"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

Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Year in Review

2009 was one of the hardest years in the last decade but even so, I still managed to book seven different projects, write my own webseries, completely redo my team by firing my manager and signing with a new great commercial agency, get new headshots, and attend the soul-changing Burning Man with some fantastic people.

I also discovered Farmville. Which, if you do not know what that is, promise me you'll never bother to find out, because it's a pointless time suck.

I am saying goodbye to this year while sick. Sore throat, terrible sinus pressure, headache, body aches, tired, and I feel like it's my body saying adios! to one hell of a year. My entire body has had it and is sick of 2009!

2010 is going to be better, not only because it has to be, but because I doubt it could get any worse. And although I have a lot to be thankful for, and AM thankful for, mind you, I am also looking forward to 2010 because we all are. We are all awaiting a fresh start, new ideas, new projects, new friends. There is so much to be done in the next 365 days, and I hope we all remember to take a memory snapshot of every happy moment, to tell our loved ones that they are loved, and to be happy with who we are because we've spent an entire lifetime becoming the person we are today.

May 2010 be your most successful and happiest year yet.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Attack of the Show

If you've never seen it, it's actually a great little program. They tell you the latest about new gadgets, they interview interesting people about the latest social networking sites, cell phones, movies, etc, etc, and they go around YouTube looking for funny clips so you don't have to!

Fun show.

They asked me to be apart of this, where I was on a date with the male host. This is Part 2.

Now, I have curly hair. And the problem with it, is that when I get to a lot of hair/makeup people, they think it's so cute the way it is, that they don't do anything with it. Now, it might look good to you, but to me it just looks boring. So I feel like I have boring hair here. Isn't that a stupid complaint to have? Whatever. I love this sketch. It was SO hard to not laugh because they would just improv and rip on each other, and it was so incredibly funny.

The guy who plays Batman is one of the producers of the show, and I believe he wrote the piece as well.

Hope you like it too. Even with my hair the way it is.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

They Liked Me!

That's right, G4 liked me so much, they asked me to come back to do another promo for them.

Imagine what would happen if Mario went crazy and decided to kill a bunch of college students? Would it look like this?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Craig's List Sometimes Pays Off

For instance, I found a breakdown there for a skit that they were doing for the cable network G-4. They liked me so much, they brought me back three more times.

When the new Halo game came out, we shot this. The girl in the cammo didn't know a thing about stage or film combat. She knocked me over when trying to catch the skull and I hit my head so hard on the ground, that the 2nd AD made us take a break so I could have a few minutes. After that, I taught her how to pop her gun so it LOOKED like she was hitting the blonde girl, cause God knows she really would've done it.

Anyways, it's a small role, but fun never the less. Enjoy! (And sorry, but there is a 15 second commercial you have to sit through.)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Pixie Dust

I did this a few years ago, but it struck me that I don't have any links to stuff I've done, and that's the most fun part of following a struggling actress, right? Seeing her stuff?

I'd embed it, but it won't let me. Boo.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

What Did You Always Want to Ask?

Since returning from Burning Man last September and having an epiphany there, I have been slowly putting together thoughts and notes and pages for myself regarding the book I am planning on writing about my mother.

One of the first things I want to do is interview my Dad about their 28 year marriage. My mother suffered her first nervous breakdown, requiring an extended stay at a mental institution when they had been married for only 8 years. He stayed with her, broken and confused, for the next 20 years.

Here's a few questions I have come up with:

What year did you meet Mom?

Where were you both living?

How did you meet Mom?

What did she look like? Was she out of your league?

What was the courtship like?

What traits attracted you to her? Do you see any of those in your children?

When and Why did you decide to take your relationship from dating to living together?

When did you move in together?

What was living together like?

When/How did you decide that she was the one?

How did you propose to her?

How was Mom after she found out she was pregnant with [older brother]? with me? with [younger sister]? with the fourth baby?

When did you start thinking she was acting strange?

When did your relationship with her and our grandparents become strained? How did that affect your relationship with them?

What was the hardest year in your marriage?

What were your worst fears?

When I was about 14 years old, I snooped in my Dad's briefcase because the thing must've weighed 35 pounds and I was pretty sure he was carrying lead in there. I found papers that he had kept in there from when I was about 7 or 8. What looked like papers drawn up for divorce, with my dad fighting for full custody.

Flash forward 7 more years and I admit to Dad, at a McDonald's of all places, that I had found that. I ask him why he never filed them.

My dad looked at me. "Because I knew she would one day get better, and go back to being the woman I married."

My mother never did get better. She now lives in a 24 hour care facility in Panorama City.

What else should I ask my dad? He is completely willing to answer anything. Please help.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Color Coordi-Calendering!

I thought this week was going to be dead dead dead in the world of commercials, by my agent Jennifer is pretty much the most amazing woman in the world. I had FOUR this week. (and a print callback!)

