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.

 

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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?

 

3rd quarter check in 2017

We are in the 3rd quarter of 2017 (ack!) and it’s time to check in with my goals and see where I’m at.  I feel like I’ve done pretty well so far this year, but the knowledge that Halloween decor is already tempting me in the stores lights a fire under my butt to get moving on the rest!

  1. Go into every approach with the mindset “How can I help you?”- So so.  I mostly forget to do this, but it has happened a few times.
  2. costar- Nope. Zero auditions to do so.
  3. agent- Nope, but I did sign with a manager.
  4. play piano– hells yes!  BrittanyPianobw (1 of 1)
  5. musical- sadly, no
  6. train new dog, Scout– yes- even took him through an obedience course.  He’s still not great, but he’s getting there. BrittanyandScoutextreme (1 of 1)
  7. climb mt whitney– What do you think?? : ) BrittanySummit
  8. find another musical improv team- I’ve come up empty poking around for one.
  9. revive my 2 man improv team, Nathan and Brittany- haven’t worked on this at all.
  10. see more of the Meyers (closest cousins in proximity to LA)- Yes!  We’ve camped, swam, hung out and even went on a PACNW adventure together!
  11. give creatively to my church– yes!  I’ve been asked to lead worship (and begrudgingly accepted, done it 2x so far), as well as dramatic readings and performed monologues.
  12. finish Priscilla- I am so freakin’ close.  I am color correcting now, final final final phase!
  13. build the rest of the fence– Yes!
  14. offer a neighborhood woodworking workshop- Nada
  15. new roof- talking with contractors right now- should be done in the next few weeks. (dear Lord, please let money rain down from above to pay for said ridic expensive roof)
  16. write script- I started one, and have the idea for another as well as a novel, but I’m holding off until I finish Priscilla.
  17. kitchen cabinets- Nope.  Not even close.  I’ve built ONE so far this year.

So, my friends, there we are.  9.5/17  Where are you on your goals for the year?  What are you proud of?  What do you really really really want to accomplish before the year is out?

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!