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!
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!
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…)
- 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)!
- 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!
A couple weeks ago, one of my best friends left the United States to join the Peace Corps in Zambia. She will be gone for two years. We usually only get to see each other about once a year, but still this was a very difficult goodbye, knowing our contact will be extremely limited. She is one of the strongest, most passionate, adventurous people I know and I am proud to be her friend.
When we were hanging out right before she left, she was sharing her feelings about jumping into this crazy adventure and how she was preparing for it. Her parents, who have a lot of cross-cultural experience, passed on a great piece of advice from a mentor of theirs which really stuck with me.
“It’s not what you do; it’s what you do next that counts.”
–Marvin K. Mayers
She is going to encounter new people, customs, languages and many cultural differences. It would be easy to get overwhelmed and live in fear of making a mistake. The truth is, mistakes and missteps are unavoidable, no matter who or where you are. However, it isn’t about the mistakes you make, it’s about how you handle them moving forward.
This piece of advice was so freeing to me. Granted, I am not moving to Zambia and starting a completely new life, but I did just move to Los Angeles and commit to following my dream of being an actor. I will make mistakes, both in the business side and acting side. But it isn’t about making the mistake, it’s about handling the situation and/or relationship afterwards. If there’s a misunderstanding, do I clarify it or let the embarrassment create a rift? In an audition, do I hold back in my acting or take the big risk and see what happens? If I flub a line, do I let it ruin the audition or do I move forward with grace and spontaneity(even after the audition is over)? If I find I have a certain area of weakness in my acting, do I seek to improve it or hide in shame whenever that weakness is put to the test? There are more examples, many of which I am sure I have yet to encounter. The point is, I am moving forward inspired by this mantra AND even more so by my friend who is actively living it out on the other side of the world.
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!
- 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…
- 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…
- 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! Check 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!
Back in 2008 I lived in Prague, Czech Republic and I was convinced that my destiny was to serve the city through theatre and community involvement. To do this, I interviewed with a faith organization called World Harvest Mission and returned to Seattle to “raise support.” Like with a lot of non-profit endeavors, my next job was to inspire people to get on board with my cause and support me in any way they could.
Basically, that’s a fancy way of saying I had to ask people for money. I hated it. I felt like I was imposing on people. If people said, “No” then it made things weird (for me). I didn’t like putting myself out there and making myself available for rejection. I had a coach assigned to me who gave me an outline of things to do, including: writing and sending out letters, setting up meetings and presentations, follow-up phone calls, and then repeating the whole process over and over again. I did this for about a year.
Over that year, my perspective of this process shifted. This is what I learned:
- Instead of asking for money, I was initiating a relationship, a partnership in this opportunity to make a difference in the world.
- Not to focus on the result. The result was out of my control. I had to put myself out there. What happened as a result was secondary.
- Instead of thinking I “have to” do this so that I get to do what I love; I got to serve and open people’s eyes to an opportunity, which they wouldn’t otherwise have had.
- Belief in my cause spoke to some people and not to others. That was okay.
- In the midst of hearing “No” over and over again, I had to have faith in something bigger in order to keep going.
As you might remember, 2008 coincided with this little thing in our economy called the recession. Because of that and a few other circumstances (I started dating this guy…), I decided to stay in Seattle instead and pursue acting. What seemed like a year wasted preparing for non-profit work I never got to do, turned into training for my acting career. That list of things my coach gave me to do is the basic framework for networking; only, letters turned into headshots and resumes; meetings turned into auditions; and follow-up turned into postcards and status updates. And look at what I learned above, don’t those things also apply?
- Every audition is an opportunity to build an artistic relationship for present and/or future projects.
- You have no idea if you will be cast, you can only focus on the chance you have in this moment to act, play and perform. That is a gift. Getting cast is secondary.
- The audition IS your opportunity to do what you love, not the gateway to it! And I’m serving the casting director by meeting a need they have.
- You will be right for some roles and not for others. That’s a good thing.
- No matter what it is, to keep going, you have to have faith in something: a god of hope, the greater good, art’s power to change people, a sense of destiny, the purpose of your own gift, or all of the above. These are true and powerful things.
Sometimes I forget and I start to resent the process, wondering why I chose this winding, rocky path. It is good to be reminded where I came from, how I got here, and what it’s all about. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I need a little faith to keep going.
A couple days ago, I was waiting in line to register at Central Casting (an agency for background work- i.e. all the people you see who walk around on screen behind the actors) and I quickly started talking to a guy next to me. We figured out we had both moved to LA about the same time and bonded over the pursuit of our dreams. We admitted we have no idea what this journey holds for us, but it is worth a try!
(Here is where I want to dispel one of the gross misconceptions I had of the people in LA. Not everyone is superficial, selfish, and has had plastic surgery. Yes, they do exist, but they are the minority. The majority of people I have met are generous, kind and interested in helping a fellow artist find their way. It also takes about 5 minutes or less to tell which is which.)
Back to my story. As I continued talking with my new found friend, he mentioned how he has kept a diary of what he has done each day since he arrived in LA. He also noted that he would be including our pleasant and encouraging interaction among his experiences for the day. I loved that. Especially since my schedule hasn’t been clearly defined since I arrived, cataloging my actions is incredibly encouraging when you look back on how far you’ve come. This reminded me that I’d written a blog about celebrating my failures, but not about my successes. So here is my (not daily, but a cumulative) list of accomplishments since arriving in LA:
- Completed the 6 Weeks To LA course with Bonnie Gillespie
- Signed up on LA Casting
- Signed up on Actor’s Access
- Got new headshots
- Got a new edit of my reel
- Got new business cards
- Got new postcards
- Updated my website
- Joined Twitter
- Made many online audition submissions
- Had several auditions
- Attended 5 Casting Director/Manger workshops at Act Now! and Actor’s Key
- Audited 5 acting classes
- Started my Show Bible, an ever evolving catalog of your target shows, agents, casting directors etc.
- Started mailings to agents, managers, and casting directors
- Went to the LA Actor’s Tweet Up
- Went to a play reading
- Have taken public transportation everywhere (except for a few rides and a borrowed car last weekend. Thank you, friends!). Now that’s an accomplishment in LA!
- Registered to do paid on-set research (i.e. background work) at Central Casting
- Helped on the set of my friend’s film
- Went to a performance of Improv at iO West
- Made many new friends!
- I need a job. For the money, but also for the distraction and the focus, if that makes sense. Having another (low-stress, with reasonable hours) job helps me appreciate the time I can devote to acting and use that time more wisely. Taking time away from the acting business is healthy.
- I need my husband. (Duh!)
- I need a supportive community around me.
- Having an acting budget is so helpful. You could easily go bankrupt in this city with all the things that are necessary or helpful for your career. Setting priorities on how to spend your money will clarify all the decisions you make on a daily basis.
- Everyone has an opinion! You can’t please everyone. (A manager just told me she “hates” my new headshots. Huh!)
- Recognize what I can change and what I can’t. Focus on changing what I can.
- Take joy in the little things.
Notice that I haven’t booked a job or signed an agent. Booking the job is such a small part of what is involved in this career. Doing all the other things listed above is what leads to booking the job. This is success! Persistence is the key. Everyone has a different story. Mine is unique to me. Yours is unique to you.