"The label you give yourself cannot impact external forces that are not motivated by your own psychology or influenced by a third party's pre-existing consciousness of you. We are all presented with reasons to struggle which come from completely external forces; to pretend that one is not struggling is either arrogance or an admission of defeat. To admit that one is struggling is a sign and a source of strength." - Evan A. Baker

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Oh, Canada!

Canada is one of my favorite places to visit. Butchart Gardens is so nice, I visited twice! Canadians are incredibly friendly, the streets are super clean, and I can still remember the twinkling Christmas lights reflecting in the water in Calgary. Also - the drinking age is 19!

But sometimes, you know, the grass is greener in California during a major drought. Or something. Keep reading.

Hi Lira,

I discovered your blog today and have been binge-reading you for the last 3 hours:) 

I really like your down to earth attitude about this business and feel that I share your zeal and no-nonsense way of thinking and offering advice.

When I moved to Vancouver, BC 3 years ago to go to acting school I was oh-so-green and didn't know a thing about the business. As I've been learning and had a few small roles I have been itching for more. (Not to mention actually getting acceptable amounts of Vitamin D which this rain-forest of a place can't provide for 90% of the year)

For the last year or so I've been seriously craving a move to California (been there twice already) and I've been googling until my fingers hurt but it is so darn convoluted as to the steps and processes to get there. (I like lining everything up into steps and attacking them one by one)

When I asked my agent I felt she wasn't too thrilled with the idea and assumed I was like ever other 'hollywood hopeful' but even with all my explaining, I kept getting the same answers "you need a bigger resume," "Many people try and even if they have agents don't make it."

While I accept that this is true for the greater majority I refuse to let it get me down and stop me from giving it my darndest.

That was essentially my long way of asking if you know any Canadians who have successfully crossed the border and been allowed to stay or if you know anything about the process yourself. 

I'm a bulldog when it comes to things I want and I am committed to making this happen even if it takes years and mounds of paperwork. I will do it and I will do it legally damn it!
Sincerely, someone who really wants to be in America:)

Alicia
Hi Alicia! Thanks for all your sweet words!

And here's my opinion on what's going on:
You want to get out here to get more work. Unfortunately, to do that, you need a visa, and a company that will sponsor you, and more and more things I'm not even going to pretend I know.

What you're basically saying is that you want to be a teeeeeeeeeeeeny tiny fish in the biggest pond in the world.

So I'm going to parrot back what your agent is saying: Don't. And read this for more backstory.

Don't come out here until your resume is much, much bigger, and you're getting flown down here for roles. Establish yourself as a very good actress first. The LA roles will come later. In the meantime, be creative, write and film stuff for yourself, and appreciate everything you have up there. We'll see you soon enough. Even though it might not feel like it, and you don't want to hear me say this, you have Plenty of Time to work up there and come down here later. When your resume is bigger, better, longer, your current agent can call LA agents and get you hooked up that way. It's easier all around if you wait until you're a big fish.

See you in a few years! :)

Friday, August 8, 2014

Microcosm

It's who you know in the film industry. It's making friends, building contacts, doing good work.  You'll see that it's such a small world.

For instance:

I played the antagonist in a short film last week --

With the director who hired me 4 years ago. In the short back then, there was a girl named Erica who had a very small part. But she was enthusiastic and lovely so she played the protagonist in this small project last week. (Bear with me here)

Erica and I discovered four years ago that her BFF Amber is the very same Amber in my high school drama club that I graduated with. Amber and I had done shows together. SMALL WORLD.

Fast forward again and the director needs to fill a small role.

So I forwarded my friend Eric's info to him.

I know Eric because I directed him in a scene in college. I was the first to hire him, actually.

It all goes around and it all comes around.

Make friends, build contacts, do good work, be kind, pay it forward, network.

The LA film world is a microcosm of people using their same favorites over and over again.

Monday, June 30, 2014

"Workaholic Musical Theatre Student Gets No Bites"


 Isn't that a great post title? I wish I had come up with it, but Charlene used that as her subject in her email to me:
First, I am a huge fan of your guidance! Your articles have given me the shoots of confidence that keep me going.

