The 100 Day Character

I am terrified.

I have made the decision to do something different for the next 100 Days of Self-Taping. Starting November 1st, I will be embarking on a journey with a single character that I am creating that I will live with every day for the next 100 days. Each day I will tape a 15 second or less excerpt and post it to a new Instagram account that is dedicated to this story.

There are several things about this that terrify me. 1) I have never done anything like this before. (Nor have I seen a story told like this before.) 2) I really want it to be amazing and I’m afraid that it won’t live up to my own expectations. 3) The whole story isn’t written yet. I have a good idea of where I want it to go, but I want to be open to changes, both that are influenced by myself, as the writer/performer, and by you, as the audience.

Every day that I prepare for this I have been on the edge of quitting and going the much easier route, but then I remember that the things that terrify me are the same things that excite me. And that is why I HAVE to do this project. November 1st is this Sunday. I invite you to go on this journey with me. As I said, there may be points where you have the power to influence this character’s fate. To follow be a part of this character’s journey, go to my new Instagram account: The100DayCharacter. If you want to do a 100 day project of self-taping or another 100 day project of your own with me, follow my regular Instagram account: CharissaJActor, where I will be posting updates and encouragements for the group of us who doing these 100 days of creating together.

Let this terrifying adventure begin!

FullSizeRender(1)

Advertisements

The 100 Day Project: Process

I can’t believe The 100 Day Project is over. I did it! I put myself on camera and worked on my acting for 100 days straight. What a journey! Now I am looking back at what I learned and how I grew over the last 100 days. Not only did I see my skills improve, I can actually see a difference in my ease in front of the camera, from my first post to my last(you should take a look!). Through the journey, not only did I recognize the obstacles that lay in way to doing the work, but I also learned a lot about my artistic process. What do I need to do to get the best result? One of the best things about the 100 day project is that it forces you to do something tangible every single day. While that created a habit of practice for me and improved my on-tape acting skills, I began to wish I had more time with each piece. Some didn’t require that much time: commercials, improvised bits, co-star roles with a couple pages of script. But the Shakespeare monologues, guest star roles, leading roles ask more of you and I wish I’d had more time to dedicate to them. That being said, I learned a lot about what I need to do to best prepare for all sorts of auditions or roles.

  • Accountability. I work best with accountability. Social Media has been the best form of accountability for me. If I put it out there that I’m going to do something, then I am much more likely to follow through. If I have an audition, the accountability with my agent and the casting director is built in. I need some form of accountability for my daily practice(at least I did to get started).
  • Time to memorize. Or at least get familiar with the words. I have learned to audition with script in hand, without staring at the page, but sometimes(more often than not) the better you know the words the better you will do. While my focus was on doing the character prep work, I didn’t dedicate as much time to memorize and I could tell. I am learning some new memorization techniques and I think that will help me, moving forward.
  • Figure out the technical requirements. I know that I have to figure out what the scene/monologue will require physically and rhythmically. That takes some trial and error. That’s where self-taping is very handy. Something I think reads on screen, may be completely lost.
  • Emotionally connect with the relationship, truth and need in the conversation. In Annie’s class, we work on being able to connect to the conversation with only 40 minutes and then with 48 hours. Obviously, 48 hours gives more time to find a deeper connection to the relationship and words. For the most part, I was only giving myself about 40 minutes in the 100 day project. I started to miss sitting with it for longer and having the freedom to explore, image, and create.
  • Time to make it my own. After I’ve done all of the above, then I feel like I can finally discover some things that are a unique perspective that only I have. I might come up with some of that off the first read, but more likely it will come with a bit more familiarity and experimentation. Also, the more I practice, the more quickly I can find those things that make it uniquely mine.

Now that The 100 Day Project is over, I know that I have created some excellent habits and carry more knowledge and experience with me moving forward. I may not be posting a self-taping video every day anymore, but I will be working daily on my craft. Again, so many thanks to Elle Luna and The Great Discontent for organizing this group of artists across the globe. I had so much fun and connected with such a great community of people through this project. May the creating continue!

 

To view my journey through The 100 Day Project, go to my Instagram feed and search #100daysofselftaping.

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!

Shakespeare’s Works in Progress

IMG_2653_2_Fotor_CollageIf you followed me on Instagram at all in 2014, you probably noticed that I was reading through all of Shakespeare’s Works. I am happy to say that I completed that goal in November, almost exactly a year after I started(with the exception of The Two Noble Kinsmen, which was not included in the edition I was using). As I was reading through the works, roughly in the chronological order in which they were written, I went on a fascinating journey with him. I watched as his stories and characters grew in complexity. His themes matured with his age and I was comforted by the fact that not all of his plays were genius hits! He wrote for royalty and paupers; inspired by life and (often) a paycheck. As we know, his stories and works have stood the test of time and still relate to audiences today.

Words, words, words… Well, you’ve all heard this before. What’s the point? Shakespeare inspired me as little girl. My aunt tells the story of the first time I attended a play at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and I was on the edge of my seat. I was four years old. I never felt that Shakespeare was confusing or unintelligible because I was exposed to people who spoke the words as if they were their own. The first of Shakespeare’s characters that I played was the widow in The Taming of the Shrew— at the age of 9. The next year I played Phebe in As You Like It. Since then I have played Portia(Julius Caesar), Margaret(Much Ado About Nothing), a Witch(Macbeth), and performed monologues and scenes of Beatrice(Much Ado About Nothing), Joan of Arc(Henry VI, Part 1), Helena(A Midsummer Nights Dream), Malvolio(Twelfth Night), and more. As long as the company and director were quality, knowledgeable people, I would say “Yes!” to doing Shakespeare over anything else.

I started reading through Shakespeare’s Works for multiple reasons. First, I was ashamed that, as a lover of Shakespeare, there were at least a third of his plays which I had never read or seen performed. Secondly, there are so many roles that I want to play which I will (most likely) never be able to play due to my being a woman; and others I could play, but I’m tired of waiting for permission to play them. Having served the purpose of the first reason, I am now working on a remedy for the second. A few weeks ago, I started meeting with two of my childhood friends — friends that I met doing As You Like It all those years ago — to write a script inspired by all his plays. At the very least, I am having so much fun discussing and nerding out with these two. More than that though, I can’t wait to bring this idea to fruition. Stay tuned for this work in progress!

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.

**********

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.

*********

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.

**********

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!