Fruits of Labor

A green thumb is something I think I have.  Not the most prolific green thumb but more things live under my care than die.  But I’ve always been challenged when it comes to growing tomatoes.  I have enough sun on top of my deck as it sits on the roof so that’s not an issue.  I’ve tried for years to grow tomatoes to no avail.   They grow in the pots but never really bear fruit.  Last year I started them too late in the season as I’d been traveling throughout the month of June so they didn’t get planted until July.  Not enough growing time as our summer is short enough to begin with.  Add to that the lateness of the planting and you get whole lotta nuttin’.  This year however, I planted in late May.  Instead of pots I used the Topsy-Turvy you see advertised on TV.  Well actually I’m doing an experiment, one plant is in a pot and a duplicate is in the Topsy-Turvy.  This way I can see if their television claims really do hold up.  So far, the Topsy is winning.  I also planted one with cucumbers and one with red peppers.  They seem to be flourishing as well.

The other evening I was grilling my  dinner and I thought I’d check to see if any of the red tomatoes were ready to be picked.  Lo and behold, 2 were.  They weren’t big by any stretch, about the size of large racquetballs, but boy were they good.  I was so excited to finally be tasting my tomatoes, the ones I’d grown and watered every day religiously and almost even burned out with too much fertilizer.  After all if some fertilizer was good, lots should be ever better right?  Maybe I should go back and read that children’s book by Helen Palmer called A Fish Out Of Water, just so I actually learn the lesson she’s teaching.  But they survived my efforts and I am starting to enjoy them.

I thought about this when 2 things happened the next day.  I got a call from something I’d submitted to over 2 months ago and had completely forgotten about.  Delightful lady.  She wanted to talk further and have me do some more specific auditioning for her.   Turns out we might actually do some business together.  Then later I received an email from another piece of business I’d submitted on over a month ago with some additional information and a request for a more refined bid.  I didn’t get the job but both of these contacts were from submissions I’d done weeks ago that I’d long forgotten.  Made me realize the work I’m doing today may not bear fruit for quite a while.  Gave me the energy to pick up the phone and continue cold calling.  Who knows what’s germinating out there?  I’ve got more tomatoes on the vine ripening every day.

Remember to Play

The majority of what we do as actors and voiceovers, I would say probably 90% of the time, is look for work.  Seriously.  Even those that are in successful shows are looking for their next gig.  At last year’s Emmy’s, Kristin Chenoweth, who won for outstanding supporting actress in a comedy for the recently canceled Pushing Daisies, commented in her acceptance speech that she was once again looking for work so if anyone had anything, please call her .  The woman had just won an Emmy and she needed a job.  WOW.  How’s that’s for a reality check?!!

Because so much of our time is spent looking for work, we rarely get to do the work which is why we got in the business in the first place!  Our days are filled with cold calling, auditioning, connecting, marketing, and hardly ever with acting and performing.  Which is why a recent exercise I did was so important to me.  I think I’ve mentioned before that a group of like minded Voiceovers are banding together and organizing an unconference called Faffcon.  The name is a made up name derived from the British term faffing about which means goofing off.  An unconference is a meeting which is unstructured in that you don’t have a speaker droning on from a podium or a dais and you are sitting in a darkened auditorium and your only participation is passive.  Instead it is a collaborative meeting with everyone as a presenter.  Anywho, one of the multitalented members of the group, Peter O’Connell, was putting together a video to help potential attendees understand what Faffcon was all about.  He sent out a script and asked whomever was interested in participating to record themselves on a video camera doing the script.  Well this got my little noggin all stirred up with excitement.  Instead of doing the 3 takes of each line so Peter could cull the best for video, I chose to record several characters that happened to take roost in my brain.  I did the lighting, the sound, the costuming, make-up, and of course the acting in each one.  And let me tell you, I had a blast doing it.  I almost didn’t send Peter the takes because I was all in my head thinking about were they stupid or embarrassing but in the end, I sent them off with a smile.  Acting is about taking chances.

I needed to be reminded of how much fun it is to do what I do for a living.  I am so fortunate that I am able to play for my job.  I just need to remember to do more of the play while I’m doing all of the other stuff that has to happen so I can play more.

