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!

Working Hard

Maybe you’ve noticed. Maybe you haven’t. I haven’t written that many blogs this year. Last spring I was writing one every week. Then I went through a period last Fall where I felt like I didn’t have much to say. In the last few months I have had much to say, but too much going on to actually sit down and say it. I am so thankful for this busy period of work. What’s been going on?

  • Performing in Diana of Dobson’s at Taproot Theatre. Closing this Saturday, June 14th!
  • Auditioning and getting cast in The Reel Deal: A new reality TV show about Filmmaking!
  • Executive Producing, acting and directing for Light a Match Productions.
  • And a few more things that I will announce in due time…

It is quite a change from how I felt last summer. Even though I had things going on (Julius Caesar), I was very unhappy with where I was in my career and didn’t know what to do about it. Things have shifted in my life and career for sure. It would be easy to say that I am happier because I am doing more, but I feel that it’s the other way around; I’m doing more because I’m happier. (Although, to be clear, I don’t think that the former is always a direct result of the latter.) It took a change in perspective!

What changed?

  1. Being Grateful. Not Jealous.
    One of the biggest contributors to my unhappiness was jealousy. I used to be jealous ALL THE TIME. I got frustrated when I saw people getting cast more often, looking like they were more successful. It’s a pretty depressing place to be, because no matter how successful you are, you can always find someone who is more successful that you. The problem was that I didn’t know how to stop being jealous. Then I realized that the root of my jealousy was an insecurity over whether or not I was good enough to be pursuing this career of acting. I would compare myself to others to see if I measure up. If anyone else got more recognition, then I felt they were more worthy; if I got more recognition, I was more worthy. Let me tell you, that is a useless, tiring, joy-stealing game. Don’t play it! I finally had to come to the conclusion that I didn’t care whether or not other people thought I should be acting. I want to act, so I am going to act, no matter what. Then I stopped worrying about other people and just became so thankful every time I got the opportunity to do what I love. Which leads to my second point…
  2. Adjusting My Expectations
    I had this certain picture in my head of what success looked like. At the time it looked like this: working at x, y, and z theatres and getting paid to do everything I do as an actor. If I wasn’t doing either or both of those, it wasn’t good enough, therefore I wasn’t good enough, therefore I wasn’t successful. I just had to let that go! Maybe I was expecting the pay too soon in my career. Maybe I just needed to remember why I started doing this in the first place. Now I am so busy doing what I love and I’m not working at any of those theatres and I’m only sometimes getting paid. And I’m so happy! Just because I hadn’t met those goals, didn’t mean it was time to give up. It meant it was time to adjust my expectations and focus on creating my own work. Which leads me to my third point…
  3. Working Hard
    Have you heard the phrase, “Work begets work”? I feel like I hear that all the time in LA. This last year has proved that phrase to be true. As an actor, there is only so much you can do to get cast. Audition. Build Relationships. Audition. It’s more complicated than that, but there isn’t a lot of control in your own hands. I decided I was tired of waiting around and wanted to create my own work. That sparked an idea for a short film spoof that I pursued that didn’t quite make it off the ground. (Maybe I’ll come back to it. Probably not.) Then I started reading through Shakespeare, to make my own project. (Still in the works, but on hold for the moment.) Then I had the idea of making movies with my friends, which turned into Light a Match Productions! (Now THAT’S some exciting stuff! LAMP-Logo2Check out our website and new short film.) I’ve learned that what’s important isn’t necessarily completing each project, but pursuing it as far as it will go. My first spoof idea may not be the right thing for right now, but it got ideas flowing and helped me reach out and start building a network of co-creators. The Shakespeare project helped keep my mind off of whether or not I was cast after every audition because I had another place to focus my creative energy. Now, working with LAMP has turned into something beyond what I could have imagined. Work begets work. This is what’s important: Keep creating. Keep doing. Keep working… Hard.

Whether or not this streak of work continues, I know I have the tools and the mindset to keep pursuing my dreams and be happy whatever the result. Thanks for going on this journey with me! What an adventure!

For the Love!