Of note: The cellular audition and the telecommunications audition.

1) Got a last minute call for a cell phone company, can't even remember who. My dress code was "80's Mom! Big hair! Bust out that Aqua Net, ladies!"
Now, I'm under the assumption that most commercial actors auditioning with dialogue are picked for their handling of the dialogue and improv, over how they look. Especially since whatever I can pull together last minute will never compare to what would be pulled for me by set wardrobe and makeup, so I like to HINT at wardrobe. I had my hair big, I had on pink lipstick, and I had on a sweater that had princess sleeves. I saw some women there with the blue eyeshadow, the neon windbreakers, the whole bit, and all I can think is, "that must be so distracting," but what the hell do I know? I'm not a commercial casting director, and I'm not an advertising agency. I could be dead wrong on that.
aaaanyways, for the audition, I have to say that "sticky notes are perfect for what I call, color-coordi-calendering!" Did you stumble over that? Yeah, so did I. Tried to cover for it, but it's a twister.
They had me read the copy again a second way, and then again a third. The cd said, "Nice read."
I'm hoping that he really means that and that "Nice read," isn't synonymous with "That was great, thanks!" Which all actors know really means, "that SUCKED! Get out of my office! And don't wreck anything!"

2) Telecommunications audition was looking for Progressive's "Flo - but different!" oy. We were told that we would read the first side, and possibly more.  The breakdown listed that they were looking for a "Tina Fey" type. Hello! Who do I get compared a lot to? Rita Rudner! And Amy Irving! And Mary Louise Parker! And yeah, every so often, Tina Fey!

The cd was super nice, and I got the go ahead to read the second pair of sides, and I probably should've piped up at this point, saying, could I read the third one? Cause I had a little dance step improvised at the last line that would just be so awesome. But of course I didn't speak up, Argh. I gotta grow some balls, I swear. But at the end (and I was directed after each read, which is usually good) I was thanked. "Great read."
Okay, really now. Really? Cause I didn't feel all that great about it. Are you saying that to get me out of there, or do you mean it? Cause I had that one commercial audition where the guys raved and went on and on about how awesome I was, and how I was the best dressed so far (me!) and I got NO CALLBACK from that.

So yeah. I'd like to be called back for both please.  And since they're two products that conflict, could I please book the higher paying one? It would really start 2010 on a wonderful note.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


There is nothing better than getting sick BEFORE you are to be traveling home. I would much rather have to drink my orange juice and take extra vitamins NOW instead of going home where I can infect my loved ones and two six year olds. But yeah. I'm super tired, not hungry, and having weird dreams involving our two pet mice...

Phoenix asked what I'm doing this year for Christmas! This is the first time in two years that we are not going to New Jersey/Pennsylvania to visit Antne's family (and therefore missing Phoenix, Benni, Glow and PWinkle for a fun NYC trip [argh]), but I'm super excited, even though I'll be missing Mama Nina's amazing traditional Sicilian 7 Fishes Christmas Eve Dinner (7 fishes is a misnomer, as there are like, 104 different dishes she makes with a whole slew of different seafood. Usually when Papa Joe picks us up from the Newark airport, he's still bringing Mama different fish home from the market. Crazy good food, let me tell you!) I'll also be missing out on my yearly total immersion Italian lessons, which I'm becoming very good at! My grammar is terrible, but I'm learning more vocabulary! I love visiting Antne's family because most of them are actually from Italy and when they greet you, they kiss you on each cheek, and my first phrase I learned was Buono Natale! which, because it is Italian, you shout as loud as you can. It's pronounced Bon Nah-TAHL-lay, and you have to move your hands excitedly like you're tossing up a light Christmas gift. I felt immediately welcomed into his family, and they all like me. And they all pressure him into buying me a specific piece of jewelry for my hand. I swear to god, when his mom found out he bought me an iPhone for Christmas, she said, "She can't wear that on her finger!" (okay, so she didn't. And that joke credit really goes to Mrs.Wood. Her real name is Sarah, or as she says to others when they have to write it down, "Sarah with an H," and one woman actually wrote down "Hsara" which to this day still makes me laugh out loud. )
Okay, but true story: (and I can tell I am somewhat still out of it, based on my going back and forth and ALL THESE PARENTHESES) Mama Nina did call us a few weeks ago and asked what we wanted for christmas. I said, "Uno Esposo!" which means "a husband," and she replied back in English with her lovely Sicilian accent, "almost!" Yeah, so much Amore for his famiglia.

Anyways, back to my family.

The last time I was with them for Christmas was when the twins were 3 1/2. They couldn't read by then, and instead of putting their names on their Christmas gifts, I instead put pictures of me and whoever it was for. I got the idea from Martha Stewart Magazine, and did it for the whole family. It was a HIT.  Now everyone looks forward to it.

