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.

Anniversaries

Today is an interesting anniversary for me.  It was one year ago today that I was laid off from my corporate job as a Sales Manager for a television commercial sales firm.  Even though I was planning to leave and had been saving for over a year for this leap of faith, I was still surprised.  I sat there with a grin on my face during the meeting because I couldn’t believe my plans were coming together.  I’m sure they thought I’d gone over the edge and had security on alert just in case.  It was a surreal experience.  Not because I wanted it to happen, but because it was happening at all.  Being a manager one of my responsibilities was to forecast the month and quarter ahead.  I’d been watching the numbers get smaller and smaller as the recession tightened it’s grip around the economy.  I thought the powers-that-be would merge us with another division and keep the strongest people.  Kind of like what happened when the NFL merged with the AFL.  Instead they chose to amputate us.  I don’t blame them.  Our amputation brought them back almost to breaking even.

The funny thing is, even though I wanted it to happen exactly the way it did, I still went through a depression afterwards.  It’s not easy being told you aren’t wanted anymore and that you as an employee aren’t valued.  It took me a while to break through that and move forward to my new life.  One of the best things I did was take a long driving trip through the south.  It was a physical and timing break, a perfect transition from one life to the next.

So here we are 1 year later and I can’t believe it’s been a year already.  I am living the life I envisioned for myself, a free lance creative life full of auditions and go-sees and bookings and voiceovers.  At this point I really can’t imagine going back to corporate.  Hitting this one year mark in important because if I were to go back to my former corporation within a year, I would go right back in as if I’d never left.  Back into the health plan, the 401K and the earned vacation.  I needed to hit this mark so there’s nothing for me to go back to.  Here’s to moving forward!

Green Eyed Monster

It’s not something I’m very proud of.  But I’ll admit it.  I suffer from the green eyed monster, Jealousy.  I know I’m supposed to strive to be better and to be happy for those who win.  My time will come if I’m just patient and hard working.  There’s enough work for everyone and all boats are raised when 1 boat is raised.  Yeah, right, whatever.  Sorry to disappoint, but I’m not that evolved.  The thing is my failures or non bookings keep getting rubbed in my face time and again.  The commercials, the films, the narrations, the TV shows I audition for end up on the air and I usually see or hear them.  Sometimes over and over.  It’s salt in the proverbial wound.  Or a friend takes the leap of faith and heads out to LA to make it happen for themselves and I’m reminded of my progresslessness-if that’s a word!

I get that everyone is on an individual path and timeline and mine doesn’t match theirs.  At least I get it intellectually.  That doesn’t mean the petulant child in me still doesn’t throw a tantrum more often than I care to admit.  That I don’t wallow in self pity on my couch with the remote control in hand and a bag of whatever food drug I’m using to numb my pain.  It just stinks that this is taking so long and there aren’t any surefire ways to make it happen.  So forgive the melt-down.  I’m due.  My goal is to spread out the meltdowns a little further apart from the last one I had.  Now that’s progress!

First time for everything

With every new venture we undertake in life, we learn new things.  And as our proficiency grows, we add new skills and new accomplishments.  As our competency grows, the confidence we gain allows us to push ourselves even further.  We hike a more challenging trail, tackle a plumbing problem, ski a black diamond trail.  Our first attempts at these loftier levels are pretty shaky at first but as we continue to push forward, our footing becomes firmer, more directed.  As the muscle starts to remember what we did before, the task becomes less conscious, more organic.

But you have to take the first step.  I did that recently.  I was given the opportunity to audition for a pilot for a comedy that is being put together out of Michigan.  It was my first pilot audition, heck my first television audition.  The script was pretty straightforward but because it was a comedy, the words were written very specifically so the comedy came out the way the writer wanted it to.  I have a not-so-good tendency to paraphrase and make things my own which doesn’t serve the script very well.  So it had to be memorized very specifically.  I had an idea of the character as I saw her but since I didn’t have the full script, I had to take some liberties.  I didn’t really know how to break down the script so I wisely hired a coach to help me accomplish that.  Which is what I would do if I were trying to tackle a mogul field, I hire a ski instructor.  We spent an hour going over things and practicing.  Interpreting the sentences, finding the funny behind the obvious.  It was recorded so I could go back and review my progress.

I have no idea how I did.  I don’t even know what they were looking for as the information provided was somewhat sketchy.  But I felt good afterwards.  Happy that I’d invested the time and money to work with someone so I felt confident when the camera started rolling. Plus it was a lot of fun.  On top of that, I learned some good habits that I will call upon for future television auditions.  You have to start somewhere.  Just make sure you don’t blindly step in, give yourself a chance to succeed.

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.

Castles in the air

I’m a great one for the “what ifs”.  This is a very dangerous thing for an actor to do.  It starts off innocuously enough, “ooo, this is a good part for me, I’ll submit for it”.  Or “wow a SAG commercial, cool!”  Then you audition and it goes great, you make everyone laugh with your performance and leave everything in the room and with sounds of kudos and thanks still ringing in your ears as you leave the casting room, you are sure you nailed the audition and got the part.  Which of course will lead to a national ad that will pay you residuals for at least the next 6 months meaning you don’t have to worry about where the mortgage is going to come from.  And that national ad is going to lead to opportunities and invitations to acting mecca, Los Angeles, where you will be picked up at the airport in a chauffeured black SUV and taken through the main gates of a studio where you once again nail the audition and land a plum role in a series slated to run at least 5 years meaning syndication is a lock and your money worries are cast aside for at least 10 years.  Oh and it’s directed by an Academy Award winning director who just happens to have the perfect role for you in his next soon-to-be-nominated film.  And all of this came from a simple mailing of a headshot to a casting person in Minneapolis.

Focusing on the possibilities is a very important thing to do.  It’s the Little League player seeing himself hit the winning Grand Slam in the 9th inning of the 7th game of the World Series.  It’s the 5th grade Science enthusiast seeing herself viewing the earth from an orbiting Space Shuttle.  It’s the middle aged runner/walker seeing herself completing a 10K 5K without having to walk all that much.  Ok so maybe I’m talking about myself here.  But putting oneself in the realm of possibilities creates the dreams that drive the actions.  Allowing those dreams take over the reality can be a not-so-good thing.  Staying focused on the next achievable goal gets you closer to achieving that dream without building a castle in the air that has no foundation to support it.  And that type of castle is bound to collapse.