Hi Friends,

This is going to be short:

I was in Boulder the past week for some family things and I had the opportunity to get coffee with an old friend/teacher/mentor. He is an MMA fighter and one of my coaches from the days when I trained Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. And though our arts (theatre and martial) seem to be so very different in trade, we quickly discovered that the path to following your dreams, the path that strays from the typical school-job-family-death, the path that tests you every step of the way, and especially the path that hasn’t even been created yet is one that we share. It is one that is not easy. Paving the way, making your own road, is a lonely task until you realize that every dreamer is following the same journey. My fellow bloggers (Joe and Ben), this teacher and friend, myself, my parents who started new jobs after filing for Bankruptcy in the fall of last year, my sister who has gotten up again and again and again… we’re not so alone after all.

As he and I kept relating to each other, I discovered this sort of reassuring thought. We can take joy in the challenge knowing that we are not truly alone. And he went on to say: “I used to be so afraid to take the gun out of the holster because I was afraid I wasn’t going to hit my target. My target is so far away and I don’t even know if that dream even exists at all since I made it up. Its an end point but there can be even more past it and there is something equally great beside it that I have also yet to discover. So, every time I don’t take aim, I will miss it. I had to stop being afraid to even get my gun out of the holster just because I didn’t know where the bullet was going to land.” And – in fighting, in the performing arts, and even in personal life, if you don’t take that chance then you don’t move forward. If you don’t take any step on your path, then you remain in the same place. Frustrated. Watching others pass you.

I say this now because I am preparing for a pretty important musical audition. I typically don’t talk about my auditions or castings because… I am superstitious and I worry about boasting. But this one is all too relevant to this blog and some of you, our readers, may relate. I haven’t had a true voice lesson in years and I haven’t had a book of songs … ever. In New York, you pretty much, at some point or another, have to decide to join the musical theatre auditions or move to another city where Musicals aren’t the main machine. So, I decided this morning that I am going to do a song that I love, for an audition this afternoon, for a person that I love: myself. I HAVE to do this. Someone needs to light a fire under my ass and it isn’t going to be anyone other than myself. And I realized, while talking with this friend, that I was beginning to feel this fire again. Hearing him talk about his dreams and his path and his words of encouragement and his stories of defeat. Relating to that, finding inspiration in that… I am not ready for this audition. I probably shouldn’t go – in a wise, safe, guarded world, I wouldn’t. But, in this world, I have to go. For, if I never take that gun out of my holster, it will sit there forever and targets will continue to fade into the distance. That goal will become hazier and hazier until the path to it disappears altogether.

Nothing happens unless you make it happen.

(Side note – I decided to sing Drumming Song by Florence and the Machine because we listen to it EVERY SINGLE day at Urban Outfitters. Its a song I love, its pop/rock, and I know it like the back of my hand. Here is an instance where I am taking my situation of retail-hell and turning it into … a practical tool for my career.)

I’ll be at target practice :-p

-E

I'm so glad you agreed to meet in person. There are some things that just can't be said in 140 characters.

You demanded it, so we gave it to you. The creators of the first #LAActorsTweetup (@TheJudalina, @laurendwebb, @TiffanyAPrice, and yours truly) are at it again. Come on down to Busby’s East from 6pm – close on August 9th to meet the most awesomest tweeps around. And this time we ask that you bring someone who’s never been to a tweetup before. So grab that buddy (twuddy…?) and prepare them for the time of their life.

Full details (including info on the raffle!) found here.

Knowledge, in this industry, is power. So put on some steel toed boots, ’cause the following websites, podcasts, and like are veritable knowledge bombs that be droppin’

The Actor’s Network

Just did a blog post on them. Check it. If you’re in LA you shoulda become a member 3 weeks ago.

Brains of Minverva

I effing love this blog, and Sarah and Claire are total rock stars. They sent me the following: Brains of Minerva – The Guide to the LA Actor Hustle publishes resource-rich career and lifestyle articles for the industrious working actor. Launched in Sept. 2009, the site now hosts over 100 posts on everything from joining SAG to prepping your web series to navigating the steps of auditioning for a series regular. We’re thrilled to be part of the community of actors using the web to share information and perspective, and we’re constantly inspired by our friends at Playbills vs. Paying Bills (and, yes, you guys win the awesome name contest!). At Ben’s suggestion, we’ve put together a list of posts to introduce ourselves.

Come on by, let us know what you think – we’d love to say hello… Claire Winters & Sarah Sido Brains of Minerva

Inside Acting Podcast

Trevor and AJ are two of the nicest, most genuine actors you will ever meet…err, listen to. They host Inside Acting Podcast, the best way to spend your LA commute. I asked them for a summary and some links to their favorite episodes. Here’s what I got: Inside Acting is a free industry audio podcast for actors, by actors. Each episode brings you tips and insights from Los Angeles-area casting directors, agents, producers, writers, actors, filmmakers, personal finance gurus, and more. Get insider information on marketing yourself, creating your own work, and booking the gig — straight from the people who’ve been there, done that, and are doing it again. Check out our website and find the podcast on iTunes. And our Top 5 most popular/favorite episodes so far:

  1. Episode 03 — Brian Vermiere (note from Ben: Brian is one of the most influential people in my view on Los Angeles. He’s brilliant and is one of the founders of PerformerTrack)
  2. Episode 06 — Enci
  3. Episode 07 — Kris Diedrich (note from Ben: Kris is one of the kindest people in all of Los Angeles)
  4. Episode 15 — Neal McDonough, Part 1
  5. Episode 24 — Bonnie Gillespie, Part 2

Actor’s Voice/Self Management for Actors/Bonnie Gillespie

Casting Director Bonnie Gillespie writes (I’m guessing) the most widely read actor blog around. And for good reason. Her blog is absolutely brilliant. If you ever have a free second (and by second I mean week), go poke around her extensive blog archives and prepare to have your mind blown. Bonnie has also written the best book available on the business of acting. Self Management for Actors should be mandatory reading for any actor wanting to take their career seriously.