A Clarification from Mr. Franklin

Ben Franklin was a man of many wise saying that still have relevancy today.  You know, “A penny saved is a penny earned”, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”, “He that is good at making excuses is seldom good for making anything else” and of course every hostesses favorite “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after 3 days”.  One of my favorites is “Never confuse motion with action”.  This one has really resonated with me, especially recently and has led to a slight change in how I’ve been evaluating opportunities.  I’m a big proponent of taking workshops and classes even if I’ve had to travel to take them.  Let’s just say I’ve never met a workshop I didn’t turn down.  I’m not that bad about it but I do take a lot of them.  I do believe there is something to be learned from any situation and of course there are contacts to be made.  I am pretty choosy about who I take classes from so I’ve been able to avoid most of the shysters that prey on the acting and voiceover community.

Recently though, my thought has turned away from learning and more towards doing.  I realized that all this traveling to take workshops really threw a monkey wrench in my schedule.  There was a gearing down and gearing up time that took energy and attention away from my progress.  And because I was out of the studio and wasn’t in town, it was affecting my ability to audition both on the mic and on camera.  I realized that while I was learning from each opportunity, what I was giving up wasn’t being paid back in kind.  I was confusing motion with actually taking action and making progress.

As a result of this, I’ve said no to several recent workshop opportunities.  I realized I needed to practice what I’d learned at all the other ones I’ve taken.  So my suitcase remains in the closet.  I’ll be attending workshops again in the future but for the time being, I’ve got my feet planted right here at home and I’m no longer confusing motion with action.  Besides, the heat finally broke and it’s heavenly here.

Transforming

Transformers 3 is filming in Chicago at the moment.  It’s a really big deal because they’re going to be here for about 7 weeks and they’re putting a lot of industry people to work during that time.  They’ve really taken over the city and they’ve infused an unmistakeable excitement all over town.  Not just the tourists are getting excited.  Even the hard calloused natives are enjoying the ooh and aah factor of it all, even if only because it gives them something new to be snarky about.  The stuff these guys are doing and the stunts they are co-ordinating is rarely if never seen in these parts.  Explosions, base jumpers, helicopters, real ammo (albeit loaded with squibs), cars and buses on fire or flipping upside down.  And they aren’t relegated to the hinterlands of the city.  All this is happening downtown at the intersection of Michigan and Wacker right along the river.

A few days ago, I wandered into where they were storing the cars in their non-Autobot state.  It wasn’t long before I was hustled out of the area by a young, but well meaning production assistant.  Seems I wasn’t supposed to be there.  Imagine that!  I was curious about the PA, how he got the job, was he local, how many days he’d worked, how long were his days.  Turns out he was local, this was his 7th day on the set and the longest day he’d worked was about 15 hours.  Most of the days were well over 12 hours as the locations they had were high traffic areas that couldn’t be shut down for long so the crew needed to maximize the time they had.  I spent about 45 minutes asking him all kinds of questions which is something I can’t help but do.  I’m a question gal.  He was a student at a local college studying film and wanted to worked in production design which sets up all the non human parts of a film.  Even on a 90 degree day when the closest he was getting to where everything was blowing up was standing 500 feet away guarding cars under tarps and answering the same silly questions from throngs of tourists, his enthusiasm for his job and the chance to be part of this production was palpable.

I have no doubt this guy will one day be working in production design.  And even when blowing stuff up becomes an everyday occurrence, he’ll still get excited about doing it because that’s the great thing about working in this business.  We get to do things everyday that people only dream about or see on a screen.  What’s not to love about this business?

Getting Unstuck

I’ve been working out recently with one of the DVD programs you usually see advertised on TV late at night.  It’s a pretty good workout with enough variety to keep me going to the next day.  One day I’m working a muscle group, the next I’m doing some form of cardio workout.  I feel good after each workout and I like all the workouts.  Except for this one workout.  It’s 50% longer than all the others and I really don’t enjoy doing it.  It’s a Yoga workout and while I usually like Yoga, I really don’t like this one.  I struggle with the moves, holding the poses and the overall length of the workout itself.  I find every excuse I can to not do this workout.  Which throws off my daily routine of trying to get a workout in every day.  I abhor this workout so much, it has completely derailed the good momentum I had going about a month ago.

