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!

The Artist’s Battle Within

Lately, my husband has been obsessed with NPR’s Radiolab and he recommended I listen to a particular episode called, “Help!”

“What do you do when your own worst enemy is…you? This hour, Radiolab looks for ways to gain the upper hand over those forces inside us–from unhealthy urges, to creative insights–that seem to have a mind of their own.” (Click on the picture below to have a listen.)

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In this podcast they talked to a woman who was battling a life-long smoking addiction, discussed how the fictional Ulysses (Homer’s Odysseus) kept himself from falling victim to the sirens, and interviewed Elizabeth Gilbert (author of “Eat, Pray, Love”) about the challenges of writing. These people got over the resistance within themselves by finding a motivation more powerful than that pesky little rebel inside. One writer told himself he would commit suicide if he didn’t write a book in ten days. He meant it. And he wrote the book!
This got me thinking about my own battle with artistic discipline. There is a struggle within myself between one part that desires to improve and the other that resists change. I will always make it to auditions, rehearsals, performances and do my best. That’s the good part. The bad part is that, when it comes to working on my craft by myself, time with friends or family always win out. Ultimately, the problem is, although I hate disappointing other people, somehow it is okay for me to disappoint myself.
There in lies the key to my solution. In the podcast, the woman who overcame her smoking habit chose something that superseded her need to smoke. For me, relationships have the highest priority. This gave me an idea. What if I treated my actor craft time, as a relationship with a person that needs nurturing. If I miss an appointment with my future-actor-me(who has achieved all my current hopes and dreams), I have disappointed her and let her down. Ulysses knew future-him would not be able to resist the sirens, so he preemptively told his crew to strap him to the mast. Tom Waits personifies his artistic inspiration by talking to it and arguing with it until a resolution is found. What if future-actor-me and present-me can come to an agreement and foster this relationship for both our good?!? It might seem a bit split personality, but there are already apposing voices going on in all our heads, so I might as well work with it, right? For now, I’ll call my future-actor-me, C2.

Dear C2,
I know we’ve had a rough time of it. I’ve ignored you more than I like to admit. Can we start over? I promise to meet with you regularly, keep my appointments, and do my best to grow our relationship. We’re in this together. Let’s do this!

Sincerely,
Charissa

What are your hang-ups? What could motivate you to overcome that obstacle? I’d love to hear your ideas. We’re all in this together!

The Other Things in Life

I like being busy. Every quarter in college, I took 20-22 credits (normal was 15). After college, I worked a part-time job for 30 hours a week to pay the rent and was involved in shows another 20-30 hours a week. This idea of productivity and busyness is highly prized in our culture. The harder and longer you work, the better!
At some point during college, my pastor at the time, talked about the lost practice of the “Sabbath,” the day of rest. Few people, religious or not, keep this tradition in our fast-paced, advanced technology, stores open 24-7, modern world. For most of us in the theatre/film industry a day off is way too hard to nail down. For many years, I had to work the days that I wasn’t performing. Add that schedule to my need to always be doing something and resting becomes nearly impossible.

Whether or not it is a specific day or time of week, I keep being reminded that taking time for the other things in life is an important practice for a few reasons:

  • To let go! Remind myself that it isn’t all about me and what I do.
  • To spend time with people who make life worth living.
  • To be renewed and re-energized by the people/things that are the inspiration for our art.
  • To not burn out!

This is a constant battle for me, but taking time away is healthy and good. I’ve spent almost two months in LA and I still hadn’t done anything that didn’t have to do with the industry is one way or another. So, I’m purposing to take time for the other things in life, like:

  • IMG_0455Today, I took a hike in Griffith Park. I’d forgotten how much I like to hike and be outdoors. It was amazingly refreshing.
  • I’m reading a book from the fiction section, having nothing to do with acting or the business.
  • Last weekend, I spent the whole time with my husband: going out to restaurants, watching movies, cuddling. Just what we needed!

How are you purposing to enjoy the other things in life?

Business Relationships: Trust

I was planning on writing about my “type” journey this week, but I woke up thinking about something else: relationships. I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was a much more pressing subject to write about. The more I explore LA and wonder how to “make it”, the more I keep coming back to this theme of relationships.

We’ve all heard the phrase, “It’s all about who you know.” Well, Yes and No. The longer I’m in this business and the more involved I get, I believe that is true, IF you quantify the word “know.” I used to hear this phrase and think just because someone knew of someone or had some connection (i.e. so-and-so’s nephew’s cousin’s dog needs and job and so they’ll give it to them) you had an “in.” However, I think this “know” goes deeper. It has a lot more to do with trust.
There’s a reason why directors often return to the same actors and crew, time and again. They’ve worked together, know how each other functions under pressure, and trust that future projects will have a similarly positive outcome. I have a friend who got a job because of his dad’s relationship with this production company. I’d wager to guess that the boss at the production company hired the son because he trusted that if the son was as dependable and hard working as his dad, hiring the son would be a smart choice. If the opposite were true, you can bet the son would still be looking for work. Good relationships build trust.
“Networking” has always kind of been a dirty word to me. It made me feel like I had to sell myself to people and put up with other people selling themselves to me, resulting in this superficial “network” of people using each other to get what they want. Yuck! However, as I look at the successful people(people who keep working) both in Seattle and LA, I’m beginning to see that these people have built a network of fellow artists who genuinely like each other and therefore like working together. No one keeps working with someone they absolutely hate and no one likes to be used, so how does this genuine relationship happen? Perhaps we need to reverse the scenario of networking I gave above. Instead of using people to get what we want, what if we found the people who want the same thing and work together to get there. Novel idea, right? (Not really, but I’m just discovering it myself.)  Everyone wants people around them who’ve got their back. So, take the first step and be that for the other person. And if they don’t reciprocate, then you know you can’t trust them and you move on to the next person. Pretty soon you’ll have a group (i.e. network) of people who’ve got your back and you’ve got theirs. What better way to tackle this business than with a team of people around you that you can trust?

I’m preachin’ to myself here. As an introvert, it’s much easier to sit at home and watch a movie. Then I wonder why no one asked me to work on a project. I need to take the first step and offer to help. “Treat others the way you want to be treated”, right? Every time I’ve put myself out there, something positive has come back my way. So, what are my goals this week?

  1. Putting myself out there.
  2. Finding those people who have common goals.
  3. Treating them the way I want to be treated.