Thursday, October 28, 2010

Change is Good?

How many times a day do you get asked to make changes--either in work you’ve submitted, in your schedule, or in yourself--or ask someone to change for you?

Sometimes complying is a no-brainer. Sure, Friend X, I can meet you at 7 instead of 6:30. Yes, Editor Y, I’m happy to go from dual first person point of view to third since you’ve said you’ll take another look if I do (though of course I wouldn’t have written it that way if I didn’t like it). Ok, Agent Z, I can make it to an audition two hours from now.

Other times, you may not be sure if you want to make the change. I’ve heard of aspiring authors who simply ignore revision letters. They’re insulted that anyone wants them to change a single word. They don’t want to realize that industry professionals don’t take the time to request revisions if they aren’t really interested. But how far are you willing to go? If you refuse a particular adjustment, can you come up with a good, well-motivated reason why?

And other times, you may not know how to change/be different. I once took a bite and smile class, where you’re taught how to eat food and react in a timely and pleasant manner for commercial auditions. A classmate said he had to eat a potato chip, which he did. Then the director asked to see something else, and the actor was stymied by what do to. We learned to come up with 10 different ways to eat something. (I’ve booked one b&s commercial…for the audition we had to eat a Nilla wafer after putting down our fake fishing poles and taking off hats they gave us. Very challenging to quickly bite into without looking like you’re chomping or merely nibbling, and not easy to keep crumbs off your lipgloss, here.)

What if the requested or suggested change is something personal, about the way you dress or behave? Maybe you get another opinion or two before you agree. Maybe it’s something you’re willing to try once, like wearing more or less makeup. You might feel the suggestor is trying to control/manipulate you or turn you into someone you don’t want to be. Or you might not realize you do need to change and are just being stubborn or worried you’ll make a mistake. You might want to make changes in, say, your career or relationship, but are afraid to take the first steps…the devil you know…

If you’re thinking of making a change, here are some interesting thoughts:

Managing Change,

Resistance to Change, Schuler Solutions

Change Quotes, Quote Garden

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Please rise for the jury

This week I had jury duty. When I mentioned this to friends, there’ve been two responses. Either they’re eager to be on a jury, or they say they’d try to get out of it.

If you or someone close to you was the person in that plaintiff or defendant chair, wouldn’t you want the most capable jury possible?

Yes, jury duty takes you from your everyday life. I had to devote what turned out to be two whole days-9 to 5 one day and 10-7:25 the other. Yes, I had to drive to the burbs, which took over an hour in the morning and around a half hour to return. We got paid a whopping $17.20 per day, and spent a good portion of the second day locked in a cramped room…without our cell phones.

But the jury is a fundamental part of our country’s legal system. It's part of what makes America America.

Day 1: Arrive at the court. Wait in metal detector line. Go to spacious jury assembly room, hand in your summons, choose a panel number. Watch the You, The Juror video (in which I happen to be the plaintiff’s attorney, filmed in 1997).

My panel was one of the first to get called. A sheriff led around 30 of us up to a courtroom. We sat on the hard wood benches. The judge gave an overview of what would happen and thanked us for our service. Fourteen of us were called to sit in the softer jury box chairs. Each was questioned (voir dire) about a variety of things including education, occupation, and, in this case, whether we’d been in a car crash. After that, the parties/lawyers/judge left the room. Only a few of us were retained, the rest returned to the assembly room to await another panel.

After a long lunch break, my new panel number was called. Off to another courtroom for more voir dire. This to me was the most tedious part…all of us had to sit and wait while the first group of 14 were questioned, then while the parties deliberated on whom to keep, then while the next group of 14 were questioned. Finally around 5pm the jury was complete. I was among those selected.

Day 2: The 12 of us…ranging from 20s to 71, assorted occupations, educational backgrounds and ethnicities, waited for at least an hour locked in our jury room. Finally we were called to hear the case: a dual robbery. There were four witnesses: the two victims and two police officers. The goal of the defense is to raise doubt(s)…because, if you didn’t know, in a criminal case the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The actual trial was quite different from those seen on TV. How the judge and attorneys handled objections and re-worded questions showed how much I still remember from law school about hearsay rules.

Time to deliberate….12 strangers unanimously deciding a man’s fate on the evidence we’d seen and heard. Who and what did we believe?

