Thursday, August 27, 2009

He likes me! Right now, he likes me!

Most of us of a certain age remember Sally Field saying something like this when she accepted an Academy Award (hard to believe that was back in 1985 for Places in the Heart. And I checked, she didn't say, "You like me. You really like me," which I think is what most of us remember.). The point is that despite all of her career successes, she genuinely seemed pleased to be so esteemed.

The title of today's entry could also be about the song Love the One You're With (Stephen Stills, 1970, covered by The Isley Brothers in 1971) and the vicissitudes of dating. But I'm talking about the importance of being appreciated. Validated.

I’m very pleased to have a new voiceover client who keeps telling me how happy his client is with my work and how much they love my voice.

Yes, yes, we've all heard about true happiness and contentment coming from within. That you have to love yourself before you can love another. How it's all about living in the moment, enjoying the journey and what you have, not the outcome. That having the biggest house, most money or receiving the highest accolades won't make you happy. We could spend all day staring at ourselves in the mirror repeating affirmations about how great we are or how much power we have (like Amy Adam's Rose in Sunshine Cleaning)...maybe that would help.

Who doesn't like to know they've done a great job? Who wouldn't want to hear the guy they're dating say they think you're beautiful or, “No, those pants don't make you look fat?" Maybe for some it's enough just to bask in the glow of the verbiage. But if you’re paying attention, a compliment delivered the wrong way can make you look askance at the giver and/or wonder about their sincerity or what they are trying to get you to do. And a vast part of communication is via body language. Many studies/experts say that the meaning of a message comes 7% from the actual words, 38% how they're spoken and 55% from body language. So in today's world of e-mail, IM and texting, assessing the true intent and meaning behind nice sentiments typed quickly on a tiny keyboard can be difficult.

The value of a compliment can live on long after the words are spoken. I'm collecting testimonials from satisfied clients to help attract new clients. I've heard of authors making lists of great things readers, contest judges or industry professionals have said about their work to refer to in down times or to help get past rejections.

So the next time you think someone has done a good job, if someone means something special to you, take a moment to say so. As they say, pay it forward.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Smorgasbord or Empty Plate

The life of the Gainfully Unemployed is exciting and unnerving at the same time. We never know if or when an audition, submitted resume, or connection we've made will pay off with a booking or more auditions, or when projects that we're suited for will come to our or our agents' attention. Like an entrepreneur who never knows when a new customer will walk through the door despite great word of mouth, marketing and advertising, we can't do much to control our flow of work.

And when we book a project, we can't bask in the glow very long because it'll provide probably only a day, at most a week of work...and there are 51 other weeks to fill. We can look at all the white space in our calendars and see nary an audition on the horizon. Clingy vines of doubt creep in, distressing and demoralizing. Have my agents forgotten about me? Do I suck? If my last audition didn't go well, would they tell me? Did so-and-so even get my last email? Maybe I should get a "real" job.

These pernicious thoughts can work their way in so deeply I have to untangle and remove each one. I must keep adding irons to the fire. I must fill my mind with positivity. I believe this dry spell will end, and soon. Just be patient. Everything will work out.

Suddenly the phone starts to ring, emails arrive. And I can't ever predict the range of things I'll be called upon to do. There's an audition for a $5000 "upbeat, cool and sincere" TV voiceover. I'm one of a small group selected to be interviewed by a client for a major project. I book a small role as a nurse in a sci fi independent feature that requires me to scream as a guy on roller blades comes at me with a hockey stick and assist with surgery on a patient who has 5 eyes, while hanging out with fun and talented people for a day and a half. And eating tasty Vietnamese food.

The GU also never can tell what interesting situations they'll find themselves in. We filmed in a huge (though hot) abandoned hospital, eerie in a "what happened here, did everyone perish instantly of some plague like on Star Trek" way because all sorts of medical equipment and supplies were left behind, and employees even left pictures on their desks.

I learn that a recent client was so pleased with my recordings of a technical PowerPoint they plan to use me for all of their VOs going forward. (Of course I don't know when/if this will happen or how many projects that means, but who doesn't like to hear that they've done a great job and will probably get more work?)

With all of this good news, the creepers' vivid green fades, the leaves shrivel into dust as shiny hope and satisfaction bloom in their place.

Whew. Despite also receiving a book rejection, this turned out to be a darn good, busy and productive week.