My name is Charlene; I am a Musical Theatre major at Howard University. I recently transferred into the Fine Arts school, so although technically a sophomore, I am a freshman.

I find myself not impatient, but ambitious and excited for the future. I am not lazy; I feel I can prove myself to show I love this business. My concern is, as a student, what can I do as a student to get ahead of the game? (Most of my training is based in Musical Theatre, I'll explore Film soon)

I understand these are the years to hone the craft and to learn about the art, but I want more projects- I want more auditions. I'm not performing for the big break, but it is definitely a goal as well. The sooner the better.

I'm saving up for a professional grade headshot; right now I have a decent headshot and a resume. I'll attach it, if that's okay with you. I'm also saving to create a demo reel with the  company you suggested that writes and creates scenes for reels. I'm working on recording Youtube videos and setting up a site.

Tonight I sent my resume and headshot to nearly 50 agents via e-mail. I'm not too sure what to write to introduce myself, so I wrote something along the lines of
"Hope all is well. I am looking for representation, etc. Attached is H/R… etc.," Hopefully I'll hear from someone soon.

I spent this summer auditioning for nearly everything that fit me, even some auditions that haven't.
I've gotten callbacks and second callbacks, but never a bite. I've done this for a month and a half, so I understand things don't come quickly. But it's a bit disheartening. I'm starting to think it's based on monetary investments. I don't want to just sit tight and watch casting directors pass me by because I can't yet afford thousand dollar master classes with directors. But what else could I do?

Thank you so much in advance!
Charlene, a hopeful but broke college student.
PS: Also, I hope you don't mind if I mention--

How do I ensure casting directors won't see my skin color and instantly try to marginalize me?

My biggest motive in theatre is to change it. I feel African Americans in the media have been poorly represented, and I want to be the face of the Educated, Non-Stereotypical Black Leading Lady. Not Sassy "random black girl singin' the soul."

However, there are not many roles for this.

Am I hypersensitive? Do you have any idea what my casting type, if you had to choose, would be?



First of all, Charlene, I want to applaud you for how hard you're working and how you're getting all your materials together so that when you graduate, you have everything you need to get good representation.  Some people write to me asking what they should be doing because they 'want to act!' and they 'know they can do it'. ....They just don't want to do their research. YOU already have. So Brava! Awesome!

So let me try to help you here because you've already been helping yourself.

What can I do as a student to get ahead of the game? Be the best friggin student you can be. Read and see as many plays as possible. Watch movies. Research!

TAKE SCREENWRITING AND PLAY WRITING. Learn how to write for yourself because that's what students need to do. You want to play the role of a leading lady? Write what you know you can play. Film it. Boom. Stuff for your reel. And I don't mean you have to write an entire one act thing. Just write a scene with an emotional climax, get your friends to join you, film it, edit it, boom. (For instance. I'm sure Howard University has some rooms that could pass for an office. Write a scene where you confide to your professor that you were attacked, and you can't tell anyone because then you're a victim and your attacker will never see justice anyway because he's the dean's son. Get to the point of tears and FIGHT THEM BACK. Get your eyes as watery as you can but don't cry. Be strong. Do. Not. Cry. Are you excited about this scene? I am! Go write it!)

As a student, write stuff. Write more stuff. Sing your head off. Record yourself singing your head off. Build a YouTube channel showing off your singing. Give tips on how to hit high notes, how to find a great song, how to do whatever. Help others.

Don't want to do a YouTube channel as yourself? How bout as a character? Have you seen Azie Dungey's web series about her job and the questions people would ask her? Hilarious!

You want more auditions. Now is not the time for that. You're graduating in 2017. So write and build your own stuff. Be in your school's plays and musicals. Study. Auditions are going to take you out of school, out of class, and your grades will suffer. So don't fret about auditions right now.

I attached your headshot above so others can see what I mean when I say this is NOT a decent headshot of you. This is a terrible headshot of you. I can tell you're pretty, but this photo doesn't tell us that. Your breast has a hotspot of light on it, and you've been cropped right under your breasts so you end up looking heavier than you are because there's no waist. You're wearing a shirt that you'd wear to a club and the photo is just too greenish in general.