I’ve been thinking a lot since writing my blog, About Quitting. I can’t tell you how helpful this honesty has been. It’s initiated several important conversations and I thank each of you who have responded with encouragement and insight into this time of my life.

I think one of the biggest things I realized in writing my last blog is that I wasn’t happy. For something that costs so much (mentally, physically, emotionally) that I wasn’t finding rewarding… Why? Why? Why was I doing it? After I wrote that blog, my husband challenged me to answer that question. If I’m not doing it for the love of acting, then I should quit.

What is enough?

One of the biggest realizations I’ve had is that, when pursuing acting (business or artistic side), I never feel like I’ve done enough. I never feel good enough. I’m still trying to prove myself. I keep trying to prove I’m a professional, that this isn’t just a “hobby.” I’ve desperately needed the affirmation that the sacrifices I’ve made have been worth it; that I’m good enough to be cast and pursue this career. All these people say you have to go into auditions not “needing” to be cast. As much as that makes sense to me, I’ve never really gotten there. I need to get cast to be happy. As a result, I’ve put my happiness into the hands of people who don’t care about me personally, only about what I can do for them.

There will always be someone wealthier, more successful, working more, more famous than I. If I’m not happy where I’m at, then I won’t ever be. It’s like a drug. We can end up like junkies, not even happy with the drug when we get it, always wanting more. If we treat it that way, it will never be enough.

Change the Relationship

Recently, I had coffee with a lovely fellow artist who is going through a very similar process right now. She likened acting to a romantic relationship. She pointed out that if we were dating someone who used us, beat us up (emotionally or physically) and took more than he/she gave, that would be an abusive relationship and our friends and loved ones would tell us to get the hell out of there! Yet, here we are in this relationship with our art which can turn abusive, yet we stay in it because we can’t quit the dream. Maybe it doesn’t mean breaking up, but it does mean something has to change.

I’m talking about freeing myself from the vice grip an acting career has over my life. What would it look like to reorient my life and focus? I don’t want to be happy only when I book a job, and sometimes not even then. I am making a conscious decision to change my relationship with my career; it will look different from now on.

Back to Basics

What do I love doing?

  • being with the people I love
  • making something out of nothing
  • engaging in stories: listening to, watching, and telling
  • giving back/serving
  • laughing
  • building community
  • exploring people and relationships

Am I giving up? YES, I am giving up:

  • feeling like I am never enough
  • needing other people’s affirmation or approval to be happy
  • letting titles define me
  • being controlled by the whims of people who have little vested interest in my well-being
  • trying to see my career through other people’s eyes
  • making decisions based on what is only “professionally” advantageous
  • chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow= “Making it!”

I am NOT giving up:

  • acting
  • creating
  • collaborating
  • trying new things
  • pursuing projects and people I enjoy
  • running with an idea until I can’t run anymore
  • doing it, just because I love it!

The other day, my husband pointed out that the root of the word “amateur” comes from the Latin word, amator meaning ‘lover.’ The meaning has taken on a negative connotation over the years, but at the root it describes someone who does something because they love it. If I am an amateur actor for the rest of my life, that will be a life well lived.

I’m getting back to the reason I started acting in the first place. For the LOVE!

P.S. If you want to participate with me in doing something for the love, come see Julius Caesar this or next weekend. We are doing this show purely for the love of telling this story… and giving it away for free! Yes, I am shamelessly promoting this show, because it has brought me back to this truth: Beauty can result from doing something, just because you love it!

About Quitting

How many motivational posters, slogans, and stories have we heard? Never quit. Don’t give up. Just do it. How many times did all those famous people fail before they succeeded? As much as that makes me feel better about my failures it doesn’t make me think I will be so lucky. Not everyone “makes it.” stash-1-5020355b9ac95That’s a fact. If everyone tried as hard as these success stories, would they make it? No. That would be impossible. The very nature of “making it” is being at the top and of course not everyone can be at the top, because then it wouldn’t be the top anymore. WE ALL CAN’T MAKE IT. No one ever tells you that. Most of us won’t get to the place we want to be. What then?
A lot of this motivational advice comes from people who have made it. Of course they can give this advice, because they’ve made it. But what about those of us who have done everything the successful ones have done and we haven’t made it.  It’s like those married people who tell the single people, “Just you wait, it will happen.” or “When you know, you just know.” And all you want to do is punch them in the face! Some things are just out of your control. You can’t just live your life waiting for it to happen. Every contented single person I know who would like to get married someday is living life, making plans without that certainty. Of course there is still disappointment when a potential relationship doesn’t work out, but without it a very happy and fulfilling life continues. Can I approach acting the same way?

