2019 year end review

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Welp, it’s that time of year.  You know I love doing an audit of my year and planning for a new one, so let’s dive in, shall we?

This took me a full 3 days to do, #classicoverdoer, but you might find that simplifying the process works better for you.  Fortunately for me I’m mostly unemployed so I have time to plan.  And planning means doing for me, so it’s worth the time investment.

I started with a full audit of 2019.  Every event got logged, then categorized in these 9 sections: Spiritual, Emotional, Intellectual, Physical, Marital, Social, Vocational, Avocational and Financial.

I also listed every risk I took, because I believe that one is incapable of growing without risks, so I aim for them.  I also listed wins for the year.  Then I transferred them all to color coded post-its which got filed under their categories.  This helped me visualize where I was weak in areas, and strong in others.

Surprises: I thought I did poorly in the social area, but it turned out plenty of time was spent with friends.  There was also quite a lot of spiritual service related things that I didn’t love, more on that later.

Not surprisingly, there weren’t any real financial risks.  The ‘ole 401k is steadily growing, but we don’t have any kind of risky stocks or investments.  Something to consider in 2020.

I read 35 books.  I have no idea how this compares to years past as I never track it, but in 2019 I decided to keep a log and a brief summary of what I read/thought about each book.  It felt like I read a ton in 2019, so perhaps it was more than usual.  Good intellectual stimulation.

I then categorized things that I loved and things I didn’t love, and things I felt neutral about in 2019.

The idea is to eliminate the things that were joyless for me in 2019 as I go into 2020, and bring more of the things I love into the New Year.

That way I am not unintentionally repeating things that resulted in nothing, or worse, a negative, in doing so.

I did my best to analyze what it meant with groupings of love/didn’t love in each section.  Best I could interpret:

I loved mostly everything I did in emotional, intellectual, physical, marital, avocational and social sections, so I should feel free reign to plan whatever I want in those areas.

In my career, I didn’t love things that were a no or uncomfortable for me.  This mostly boiled down to the business/strategy part of acting.  I loved the creating and the things that were challenging and felt like an accomplishment.  I didn’t love doing things not related to creating, but rather in the “step of the process you have to do in order to get work”.  That was a janky way of explaining.  Here’s a specific:

I planned out a photoshoot with 4 different looks because I want to show directors/producers/casting the roles I want to play.  I hired a stylist and we spent a full day buying wardrobe for this shoot.  Then I researched photogs and contacted many about my concept shoot.  I shot one of the looks with a photographer and am planning the remaining 3 in Jan/Feb.

I severely didn’t enjoy this process.  It was expensive, and I really do NOT like having my picture taken.  It’s very very uncomfortable for me and stressful and that comes across.

To add to the negative emotions, I felt neutral on any event in my career last year where it didn’t bear visible fruit.  I don’t know yet if these photos will actually make any difference, so I’ve nothing really to attach meaning to.

Now, this doesn’t mean I don’t do these business/strategy things in 2020, bc honestly, we don’t love every part of our jobs, but perhaps I don’t expend too much emotional energy on it.  Save that for the things I love.

Spiritually I loved the things I got payout from.  (That feels like a disgusting term to use in this category, but what I mean is that I got to use the gifts I was given and in turn, they were used and appreciated.)  For me, this meant singing at our annual Carols and Candlelight with a small group of excellent singers, practicing Sabbath every week, speaking at morning classes and sharing at communion.  These meant growth for me.

SO, in 2020, in all categories of planning, I should evaluate: Is it growth/challenge?  Is it creating?

If so, then it goes on the list bc the likelihood of me loving it is high.

Onto the new vision board.  All post its removed and new ones made of planned events for 2020.  At least 2 risks planned for each category, as well as events that I think sound interesting.

I won’t go into the specifics of these as some are personal, but I can say I’m pretty jazzed about this years outlook.  It’s filled with things I’m looking forward to and things that scare me, and to me, that means an incredible year.

I found the registration deadlines for different events and processed that to my 2020 planner so I made sure not to miss early bird dates.

