do it all on my own, I realize that NOT ASKING has, more often than not, led to a more limited life. This year I want my life to expand.

I want to be more curious, more assertive, more helpful, and more open.

The best way I know I put these things into practice is to take action and ASK. Ask for help. Ask if I can help. Ask for the answer. Ask for clarification. Ask for space. Ask for what I need.

I think I’ve been afraid of looking needy or stupid. Of course there is a balance to all this asking. Be willing to give if you are asking to receive. I think what I am opening up myself to is being vulnerable. I am opening myself up to the possibility of being wrong or being refused. But the possible rewards far outweigh the few moments of discomfort.

At worst, the answer can be no. At best, I will find a new path, a new piece of knowledge, and new friend or collaborator.

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The 100 Day Project – 25 Days

I am 25 days in to The 100 Day Project. YAY! I am so glad that I started doing this and am grateful to The Great Discontent for initiating this. They say that it takes 21 days to create a habit. Well, I’ve passed that landmark! Woohoo!!! I think even after the 100 days are over I will still self-tape on a regular basis, even if only once or twice a week. It is such good practice. Here are a few thoughts that have emerged since beginning this project.

  • Self-taping doesn’t scare me anymore. My agent asked me to tape an audition the other day and my first thought was, “Yeah! Let’s do this.” Rather than, “Ugh. Okay. Let me figure this out.” When I had to tape an audition before, most of my focus went to the logistics, rather than the story I was experiencing. That is no longer the case.
  • Resistance to doing the work will always be there. On the days when it was stronger, instead of being defeated by it, I let it inspire me. One day when I wasn’t particularly feelin’ it I read Dr. Suess’ “Oh, the places you’ll go!” Some of those words I needed to hear myself say outloud. There was also a lot of satisfaction in just overcoming the resistance and doing something!
  • I am so glad I’m also taking Annie Grindlay’s acting class in which I am taped once a week and getting feedback. That is pushing me and giving me some areas to work on, on my own.
  • I am more aware of my strengths and weaknesses, in a good way. Along with getting feedback, on my own I can see where I’ve had some great moments and where I need to grow.
  • I’ve made some delightful discoveries. One being my improvised Awkward Office Lady… which you just might be seeing a bit more of.

I’ll be writing more about this, maybe at 50 and 75, but definitely at 100 days. If you haven’t already taken a look at my journey so far, you can go to my Instagram account and search #100daysofselftaping. You should also check out the thousands of other 100 day projects but searching #The100DayProject. It’s been really cool for me to share in this experience with other people and not just be in it on my own. Alright, 25 down, 75 to go!

The Emergen-C Girl!

A little over a year ago I was trying to figure out an (cost-effective) gift I could give agents and casting directors when I met them. I wanted to accomplish three things with this gift:

  1. To be helpful.FullSizeRender(1)
  2. To be remembered.
  3. To tell them a little bit about who I am.

Now I can’t remember exactly how I arrived at Emergen-C, but I knew immediately that it perfectly fit all the my criteria.

  1. Everyone could use some vitamin C when they’re getting sick—a common occurrence in this crazy, often stressful industry.
  2. It is a unique gift connecting “C” to Charissa.
  3. I want to be known as helpful and someone who will come save the day!

I don’t know why I’ve waited so long to talk about it. Maybe I thought it was silly or I wasn’t sure it would work, but I am happy to report that it has worked very well! Here are a just few examples:

  • This one agency was on my target list so I dropped by with a postcard and a packet of Emergen-C. The assistant loved it so much she gave me a hug! When I called back to follow up I said, “Hi this is Charissa…the Emergen-C girl!” Immediately, she laughed and recognized who I was.
  • I gave my commercial agency a box of Emergen-C at Christmas two years in a row. The second year, one of the agents saw the box and said, “YAY! You brought another one. Whenever someone started to get sick in the office, we would say, ‘Where’s Charissa?!? I need Charissa!”
  • I did an agent showcase a few weeks ago. The week before I made sure to drop off little packets of Emergen-C with a postcard saying I was looking forward to meeting them. When I walked in the room for the showcase and handed them my headshot, Agent 1 said, “WAIT, are you the Emergen-C girl?!? I am so excited to FINALLY meet you!” Then Agent 2 said, “Okay, you got Emergen-C too? I just thought she somehow knew I was sick!” I assured Agent 2 that I wasn’t that creepy, but that I would certainly continue giving out Emergen-C, since it seemed to go over so well!

