"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

Friday, July 3, 2015

Helping Actors Build Tools For Today's Workforce

Have you guys heard of The Actors Fund? Nope? Me neither. So when a friend forwarded me a link
to check them out, of course I had to.

The Actors Fund was created back before tabloid magazines and society newspaper pages created actor celebrities. Actors were lowlifes; just as bad as gypsies, tramps, and thieves, and when they died, no one wanted to bury them in sacred grounds, cause, again, ewww! Actors. Gross. Also, they were usually broke (doing 99 seat theatre in LA? KIDDING), so they died with no money.

The Actors Fund was created to help bury the dead. And once it got going, people thought, you know, maybe we can help actors when they're alive too!

And they have, and they do, and they will continue to do so. They're a non-profit, not affiliated with Sag-Aftra, but have their offices in the Sag-Aftra building. Also - you don't have to be union to take advantage of their workshops - you don't even have to be an actor! You could have ANY JOB in the entertainment business - you could be a photographer, dancer, camera operator, editor, producer, stage manager, light board operator, etc. etc. etc.

Right, but what do they do? They help you get your materials current for today's workforce, for parallel and side jobs, and career changes.

They describe parallel jobs as jobs you work alongside your acting career, that also fulfills you. Side jobs are the jobs you do for the money as opposed to your passion, and they even have 'Oh Crap! Rent is due tomorrow and I need another hundred bucks!" emergency jobs. And maybe you're a person whose interests in the entertainment field has waned or dwindled, and you find other industries more exciting.

The Actors Fund has workshops! GOOD ones! VALUABLE ones! They have a Career Assessment workshop which helps you narrow down your skills, passions, and personality type, and which type of job suits your schedule, lifestyle, and desired pay. They have Resume Writing workshops, which I thought, pssh, I don't need, and was taken aback with how small tweaks majorly increased my value as a prospective employee.

Job Search strategies help you find jobs opportunities on websites that aren't Craig's List; jobs with benefits and salaries and reputable employers!

There's an Art of Interviewing workshop as well, that preps you on how to sell yourself in a positive light, and highlight your creative mind and skills.

These workshops are amazing. And best of all: THEY ARE ABSOLUTELY FREE.

You must attend an Orientation that describes their background, how they can help, how they've helped, and how they'll help you, and after your first workshop, you can sign up for their job newsletter that comes out every Friday with jobs that are especially suited for those in the Entertainment world.

Orientations are EVERY Monday from 1-2:30 in the Sag-Aftra building on Wilshire, and Sag-Aftra will validate your parking.

I highly recommend you check The Actors Fund out. Take a friend. Take advantage. It's a group that was created to help all of us.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Getting to the Top

Jameshia asks:

I currently do not have a demo reel, but do you think I could upload a video of me performing a monologue to help my submission to be put at the "top of the pile"??
As I've mentioned before, adding a video to your Actors Access profile filters your profile to the top of the pile when casting looks at their submissions. When you consider over a thousand people will submit themselves for one role, it's a good idea to have video attached.

And good news, Jameshia, you can definitely upload a video of yourself! In fact, there's several ways you can do it:

The Easiest: Grab a friend and have them use their phone in landscape mode to record you doing ANY skill. Do you dance? Play guitar? Sing? Show off what you want in 30-60 seconds and upload it. Boom! Done!

The Moderate Level: Again, have your friend use their phone (or even better, DSLR camera in video mode) to record yourself performing a monologue.

The More Advanced: Have your two friends use their phones and your phone, set up three different angles, (one of you, one of your scene partner, and one of the wide - the both of you) and record yourself performing your monologue. Intercut the three videos so that you establish the both of you in the wide, and then focus on your performance, while cutting back to your friend listening/reacting to you. Now, you don't just have a monologue, you had a scene. It will look more produced, more professional, and could help you casting clicks on your video to watch it. Not only that, but now you have something you can show agents if you're looking for one and they ask you for some tape.

I hope this helps. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

You Need a Car. And Insurance.

People who have never been to LA have no idea what it's like. (Duh. What a dumb sentence. But stay with me here.) LA is unlike any other major city you've ever been to.

Most great cities like DC and NYC and SF have FANTASTIC public transportation. LA does not. This is a city you NEED a car in.

A Hawaiian sent in this question:

I am planning to move to Los Angeles but I heard that you can't really get around without a car and the second is that all newbie actors should live in Studio City because that is where the studios and casting agents are but I don't want to live that far from Downtown/Westside of Los Angeles my question is are both of those beliefs about Los Angeles true.

You really can't get around without a car. I mean, you CAN, but it's extremely difficult. And what if you get 3 auditions in one day? Your first one is in Santa Monica, the second is in North Hollywood, and the third is Mid-City, THEN, you have to get to your job in Studio City. Allll by bus. And there's a concert at the Hollywood Bowl. WHAT DO YOU DO?!

The problem is, none of the above means anything to you, because you've never been here. You're from Hawaii, where rush hour is non-existent. Most mainland cities with rush hours mean that the freeways are 20-30mph from 6-9am and 4-7pm. But here in LA, the only time the freeways aren't stop and go are random times. 2pm on a Sunday? Stop and Go. If you're also at the mercy of our pathetic public transportation, you're screwed. You need a car.

I live in Studio City. There's Universal Studios and CBS Radford here in town. Next door in Burbank is the WB and the Burbank Studios. But there's also studios in every other part of town. And commercial casting? They're everywhere except Downtown.

And Downtown and the Westside are not next door neighbors. That's like me saying I want to live in Kaanapali so I can bike to work in Oahu.

The problem here is that you didn't do your research, and you're listening to other people who have either lived here ages ago, or have never lived here. 

Read the blog. You need a car and at LEAST 10 grand to move here. And that money goes by with your first month's rent and deposit very, very quickly.

Go to losangeles.craigslist.org and look at apartments in your price range. Check out a map or any other gazillion articles on the web about wanting to move to LA. LA is a city with a 30 mile radius. It's HUGE.

If you can, I would strongly recommend coming out here with a friend to visit for a week. There's plenty of hostels and you can get an idea of what the city is like, what the people are like, and if this is the right place for you.

Good luck!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Seeking Hair Models!

You know what I love about hair modeling? I don't have to go to the go-sees if I'm busy or if I just don't want to. Love that.

I also love that the master hair stylists, usually the top of their field at their company, and usually in the nation will work within my parameters.
"Will you do a keratin straightening that lasts for 60 shampoos?" "Nope!" "Okay, we'll book you for curly hair, then."

You know what I love most, though?

GETTING PAID TO GET MY HAIR DONE.

And my hair modeling agent is looking for new models!

Find my email over there on the side ----->
(that should be easy enough) and send me a LINK to your current hottest looking self (selfies are okay for current hair color/length) and a LINK to your professional headshot with your
age, location, height, weight, dress size, current hair color, eye color.

I'll forward it to my agent and if she likes your look, I'll give you her direct number. You tell her I'm the one who referred you so she'll take your call and boom! You might just have a hair model agent!

What is she looking for?

5'6 & TALLER, 0-6 DRESS, AGE RANGE: 18-28.
NO WEAVES, EXTENSIONS, OR RELAXERS. AT LEAST FOUR INCHES OF HAIR. Los Angeles/Long Beach area only.

Do you have a pixie haircut and think you don't have enough hair? Wrong! Most models don't ever want to go supershort, so if you already have short hair, chances are you'll book.

Have super long hair you don't want cut? Some of these casting calls are for styling only and they need long hair and won't cut yours!

Want to make a couple hundred bucks every once in a while within your haircut/color limitations? Just let me know! 

Good luck!

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