Coagulation

I haven’t written for a while.  At first it was a break because I was in the middle of shooting the web series I’m producing.  Then the holidays rushed in to take my attention with all the shopping, wrapping and requisite joy.  Once that subsided, I kept thinking I needed to get back to writing but never did.  So I figured I really didn’t have anything to say.  I would write when something came to me, but it never did.  I gave up trying to force it.

Three nights ago, I was researching insurance companies because I need to find health insurance.  This has been going on for several weeks as it is such an overwhelming process and I kept putting it off.  Going through it makes me long for the days when I was a corporate employee and I had to just pick from 2 choices that were clearly identified -HMO or PPO.  It’s enough to almost go back to the 9-5 grind…almost.  Anywho, this research extended well into the next day.  It was so complicated that I kept getting frustrated, stopping and turning to web surfing, email, TV, anything to get my mind off this monumental task. I kept having to pull myself back to the task at hand.   Which didn’t make my focus or my progress very good.  Finally by early evening, I had narrowed down my choices on 3 different providers and sent off a note to my insurance broker with my selections and a some questions for her.

Then a funny thing happened.  I truly felt a physical sense of relief.  I relaxed.  As I moved the now 2 inch file off my desk, I could feel my brain shifting.  For the first time in a long time, I felt like writing.  So I did.  And not just one post but two with ideas for 2 more.  And I started thinking of ideas I’d like to either produce, write or act in.  The creative juices started flowing again…finally!  I didn’t realize it at first, but when I noticed what I was working on, it hit me that I’d been so stressed about this insurance thing that it had stunted all my thinking.  The very nature of this insurance project and the fact that I’d put it off for so long, had taken all my energy away from everything I love to do.  My brain was just existing, it wasn’t thriving.  Creativity had slowed to a halt, and the insurance stuff had coagulated my imagination.

I’m not through this process yet.  And it’s an awful process.  But you better believe I’m going to attack the next step much faster and with less agita.  Peeling the bandaid off slowly just extends the pain.  Better to rip it off, feel the momentary ouch and move on.

Security in Silence

No I’m not referring to the fact that it’s been such a long time since I’ve posted anything.  That is for another day.  This phrase came to me in a wonderful note from a friend, Jenna Johnson, who’s moved to LA and is trying to make a go of it there.  She meant it differently than I’m using it here but the the phrase was powerful enough to stand out on it’s own.

Finding the security in silence isn’t an easy thing to do.  So often as talent, creatives and simply human beings, we are very uncomfortable with silence.  How many times have we experienced the awkward silence in a conversation?  Or when someone falls silent, rushed to fill a perceived void with meaningless words that sometimes end up doing more harm than good?  Or when you think that nothing is happening in a situation, tried to make something, anything happen by forcing an action?

We are not comfortable with silence, especially in today’s world.  There is so much stimulation visually and aurally that this has become the norm and silence is almost abnormal.  I’ve really tried to make an effort to embrace silence when I work from home so I can let flow what needs to flow without the scattered focus interruptions these noises bring.  But it’s a never-ending battle against a very strong tide.

The even more difficult silence to handle is when you feel there is silence in your career.  You haven’t had an audition in weeks so you must be blackballed at the casting office.  Or your agent is on the verge of dropping you.  You haven’t done a voiceover in you don’t know how long so obviously your voice isn’t hirable.  You had no response to your latest marketing campaign so that was a big waste of time and money.  What you don’t know is what is happening in the silence.  What is transpiring behind the scenes in the big picture of things.  Trusting the silence, being secure in the knowledge that no news may really be good news, that you have planted and are are continuing to plant seeds of success is not easy.  It’s takes a lot of faith, trust and discipline to not try to make something, anything happen because of course that’s the only way progress is measured right?  Visible action must mean progress.  Not always.  Sometimes there’s plenty of action going on, you just can’t see it.  Just know that it’s there and find security in the silence.

Paying It Forward

Several days ago I mentioned an encounter with an actor who is consistently working in film and television in Los Angeles.  I found myself in the same elevator so the poor man had no choice but to endure my conversation.  At the time I didn’t realize who he was as I wasn’t the target demo for the shows he’s previously been on, I thought he was a sports anchor on a station I’d previously sold.  Anywho, he most graciously put up with my request to pick his brain and answered my questions for about an hour and a half.  The topics were all over the board from what he felt when a series was cancelled to are there any normal people in Hollywood and how do you tell if they like you for you and not for what you can do for them?  It was truly one of most seminal moments in my career to date.  The information he shared, the inside tips and the encouragement were early Christmas presents delivered at a time when I needed to receive them.  I had a smile on my face the remainder of the day that no lack of sleep from a red-eye flight could erase.

