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 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!

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Own it! (Part 3)

It’s been a long time since I wrote on the subject of “owning it,” but I am realizing it will be a reoccurring theme in my life. I first talked about taking ownership of my pursuits(Part 1 & Part 2) back when I came down to LA for my first short-term stint. It was a landmark in my pursuit of acting as a career. I was realizing all of the fears I had surrounding whether or not I would be successful and choosing to pursue my dream anyway.

Recently, I have noticed a lack of ownership on my part in other areas of my career. As I prepare for the next 100 days of self-taping, I am writing, producing and directing my own thing. However, I’ve noticed myself saying this a lot lately. “I’m not a director, but sometimes I direct.”  Or “I’m not a writer, but I’m working on this script right now.” Basically, I am not a “noun” but I “verb.” I am trying to figure out why I make this qualification every time I tell something what I am doing rather than simply owning it. Two things come to mind.

First, I don’t want to do a disservice to the people who are writers and directors full-time. I want to respect their time, effort, training and years of work they have put into their careers and I don’t want to insert myself into that category without having earned my place there. I also don’t want to give a false impression of my background or of my focus as an artist, which has been on acting. Although I think those reasons are valid, just because I have less experience, does not mean I am not one of those things.

Secondly, and this is the one that I think requires the biggest shift in my mind, I phrase it that way as a “way out” for myself. If I write, but I’m not a writer, then people’s expectations won’t be that high. If I occasionally direct, but I’m not a director, then I can let myself off the hook if it wasn’t as good as I wanted. THAT is dangerous. Dangerous if you think mediocrity is dangerous. And I believe it is. I act. I direct. I write. If I don’t own that I do those things, then I won’t ever take myself seriously in those categories and, therefore, won’t reach the point of calling myself those titles. It’s a vicious cycle of low expectations. That is NOT what I want.

What I DO want is to pursue these things fully, whenever I do them. I don’t want to hold back or give myself excuses or downplay my expertise. I want to be proud of what I put out there. Can I improve? Always. Can I work harder? Yes. Can I learn from the process I am currently in? Certainly. This is my declaration that I will own what I do and change my language to reflect that ownership. I am owning it!

P.S. Another reminder that if you want to join me for 100 Days of Self-Taping or another version of The 100 Day Project, I will be starting November 1st. Follow me on Instagram for more details!

The NEXT 100 Days of Self-Taping!

Almost three months have passed since I completed The 100 Days of Self-Taping. It’s incredible how quickly one can fall out of a habit once the expectations and accountability fall away. I had high hopes of continuing self-taping, if not every day, at least multiple times a week. But I have to admit that, acting class and auditions aside, I have self-taped very little on my own. Life and excuses can so easily get in the way. This simply reinforces my observation that routine and accountability are absolutely key for me in practicing my art. Without those, it becomes a habit of saying, “Tomorrow!” And tomorrow never comes.

Rather than continuing to put things off, I am giving myself a deadline, another routine, a new system of accountability. The last time I was a part of a large group of people, led by The Great Discontent, doing The 100 Day Project. This time I will be leading a group of people in 100 Days of Self-Taping beginning November 1st, 2015. The main platform will be Instagram, using the hashtag #100daysofselftaping. If you would like to join me, follow and message me on Instagram. If you would like to tweak your 100 days into another artistic practice, go right ahead and make your own hashtag to track your progress. The main point is to be in this together, cheering each other on. Come on and join me!

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:

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  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!

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!