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!

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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!

I can’t…

How often do you say this? “I can’t…” I find myself saying it more than I like to admit. As much as I remind myself to be positive and problem solve creatively, I can easily find myself getting locked into a prison of my own perception. This has happened in relationships… I told myself, “I can’t be the first to express my feelings for a boy;”  in jobs… “I can’t get a better job;” in acting… “I can’t approach that casting directors or that agent.” The list goes on. And I could give you so many examples of how, when I questioned the reasons behind “I can’t,” I realized there was almost always a way through or around my perceived obstacles.

What’s the worst thing that could happen?

Most recently, the “I can’t” phrase came up again in one of the most benign and trivial areas of life: social media. My husband and I were discussing our likes and dislikes of various social media sites and I admitted that my affinity for Facebook is dwindling, but “I can’t get off Facebook because of acting.” Facebook is my main networking tool, especially in Seattle. Immediately, Michael questioned the reasons behind that. Of course, it is a helpful tool, but what is the worst thing that would happen if I got off of Facebook for a while? When I asked myself that question, I thought the pros actually might outweigh the cons(for a time). So I chose to get off Facebook for a while.

How Freeing!

I have been off of Facebook completely for over a month and a half. I don’t miss it at all! The only times I think about getting on are so that I can message someone whose email address or phone number I do not already have. I feel so much freer than I did before. I haven’t decided yet what my relationship with Facebook will be in the future(it is still a good networking and contact tool), but there are a few things I have discovered about myself while being without it.*

Pros

  • More present.
  • Less jealous.
  • Happier and more at peace with life.
  • Not constantly evaluating my life in terms of worthy “statuses.”
  • Not overloaded by information about “friends” who are actually acquaintances.
  • I have been reminded that sharing and receiving news in person can be so much more gratifying and meaningful.
  • Facebook hardly ever left me feeling happy and uplifted when I got off of it. I don’t miss that!

Cons

  • I’m sure I’m missing out on events and announcements…. but I don’t know what I’m missing out on, so ignorance is bliss!

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This blog isn’t meant to convince you to get off Facebook(although I wouldn’t complain if it did), but remind us all that some things we think are huge obstacles are actually little pebbles which can easily be tossed aside. Maybe there’s something you would like to change about your life, but fear of “the worst that could happen” is holding you back. What is that something? Can you change your perspective or do without it? I know I have to keep reminding myself to take a step back and look at things from a different angle. I have that power and often I CAN… do something about it!**

 

*Yes, I recognize the irony of posting this blog on Facebook. While I have obviously broken my Facebook fast, I know that my relationship with it will be different from now on.

**In no way is this meant to minimize larger fears, obstacles, and issues, only bring a new perspective to the little things we can change in our everyday lives.

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!

A Lesson in Acting: Improv 101

I used to avoid doing improv like the plague. Why?

  1. Somehow, somewhere along the line, I got the idea that I’m not funny, or at least that I wasn’t the token “funny one” in the group, so naturally I would be terrible at improv, right? I couldn’t handle the pressure of making people laugh. Well, as any improvisor will tell you, that isn’t the point. If you are trying to make people laugh, you probably won’t. AND …..don’t tell anyone, but …a few people have actually told me that I might be kind of funny…sometimes. So I just need to get over myself.
  2. Secondly, I was afraid. Afraid of failing. Let’s face it, improv is high risk! No one knows what is going to happen next. If you can’t handle that…. you probably need to face your fear, and JUST DO IT!!!
  3. Lastly, I didn’t see how it had anything to do with my actual acting career. Well, when I got to LA and started asking people what someone needed to do to pursue a career in comedy, what was THE ONE thing everyone said? That’s right. IMPROV TRAINING.

Okay. So I decided to bite the bullet and do it! I signed up for Upright Citizen Brigade’s Improv 101 Intensive. Eight 3 hour classes in two weeks, ending with a performance.
I let go of that view of myself (funny or not), faced my fear, and learned a lot about acting in the process.IMG_0460

  • “Yes, and…!”  The basic principle of improv. Agreement and addition.  I saw this and experienced it repeatedly; if you are (artistically) fighting with your scene partner over wherever the scene is going, nothing good or interesting comes of it. (There’s a difference between the actor disagreeing and the character disagreeing. Actors disagreeing is embarrassing. Characters disagreeing is interesting.) I used to do this a lot on stage, kind of direct my scene partner, internally, and act at the same time. It doesn’t work. Commit. Be in the moment. Surrender to the story.
  • Take a point of view and stick with it. If fighting (artistically) with your scene partner over an opposite idea is deadly, having no idea can be even worse. Saying “I don’t know”  in your head or out loud always diffuses any energy the story has. Your scene partner is throwing you a ball; if you are a pile a goo, you’ll be stuck in wishy-washy land forever. Be the player that bounces the ball back! How many times have you heard an acting teacher or director say, “Make a choice!” It’s true. Make a choice and commit to it! That’s when you can play.
  • The more specific the better: names, how it makes you feel, descriptions. Details bring images alive. We thrive on images. Create pictures for each other and the audience. Same with characters from a script. The more specific we are, the more interesting a story becomes.
  • Find what’s unusual. In improv, this is how the “game” is found. However, this is the same principle with creating a character from a script. What makes this situation or person unique? Get specific. Add details.
  • If this is true, what else is true? This is the “and” part of “Yes, and…” When adding to a story, follow a logical train of thought. In improv, sitcoms, or slap-stick comedy the situation is often taken to an extreme, but it is still follows the logical path down a certain trajectory. Same with acting choices with a script. We are given specific information in the script. Ask, “If this is true, what else is true?” I used to make pretty arbitrary choices, just to be different or creative, except the arbitrary choices didn’t serve the script/story. They ended up being a distraction. The road map is there. Find it and expand on it.
  • Ground it in reality. One of the pitfalls of beginning improvisors, myself included, is going with the most outrageous idea ever, just because you can!!! This may be an entertaining idea (in your head), however, the audience starts to detach if things get too crazy or bizarre. One of our teachers said, “We always pursue pleasure over pain.”  That’s what it means to be human. Find that truthful place. As actors, all we have is ourselves. Use yourself. Connect your character and your scene to what you know. Ground it in reality and go from there.
  • Don’t pimp out your scene partner. This is a fun one. Telling your scene partner, “Show me how you do that sex position,” “How do you sing that song?” “You know that dance routine, right?” is just putting everyone in an awkward position. Basically, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Same goes for when working on stage or in front of the camera, don’t leave your partner hanging or be goofing off in the corner. Be there for them. Saying “We’re in it together!”
  • Listen! Easier said than done. I think the key here is having an outward focus, rather than an inward focus. As an actor, it’s so easy to get caught up in what I’m doing and evaluating it. Instead, the best thing to do is focus on the other person. What are they saying? What do they want? This is a good lesson in life as well as acting.

I had a blast in this class! I met awesome people. I faced my fears and challenged myself to push through, especially when I sucked. And our performance was pretty decent! I’m proud of myself and my fellow classmates. We grew a lot in two weeks. I want more! Soon I’m hoping to take Improv 201 soon and I’ll be looking for more improv opportunities along the way. If you’re shying away from improv, maybe improv is exactly what you need to do!

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.

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“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!”

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“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?”