I don’t know if someone had done this for him early in his career or if he was just in a good mood and felt like talking.  I’m sure when he left to catch his plane back to LA he had no idea of the impact he’d left on me and of the ripple effect his words would produce.  I’m sure once he hit the terminal floor our encounter was forgotten as he moved into getting home mode. But I didn’t forget and I won’t forget.  I’ll think back to that conversation many times over the next weeks and months as I go forward.  And that’s the way it should be.  There is a saying that when the student is ready the teacher will appear.  I learned many lessons that early morning and am most grateful for the generosity and kindness shown to me by a fellow actor.  It was pretty amazing.

Staying Enthused

I’m in the middle of a big project.  One that has been in the writing and planning stages for several months now.  It’s a web series called Mags N Mel that I’ve co-written with Maritza Cabrera and we are co-producing and starring in it.  It’s been a lot of work to get to this point and now we are halfway through shooting all the episodes.  A feeling I used to feel when I was doing a play is starting to come over me and I’m a bit surprised at it’s appearance.

When you are planning something big there is a lot of excitement and enthusiasm leading up to the commencement of it.  Months of planning, writing, rehearsing, what ifs and how abouts.  All leading up to that first day or first performance or first launch.  There’s so much energy in the air, you can feel it.  Then you start and that feeling carries you through the first day or so.  And then you realize, this is going to be a grind.  More so that I thought it would be.  And that feeling always surprises me because I don’t expect it.  It’s happened midway through the run of a play, when my closet contents are spread all over the floor and when I’ve commenced a complicated craft project.  That’s when the “ugh” factor kicks in and it’s not fun anymore.  It’s work.  I thought it was going to be fun!

We started this project for various reasons, to get ourselves in the Screen Actors Guild, put ourselves and our friends to work, create content and put our writing skills to use.  All of these objectives have been accomplished but the project isn’t finished yet.  Finding the enthusiasm and the drive not to mention the money to finish what I’ve started isn’t going to be easy but finishing it will be so rewarding.  This is usually when I wish I had Samantha Stevens bewitching nose to just twinkle it into completion!

The Truth Will Set You Free

Recently I wrote a post that was inspired by another blog written by Seth Godin.  In it, I was pretty harsh with my self criticism and received quite a bit of feedback saying I was too hard on myself and I should look at all I’d accomplished so far.  I was surprised at the reaction and wondered if I indeed had been too hard on myself.

I don’t think so and here’s why.  Humans are wonderfully able to fool themselves into thinking they are thinner than they really are, more wealthy than their bank accounts would reveal, are smarter than all others and work harder than anyone else around them.  We’ve all run into people who make you shake your head in their total lack of self awareness and the ensuing “Are they for real?!!”  All too often we fool ourselves into a reality that isn’t based in any truth.  And when you work for yourself and don’t have a boss or a spouse or some other accountability person giving us the stink eye when we say we’ve been working really hard, being brutally self honest is extremely important.  Let’s face it, no one cares about you or your projects more than you.  Ok maybe your Mom does but in her eyes she thinks you do no wrong.  Assessing your progress with honesty allows you to move forward with renewed purpose and vigor.

So I’m ok with what I wrote.  Just so you know, I’m firmly in the altered reality with regards to my weight but one reality check at a time please!

Just go

Serendipity is a pretty amazing thing.  Be it chance or luck or karma or the universe putting opportunities in your path, when it happens, it’s really cool.  I was traveling recently and had a layover from a red eye flight in Dallas.  Prevailing winds were so strong eastbound that we landed 25 minutes earlier than scheduled and I think we were the first flight into DFW that day.  I had a several hour layover so I headed to the lounge to freshen up, grab some refreshments and check my email.  Most airport lounges offer free wifi which is an awesome perk.  We were so early to arrive that the lounge still had a half an hour before it opened.  When the doors finally swung open, there were quite a few of us rushing them and the elevators were full with each trip.  I happened to notice the suitcase of one of my fellow stuffed in people.  It was from a now defunct network that was affiliated with several stations I used to sell.  I commented to the owner how much I missed that network and asked what station he was with.  He replied “no station” and I continued to babble on thinking all the while he looked like a sports guy I must have seen on a promotional piece somewhere.  So I then asked him if he was with the network and he replied no, he was on a show for them.  The elevator doors then opened, mind you all this happened in a 1 floor lift ride and we dispersed into the club.  Me to freshen up and him to parts unknown.

