Bearing Witness

jojo

There’s a scene in what I think is the best movie of 2019, Jojo Rabbit, where the mother of the main character, a young German boy nicknamed Jojo, find themselves in the town square during the height of Hitlers’ power.  She is staring intensely up above and Jojo has turned his face to the ground.  Wordlessly, she forcefully palms his head and turns it to what she is fixed on.  Overhead are a gallows, populated with dissenters of Nazi rule, hung for their opposition.  He uncomfortably shifts, but holds the gaze.  She tells him to look at it, take it in.

We’re in a planet wide pandemic.  Planet wide.  It fascinates me that throughout my lifetime there have been assaults on my nation, my state, my personhood, but never has there been something that has affected the entire planet so wholly as this virus has.  It has brought people together in some ways, and isolated us in others.

Anxiety seems to be the ruler of the day.  What will happen?  When will it end?  Was that cough indicative?  Will my kids survive?  Will I survive?  Will the economy survive?  How will we eat, how will we wipe our asses, how how how.

On the opposite spectrum are those who would refuse the warnings.  Devil may care, this isn’t a real threat and society is overreacting.  Nothing has changed.  Nothing will change.

It occurred to me that there’s got to be an in between.  Somewhere between fetal curl sobbing while gnawing on dry pasta and still going into work at your non essential job.  Can we bear witness to this historical event?  Can we bear witness to not just our own suffering but the pain and fear of those around us?

Bearing witness seems like an archaic phrase to me, but it’s quite beautiful.  It’s not fixing the situation.  It’s not ignoring the situation.  Like Jojo in the town square, can we be forced to see the enormity of the situation and just be in it?  Acknowledge it?  Bear witness to all that is and will be because of it?

I’ve recently had some heartache.  Gut wrenching, cry my eyes out for days, my whole life is over heartache.  The last thing I want to do is sit in this sickly pain and fear and discomfort.  I want to fix it.  Or forget it happened and move on with my life as if it didn’t rip a hole in the fabric of my existence.  Neither of these responses will heal me.  I have to bear witness to my affliction, stay still with my brokenness and intensely stare into my grief.  I don’t know what will happen or even what is happening inside me right now.  But I want to stay present and vulnerable to that heartache and learn what it is trying to teach me.

It’s teaching me right now to be vulnerable.  Share my tender underbelly with my best friends who have earned the right to know my story.  Continue to share with them and ask for help to be raised up again.  And again.  I need to journal.  A lot.  I need to connect with others and not crawl into my shell and disappear.

How will you respond to this pandemic?  Will you bear witness to this plague and how it’s affecting not just you but other humans across the globe?  Will you stare into the storm and acknowledge its power, but deny its ability to separate you from your humanity?  Will you reach out to others and share, carry each others grief and together learn what you can from this?  I hope I can.

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.

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.

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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?