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.

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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.

Me too

Ugh.  This is a hard one to write.  I don’t want any women thinking I don’t back them up 100%.  But with the tidal wave of social media “me too’s” that out the sexual harassment experienced by far too many women (and men), I feel the need to speak up myself.

Have I experienced it?  Oh hells yes.  As an attractive, fit female, I have experienced sexual harassment on an almost daily basis my entire life.  You could say I’ve built up a bit of a wall when I’m in public.  I can’t work in my front yard without cat calls and men yelling at me from their car windows.  It is impossible for me to walk down Hollywood blvd to an improv show without having men jeer and hit on me.  I wouldn’t say I accept this, but I most definitely expect it.  So, I’ve adapted.  I walk with purpose, I don’t smile at strangers and I don’t make eye contact.  Part of me hates that I have to transform into someone I’m not, but I’d rather cut the ugly head off before it has a chance to devour me.

I’m sad so many human beings have been treated as objects.  I in no way condone nor accept that behavior.  I guess what I’m struggling with here is this: At what point did we think humankind had more than 1 ounce of goodness?  Since when did mankind stop being evil, lying, manipulative, lusting, coercing and selfish?  Of course there’s a billion me too’s.

Even if we believe we haven’t participated in objectifying or taking advantage of another human, let me assure you, we are complicit.  The pernicious, seething monster that is objectification is forever at our doorstep, on our TV, on our computer screen, and in our conversations.  Can I get real here?

When we watch yet another movie that has 5 men headlining the cast, and then one woman as, you guessed it- the wife of the main character, we are complicit.

636391876183364759-only-the-brave-otb-online-1sht-fnl-aoj-08-rgb

When we read the article about Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt divorcing and try to dissect their personal lives, speculating who did what wrong, we are complicit.

When we size up another woman based on her clothes, her hair, her makeup, and her weight, attempting to jockey for our position at the top, we are complicit.

When we decide that there can only be one leading lady in Hollywood existence who is overweight, and even then, the joke is about her size, we are complicit.

melissa-mccarthy

When we are thrilled to watch Game of Thrones with its violence, savagery and women as subservient sexual slaves, we are complicit.

Please tell me you see what I’m saying here.  What we watch, judge, read, and support with our eyes or our pocket book matters.  These things only subsist with the complicity of an audience.  And, little by little, the examples we see before us chip away at our respect for human dignity and value.

So, me too.  I am complicit in a society that supports treating other human beings as objects, much as I abhor it.  Question is, what are we going to do about it?

 

Grit

Angela Duckworth, in her seminal work on Grit, and how it makes us successful, lays out the 4 characteristics she believes defines a gritty person.

  1. They’re interested- Gritty people are passionate, excited and enjoy what they do.
  2. They practice- day after day, hour after hour.
  3. They have purpose- they believe their work matters and is meaningful.
  4. They have hope- they believe their dream is within reach.

You can take her grittiness test here.

I’m a 4.3 out of 5 on the scale.  This doesn’t surprise me.  I think I would out work anyone on anything, even if I didn’t care about the project anymore, just because that’s how my being works.  If you asked any friend of mine who was the most driven, disciplined person they know, I can guarantee I would top that list.  To a fault, for sure.  My tenacity often blinds me to what’s important and smarter work habits.  Often times I get so stuck on what I think is the best way to do something I will work myself ragged doing a 32-step process in order to come to the same result someone else could’ve, but with much less effort.

Hard work doesn’t scare me.  After working for 10 hours in the front yard one day this week on an extensive cleanout of the garden, I felt like a 1920’s cotton farmer- not at all blending in with the manicured, clean, callous-free hands of anyone around me.  While running wiring under the house in our crawl space last week, I was disgusted to see this as I army crawled in the 2 feet of space I had to move around:

underhouse

Yep.  That’s animal (I hope) bones.  There was a spine, a femur, and other assorted bits of bone.  That I had to crawl over.  <shudder>  But I did it.  It’s dirty, it’s gross, but I did it.  There have been several occasions I texted a pic to my husband of my days adventure in the attic or under the house, or clearing out a 200 pound branch that fell from our tree into the street, often with the caption: Today didn’t go how I planned.

The point of this post is not to praise my inability to be a gentle, polished, lovely lady.  The point is to say, I enjoy it.  The things I do- whether it’s the constant grind of an acting career and people yelling “NO!” or the endless house projects I just have to do and wouldn’t dream of paying someone to- are what make up who I am and the life I’m enjoying.  It’s a process, it’s a non-stop grate, it’s a sweating, dirty, aching, bleeding, crying, despairing, dreaming, exciting, joyful, painful lovely journey.

So when someone asks me why I do what I do- why I put up with agents who tell me to lose weight, or rejection on an hourly basis- or 12 years of solid, exhausting, diligent work and discipline that result in not one single film/tv agent interested in giving me a chance or the opportunity to say one line on a stupid ass CBS show like “I don’t know- He always kept to himself” all I can say is “Because.  Because it is and I am and we are.”  It’s as simple as that.  The work, the grit, the dream, the hope, the process and the journey.  They’re all mine, and I love them, despite their setbacks.  Mine.  It’s me and who I am.  I don’t plan on changing that.

 

Worth

I thumbed through shirt after shirt and rack after rack at TJ Maxx.  Too dark.  Too loose.  Too patterned.  This could work, though it’s not exactly like the pinterest ensemble.  Will my sweat show up on this?  What will everyone else be wearing?  Is it trendy enough?  Too trendy?  Does it accentuate my shoulders or make me look fat?

2 hours, a messy fitting room and endless picture texts to my sister later, I walk out of the store with 3 shirts, a pair of very cheap black boots, and some nail polish.  I feel lonely.  I feel insecure.  I wonder why I just spent all that time in that store, and all the time before it, looking up paired outfits.  Why did I do that?

The answer , if I dig down deep, is self doubt.  I do not feel confident enough in my own abilities for Friday nights’ performance.  So I fritter away my effort on trying to wear the most attractive outfit I can manage so that I might distract the viewers from watching my talent.  Instead, maybe they’ll see a pretty girl and be more lenient with my jokes that don’t land, or the characters that don’t work.

I hate this.  I hate that I feel insecure about my worth as an improv comedian.  I hate that a lifetime of being told I’m pretty makes me run to that shortcut when I feel doubtful.  I hate that it’s possible that’s worked in the past.  But, here we are.  I will likely primp and prep and obsess over my outward appearance for far too long on Friday, but I will also warm up, try for a group mind (though that’s difficult to do with a team you’ve practically just met), and put on my confident alter-ego until she convinces me that I belong there.

And I do.  I feel anxious typing the words, but I belong.  I auditioned for this.  People are paying me to do improv, so they must’ve seen something they wanted to invest in.  I’ve come to the rehearsals, I’ve brought what I have to the table.  I’ve taken my craft seriously, and I’ve attempted to make my teammates look good.

That is enough.

I belong.