Here's me with my little Missy-Pie when I came to visit in July. So cute, right?


My dad and stepmom live a hop skip and a jump away from a motel, which I'm so happy about. Full kitchen and our own place to sleep! Hurrah! No having to wake up early unless we want to!

What else? I'm sorry, my brain is just tired. I feel funny. I'm not hungry at all and haven't been but I know I need to eat things.

I haven't even taken any drugs today!

Take your vitamin C and Zinc my friends. Stay healthy!

Happy Holidays!
xoxo Lira

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Right Now, It's Perfect!

As I've mentioned before, I've been writing a web series. The goal was to complete twelve 5 minute episodes, and due to a fantasy episode I hope we'll be able to do, but probably won't (ep 4.5) last night, I finally finished my lucky episode 13. And right now, it's perfect.

This web series is my baby right now, and she is absolutely adorable. She's a giggling, smiling baby. But as soon as I show other people my baby, they're going to point out a few things, like, uh oh, she's a little jaundiced, and perhaps a wee bit colicky, and they'll ask me if I counted the toes, and that's when I'll find out my baby doesn't even have feet. Whoops! I DIDN'T EVEN CHECK FOR FEET!

But right now, she's swaddled. And we're both content and happy.

Here's what I know right now about the next few steps:

1) I have to read the thing as a whole and edit. I need to make sure the jokes I thought were funny a month ago are still funny, and that the characters remain consistent throughout (especially since I wrote the episodes out of order; 1-6, 10-13, 7-9) but this is actually one of my favorite things to do. I light a frosting scented candle, I sit up on my bed, pencil in hand, and mark away. I love, love, love editing. I'm a much better editor than a writer. I also have to put in the Spanish and Italian translations I got from my guy's sister, include links to the bits of songs I included, find the guitar tabs for my fantasy episode, and put everything together. Your interest is so piqued right now, yeah?

2) This brings me to the writing. I really hope there's a plot in there. This is kind of a big thing to have missing. I don't want to say that it's missing completely, but a main throughline doesn't really show itself until the last five episodes. Now, I WANT to say that that's okay, as the first episodes are all about getting to know the characters and their peccadilloes and subplots. And although 9 is funny in the beginning, it's a sweet setup to 10-13, and that sweetness to me almost makes it feel like it's missing something, even though the episode is, plotwise, everything it needs to be. And I did have someone read the first 5 episodes, who called it, "The Office meets Scrubs," but I'm going to throw in, "And had a threesome with It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia." A show, which, if you haven't seen, is just amazing. And my webseries could be rated R...there are some definite off color and provocative things in there.  It's pretty offensive. But it has to be in order to get viewers to link it to their friends. Southpark is a good example of what we need to be. But of course, the creators who write it are amazing. Also, there's more than just one writer. This thing so far, has been all me. I'm triumphant and terrified at the same time. I have a comedian friend who had offered to help me punch up a few of the episodes. To help clean up a joke here, or to trim something down there so the joke is funnier. I'm hoping that he'll think most of it is really great and will want to read the whole thing.

3) We're shooting the first episode as our "sizzle reel." That's a filmed piece of content that helps sell it. Like a movie trailer sells you on wanting to spend money to see the movie. We need to cast it and will be having auditions Jan 5th. 2 of the roles are cast. (I'm one of them:) And I wrote another role with someone specific in mind.
So we only have four roles available. So if you're an out 40s male, or can play one, or a late 30s-40s black woman, or a 30s-40s white woman, or a lithe, tall 20s-30s woman, hit me up. Or just keep an eye out on the ole Actors Access for my name as casting director, as I'll be using that to find actors.

4) Hopefully by the time we shoot the sizzle reel, we'll have my partner's friend fulfill her promise to help us write a pilot script that we can use with the sizzle reel to pitch to people. Now, I have no contacts in the industry world, so hopefully my partner does, and I'd love to be in the room getting to watch the process. This is where we try to sell it and have people say, "It's brilliant! We love it! And we'll cast all unknowns to keep our budget down!" And I would get co-creator credit, have the series go on for 9 years and in syndication, and then I'd be able to blog from my dressing room, and have to change the title from the Struggling Actress to the Stinking Rich Actress.  Cause, hey, if you're going to fantasize about something, make it big, right?

That's what she said.

5) If we don't sell it, then we go to different product companies and see if they'll sponsor or advertise on our show. We hopefully get a few of them, get enough of a decent sized budget to rent equipment and pay a few people and shoot the series itself. And some of the jokes are so fast and quick enough, that we could easily take a few clips and post them on facebook, on youtube and let the thing go viral, hopefully getting enough people interested in the clips to go to the webseries' link and watch the entire season. and tell their friends.  Which will then get the attention of some bigwig somewhere who will then negotiate a deal with us, bring it to one of the networks, where it goes on for 9 years and gets syndication....