So, there you go. I am the Emergen-C girl! My plan has worked and I ain’t stoppin’ now!

Getting Dropped

WHAT A WEEK!!! Monday I started #The100DayProject with 100 days of self-taping. Tuesday I hosted/produced/acted in a reading of Stimson Snead’s female driven Sci-Fi/Action script The Dogs, which is now up on The Blacklist. Thursday I got new headshots along with my husband, taken by one of my favorite photographers…. Oh yeah, and I got dropped by my commercial agent!

So, that’s a pretty awesome week! Okay. I’ll be honest, when I got the news that my agent was no longer going to represent me, I was seriously bummed. I even did my share of moping, not wanting to get out of bed, feeling sad and sorry for myself. I’ll say it was a healthy amount. I really liked my agent. They sent me out on about an audition a week, which is pretty darn good! I also don’t blame them for dropping me. In two years I spent more time in Seattle than LA; I got very close to being cast several times and booked one non-union gig, but over all I was not making them a whole lot of money. I get it. But just like getting dumped, getting dropped by your agent usually just feels terrible.

However, I’m not telling you all this to get your sympathy and condolences. Once I got over the initial disappointment and sucky feelings, I actually got really excited! See, I know I can do better! (In two ways…)

  1. When I say I can do better, I’m not just saying I can get a better agent. I know I can get an agent that is a better fit. My commercial agent liked my look, but I don’t know that they got ME and how to best pitch me. Honestly, I don’t think I knew how to best pitch me, so I can’t blame them for not know that either. But, I know I’m getting closer to what I do best and these new headshots I took this week, really capture that (look for a blog about that in the coming weeks)!
  2. It is also about being a better client. I am willing to admit that maybe I took for granted that they represented me. I know that I rocked some of those auditions, but some of them I didn’t. I showed up, but I didn’t bring it! That is on me. What was holding me back? Fear, self-preservation, self-defeating attitudes prejudging whether or not I was the best choice for the part. No more of that. I’m bringing it, no matter what!

Another thing that happened this week was finishing up Dallas Travers’ Agent Equation game. I started it last week to help me look for a theatrical(TV and Film) agent, not knowing that this week I would need to start searching for a commercial agent as well. How about that?! I was already preparing for what I didn’t know was going to happen! Through Dallas’ little program, I’ve figured out some things that might have been holding me back and am ready to hit the ground running! Getting dropped isn’t holding me down. I’m up on my feet, going full speed ahead!

Saying, “No, thanks!”

My biggest career goal right now is to find theatrical representation. Don’t get me wrong, I have other goals and projects I am working on. I’m not waiting around, as if theatrical representation is the answer to all my problems… BUT I also know it’s a big step in the right direction!

A couple months ago I had the chance to sign with an agent. She contacted me for a meeting after I had sent out an announcement that I would be on GRIMM. This was super exciting! My first meeting with an agent who could get me auditions for TV and Film in LA!

When we met, I had my questions prepared. I was ready to pitch myself and tell her how I could be an asset to her pool of actors. I was ready to do a monologue, if she asked me to. All, I’m told, great things to bring to an agent meeting!

