Friday, August 14, 2009

Parking Tickets

Parking ticket: $150
Paying the tow guy to put my car down: $207
Being late to your car because you were nailing an audition: priceless

I realized today that I have mastered the art of not stressing or freaking out about anything....or at least not sweating the small stuff.

I was in the middle of an audition today (I did well so they asked me to stay to read again) and went outside to put more money in my meter. Apparently I had been somewhat of an idiot and read the signs properly/paid attention to what time it was, so I found my beautiful blue car hooked up to a tow truck. 207 dollars and seven minutes with a meter maid--whose sense of humor was rather lacking...maybe because people call him a meter maid all day--later it had been liberated (not to mention the $150 parking ticket I now need to pay). I went back in the building for the second part of my audition and did great. Even better, the casting directors got to see that I'm calm under pressure and can laugh about stressful situations.

So what's the lesson here? Don't freak out. It won't help anything. Especially about things you can no longer control. Thank the Lords that my car hadn't been pulled away yet...then I would have had to take some $80 cab ride around L.A. in rush hour to a tow lot that probably would have been closed, I would have missed my next audition and my acting class, and had a generally shitty evening. And had I freaked out I wouldn't have done well in my audition and could have missed out on a great opportunity because of something I could no longer change. If a problem arises, solve it swiftly and calmly. You can always freak out later.

For some of you this might seem like obvious advice. For others, it might seem impossible. For the latter category, however, I say that it just takes practice. I used to flip at the tiniest of things, but I constantly worked on choosing to be calm and collected whenever I was confronted with a problematic situation. Practice becomes habit, which is what I have now. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go through my laptop off my balcony.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Some Thoughts on Moving to L.A.

This was inspired by a friend who asked me about moving to L.A. I will probably break this down into smaller pieces in the future, but I've had all these thoughts and need to get them down on paper...

In terms of having a degree, it certainly can't hurt to have a B.A., unless getting it precludes you from doing actual film work or lands you in inescapable debt. The value of the whole college experience is mostly in terms of life expereinece stuff (responsibility, follow-through, etc.), which turn out to be vital in this industry. However, if you know for a fact that all you want to do is act, there is not necessarily a compelling reason not to move to the big city and pursue your dream. Just know that doing it that way will be just as hard, if not harder, than going to college, and shoudl probably be approached with a similar mindset.

That said, I definitely did the whole 4-year college thing, but didn't know at the outset that I wanted to be an actor, and I was on scholarship so it wasn't a financial burden. At the same time, it's tough to judge when having that little piece of paper makes a difference or not, and my guess is that it matters slightly more for a director-type than an actor-type, though I still believe it all comes down to the actual work you produce.

In my first few (going on 4, now) months in L.A. I've realized a number of things about what you need to move here and be successful. I continue hearing fellow actors from all over the country say that they've heard not to move here unless they have an agent and a manager which is absolutely ridiculous for the following reasons:
  1. You need to go where the work is. If you're not getting paid for the work you're doing in another city, then perhaps it's time for a move
  2. It's not actually that hard to get an agent and/or a manger if you come prepared (see list below)
  3. 80+ percent of the actors here have no idea what they're doing
  4. Those same actors are getting cast, so why can't you?
Ok, it's not exactly that easy, but the whole "I don't have an agent" thing is just an excuse to keep you from following your dreams. Here are the things that would be best to have when moving to L.A.:
  1. Up-to-date (read: look like you) headshots
  2. A full resume (pretty self-explanatory...the most experience you have in films, theatre, improv, commercials, whatever, the better)
  3. A (good) reel. Having even 60 seconds (ideally you probably want 2 - 4 minutes) of footage that was clearly professionally done, that shows your range and type of acting is a must if you want a theatrical agent. This will also help you leapfrog the mass of actors here
  4. If you're really ready to start competing professionally, it helps to be a member of SAG, but it is pretty rare to have the opportunity to do this, and being a SAG member in most any town you move from is probably a bad thing. Just know that there is nowhere on the planet with more opportunities to join SAG than L.A.
  5. The right kind of "day job" (see below)
Ok, so you don't have one or all of those things. What should you do? It should come as no surprise that it totally depends on your situation, but I would say that if you're missing any of those things, you can easily acquire them in L.A. if you have the right mindset and work ethic. Having any or all of them will just help you leapfrog to the top of this proverbial heap.

The Day Job

So, when I was in school all anyone told me was that I needed to focus 100% of my time on whatever it was that person was teaching/passionate about. This is terrible advice, even in the acting world. I can't tell you how many times someone told me something to the effect of, if you can see yourself doing anything besides acting, do it... The idea was that any time you spent not acting or perfecting your craft was a waste of time, and showed you lacked the passion for it.

Why this is good advice
It turns out that making it (i.e. actually earning money, getting big roles, fame, fortune, etc.) in this industry is extremely difficult. Duh. So is being a doctor or a lawyer or a Senator. If you don't have what it takes to put in the work it would take to be a doctor, then you won't make it. Again, I'm talking about really making a solid career, not just spending lots of time on an awesome hobby that will indeed enrich your life, but actually "making it." To do that, you will have to have an insane (truly) passion for the art, the craft, the business.

Why this advice is a total crock
Great. I've moved to L.A. I have everything I need, I've had years of training, am extremely talented (more on that word later), and ready to go! Sweet. All done, right? Unfortunatley, no. Because you see, there's that whole "pay the bills" thing. It turns out that no matter how great you are, how prepared you are, whatever, it will take a good 5, 7, probably 10 years before you really start to make it (go look up any actor on imdb, and you will see that there is generally ten years between their first acting credit, and their first major movie/TV show). So what the heck are you going to do for those ten years to pay the bills? Great question, and it's why spending all of your time on acting is a bad call.

