Thursday, November 29, 2012

Clothes can make the woman

At auditions, how you look matters.  You want to show the client and/or director how easy it is to see you in whatever light.

I’m asked to wear a wide variety of clothes to suit different roles I’m supposed to play.  A businesswoman requires a matched business suit (not separates), a mom a sweater set or simple blouse.  Ffor business casual, khakis and a blouse or sweater set are de rigeur.  Nice casual means good jeans and a sweater or blouse.  Solids are usually preferred over bold prints.  You need to know not only what colors look good on you and on camera, but at the various casting agencies.  One has a very blue background, so if you wear a similar shade you could blend right in and look like a floating head.

At one point I was getting a lot of doctor or pharmacist auditions. Sometimes they had lab coats we could borrow, but they were so big and baggy, with sleeves I had to roll up multiple times that I looked like a kid trying on her parents’ clothes, not a medical professional you’d believe could represent a product.  I bought my own XXS labcoat...and haven’t had a medical audition since.  

I’ve been asked to wear fitted workout clothes, holiday attire, something appropriate for a bridal shower, etc.   Once I was asked to look like someone on the TV show Laugh-In. I decided on Joanne Worley...and even put my hair up like hers.  Fortunately I had a cool vintage dress of my mom’s.  Another call was for a used streetwalker.  I teased my hair (it can get quite big), smeared my makeup and wore an off the shoulder shirt.  That, I think, helped me get a callback.

Sometimes auditionees don’t dress as instructed, and look out of place.  At a long ago audition requiring a woman in an old-fashioned butcher shop, everyone in the room had her hair up in a bun (some with tendrils) and wore some kind of cream or pale blouse.  Mine had a lace collar.  In pops a woman with short, kind of punk red hair and a bright green shirt.  She looked around the room, said something about one of these things is not like the others, and left.

On the other hand, occasionally they call in someone to push the envelope.  I’ve been the oldest person I’ve seen at a few auditions, the youngest at others.  They may toss a brunette in with blondes, a short person in with tall. 
You also have to think about your hair.  Sometimes I wonder if, to be a businessperson or mom, I should straighten it, because that's the norm. But then I won't look like my headshot, which is what they used to call me in.  So I might be the only person with curly hair.  
You never know what they're looking for.  They might not even know exactly what they want until they see it.  So my goal is to be the best me I can be, given my interpretation of their parameters.




Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giving Thanks

This season can be stressful for feelancers who worry that work will dry up and/or wonder when the next project will show up.  From today through Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year's Eve and into the first week of January, social events and days off abound. 

For me, all the holiday hooplah can mean fewer auditions and jobs.  If agents, clients and other industry professionals aren't working, chances are I'm not, either.  So far one client has said there should be work in December, but until I'm officially booked...

Since it's Thanksgiving, I won't think about the weeks to come.  I'll enjoy a great meal and ponder the top 10 things I'm thankful and grateful for:

1) Family & friends to share time, and laughter experiences with, and who believe in and encourage me
2) Overall good health
3) A nice roof over my head in a great neighborhood in an amazing city
4) Cultural activities from theatre to movies
5) Opportunities to pursue my dreams and goals
6) Modern technology, from computers to my cell phone, iPad, car and washer/dryer
7) Hope
8) The acting and writing communities
9) Books and TV
10) That I'm not cooking today.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Feelancers & Friends

Feelancers often have flexible schedules.  We aren't obligated to report to our cubes or offices at 9:00AM sharp, or have bosses overseeing our output. That doesn’t mean we don’t have important work to do or mean we don’t need to work evenings and weekends. Or that items on our to-do list won't change at the drop of a hat. And more work is likely to pop up when we have other projects due or if we take time off...I often have two auditions, jobs or availability checks on the same day.

The good: If we have discipline and self-control and don’t procrastinate or fritter our days away on the Internet, Facebook or Twitter, we can usually decide when and how much to work on existing projects.  My favorite benefit: we can run errands when stores aren’t crowded. (I never want to shop at Trader Joe's on the weekends; lines extend well into the aisles.)

