Orphan Thanksgiving

IMG_3097Being away from family during the holidays can be really hard. It’s just not financially possible for me to go home for every one, and since I’m a server at a restaurant, I’m working for most of them anyway. This year, the restaurant was closed for Thanksgiving leaving me totally available to celebrate. The boyfriend has an aunt and uncle out here, but they were going to visit other family for the holidays and wouldn’t be around on that Thursday. Luckily, we were able to celebrate with them a few days early, but we were still left with nothing to do for Thanksgiving day.

Solution? LSU Orphan Thanksgiving! As I’ve said before, there’s LSU alumni everywhere and L.A. is certainly no exception. There are a few of them out here that I’ve known throughout college and a few more that I was reintroduced to upon moving to Los Angeles. For Thanksgiving this year, we decided to all get together as a family and spend the holiday with each other.

Everyone offered to bring a few different food items and, in true Louisiana fashion, everyone brought alcohol.  We actually had a full Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings and it was delicious! Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, the works! We gathered to eat at a big table and even went around and said what we were thankful for. We reminisced about college, filled each other in on acting successes and talked about upcoming plans to go back to the South to visit.

It was nice to be surrounded by my fellow L.A. orphans from back home who are all in the same situation I am and understand what it’s like. I am so thankful for my SoCal family and cannot wait to see what the future holds for all of us!

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Actor + Server ≠ Stupid

wonkaI love those memes. Like, I really, really find them hilarious. This one though? This one makes me sad.

It’s definitely a common response to telling people I’m an actor or that I’m pursuing a career in the film industry. When I tell them that I’m an actor in L.A., more often than not they say, “So, you’re a waitress?”

Now obviously it doesn’t help that I actually AM a waitress in L.A., but I’m doing what I can to get by. My biggest pet peeve, though, is when people assume that because I’m an actor and a server, I must be stupid.

It happened the other day at a slow lunch shift at a table of three older couples. They were all very sweet and we got along just fine. Over dessert, one of the gentlemen produced these sheets of paper with various questions on them. I overheard them discussing everything from crude oil to how many ounces are in a jigger. A lady at the end of the table jokingly asked me if I wanted to sit down and play and then explained it was a brain teaser game. She asked me a test question to see how I would do and when I got it right she said,

“Wow! What are you doing waiting tables?”

Seriously?? I understand it was supposed to be some kind of compliment…I guess. But it made me realize that a lot of people assume if you’re waiting tables either you’re putting yourself through school or you’re too dumb to get a “real job.” Those people need to spend a few Saturday nights working a dinner shift over holiday season and THEN they can tell me how easy it is. I’m not saying you need to be a rocket scientist to figure this stuff out, but it does take a degree of skill and a certain way of thinking. We multi-task like the dickens and have to work with and rely on dozens of other people at once just to get the job done.

Then there’s the actor side. I was at an acting workshop one evening when the casting director mentioned there would be homework. One of the other actresses in class said something like, “Uh, I thought we were all here because we were never good at homework!”

I say again… Seriously?? So, what you’re saying is I didn’t choose to be an actor because I love my craft or I’m passionate about spreading good work to the masses. No, you’re saying that I chose to be an actor because somehow this is taking the easy road and it’s the best I could do with my limited intelligence.

I could go on and on with plenty of other stories just like those two, but instead I’ll just get along to the point.

People, servers are not stupid. Actors are not stupid. Actors who are keeping afloat in LaLaLand by waiting tables are definitely not stupid. To be honest, it’s one of the best jobs we can get that’s not in the biz because the hours are super flexible and there’s usually someone to take your shift if you need to get out of it.

So, actors – don’t sell yourselves short or make excuses for not knowing something. Don’t be embarrassed to get the answer wrong. Most of our job is about making bold choices even if we don’t make the right ones, remember? Let’s hold ourselves accountable and break the stereotype! And keep in mind, doing script analysis on King Lear would boggle the minds of even the most adept scholars…So, we’ve still got that on them.

Eco Cast – Auditioning Made Easy!

EcoCast_logoDriving in L.A. is a nightmare. No matter what time or what day it is, you’re going to end up stuck somewhere. This can make auditions a pain because you might end up driving crawling creeping along at sloth-speed through traffic for hours only to actually audition for a couple of minutes.