Because you're in DC, I googled what DC Headshot Photographers are looked up the images. Then I looked up NY and LA too and picked my favorites:

Can you see what I mean now? Clothes are upscale casual/regular casual. The focus is on the face. They're lit evenly. All these women above have great photos. You do not.

I know, I know. Bummer. Save up money. It's worth it. In the meantime, because you're a student, go to the Photography department chair and ask her if you could be a model for their portrait assignment, and that you could bring more people from the theatre department should she need them. Boom! Instant headshots! Wear some funky costumes. Do funky makeup. Boom! Instant portfolio!

Right. So - you sent your headshot and resume to 50 agents with a basic cover letter. I've already made it pretty clear that you don't have a headshot of quality to impress anyone, and your cover letter doesn't either. You were AIDA! You won Best Actress for your role!! THAT'S WHAT YOU MENTION IN YOUR COVER LETTER!

You need to think like an agent - "What does this girl have that I already don't have in my roster?" She probably doesn't have anyone who played Aida and won Best Actress for it. You make yourself sound as marketable as possible. "My turn as Aida at the Pennsylvania Playhouse earned me a Best Actress award from ABE [spell that acronym out so people understand what it is] in 2013." Mention your YouTube vidoes, send a direct link to a video of you singing. Etc. Etc. Etc. That is what is gonna make an agent forgive a bad headshot and go to your resume and your links.

-- But don't even worry about agents now, because you're a student. Agents know you're in school, and therefore probably poor. You can't afford to get new headshots from a photog on their list, and the big audition they got for you, the one they called up the cd to pitch you for, is smack dab in the middle of your mid term or a final. You can't miss one of those tests, and now that agent looks like an idiot because she has to cancel the appointment she fought so hard to get for you.

HOWEVER (and sometimes this happens - you didn't actually tell me what city you sent out your headshots to) if you manage to get a regional agent - one in Atlanta or New Orleans, they might keep you on their roster and submit you for stuff that's happening there. And you MIGHT be able to send in a video of your audition because regional actors do that. In LA and NYC, actors go to the CD's office. In the South, most auditions are on tape and emailed to your agent and then to casting. You MIGHT find an agent who would be interested in you for that, but honestly, you're in school. Most agents and managers will wait until you're done with your program.

I've gotten callbacks and second callbacks, but never a bite. I've done this for a month and a half, so I understand things don't come quickly. But it's a bit disheartening. I know it is. But a month and a half is nothing. Chin up.

I'm starting to think it's based on monetary investments. I don't want to just sit tight and watch casting directors pass me by because I can't yet afford thousand dollar master classes with directors. But what else could I do? Master classes with casting directors could be good. But more often than not, cd's aren't seriously looking for actors outside of LA and NY. They're doing classes in your region to make money. If you were a serious actor for them to remember, you'd be in LA or NY. Save your money. I also personally don't believe in casting director workshops as a whole.

So what else could you do? Keep doing what you're doing! You're on the right track! You're doing everything you can, you're putting forth the effort, and even though the time for representation probably isn't now, you're DOING YOUR RESEARCH and building your toolbox so that when you graduate, you have a ton more things to help sell yourself and your talents.

How do I ensure casting directors won't see my skin color and instantly try to marginalize me? Simple: Be so effing fantastic, they don't. How do we stop seeing color? By being as educated as possible. So you be as educated as possible in your field. -- Be the best singer, the best dancer, the best actor.

My biggest motive in theatre is to change it. I feel African Americans in the media have been poorly represented, and I want to be the face of the Educated, Non-Stereotypical Black Leading Lady. Not Sassy "random black girl singin' the soul."
Preach!

However, there are not many roles for this.
Right. Kerry Washington kinda has a hold on that right now as far as carrying a show's lead. But the good news is that more shows with minority leads will be written.

Am I hypersensitive?
Yes and No. Are you going to go out for "Random Black Girl"? Yes. Are those going to be your bread and butter roles inbetween your Leading Lady roles? Yes. You know Samira Wiley - Poussey on Orange is the New Black - went to Julliard? I'll bet you she felt the same way you do. Have you seen her work? Is it amazing? Do we look at her and think she's a RBG? No, because the show is fantastic and she's a full blown character. Wiley is AWESOME in it. But I'm sure her audition for Poussey was pretty much her character mouthing off street slang.

