"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

Sunday, December 8, 2013

IndieSO Actor Demo Reel Review

Let's face it. As Struggling Actors in this town, every once in a while we'll book an amazing project, and we film it, and we're like, Yeah! This is some good shizz! It's gonna look great on my reel! ...And then the project never gets finished. Or we'll book something only to have it fall through before production begins. And you're looking at your AA account and thinking, Hot Damn, When am I ever going to get some new material up? Or, if you're newer, Hot Damn, when am I ever going to get reel footage?

If you don't have a posse of peers to help you produce your own material, and you want it done right, you can hire small LA production companies that specialize in Actor Reels.

I was contacted by Joe and Matias at IndieSo.com, and they told me, hey, we like what you're doing for actors with your blog, and we'd like to pay it forward - can we shoot some actor demo reel scenes for you?


I was given the option of finding my own scenes, or working with them to create something specifically for me. I had a few scenes I really loved from an acting class years ago, and wanted to use those. They gave me the option to use my own actors, or if I needed help, using a few of their actors they love working with.

I have to say, I probably was not the easiest client to work with. I had very specific ideas about what I wanted, how I wanted it done, and who I wanted with me, but Joe and Matias were absolutely wonderful - they kept reminding me, "This is your reel, and we want to give you exactly what you want." Bless them. They allowed me to feel like a collaborator as opposed to someone with a high list of demands. True professionals!

I sent them the scenes I wanted and we discussed a few ideas how to shoot it. I got my actors in place, we settled on a date, and bing bam boom, we finished 6 pages in 5 hours, with a break for lunch!

They're a production company, so they have all their own equipment and a few locations, and unlike a lot of other reel companies, Matias, who directed, used his experience and creativity to make the scenes look like we ripped them from a bigger production. These scenes don't look like they were shot specifically for demo use.

And the quality!! YAY!

Do I recommend them? YES. YES I DO.

But of course, Joe and Matias also want to do me a huge solid by offering my readers a special!

You get, just by saying you were referred by me from the Struggling Actress Blog:
2 scenes (you can have more, just let them know and they'll discuss rates)
1 FREE edit, included before the final cut (if you're like, hey, instead of the two shot on this line, can we use my close-up?)

All for only $500, which is a full $100 off their normal price!

You can find more info here, and check out my final product here

Again, great guys, great product! Love them!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


I found fall south of Ventura, west of Laurel Canyon.
We didn't really get a typical LA summer until late August. All June and July, it was moderate, until, bam! triple digit heat. That lasted about a good two weeks, and then: moderate temperatures again.

You don't really notice these things until it's late October and we get a 'cold snap' at 60 degrees and the possibility of rain. Then you notice that the sun is setting earlier and earlier, and my goodness! It's FALL!

Where did the time go?

I've been on the commercial agent hunt and scored 4 meetings from my submissions which made a 25% return so I'm happy with that. I've met with half of them so far and I've been offered rep from both. I have another one tomorrow and another one next week. Which means this: If you too are looking for commercial rep, send out your stuff. January is a big commercial month and if you can get rep and new headshots uploaded to LA Casting before then, you'll be golden. I wasn't aware October was a good month for commercial submissions, but hey, now we all know.

A lot of this actor life is prep. You have to have so many things ready to go, so many skills constantly worked on and practiced. Sometimes it all seems for naught. Sometimes it's what makes all the difference.

Get your materials in order. Get your skills in tip top shape. Your job is to audition for the big stuff, and to make the small things yourself.

Create, create, create.

It's fall. Come Thanksgiving, the town slows down. Commercials go crazy in January, and then it's nothing for a few months except time to work on your own projects. If you're  moving when the rest of the town is standing still, you'll be all the better for it.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Health Insurance for Actors

If you're like me, you live a freelance life; you work a couple of odd part-time jobs so that you can be available for auditions. If you're having a fantastic year, you book a few commercials and end up qualifying and getting Sag-Aftra's health insurance! If you don't.....you don't have health insurance.

But you need to have it by January 14th, 2014. What do you do?

You go here: http://www.coveredca.com/

Although insurance plans aren't technically being offered until October, you can already go to the link above and get an idea of how much money you'll be required to pay, and what those costs will get you. They base it off your age and adjusted gross income (and they show you how to find that).

