"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, May 22, 2012

The Internet is Not Television

So don't treat it that way.

Producers, directors, actors of web series, take note:

The Huffington Post reports that Netflix is going to release the entire new season of Arrested Development All. At. Once.

I've been stressing to a few people working on web series that the last thing you want to do is have an entire season of 13 episodes and release them only once a week.




You know why? Because the other channels, like Facebook, Cracked, and Twitter, etc are way more interesting on the internet. If I watch one episode of your webseries, I MIGHT come back a week later to watch another, but only if you're my friend. I won't bookmark it. I won't remember to come back. You are going to have to annoy everyone on your facebook feed that your webseries' new episode is up and link to it so I'd watch. Maybe. But you won't get repeat viewings from people you don't know.

Because the truth is, most web series are not that good. The production value is low. There's sound issues. The visual quality isn't that great, and sometimes the actors are crap.

But if you have a good episode, and I can click on the next episode? Guess what. I'm going to click on it. I want to be instantly gratified. Because I'm at my computer and that's how I watch tv on it. I will go on Netflix streaming or Hulu Plus and watch an entire season of a show I like in a few sittings. I'll watch 3 episodes of a comedy at once. I'll sit through 2 hours of a drama in the same night. If I like something, I want to watch it. Even on my DVR, if I have three episodes of my favorite tv show waiting for me at home I want to watch them back to back to back. It's fun!

Television is changing. In ten years, (and most likely, way less than that) we'll get most of our series in one fell swoop, and we'll watch television shows series by series. We'll have big tv viewing parties, and they'll become entertainment events - where there's behind the scenes, the making of, and minor characters who spin off onto their own online webseries, that's right, ALL ONLINE. And the website they have with all their extras is also loaded with advertising, so the studios are making even more advertising money.

So if you have an indie webseries, and you know it's good, you know the production value is great, you know the acting is phenomenal -

Release the whole series at once.

Because people will watch an episode, and if they like it, they'll watch another. And another. And another.

And if it's bad - if I can watch another episode, I WILL. Schadenfreude.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Dear Struggling Actress

Hi Lira

I have been here close to three and a half years now and I'm frustrated. I feel like I have been out here for a "long time" and that I haven't done a thing; I'm worried I am doing something wrong or hindering myself in some way.  
I have had an across the board agent for the past two years.  He sends me out on mostly commercial auditions and I get called back and I have been put on avail, but I have never booked.  I have only had maybe two or three theatrical auditions from him and when any auditions come they seem to be few and far in between.  I feel like I should be doing more to get my face out there, my problem is I can't afford to send out postcards and headshots all the time, or at least without knowing that they are actually helping me.  I don't have enough money to be able to "waste" it.  I get good responses from my acting, I definitely have a lot of room to grow, but I feel like I do good work.  
Auditions are another thing.  I am a shy person, I am from the Midwest and I don't like conflict. Auditions make me nervous and I tend to get hierarchy in my mind, feeling as though all of these people are against me and that I am not worthy.  I have come a long way with all of that, I am so much better than I was when I first arrived, but I still worry that I am not giving my all in auditions.  

I don't know what I need to be doing right now.  Should I be sending out postcards?  And if so, what do I put on them?  Should I be looking for a new agent?  I'm not completely a fan of my agent, he finds me auditions here and there which I really appreciate, but it seems very apparent to me that his focus is on the money and how quick he can get it and not so much on my continuing career.  The reason I haven't left is because I am afraid I won't be able to get better right now since I don't really have much to show and I have found it very hard to figure out what "better" or "worse" is.  I would really appreciate some advice.  I want to take charge of my career, I just have no idea how.


Hi Meghan, thanks for reading!

I do have some advice for you but hey, what the hell do I know? If I knew everything, I wouldn't be struggling myself! So keep that in mind when reading below.

1) I hate to tell you Meghan, but three and half years is NOTHING. You know how in high school, if you have a boyfriend for three months, that's considered a long term relationship? It's the reverse in LA. You have to understand that you will be here for 10 years and either two things will happen: You will either quit way before that and move back to the Midwest, OR you will stick it out and possibly be making some really good money on year 12 or 13. Depressing, right? But it's the truth. Everyone you see on tv who is early to mid twenties has been working since they were babies. True story. Find your favorite actress on imdb and see if I'm not right.