Are you going to audition for roles like that? Yes.

My friend Carolina is Latina. She goes out for Maid all. the. time. The last time she booked a Maid role? It was for a pilot where her character is Recurring. She will play that maid role all the way to the bank if it goes to series. But she does go out for other roles, and she ALSO has her own Intellectual Property that she's working on. So be like her.

Do you have any idea what my casting type, if you had to choose, would be? Green Generic Young Black Female. That's what your headshot is telling me. (Also, because hair is a big deal - if you watch a lot of commercials and minor character roles on any show, you'll see that the trend in LA and NY is for natural hair. It's a trend that started about 5 years ago and hasn't slowed down. Going natural might increase your chances of getting rep when you graduate. Or not. It's your hair and style. Do what you want. )

SO! To recap -

Charlene, you're doing EXACTLY what you should be and you should be so incredibly proud of yourself. You're on the right track, keep going, get better and better materials, and keep on keeping on. Good luck and thanks for reading! :)

xo


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Obvious Child

You know when you go to the movies and you're like, Meh, to everything you see? And then all of a sudden, you see a movie that just makes your heart explode into thousands of pieces because of how honest and beautiful it is?

Obvious Child is that. Beautifully written and directed by Gillian Robespierre, 
I'm still kinda reeling over how much I can't stop thinking about it. 

Jenny Slate basically delivers a master class in honesty. You can't help but root for her everywoman; how real she is, how effed up her situation is, how scared, vulnerable, and outright hilarious she is. 

My favorite joke: the bit about cream cheese.

My favorite scene: where Donna gets sedated. Everything that needs to be said is shown in that small, simple scene. Everything. Nothing is overwritten. Everything is perfect.

Movies are tax deductible for writers and actors - it's research. 

Do your research. Please go see this film. Support indie films. Support female driven stories. Support female writer/directors. 

Then give them a shout out on Twitter. (Social Media helps indies flourish!)

Enjoy!  And let me know what you thought!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Go Have Fun!

Little Birdies have informed me that most commercial and theatrical agencies are going to take a long weekend this July 4th, and usually the holiday is pretty dead anyway.

So go have fun! Book out and visit your friend in NorCal you haven't seen in a while! Go visit your sister! Go swim in a lake!

Oh. Actually, I'm doing all that.

Stay safe!

xo

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Just Because You Want It

Have you checked out "Advice for Actors at LAFF" from Indiewire.com?

My favorite quote (cause I'm just in that kind of mood ;)

"Just because you want it, just because you have a dream, just because you work really hard, doesn't mean it works out."
 Hope your summer is eventful.

xoxo


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Prove It

Want to see your favorite Struggling Actress lose her shizz? Then keep reading:
HI! I'm [redacted, so let's say it's "Amy"] I just turned 17. I have been dancing since I was six and I am on the USA national champion [redacted] dance team. I started acting when I was 15 and I just loved it so now I am totally obsessed with becoming an actress! Yet, I have only been to a few auditions, mostly dance related and really haven't gotten any jobs (just dance things). So I think I really need an agent. I figured that my dancing experience could some how contribute to my acting career? By the way I absolutely love your blog, I just have a few questions.
First you said that when you signed with your first agent that you didn't know how to properly write a resume but what I was thinking was how did you get the agent if you didn't have a resume?? Second do you have any advice for me to find an agent? I am not with SAG or AFTRA but do I need to be at this time? 
Thank you and let me know!
Hey, My name is [redacted, so let's say "Lisa"]. I read your struggling actress blog, I need your advice on something if you are willing to give it. I am living here in Baltimore, Maryland. I am a struggling actress. I am so passionate about it. I have been doing theater for years, and I have done a few commercials and modeling here in Maryland as well. I dont know what to do. I find myself everyday googling the same things running into the same scams, trying to find stupid things on craigslist. I dont have an agent. I dont know how to get one. No one is helping me. I need advice. I am 22 years old and I feel like I am getting too old to do anything. I have been looking at actors access or backstage.com. I dont know what one to choose. Can you point me in a good direction? 
AHHHHHH! You guys! You seriously make me want to rip my hair out! What is wrong with you?! I don't want to give you the benefit of the doubt because of your ages, because honestly, COME ON. I know you're smarter than this.