AND NOT ONLY THAT, but if you have questions and/or are completely lost about what all that means, you can request information from them! I requested someone call me in the next few weeks so I can better understand how our insurance needs will be met by our always fluctuating income and the very likely possibility of a new family member.

For years, my insurance plan was Hope & Prayer, and as I was looking at the estimated costs and the breakdowns, I nearly cried. I can make sure that should my husband or I get sick, we can get the care we need immediately - AND I can get free preventative checkups! No more hoping and praying that we don't get sick, because believe you me, that shizz is scary.

Be healthy, be safe this year and always.


Friday, September 6, 2013


I kinda took some time off from blogging to clear my head, clear my thoughts. There's been a lot of change, and yet, there hasn't been any at all.

As my husband and I get closer to our D(etermination) Day in Jan 2014 where we will discuss when we should start trying for a family, I've been....excited and tremendously scared. I'd be out of the acting game for around a year, and to be honest, I'm scared of that. But I'm also excited.

I've spoken to actresses with children, and they always, always say how much better their life is because they're no longer focused so much on their career - that looking after their child gives them a sense of clarity and understanding that they don't need to sweat the small stuff, and time with no auditions is different than it was before.

So, although yes, I'm tremendously scared, I'm also excited. A new adventure with a man who makes my heart so incredibly warm and who is so clearly meant to be a father.

Of course, that time is still far away. There are still things to do. And there are things that I've done:
I cleaned house and got a new manager, theatrical rep, commercial rep, and new commercial headshots. I changed my hair from red to dark brown. I was hired as a staff writer for a weekly sketch show at Improv Olympic. I watched the paramedics take my trembling mother to the hospital.

I'm mentally and emotionally preparing for the next few chapters, which might mean very different things from what I originally planned.

We'll see. We'll see.

All I know is that things will change, and yet, things won't change at all.

Keep on keeping on.


Monday, August 5, 2013

Laura Burke's Power Hour

When I first moved to town, my agents said I needed new headshots and they handed me their list of their favorite photographers and Laura Burke had the best portfolio by far. I met and absolutely loved her. She's from Long Island and has that no BS, very honest and forthcoming attitude, but without the aloofness and attitude of some of her peers. She likes to laugh, feels like she's your mother's cousin from back East, and is absolutely amazing at what she does. I immediately knew she would take great care of me and get me what I needed.

And here's another thing: she actually likes actors. I would even go so far as saying she loves them. You can tell. 

She called me up and asked me if I'd like to give a review of her Power Hour; a special package she does where you get an hour to take headshots in one of her favorite locations of your choice at The Lot in West Hollywood; as many wardrobe changes as you can make happen, and 100 shots for only $225. "And for your readers, of course, I'll throw in an additional 50 shots."

That's right! Say you found her on this here little blog and she gives you a bonus 50 shots!

See why I love this woman?

We set a time and date for the shoot, and five days before that, she sent me information on what types of clothes to bring and addressed any questions I would have, as well as information on parking (always appreciated!).  She asked me to take a photo of all the outfits I wanted to take headshots in. I used my camera phone with the flash and sent them to her and she was able to weed out what worked and didn't. Pastels? No. Jewel tones? Yes. I hate lugging an entire suitcase to my headshot photographer's studio, so this was an excellent way to cut down on wasted time and sore muscles, making sure I had what I needed.

The day of the shoot, I parked in The Lot's structure and called her as she instructed, and her makeup artist Simone Closson, met me at the elevator to escort me to Laura's office. Simone is Laura's go to makeup artist and super sweet. We talked about the looks I wanted: Mom, Hipster Office, and I Just Gotta Be ME! which is heavy eyeliner cause I love that stuff. She determined the order we would start with based on the easiest makeup look and her ability to quickly add to it. Simone does her part in making sure your power hour is less makeup changes, and more headshot shooting, and to be clear, the makeup part of the shoot is NOT part of the Power Hour! I got all made up first and the Power Hour didn't start until we were on location and shooting. I'm telling you, this is a great deal. 

