Altered Dreams

So much has happened.  I nailed my musical audition, and went through a grueling 3 hour callback the next night.  My dancing was ok, not amazing, but good enough, my acting was pretty good, and my singing was right where I hoped it would be.  I know that I gave 200% at that audition and callback, and I didn’t hold anything back.  However, I was not cast.  I made it to the final 2, and, alas, the other gal will be telling Sally Bowles’ story, not I.  For a few minutes I felt rather depressed that even my utmost effort and my highest performance level was not good enough to be cast, but overall, I’m incredibly proud of all I gave.  Usually I hold a little something back at auditions.  Call it a protection mechanism, it’s just what I do.  Not so with this musical.  So even though I’m crestfallen that I still am not in a musical, I am reminding myself that it doesn’t mean I have less talent or I’m wasting my time being an actor because I’m clearly not good enough.  There is so much out of my control in the casting process.  All I can do is give my all.  And I did.  End of story.  So, the journey continues to find one.

After that I went to Portland and discovered the happiest place on Earth, Powell’s Bookstore.  Spent a few hours lovingly looking through every floor and category that tickled my fancy.  Then it was on to a PacNW adventure: Seattle->Squamish, BC->Whistler, BC->Coupeville,WA->Pt Townsend, WA->Seattle.  Lots of hiking and waterfalls and ferry’s and coffee made that trip a delight.  Now that my feet have found their mooring, I’m hard at work trying to get my endless to-do’s to become to-dones.

I also got to film a commercial that was the alternate reality version of a dream come true for me.  My world settles in the realm of Darcy, Dorrit and Dashwood.  That is to say, I have very little interest in TV, film, or books that were written after 1889.  I adore Austen, Dickens, Gaskell and Thackeray.  If it’s on Masterpiece Classic, you better believe I have a large mug of tea and am enthralled with the story that plays out before me.  My utmost goal and dream for my career is to be in period films and movie musicals.  So far, no one has come knocking on my door for a Persuasion remake, but I did book a commercial for Zappos where I played an 18th century primadonna.

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Being called to the Edith Head building at Universal (are you kidding me?  She’s my costume idol!) to try on a bunch of 18th century dresses complete with corset and endless panniers, as well as a fitting for a wig custom made for me was beyond belief.  Sure, it wasn’t a film.  It was almost better- I only had to be in the inordinately heavy costume for one day, AND I got to be comedic and throw a bunch of ridiculous one-liners to a present-day roommate.  How fun is that??

Sometimes the actualization of our dreams don’t look how we thought they would.  Doesn’t mean they’re any less of an experience in the sublime.  I may never get to do a period film.  But I got to wear the dress, get paid for it, and for one day, I was that character.  I may not have been cast as Sally in Cabaret.  But for one day, one callback, I was her.  And I got to tell her story and show those decision makers what I could do.  And that’s pretty amazing.

 

Being a Christian in Hollywood, pt 4

If you missed pt 1 of this blog, you can catch it here.

If you missed pt 2 of this blog, you can catch it here.

If you missed pt 3 of this blog, you can catch it here.

Welcome to pt 4 of the series, ‘Being a Christian in Hollywood’.  Last week I reviewed the present state of my job opportunities while keeping the faith in this town, this week we’re going to talk about the future.  At present, the roles for my type in commercials are numerous (jackpot).  In film/tv?  Eh, not so much.  Just based on age and gender alone, the number of roles I could conceivably go in for on any given breakdown are slim.  By one day of breakdowns last week, I counted 46 projects.  There were numerous roles listed for each.  There were a total of 6 roles that were my gender and age range.  Eesh.  Clearly I am not currently in a desirable demographic for TV/Film.  That’s ok.  That changes eventually.  While I don’t feel optimistic about my chances at TV/Film at this state in my career, the positive side is that it motivates me to create my own work.  This accomplishes several things.  It flexes my writing muscles, it challenges me to tell interesting stories, and it tells them how I want to tell them.  As someone who loves being the boss, this naturally appeals to me.  An actor has very little say on someone else’s set.  On your own?  The sky is the limit.

Currently I’m nearly finished editing my 30 minute British comedy, Priscilla, that I wrote and directed.  As soon as that is completed, I have several script ideas brewing in my head that I’ll jump on, including a sitcom and a stage musical.  The future holds lots of self produced material, in my minds eye, and I’m excited to see what happens.  I’ve spent a good deal of time thinking about what my future career looks like, ideally.  What types of projects do I want to do?  What stories do I want to tell?  It’s a good idea to have a solid, specific idea of what you want so you can work towards it, rather than a nebulous “I want to act”.  So, here’s the types of films I want to do:

Movie Musicals

Period films

Clean comedy

I love watching these, and I’m certain I will love being a part of those stories.  Unfortunately they are also the most expensive to make, and make the least revenue at the box office, thereby decreasing their viability in studio heads minds.  So, what do you do?  Make your own of course!

