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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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 100 Day Project: Obstacles

I am over 75% of the way done with the 100 day project. Wow. I knew when I started out that this was going to be a challenge; that I would grow and discover things, but I hadn’t quite anticipated what this whole journey would become. One of the things that I am learning about is discovering what keeps me from doing what I want and need to do.

My Obstacles (in no particular order of importance)

  • Varying schedule. It would have probably been easier and better for me to schedule a certain time of day for me to do my self-taping and actually dedicate a block of time to the activity. I am not sure this is something I could have done, because my schedule looks different each day, but I have realized that I do better work in the morning or afternoon. If I push it back to the evening, in addition to being tired I am less likely to dedicate all the time and focus that the scene/monologue needs.
  • Lack of focus. I realized at some point that I became very weary, maybe somewhere around the halfway mark. I couldn’t put my finger on it for a while(besides the fact that I had committed to doing something every day for a hundred days and that is bound to make anyone tired at one point or another). I also realized that I really hadn’t set any parameters for myself, other than taping myself every day. I thought that the option to do any type of scene or monologue would be freeing, so I wouldn’t get tired of it. But I think at this point I am actually burdened by making a choice every day of what I am going to do AND having to find it. That is half the battle. Instead, I could have decided to do the first 100 of Shakespeare’s sonnets. That way, I would at least know what was next and see some improvement in that particular area of acting. I see the boundaries other people have set for themselves with a lot of the other 100 day projects. Many of the visually based projects were very specific with what they were creating (i.e. #100daysofsprocket or #100daysofthingswithfaces). I know parameters can be frustrating, but in the limitations I think there is freedom to be found. Something to consider the next time around(Yes, I will be doing #the100dayproject again!).
  • People. Well, the lack of people. Now more than ever, I am remembering that one of the reasons I love acting is the community aspect of acting with/for other people. Whether that is on a set, in rehearsal, or before a live audience, I feed off that energy. Although I’ve gotten great practice for auditions, I don’t enjoy acting by myself nearly as much. I do appreciate the accountability and community that Instagram and The Great Discontent have provided, but I’m really craving the in person human interaction right now.
  • Speaking up for what I need. I mentioned this to my husband the other day. I have made a life long habit of always putting other people’s needs first. While that might make me a nice friend, it does not make me the best entrepreneur or artist. If I need space or need someone to read with me, I will always try to find someway around it before even asking for help. This is something that I am consciously making an effort to change. If I want to improve, advance, and grow, I need to speak up for myself and ask for what I need!
  • Myself. Even if none of the things above were factors, I am my own worst enemy. I can come up with all sorts of reasons why I can’t do the work. Or even “do” it but not really commit to it. Every day I have to face my fears, my insecurities, and my excuses, and overcome them. Some days that is really hard to do.

I like to analyze things; looking for cause and effect; searching for meaning in what does or does not happen and why. As much as I see an awareness of these obstacles can be helpful in optimizing my performance, I also recognize that there will never be a time when no obstacles exist. They will change, morph, grow, shrink; but they will always be there. It’s probably time I make friends with these obstacles, rather than let them get the best of me. And with that… let me get to work!

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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!

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!