I'll sell your diapers.
  Laura met with me in the middle of my makeup application and when I was all prettified, Laura and Simone and I all made our way to one of Laura's locations, The Mill on the Lot, which is the warehouse all the sets are built in. It's beautiful, airy, and the afternoon sun filtered through the windows beautifully. I could see why this was one of Laura's top spots to shoot.

 We did the first look, with Laura helping to pose me in the most flattering angle. After 5 minutes or so of pictures, she came to me with her camera and we went through them. The ones mid-blink were automatically deleted, and she showed me her favorites. Any that I didn't like, we deleted. We had a lot of good shots, and I recognized easily the ones I would want to blow up to an 8x10 or post online. She asked me if I felt comfortable with the shots we had and if I thought we could move on. Sure! So off I went to change.

I love tech gadgets!
Simone sat me down and added a little more eyeshadow and changed my lip color. I unpinned some of my hair and for Hipster Office, I wore a graphic tee and jacket. I brought a pair of funky glasses, so I got 4 mini looks here - just my graphic tee, my graphic tee with glasses, my graphic tee and jacket, my graphic tee and jacket and glasses. Super fast and super fun! Again, Laura shot me, posed me, shot me some more, and came over to show me the photos. We deleted the ones we didn't think worked (um, like, 1?) and saved the rest.

My last look! I changed into a maroon sweater and we pinned my hair differently, added dramatic eyeliner and changed my lips again. Shoot, shoot, shoot! Review, review, review! Love, love, love!
Feminine Products? YES!

We felt good about the outfits, the styles, how we shot, and the type of shots we got. We were done!

We walked back up to Laura's office and she told me she'd have them up online in two days. That was it and it was SO Easy!

The Power Hour is especially great if money's a little tight but you need new headshots. It's also great if your agent is requesting just a new look or two.

Women, to get even more looks, wear a camisole under your clothes so you can just change on the spot without having to rush off to the bathroom to for privacy. Simple hair changes, like, ponytail/no ponytail, makes a hug difference too.

And people, wear layers! If you've got a tee and a jacket, you can whisk the jacket off and get a whole slew of shots with just the tee! If you're a quick change artist and already very comfortable in front of the camera, this is definitely a fantastic new way to get as much as you can at an incredibly affordable price.

So there you go!

Contact Laura, let her know that you heard of her Power Hour deal from me, and she'll give you a BONUS 50 shots! That's an extra 50% just because you're a loyal reader. Not too shabby, right?

Thanks Laura!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

How to Use Actors Access Effectively Part 4

Let's Talk About Cropping!

(Did you read my How to Use Actors Access Effectively Parts 1-3? You should!)

It's kinda funny how taking random classes like Yearbook in Junior High help your acting career. For reals.

I learned how to crop photos when I was 12. Did I have any idea when I went from Yearbook to my Speech and Drama I class that the former would greatly help the latter? Nope! Weird, right?

So like I've mentioned, I sometimes help assist an indie casting director and I get to see what Actors Access looks like from the other side. And people, it is VERY different.

First off, here is the actual size of your headshot:

Now imagine your photo next to three others just like it, and with 13 rows above it and 12 rows below. Your photo at that size, is one of 100 on a page, with oh, maybe 10 pages for the casting director to go through. 

How does your photo compare to the 1,000 other actors all perfect for the same role as you? How do you get the casting director to click on your photo to bring you in to audition?

It's all about 

I'm telling you, you would be surprised how many actors don't know what a headshot is, and how they don't know how to crop the photo so casting can see your face. Why didn't y'all take Yearbook?!

Okay, seriously, now. 

This is not a headshot:

It's a selfie. Yes. We can tell.

 This is also NOT a headshot. It's a modeling shot.

 And you would be surprised how many actresses are submitting photos of themselves where their face takes up 1/20th of the photo. Guess what. We can't see what you look like. Stop doing that. You immediately get tossed into the Green/Newbie/Not-a-Real-Actress pile.

So here. Let's use this unretouched photo (I'm not too vain to use it, but I'm vain enough to admit I'm much prettier in Photoshop!) as an example. And remember, an unretouched photo should NEVER see the light of day at Breakdowns/Actors Access.

This photo was taken by the lovely Tanya Giang. (Did you know she knocks off $50 if you tell her I referred you?) It is already perfectly cropped for an 8x10 photo. However, we don't get that luxury on Breakdowns. We get a tiny square that's about 2 inches by 2.25 inches. Not a lot.