Of course, this is me dreaming that my child is going to win the gold medal in the 100 meter dash when my baby might not even have any feet.

But this is how we struggling actresses survive. On dreams that our life is going to get better from something we've created. Wish me luck guys.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Brazillian Butt Lift!



There is some partial nudity in this project - see below.

National infomercial promoting new workout DVD geared to shape and tone your rear. Need (2) Women with notable curves in the hips and butt (i.e. pear shape) Need photos of face and backside in minimal wardrobe (e.g. bathing suit, or thong -- we need to see what your butt looks like.) No nudity, but we will need to shoot close ups of your backside in minimal wardrobe, working out on various exercise machines.

This is for an infomercial promoting a fitness DVD for the backside. This casting is for (2) women with the 'before working out' look.

[Woman 1]
Caucasian, Full Figure/Plus Size, mid 20's to mid 30's. Notable curves in the hips and backside (i.e. 'pear shape') Not fit or toned... SEE NOTES

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Giving Thanks

Does anyone besides me read the aknowledgments in books? The place where the authors seem to thank everyone and their first pet? I ALWAYS read those. It's fun. And I understand the need for it.

Pretty frequently I am filled with surges of love and thanks and I'd just thought I'd take a minute to pour out my heart:

April: You told me I was a writer who wasn't writing, and you asked me to write a series that we could make together. I was a little shocked you wanted to work with me again because I got so lost in our last project and pretty much left you on your own devices, and you have been stellar at getting our work out there. You have fascinated me for the last 10 years. You will always fascinate me.

Tracy: I believe in enlightenment and I really think you're on your last earthly journey. No one else I have ever known has had more love, understanding, and patience. I am proud of you. I believe in you. I wrote a character in the webseries for you.

Marley: I wish we were closer, but your friendship still means so much to me. I hope you find what you're looking for. And if I could shine a little light on a possible path, might I suggest to do your universe experiment for the following two years? I think your that book will be incredibly inspiring, and can't wait to read the one you currently have. JMarls:Writer. I see it. I hope you do too.

Nikolaisen: You are a mentor to me in so many things. And I know big things are just around the corner for you.

Mohan: I am so excited for you and know you have a ton of work ahead of you before the fest in January, but you have been surrounded by those who have believed in you for a reason, and that group of people is only going to grow exponentially in the next few months. I see big things ahead of you, but I always have.

Eric: I'm so glad we get to see each other as much as we do! My track record with exes hasn't been that stellar, but I so appreciate your insight on so many things.

Mrs. Wood: That makes you sound old! You're an awesome teacher, and I hope you get back to the grade you want. Keep on trucking. And I love your sense of humor. It's mine! I love how we always reconnect like we had never left. Let's figure out a time for you and the Mr to come down so we can all go to Disneyland or ooooh! Vegas!!!

Vanessa: When I make it, I am hiring you to do my makeup for all my events. I'll move you down, put your kids up at a good school, and make sure you want for nothing. You could have all the Coach handbags you want!

Gloria:  "I've heard it said /That people come into our lives for a reason/ Bringing something we must learn/ And we are led/ To those who help us most to grow/If we let them/ And we help them in return/ Well, I don't know if I believe that's true/ But I know I'm who I am today/ Because I knew you."
Lame that I had to use someone else's song, but I would not want to meet the Lira who would exist today if I hadn't met you and learned everything you have taught me.

TenTwo: You say things like "put my name on your savings account so we can both put money in there," and I tear up, because what I hear you say is, "I won't leave you." something no one with a y chromosome has ever said to me. We continue to grow and flow with one another, and no one else has ever made me laugh as much as you do, and I can tell from your commitment to comedy that your commitment to me really is for the long term. I want to raise puppies together! I love you.

i love you all.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sometimes You Doubt Yourself

It's super easy to do when you're a struggling actress who has to pick up restaurant jobs to pursue dreams. Last night I was at work until 1:30am, and I was asked by several tables if I am an actress.

Why do people ask this? 80% of LA actors are waiters or bartenders. It's how we live. It's a cliche because it's true. I guess I should be flattered that I'm asked, but most times, I'm annoyed. I'm not an actor now. I'm a waitress. Let me do my job for the next 8 hours so I can go home and write and go over my sides.

Maybe it's a bit of shame at having to sling drinks and buffalo wings. And I always try to have pithy comebacks:
Are you in school?
Oh no, I already graduated. Two years ago. Hack! Cough!
What did you study?
This! I got my BS in waiting tables, so I'm doing what I love.

So I left work a little defeated. I've been waiting tables for a very long time. But if it's to exchange the drudge of a 9-5 job that I know would not feed my soul, it's a good trade off, right?

