Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Typecasting: Who are YOU?

Last weekend I went to a workshop given by two of Chicago's premier casting directors (CDs). They were willing to take questions about almost anything. So I asked about my look. I have a mass of very curly, frizzy, black hair that falls past my shoulders (longer than in my headshots) and is hard to tame no matter how many defrizzer gels, conditioners, shampoos etc. I try.

One of the CDs, Claire Simon, who casts many commercials, films and TV shows, said I needed a more sophisticated haircut so I didn't fall through the casting cracks. She also didn't like the color...too black. Or my bangs. The other CD agreed.

Some people might have thought: Screw you, I look fine the way I am. An actress who wants to get called in by Claire Simon thinks: What can I do to make myself more marketable in this business? How can I fit my type? Especially in commercials, and also in film & TV, everyone has a type. You don't get to choose, you just are what you look like.

One man in the class commented that he wanted to be seen as more than a Chicago cop type. Which he actually was, looks, and sounds exactly like. The verdict: because of his look and Chicago accent, chances of him getting cast as a doctor or something along those lines were very slim. Another woman wanted to get sent out for more than "young mother." Which, of course, she looks and sounds like.

Actors may be able to adapt somewhat, by being a lawyer one day or a doctor another. But we can't choose to be "the person next door" if we are perceived by those who do the casting as "upscale attractive." So we might as well be the best of our type we can be.

Fortunately I already had a hair appointment scheduled for yesterday. I brought in a couple of pictures and talked to my stylist. She hacked at least 4 inches off the back (I couldn't look at the piles of hair on the floor), reshaped the front and my bangs are now off to the side, so I have sort of a slightly longer than Julie Christie at the Oscars look. I am pleased to report that I like it.

I shall send Claire a picture (before I invest in new headshots; my new cut is sort of similar to my current headshots and I have TONS of copies). We'll see if my attempt at sophistication yields any results.

As to the color, I have a lot of gray...and though I've tried many brands, only black covers it. Even the darkest brown shades fade on the first day. My hair grows so fast that if I got highlights I'd have to take time and fork over more $ for new ones every three weeks. I talked to a colorist who suggested either internal highlights that would show off my curls but not be impacted as much by growout. And/or a two shade color correction requiring some bleaching to lighten my hair just enough it wouldn't look blackest black. Lots of $$$$$ involved. I will think on these options.

What type are you?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Too Much Yet Not Enough

There are times when we commit ourselves and our money, which seem like the right choices. Then events transpire to make us wonder if we've made the optimum use of our resources.

Case in point A: I paid $325 for a weekend audition intensive with two of Chicago's premier casting directors, one from a major theatre company and one who does mostly TV/film. It seemed like a win/win: 1) my theatre and on camera monologue auditions (a previous bane of my acting existence, covered in an earlier post) had to improve under the tutelage of these experts and 2) the old networking adage 'who you know' can be a factor in maybe at least one of them would call me in for some auditions. Which could lead to 3) my acting agents seeing their interest and maybe sending me out more themselves.

Case in point B: A new author friend is coming to town for a book signing two blocks from my condo. She invited me to dinner before with 5 of her friends. I made the reservations and was looking forward to the evening.

The scheduling sprites saw that I was happy with my decisions.

So the only auditions for another director's festival I'd been looking forward to auditioning for fell on the first workshop day. Auditions for an improv program I was thinking about taking were also that weekend. I got called to be an extra in a movie starring Freddy Rodruiguez, Debra Messing and John Leguizamo. My brother said he was available that Sunday to help me complete a sizable family chore we've been putting off.

Auditions for another popular director's festival fell the evening of the booksigning. I managed to sign up for the last time slot, 9:25 pm. So I will have to leave the signing early, go home and get my car, drive 20 or so minutes and find parking. Not the end of the world, obviously, but still a stressful hassle when I could have simply enjoyed a single event, the booksigning.

Of course I wish I could have conveniently fit in all of these things, and can't help wondering why at least one couldn't have been on a day when my calendar is bare.

Maybe I should just be happy with what I have, and assume that more fun opportunities will come my way. Does everything happen for a reason? Only time will tell...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

All the World's a Stage

Let's say you've asked your husband to take out the garbage, or your kid to clean up his room. Or you've asked your boss for information you need to take a project to the next step. Or something has happened at a community organization that offends or upsets you, and you speak up.

How do you ensure that your choice of words clearly conveys your message without annoying the other person? And how do you know you're not asking too much? If you don't get the results you want, how soon is it appropriate to restate your request?

When do requests for action cross the line of communicating your needs and wants in any relationship to become nagging? When do you become a pushover instead of a person who stands up for herself?

Of course the answers are subjective and depend on the situation at hand and people involved. Which means we are all actors and authors. Every day of our lives, we take on different roles depending on who else is in the room. We are often afraid to epxress how we really feel, because we don't want to offend. We often bite back things we want to say, and instead write scripts that will mollify our bossess or spouses. On the other hand, sometimes when caught up in the moment, we say things we don't really mean in tones and volume levels we may later regret.

Or like the contestants on American Idol who can't believe it when Simon says they can't sing, we get defensive. And we take objective issues and make them personal. Yet we deserve to express ourselves and make our thoughts and needs known.

Keys to success include the wording and timing. So consider the old adage: think before you speak. Try to look at both sides. And especially, think about that e-mail before you hit 'send.'

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Mysterious Ailment

Faithful readers know I'm pursuing work as a voiceover talent. This means I need to sound like my 4 voiceover demos: commercial, character, narration and of course fast talking. Or, at the very least, if I book a job, I need to sound like my audition. Consistency is key. Headshots are the same way. If you have shoulder length hair in your picture, you'd better not show up at an audition or shoot with short hair.

Unfortunately, I'm having issues with my vocal cords. I have had laryngitis twice in two months that didn't seem to be accompanied by a cold. My voice is not as clear as usual, and the sound sometimes changes during the day.

I happened to visit an ENT for a different problem. Fortunately, he's a voice specialist. He used a cool little (and painless!!) camera, had me say 'E' at various pitches and volumes. I could see the results on the monitor. Not only is there persistent mucus (without visible cold symptoms), but one vocal cord isn't lining up with the other. They're supposed to be straight, like guitar strings. But one sort of curves when I talk.

He thinks I might have laryngopharyngeal reflux disease (LPRD)...similar to GERD but, again fortunately, with no heartburn. He recommended medication and diet changes. I'm supposed to avoid/eliminate caffeine, chocolate (!!!??!), tomatoes, citrus and mint (as in no minty gum). And, avoid stress. Ha.

I'm going to try not to worry about this, and believe it will clear up. I've gotten through a couple of auditions but only with a lot of throat clearing and retakes. I doubt right now I could do a long script in one take.

If the medication and diet changes don't work, and he can't find another solution, I'd probably have to redo all of my demos with my now slightly hoarser voice...a significant expense and time commitment. It's not that I don't like how I sound now, it's just too different to the trained ear.

And then I'd have to hope my voice didn't change again....