My list of roles/films I’m not interested in doing has expanded to include horror films, reality tv, and faith based films.  There’s been a tightening of the reigns on the stories I want to be a part of, and it might lead one to think that there are very few crumbs left on the table from which to feast.  Faith based films?  I adhere to the idea that we don’t need more Christian films.  We need more Christians making films.  By the time a script has gone through every religious filter possible in order not to offend, the story has been sanitized and loses a lot of its meaning.  (see previous post 1 about people imposing their own ideas of what it means to be a religious artist)  I don’t watch those movies, so I don’t care to tell those stories.  It doesn’t mean they are without value, I just don’t care for it.

Horror films and reality tv suck the lifeblood of humanity and leave them with a sad shell of ‘unreality’ with which to live.  The same with our current explosion of violent sex scenes on TV and film.  If couples were actually having as much sex as Nicole Kidman and Alexander Skarsgard’s character are having in Big Little Lies, they would be unemployed and have a raging UTI.  Seriously, people.  These portrayals on your screen are unrealistic at best, and damaging to our perception of normality in our relationships at worst.  Stop using women as objects.  Just stop.  It doesn’t make them a ‘strong’ character.  It just perpetuates the myth that our value lies only in sex.  I don’t watch a lot of shows/films because of this.  I don’t want to be in those stories either.

I could talk about the future and my idea of what is great and gives me hope for a long while, but this post needs to be wrapped up, so we’ll save more on the future for next week!

 

The nitty gritty details pt. 2

There’s a tricky caveat in buyouts.  In each contract, you are guaranteed the session and wardrobe fee, but the buyout is upon the condition that they choose your spot to air.  So, you do all the work regardless, and if they decide when they’re editing the spot that they don’t want to use what you did, you don’t get paid.  Now, this is generally not a problem because if they’re going to the time and expense to shoot the thing, they’re likely going to use it.  However, in the past year, I’ve now had 4 commercials that have not aired my spot.  Yikes.  First time for me.

Several of them weren’t too big of an issue because they weren’t paying that much at the outset, or were union, so they paid a bunch of other checks like holding fees, etc.  But then there was the whopper.  This job I was pretty excited to book, because, all in, I expected anywhere from $8-$9,000.  This is a pretty chunk of change.  Let’s take a trip to the job process itself.

Day one: the audition.  There was a ton of copy for this audition, but I felt like I nailed it and showed my skills well.

Day two: this was the callback with the director.  They were foreign (not abnormal) and liked what I did, having me do every last bit of copy, so I was in the room for a good 10 minutes.

Then I got a call from my agent a day or 2 later saying I booked it and letting me know about all the monies that would be made- $600 session fee per day (likely on set 2 days), behind the scenes footage $750, fitting $84, $2500 print, and $5000 buyout.  Very nice payday.

When I arrived for my least favorite part, the fitting, I sat in a chair in a lobby for 5-6 hours waiting to be seen.  There were a ton of people running around chaotically, fitting other actors, talking over production, etc.  It struck me as pretty disorganized when the 2nd AD couldn’t find my role on the callsheet.

The day of the shoot I arrived early in the morning to yet another chaotic scene- people rushing around trying to figure out what happened next- shooting going on in one part of the location and pictures going on in another.  It was a huge crew and a lot of extras and actors were on set.  I was told they wouldn’t be ready for me for awhile, so I went through hair and makeup and wardrobe and got approvals and then worked on my scenes for acting class that night while I waited…and waited…and waited.  2 hours later they called me to location where they took about 10 photos of me that they had taken of another actor just prior.  Then I got ushered down to wait some more.  30 minutes later I was rushed back to set and told to wait in a chair while they got ready for my shot on camera.  They filmed another actor while I watched on the viewing screen.  She was doing the lines and scene that I was cast to do.  I assumed they wanted something else of me.  So I waited.  And waited.  Until they said they wouldn’t be shooting me and took me back to holding.  A half hour later I was rushed to another location where they took some more pictures of me with some other actors.  Everyone was rushing around and didn’t seem to have things organized with this huge production.