That's not meant to depress you, but to give you some perspective. By their year 12 or 13, they too started making some seriously good money.

You know Progressive Lady Flo? She is freaking ROLLING in money right now. But where was she before she booked her campaign? She played a secretary on Mad Men, getting co-star credit. She was in a few episodes; a recurring co-star. Not very glamorous, and she was in her 30s already. But she stuck with it. She put in a lot of time. And it paid off. Once she's done being Flo, she can do whatever the heck she wants.

So there's that. If 3 1/2 years seems like a long time, the rest of my advice is just going to sound worse and worse.

2) It is my belief (again, I'm struggling) that having a different agent for commercial and theatrical representation is ALWAYS better than across the board.

If you are across the board, the quickest way for your agent to make money is to send you out for commercials. If he is lacking on the theatrical auditions - you feel stuck. You can't fire him for just theatrical and keep him for commercials. Well, you could try, but why bother?

Summer is starting. Submit for commercial agents now. Submit every three weeks until someone calls you in. Do your research for commercial agents, and target 20. Keep at em. They'll bring you in eventually.

You say you feel like you should be doing more to get yourself out there, and you are 100% right. I'm assuming you are already on Actors Access and submitting like crazy. But if that's not getting the results you want, you need to create your own things. Write for yourself. Record yourself performing. Upload to Youtube, keep on keeping on. There are so many opportunities to get yourself work - but YOU have to create them. Not a writer? Not a film maker? Tough. You HAVE to be. A Struggling Actress today is never just an actress. If she is, she's back home to the MidWest after two years. You HAVE to be a writer, a producer, a graphic designer, a blogger, a tweeter and on and on and on. Plus, all the other creative outlets will only make you feel more powerful and more in control of your life.

You say you can't afford to send out postcards and headshots all the time. Well, I don't really think postcards do a ding darn thing except go immediately into the trash bin of whomever you're sending them to. But if you can't afford to send out headshots, that's a huge problem. That's part of your job as an actress right now. And so is going to an acting class. If you can't afford them, get another job. You have to.

I myself took an entire year off from acting a few years ago. No classes, no agent, no self submitting, no auditions. And I worked like a dog and saved all my money. Not only did I have a nice chunk of change in my savings account, but staying away from acting also made me miss it. It helped me realize that yes, this is what I'm meant to do. Am I Flo yet? No. Might I be in another few years? Maybe! I'm gonna stick it out and see!

You might want to consider leaving to see if you really want to stay. That's not an admission of defeat - it's a year for you to pursue other interests and to see what else there is in this town for you. You could find a living social coupon for a raw vegan "cooking" class, find out you really freaking love it, and then move back home close to your family to open up your own raw vegan cafe. Does that mean you failed at being an actress? NO! It means you found something else that spoke to you more, something that made life worth living and gave you a creative purpose and a happier life. That's not failure at all, is it?

Or you could find, like I did, that this is it for you. In which case you now have a chunk of money set aside just for acting expenses and you've got a safety net. And you're reinvigorated. And you're ready to stay here for another 10 years.

3) While on your break from acting, get a casting internship. If you are feeling unworthy, you need to sit on the other side of the casting table and see what it's really like, because trust me, you are waiting for each actress who walks into your casting office to be the one for the role. You are rooting for each actor who comes into the office. And once you learn that, going back to the other side as an actor again, will stop the nerves. You are worthy. Get into casting. Now.

4) The hardest part about being an actress is that there is no mail room in Hollywood to start at. There is no right way to go about your career. What works for me isn't going to work for you, isn't going to work for him, isn't going to work for them. What doesn't work for me could work for you. We just don't freaking know! Isn't that awful!? Argggggh!!!!

There are a million different routes you can go, but here's two I'm suggesting:

Route 1 (my second choice for you.)
Submit to commercial agents and sign with a new one. Do the same with theatricals. Create content for yourself and your friends. Make it good. Get another job and make more money. Take classes. Keep on keeping on.