I use a simple elephant planner as I have for the past 3 years.  I love this planner.  It works for me and keeps me on track, encouraging me to go back to my big 5 goals for the year and my mindmap of how I’ll achieve them, every few weeks.  simple-elephant-planner

Then I filled out the entire year.  I set specific days for specific recurring tasks- i.e., Tuesday mornings 6-8am writing, Wednesday 2 hours of instrument playing, Sunday 1 hour of sewing.  Then I set deadlines for different goals so that I’d know when I should be starting on them, and how far along I should be.  Those got placed in the planner.

If this all sounds like a lot, that’s because IT IS.  It was a massive amount of work.  But I am already feeling more free and more productive each day because it has taken the guess work and emotional drain of decision making out of the equation.  I get up, I look and see what’s on the agenda today, I do it.  I know that if I follow the plan, I will get to the end goal because that’s already been planned out.  Then I can expend my energy on the creating rather than the sporadic figuring it out.

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And so, ladies and gents, I will wrap up this lengthy year end review with my career stats, as I always do.  Heads up, financially and on the surface level of what’s considered successful in acting,

I #epicfailed 2019.

But I know that I took major creative risks that I loved and learned from, so I feel no regrets.  Here’s to an amazing 2020!

Commercial:

  • 40 auditions
  • 10 callbacks
  • 2 avails
  • 2 bookings
  • 25% callback rate, 5% avail/book rate

TV:

  • 5 auditions
  • 1 callback
  • 20% callback rate, 0% book rate

 

Film:

  • 3 auditions
  • 0 callbacks, 0 bookings

Theatre:

  • 2 auditions
  • 1 callback
  • 50% callback rate, 0% book rate

 

 

 

 

 

2018 Year End Review

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Middle8 photo credit: Baranduin Briggs

You all know I love me some number crunching/self reviewing, and this year is no exception.  It’s been such a different year than the last, and for that, I am grateful.  I made some big changes in my career and the benefits were fantastic.

1. I decided to stop my relentless pursuit of a theatrical agent and TV/Film roles as it was fruitless for years and brought me no joy and endless busy work

2. I left my acting class which I loved, but was plateauing in

3. I made myself open to different projects than I would normally do.

4. I auditioned for every stage musical that seemed remotely interesting

5. I created a sketch every 2 months- writing/directing/producing/editing.

6. I committed to writing a chapter a month on my novel I began at the end of 2017

7. Took a hiatus from my weekly writing on this blog so I could devote my writing energies to the aforementioned.

The result?

3. I auditioned and booked a cabaret performance where I sang a Fleetwood Mac and Sara Bareilles song with a live band.  I don’t think I would’ve done that before.

4. I booked the most meaningful stage show I’ve done since The Last 5 Years, Middle8.  We ran for 7 weeks and it was my everything for the end of 2018.

5. This forced me to collaborate with other people and become a well oiled machine at putting out work.  I feel quite confident in my abilities to turn out a short comedic sketch in a small amount of time with minimal to no budget now.

https://www.youtube.com/user/JoynedProductions

6. I stopped writing 2/3 through the year, but am currently at 200 pages + 25,000 words.

Overall, I made less money than years prior and had less auditions, but I was infinitely more creatively fulfilled and happier than ever with my work and ability to create.

So what’s in store for this year?  Some of the same from last year, but with a few new goals to spice things up and get me scared.  I may or may not blog about them after I’ve sat with them for awhile.  I plan to be open to whatever comes my way while creating the shit out of 2019.

So, without further ado, here are my stats for 2018.  I send these to my agent, and I file them away so I can compare each year to the last.  See what’s working, what’s not.

**If it’s any help to you, I’ve been working professionally as an actor in Los Angeles for 8 years now, and before that, 5 years in Dallas.  This is what my path looks like.**

2018
Commercial agent:
36 auditions, 11 callbacks (CB), 2 bookings
33% CB ratio, 6% booking ratio
agent+self submissions: (this incl. theatre, film, TV, VO)
55 auditions, 12 CB’s, 8 bookings

22% CB ratio, 15% booking ratio

Further breakdown-
7 theatre auditions, 1 CB, 2 bookings
2 TV auditions, 0 CB, 1 booking
4 film auditions, 0 CB, 1 booking
4 improv shows
filmed 1 reel scene
did 1 TFP shoot
filmed 3 music videos
saw 3 live stage shows
2017 for comparison:
commercial agent:
46 auditions, 13 CB’s, 4 bookings
28% CB ratio, 8.7% booking ratio
agent+self submissions:
73 auditions, 19 CB’s, 8 bookings
26% CB ratio, 11% booking ratio