And there are some bright spots every once in a while. I did once have a casting director recognize me from an audition that had happened 10 months prior who had offered to help me get an agent.
And last night, I got home to find this waiting in my email inbox:

Just finished editing the show for Production.  Your work was exceptional and I want you to know that I am thrilled!  Apparently so is the Production Company because they didn't change anything I edited. The show is very dark (as I'm sure you figured out) and different from the stuff they usually do at this Company.  I have not heard any new from the network but I'll bet they are happy as well.  I don't know when it is airing but I will get a copy and I can make copies for you.  

Let me know what is happening with your show ideas. I'm back at my Santa Monica office. Give me a call if you need any help.  Once again I am really excited about your work and your talent.  I'm recommending you to Jeff Hardwick my casting director.  

My best,


It's these things that make a struggling actress want to keep at it.

Monday, December 7, 2009

It's Hella Pouring!

(You can take the girl out of the bay area.....)

I love it when it's overcast. It feels like LA is shrouded in a wonderful mystery, just waiting to be figured out. And when it's raining.... oh! We've been in a drought for the last two years (waiters are even instructed not to bring out water unless the table asks for it) and I love and miss the rain. I don't love driving in it, or being wet, but I love the sound! (like millions of small hands clapping at my every action!) and I love the echo the cars make when they drive in it. And I especially love the day after, when the sun is shining, and the air is so crisp and clear! In LA, when it rains, all the heavy water falls from the sky, pushing down the smoke and fog that usually makes our beloved city the color of a wasteland, and when all that stuff is out of the air, and into the ground (environmentalists make their own rain from their eyes when this happens), it is absolutely breathtaking. For all you Angelenos, the day after a heavy rain is when you go up to Runyon or Fryman canyons and go up as high as you can. It's unbelievable! There's downtown! There's century city! There's the mountains on the other side! It makes you happy to be part of a metropolis.

On the acting front:
 I auditioned for an actors industry showcase. Normally, companies create this and you buy your way in for $400-$700 and you run the risk of getting a scene partner who decided just last month to give acting a try, and it shows, and depending on who's running the showcase, might not bring in any good casting directors or agents, which is the whole point. You showcase your talent so that an agent/casting director sees you, knows who you are, and will hopefully want to represent you or bring you in to audition. Now, in order to bring in these casting directors or agents, who are usually in for an excruciating night of terrible new actors doing terribly boring scenes, there has to be an incentive for them to come. And all of them are paid to go to these things. You pay a casting director or agent to come out and watch actors. Now, there is a longtime love/hate with these type of things, because it is against the law in CA to "pay to play," or, pay to audition for a casting director or agent. You can't exchange money for an audition. So a lot of these casting workshops still exist because the agent or casting director will, in exchange for the cash, "teach" you how to be better. They'll critque your work or whatnot, making it more of a "class" and therefore acceptable.

But this particular one doesn't cost us actors any money at all. The only money we'd spend is for the postcards and postage, and we'd all do the legwork ourselves to get the industry to come.
Now, this is a dilemma, because, although it's great for struggling actresses, what industry is going to come out for free? The economy has forced several smaller agencies to fold, and many of the surviving ones got rid of their dead weight non-booking new actors. So without the cash incentive, why would an agent or casting director go to this showcase?

But I went to audition since it called for a monologue and I thought it'd be nice to brush up one just to have in my pocket. And I get to the theatre in a seedier part of Hollywood, and the space is just....ugly. We are told how the showcase would work if we're cast, and then find out we're going to be performing our monologues in front of everyone else there. Cool! An audience! This is awesome because you can check to see if the funny parts in your monologue work or not, and we can gauge how the other actors are in case we get cast and already know what level they're on.

Not one, but three actors had such incredibly thick accents, it was almost unbelievable. One was Spanish, so he was lisping every word and clearly nervous. The other was from a country south of us, and also very thick. If you are a struggling actor and in LA, from another country, you MUST hire a dialect coach to help you learn the neutral American accent. Unfortunately you won't be taken seriously,  otherwise.  Heck, this is good advice even if you're from the East or Southern coasts here in the US. My aunt grew up in New York in the 60s, moved to LA in the 70s, and could tell that she was being discriminated against because of the way she spoke. She hired a dialect coach. Brilliant move, if you ask me.

At any rate, I saw one young woman perform a monologue I used to perform in college. And I felt so lucky to have seen it. It's a seriocomedic monologue, where the character is asking her husband who left her, if he had ever loved her.
It was so interesting to see the choices she made, to see what we differed on emotionally, and beat wise. And we both do it so differently.

I feel okay about the monologue I had performed (taken from an indie film script, instead of a theatre piece, by the way) and am soon on my way.

The next day, I found out I was cast. Now, I knew this would be a problem, as rehearsals are Mon-Fri 5-7pm. Two hours, five days a week, at a time where most struggling actors I know are working the dinner shift. Including me. and taking a look at my finances, this free workshop is going to end up costing me a lot of money I can't earn because of rehearsals.