I was ushered back to holding where I waited a bit longer only to have the 2nd AD tell me that he was sorry but they wouldn’t be getting to my shot.  They were wrapping for lunch and then moving to another location, but they would be calling me to do a Voice Over session later in the week.  So, I guess I was only needed for one day of shooting, and they never got to my shot, and decided not to get it?  And now I am going to do voice over?  Not at all what I was expecting.  I had lunch and went straight to acting class.

2 months later, I’ve checked online and they aren’t using any of the still shots they took of me, but they are airing the footage they shot with the other actor saying the lines I thought I would be shooting.  They never called me in for voice over, and to date, I have received:

$547.18

And I think that’s all I’ll get.  The session fee+wardrobe fitting- agent commission.  So what was expected to be $9,000 is now a paltry percentage.  Though I auditioned, got called back, booked the job and was on set for the shoot, it’s almost as if I didn’t book that job.  Nothing I can do about that.  Just one of the many intricacies of a very unstable business.

Happy and Excited

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I got to go to NYC for my birthday.  I’m going to say that again, because, for me, that was a really big deal.  I got to go to NYC  for my birthday!  You see, even though I’m a huge musical theatre fan and most actors have been to New York, I’ve not.  So this was a big deal for me.  To make it an even bigger deal, we saw Waitress, my Broadway obsession.  That’s right, for my very first Broadway show, I got to see my favorite.  How lucky am I?

Seeing the theatres and the lights and the posters was exciting enough.  Walking through Central Park was breezy and lovely.  But when that curtain rose and the familiar music began playing, I was enraptured beyond belief.  At the edge of my seat, I took in every syllable, each movement and character and drank it in.  Tears streamed down my face as the lead sang her heart out in my favorite song of the show.  I was surprised, delighted, humored, and moved by it all.

After the show was over and I was beaming with joy, I couldn’t help but think how I would have missed out if I hadn’t allowed myself to be transported.  If I had come in as a critic rather than an eager audience member longing to be taken on a ride, I couldn’t have experienced it the way I did.  This will forever be the first Broadway show I ever saw.  In the future, maybe I will be more jaded and critical.  But for now, I will be in love with this show and all that I experienced, and that memory can’t be changed.  Thank you NYC!  You treated this birthday girl right.

A good question

Leaving LAX on a beautiful, temperate day in March, I was walking to my car when I saw her.  Spaghetti-strapped red camisole, her chest protruding, unsupported by a bra, and jeans.  We made eye contact as we neared each other and I attempted a side step to my right to let her pass.  She stepped in the same direction, and I made an awkward giggle, smiling, and tried to move adjacent to her on the sidewalk.  But she locked eyes with me, and I became aware that this was no accidental crossing.

Her blue eyes pierced mine as she said

“Are you worthy of living?”

After a shocked millisecond, I said

“Absolutely”.

She moved on, walking briskly down the pavement.

Drugs?  Probably.  Not all there?  Quite likely.  But I’ve thought of what she said and asked myself the same question since.  Am I worthy of living?

In a believers sense, yes.  All creatures created by Him are worthy of living.  Outside of that, in a societal sense, am I?  What value (worth) do I bring to the world?  I’m working on my goal setting for 2017 while evaluating prior years and I see repeated items- the career goals go unfulfilled year after year, but the spiritual and life and relational goals shine like stars in a vast, hope filled sky.

Did I book a costar?  Nope.  Did I sign with a theatrical agent?  Nada.  Did I say hi anytime I recognized a friend in public?  Yep!  Did I go on adventures?  Um, does escaping a burning tent, traversing Spain, and dyeing my hair purple count?  Then YES!  Did I invest in other people- feeding, praying, caring for them and spending my time/energy to show them God’s love?  Indeed.

So, as I make these goals for 2017, those inevitable agents and costars will again make their appearance.  So will approaching every encounter with the attitude/thought of ‘how can I help you?’  Also appearing is studying St. Teresa of Avila.  And if by the end of 2017 I am unable to say I accomplished those career goals, it might just be because I was putting more effort in being worthy.  Thank you, red camisole for reminding me.

 

Vocation and Occupation

Vocation:
noun

  • a strong feeling of suitability for a particular career or occupation.

Occupation:
noun

  • a job or profession.

So long as your head has not been under a rock for the past decade, you are likely familiar with the increased emphasis in our society on finding your vocation, or calling, rather than your occupation.  This has led to a boom in the amount of eager young college graduates looking for ‘social justice’ type work, as well as a large amount of young adults listless and unable to settle on anything at all, because nothing seems to fulfill that need.

