Friday, December 3, 2010

My Two Cents - All Over the Place!

In addition to setting up interviews for guests on The Everything Film Show, lately I've also been doing some interviews of my own.

I have to admit, although I coach people on how to interview with media, I think I'd forgotten how odd it can be sometimes to find yourself "in the hot seat." It can be much harder to sound poised and clever than one might think, and of my recent interviews there is at least one for which I would have liked to have a "redo." Overall, however, it's been a lot of fun. I've been sharing opinions on everything from definitions of masculinity to complaining list-subscriber idiots (I added the idiot here since the article fails to mention that all subscribers to the list referenced had to sign up and confirm themselves, and were bi-annually reminded of how to leave the list, and yet I still received various oddball and cranky threats). One of my favorite interviews was sharing my thoughts on getting started in entertainment, from which you will see that "safety first" is something of a mantra for me when offering any such advice. Just recently, I also did something similar on an entertainment panel that was convened to give the public opportunity to ask such questions in a forum - that will be on television soon and I'll be sure to post the link as soon as I can get hold of it!

It's been a busy and relatively exciting couple of months. Thanks for sticking with me on this wacky adventure!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Dodging Bullets

At first, everybody tends to bemoan the parts they don’t get. But I’ve come to accept – and perhaps even appreciate – the times I don’t get the part. I know that might sound like a lot of fluff, but let me explain.

I’ve recently had opportunity to see a couple projects for which I was not cast. The first one that comes to mind was a B-market commercial, which I will not reference directly out of respect to all parties involved. It was a relatively low-budget production, but even still, the final edit was atrocious. The casting called for “real people” and folks-next-door scenarios, and the resulting edit is as stiff and believable as an intentionally forced "Saturday Night Live” infomercial. I let out a sigh of relief on seeing that one, although I wish the campaign well.

Another couple lost parts that spring to mind turned out to be borderline soft porn and a gig with a director who tended to reschedule as many days as he shot, so both were serious dodges! While the paycheck was missed, it was a serious relief not to be troubled by either once I learned the full scope of work.

In a slightly less fortunate note, there were also a couple instances lately where I was recast as I was far too young to work with the more seasoned male leads and the males in my age category were lacking in skills or a bit too small to play out well together on camera. While this sort of scenario stinks more, I was grateful they didn’t try to make the age spread work on camera without somehow explaining the glaring spring/autumn divides or put the little guys in lifts. As one who has previously worked with a much shorter male lead, not having to do that again without proper assistance was also a blessing.

So now, while I know it might sound Pollyanna-ish, I hope that people will understand when I say that you are only ever competing with yourself – either you’re right for a project, or you’re not. And if you’re not right, whatever the reason, don’t fight the misfit. Every once in a while, you will come to find that losing out on work can be a blessing in disguise.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Anyone Can Act(?)

The subject of this post is a much-contended point amongst thespians. I favor the school of "yes, everybody can give it a go." But mostly because those who lean the other way tend to be a bit extreme. I'll here hit the middle ground with, "anyone can act, but not everyone can act well."

As 2010 Runner-Up Best Acting Coach in New York, Jason Bennett, said on that "The Everything Film Show" thing I keep telling people to check out, everybody needs to find their own process. Most people will never have the chops to be the next Denzel or DeNiro, but many people can find additional possibilities within themselves with a strong dose of humility, bravery, and effort.

To be an actor, one has to be willing to embarrass themselves - a lot. Because at the end of the day, the resulting visual is largely out of your control. You have a Director of Photographer (often with multiple cameras coming at you from different angles) catching you in motion, a Director who's framing the overall scene, and about 800 other things going on in terms of working with others on set. Once all that's done, your image is in the hands of an Editor, who can completely make or break a project - and might just opt to leave you on the cutting room floor. Hopefully, if those in the seats that steer know what they're doing, all turns out well. If not, it's your face on screen either way. It's good to be ready to deal with that.

The raw truth is, anyone can try their hand at acting. There are open calls posted in newspapers all the time, and you sometimes even read of leads getting discovered at diners and such through no effort of their own. (For all of the starry-eyed folks, please understand that the chances of getting struck by lightning are statistically far greater.) But there are calls everyday seeking regular people to fill in scenes.

You can always try out or submit an email application when you find opportunities. See a posting? Tell a friend where you're going and check it out. Notice something interesting in the casting sections of Craigslist? Same as above. Mandy is another great, free site that you can use. There are also paid-usage sites available, some of which I patronize, but I'm saving that for another post because, in my honest opinion, you shouldn't really even be considering them until you are already getting work.

Whatever you decide to do, always be skeptical and exercise caution. My first audition, following a brief and relatively unsuccessful stint in modeling, ended up being with an absolute sweetheart with whom I am still in touch with today. My Mom literally accompanied me to the audition (the only time she ever did so), given my age at the time. That all worked out really well, but you really can't be too safe.

This is becoming a long post, but I would also be a jerk not to mention - if you think getting on set as an extra will be your trip to bigger things, please reconsider. There are tons of hard-working actors who have years of experience doing paid, credited, speaking gigs, who also do extra work fairly regularly to keep bills paid (hellooooo, Central Casting!). Some of these same full-time acting folks will resent those without full-time professional aspirations coming on set simply because you are competing for the same work that is keeping their rent paid. It's good to always be mindful and respectful of that fact, and perhaps a point to consider, if you're still sitting on the fence, that perhaps you should look away. The field is very competitive, and when there is real money involved, it becomes much more so quickly. If you're really not sure about whether you really want to do this, I would humbly recommend shooting for unpaid work just for the experience to give those working full-time as actors additional opportunities to keep doing what they love and keep the roof over their heads. Many people who are borderline curious will find out that they simply do not like being on set.

