My Imagined Life

Recently I received a wonderful gift from a friend in celebration of my birthday.  I’d become closer to her recently and she surprised me with a beautiful silver bracelet.  On it is inscribed “Live the Life You’ve Imagined”.  The funny thing is I am living what I thought the life might be but I never gave myself the chance to imagine that I would be the one living this life.  I know that sounds confusing but stay with me on this.  I realized that with all the planning and edumacating and work I’d been doing, I never allowed myself the opportunity to think about what this life would look like, feel like and live like.  And because I didn’t do that imagining, I didn’t recognize that I was actually in the midst of living this life.  My days are filled with on camera auditions, rehearsals, film shoots, voiceover auditions, casting sessions, commercial shoots, recording sessions, to name a few.  And my day doesn’t end at 5pm like it used to when I was in corporate.  My time is very fluid so the evening can be a jammed packed as the day is.  I realized this recently when one day I had an early morning on camera audition, then was back home to do some Voiceover work and was able to slip a quick nap in, then I changed and prepped for the next on camera audition, returned home to do some research work I’d been hired to do and I ended my day directing a voicetalent on an e-learning session he was doing.  It wasn’t until someone pointed out to me what I’d done that day that I realized it was a day that most people in my new business would be thrilled to have.  Thank goodness I was forced to step back and take a longer look at how I was living my life.  Otherwise I would have continued in my days not taking note of how I was spending those days.

Taking a bit of time out of my day to imagine how I want to live the next few days is time well spent.  Without it, I won’t know I’m living the life I want and then what I want my life to look like at the next step.

Change your tomorrows

I’m a big Project Runway fan.  I’ve watched it for several years now, through both networks and the lawsuit that threatened it’s existence.  Some years are more interesting than others and some casts are more engaging than others.  This year has been an in and out year for me.  Thursday’s are especially fatiguing as I intern in a casting office that day.  So my TV watching isn’t very regular and I keep forgetting it’s on.  The cast this year has been not great, but above average.  The producers don’t cast the strongest designers, they want the most interesting mix of personalities that will make for the most gripping television.  After all, people want to see conflict not humming sewing machines.

One of the designers that really jumped out at me this year was Anthony Williams, an African American from Birmingham Alabama.  He made a statement on the first show that “it was hell being black and gay in the ghetto”.  And with that, he took my heart.  He is hilarious in his musings which were frequent and unsolicited.  Unfortunately he was eliminated last past week as his stylings had fallen into a rut and he was turning out the same dress in a different color.  As he stood alone on the runway waiting for Heidi to give him his auf wiedersein and his cheek kisses he once again left us with a classic.  He gracefully thanked the judges and said “this isn’t the last you’ve heard from me.  I still have breathe in my body to change my tomorrows.”   Indeed.  What a reminder that the path we are on can be altered at any moment if it no longer incites our passions.  And just because the Project Runway people deemed him no longer fitting for their competition didn’t mean he couldn’t continue being a designer any more.  He  didn’t take their dismissal of him as a death sentence of his designing career and now he must become something completely different.  He has it within himself to take what he’d learned, refine his process and tweak his direction.

At any point, a direction can be changed, an alteration made.  Nothing is written in stone, even if the overwhelming evidence makes it seem so.  You still have breath in your body, change your tomorrows.

Uncomfortable Changes

I have an ancient car.  Not quite a Model T but a pretty old one nonetheless.  It’s a 14 year old Geo Prizm with over 210000 miles on it.  You read that right.  I wanted to get a car to over 200000 miles and I reached that goal this past summer just outside of Memphis.  Oh and the car line doesn’t even exist anymore.  But my little gal keeps hanging on.  I had some extensive work done on it while on that road trip last summer, it helps to have a mechanic who’s a future brother in law, and she’s been running just great.  Just a few quirks, like I don’t really have any heat in it when I’m on the highway as the heat core is shot and needs to be replaced.  The part is pretty cheap but the labor is almost a grand.  And the back passenger window doesn’t roll down anymore.  And the check engine light is lit up again.  But she still gets me from point A to point B and she doesn’t look bad at all.  The paint is in great shape with no rust.  The body is dent free.  I did have an owie this past winter when a snow rut rolled me into the back end of an SUV with a trailer hitch that pushed out a bit of my bumper.  So she’s not without a blemish but overall she still looks great.