Creating stuff

Well, friends.  It’s been an adventure.  Since I left you at the beginning of the year, I reevaluated some of the ways I wanted to spend my time creatively.  I knew I wanted to create more content and push myself as a writer/producer/actor.  I came up with the goal to create bimonthly sketches throughout 2018, and so far, have held strong.  They’ve varied from large casts to just me, semi-pro crews to again, just me.  I’ve learned a lot so far and am really enjoying the process.  I thought it might be a good opportunity to check in here and share some of what I’ve experienced.

 

Sketch #1: Awkward Catchphrase

 

This was super fun.  I had the original idea for this sketch a few years back, scribbled on a tiny red notebook I carried around with me.  The concept made me giggle, and I met with an improv friend of mine to flesh out some more situations to round it out.  Filled with the vigor that only comes from your very first venture, I had this baby cast and crewed up, and organized to a T.

An old DP friend, Ash, brought her amazing skills and equipment with her (which is why it looks so great) as well as Nick, who ran sound and made the evening so much easier.  I budgeted 5 hours for the shoot, including dinner, and we wrapped this puppy up in 4.  I was really amazed at how quickly it went.  The cast was filled by improv friends and actors, as well as Luke, my costar in The Last 5 Years.  Each and every one of the cast was super talented and funny, which made the whole night go oh so smoothly.

We shot on 4k, so this greatly reduced the amount of setups/shots necessary.  When I edited the sketch, if I wanted a close up or a medium close up, all I had to do was zoom into the shot.  The resolution is so high with 4k, it allows you to combine a wide, a medium and a close up all in one.  Super nifty.    And time saving.  We allowed for some looser improv and a few retakes so that each actor got to bring their best to the table, but mostly, every angle was done in one take.  That’s how we do.

Editing was fairly breezy.  Since the sound was good, I really didn’t have to mess with it much.  We shot with a flat profile, so all color correcting/grading was flexible and not a time sink for me.  What I mostly had to do was choose whose reaction I liked best, adding b-roll and awkward faces throughout.

Lessons learned:

  1. If you shoot in 4k, you SAVE TIME
  2. If you make detailed shot lists and organize the crap out of a shoot, it SAVES TIME
  3. If you hire good actors who are also really funny, you SAVE TIME
  4. If you make dinner ahead of time for everyone, you SAVE TIME and MONEY
  5. If you have a DP and sound guy who are pros, you SAVE TIME and learn a lot from them
  6. Wood flooring is not friendly to sound when people are slapping their knees and bouncing their feet.  It was hard for us to paralyze our lower bodies, but someway, somehow, we did it.
  7. Having lights on that are actual lamps is called a practical light.  It sets a nice tone and gives a reason why you see things lit (even though the real lighting is coming from large key lights in front of the cast)
  8. A really nice, cinematic looking shot can be achieved by lighting one side of the face, and having the other fall off into shadow.  I ended up using this on the next sketch.  (and for photos)

behind the scene notes:

Lynn (curly blonde) had an awesome improvised take where she admitted to the hookup, but then backed out, fabricating a story about how funny that joke would be.  I cut it for time, but it was great.

Jill is the most egregious breaker I’ve ever met.  She will crack you up because she cracks constantly.  Prosciutto was particularly hard for her to say without laughing and we did around 10 takes of that line.  So funny.

 

Reconfigure

It’s been awhile, lovelies.  I’ve come to this page multiple times in the last few weeks, tapping on keys but not finding the words.  I started reading through the archives, looking for I don’t know what, and I noticed that the same themes come up again and again- frustration and jealousy, then self empowerment and worth.  Like a cart riding on its coaster, it seems that the salient struggles for me are the same through time.  I start hopeful and charged up, with goals and creations and delight in this career, and then I fall on my face with cynicism, comparisons and aggravation at this field that I can’t seem to kick a hole in.

Aside from the obvious worry that I’m proceeding as a crazy person, never getting past my blocks, instead recycling my problems over and over, it’s become apparent to me that I have nothing new to say.  And if I have nothing worth saying, it doesn’t seem right to put finger to keyboard and type out rehashed drivel.