The bad: We can’t control when new opportunities will crop up that we want or need to take advantage of.  Temptations and distractions abound.  If a deadline is a couple of weeks away, we may think we have plenty of time to finish.  So if friends or colleagues call when we're engrossed in a project, ask for our assistance, want to grab a meal or decide to come to town and want us to be on vacation because they are, saying no can be a challenge.  It can be easy to say, "I'll do what my friend wants today. I need a break. I was only going to self-market and catch up on a few things I've been meaning to do."  Be like Scarlett and say, "I"ll worry about that tomorrow."
We want to help out, we want to enjoy ourselves, but we don’t want to lose out on or get behind on work.  What seems like fun in the moment will quickly be forgotten when we’re working overtime to finish a job that's due, or, in my case, if I don’t get to go to a major audition.  I like to have fun, but it doesn't pay the bills or enhance my reputation/build relationships in the community.  It's harder to have a good time when deadlines hang over your head.

Feelancers (and aspiring authors and artists) don’t always get as much respect for our time as the Gainfully Employed.  We need to be able to protect our schedules, say no, and not feel we always need or want to accommodate those who can better afford (financially, time-wise or both) to frolic.  I started this blog because some friends asked what I did all day. 

One friend's work schedule varies, but she’s on salary.  It’s easy for her to want to grab a spontaneous lunch or run out for a mani/pedi...she's getting paid for her time off.  Because she knows I sometimes work from home, she asks me to walk her dog when she doesn’t have coverage.  Out of town friends just came to visit and wanted me to spend several days with them enjoying all Chicago has to offer, from restaurants to shopping to shows and/or museums.  I had a long rehearsal and an audition, and needed to check my phone frequently to respond to agents and clients.  I felt some pressure to be more available, but wanted to be responsive to industry professionals and didn’t want to miss opportunities that could benefit my career and bank account.
Frequent schedule changes and commitment to our clients are just parts of being a feelancer.  If I've planned, say, lunch with a friend, I'll need to cancel if I get a job or an audition.  Work or play?  It's not always an easy decision.        

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Social Media: Where & When

When are we spending too much time with social media? What are the tipping points for how many sites we need to join, and how often to check them? Am I missing something by not joining, say Google+? How would a Tumblr or Pinterest account help me?

I keep hearing how this or that friend connected with this or that potential client/literary agent/useful contact via Twitter or LinkedIn. 

I still find Twitter a bit confusing.  Who to follow?  Some people tweet so frequently.  How do I keep up, and separate the wheat from the chaff?

There are social media manager services, such as HootSuite (another product to learn), some of which offer free or paid plans. (And companies are hiring SMMs.) 

So now I'm spending time figuring out which sites I want to be on and effective use strategies.

How many sites:

How much time to spend:


Thursday, November 01, 2012

Are you saving enough for retirement?

Numerous articles say that many people aren't saving enough for retirement (for example, Huffington Post, CNNMoney and SmartMoney).  I probably know some of them: actors and other feelancers who live month to month, parents who set aside money for their kids' college funds instead of their own futures, people who are between jobs, who lost their pensions or are earning less than they used to so they aren't contributing as much to their 401Ks. 

How do you know if you'll have enough to retire comfortably?  Information and calculators abound, such as AARP's, msn MONEY's  and Kiplinger's. But some people don't want to know.  They don't want to be scared or despair over how they'll possibly catch up, so they don't do the math. Maybe they think it'll all magically work out, somehow. 

The company I worked for for 13 years recently offered a one-time opportunity to take a lump sum pension payment (minus taxes and an early withdrawal penalty, or roll it into an IRA), start receiving a monthly payment, or do nothing and wait until 65 for the original pension.  I rans some numbers, checked with a few friends, did research, talked to financial advisors. But there are too many variables to be sure I'm making the right decision. What will the economy do in the next decades, including stocks and other investments, interest, inflation? How long will I live, and how long will I be able to or want to work? Only time will tell if I made the right decision.

The global economy has more impact on the American economy than in years past.  So many people are under water on their houses/condos.  So many retiring now have less to retire on than the previous generation.  Many cities, countries, individuals have greater debt.  Will there be enough jobs, enough spending by businesses and consumers to fuel the economy? 

Are you saving enough? Take the time and effort to figure it out. Knowledge is power.