So let's crop it. Your first instinct might be to get your whole head in there, like this:

This is actually a badly cropped photo. We can't see the neck, and there's too much head (that's what he never said) and even though I have some amazing hair, showing it like this makes me look short and off balance. Go to your AA profile and see if you have a photo like this. You might. I'll tell you how to fix it.

You might also want to crop your photo very tightly, which is also, unfortunately, not a good look:

I know I'm beautiful, but the truth of the matter is that casting CANNOT HANDLE THIS MUCH EXQUISITE BEAUTY ALL AT ONCE. And because we don't see my neck, casting could believe I'm much heavier than I really am. My Exquisite Beauty in Close Up is Backfiring! Gack!

And now we have this photo. You can see my face, my neck, and you get a good idea of what I look like. However, this cropping is only okay, and the reason why is because my face still only takes up half the photo. This wouldn't be so bad, but I'm probably sandwiched between two other actresses who cropped themselves in just a smidge tighter and you can see their faces better.

The ideal crop is one where your face takes up about 2/3rd of the photo and we can see your neck and shoulders, and your top hairline is cropped out.

It makes you look normal, and we can see everything we need to see.

The following two cropped photos are both slightly different, and in my opinion, the best of all of the ones I've shown you. Do you see what I mean about them?

 Oh my gosh, are you as sick at looking at my face as I am? Great! Go to your Actors Access profile and see if any of your photos are cropped in a way that could use some improvement.

Now, if your photos are the free ones, just delete them and upload them again.

If, however, the photos you want to crop have been paid for, go ahead and call
Breakdowns at 310-385-6920 and let them know you need to crop photos you've already paid for. They'll guide you through the process. And don't worry, I spoke to Romney there, but anyone can help you do that, and it will be free since you already paid for the photo.

I'm sure so many actors read this article and called Breakdowns so often that they completely redesigned the interface since I originally posted. (Yup. Totally taking credit for something that probably has nothing to do with me ;)
Now you can simply log in to your AA account and go to:
My Tools -->
Manage My Profile -->
Find your photo you want to recrop and hit 
Manage Photo-->
Edit Thumbnail photo

Now again, like any advice from an actress who isn't famous, take what you will with a grain of salt, but folks, I've seen the other side and I really think my cropped photos are better than most of the ones out there.

Lose the very top of your hair, get your face to take up 2/3 of the photo and let us see your neck and clavicle. These are basic rules and sometimes rules are made to be broken. But let this be a guide for you.

You might get more auditions by just cropping your photo a little bit differently. (Oh, and if Candace sent you here, tell her I say hi!)

Good luck!

AND! If you like this blog post, please share it via Twitter or Facebook and help spread the word to your fellow struggling actors.  :)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Choose Your Own Adventure

My friend Tanya Giang, the very one who I strongly recommend for headshots, and will give you a $50 discount just by saying you found her from this blog, is one of those hyphenates who is making money, doing what she loves, and choosing her own Hollywood adventure.

Need some inspiration? Check out her post below, and then go check out her link at the very bottom.

Take Control, Love What You Do, Win Awards
When I was a child, I wanted to act. But my mother, a war refugee living in Los Angeles, was unfamiliar with the business.  An all too common story, we ended up getting scammed instead. It was more money than I knew my mom could afford, so I decided to become a lawyer.

That dream lasted through one con law class sophomore year of college, where it died a quick, dirty death. So then I was a graduate, and I still wanted to act.  But Hollywood said I was too ethnic with my Eurasian background. In the years it would take me to become eligible for SAG (now SAG-AFTRA), I took the opportunity to learn more about the business. I interned in casting, assisted in acting classes, even worked as an associate talent manager. Finally, I was ready to really commit to this acting thing. But then Hollywood said I wasn’t ethnic enough.

Apparently, I’m too white to be Asian and too Asian to be white. My hair is naturally a dark, frizzy brown. When I attempted to dye it black in an effort to look more Asian, I just ended up looking Russian.