I know I’m waxing eloquently about a car, and not a very noteworthy one at that, but you have to understand something.  I’ve only ever owned 3 cars in all of my adult life, 4 if you count the 68 Chevy Nova I used to drive in high school that was really my parents car.  And this little car has a lot of memories connected to it.  I bought it with my Dad’s GM family discount so he’s still on the title.  And now that he’s gone, it’s still something that connects us.  And I used to cart the dogs back and forth to my parents house, first Lily by herself and then later we added Bailey to the trips when I shared custody of him with my parents.  I have many a memory of Lily in her cage on the passenger seat next to me checking in to see if this was going to be  a quick trip or one where she needed to settle in for the long haul.  When we got close to our destination, I’d let her out of her cage so she could sit on my lap and sniff out the window.  Her little paw on my leg as she emerged still makes me smile.  Bailey’s ear shattering bark from the back seat when he got bored or bladderful still makes me jump.  They’re both gone now as well but I am reminded of them frequently when I’m tooling around town.

The reason for all this reflection is I have the opportunity to purchase my Dad’s car, a 3 year old Camry in fantastic condition and kitted out to the extreme.  It’s a great opportunity and one I don’t want to pass up.  It’s just that I wasn’t ready to let go of my old car just yet.  Maybe I won’t.  Maybe I’ll just keep the old one and slowly make the transition.  I wasn’t given that choice with all these other losses.  I think I just need some time.  So I’ll take as long as I need to say goodbye.

Cinderella Story

It’s March Madness time again.  The selection show was just the other day and the hopes and dreams of many a small school were either rewarded or dashed.  Even though I grew up in roundball crazy Indiana before they totally wrecked the high school tournament by going to a class system (sorry-editorial comment), I really don’t watch much college basketball during the year.  My sport is the NFL.  But this time of year, I become a devotee of NCAA hoops.  There are 64 teams that on any given day can emerge as a giant killer.  Yes there are top seeds that are expected to do really well but as any bracket picker can tell you, there’s always a #12 seed that just slays a #5 seed and then goes on to win the next round.  The key is that #12 believes that they have every right to be there and why wouldn’t they win?  After their victory, they look around in confusion wondering at everyone else’s surprise.

Watching these teams win, and there is at least one every year, I’m constantly reminded of the overnight success phenomena.  The actor struggling just on the edge of success, the inventor tinkering in his basement every night.  Suddenly just the right conditions come together at just the right time and people start to notice what was in front of their eyes all along.  They just weren’t seeing it.  The anonymous actor/inventor/whatever is a bit flummoxed at all the attention because he/she hadn’t really changed what they were doing, the only difference was  their efforts were now getting noticed and applauded.  It’s the Cinderella story of Caddyshack fame.  Maybe I won’t make it to Augusta to play (although I’ve been there several times as a spectator), or to a final four in basketball, or even on stage at the Oscar’s, but I believe I have every right to be there and that’s going to carry me closer to achieving my dreams.

It’s in the hole.

Pay an Expert

I’ve been banging away at my voiceover career for several years now with moderate success.  When I was working full time, it was hard to commit to 2 different aspects-on camera and voiceover-of the same career.  Serving more than 2 masters isn’t easy so the VO was put somewhat on the back burner.  That all changed last May when I left the corporate world.  I could finally focus full time on VO.  Which also meant I had to be my own audio engineer a lot more.  I might as well have been splitting the atom for all I knew about being an audio engineer.  That didn’t stop me though.  I did some things with the equalizer and figured that should do the trick.  I blithely sent off audition after audition.  After a while I started wondering that the deal was.  I wasn’t getting hired off of these auditions.  Hmmm.  Maybe I needed to work more on my performance.  So I did.  And still nada.

Finally about a week ago I got some feedback from an agent that my auditions weren’t up to snuff.  I was devastated.  Maybe this wasn’t for me.  She sent one back to one of my VO coaches, Nancy Wolfson, for her opinion.  Nancy copied me on her response to the agent that while the performance was on target, this was most certainly not up to audio technical standards and I needed to get the help of an audio engineer STAT.  I was incredibly relieved.  This was fixable.  It wasn’t my performance, it was everything else.  I contacted George Whittam at Eldorec Studios who’s a great engineer and after he used this cool program to get into my computer, he tweaked a few of my settings and Voila!  I sound like I’m supposed to sound, not like a hamster on helium.  Instantly I went from not even being in the running to being finalists for several jobs.  Best money I’ve spent this year.  What a difference it made.