Here's the thing, you need a source of income to pay the bills, buy you new headshots every 12 - 18 months, take acting classes, go to networking events, blah blah blah. So what should you do? That depends on your strengths, but the ideal "day job" (I put this in quotes because often these types of jobs have very weird hours...see below) has the following qualities:
  1. It actually earns you enough money to pay the bills
  2. It is flexible! If you're going to make it as an actor in this industry, you have to be able to go to an audition in an hour's notice. Very few jobs allow you to do this. Get one.
  3. It doesn't destroy your soul. Whatever this job is will probably take up at least 30 or 40 hours of your week. That's a TON of time. If that time makes you tired, grumpy, whatever, then you won't have the energy to spend another 20 - 40 hours per week (that's right, in this scenario you end up working close to 2 full-time jobs...sorry) on your other career (that fame & fortune thing)
Jobs that might fit this description are often based online, and is one of the reasons so many actors work in the food industry. It's not that we're all idiots, it's that we're good with people and working in a place where a bunch of people could cover your shift at any given time is a must. However, I see most actors working in food service not following #3 above.

The Mindset

I think this is probably the most important aspect of making it in this business, which is why I will discuss it at much more length in another post. Basically, though, “You have to have your bags packed when opportunity knocks on the door.” More on that later...

Friday, April 10, 2009


I think it's easy to forget how important attitude is...for everything. 

I've been thinking a tremendous amount about succeeding in the acting profession, and my conclusions end up being rather applicable to all fields. Your approach, your attitude, to any given situation, has a marked impact on the result. If you wake up in the morning thinking this is gonna be a crappy day, well guess will be. If you go into a meeting thinking this is a waste of my time...well, it will be. 

One of my business partners had that very experience yesterday. He had meetings with four potential clients, and after the first two he was feeling like he didn't really enjoy these meetings and that he'd rather be doing any number of things. Then he stopped himself, checked his attitude, and decided that these meetings were awesome and that he was going to make the best of them. The next two meetings were a blast and he got far more out of them than the first two. 

Same principle applies to dating, especially meeting potential partners. If you are hanging out with a new group of people and you have that little voice in the back of your head that says I'm not worthy. I'm not going to meet anyone. I never get dates. Whatever, then of course you're not going to meet people. But if you shift your attitude to one of oppenness (I'm open to meeting new people. I may very well meet someone here. I like this situation) I guarantee you'll have more success. 

It should be noted that shifting mindsets, or approaching situations in an open and positive manner certainly comes more easily to some than others. For those of you who struggle with this, I would say "fake it 'til you make it." Try it out. Changes don't happen over night. Make small commitments to yourself. Wake up every day for the next week, and write down seven things you're grateful for, immediately after you wake up. See what kind of difference that makes. The next time you go out to a coffee shop, a bar, a class, commit to striking up a conversation with one random person. You don't even have to ask them out or get their number or whatever. Just say hi. Comment on something they're reading, a smile, the weather. Doesn't matter. See what happens. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Time to Start Writing...

This is a post I published on in response to a thread asking about people's hopes and dreams in the film industry.

Very much enjoyed reading everyone's posts...if nothing else, everyone has passion in common which is so exciting to see.

I did want to add my own hopes and dreams both because writing them down and sharing them will make them more likely to happen, and because I feel like actors have been underrepresented in this thread...

To begin, I arrived in Los Angeles last week, and am currently getting settled in and ready to start my new life here in California. I had a few reasons for moving...(in no particular order):

-I'd lived in Colorado my whole life and was ready (read: desperate) for change...a new Starbucks, anything...
-I'm young and have essentially zero responsibility
-While Colorado (both the local scene as well as CU-Boulder where I graduated from in May) was a 
phenomenalplace to start my acting career--get things on my resume, good experience, variety of performance venues, stuff for a reel, some money here and there, good contacts, etc. etc.--there just isn't enough work to make any decent amount of money.
-I got enough experience in Colorado that I didn't feel I needed to go to NM, Chicago, Austin, etc. as a stepping stone (although I'm not sure I agree with those who give that advice anyway)

What's unfortunate to me is that I've seen my entire acting community move or plan to move out of Colorado within a year (rarely more) of graduating college...these are talented actors and actresses who were starting successful careers in Colorado, but there just wasn't enough work (or even projects!) to keep them fed/happy. While I was constantly working, the money was scarce and there was not nearly the variety of work available as I have already seen in L.A. Maybe this was just my experience, but the vast majority of the work my agent was sending me out for were commercials, industrials, and the like. While I am by NO means "above" doing this work (any time in front of a camera makes my insides squirm with delight and my mouth taste like the laughter of children) it's not what I ultimately want to do...

...which is to have a career where I can choose (and have the opportunity to) what feature films and television shows I would like to be in. I want to be in art that has a purpose and changes the world, but also art that makes money and reaches a broad (read: millions) audience. I want to act with the best of the best. I'm also not ashamed to say that I do indeed aspire to be in the top 1/2 % that is famous and makes the big bucks...if one can't even admit to themselves that they want that, I have a hard time believing they will obtain it...I don't think it's an accidental thing.

Something I've thought a lot about is that I don't actually have it as a goal to support myself financially with my acting. It turns out that that would be a nice side effect of my above goals, but is has never been my focus. If I had a life where I paid my bills with my other skills (web design, I own my own company, etc.) and had the time and flexibility to act in whatever movies I wanted but had (got!) to do so for free, I totally would.

Those are my 2am (Pacific Standard Time, baby! :p) thoughts...