Enter Eco Cast! It’s a service offered via Actors Access to help make the audition process easier. Normally, when you go to an audition, the session director will record your read and then pass it along to the powers that be. With Eco Cast, you get to cut out all that and record the audition yourself. Actors receive an invitation through their Actors Access account to audition with Eco Cast. From there, they can record the audition with a webcam, smart phone camera or actual video camera and upload the video with the click of a button. Usually after the invitation is received, actors will have anywhere from one to three days to upload the video. After that, the invitation expires and the opportunity is gone.

Now I know for me, I would be willing to drive across the state for the right audition, but I do get pretty excited when I see a casting director is using Eco Cast. Not only does it prevent me from having to drive, it also provides way more flexibility. I don’t have to mess around with my work schedule to fit in an audition time or risk not being able to make the audition at all. Eco Cast puts the ball in my court and allows me to get the audition done the way I want it, in my own time. Plus, it helps keep the number of cars driving around L.A. just a bit lower – hence the name Eco Cast.

Cons? Well, sometimes you need a reader. If you’re auditioning with dialogue, you need someone there to read the other part of it. Lucky for me, I live with a pretty awesome actor so that’s never usually a problem. Eco Cast also only accepts certain video formats and the video camera I use records in an unsupported format. This means I have to load the video to my computer first, convert the video file and then upload it to the site.

The only other problem I can find with doing things this way is that you miss out on the personal connection. This business is all about networking and meeting new people. I’m not saying the session director is going to be your way in, but he or she could be the one that gives you the re-direction you really needed on that last take. I do love technology, but I think I love people more and would miss the real-life audition process if it went away entirely.

Has anyone else out there used Eco Cast or a similar service for an audition? What do you think about it?

Dance for a Chance

A couple of months ago, one of my super-talented friends, Shelley Regner, asked me to help her make a short music video. It was for a dance off contest to a new Beyonce song and only had to be a few seconds. I was eager to help make some magic and get the chance to do some editing, so I got on board with the project.

Shelley is one of those gals that can really do it all. She’s an incredible singer, a very experienced dancer and she’s a wonderful actor. She’s also been called the white Beyonce so doing this video was a no-brainer.

We were able to use a studio at Shelley’s gym to film at and I recorded everything with the boyfriend’s fantastic HD camera. I edited the video with Avid, dubbed in the new song and threw in a couple of cool effects. I really loved the result and the whole thing was done in a day.

Check out the video below to see the beautiful Shelley Regner’s fierce moves and my editing skills! And to see even MORE Shelley, visit her IMDB and Facebook page!

The Gumbo Pot

gumbopotFinally! I did it! I found a restaurant in Los Angeles that serves some seriously good Southern food – The Gumbo Pot!

Since the minute I settled into my apartment in the Valley I have been looking for good places to eat that reminded me of home. With the help of UrbanSpoon, I was able to find a couple places nearby that serve Cajun and creole cuisine. I tried out a few only to find jambalaya made with tomato paste and flavorless red beans and rice. I was disappointed at every turn and left each restaurant still craving some good ole Southern cooking.

One day, my boyfriend and I had the day off together and decided to visit The Grove. It’s an upscale, outdoor mall with a ton of restaurants and a farmer’s market. Neither one of us had been before, so we opted to walk through the mall and then have dinner somewhere new. We saw The Gumbo Pot on a long list of restaurants located in the farmer’s market, and since I had a hankering for a shrimp po’boy, we decided to give it a shot.

I was not very optimistic about the whole thing until I started reading the menu. Most places I had tried before featured fried chicken and blackened something served with a sorry excuse for gumbo. This place seemed to have it all – crawfish etouffee, seafood gumbo, shrimp po’boys and y’all, they had sweet tea.

I ordered the fried shrimp po’boy with high hopes and was absolutely not disappointed. It was everything I wanted it to be: French bread, seasoned shrimp and it was dressed with real mayonnaise. The only downside was that, unlike Louisiana po’boys, this one had fairly small shrimp that only covered the sandwich and didn’t overflow onto the plate. I can’t really knock them for that, though, considering shrimp is a lot cheaper in Louisiana than here.