And it turns out, I have a friend who is in the current show case. I talked to her about it, if she felt like it was something worth doing. Bless her heart, she never outright said yes or no, she merely told me matter of factly how she felt about a lot of the process, her fellow actors skill levels and the like.

The thing that struck me the most, was how she mentioned for those actors who had just moved into town, who had little on their resumes, they were auditioning in front of a few boutique agents, it was beneficial. But with my materials, with my skills, with my resume, she felt like if I had submitted to those agents, they'd call me in anyways.

And I don't want to be with boutique agents. I don't want my agent sending me out on stuff I can submit for myself on Actors Access. I want my agent to look at the rate being offered and scoff at those types of jobs.

So after careful consideration, I decided to withdraw. Workwise, yes, I see the possible ramifications of giving up possible agent auditions for being able to make money in a restaurant, and trust me, that breaks my heart too, but I DO have a webseries I'm writing (7 of 13 episodes are done!) and going to be in preproduction for in January, and I'd rather put my time and energy into that, as I feel like that would benefit me more.

It's hard to worry about it too much, though, when it's raining. Everything just feels so cozy and perfect right now.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Oy Vey, Not Again

Right when I thought I was going to have a somewhat reasonable December this year, I was just called off work tonight due to it being "slow." Um... Here's the thing. Last year, I had to put my rent on my credit card for three months in a row. Want to know what is really expensive? Those finance charges, which I am still paying off.
I was basically unemployed for what seemed like 3 years, only able to find the teeny tiny particles of part-time work, scraping as much together as I could.

So with this new job, I thought, whew! I can relax a little! I can afford gifts this year! I can afford rent and bills! I can start paying my credit card bills down.

And then I get called off, and I'm worried this is going to continue to happen.

I've been on the hunt for new great paying fine dining jobs forEVER.

I need my break.

I need a commercial campaign. 

Thursday, December 3, 2009

9 Months Later, He Seems Pretty Right On

There is a LOT of information in the following message to his clients, from Premier Talent Group's CEO, James J Jones. If you've been wondering why this year was one of your worst in scoring auditions, here's his summation why:

The State of the Industry
James J Jones authored this email
to his clients on March 26, 2009

Dear Clients,
I wanted to take a moment and give you a number of important updates….

Before I begin, however, I wish to tell you all that I am so very proud of you all for your dogged determination during these most difficult times.  Frankly, Hollywood has not seem times like these since the 1950’s and even then, maybe not.  Hollywood is being challenged on multiple fronts – labor uncertainty, paradigm shifting and the great recession.
I know a lot of your are getting antsy to get out more, and frankly many of you are in a tight financial pinch; as such, I wanted to describe to you all the current climate in LA and the factors influencing the current environment. 
1.       SAG STALEMATE:  Since the SAG contract expired on June 30, 2008, there have been few to no STUDIO feature films (this does not include companies such as Lionsgate and the Weinstein Company who are not in AMPTP and as such have completion agreements).  Some analysts say there are up to 200 feature films on hold.   Around September, we started to see a mass movement of film actors to TV projects.  Many of my named actors have done one-day guest stars (this is very typical right now), and we are seeing a number of Guest Star level actors doing CO-STAR roles.   Remember from November of 2007 to March of 2008, due to the Writer’s Strike, again there were no feature films shot.  So for the film actor, there has only been 4 months of work in the last 17 months.  THE BOTTOM LINE:  Due to the lack of studio feature film production, BOTH film and TV actors are now competing for a limited number of jobs in the episodic and pilot environments.  It is like a back up on 405 after a three lane accident!
2.      PILOT SEASON:  During the Writer’s Strike of 2007-2008, Studios adapted and used the void to eliminate pilot season as we know it.  Gone are the days of hundreds of pilots.  In fact, this year, there are only 67 pilots to have registered for production – of which only about 35 have been green lit for production. 
And this year, due again to a sagging economy, studios and networks believe that by committing named stars to their projects, they will receive more money from this year’s up-fronts from ad agencies. They are banking on star power to leverage better buys at the all important UPFRONTS.   So, stars and pop-stars like Richard Dreyfuss, Chevy Chase, Brittany Snow, Elle McPherson, Rebecca Romijn, Ashley Simpson, Scott Caan, Skeet Ulrich,  and proven TV talents like Kelsey Grammer, Eric McCormick, John McGinley, Joel McHale, Jenna Elfman, Donald Faison, Maura Tierney, Peter Krauss, Craig T. Nelson, Dax Shepherd, etc….  You do the math, 37 pilots… top stars being sought… BOTTOM LINE:  the conflagration of the economy and a lack of roles being cast, means that this pilot season may be even more competitive than the concurrent regular TV market right now.  So those of you who have gotten auditions for series regulars… feel great about that!  This is more like a backup on the 405 after a four lane accident. 
3.      TV:  While TV has been steady, again due to the conflagration of film and named actors doing Guest Starring roles, we have seen a horrible trickle down.  Many Guest Stars are now doing Co-stars and Co-stars/Developmental Actors (those with less than 5 national credits) frankly are not getting seen much.  One CD recently told me that she had over 25 women who would be considered ‘working actors’ going for a co-star role.  BOTTOM LINE:  Again, due to the abundance of named and working actors, many less-developed actors are not even being seen right now.
4.      ECONOMIC IMPACT I – THE EROSION OF QUOTES/RATES:  There are really three major impacts to actors during this economic crunch.  First, we are seeing the erosion of quotes.  Due to the availability of so many talented actors, CD’s and Producers are in the driver’s seat in negotiations.  When they say, “well we got someone else who will do it for less”, they ain’t kidding.  I have spoken to a number of my peers who have confirmed this erosion of pay for their actors.  In short, right now, quotes are eroding and for many, the minimum has become the maximum pay.