Here are the highlights:

  • Very first thing, she wanted me to know that I was only allowed to “book out”(be unavailable for auditions and shoots) in June and December. No traveling was allowed any other time. {I totally understand an agent wanting you to be available because they are working really hard for you, so you should be available to audition when they get you one, but this still seemed a bit strict to me.}
  • Secondly, she wanted me to be okay with violence, nudity, language etc. No exceptions or stipulations. {While I may be lenient on where the line is for me on those things, I believe I still have a line and giving up any say in what I’m willing to do made me uncomfortable.}
  • I asked her why she wanted to have a meeting with me and she said I had a unique look. {Great! But I gathered that she hadn’t bothered to watch me on GRIMM or look at any of the footage on my website(info that was one click away in the email I sent). It kind of bothered me that she had no idea how good of an actor I am. I want someone to represent me because they believe in my talent and skills, not just because I have a “castable face”, as flattering as that may be.}
  • She said she doesn’t “type cast” her actors, she lets the casting directors decide how someone should be cast. {WHICH on the one hand is kind of liberating! I could play anything. I CAN play anything! BUT does that mean she isn’t actually doing her job, trying to pitch me where I have the best chances of being cast?}
  • She works with some prestigious casting offices on some really popular shows. {Being able to walk in those rooms as soon as tomorrow is such a tempting prospect!}

I left the meeting feeling very torn. I felt that I had done well in the meeting: asked good questions, represented myself well, etc. but I wasn’t sure she was the right fit. The biggest thing that bothered me was not being able to have a say in whether or not I did nudity, violence etc. It gave me the feeling that with her my career could go in a direction that I never wanted.

In retrospect the decision should have been easy. If a situation, person, idea is making you that uncomfortable or uneasy, say “No, thanks!” and walk away. Duh! I ended up calling a friend who has been in LA for a while and talking through my options. She told me, “Follow the peace. If there isn’t peace, walk away.” It was my desperate nature that wanted to latch on to something even if it wasn’t the best, just because it was something. But something is not always better than nothing.
As soon as I decided to NOT go with that agency, I felt at peace. Of course I still wanted representation, but it was clear that this was not the right agency for me. The right agency is out there and I will find it… soon!

Finding the Right Teacher

A couple years ago, when I first arrived in LA I audited a whole bunch of classes and wrote a wish list of the ones that interested me the most. Then, last year I was able to take Annie Grindlay’s Advanced Intensive Audition Experience. It changed my life! Well, maybe not my life, but my acting, which in turn changed my life. With my previous training, I felt well prepared for auditioning and developing a character in theatre(in other words, when you have time to figure things out), but not super confident when approaching the limited time frame you have with film and TV auditions.

Photo of Annie Grindlay from anniegrindlay.com
Photo of Annie Grindlay from AnnieGrindlay.com

Soon after taking Annie’s class I booked The Reel Deal with this audition (even though the show was postponed, I’m still really proud of my work). Then I booked a feature film in Seattle over the summer and GRIMM last fall. Booking jobs aside, I feel more confident going into auditions and I know my acting has improved. Just yesterday, I had a coaching session with Annie in preparation for an agent showcase and I was reminded of all the reasons I love working with her. I left, having worked out the kinks, confident in my performance, and ready to have a great showcase!

If you’re an actor reading this, looking for a teacher, I highly recommend you check out her FREE Workshop/Audit!!! Hey, IT’S FREE–which not a lot of things in LA are. BUT, here’s the thing. I’m raving about Annie Grindlay, but she may not be the right teacher for you, just like I didn’t click with all the teachers who came highly recommended to me. She also may not be the right teacher for me in a couple years. I know at some point I will move on to someone else who can help me with a different area of acting. But for now, I know I’m where I’m supposed to be.

Here are a few questions I’ve come up with to help me find the right teacher:

  • Does the teacher’s philosophy connect with me?
  • Is this teacher helping me with the area(s) that I want to improve?
  • Is my acting better, whether or not this teacher is present? (In other words, is this teacher giving me tools to take home or just teaching me to rely on their coaching?)
  • Do I feel the money I am paying is worth every penny and then some?
  • Can I see/feel a difference in my acting?