It’s easy to look at the care professions and assume that most are working in them vocationally.  We generally think of nurses, teachers, and social workers as ones who have answered a calling.  Likewise, the artistic professions like acting, music and art are generally considered vocations.  Categorizing career jobs that pay very little as vocations happens because it seems to eliminate the money motivator for entering those professions.

Assuming you are interested in finding your calling or vocation, how do you discover it?  I can only speak from my experience as someone who most definitely feels called to my profession.  Your experience may vary.  I’ve always performed.  It was mainly singing as a child, but as soon as I discovered acting it grabbed ahold of me and never let go.  From the very beginning there was an innate spark that was in me, lending itself to performance in multiple forms.  I had no clue I would pursue an acting career until my senior year of college, though.  I did theatre throughout all my schooling, but was finishing my English degree and intending to set out as a missionary upon graduation.  I sat down with my missions professor to interview him on life in the bush of Africa, and midway through, he stopped me.  Looking at me straight in the eyes, he said he had seen me perform at our college musical variety show and though he loved that I had a heart for missions, he thought it would be a waste of God given talent to not pursue entertainment.  I was floored.  I began to explore how that might be possible and what I could plausibly do as an entertainer.

Fast forward 11 years and I’ve been steadily working as an actor and performer since then.  I have no desire to pursue any other occupation.  It’s an incredibly difficult career to succeed in, but I have that drive within me that fuels the work that I do because it is who I am.  Who am I?  I’m not an actor.  A singer.  Or a comedian.  I’m an interpreter.  I bring life and interpretation to text.  To song.  To comedy.  To others.  It finds its way in nearly every aspect of my life, because it is who I am.  That is my vocation.  So whether I’m building kitchen cabinets or singing a Christmas Carol in front of the church, or making a movie, I am being fulfilled in doing what I was made to do.  And that beats occupation any day, because it’s not dependent on job title or success or terms.  It’s dependent on me using what’s already there, nurturing it and being available for opportunities to share it.

Christmas in LA

In general, I’m a fan of Christmas.  (who on earth says they hate Christmas??)  It’s no Halloween, but I do love the lights, the carols, the family, the togetherness that this holiday affords.  We get a fresh cut Christmas tree each year and the scent that wafts through the house fills me with that inevitable ‘love for all mankind’ feeling.  I love celebrating our Saviors’ humble birth and taking time to meditate on what that means in my life and others.

Yesterday I had a few things to pick up from WalMart- you know, those random things you don’t want to get anywhere else- dog food, water, household items, etc.  As I pulled up to the parking lot at 11am on a Wednesday, I drove.  And drove.  And drove.  I saw people waiting 3 cars back for one person to get in their car and leave.  I saw Mercedes whipping around to get the best spot they could find.  People ignoring the parking lot rules, going the wrong way, shooting through stop signs, yelling at one another, parking in handicap though clearly not handicapped in any way.  I had to park at a different store knowing I’d have to shlep heavy dog food and canned goods very far.

When I went inside, it was jam packed with people.  At the beginning, I called for someone to jewelry to get a battery.  No one came.  After I got my random goods, I called again.  After waiting 10 minutes, I had to go as another grocery store awaited me and I was already cutting it close before I had to get ready for my audition.  This was 26 days to Christmas in a town of 41,000.  This is not LA in the middle of the city.  It’s a suburb that is usually fairly calm and without massive crowds.

Before I knew it, that familiar little grinch started embedding himself in my spirit, spouting things like “Where the hell did all these people come from?  Why do they ALL need to be out at 11 am before it’s even December?  Is everyone’s insatiable greed and lust for buying really that extreme?”  Then I went into protective mode.  “I ought to stockpile groceries and goods so I can hole up and not leave the house until after this crap holiday madness is over”.  Wow.  I’ve come a long way from carols, Jesus’ birth, fireplace warmth and love for mankind.  And that was all in a matter of 2 minutes.  Bah humbug.

Christmas in LA is unlike any other place I’ve lived.  Due to the sheer mass of people that live here and tourists that visit, it’s bound to look different than what I’m familiar with.  On days like yesterday, and for the rest of this Christmas season, I’m going to try to remember what it felt like the very first Christmas I spent here in December 2010.  We had just made the trip across the US with everything in our little red Hyundai hatchback, both dogs in the backseat and an undeniable sense of wonder and amazement that we were now living in a city that heretofore had been the stuff of dreams.  My husband and I looked at each other, wide eyed, stunned at our blessing of getting the chance to live here.  I drove through that same walmart parking lot, with the windows down (as it was a lovely 70 degrees), the Christmas radio station blasting, and looked up at the palm trees swaying and thought “God, thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.”