Resolution Update

2014USo for the first time in a long time I made a New Year’s resolution and posted it to the masses to hold myself accountable. I’m here today to openly admit that I’ve hit a snag.

Since I wrote that post, I’ve had maybe half a dozen auditions and I’ve made it to every single one! That is, until I didn’t.

The other day, I got an e-mail about a callback for an audition I had recorded back in January. This time, they wanted me to come in for a live audition, to read for both parts and there was something about a bikini that I didn’t know would be required. I was thrown off a smidge by all that, but keeping my resolution in mind, I responded. Plus, I was actually really interested in doing the project because I thought it would give me some great reel footage. I noticed the audition time wouldn’t fit with my work schedule so I went back and forth with the CD trying to change it. I released my shift at work, I asked around to see if anyone could cover me and I tried to calculate exactly how fast I would have to drive to get from Hollywood to Westlake in 30 minutes. (That would be like 100 miles an hour, so…)

Eventually, I realized that without changing my audition time or skipping out on work, I wouldn’t be able to make the audition. I could try to go anyway and hope for the best, but I would run the risk of missing work or being very late. On top of that, I had just gotten scheduled to work for the days they were filming so if I did book the role, more headaches would ensue.

I talked it over with the boyfriend and we eventually agreed that it was okay to miss an audition for those reasons and I wasn’t “copping out” like I feared. I got up the next morning and started planning a day of working out and hanging by the pool. I was super bummed and felt like I was already wrecking my resolution even though I had done all I could.

Then, like it always does when you least expect it, opportunity came a knockin’! I got a call from a studio asking me to come in for a role that I hadn’t even submitted for. They had my info on file and needed me to audition in…two hours…in Hollywood. Yikes! I threw my plans out the window and started getting ready. Luckily they didn’t have any sides for me and I could improv the whole thing. I was able to make it to the audition with no problem and get back home in plenty of time for work.

So at the end of the day, I missed one audition, but very randomly gained another! It made me feel like by doing all I could to make it to the first one, I was rewarded with a second one. Almost like the one I did make, canceled out the one I didn’t. 🙂

Woohoo resolution keeping me on track! How’s everyone else doing so far this year?

Communication is Key

freeimage-18711456-webThey say in every relationship, communication is key. This doesn’t just go for romantic relationships. It applies to friendships and, as I’m learning, business relationships as well.

The other day, I received a message inviting me to audition for a music video. Unfortunately, I was scheduled to work during the time the CD requested me, but I noticed on the audition breakdown that they were holding auditions the following day as well. It just so happened that I had the day off of work, woo-hoo! I immediately emailed the CD letting him know that I would be unable to make the original audition time, but I could come in the following day before 5:00 PM. I was very specific in my email and made sure to include the day and date I was asking for. I received an email back saying “Anytime before 3.” Great! That works! I said I can come in before 5:00 PM and he said just come in any time before 3. I’ll be there!

I decided not to respond to the message because it was so short that it made me feel like this CD was a bit pressed for time. I felt like if I replied to his short message I would be bothering him and I didn’t want to be annoying.

I drove all the way down to Hollywood for the audition, drove around the block 4 times trying to find parking and finally made it to the studio. It was pretty quiet and empty and no one was at the front desk. Finally, a girl came out and asked if I had a question. I told her what I was there for and she said to have a seat because they were probably starting in an hour. Yikes. They didn’t give me a start time so I was surprised to hear that.

After a while, I started panicking a bit. I started to wonder if it was possible for the CD to be so busy that he didn’t quite read my entire email. What if he saw that I couldn’t make the time and just said “Anytime before 3” meaning that first day…

Well, that is in fact what he meant. About thirty minutes in, another girl came out and asked me what I was there for. She took some time to look into it and finally told me that the audition was actually the day before until 3.

So, what I gather happened is that the CD got my email, read the subject line and realized I was requesting an alternate audition time. His reply of “Anytime before 3” was just telling me that the time didn’t really matter and I should come by when I could. If I had responded to his message with something like, “Great! I’ll see you on Tuesday, 1/21 around 1:00PM,” perhaps he would have noticed we got our wires crossed.

After I realized my mistake, I immediately sent a message apologizing for not making it to the audition. I don’t expect a response from it, but I wanted to cover my bases.

The moral of the story is: COMMUNICATE! Had I just sent a quick email back, I could have avoided a ton of hassle for nothing. I mean, y’all, I curled my hair and everything. Next time I’ll focus more on clarity of email rather than degree of annoyance.

My 2014 Resolution

2014I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions, but this year I feel like I need to. After taking a whole year to settle into the L.A. lifestyle, get my apartment straight and start making back all that money I spent, it’s time to focus on why I’m here. So, with that said, my 2014 resolution is…

Go to every single audition.

That’s it! Easy, right? Well, not always. Part of this resolution includes submitting myself for more projects whether they are paid or not. It might sound crazy since some of those projects will force me to take time off of work, but that’s thinking too far ahead. All I’m concerned with is the audition part of it. Why? Simply put, practice makes perfect.

I know that putting myself on tape and brushing up on my cold reading skills are great ways to stay on top of my game. The thing is, it’s hard to do this “just because” when I know that no one will ever see what I’ve done and I won’t get any real feedback.

My goal with this resolution is to get so comfortable going to auditions that I’m ready at a moment’s notice. There are actually a few steps that I go through to get ready outside of just memorizing and preparing sides. I need to have my resume and headshot prepared. I need to have my outfit picked out and ready to go. I need to decide if I’m straightening my hair and set aside the painful hour of time all that mess will take. Hopefully, with practice, I’ll be able to quickly and efficiently prepare for auditions and go in with extreme confidence.