As I was de-stinking all my parts, I was thinking about the interchange that had just happened and what to do about it.  I’ve had several opportunities recently where I’ve been in the same place as a person of note but either because of nerves or shyness or respect for their privacy haven’t taken advantage of them.  And I’ve kicked myself each time.  So I wasn’t about to let this opportunity pass me by.  I left the bathroom and commenced my search for this person.  I soon found him relaxing with a cup of coffee and approached saying “can I pick your brain?  Feel free to tell me to go pound sand but I’m an actress and I’d love to hear your story.”  And he most graciously said sure and put up with my questions for the next 90 minutes.

So this guy has had quite a bit of success in his professional life.  Call it luck, call it earned, call it whatever you want but one of the nuggets he shared in a bucketful of nuggets is something his Dad said to do and that was to just go.  I think the puzzled expression on my face spoke volumes so he elaborated.  Even if it’s a job where you don’t think it’s right for you, or the character is someone you don’t connect with or the pay may not be what you’re used to, just go, do your best as you never know what may come of that opportunity.  Resist the urge to say “nah” but instead jump at the chance to work.  There may be people at that gig that will hire you, finance your next project or recommend you for something.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said “nah” in the past.  But in the future, I’ll be saying “yah” a lot more!

The Whole Pie

By now you’ve ascertained that I’m a bit of a documentary geek.  It’s something I’ve acquired late in life.  Years ago, you wouldn’t catch me alive watching a program I could actually learn something from.  Well, with the exception of the Jacques Cousteau films.  They were always pretty cool to watch and it didn’t seem like I was larnin’ anything.

Fast forward to present day and my aversion to docs has disappeared.  I happened to catch one a few weeks ago that really caught my interest.  It was about the career of Billie Jean King.  I’m old enough to remember the primetime Battle of the Sexes with Billie Jean and Bobbie Riggs.  Tennis was exploding at that time.  Both of my parents had picked it up, although my Dad soon abandoned it for his beloved golf.  My Mom was played regularly even through her pregnancy with my brother until a hyper-extended knee put an end to that.  All of us kids were in a junior league.  Me, less enthusiastically than the other.  That court was HUGE and you had to run around it.  Meh.

Anywho, Billie Jean’s rise in the ranks and the public consciousness came at a very interesting time for women.  She was the first person to kind of challenge the idea that women’s tennis was very ladylike.   Heck that women’s sports weren’t a serious endeavor.  This was several years before Title IX came into play and women in sports were an afterthought to the “real” sports.  Read “men’s” sports.

In the doc, she talks about the match and the significance it held.  All of this was lost to me at that time.  I was old enough to be aware of it but really didn’t understand the significance.  So all this backstory information was fascinating.  The film did a great job of framing how things were for female athletes in those days.  What I didn’t know was there was a previous match with Riggs and Margaret Court whom he roundly beat thus forcing Billie Jean to step up after she’d already said no to the match the first time.

Her drive and ambition to be successful and elevate women and women’s sports against tide of “not gonna happen here” mentalities is truly inspiring.  One thing she said during the film was “girls were taught to be satisfied with the crumbs men gave them.  I wasn’t happy with that.  I wanted the whole pie”

Hmmm.  The whole pie.  Sounds pretty good.  I’ll have that as well.

A Well Deserved Kick in the Rear

Seth Godin’s blog is something I read every day and have mentioned to here several times.  I have to say this guy’s writing is so on the mark.  He makes very relevant points more often than not and puts out an incredibly consistent amount of good content.  The consistent part is what I truly admire.

Today’s post was another home run.  He talks about the world’s worst boss.  And he’s telling me to point the finger right back at myself.  When I did, I didn’t like what I saw.  After reviewing my work this past week, I think I would have fired me, or at least put me on probation.  My organization, time management, productivity and employee (me) development was mediocre at best.  The only thing I have going for me is the amount of hours I put in.  But many of those hours were spent cruising websites and tracking down obscure info that really couldn’t be mistaken for revenue producing activity.  When I was managing, I would look very hard at my employees when they were goofing off for long periods of time.  Sure there were times that we were slower than molasses and this helped balance the crazier-than-a-loon’s-nest times.  And I am not inhuman enough to recognize the need to unwind a bit after an intense amount of activity.