Everyone always assumed that I would automatically have representation and book commercials like crazy, since I was a quirky, ethnic female. But I struggled to connect with any agents or managers, especially when I was non-union. I suffered through being seen just as “an Asian” and sitting at auditions for political refugees, sex slaves and manicurists. I cringed every time I was asked to do an Asian accent. One, what accent is that? Asia is a continent. I have zero desire to perpetuate a stereotype. Two, you just told me I’m not Asian enough. I still have to do the accent?? I became a frustrated, scared, tentative actress.

And then two meetings changed my life. A manager said to me, “No one’s writing for a girl like you. No one’s getting excited about you.” And an agent (after noting that I was a good actor who probably could book) looked at me and said, “I don’t know what to do with you.” I left that second meeting and thought, “Fine! I’ll show you!” That spark of rebellion has led to this:

Hi, I’m Tanya Giang. I’m a casting assistant/freelance photographer/actress/writer/producer/director/overwhelmed insomniac/happy person.

There is so much you can’t control about your acting career. You get conflicting advice from casting directors, agents, coaches and friends. You can be perfect for a role but 3 inches too short or too tall.  Someone is going to tell you that you look 22, someone else will say 29. You can be underrepresented in media, or competing with hundreds of people who look exactly like you. So if you ever start feeling lost, my advice is to make your own compass.

I started simply by writing a few scenes for my acting reel. Those few scenes became a 10-episode web series that screened at several festivals, winning Outstanding Achievement in Writing, Lead Actress & Supporting Actor at LAWebFest. I joked one night with a friend how Hollywood doesn’t seem to make movies for us, about us anymore. We have now partnered as producers to become 2 Redhead Productions. Now I act in projects I choose or I make. And it’s truly a liberating experience. If an agent were to represent me now, I wouldn’t turn it down. But I also wouldn’t stress about the number of auditions I go on or the roles that are out there. Because I’m making it happen for myself. I’m finally getting to show people the kind of actor I want to be. Becoming an indie filmmaker is just a happy byproduct.

If you have creativity and ambition, but you’re knocking on doors that don’t open? I say build your own doors. Personally, I think there is nothing worse for an actor than feeling stuck and not doing anything about it.  In a day and age when women like Mindy Kaling and Lena Dunham are starring in shows they write, and the 2013 Best Picture Oscar goes to a film directed by the actor Ben Affleck…what are you waiting for? It’s never too early or too late to start taking control of yourself.

Tanya Giang’s first project with 2 Redhead Productions is “Staging Grief,” a short film she wrote that she will star in and direct. It shoots this August in Los Angeles, in association with Aren’t We Clever Productions.  They are currently running an indiegogo campaign to raise funds. Every dollar helps and is greatly appreciated. Please help support indie film. You can find more details and learn about perks of donating at: igg.me/at/2rhpgrief

Friday, June 21, 2013

CastingAbout Adds New Feature

Breakdowns sent me their press release about their new service, cause I'm kinda a Google search resource when people type in 'Actors Access'.


Friday, June 14, 2013 ( Los Angeles ) — CastingAbout, the online casting and production guide, has expanded its service to include commercial casting directors and staff in both Los Angeles and New York . CastingAbout has long been the industry's go-to source for theatrical casting assignment and contact information; the addition of commercials now makes CastingAbout a more complete resource for actors, agents, managers, and other industry professionals.

"This is easily one of our most-requested features," says CastingAbout Co-Founder Blair Hickey. "Actors and talent reps have come to trust and rely on the information we post for film, TV and theater offices, and lately there's been a growing demand for us to cover the commercial world as well."
Co-founder Brian Wold adds, "Since commercial projects work and move a bit differently than theatrical ones, we took the time to figure out the best way to integrate that world into our current site, while still delivering the most useful, accurate and up-to-date information possible. We think we found a good solution, and could not be more excited about the launch."

The new listings do not include individual commercials being cast, but instead introduce a new composite project type. This singular "Commercials" project can now be found in the listings of any office in LA or NY that actively casts commercial spots. By incorporating commercial work into the same space as theatrical listings, CastingAbout's informational grids now provide a more complete overview of who's casting what in both cities.
"Nothing compares to CastingAbout as a snapshot of the casting industry," says Wold. "It's an incredibly powerful marketing tool. For the pro actors out there who study casting directors and their work, who track the careers of CDs they've worked with in the past -- those who really understand the power of building relationships -- this service, frankly, is essential." 
CastingAbout listings are monitored daily by research teams in Los Angeles and  Manhattan , who gather data directly from casting and production offices. Updates are processed and published in real time. The annual service is $39.95 and can be accessed at http://www.castingabout.com.