    5.      ECONOMIC IMPACT II – THE CONCLUSION OF SAG STALEMATE:   Many are hoping that with the end of this stalemate, Hollywood will get back to normal.  I have to say, that I am not one who necessarily believes this.  First off, due to the economic conditions, most studios have lost their millions of dollars from hedge funds; and European, Asian and Middle Eastern money has dried up.  Even Stephen Spielberg has had to beg, borrow and steal to get his company financed …. And it wasn’t anywhere near what he originally asked for.  I believe that, even after the SAG stalemate is over, there is probably not enough money for 50 Studio Feature Films to be done right out of the gate.  BOTTOM LINE:  While this will help us move towards normalcy, it will not be the cash cow some people think it will be.  One side note, is that I expect that more formulaic projects will be down out the gate as Studios will be less likely to take significant risks since most of these projects will be financed by both the studio and their investors.  In short, you will see more Iron Mans, Animation, and SAWs… they are money in the bank when you factor in ratios, etc. 
6.      ECONOMIC IMPACT III – OVERALL STATEMENT OF ENVIRONMENT:  It is important that everyone follow the economic conditions closely.  I know it is easy to be skeptical over the studios, networks, cablers, production houses, show runners, etc, losing money, but it is a cold-hard fact right now.   These entities are truly in a difficult spot.  If you have read much lately, there have been dramatic cut backs at every studio and network, from firings to asking show runners to cut between 2-7% of their budgets (not to mention the 25+% cutback shows like the Sarah Silverman were asked to swallow recently).  Furthermore, these networks and studios are largely owned by conglomerates who have lost in the billions over the last 6 months.  When I attended NATPE in January, all the talk was how to get ‘thinner.’  Everything is getting tight.  Budgets, Marketing, Staffing, etc., and this will undoubtedly impact the actor.   Also, the foreign sales market (where much of the TV and Film money is made, is being hit hard by the erosion of the US Dollar.  So these entities are not able to recoup the costs they were in better days by the one-time explosion of the foreign markets.  BOTTOM LINE:  The economic conditions are forcing the industry to be as ‘thin’ as possible.
7.      COMMERCIALS – INDUSTRY AND ECONOMIC IMPACTS:  One analyst said last year, that 2008 was the worst commercial market since maybe 1974.  I would not argue with this.  Think about it:  three of the top products/services for ad agencies are banks, cars and other financial services – all of which were struck down in 2008/early 2009 by this recession.  This was confirmed when news struck that even the Super Bowl did not sell out advertising this year.  The good news is that the advertising industry tends to be one of the first ones to be negatively impacted by a recession, but one of the first to grow as the recession moves to an end as advertisers of products want to start accumulating market share before the turn of the economy.  Another impact relates to the overall conditions of the TV/FILM/PILOT situation.  Many strong actors have made enough money on TV/FILM, etc so that they have not had to do commercials in years.  Due to the last few years and the lack of work, many top actors are now back in the commercial market; thus again, causing a logjam in casting.  BOTTOM LINE:  The economic slowdown has caused a dramatic decrease in ad sales and the lack of work has caused more actors to re-enter the commercial market. 