I was pleasantly surprised by how smoothly and how professionally we worked together (some bosses could learn from that), how committed everyone was to doing the right thing and allowing each of us to have our say. We returned a guilty verdict. Justice was served.

Then the judge and one of the attorneys came to ask if we had any questions. We learned that the defendant had had prior run-ins with the law. This was his ELEVENTH conviction. Wow.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Keeping Track

I’m usually very organized, and have enjoyed bringing order to other people’s chaotic closets and/or papers. There’s a certain satisfaction derived from neatly arranged drawer contents, shoes lined up in rows, piles consolidated, clutter contained. I can’t control when agents/editors/casting people will call or when or which jobs I’ll book, but I can control how neat my stuff and place are.

Though my clothes hang by color and type and even my junk drawer isn’t messy, keeping track of computer files still proves a challenge. Especially when I’m multitasking to meet impending deadlines and so working 12 hour days (completing 4 VO e-learning courses, a non-fiction manuscript with a co-author, Web site for said manuscript, workshop proposal, auditions, etc.), orderliness devolves into disarray.

1. I think I’ll remember the name of a file and where I saved it. But then when I need it, where did the darn thing go?
2. drafts: my co-author and I are trying to use a ‘book to date’ method. But if she sends snippets to insert or a draft of a single chapter…I get confused by what goes where and end up comparing versions to make sure I’ve gotten all of the updates and answered all questions.
3. flash drives: I have a bunch…and since they’re so small it’s hard to label what’s on them like you could floppy disks.
4. E-mails: going through chains of e-mails to find important bits can be tedious, especially if the subject doesn’t describe the contents.
5. Passwords: I know they’re supposed to be strong (mix of caps, numbers, symbols), etc. And you're supposed to change them frequently. These days it seems more and more sites want you to register…so the list expands.
6. I have Excel spreadsheets for auditions, jobs, writing submissions, expenses. They can get unwieldy if there's too much info. On the other hand, sometimes I want more than I've entered. Or if don't update them regularly, going back through correspondence or notes can take a while.

I need to invest some time on to improve my system so I can save time and frustration in the future. Check out these suggestions:

9 Tips to Manage Files Faster

Organizing Computer Files

How to Organize your Computer

Thursday, October 07, 2010

I’m Aware Some Stare at My Hair

That’s the first line of George Carlin’s “Hair Poem”. It applies to every on camera actor, because a big part of casting is appearance. You don’t have to be beautiful, but your look must suit that role and the casting director's and/or client's vision.

My hair very curly and very thick. Wile I often get compliments about my hair, and women with thin or straight hair comment wistfully, there are times when straight hair is preferred for actors. Knowing when those times are is a challenge. On the one hand, you’re supposed to look like your headshots. On the other, you want to suit the character specs as much as possible so auditioners don’t have to stretch to see you in that role.

For example, a national TV commercial sought 3 nuns of varying ages and asked that auditionees look the part. A few were in actual nun’s habits, but most, like me, wore something conservative in black or black and white. Many had short hair. I’d decided on a low ponytail. At the last minute, I took out my contacts and put on glasses. And booked the job. At the shoot, they had me wear the youngest nun’s glasses instead. View the end result here.

A scan of TV channels, whether local or national, shows that no news reporter or anchor has curly hair. (Very few women in commercials do, either...and if they do, chances are they’re young.) So I know that if I’m a reporter in a movie to straighten my hair, which is a time consuming task. It takes around 45 minutes to blow dry straight, then another chunk of time to flatiron it. Even when I do, for a couple of the Batman movies and just this month for Episode 6 of the upcoming Fox TV series Ride Along, the hair stylists either turn my ponytail into a smooth bun and hide my bangs, or they re-flatiron my hair.

I'm one of the only curly-haired women I see at on camera narrator auditions. Would I book more if I went straight? Several years ago one of my talent agents wouldn’t even submit me with curly hair. So I had separate straight hair headshots for her.

Perhaps curly hair looks too wild or messy onscreen, or comes across as unprofessional or too youthful. Yet sometimes they're looking for "something different." So for each audition, I have to think about which way to go.

I'm always on the lookout for products that work best to enhance curly hair and help straighten it. Many sites ( and books ( offer advice for making the most of curly hair.