Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Working Actress

I’m happy to report my busiest month so far since fleeing corporate America at the end of 2005 to be an actress and freelance writer/editor.

This week alone I’ll have seven auditions...all from agents. Two on camera, four VO and one theatre.

There are other ways to get auditions, but agents usually have access to the best gigs. Craigslist lists a variety of auditions, though many are non-paying, such as student films. Occasionally CL has great postings; sometimes I get auditions after submitting my headshot/resume. Other sites such as Performink and CIN list auditions--though many of these are for theatre and improv, which usually don't pay or don't pay as much as on camera or VO work. I subscribe to a couple of sites that send a bunch of VO audition opportunities every day. But to get this many auditions from agents in one week is fabulous. And as they say, if you’re not in it, you can’t win it. I hope that being on their radar now means I’ll stay there.

I also booked two jobs this week...a VO narration after an ASAP audition. Also a several day corporate gig for Las Vegas! And I’m presenting a voiceover business workshop at Acting Studio Chicago. Last week I had a 20+ minute narration job (that didn’t require a single word of revision!). I did a week of corporate training simulation for a consulting firm and was an extra in ABC’s TV pilot Matadors. Next week, so far, I’m doing a Northwestern Hospital video, via CL I have an audition to host an Internet health series, and I may be an extra in another pilot.

Perhaps the reason for this influx of business doesn’t matter, but I wonder. Is the economy improving? Are some of my many irons in the fire coming to persistence finally paying? Does my flexible schedule help because others aren’t available? Or have I been doing good work that kindles more work? And will it continue?

Faithful readers will note this blog entry title is about acting.  I'd hoped to do both writing/editing and acting.  At the moment my various manuscripts are still incurring rejections, and the only writing I'm doing is for the religous parody Best Church of God.  Of late, however, I haven't spent as much time pursuing opportunities/working on new projects/submitting. 

Even the Gainfully Unemployed need a some down time...  Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Extras Bill of Rights

I've worked as an extra on more than 60 movies/TV shows.  There.  I've publicly admitted it, despite hearing that many agents/casting directors don't consider extra work worthy of inclusion on resumes. 

But if I don't have an audition or booking, isn't it better for my acting career to be on a set, watching both household name (incl. Dustin Hoffman, Will Farrell & Vince Vaughn) and up and coming actors at their craft than to work a part time day job?  Won't I learn more listening to famous, top notch directors (incl. Clint Eastwood and Sam Raimi)?  There is also the very slim chance of being "updgraded" and given a line or a bit to do. 

I view extra work this way:  I'm getting paid (not very much, granted) to attend master classes on acting/directing.  How else would you get to sit mere feet from Johnny Depp and hear him working with Michael Mann?

That being said, extras are sometimes treated like cattle, even when filming smaller scenes.  Once we were asked to turn our chairs around and face the wall because the crew was eating.  Other times, holding area conditions have been less than optimal.  Outdoor scenes during Chicago winters can be grueling.  Well, extras are people, too.

So I propose the following Extras Bill of Rights:

1) Holding areas will have sufficient lighting and heat/air conditioning.  And garbage cans and toilet paper.

2) Water, coffee and some snacks will be available at all times.

3) In cold/hot weather, extras will have breaks to warm up/cool off.


Thursday, March 11, 2010


We have become a nation of multitaskers. From e-communicating with one friend while talking to another to doing dishes while on the phone to working on several projects at once while keeping up with e-mail, most of us probably spend a good portion of our day doing more than one thing at a time.

Multitasking may feel efficient and productive on the one hand, but can lead to stress and frustration on the other. If our focus is scattered, if we’re worrying about what we’re supposed to do instead of what we are actually doing, it can be a challenge to complete our best, thorough work.

I’m finalizing a VO proposal for a four-part project for a returning client, editing a satirical sermon for the Best Church of God, making progress on a co-authored non-fiction project, preparing for a huge audition and dealing with a short deadline family matter entailing far too many forms and details. I’ve set a goal to get out more writing submissions and work on a new manuscript. Throw in a couple of rehearsals, workshops, some social events and miscellaneous appointments...

Trying to do everything in a timely manner had me reading e-mails while getting my hair cut. I like to a) get things off my plate and b) respond to others as soon as possible. I realize that a half hour delay doesn’t always matter. So perhaps I should have relaxed and enjoyed my salon time instead of fretting about all the signatures, documents and answers I needed to provide.

Recently I attended two meditation sessions, including a lecture and discussion, to clear my mind and reduce stress. To get better at living in the moment, being present where I am. I’d tried on my own, but got frustrated when I couldn’t stop thinking.

The group environment helped me to settle in and focus on my breathing. Each time, I was surprised that for a few minutes my mind went somewhere...not quite sure where, but relaxing nonetheless. Hearing others share similar life frustrations was reassuring. Unfortunately, the calming effect of the meditation didn’t last long.  I plan to set aside a few minutes each day to see if I can sit on my own and focus on one thing at a time.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

When one door closes...

....another opens, as they say.  That closed door could also yield a nice surprise by reopening when you least expect it.  Or it could remain closed, which can either be disappointing or result in a "oh, well, there are many more fish in the sea" attitude.

Most Gainfully Unemployed are constantly knocking on develop new contacts and expand our networks, to further, maintain and/or renew friendships/relationships.  Because we never know where that next opportunity will come from. 

The great gig I have this week (with at least one more week upcoming) role playing a high level executive (complete with an office that has a view of the lake & Navy Pier) came via a writer friend who used to work at the company.  Way back in June 2006, she suggested I send in my resume, etc.  My improv experience combined with years of award-winning corporate sales, marketing and training made me a perfect fit (IMHO, at least!).  The contact e-mailed a nice reply and left the door open, but nothing came of it.  I don't know if diligent follow up would have helped or not.  More than a year later, my friend suggested I resubmit to a new contact.  I did...but again, nothing.  Then out of the blue, a different person called me in for a meeting and hired me on the spot. 

Three and a half years is a long time for something I'm interested in to come to fruition, which is why I need to have so many irons in the fire.  We can't control who comes in and out of our lives or when, or the roles they'll play (as they say, we can only control our attitude...).  For example, the aforementioned friend had moved away, but we've recently reconnected via Facebook.  

When motivated, I'm applying, submitting, querying, auditioning, reminding people what I'm looking for, figuring out if there are any connections/assistance I can offer in return.  Coming across a bunch of naysayers or lack of responses in a row can lead to a period of unmotivation, where I think, "why bother?"  On the other hand, everyone needs some downtime, which for me often leads to a resurgence of output.  And, I hope, many more open doors.