So, my readers (whoever that might be, if any of you exist) I am taking a hiatus.  I need to reevaluate what I want to say and if that’s worthy of your time.  With a few breaks here and there, I’ve attempted to post weekly to this blog since June 2013.  In the beginning, and right there under my title I proclaim

being thrifty, becoming handy, and avoiding cynicism in Hollywood

Well, as you likely know, I’ve not avoided cynicism in Hollywood.  But I have been thrifty and incredibly handy.  However, I’ve not often written about that here.  I’ve mostly written about the life of an actor and how to be proactive or change your mindset (since that’s clearly what I’ve succeeded at).  Perhaps, since DIY has become such a large part of my life, this blog will follow through with pt 1 and 2 of my subtitle.  Or perhaps I’ll let it go and be proud of the 5 years of posts I’ve created.

Whatever path I might decide to take, I want to thank you, readers, for tuning into this gals journey and staying along for the ride.  I appreciate you.  Happy 2018.

Do you remember?

Hey, actor.  Yeah, you.

Do you remember the time you fell in love with that musical that spoke the words to beautiful music that you wanted to say?  Do you remember how you ached to give life to this show and to tell that characters story to an audience that needed to hear it?  Do you remember how each of those songs pumped through your veins and emanated from you all hours of the day until you could no longer ignore it?  Then how you decided to raise money and put that show on in a shitty 35-seat theatre that you could afford in Hollywood, where the audience had to cross the stage and the dressing room to get to the bathroom?

Do you remember how alive you felt with a small orchestra behind you, and you finally giving a voice to the story that plagued you for years?  How every moment of that show had been dissected and probed until you breathed its air and moved to its rhythm?  How no industry people came to the show despite you flooding them with postcards and emails?  How casting directors, whose job it is to look for actors, couldn’t be bothered to do the work?  How, even though you couldn’t fill those 35 seats, you knew, you KNEW that

This

Is

Art

And you were art.  You did something beautiful and incredible that didn’t need the validation of a sold out house, or a resulting agent meeting.  Do you remember how it felt to do what you were formed by the Great Creator to do?

Cause it seems like you’re forgetting.  Amidst the rejection from the casting directors who are NOT artists, like you, and can’t see past an imdb starmeter, and the excellent work you do every week in acting class that no one will see but your classmates, you have been losing sight of who you are.  You’ve started to think ‘if I just changed my headshot, maybe things would get better’ and ‘I hate networking, but it seems like the only people who get ahead are the ones who schmooze’.  Or that you’re not pretty or thin enough.  You’ve started to see your actor friends find success and you’re filled with jealousy because you know you’ve worked just as hard as they have.  So then, you start to think the worst….

That you’re not talented at all.

This is always how it goes.

Work + Talent + Determination + Drive = little result = shifts in methods = little results = others succeeding = questioning worth = frustration = What am I even doing here?

If you would remember, dear actor, what it is you’re doing here, you wouldn’t have any of these questions.  You would know EXACTLY what and why.  And you would continue to create regardless of what’s on the other side of that = .

Remember.

This is the End

I wrote a film.  A short film, to be more specific.  I wrote it in 2009, and then fretted about helming it as a producer and director because the most I had taken on at that point was a 5 minute short film with 3 locations and 4 actors.  This film was 30 minutes long, had 9 characters and many extras, as well as 4 locations that couldn’t be contrived from my living room.  I spoke with countless others, trying to talk myself into it, trying to see if I was capable of such a task.  In the end, I bit the bullet, held a casting call and put a notice out for a 15 man crew.  I set the shoot dates for 4 days in June in 2010.

Everything came together.  I had a DP who brought a RED camera on board, I was able to have Albertsons donate food for our crew and set, and I got product placement with a pizza company who provided our lunch everyday.  My cast was solid and I dove headfirst into an enormously stressful, but incredible 4 days. I had no idea what I was doing.