In my career, I find there is a chasm between where I want to be and where I find myself now. When I recognize that that gap isn’t getting any smaller, I find it difficult to keep going. And how can I be content, keeping this goal in front of my face without being able to grasp it? Sometimes I feel like this:


Why am I doing this?

Lately, I’ve been really discouraged. Faced a lot of rejection. It makes me wonder if it’s all worth it. How much money have I spent on gas, classes, headshots (and the list goes on)? How much time have I wasted because I was trying to keep my schedule open for auditions? I’ve given up on having a regular well-paying job. I’ve made sacrifices (including missing weddings and not going on vacation) for this career and where am I? I’ve devoted years to this and I’m still only getting paid for MAYBE one show a year. The rest I am doing for free. The other shows that I get a stipend for barely pay for my gas. Why am I doing this? I had hoped to get to the professional level, but I feel very little progress in that area. Every time I think I might be close to that next tier, I get another “We went in a different direction” letter. Will I ever make it?

If I’m not making it, why do I keep going? I’m starting to question my commitment. I’ve told myself I would never quit. Is that just because our culture shames quitters? Is it just “fate” that is keeping me going? Acting seems to always find me. I can’t stay away. Yet, I have this love/hate relationship with it: I love the work; I hate not getting cast and it discourages me so much that I consider giving up.
I suppose that there are a few reasons why people quit.

  1. You don’t want to look like an ass (see above).
  2. You face resistance, fear, challenges and start to back down.
  3. You figure out that other things are more important.
It’s ridiculous, isn’t it? We believe so strongly that we need art; the world needs art, so we keep going. We starve, we sacrifice, we hold on because of a feeling, a belief that it is all worth it. Is it?

Although #1 is true, I’ve had just enough nibbles on the carrot to keep me going. Yes, #2 has been tempting, but looking back I know that I have or can find what it takes to face them and break through. #3 is the kicker. This is what I’ve been sitting with all week. Is there something that is more important? For that matter, what is so important about acting? Would I continue auditioning and acting for the rest of my life if I never got paid another cent? Would I continue even if I never got into my goal theatres or onto my target TV shows?  I need to know what I want in return. Is it money(because I’m certainly in the red on that one)? Is it personal fulfillment? Is it a contribution to the community at large? Is it fame?

An inspirational graphic by Bill Watterson has  been going around lately. I love this idea. It is the the reason I haven’t pursued anything that I thought would make me a lot of money. I want art to be a part of my life no matter what. However, what if you give up all of these things that the world says we need, and yet you still don’t get those things for which you made these sacrifices?

It’s been a week since I wrote the first part of this blog. While I’ve been contemplating all these questions, I’ve been in rehearsal. You say, “You mean you’re complaining, doubting, and thinking about quitting while you are actually IN a show?!” Yes, yes, I am. You see, this show (not getting paid, at a fringe theatre) is not where I thought I’d be at this point in my life. Perhaps I’m greedy and ungrateful….Yes, I’ll grant you that. Even more reason for me to reflect on where I am and why I am doing this. This week, a few things caught my attention.

  • When my director pointed out that this play is only happening because we all agreed and committed to making it happen.
  • Through collaboration, I am still surprised by the magic that results.
  • Story is powerful.

As I sit here, trying to explain what happened this week to give me hope, I can’t put my finger on it exactly. Some experiences are beyond words.

These are glimmers of why I starting doing this in the first place. Perhaps that is all I needed. Am I quitting? Not today.

Celebrating Failures!

Last week I wrote about getting over my fear of failure so that I could live life to the fullest! One of the steps in doing that is celebrating both my successes AND my failures.