I’ve noticed this happens in other areas of my life as well.  If I can’t seem to get a blog post written the way I want it sound, I’ll let my writing languish for days.  I let it stop me from my goal of trying to write everyday.  Or if I am craving a certain usually off limit food or type of food, I’ll eat all the way around the food, most likely adding WAY more calories than if I just ate the dang thing in a moderate portion size.  Or even if I’m having difficulty reaching a contact I really want to do business with, all other cold calling stops until I reach that contact.  Instead of replacing the ickey workout with one of the multitude of others available in the DVD set, or starting a completely new blog post, or eating the craved food, or putting aside the elusive contact, my stubbornness and narrow-mindedness allows these situations to take control of otherwise good progress.

No more.  Tomorrow I start fresh resuming my walk/run.  I’ll get to the DVD’s on Monday when it’s supposed to be over 90 again.  And the elusive contact goes to the bottom of the contact list bumping up every other prospect higher in the list.  And the troublesome blog post gets saved as a draft, perhaps never to see the light of day.  Instead I published this one.  You’re not the boss of me frustrating situations.  So there.

The American Idol Effect

American Idol is a show I’ve never really followed.  Sure I’m aware of the show, the participants and the judges.  The qualifying shows have provided a few moments of laughter but once it gets into the actual competition, my channel changer goes into action.  My niece however is a huge fan.  She watches the show religiously and loves singing along with the contestants.  I have a picture she colored for me that shows last seasons winner with the 4 judges on stage.  She’s going to be crushed when the show goes off the air.

When I was visiting her house the other night, she wanted to sing me a song she learned from the show.  And she did a great job with all the words.  I was amazed.  But she threw in a twist I hadn’t expected.  It seems she’d been not just learning the songs but studying the mannerisms of the singers as well.  As she started singing, her facial expressions and vocalization became something other than her normal manner.  In her quest to be like the stars she emulated, she’d lost the essence that was her unique voice and her wonderful personality.

Talk about a 2 X 4 between the eyes.  Standing in front of me was someone doing the exact same thing I’d done  to my voice.  Watching my niece sing was like watching myself in a mirror trying to find my vocal placement.  I really wanted to sound like the sultry voices I was hearing and in pursuing this goal, completely messed up my unique voice.  I really wanted to get my niece to understand this but she couldn’t wrap her brain around the idea.  She just saw the people she admired and thought if she mimicked them, she would be successful like them.

Hopefully this is just a stage for my niece.  She’ll find something else that will pique her interest and she’ll goes back to her awesomeness.  Me, I’ve been trying to find my natural placement again.  I’m getting closer.  But I realize how many of us think that someone else’s way of doing something is so much better than our own natural way.  So there’s comfort in numbers but I’d rather be somewhere else.

The Art of Coloring

Recently I was able to do one of my favorite things in the world.  I got to spend some time with my nieces and nephews.  It’s always a blast and the energy just blows away any bad juju you have going on in your world.  I would never say dinner was a relaxing experience-more like a food triage system of trying to get nutrients into ever moving mouths and keeping butts in the seats.  But it is enormously entertaining.

After dinner one  nephew, who has recently discovered he likes coloring, brought out a huge Star Wars cartoon coloring book, you know the kind that is about 18 inches by 30 inches.  We had our choice between a box of markers, thankfully washable, and a bucket of crayons.  He and I started coloring together, mostly him, but soon his sister had to get in on the action and the attention (I have no idea where she gets that from) and I was nosed out of the picture, literally.  It was kind of hard to get my southpaw in to do any work with 2 kids sitting on my lap and the third one trying to climb up and join them.  There was much jostling for real estate between the two.  Eventually it settled down, the toddler moved off to another flight of fancy and I was able to get in a few strokes of color.  We were staying in the lines but the cool thing was we were also drawing new lines within the bigger spaces.  Colors weren’t locked into specific parts but instead were all over the board.  The big gloved hand had about 20 different colors and patterns on it.  He was promptly christened Rainbow Plo Koon.  It was beautiful in its own uniqueness.

Kids have such an amazing way of seeing things.  They don’t see the rules, the way we’ve always done something, the way it should be done or the logical progression of a picture.  They just put the color down without a thought and are quite happy with the result.  They enjoy the process of coloring and really don’t care about the outcome at all.  Auditioning and performance should be this way and it’s something I strive for every time I step in front of the camera or the mic.  Letting go of all the thoughts and the head drama seems like it would be an easy thing to accomplish but this isn’t always the case.  Next time I’ll thing of Mr. Rainbow, enjoy the process and not worry about the end result.