The moral of this story is when your business depends on something that you do not have any knowledge about, find an expert and pay them for their time to get you back on track doing whatever it is that you are an expert at.  You’ll be thankful you invested in your business that way.

Relentlessness

The other evening, due to a mixup on scheduling, the class I usually take was cancelled which allowed me to attend a meeting at the Chicago Film Actors Meetup group.  I haven’t been to one in a really long time so I was quite happy with the situation.  The forum for these meetings is usually chocabloc full of fantastic information for the Chicago actor and this evening was no exception.  They were interviewing owners and instructors from various acting schools around Chicago on their curriculum and philosophies.  One of the great things about this group-aside from the fast that it’s run by a very accomplished actress and organizer Grace McPhillips-is it’s adaptability and relevancy.  The forums aren’t set in stone so if something comes up that resonates with the group, that path can be followed.  On the other hand, she’s great at reining in rabbit hole discussions that lead to nowhere.  The question was asked by an audience member what is was that made an actors successful, was it training, networking, luck, voodoo offerings to the gods at midnight in a cold dark swamp?  Actors especially, are always looking for that secret key that will unlock everything for us.  The answer came back that those in this person’s mind who were successful, where those that were relentless.

That hit me like a 2X4 between the eyes.  I’d had a not so great couple of days that were filled with frustration and no signs of progress.  I wasn’t going to give up by any stretch of the imagination, but it gets pretty tough to keep moving forward when nothing seems to be going right.  Especially when you are going at it alone.  But moving forward is exactly what I need to do and the message came through loud and clear.  Relentless is exactly what I’m going to be.

Remember that school yard game where you linked arms with your mates and marched lockstep around the playground chanting “we don’t stop, get out of our way!”?  The nuns didn’t like us to play that game.  But that’s going to be me with my career.  Sorry Sister.

Flip Flops

This time of year, we start to go a bit batty because we’ve been stuck indoors for far too long staring at the same four walls and looking out the window at cement skies.  Chicago doesn’t really have a spring, we usually go from 40 degree weather to upper 70’s in about a weeks time.  The skies finally clear and we can see that the atmosphere is indeed blue above our heads, it’s just been covered up in permaclouds.  This usually happens in mid June.  Seriously.  Every once in a while we’ll get a sunny clear day with temps that are moderate but we just don’t have a spring to speak of here.

Anywho, last weekend we had one of those days that just teases our memories of how wonderful summers are here.  The skies cleared to absolute brilliant blue and the sun warmed the air to the low 40’s.  It was the first time this year we’d had some moderation.  Chicagoan’s tend to explode out of doors on a day like this and today was no exception.  I took advantage of it by strapping on my running shoes and getting back to my routine of last year.  I had lots to do around the office and house so by the time I finally left, it was 4pmish.  The sun was getting lower in the skies and because we still had significant snow on the ground, there was a definite chill in the air.  I wasn’t bundled as much as I would have liked (forgot my gloves!).  But I was determined to get this back on track so I pushed through.  Along my route, I passed not just one, but 3 people wearing flip flops.  One girl had on a down coat, hat, gloves, scarf and bare feet.  Now I know I’m showing my age when I shake my head in confusion over this but it happens every year and I can’t understand why.  If you are that cold you have to wear all that stuff, why wouldn’t you wear socks and shoes also?  It just doesn’t make sense.  Are you that desperate to expose your ghostly white, unpainted toes to a wind chill of 35 degrees?  Really?

I just don’t get it.  Maybe I’m too practical.  My feet are not any where near summer ready yet and quite frankly I can’t stand being cold.  If that’s what getting old is all about, well, I’m fine with that.  Now where did I put my bifocals?

Circular Reasoning

The other day I had to go to the Apple store to get a tweak done to the old gal.  I’ve had this laptop for coming up on 4 years and I love it.  I’ll be very sad when it dies and I’m hoping that won’t be for quite a while.  So anywho, while I’m there I said hi to my favorite Apple guy, Andrew, who sold me my first laptop almost 4 years ago.  Andrew and I always get in the best of conversations when I get to see him.  Which isn’t as often as they used to be as I’m not working downtown anymore.  The random topics we cover, once I get finished bugging him about when Apple was going to hook up with Verizon for the iPhone.   That’s just not happening fast enough for me.  But I digress.  On this particular day we were discussing word and number games, crosswords, suduko and the jumble.  Andrew does the jumble which I occasionally tackle but don’t relish it like he does.  He gave me a hint.  He said his grandmother taught him to look at letters in a circle, to write them that way so you can try letters on with each other until you find the ones that go together to make the word.  I thought this was a brilliant strategy.  Take out the linear in the letters and you’ll find the answer.  I’ve employed it many times over the past few days to much success.  I’m now enjoying the jumble a bit more.