A couple months ago, a friend of mine and I went to an audition together. As we were leaving, she admitted to me that she had forgotten to read the last page of the script and just walked out of the room. She was so embarrassed. As she was beating herself up over it and I was trying to tell her it wasn’t as bad as she thought, her best friend sent her this text, “I applaud your failure!” I was surprised and simultaneously impressed. While I had been trying to diminish what happened, her friend called it what it was AND made it something positive! The shame she felt was lifted and replaced with a sigh of relief. She could now hold her head high when she walked back into that room the next time. How powerful is that?! A simple change in perspective and posture towards an event can change everything. It is the same idea that this speaker talks about in a TED Talk I watched last December: The Failure Bow.

What if we could change our failures into something to be celebrated? After all, it means we risked something; we are human; and maybe we learned something. We are capable of so much…. if we let go of our fear of failure. I decided that as a part of celebrating my failures I want to share some of them with you, somewhat akin to a confession. My hope is that by sharing them 1) they’ll lose the power they hold over me and 2) this exercise will inspire you to celebrate your failures too. So, here we go!

  • I printed 150 ($100) unusable headshots!
  • I mis-named one of my directors on my resume and sent it to him! Ooops.
  • I paid for a Google Voice number with an LA area code for acting purposes, only to later find out I had chosen one from Compton!
  • I bought a $300 plane ticket and flew to an audition which was canceled while I was on the plane!
  • I paid for an acting class that wasn’t right for me!
  • I failed to save this blog and half-way through writing it, it got erased! (Ha!)

Some of these may not be that big of a deal. However, each one of them has carried a little bit of shame or regret and, if left to their own devices, could easily keep me from trying the same thing again.

WOOHOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I DID IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

That felt good. Now I can move on. Thanks, everybody!

Now it’s your turn. You don’t have to tell me or share it publicly, but how are you going to celebrate your failures so that you can live life to the fullest?

Get Over Yourself!

There is no such thing as absolute perfection, so get over yourself!

I think we can all agree that we humans aren’t perfect.
Especially when it came to auditions, I used to worry if I was the “best” or if I was “perfect for the part.” However, I’ve found this to be a useless exercise. First, what does “best” mean? MY best? My best for TODAY? The BEST person who auditioned? Was I exactly what they wanted? These questions usually only become bigger and more haunting if you don’t get the role. The answers often made me feel lacking and like I would never “arrive” at that pot at the end of the rainbow, called “perfection.”
In addition, I used to idolize those people who got cast all the time(or at least in my mind they did)! What did they have that I didn’t? A certain look? A specific education? More talent? More connections? This led to jealousy, a deadly vice. Time and again, it would destroy any hope or confidence I ever had.
Through a series of ups and (mostly) downs in auditioning this last year, I have come to a revolutionary (and quite professionally helpful) conclusion! There is no such thing as “perfect” and there is no use answering those questions! JUST DON’T DO IT! Helpful, right? I know that advice wouldn’t have helped me at the time. THIS is what did help me.
One of the biggest pieces of my journey last year was applying for the Ensemble Training Intensive with Freehold Studio in Seattle. I spent most of the Summer hoping and waiting to hear if I would be accepted into the 10 month program which would consume my life for its duration. I thought, “This is the answer to all my auditioning woes!” I was tired of not getting cast and thought this would be the solution: intense acting training, connections with Seattle theatre professionals, and a great addition to my resume! I was ecstatic when I WAS ACCEPTED! I was even more devastated when, two weeks later, the program was CANCELLED, due to lack of funds and participation. Back to square one! As I picked myself up off the floor, I tried to find meaning in the failure of this plan. This is what I learned.