CastingAbout was founded in 2004, and acquired by Breakdown Services, Ltd. in 2008.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Window Envelopes

Kel writes:

Hi Lira!

Love your blog, and have a question.

I'm about to submit to several (22) agencies for commercial rep. I've heard a lot of talk about these envelopes that have windows in them so that people can see your face before tossing your unopened inquiry letter in the trash. (link here: http://www.theactorsphotolab.com/8x10-open-window-envelopes/)

When I first heard about them and saw them I thought," Huh, what a neat idea!"

however, when I brought it up to a couple other actor friends, some of them told me that agencies don't like them.

Which is true?

Also, I have naturally curly hair that I sometimes straighten. When submitting nmy photos, is it possible for me to have my head shot be with my natural hair but put a inset picture of me with straight hair as well? I'm asking because it might seem insignificant, but I look totally different with straight hair vs. curly hair.


Window Envelopes! They are such a great idea.....right? Right? I mean, they're worth the price because agents will get to see your headshots immediately........

Okay, here's the deal: I used them before. Once. I thought the same thing - I look different enough from everyone that they'll HAVE to open my envelope! Who knows, maybe they did. But I have a theory....

If they see what you look like before seeing your cover letter and resume, a window envelope makes it easier for them to throw you away.

UNLESS - you are a minority. If you're a minority, chances are an agency needs your category.

ALSO - if you're an 11 on the hotness scale, use window envelopes for sure. Me? I feel very comfortable saying I'm a solid 7 so I don't think the window envelopes necessarily worked for me.

Kel, you're African-American. If you look at commercials today, you'll see a lot of African-American young women with natural hair; it seems to be on trend. So send in the photo you love the most and make sure you'll do your hair the same way when you get called in for interviews. Once you sign with an agency, discuss with your commercial agent how you want to have your hairstyle for your new headshots (comm agents almost always ask for new comm headshots). Make sure you pick a hairstyle you'll be comfortable in and want to maintain for the next two years so you can match your pictures.

Now, you CAN add a photo of you with straight hair, but I can tell you from experience, sometimes your agent will send you an audition notification at 11pm at night and sometimes an hour from the actual call time. If they submit you with straight hair, you honestly might not have time to straighten it. (depending on how adept you are at a straightener/hair dryer/roller brush, whether or not you have stock in DryBar, and how curly your hair is.) Some cd's might care, like, if the breakdown specifically says, "only girls with straight hair will be seen!!!!!!!!!" but most often, cd's won't care.

If you don't have one already, you can always invest in a really good straight hair styled wig. (It's tax deductible!) You can cut your hair much shorter, fro it out, and still have long beautiful hair if you want it. Best of both worlds!

So go forth, Kel! Use the window envelopes! And let us all know when you sign with your new rep! Break legs!


Friday, June 14, 2013

Lucas and Speilberg Wax Futuristic

Have you guys seen this Variety Article where George Lucas and Steven Spielberg talk about the future of movies? They beleive that soon, movie tickets will be as high as Broadway theatre tickets.

Although I don't quite think they're going to skyrocket to that price, I do think we will see an uptick in expensive movie theaters like iPic, where the movie going experience is paired with alcohol, meals, and no kids.

But Video on Demand is definitely where things are headed. We're getting so used to binge viewing and streaming, that movie theaters that just show movies might be a thing of the past in the next 20 years.

Food for thought, no?

Friday, May 31, 2013

Actors with Disabilities

Andra needs advice:

Hi Lira,
I recently found your blog when I was doing some research on the legitimacy of MZA.  Thank you for your words of wisdom on them.  I ran across too many postings that would just say,"they're a scam!" without really  qualifying that statement with a reason why. Your site gave a much more balanced view.  Thank you!
Also, I wanted to get your thoughts on something. I'm new to the acting scene and I have come across several helpful tips for new actors.  However, I'm in a wheelchair and I find that a lot of the advice given is (understandably so) for a wider audience. Do you have any advice for a actress with a disability? 