Route 2 (what I really think you should do.)
Take the year off from acting. Reassess if this is really what you want. Get a second job or take on more hours on at your current gig. Get a casting internship. Learn how the other side works. Find coupons for classes that are not acting (belly dance! raw vegan cooking! writing!) and go to the local community college and see what they've got. After your year of actor free living, you will either decide to go back to it, with a renewed vigor and sense of self and wants and desires and goals, OR you will find something else that you love more. You owe it to yourself to make sure you're pursuing this because you really love and really want it and you really believe in yourself to stick it out and make it.

Like I said, you are probably not happy at this point in the post. But if you follow my route 2, I truly and honestly think you will be happier than you have been these last 3 1/2 years.

Gather your friends and family and see what they think you should do. Gather your LA friends and family and see what they think you should do.

But for either decision you make, stick to it. If you commit to taking a year off acting, don't act. Find yourself and who you are aside from the stage. See what other adjectives and nouns define you.

If you continue to take the acting route, then commit to that. You are the CEO of your acting business. Lay the employees off who are not pulling their weight, and promote the ones who are. Find employees who will work hard for you. Be the CEO.

I wish the best for you.


Friday, May 11, 2012

Upkeep on the Cheap!

Being a Struggling Actress makes it very difficult to rationalize spending a bunch of money on yourself on things you don't really need. I get a pedicure about once every two years, and I never get my nails done. I became a hair model so I could get amazing color and cuts without having to pay for them, but sometimes the between bookings looks awful. I've got roots, people!

And if you want to get a good colorist and trendy haircut, you have to go to the very expensive places.

So when I discovered Lifebooker - the online site where you can get crazy good discounts on beauty maintenance, I thought maybe it would work for me.

Yeah....I just bought my third coupon (what they call Loot) from them: a single process color for 67% off. 

So I strongly recommend you head over to Lifebooker and see if they have deals in your city. They do if you live in San Francisco, New York City, Portland, Charlotte, Boston, Miami, Toronto and several more. They'll ask you to login using facebook, but just hit the Sign Up button below it to bypass that.

I've seen coupons for laser hair removal, shellac manicures, pedicures, waxing, juice fast thingees, vitamin supplements, adult toys (hey-o!), highlights, hair cuts, blow outs, and more.

So sign up and check em out.

Have fun getting prettified at the fancy schmancy places on the cheap!


Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Difficult Decision

Over the last few months, I considered firing my theatrical agent.

I didn't because I LOVED my agent. He was so incredibly sweet, charming, he remembered my name and welcomed me with a hug whenever I dropped by the office to say hi.  This is a guy with some top tier talent, and yet would always take a few minutes to stop what he was doing and give me some face time to catch up.

I adored this guy.

But the agency wasn't getting me out.

Last November, I said to my agent, submit me for the small stuff - I want to work! I am not above co-star roles - but the problem was that even though I wasn't above it, the agency was. It was a waste of their time to submit me for anything smaller than a guest star role; they have a reputation in this town and they need to uphold it.

So I wasn't going out. Still.

And I haven't been able to financially contribute into my household like I thought I would be able to when I signed with them almost two years ago.

So I made the decision: I had to part ways.

I wanted to do it in person.

But I knew I would start crying. This relationship wasn't business; it was personal. He meant a lot to me - he believed in me at a time when no one else did.

I then wanted to do it over the phone.

But I just couldn't do that either.

So I wrote a letter, feeling like a coward, letting him know that it was time for me to see where other avenues could take me.

I've written drop letters before. I point out why I'm leaving in a robotic business style, devoid of any emotions or feelings.

This was not that.

I cried while writing it.

I mailed it on Tuesday.

Yesterday, I got a voicemail from him, and true to his character, he said that he had gotten my letter, that he was sorry that he couldn't do more for me, and that he wanted to wish me all the best at least over the phone, and to please call him.

So I did. He picked up immediately when his assistant told him I was on the line, and he continued to say nice things; that I have a huge talent, that things will happen for me, that he will always be a friend, that he will always answer my call, that his door will always be open.

I know there aren't many agents like him, and I wish I had a reason to stay with him - but at this time in my career, I was still too small for the agency.

It was a difficult decision, but I have to see what else is out there; I have to grow.

I might not have him as an agent anymore, but I do honestly believe that I will always have him as a friend. 

In this town, that's extremely rare.