Then I moved to LA.  I had a friend editing it, but he ran out of time, so I gave it to another editor.  I don’t remember what happened with that one.  Then it went to another.  And another.  Each of them fell through after working with them for several months.  They’d just go off the radar.  Eventually, I got my footage back and decided to do the damn thing myself.  I invested in Adobe Creative Suite and watched/read endless tutorials so I could edit the film.  I got a new computer and monitor in order to work with 4k footage.  Then I went about editing the sound.  This was much harder to do.  I had an incredibly steep learning curve, but after a few months, it was done.  3 months ago, I began color correcting Priscilla, my 30 minute British comedy.  This part was easier than I anticipated, and yesterday, at 5pm, I color graded the very last frame of this film that I have been sitting with for 7 years.

7 years.  I feel a little lost without the phrase “I should be working on Priscilla” hanging from my every spare moment.  I have invested years in this project and to no longer be working on it is exciting, but also jarring.  What am I without this film?  Hopefully I will be the producer/writer/director showing it at film festivals come 2018.  But I’ll also be the novel writer- I began writing a book 2 weeks ago.  With this film done, I can devote my energies towards it.  I’ll also be a script writer- I began one 5 months ago that I’d love to pick up.  This time, I think I’ll try my hand at a feature length film.  But for now, in this moment, I’m going to savor the feeling of completion.  Of seeing something out over the longhaul.  Sticking to it, and never giving up.  That’s worthy of celebration.

No strings attached

I auditioned for Wicked today.  When I saw the open call, my heart skipped a beat because I knew I would never get to audition for this through any other method.  It also sank as I began to realize that the chances of them casting anyone for this hugely popular BROADWAY musical through an open call were slim to none.  If it hadn’t been posted through playbill and elsewhere, I honestly would’ve assumed it was a publicity stunt, like when I auditioned for Spiderman:Turn off the Dark.

I began my song selection and began making plans to attend.  First, I thought about the character, and songs that would speak to her type.  Then I thought of songs that showcased my belting range.  I selected a song I love from a show I did a few years back.  I never use any of the music from this show for auditions, because the average accompanist will fumble all the way through the 16 bars and I will be a disjointed mess by the end.  It’s incredibly difficult music to play.  However, I decided that since there was 0.0000000000012 chance that they were going to actually call me back for this, I should do a song I want to do, not something I think is right for them.

I did a voice lesson yesterday to prepare and made acting choices that I thought brought the comedy out of this song, and I felt ready.  When I arrived at exactly the time they said sign ups begin (and NO ONE was to come any earlier!) there was already a line wrapped around the corner.  Fortunately, I found free parking across the street and shuffled to the line with my bag full of snacks, water, nom jiom pei pa koa, and a camp chair.  When numbers were passed out, I was #168.  Holding that paper felt like the golden ticket to the Chocolate Factory.  I was in.  I would for sure be auditioning for Wicked today!

I made some comments to the guy and girl in front of me about the impossibility of them casting from an open call and they seemed deflated, saying that there’s always a chance!  I wanted to logically explain to them why it would not work, but then I realized I’m an asshole and should shut my cynical mouth.  By the time I reached the studio I was sure my vocal warmups were irrelevant by now, so I stepped into a dance studio and began pacing, warming up, and stepping outside to sing my 16 bars.  My high notes were still in check and things sounded good.  I continued this for another hour or so until my group was called.

We were told not to waste any time, just say hello, and give the tempo to the accompanist.  So what did I do?  I made an insipid joke and then proceeded to tell the CD that he looked familiar, and did he cast Spiderman??  Shut up already, Brittany.  The pianist began and the first bar he played was most definitely not the first bar of the song.  I hit the notes right anyways (it helps to be able to sing the song in your sleep) and launched into my performance.  The CD?  Well, he looked up twice, and both times I was staring right at him, acting the crap out of the song to the top of his head.  The pianist?  I was worried he wouldn’t be able to play the music.  He played fine.  But apparently was not aware there was a soft pedal on the piano because the playing was so loud I have huge doubt that the CD was able to hear me belting at the top of my lungs.  I finished, thanked them, and walked out.  I took a moment to breathe outside the room, and when I got to my car I went over it all.

Final analysis?  I’m happy with what I did.  I tore it up regardless of the chances of my getting called back.  I did what I wanted to do, I showed up and I delivered.  That’s all I can do.  Maybe I’ll start auditioning more with no strings attached.  I think I like it.