So, back to the point I got started with - literally anybody can be an extra on set if you want to try your hand at acting. In fact, I imagine it's even easier than ever to do so given the number of items that are today posted on the Internet. Every time I'm on set I seem to meet at least one full-time business professional, student or retiree who had always had an interest and just wanted to check things out. If that somebody on the next set happens to be you, be safe and have fun! It is definitely a unique experience.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I'll Never Work with Him/Her Again!

I'm going to share a story here that might stretch some of my code as it will include a little bad-mouthing, but there will be no names involved and enough time has passed that these individuals probably won't recognize themself in the work. That being said, you never want to be the person about whom people say, "I will never work with him/her again!!"

I knew I was in trouble on this one shoot when absolutely everybody on set was nice, except the person who cast me. When I went to the make-up artist, his words were, "Girl, you look too much like an Irish princess. You are not getting on camera..." I was completely confused, as that was almost what I was cast for - random Irish clan-type - and they did the costuming. I hoped he was exaggerating.

Later in the day, when we're already behind schedule, it turns out the director and lead had disappeared from set. For about an hour. I'm still not sure what happened or why, but I do know that there was a mini-coups in that period during which about four key crew people mentioned desire to walk off set. After getting through that period, them and more started uttering the "I'll never work with him/her again's".

After an unnecessarily long shoot day, that was further elongated by nobody knowing if we were wrapped or not, I was finally dismissed and made my way home. Not only have I been unable to get in touch with those in charge since this, but even photos that were taken of me in wardrobe have been denied (whereas much of the rest of the cast appears on the actual film site and other social networking platforms). I guess it stinks I fit the type for which they cast me? I'm still scratching my head on this one...

I made a lot of awesome connections at this shoot, so I'm not complaining, but I will now pay more attention when people say, "I will never work with him/her again!" as I now know the feeling.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Be Your Own Best Friend

It was not-so-subtly brought to my attention recently that I have been putting a lot more effort into supporting others' projects that I have my own lately. This at first felt like an insult, but when I thought about it, I realized: they were right.

I've been investing hour upon hour promoting friends' projects, driving to consult here, assisting on that shoot there - and all the while, my own projects were laying largely dormant. This fact was brought home especially hard by an audition request received via my blog - this same blog which I now see hasn't been updated since February. How many stories have been missed? A lot, I know, but how many will I be able to remember and recount now? All of this has been a big wake-up call that I need to invest a little more into my own projects and ambitions to keep this happy momentum moving forward....

Long story short, you should be hearing from me more regularly now. I've been beyond busy - which is a good thing - but I'm also realizing that I need to make more time for me. In a world that is full of a lot more "takers" than "givers," I'm trying to refocus my energies on those who are able to truly appreciate others and give back, while also earnestly working on advancing my own career. Thanks for sticking along for the ride!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Opportunity Knocks (You Around)

A friend of mine just posted that the world belongs to those who say "I can!" I think she's right as attitude can make or break almost any opportunity.

It's been really hard to find time to write again - a fact made increasingly ironic by my day job as a writer/communications manager and my other side-job with my personal copywriting business - but I'm also glad to report that a lot of that difficulty has arisen from remaining busy in acting as well.

In the past couple months, I've cut new voice overs for a couple of my best clients, did a reading as part of a pitch for a major project and had a leading role in a segment for an educational video. It's really awesome to finally get to the point where all the actual booked gigs are paying and the contacts being made are both enjoyable and productive. When not busy with work, I've also been volunteering to assist The Everything Film Show and am really happy to see that more people are starting to check the show out.

In looking through the list of recent activities, I have to smile at how many of them could just as easily have been seen as lemons instead of lemonade. Getting a request for an extended project with less than a 24-hour turn-around? A mixed blessing. Shooting just hours before a long-scheduled Super Bowl party? A little dicey, but also fun. And both examples would have been very easy to turn down had I focused on the possible negatives. Optimism doesn't come easily for me, but there is something to be said for it when it can avoid an anchor holding you back.

The best gigs are often hard to nab and inconvenient. Very seldom do you hear of castings far in advance and have time to adjust everything to conveniently mesh with your schedule; I've never had that happen and take pride in my ability to adjust and be a road warrior as needed. Had I focused on all the obstacles, I would have missed the opportunities.

Am I turning optimist? Doubtful. But at least I'm focused enough at present to keep the distractions out.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


This past weekend I did end up working on that super-secret film project mentioned here in the last post. It was a great time, largely because of the people.

Working on this project gave me a chance to hang out with Jeff Burns - an awesome, funny and smart guy who literally gave me my start in film. (That first role was a short, fun bit in which I got to politely decline a neighbor's amorous advances by throwing a football at his head.) It was really great to reconnect with him and spend some time trading bad jokes and catching up.

The film also gave me an opportunity to meet Daniel Trinh, who is the film's writer and director. He's an absolute sweetheart and it was a pleasure working with him. I hope to see him do many more projects.

Working on the project also allowed a few minutes to meet Mark Pezzula, a clever commentor who occasionally chimes in on The Everything Film Show, and again meet talented cinematographer Shawn Schaffer, who I'm sure you'll be seeing a lot more from in the future.

As the rumors suggest, a lot of entertainment is who you know, and the world gets a lot smaller very quickly in independent film. I met Jeff responding to a casting call. Jeff has worked with Shawn and Mark on other projects. Daniel did a commercial for the same company I worked for recently, which is how we connected, and is also somehow connected to the others - probably through Upstate Independents. Whatever the connection, everybody there knew at least one other person in the room.

There were a lot of other other nice folks at the shoot - too many to name here - however, the majority of my time was spent bugging Jeff or doing scenes. At the end of a very long and exhausting day, I scurried home happy for the opportunity to contribute to a project with both long-term true and new friends.