Hi Andra! Thanks for reading.

You are absolutely correct that your situation is going to be different. You have a very lovely headshot and I like it a lot, but there's one thing missing. Can anyone guess what it is?

Andra, it's your wheelchair. It needs to be in your headshot.

All actors and actresses with a disability need to highlight it because that's what makes them different and sets them apart. Casting won't be able to add you for diversity to the cast if they think you are like everyone else.

You might be under the impression that you have to hide your wheelchair and that it is going to hurt you in the long run. If you hide it and you're called in for an audition you submitted yourself on for an indie film, the building casting is in might not have ramp access. That sucks. Conversely, if you don't have the chair in your headshot and you look like everyone else, casting might not call you in because they already are going to be seeing 20 other straight haired brunettes. But hey! An actor in a wheelchair could definitely play the teacher in this role! And all of a sudden, you're another option to go.

It's true that the roles you will be able to play are going to be limited, but you can open up the options by showcasing the very thing that makes you different. So: highlight your chair. That's your thing, girl. Celebrate it!

There are some very good agencies out there who will rep you if you are a good actor. I Googled "los angeles talent agencies disabilities" and KSR and Affinity came up (They are NOT the only ones who will consider repping you). When you submit to your target agencies, make sure your headshot shows your chair, and write "Wheelchair" on the outside of the envelope. Not all actor submissions get open at every agency, but again, you are immediately another option and I'm sure your envelope will be opened because of this.

Also, because you offer something different, you can mail postcards to casting and they'll keep you in their files because they might only have a few, if any, in your category and they'll want to remember you.

I also found this article from Backstage from last year, and he says all the same things I am. Highlight what makes you different.

Now onto your reel: You might not have one at this point and you should probably put a few small things together. Write a scene of a teacher talking to her troubled student's parents. Film it. Write a scene of a woman on a terrible blind date. --Write whatever the heck you want! But your reel is going to be where we don't point out the chair. You don't hide it, no no. Make sure it's visible and obvious, but don't have your or any character mention it's new or unexpected. You're a teacher or a mom or on a bad date and your character happens to have a wheelchair, and I think that's going to be the majority of roles you book when you start out: co-stars and guest stars where casting says, "An actor with a wheelchair is another option."

There are, of course, going to be roles where casting will want an actress who really is in a wheelchair but those roles will be few and far between and you know this. But like I said, I think you'll be going out for a lot of roles that aren't specifically written for a disabled actress, which is kind of awesome. Be a good actress first and foremost, and the rest will fall into place.

Good luck!


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Your Friends Can Manage You

Struggling Actors and Actresses have to constantly reevaluate their skills and acting level and figure out what the next step is. Is it marketing? Taking new classes? Getting a new image?

You know what's hard? Going into ourselves and figuring all that stuff out. You know what's super easy? Asking your actor friends what you should do next. Shatera wrote me a very long backstory that all came down to two questions that I underlined below:
I’m kind of stuck in the “My career doesn’t have a 1, 2, 3 step path and I’m confused” mode. I lose focus because I don’t know where to go or what to do and in which beneficial order to do it. 
Here is my plan thus far:

-Find out what my type is, my brand, how to work my business which is me (I’m considering buying “The Savvy Actors Career Manual”, any advice/reviews on that?)
[Everyone is welcome to use the Google Search Bar I installed on the right sidebar. I HAVE written about The Savvy Actors Career Manual. -Lira]
-Get headshots that reflect my type
-Submit, submit, submit (I’m submitting to both tv/film and theatre opps, I want my union cards!)
-Take acting classes to grow and network
-Get a job that allows me the flexibility to audition while still working and saving (SCORE! But it wasn’t easy)