But what about the next one? And the next, which is Labor Day when not much is likely to happen...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Light Painting in a Cemetery

Last night I did a photo shoot. In a cemetery. Wearing not much at all.

This project came about via an artsy friend. First he was interested in having me model for a bust sculpture, which would have required him to slather my chest and perhaps other body parts (like my hands) while I sat still until the plaster dried. But he recently discovered light painting, and decided a cemetery would make the perfect backdrop.

With light painting, the photographer doesn't use a flash. He uses a flashlight, or other light source, and moves it around during a long exposure. The pattern of illumination creates cool effects. Thanks to digital photography, it's easy to check out each shot and make adjustments for the next. Wikipedia explains it here.

He'd checked out the site...deep within thevast cemetery...and had taken test shots with a friend. He'd also cut out a bunch of shots/paintings that reflected what he had in mind and pasted them into a little notebook and had emailed ideas. While I reclined, sat or stood as frozen as possible (a challenge during some rather balletic moves), he ran around with the flashlight. He'd direct the beam in different ways to highlight various parts of the frame. Some shots were done with the flashlight hung from a tree with fishing line, with the flashlight swirling in a big circle over my head. For a few shots, he used two flashlights: a cool and a warm one.

Though I'd brought and borrowed interesting, lacy or clingy pieces of clothing, my main wardrobe was a long swath of white tulle. At times I also wore a vintage parachute thing as a skirt. I just wasn't comfortable wearing nothing at all. And I'm glad you can Photoshop out any extraneous naughty bits that snuck in, and which to my mind distract from the shot.

Why did I do this? A. To show you can still look pretty darn good even in your late 40s. B. To preserve my appearance in a unique way before everything starts sagging. C. Because being a model is fun. D. Because maybe at some point I can show the best pictures to my agents in the hope of getting more print work.

Some of the pictures are amazing. In some the light painting didn't turn out the way he intended. For example, there'd be too much light on my shoulder and not enough on my face. In others, possibly because I was concentrating so hard on keeping still for 15 seconds at a time (try it right now and see how long that is), my expression is kind of frozen. Despite having watched every episode of America's Next Top Model, it's not always easy to smile with your eyes or be fierce as Tyra advises, especially while leaning in an uncomfortable position or extending one leg high in an arabesque.

Though I put on a lot of makeup and dark lipstick (he wanted to border on Goth), the light was so bright it doesn't look like I'm wearing any. We also used gold powder, which looked great up close but in a few of the shots appears as brownish streaks that will need to be edited out. He'd also brought some corn starch to whiten my skin, but we never got around to trying it.

Now that we know what works and what doesn't, we may do another shoot. He may do some kind of show, or turn the pics into postcards or something. We shall see.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Croquet, Anyone?

Even the Gainfully Unemployed deserve and should take some time off from pursuing their various career options. Last weekend I attended a lovely annual event in the burbs: a croquet, aka white, party.

Yes, everyone wears white. Which gives the indoor/outdoor gala a sort of old-fashioned, ethereal atmosphere. Attendees range in age from 2 to over 70. The young children are surprisingly well-behaved (they don't run around or scream). The teens, most of whom have grown up together, are surprisingly polite and friendly.

The wealth and variety of food is amazing at this potluck gathering, from fabulous lobster salad to fresh fruit. Enough desserts (including delicious turtle brownies) to weigh down the sideboard. Champagne and margaritas flow.

So many people play croquet that each heated game takes around an hour. With so many balls on the field and more than one croquet set in use, it must be hard to keep track of whose turn it is. Cheers and moans fill the air as the competitors make their way around the course, smacking each other's balls out of play whenever possible.

Because many partygoers return year after year, there's a Same Time, Next Year sensibility. A neighbor of the hosts', with whom I'd had a long "writers write" discussion last year, said because of that conversation she'd started sending out some of her short stories. Though she's gotten rejections so far, she plans to keep writing and submitting. So you never know when a seemingly random conversation can impact someone's life.

This is also a fairly artsy group. Many guests sing, some professionally. Several years ago, I had the privilege of singing in a Sondheim festival with several of them...including a command performance for Stephen Sondheim himself. Last year, a piece of music was emailed in advance for anyone interested, and we had a short pickup rehearsal before recording A Song of Peace, available on YouTube, here.

So thanks to the hosts for having such a wonderful party at their home, and thanks to the guests for bringing such great food.