Okay, so that is where we are today.  You know me, I try to always call it straight as I see it.  So, I am not going to sugar-coat this either.  I anticipate that 2009 will be a tough year overall for actors (and agencies).  First off, the economy will not likely get straightened out until at least the 3rd to 4th quarter of this year and so all the factors above will remain in place through most, if not all, of 2009.  Secondly, until the labor situation gets straightened out, we will not be seeing dramatic amount of film production, and this seems to be dragging along as well (as we enter the 8th month of the stalemate – it was announced today that SAG is thinking now about taking AMPTP to court for anti-trust violations).  But again, even if it was finalized, there is not enough investor money to see the film production level normalize and increase for most, if not all, of 2009.   Also, since movies cost around $40 for two (tickets, popcorn, etc) – this is not a recession proof field anymore.  During our last significant recession, there were few choices for guilty pleasures to get away from the stress of our times – so many people flocked to the theatres.  NOT SO THESE DAYS, one can go to the web, TV, cable (not around in 1974, 1982, 1988 much), Video Games, Netflix, RedBox (movie for a $1).  So studios are probably not in any big rush to make films – as people cannot afford this once cheap diversion – better to divert for a few bucks to all the many other sources of guilty pleasures.   OKAY, so that didn’t sound like good news…
The good news is that there are some paradigm shifts occurring that make 2010 -2012 look like it might be one of the most prolific times in Hollywood history.  Due to technological developments, there are more platforms being developed than ever.  The internet is driving millions of new viewers each year.  Zillion is going to transform the way we view advertising.  For those who don’t know, it has recently been unveiled by the maker of Real Player and the ‘mouse.’ It is a system that makes you watch ads before downloading movies (they already have 14,000 Titles ready for download), TV, other forms of entertainment to your TV Screen.  However, the consumer can choose the products they want to see (let’s say you go retail clothing and watch a Macy’s ad and love the jacket; you can immediately click on the ad/jacket and go directly to their website where you can buy it).  Also, you earn points by watching the commercials that you can use towards purchases.  Furthermore, SONY and others are now selling TVs that wirelessly connect to your computer, so you can download TV/FILMS at anytime from your computer (websites like Hula, Netflix, etc) directly to your TV.  In short, technology is making more platforms which will require more content than ever.  Also, Cablers are all embracing doing scripted shows, some have up to 5 shows this year… again, more content is needed and thus MORE ACTORS!
BOTTOM LINE:  More platforms = more content = more actors!  So as long as SAG/AFTRA can protect your rates and jurisdictional issues, there will be more good compensated work than ever in Hollywood by 2010-2012. 
I hope this email helps you understand the nature of the business, in both the paradigm shift that is occurring and the economic recession, and that you keep your expectations in check.  IN AM NOT GOING TO SUGAR-COAT this, 2009 will continue to be a challenging year, but we are IN THIS TOGETHER.  Remember, if you do not get paid, WE do not get paid.  And like you, we are having financial challenges as well (many significant agencies have gone under the last six months – ACME, DRAGON, etc – even talks of Endeavor merging with William Morris).  All of us at PTG are learning to love TOP RAMEN AND PEANUT BUTTER/JELLY sandwiches again!  BUT REMEMBER, you are all extremely talented actors and I truly BELIEVE IN YOU!  Which leads me to my last points:

    A.     PLEASE don’t think that you are alone right now. ALL actors are having trouble getting seen (I have spoken with many of my peers who are not having even the level of success we are right now in getting people out). 
    B.     If you are on my roster, YOU ARE NOT BEING FORGOTTEN! I am not that kind of agent.   I THINK OF YOU ALL EVERY DAY and submit/pitch/push like a son of a bitch for you ALL!  SO please don’t feel the need to email me about projects you have heard about or a breakdown you saw – I have seen it and acted on it, I assure you!  However, if you have a particular in on that project, that is different (I.E., the Producer is my best friend, or that CD Cast me before – However, this should already be in your narrative histories!)
    C.     HAVE HOPE and CONTINUE TO BELIEVE IN YOUR ABILITIES.  You are all so freaking good, when times normalize and grow you will be productive… JUST HANG IN THERE – and keep your acting chops ups so when the opportunities come you are ready to roll!!!!
I welcome your thoughts on this email. 
James J. Jones
Owner/Head of Adult Theatrical Division
The Premier Talent Group                                      

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

There Was a Memo?

I was pretty excited for my commercial audition yesterday for Cars.com. I was sent out for the role of "gammar school teacher." So I drove allllll the way to Santa Monica (about 17 miles, or for those of you not familiar with traffic on interstate 405, 45 minutes) only to get to Ocean Park Casting and have the casting director ask the small group of women waiting to be seen, "Are any of you here for the role of the teacher?"
"Yes!" I smiled, quite scholarly.
"Your role has been canceled. A memo was sent out to all the agents."
"Oh no!" I took a quick look at the other ladies sitting next to me.
"Is there another role you can see me for?"
He thought for a quick sec and said, "Sure!"
So thanks Mike, I really appreciated that.
I asked the ladies what their wardrobe specs were, and they said, "1987 suburban housewife." So I unclipped my bangs back onto my forehead and fluffed up my hair, and then, at the audition, tucked in my invisible son, marveled at his intelligence, and looked at my husband, proud.

At least I was seen, but man. Bummer.