I enjoyed my po’boy so much that I had my boyfriend get us a cup of seafood gumbo to try out. Again, absolutely not disappointed! It was perfectly seasoned, had all the right ingredients and made me feel like I was right at home. I could practically hear the jazz music and smell the beignets. It. Was. Glorious.

So, if you’re looking for a little SoCo in SoCal to satisfy your belly, look no further than The Gumbo Pot at The Grove!

Get Yourself Out There

actorserverWhen I packed up my life in Louisiana and moved out to L.A., I didn’t have a job. I got here and immediately started looking for employment on job boards, Craigslist and bugging friends for help. My only rule was that I did not want to work at another restaurant and I refused to apply to any server positions. The problem with this, of course, is that I closed myself off to a lot of opportunities. Eventually, I applied to a restaurant outside of L.A. and managed to snag a job as a server. I was incredibly disappointed to be getting back into that business until an acting coach of mine gave me some advice on working a day job and being an actor.

When I asked him if he had any ideas about what kind of a job I should get, he responded, “Make sure people know you’re here. Don’t hide yourself.” What he meant by this is that if I work in an office or in a cubicle somewhere I won’t have the chance to meet the public. By working at a restaurant, I am exposed to hundreds of people a week that might know someone who knows someone who happens to work for a casting director and is looking for a gal just like me.

Now I know the odds are slim that Heather Locklear (who is just a doll to wait on, by the way) is going to enjoy my service so much that she’ll ask me to play her daughter in her next television venture, but why not try? At the very least, this restaurant has given me the chance to meet and interact with a lot of celebrities and industry big wigs who I otherwise may not have even seen from a distance.

Being a server or working in customer service in general is a thankless job, but I’ve realized I need to make the most of it. I’m a friendly person and have learned that out here, my “Southern hospitality” makes me a bit unique. Los Angeles is a tough place to live and more often than not, people will assume you’re out to get them before you have a chance. My genuine kindness shines through that and helps me stand out. Or so I like to think.

The point is, out here, you have to get noticed. Period. I always say that you never know what the stranger you’re talking to is going through. Well, you also don’t always know who they are or who their sister or father or cousin might be. So be considerate, be present and be aware of who’s around you.

Be An Actor Every Day

treeA while back someone said something to me in passing about acting that I really took to heart. He said, “If you don’t do it every day, it’s a hobby.” This can certainly relate to a number of activities, but the idea is if you’re not working at being an actor every day then you’re not really being an actor.

It’s easy to fall into some bad habits in the acting business. We wait by the phone, we scour the breakdowns online, we research new headshot photographers and we even manage to get in front of some CD’s from time to time. The hard part is, while you’re waiting and researching, you’re not perfecting your craft. We need to remember to continue to learn and grow as actors even when no one is forcing us to.

An acting coach once mentioned to me that if you wait until the day of the audition to work on camera, then you’re already too late. As an actor, you should be putting yourself on camera every single day to see exactly what you’re working with. After all, the product you’re selling is you and the only way to do that is to know the product.

I’ve learned so much about myself as an actor by watching videos of myself doing cold readings. For instance, I blink more on camera than any human should need to blink ever in any circumstance. After seeing this, I can now make a conscious effort to control the nervous tick and focus more on my scene partner. I never knew I did that until I saw it with my own eyes. That means that for years people were probably watching tape of me going, “What the heck is wrong with this girl? Does she have a twitch? Can we get her some eye drops?”

The other benefit of putting yourself on camera is to get comfortable. You’ll be able to learn how much of your face is covered by your bangs when you look down or that when you turn a certain way you lose your neck. It helps to know what angles and stances make you look best on tape so you can put yourself in the best light for the people watching it.

What it really comes down to is this: always be working. There are thousands of people out here all trying to do the same thing. It’s easy to fall in with the crowd of aspiring actors who use their day off from their survival job to go to the beach or hang out with friends. Occasional down time is important, but there’s a difference between taking a break and being lazy. This business is all about the hustle and if you’re not going to get out there and work at it, I guarantee there’s someone right behind you who will.