The 100 Day Project: Obstacles

I am over 75% of the way done with the 100 day project. Wow. I knew when I started out that this was going to be a challenge; that I would grow and discover things, but I hadn’t quite anticipated what this whole journey would become. One of the things that I am learning about is discovering what keeps me from doing what I want and need to do.

My Obstacles (in no particular order of importance)

  • Varying schedule. It would have probably been easier and better for me to schedule a certain time of day for me to do my self-taping and actually dedicate a block of time to the activity. I am not sure this is something I could have done, because my schedule looks different each day, but I have realized that I do better work in the morning or afternoon. If I push it back to the evening, in addition to being tired I am less likely to dedicate all the time and focus that the scene/monologue needs.
  • Lack of focus. I realized at some point that I became very weary, maybe somewhere around the halfway mark. I couldn’t put my finger on it for a while(besides the fact that I had committed to doing something every day for a hundred days and that is bound to make anyone tired at one point or another). I also realized that I really hadn’t set any parameters for myself, other than taping myself every day. I thought that the option to do any type of scene or monologue would be freeing, so I wouldn’t get tired of it. But I think at this point I am actually burdened by making a choice every day of what I am going to do AND having to find it. That is half the battle. Instead, I could have decided to do the first 100 of Shakespeare’s sonnets. That way, I would at least know what was next and see some improvement in that particular area of acting. I see the boundaries other people have set for themselves with a lot of the other 100 day projects. Many of the visually based projects were very specific with what they were creating (i.e. #100daysofsprocket or #100daysofthingswithfaces). I know parameters can be frustrating, but in the limitations I think there is freedom to be found. Something to consider the next time around(Yes, I will be doing #the100dayproject again!).
  • People. Well, the lack of people. Now more than ever, I am remembering that one of the reasons I love acting is the community aspect of acting with/for other people. Whether that is on a set, in rehearsal, or before a live audience, I feed off that energy. Although I’ve gotten great practice for auditions, I don’t enjoy acting by myself nearly as much. I do appreciate the accountability and community that Instagram and The Great Discontent have provided, but I’m really craving the in person human interaction right now.
  • Speaking up for what I need. I mentioned this to my husband the other day. I have made a life long habit of always putting other people’s needs first. While that might make me a nice friend, it does not make me the best entrepreneur or artist. If I need space or need someone to read with me, I will always try to find someway around it before even asking for help. This is something that I am consciously making an effort to change. If I want to improve, advance, and grow, I need to speak up for myself and ask for what I need!
  • Myself. Even if none of the things above were factors, I am my own worst enemy. I can come up with all sorts of reasons why I can’t do the work. Or even “do” it but not really commit to it. Every day I have to face my fears, my insecurities, and my excuses, and overcome them. Some days that is really hard to do.

I like to analyze things; looking for cause and effect; searching for meaning in what does or does not happen and why. As much as I see an awareness of these obstacles can be helpful in optimizing my performance, I also recognize that there will never be a time when no obstacles exist. They will change, morph, grow, shrink; but they will always be there. It’s probably time I make friends with these obstacles, rather than let them get the best of me. And with that… let me get to work!

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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!

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!

Celebrating Successes!

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:

Successes!

  • 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 reelIMG_0384
  • 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!

Discoveries!

  • 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.

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!