In my first year in L.A., I felt myself weaseling out of auditions that I really should have gone to. I would make excuses like, “I’m not really right for that part.” or “Well, it doesn’t pay enough for me to take time off of work so I won’t even bother.” Now, I’m not saying I’m going to just submit myself for some random free project that requires full nudity and beat myself up when I don’t make that audition. I just don’t want to allow myself to make excuses. I want to start looking at every audition as an opportunity to, at the very least, be an actor that day.

Okay, so, stipulations. There will be some instances when my work schedule will get in the way. I’m vowing to make every effort to get rid of or switch my shift to ensure I make the audition. If, however, I am unable to do that, then it’ll have to come down to a judgment call. Obviously, if Joss Whedon wants to see me during my scheduled lunch shift, I’m bailing on work and dealing with the consequences later. The bottom line is I have to hang on to my “day job” for now and I won’t compromise that job for an audition to act in a scene for a college directing class. That’s not to say I won’t go the same audition if it’s my day off. I’m just going to be selective is all.

So, there you have it friends! My 2014 resolution! I’ll keep everyone updated of course as the year goes on. Has anyone else out there made a resolution this year?

Bad Butterflies

nervousmemeNerves can get the best of you and even the most seasoned actors will admit that they’ve totally blown an audition due to a case of the butterflies.

I hear a lot of people say that they could never be a performer because they would be too nervous to get up in front of people. They also assume that just because I’m a performer that I’m never nervous when all eyes are on me. Well that’s not always true. Maybe some actors are that way, but I’m sure as heck not one of ‘em.

I always get nervous right before an audition, right before a monologue, right before I begin a dance routine. When I was on dance team in high school I would get this overpowering fear that I would mess up and lose the whole thing for my team. The fear would take over my whole body, but once the music started, I would explode all of that nervous energy into the routine. The thing about acting is that most of the time they don’t want you to have a really intense I-could-slice-you-with-my-pompom-because-my-arms-are-so-sharp kind of energy.

You have a little wiggle room in theatre because you want to play to the back of the house, but a lot of film acting is about containing. You want to have all the liveliness you would on stage focused in your eyes. You can’t very well flail your arms about and make grandiose facial expressions, but you can give a look that could kill a man because the camera is zoomed in two inches from your face.

My biggest hurdle is learning how to harness the nervousness and turn it in my favor. I used to get notes like, “More energy!” from acting teachers because I would freak out too much and get lost. There are a lot of little tricks to help combat nerves, but I got some of the best advice from one of my college professors.

One day she talked about how when she watches auditions, she notices that the actors always take this big breath before they begin their monologue. They take a moment, inhale nice and deep, exhale for a moment and then they start. She didn’t like this. And she’s a voice teacher. So I’m like, uh, what? Everyone does that. It calms you down before you perform this wonderful piece of work you’ve spent so much time preparing!

Okay, well, turns out I had it half right. The inhale is good. It’s the exhale that’s bad. Her point was that when an actor exhales, they release all the energy and they lose whatever breath they just took in. So basically if you do that, you’re starting your monologue or your sides or your scene or whatever with low energy and no breath.

If you just take a moment, inhale and go, you’ll be able to harness those nervous feelings and focus them into usable energy for your performance.

That being said, I should really take my own advice instead of forgetting every ounce of my training and blowing the first audition I had of the year. Ugh. Oh well. As my friend Jay-Z would say, on to the next one…

What is Taft-Hartley?

sagThere’s a lot of debate about when and how an actor should join the union. For actors just starting off, the best way to get in on the conversation is a Taft-Hartley.

The rule is, a non-union actor is allowed to do non-union projects and a union actor is not. Once an actor joins the union, they are only allowed to work on union projects. There’s sort of a loophole there now because of Fi-Core, but that’s another discussion for another day.

So, how does an actor become union? Well, there are a few options, but one way to get into the union is for a union project to “Taft-Hartley” you. Yes, I did just use that as a verb. If you are so amazing as an actor that the producers of a union project want you, but you’re non-union, they’ll kind of force you in. It’s a bit of paperwork on their side, but basically their decision to hire a non-union actor as opposed to a union actor must be justified somehow and then said actor is considered SAG eligible. The actor is then allowed to do union and non-union work. Actors that are SAG eligible are sometimes said to be in the sweet spot because for a time they can to do both types of projects. After 30 days of being SAG eligible, the actor is considered a must-join and will have to join the union if they want to do another union project. They can continue to work on non-union jobs for as long as they are not part of the union. Union actors doing non-union work is a major no-no and can actually get you expelled from SAG-AFTRA.

Aside from working as a principal actor on a union project, you can do some background acting to get a Taft-Hartley. If you work as an extra on a union project, you might be able to get a Taft-Hartley voucher. After collecting three of these vouchers, you will be considered SAG eligible. The same rules apply as with principal actors where you have 30 days until you become a must-join. Obviously, this takes a bit longer to do as you will have to work on three projects instead of one, but both have the same results.

Either way, it’s not really advised that brand new actors immediately try to join the union. They’ll end up having to pay a pretty hefty amount in dues every year, but might not have the credits to get good union work. By staying SAG eligible for a while, they’ll have more options, but won’t be closed off entirely to big union roles. See? Sweet spot.

As for me, I just received my first Taft-Hartley for working background on a union project. Woohoo! Slowly, but surely, y’all! Slowly, but surely!

If you want to find out more info about the Taft-Hartley Act and how to join SAG-AFTRA, check out their website here.

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?

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.