But, I can honestly say I haven’t had that insane amount of activity lately, certainly not on a consistent basis.  I haven’t really earned the right to goof off as much as I’ve been allowing myself to.  My lack of planning my day has left me to flit from activity to activity in a very unfocused way with the results being haphazard at best.  To be fair, I have launched a major project that has taken much of my time and attention these past few weeks.  I’m starring in and co-producing a web series called Mags N Mel.  It’s my first time producing anything and it’s been overwhelming with all the details to take care of.  But we are only shooting 1 day a week over several weeks which is a very manageable shoot schedule.  Although I’m not getting paid (cheap producers!), this is an important project in that it has made me eligible to join the Screen Actor’s Union.

What I haven’t been focusing on are projects and auditions that will directly result in generating revenue.  And I knew what I was doing.  I wasn’t being honest with myself and calling a spade a spade.

So now that I know what I’m doing, the real key is to not continue the behavior.  They say the first step to recovery is to recognize the bad behavior.  The bigger second step is to not repeat the behavior expecting a different result.  That’s the difficult part.  First I have to get this big boot out of my rear though.

A quivering vulnerable mess

Several weeks ago I wrote a post that I thought long and hard about publishing.  It was about the difficulties I was unexpectedly having with a transition I’d made quite a while ago.  The reason I hesitated to publish it was I laid myself pretty bare, exposing a vulnerable side I usually lock away in a deep dark secret place where no one can see it.  I sat on the post for quite a while wondering what to do.  That of itself is unusual because once I write something, I’m pretty sure about what I’ve written.  I just proofread it, miss all the spelling, punctuation and syntax errors, hit publish and never think about it again.  Until someone points out all the spelling, punctuation and syntax errors.

This time was different.  I was really shaken by the whole insurance thing and the anxiety it had brought on me.  I didn’t know if I wanted to let the world know how I’d been affected.  But once I stopped making it all about me and how I felt (never any easy thing to do because deep in my recesses I think it should always be about me) I realized that I may not be the only one going through an experience like mine.  There might be others out  there who were feeling the same way I did and having the same anxieties.

So I hit publish.  And waited nervously for my 4 readers to comment on what they saw.  A wonderful thing happened, I got only encouragement and support for the post.   It was very heartwarming to say the least.  I’m glad I took a chance and shined (wrong tense I know…shined?, showned, sheened?) a little light on the quivering mass of fear that is my vulnerability.  People can be pretty wonderful if you just let them.

 

A Starbucks with no coffee

I know, sounds a bit ridiculous doesn’t it?  But that’s what happens when you don’t give yourself the tools to properly market yourself in your chosen profession.  Not too long ago, I had the opportunity to intern at a local casting office.  This is a very busy casting office with sometimes several different sessions going on all at once.  Working in the room was great but I also really liked working at the front desk.  I like greeting everyone, telling them which waiting room to head to and then shushing them when they got too chatty and loud.  Right up my “I’m the boss/big sister/know-it-all” alley.  When a talent would come in to audition, they present their headshot with a resume of previous work attached to the front desk so we could attach an info sheet for that particular casting.  I was continually amazed at how many experienced working actors would come in without a headshot, or the picture was in black and white still (meaning it was at least 5-6 years old) or they were bald and the photo clearly has hair.

Voice Talent does the same thing.  They sit on a demo that was produced back in the mid 90’s with a style that clearly is no longer current.  They don’t have a website.  They don’t promote or market themselves to those that can hire.

To me, this is tantamount to going into a Starbucks and being told they don’t have any coffee.  Really?  This is what you do for a living people.  Get the beans.  Grind the grounds.  Foam the foam.  Overcharge me.  Ok that last one wasn’t really relevant but I couldn’t resist.  Just so Starbucks doesn’t feel as if I’m picking on them, it’s as if McDonald’s didn’t have any burgers or the pretty Apple store with no overpriced Macs.  There I go again.

Having the proper tools, up to date and relevant to today’s work and world is a basic responsibility of a talent.  It’s hard enough to get hired, why make it harder on yourself by using old materials.  Do yourself a favor, lose the 10 pounds, think about the image you want to portray and get thee to a photographer.  Or not.  But no griping when there are no calls or coffee for you.