Listen to your instincts. If you’re on the fence about a teacher, they’re probably not the right one. Look around. Find the one who speaks to you where you are right now. In LA, there’s bound to be at least one!

Sometimes(Always) Things Change

I had a potentially exciting experience this last week which I was so excited to share and barely managed to keep under wraps. Last week I was asked to interview with a director to be a “featured extra” on a pilot. (“featured extra” means you don’t have any lines, but you may have a close up on camera for a few seconds. “pilot” is the first episode of a TV series.) On Friday, I went in to interview with the director of the pilot on the Disney lot (pretty exciting!). An hour later, I got the call that I had booked the job!!! Sweet! I later found out that my picture had been selected from a bunch of headshots at a background casting agency. Pretty cool! The most exciting part of this was that the “featured extra” role that I booked, had a name. On my own, I was able to read the script and my mind went wild with the possibilities of this gig turning into an actual role if the pilot were picked up and went to network television. (The chances of all that happening are so infinitesimally small… yet a girl can dream, right!?) I got to base-camp, got my wardrobe, went to hair and make-up; things were great! Then I get an email asking if I can switch my availability to a different day(It was going to rain in LA so they have to change the shooting schedule). The problem is that I had just booked my first commercial gig that was shooting the day they wanted me to be the “featured extra.” (The commercial paid more and I didn’t want to jeopardize my relationship with my agent so I didn’t want to change it.) Crap! Next thing I know, they are looking for someone to replace me. So instead of getting two days of shooting, a possible close-up and a character name, I ended up walking back and forth in the background. *Wah-wha*
*On the bright side, I got to stay a little longer after a lot of the extras were released and I had the chance to watch the monitors from behind the director and observe the process. Maybe the director will remember me. Maybe not. It was still a cool experience.

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Photo by @puisheen on Instagram.
Photo by @puisheen on Instagram.

A couple of years ago I auditioned for this movie that filmed just outside Seattle with some recognizable actors in it. I was called the night before the shoot to come in and deliver one line. At the time, it was a pretty big deal because it was the first thing I booked through my agent and it paid more than I’d ever made in one day before! (Actually, it would still be a pretty big deal!) I scrambled to get work covered and said “Yes!” to the job. At base-camp I got my own little sliver of a trailer, was treated to wardrobe and make-up and whisked away to set. When I arrived with a group of extras for my scene we were all directed to spread out, which put me at the end of the line, furthest away from the camera. I doubt the camera caught my one line and when I saw the movie you could barely make me out in the background. Fortunately, I still got paid for that one line, but that goes to show you… you never know how things will change on set.

*In the end I was kind of glad my face didn’t make an appearance in that movie. Sometimes these changes work out for the best.

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A few weeks after arriving in LA last November, I booked a non-union commercial for Oil of Olay that was supposed to air in Thailand. I was playing a college student in a French class. I got an email the day before the shoot saying it would be postponed a week. Then a week later I got another email saying the shoot had been cancelled until further notice, because the client was “going in a different direction.” About a month after that I saw the identical audition notice (for students in a French class for Oil of Olay) up on the casting site. I resubmitted saying, “Hey! Remember me? Great to see you are doing this casting again.” No response. I have no idea what happened with that one.

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If you are an actor reading this, I’m sure you have many stories of when you thought one thing would happen but then everything changed; your scene was cut in the final edit, the film didn’t get enough money to finish post-production, you booked the pilot but then the producers didn’t like you and replaced you with someone else for the series. If you are not an actor reading this, hopefully you get an inside look into the volatile nature of this business. (You might also see why it’s tricky sharing exciting news. We, actors, aren’t sure if that great news won’t be so great after all.) Things change ALL THE TIME. Mostly it isn’t fair and sometimes it really sucks. Then again, sometimes things change for the best-est and then it’s AMAZING!!! This is the crazy world we embrace!