I have spent FIVE YEARS writing about how to do exactly what you're asking. I even included a Google search bar so you can find answers to your specific questions within this blog. Ugg. Why didn't you try reading the archives? Honestly? Why not? Because you think you're the only one with your particular problem of not knowing what to do next?

Amy - you first. 
You have gone out for acting auditions but only book the dance auditions, so you think you need an agent? HA! No! You need an ACTING class! Let's say you're choreographing a huge musical at your school and you need your leads to be fantastic dancers. So you audition 30 kids. Out of the 30, 5 are just as good as you, and have been dancing since they were 3, and placing in national competitions. Are you going to cast the 3 girls who required your time and attention for 5 minutes to learn a box step? No. Cause they need dance classes. And you have no time to teach them anything. You're gonna hire the 5 dancers who already know what they're doing, already have ribbons and trophies at home for their dance work, and who you know you can teach in seconds flat. Now imagine you're casting a commercial or television show. SAME THING. You hire the people who show you they know what they're doing.

Acting is a business. And no agent is going to take you on if you have no work experience. Not at your age while you're still in school.

Could you find a dance agent? Probably very easily! (And there are some out there, but I'm not going to tell you who they are.) Could you book commercials and music videos and theatre with your dance experience? Oh yeah. Of course! Do you need to take an acting class? Obviously. Just like you took jazz, tap, hip-hop, ballet and whatever else, in order for you to work doing what you love, you also need an acting class. It's just another facet of using your body to express emotions.

And now for your first question: How did I learn how to write an actor's resume? When I was an itty bitty girl around your age, when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth, I didn't have this thing called the internet. I didn't have Google. You know what though, YOU DO. And I am absolutely floored that a person of your age doesn't know how to use it to answer EVERY AND ALL question you have ever had. I mean, seriously.  "Actor Resume Template" "Actor Resume Sample"

And you know what makes me angry? I'VE COVERED RESUMES IN THIS BLOG A FEW TIMES. Cause that is a very basic thing new actors need. So it shows me that you're lazy. And that you expect help without doing the basic research yourself. The problem with that attitude is that NO ONE will want to help you if you continue that first impression.

I mean, you want me to give you advice on how to find an agent? How about going back ONE GD POST and seeing that I gave out information on how to submit yourself to a manager who was looking for clients in your age range?? You understand why I'm upset, right?

And come on. You didn't even look up Sag or Aftra because the unions merged Two Years Ago!

Okay, okay, I know, I'm being super harsh but that's the real world. People will take advantage of your naivete. You can get yourself into very unsafe, expensive situations. I'm really mad at you because of that.

Okay, Amy? Do your effing research.

And now Lisa:

Hi. I get your frustrations. But you're only 22. You feel like you're too old to do anything? Barf. Then quit NOW.

But see, I know you don't really want to do that. That's fine. But for some reason, you're not researching very well either because when I googled "Baltimore Talent Agencies" several names popped up.

And if you look at the left sidebar on this very blog, you'll see my top posts are about how to use Actors Access. So here's the deal.

STRUGGLING ACTORS EVERYWHERE:
 
Do your research. Do your gosh darn mother frigging research and stop being lazy. I have PERSONALLY spent DAYS writing information on how to put your tools together to get representation and work all because I want strangers who were lost like me to have a free resource; an online mentor. And nothing hurts me more than getting emails like yours where you find my blog, find my email, and then prove to me that you honestly don't REALLY love acting enough to truly need it in your life. If you did, you'd have read this whole entire blog I've been writing since 2000-Freaking-NINE so you could get as much info out of it as possible.

You want to be an actor?

PROVE IT.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Hey 2014 Grads!

Are you a high school or college student graduating this year and moving to Los Angeles to pursue acting? Looking for a manager?

