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!

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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!

My Headshot Journey

My very first headshot was taken by my dad. You should have seen the configuration of floor lamps and sheets hanging on the wall we had to make up a studio. It was right before my first audition out of college and I needed a headshot. My dad has always had CharissaJHuffa mild fascination with the camera as a toy to play with and use for the benefit of others. So, I made him my headshot photographer. For what we had to work with and the fact that my dad had never taken formal portraits or headshots of any kind, it was pretty decent! (Thanks for being volunteered, Dad!) The first thing the director said at my audition was, “You’re prettier in real life than in your headshot.” Oh! I had been so concerned with the lighting and how fat my shirt made me look that I hadn’t been thinking about whether or not the picture captured me. Maybe the picture was too dark and we didn’t catch the light in my eyes. Maybe I’d been preoccupied with the contortionist act I was performing. Or maybe it was something else, but I’d just learned my first lesson in headshots.

Lesson #1: Your headshot must look like you and you like your headshot. (Besides the fact that no one does black and white anymore.)

Fast forward. I am now having my headshots taken by a professional headshot CHARISSA ADAMSphotographer. He’s been recommended to me by one of my favorite directors. He and I have talked about what to wear and what not to wear. I’ve had my haircut a couple weeks before to let my hair readjust. I’m ready! We met at a dance studio and started the shoot. Here’s where something I hadn’t anticipated started to interfere with the process. I was uncomfortable. A middle aged man, whom I had never previously met, was taking pictures of me in a secluded room and trying to draw out a wide range of emotions for the camera. I want to be clear that this photographer was completely appropriate and did everything with integrity, but that didn’t change the fact that I didn’t know how to handle it at the time. After all was said and done, I had maybe three really good, natural looking shots.

Lesson #2: If you are uncomfortable, the camera knows it.

So, I was able to use those two or three shots for almost three years and get a lot of work. Last Summer I went to a casting workshop in Seattle with a casting director from LA and asked for her thoughts about my headshot. “There’s something not quite professional about it.” Keep in mind I was printing this headshot on card-stock (something another director had told me was ok). But there was also a difference between the style of Seattle theatre headshots and that of Hollywood film headshots. Ok. Time for new ones. Charissa J AdamsThis time I picked a highly recommended and sought after headshot photographer in Seattle who has an eye for the LA style, Susan Doupe. If you are in Seattle, go to her she is awesome! I picked out my outfits, got my makeup done and had a fabulous headshot session.
Now I’m in LA, using my quality, LA level heashots. A couple weeks ago I went to a casting workshop. The casting director looked at my headshot and gave me a scene where I play a serious government agent. After I finished the scene she said, “That was great! But I would never cast you as a serious government agent. In person you are cute and bubbly and in your early 20s. In your headshot you look like you’re in your 30s and a serious agent or mom.” She is not the first person to tell me the same thing.

Lesson #3: Makeup and wardrobe can make or break a headshot session.

Lesson #4: Know your type and how to capture that on camera.

So within six months of my latest headshot session, I go back the drawing board. Several things lent themselves to this headshot session success:

  1. This time I had my friend, an experienced headshot photographer and actor, take my shots and I really was myself with her! (Audrey Matos)
  2. I wore very little makeup (not because it over glamorized me, but it aged me!).
  3. I wore clothes that are MINE, very ME, not something I picked out just for my headshot session (one of my wise husband’s pet peeves).
  4. I now know my type (more on that later)!

Here is the result! Granted, this is only one step in the journey. I am sure that I’ll learn something else from this group of shots and know what to do better next time. It’s all a part of the journey. Enjoy!

Charissa 5

Own it! (Part 2)

I was taught to respect authority and seek wisdom and guidance from those above me. That’s all great. However, I think that went too far into my personal and professional life. I was so afraid to make a mistake that I wouldn’t move at all. I would pinpoint the expert and ask, “What should I do? I’ll do it.” I had no problem with execution, the problem was the decision process. “Should I audition with this monologue or that one?” I would take whatever advice I received without checking in with my own thoughts to listen to what I wanted. This type of mindset led to passivity and a belief that my circumstances and career were primarily out of my control. Now I’m learning the second part of owning it: taking responsibility for my career — where I’m at and where I want to be.

Know Myself!

In order to know where I want to end up, I need to know where I started. Part of that is type and marketability. In Seattle, knowing that I was an ingenue was specific enough. Not in LA. In coming to understand my type and cast-ability, I’ve had to embrace parts of me that I’ve struggled with for years.

“Remember how the other kids made fun of you in middle school and high school? Of course you do. Try to figure out what specifically that was about because that’s your money ticket! In [LA] … you have to find a way to stand out from the pack.”
Assaf Cohen, from “Self-Management for Actors” by Bonnie Gillespie

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“The Belgian Pretzel”

Yes, ok, I get it. My hair! It can be wild, crazy, weird and beautiful. It is a huge part of me- literally. Along with that, I’m embracing my personality, which can be weird, funny, shy, imaginative, critical, pensive, and passionate. These and more, are all a part of who I am and what I bring to any character. Just with these things, I’ve learned one type I can play is the quirky girl-next-door. (I could write more on the subject of type, but I’ll leave that for another time.)
Secondly, and often more importantly, I have to know what I want. My goal has to be clear. Otherwise, I’ll be trampled by every person who is an authority in this market: agents, managers, casting directors, teachers, and other actors. Of course it is wise to ask for advice, but I need to know for myself. Maybe even knowing isn’t enough. I have to trust my instincts about people and the right path for me. I have to feel it in my gut!

Research Everything!

Knowing what I want is just the first step in taking responsibility for my career. How can I trust my own instincts and line up my goals with those around me if I don’t know anything about them? I am currently taking Bonnie Gillespie’s course “Six Weeks To LA,” as well as reading her book, “Self-Management for Actors.” Over and over again she reminds us to research, research, research. Want an agent or manager? Research. I have to know if this agent or manager is reliable, good to work with, and hard working.  Want to be on the new hit show? Research. I have to know who the casting director is, who the actors are and who represents them. Want to get in with a certain casting director? Research. I have to know who they work with, if they offer workshops, if they go to showcases and which ones. It’s my own fault if I sign the contract too early, know nothing about my market, and can’t find a path to my own goal.  (And if you don’t know where to start, go to someone like Bonnie and take a class or read a book.)

Hustle to get it!

Another bad actor habit Bonnie talks about is blaming a lack of success on someone or something else. An agent won’t fix all your problems. Working actors work hard, with or without an agent. Build relationships. Go to workshops and mixers. Volunteer in a casting office. You can’t determine the outcome, but you can determine your input and that is the key! Who cares the most about whether or not I am a working actor? I do. Well, I better own it and make it happen!

I’m just now coming around to this way of thinking.

What about you, are you owning it?!?