  • Improve in (post performance) self-evaluation! You can’t go by what the auditors say, don’t say or whether or not you get cast. There are too many factors for any of that to be an accurate or helpful evaluation of how you did. Set a goal for yourself or pick one aspect of acting you are looking to improve and use that as your benchmark for your post-evaluation. If you met it, great! If you didn’t, you know what you need to work on for next time! (If you don’t see how or where you can improve, get over yourself. Everyone has areas in which they can improve. Seek the advice of a coach or director/actor friend you trust.) When you find areas for improvement, tell yourself….
  • “I may not be the best at ________, but I CAN get better!” I used to be so afraid of admitting a fault. If someone pointed out a flaw, I was crushed! As if, if I couldn’t do something now, I never would. FALSE. GET MORE TRAINING! There were all sorts of excuses I made for not getting more training, but it makes a HUGE difference. I thought a masters or intensive program would answer all my auditioning problems, which was false. However, desiring to improve and address certain areas was the best goal I could have made for myself. I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to have picked one or two specific things on which I wanted to improve, pursued training, and noticed a difference in that area! And lastly…
  • Celebrate your successes AND your failures! Success is not just limited to booking a job; it’s any sort of acting breakthrough or achievement of a goal you set for yourself. YOU define success for yourself: going to that audition, taking that acting class, or approaching that agent who is just out of reach etc. And possibly most importantly, celebrate your failures. Why? Because you took a risk! If you take any sort of risk in life, you will fall. Your ultimate success is determined by how you handle that fall. Celebrate your effort and risk taking ability! How to celebrate? You choose. Have fun with it!

These revolutionary ideas have made this process a whole lot more enjoyable and is especially applicable as I make my transition into the LA market! Those people, who I thought had achieved perfection, were only working hard, never quitting, and personally investing in this career we call acting! Instead of beating myself up over missed opportunities and telling myself I will never join the actor elite, I have joined their ranks, not because I am at the top, but because I have decided to work hard, no matter what the cost or the result! The joy IS in the journey!

Own it! (Part 1)

If it follows you wherever you go, just embrace it!

(…or call the police!)

The first time I acted in a full length play, it was Shakespeare and I was ten years old. From that point on, I knew I would be an actor.

I pursued theatre all through high school and college, graduating with a Bachelors of Arts in the subject. Post graduation, I started to audition. You would think my childhood determination should have carried me through, but the fear of competition and rejection held me back. I banked everything on one audition. Not getting cast, I soon declared I didn’t love acting enough to go through “all that.” It was easier to either leave acting altogether or hide in the director’s chair.

“Laughing Wild” with The Prague Playhouse

So I left! I moved to Prague, Czech Republic to teach English. But my hiatus only lasted a month and a half. Half-way through my certification course my instructor sat me down and said, “I know you have a background in theatre. My friend tours an educational theatre company around the Czech Republic. Would you be interested?” Stunned, yet excited, I said, “Yes!” A few months later I was co-directing(i.e. hiding) and found myself standing-in for the lead actress during rehearsal. The other director confronted me, “I don’t know why you say you’re not an actor. You have great instincts! There’s always a need for more training, but never let that stop you!”

“Camp Super Friend” at FringeJR in NYC

Fast forward a couple of years. I was back in Seattle, certain that my destiny lay in non-profit work, when a previous acting teacher asked me to perform in a Christmas show, no audition needed. Almost simultaneously a professional theatre company, with which I had interned, asked me to join their touring company, again, no audition needed. People were ASKING and PAYING ME to do this?!? That was when I finally started to take the hint!

I started auditioning for real, got an agent and continued acting professionally. However, even after a couple years of pursuing this career, I still struggled. Recently, when the time came for me to quit my part-time job, I was searching for something to take it’s place. An opportunity came my way which looked ideal on paper. I knew I was perfectly qualified, could be pretty happy taking this position and loved the idea of financial stability. But it wasn’t acting. Not only was it not acting, it would hinder me from pursuing acting fully. My heart didn’t flutter at the thought. It wasn’t my dream come true.

This whole time I’ve been afraid of commitment, making excuses and running from the possibility of failure, but this acting thing has persistently followed me everywhere I go. Someone once reminded me that “ambivalent” doesn’t mean you don’t care; it means you feel two ways about something and it paralyzes you. On the one hand, I loved acting so much; but I was so afraid of it not panning out, that it froze in my tracks.  No more! Who knows what this career holds for me, but it is sure to hold nothing if I don’t claim it for my own!

Here I am in LA, owning it! I AM AN ACTOR!

Stay tuned for Own it! (Part 2): “So, I’m an actor. Now what?”