A little bird told me that Bridges Entertainment is looking for 18+ to Play Younger, and they especially need ethnic actors, although all may submit.

Send a link to your headshot, resume, reels, yadda, yadda, yadda to
bridgestalentasst
@
gmail.com

Good luck!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Eat Food

Mom eating food.

It's Mother's Day. A holiday you used to refuse to celebrate on principle because your mother wasn't a mom. Her brain was chemically imbalanced and rendered her incapable of demonstrating love. Having your mother around was like having your surly neighbor who thinks you always have the music on way too loud living with you.

As a child, though, you don't understand that it's a chemical imbalance. You just understand that your mother doesn't like you. No hugs, no touching, no "I love you"s. You blame yourself. You definitely did something one day to make her stop loving you. What did you do to make her stop loving you?

And that's a question you will ask yourself of everyone in every relationship you'll ever have. Your breakups with boyfriends will hurt even more because you did something to make him stop loving you. He'll just never admit what it was, and you'll reel, you'll spin, you'll obsess over every possible little thing far longer than most people need to mourn.

Eventually, you'll get therapy, you'll understand some things, understand your negative behaviors you developed as defense mechanisms. You picking fights with people you love to gauge whether or not they would leave you if something happened to mess up your brain chemicals? Defense mechanisms!

And you'll grow older. And you'll accept that certain things were not your fault, are not your fault, will never be your fault.

And you'll feel like an asshole for not celebrating Mother's Day. Your surly neighbor could not help thinking your music was too loud. The chemicals in her brain push the music so loud that in her head, it's unbearable.

So you live. You adopt your best friend's mom as your own and you allow yourself to be loved by someone who understands what you went through because she too lived with her surly neighbor when she was growing up. It's hard at first to accept the love, but you find a way to do it.

And you adjust. And you get better. And you accept.

You're the closest child to your mother's care facility so you visit. You visit because now you want to. The roles have changed. She is older, frail. You are young, strong. You take her hand and guide her, describing any changes in the flooring, or where a threshold is, because she has cataracts now and can't see and she'll trip if you're not specific. You want to take her out for Mother's Day, but crowds make her uneasy, so you take her out the day before.

She prefers to stay in the car.

You talk to her like you always do, updating on family, life, things in the world. You get her a grande cinnamon dolce frappoccino with whipped cream and a spoon because that's how she likes it and it makes you wonder if it's a sense memory of her eating milkshakes with her dad at a drug store before he died when she was 13.

You know your mother didn't have the easiest life either.

So she is filled with wisdom, and despite her off kilter chemistry, some of it makes sense.

You always ask her advice. It's the best bonding you can do, because for a very brief time, her brain is balanced and she is wise.

"So what advice do you have for me today?" you ask.

"Be happy."

"Okay, and how do I go about doing that?"

"Eat food."

And you smile, because of course, food is delicious!  But you also think about her advice long after you drop her off back at her care facility and say goodbyes.

Eat food.

Eating food is a family event. You go out to eat with your friends. Food is always prepared when you visit someone.

Eating food is sharing food is taking in sustenance is living.

Eating food is cooking food is smelling food is tasting food.

You will be eating food tonight with your friends.

And you will think, Thank you Mom, for your advice. You are profound.

And you are happy.

And you want to tell everyone, Hey! It's easy! You too can Be Happy!

All you gotta do...

Is Eat Food.




Monday, April 28, 2014

Best Acting Class in LA

[I do this cause I love ya'll.]

Billy O'Leary is awesome. I know this.

You know this too. You know how? Cause you've seen him in Bull Durham, Hot Shots, Miss Congeniality 2, the West Wing, 24, Big Love, and countless other movies and television shows.

Most acting coaches in LA don't act. Billy O'Leary does.

(In fact, you can see him on TV Land most nights because he played Tim Allen's brother on Home Improvement.)

And his students act all the time too.

You want to work? Sure you do.

You want a FREE AUDIT? Where you get to participate and get notes on your acting?

Now we're talking!

Check out his website and follow the instructions on how to sign up for a Free Audit. Please mention this blog when you do!

A free audit from one of my favorites and best acting coaches in LA? HECK YEAH!