This can be applied to so many aspects of life.  I, especially, have a tendency to find a way of doing something and thinking that’s the only way that task can be accomplished, that audition performed, that path followed.  Sometimes things do have a definite way of doing things, such as constructing a house or baking a cake.  But the key here is to shake up the thinking on things that I tend to put on auto pilot.  Not just the letters in a jumble but all aspects of my life and career.  I’m going to put many things in a circle as I look at it so I don’t get stuck in a linear rut.

Back to Basics

As you know I’m an actress as well as a voicetalent.  I very often audition outside of my home but I also have a fully equipped home studio where I audition and record jobs from.  This is a wonderful improvement as my commute used to be 25 minutes driving and then walking about 1800 steps each way to get ot my office.  Now I just walk about 17 steps to my studio.  This has wrecked havoc on my daily goal of walking 10000 steps for my health but I’ve adjusted by adding a run now that the weather has finally broken.

So my day is spent, when I am able, auditioning for various voiceover jobs from my home studio.  I record, edit and email them off to various places and hope that people like what they hearand hire me to voice their job.  I get my auditions from various places-a few agents, some online sites and from a coach of mine, Nancy Wolfson.  Once they are sent off, I don’t think about them again unless I am awarded the job.  Except this time.  Fortunately Nancy followed up with the submission and found out that while my performance was spot on, technically what I’d sent in wasn’t up to standards.  To a layperson, what this means is since I would be recording the job in my studio and then sending it off to the client, this technical failure would eliminate me from consideration as it wasn’t up to broadcast standards.

One of the things that has occurred in this transition is I’ve had to become a wearer of many hats.  One of those hats is I’ve had to learn all about is audio production.  And quite frankly, all I’ve mastered is how to turn the dang equipment on.  I’ve done some other things but it’s like trying to do surgery having only cut a steak.  I really shouldn’t be allowed to touch the equipment.  It’s too dangerous!  Fortunately my friend Bob took pity on me and gave me some settings that I could lock into my system and process my auditions using these settings.  I also put up some additional sound absorption panels in my studio which should help the overall sound in the room.  I think the problem has been reduced somewhat.  Time will tell.

I’ve been so concerned with my performance recently that I overlooked a very basic requirement.  One that can eliminate you right away but is so easily fixed.  Thank heavens Nancy followed up and forwarded to me what she learned.  Otherwise I’d still be sending out a good performance that no one could hear. Paying attention to details like this are so important and shouldn’t be taken for granted.  It’s back to audio 101 for me.

Let’s Hear It for the Girls

The Oscars aired last night.  I’m probably in the minority but I liked the telecast this particular evening.  I even liked to 2 co-hosts.  I think they did a good job of keeping it moving forward.  The idea of celebrating excellence in my chosen field is pretty amazing and something I aspire to.  This was a groundbreaking awards, not just because it ended pretty much on time, but because for the first time a woman Best Director was awarded and her film was awarded Best Picture.  For me, I was brought to tears by the acceptance speech of one of my idols, Sandra Bullock.  I am a huge admirer of her talent and her business acumen and to see her work rewarded finally was wonderful.  Her acceptance speech was one of the best I’ve heard in years-funny tidbits, gracious thanks and almost tears.  It brought me to tears.  I don’t think I would have been as composed as she was while accepting the highest creative honor awarded.  I would have been a blubbery mess.  But as she was thanking her mother, a very poignant moment, one of the things she said was how her mom made her practice every day when she came home from school, be it music, dancing, voice or whatever they were focused on that day.  What wonderful discipline was instilled in her very early in her life.  It obviously has paid off as her work has gotten so much better over the years.  And it was a reminder that I could use the same kind of discipline in my life as I strive to achieve the heights awarded last night.

I know it most likely sounds a bit far fetched, me getting an Oscar.  But one of my long term goals has been to walk the red carpet someday, and not on the other side of the velvet ropes, the skinny side, but on the big side that faces all the reporters.  And that means I’ve been nominated for something right?  Hey a girl can dream.  I gotta go practice now.