Last December I started freelancing with an agent in NY (I live in DC btw) and have auditioned for one feature film and I’m sure she’s submitting me (I trust her) I just haven’t been auditioning a lot through her or booking. Though I have an agent, I know that at the end of the day I AM MY OWN AGENT until my career gets to the level where I don't need to be. So I have gotten a lot of auditions on my own but I am very thankful for the agent in NY also working on my behalf.
My goal once I moved back from LA last year (long story short, it wasn’t my time to be there just yet) was to make a name for myself here in DC (stay here no longer than 1.5 years) then make the move to NY with the credits and experience (oh and money) I build.
I’m a singer actress with major film and tv dreams and NY is a better market for me and my type right now (I’m African American female, mezzo soprano belt, big curly natural hair, average height, curvy but thin build). My problem is that I’ve been auditioning but I haven’t booked. I’m still doing theatre because I once watched a forum where Denzel Washington was speaking and his advice to actors who want to be film stars was “Do theatre. Theatre will lead you into film. Do theatre.” Literally.
I figure since I have a theatre background (BFA Theatre Performance) and I am usually cast in theatre shows here in DC, I should work what I’m good at and perfect what I want to do (film, tv, commercial auditioning) by taking classes and auditioning for them when they come my way. I am pleased with how far I’ve come and the connections I’ve made since my move back from LA, I know it was the right choice for me in my journey thus far, I just wanted to ask you, from the information given, does my plan seem realistic? Is there anything else I could be and/or should be doing?
The only thing I can think of doing that I'm not doing enough of is taking classes. I’m a good writer but I’m not really interested in writing or doing anything outside of performing. It’s what makes me happiest, everything else always just feels like busy work…

[Everyone, please check out Shatera's website and see if you agree with me. If you can think of other things she can also do, please comment and let her know!]

Oh, Shatera, How I feel you! How Everyone feels you! You're right, there is no 1, 2, 3 step path and the worst part of it is: There will never be one. You will never get to follow any steps in any order that makes sense because it all varies from person to person.

I went to your website, and although you describe yourself as having big, curly natural hair (hey girl!) the headshot on your home page is you with your hair straight. Go ahead and nix that one. It's not you.

I'm not a fan of most of your headshots, and I don't blame you; I blame the photographer. It's pretty clear s/he is not a competitive LA headshot photographer and your photog didn't know how to pose you or frame a good shot. Also, you need to wear makeup so we can see the dimensions in your face. Your natural lip color doesn't pop against your skin. Hire a makeup artist next time. I think your pictures are definitely the reason why you're not getting more work through your agent. They're not competitive with the NY market. I googled Best NYC headshot photographers and look at what I got. Do you see the difference between the photos that pop there and how yours don't grab one's attention? Get new ones.

Women our age only really have two types to choose from for film/tv: Leading Lady or Best Friend. You have unconventional beauty, so you're the best friend. Easy, right? Half your work is already done for you. For the stage, though, you are everything you think you can play! (God, I miss the stage.)

And Shatera, don't do theatre because Denzel said you should. Do theatre because you effing love it. I know you know this. Still.

I heard you sing: Amazing voice. I think you should have a commercial jingles demo reel so you can also make money that way. http://www.edgestudio.com/archive/jingles-and-singing-how-do-i-get

But your main question: does your plan seem realistic? I don't know. I don't know the NY/DC market. I don't know anything there. The only thing I can do is offer suggestions. Suggestions from a fellow struggling actress! Ah, life.

The better question: Is there anything else you can be doing? Always!

Yes to taking classes. But not just acting/singing/dance classes. Take any and all classes. That's right, Shatera, TAKE ALL THE CLASSES! You'll get to meet fun, new people and once you make more friends, your world will open up. Someone in your vegan cooking class could have an aunt who's a talent manager looking for a legit actress with an amazing range. Plus, now you know how to cook a bunch of vegan things.

Keep uploading singing videos, but in ALL singing genres. Find a new song you love, buy the karaoke version and upload it. Make musician friends. Take a Justin Bieber pop song and turn it into a sultry jazz cover. Build Youtube followers and fans. Keep stretching yourself as a musical artist. Singing is your thing. SING. EVERY DAY. Do a new video once a week.

Learn accents. I love love love your look. Learn Jamaican, learn Dominican, learn Senegalese. You have a good ear for music and accents are just spoken music, right? I bet you'll pick them up super fast.

You say all the other stuff outside of performing feels like busy work. That's because IT IS. Are you postcarding and emaling and updating your website? You need to be. Get on people's radars.

And finally, if you're in a rut, ask your friends what else you can be doing. They will always have an answer.

Good luck!


PS: Have you thought of dropping your last name? Shatera is badass. Maybe your singing persona is just 'Shatera'? Ask your friends their opinion.