Hollywood Happy Hour

Continuing the awesomeness that is Bonnie Gillespie, every actor should subscribe to the Hollywood Happy Hour yahoo group. This is an e-group of a couple thousand actors, CDs, and industry professionals from all over the globe asking questions and sharing resources. I’m pretty sure you have to sign up for a yahoo email address, but that’s the only time you’ll have to use it…you can have the email digest sent to whatever email you want.

Marci Liroff “Like” Page

Casting Director Marci Liroff (E.T., Spitfire Grill, Freaky Friday, Mean Girls, and many more)  has a tremendously engaging Facebook “Like” Page (or whatever the hell they’re called now). Lots of great resources there, her audition tips videos, and always an engaging conversation. Check it!

Secrets of Screen Acting

The best on-camera training I’ve had. But Ben, it’s a PODCAST, you exclaim! Yeah. That’s right. It’s that friggin’ good. Probably the most informative 5 minutes of your day as an actor. David H. Lawrence hosts and Patrick Tucker does most of the talking. Seriously. Check it out (Podcast inspired by the book Secrets of Screen Acting that Patrick Tucker wrote. Find it on Amazon.)

Acting Answers

Speaking of David H. Lawrence, check out his website www.ActingAnswers.com. Full of wonderful advice from a very astute working actor.

Alex’s Info

One of the most informative email newsletters out there. Go to Alex’s Info site and sign up to receive daily awesomeness. It’s fairly LA based, but there are great resources in there for everyone. The email also contains information on thrival jobs, internship opportunities, and the like.

Cynopsis

Head over to their website and click on “Subscribe” in the top menu to get daily updates of what the heck is going on in this crazy industry. Get the news that the people at the top of this crazy town care about. You can also watch a 5-minute video of the morning’s news every day if you prefer.

The Hollywood Reporter

Rather than droppin’ a couple hundred bones on actually paying for the magazine, I suggest signing up for their daily email newsletters, or subscribing to their rss feeds. This is the kind of info the people with the money care about. The type of info that is great to have as a general understanding of what’s going on in our industry.

Info List

Tons of wonderful industry news on their main site. Lots of networking opportunities and such. Click on the “Register” link in the top right and enter your email to get on the list.

Gold Star

Damn you all of my friends who didn’t tell me about this until 6 months into my Los Angeles experience. If you want to get tickets to anything in Los Angeles, it’s mandatory to check Goldstar first. Pretty much every play, concert, or whatever has extremely (like 50+ %) discounted tickets. Awesomesauce.

Oh, and there are discounted tix for most of the major cities on here, not just Los Angeles.

ActorRated

ActorRated is like Yelp for actors. Basically it’s a place where people can rate and give feedback on the myriad services, products, headshot photographers, membership organizations, and the like. What you’re looking for isn’t there? Put it up! The more information we can give each other as a community, the better.

Performer Track

In short, PerformerTrack is online software that allows you to manage all aspects of your acting career. Auditions, expenses, contacts, etc.

I wrote about PerformerTrack previously, and I would highly recommend you check out co-founder Brian Vermiere’s interview with Inside Acting Podcast.

The Moth Podcast

As actors we’re in the business of telling stories. And The Moth Podcast has some of the best stories around. They are true stories, run about 15 minutes, and are told live without notes. Subscribe on work out those storytelling muscles.

The Actor’s Lounge

I absolutely LOVE The Actor’s Lounge. It is by far the best energy in Los Angeles. So what is it you ask? Great question.

The Actor’s Lounge is essentially an open mic night for actors. Any actor can simply show up and do a monologue (3 min. or less) or a scene (5 min. time limit for 2-person scene, 6-minute limit for 3 or more). There’s a live DJ on stage, phenomenal emcees (led by the truly brilliant In-Q), as well as music, dance, live painting, and film stuff thrown in for good measure. If you have a single creative bone in your body you NEED to check this out.

When: First Wednesday of every month, starting at 8:30pm (performers must show up early to sign up)
Where: Greenway Court Theatre, 544 N. Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90048
Cost: $1 (though it might go up to $5 soon)

What are your favorite resources? If they’re not listed here, throw ’em up in the comments section!

If there were ever a shortcut to success, it’s getting really great information and surrounding yourself with incredible people. The Actors’ Network (TAN) does both of those things. If you are in the Los Angeles area, and take your career as an actor seriously, I can’t think of something I’d recommend more in furthering your career than The Actors’ Network. Check out their website, find ’em on facebook, and follow them on twitter.

Full Disclosure: I totally get paid if you join TAN and say my name. And by get paid, I mean I get points. Seriously. Like at an arcade. I think I can redeem them for spider rings or something if I collect enough. In all seriousness, I don’t give a flying patootie about the points (honestly, tell them Superman sent you), I just want to share great resources I’ve come across in my brief time in Los Angeles.

Introduction

Aurora (actress extraordinairre) recently sat down with the founder of The Actors’ Network, Kevin E. West. Check out the interview below for some wisdom and an introduction to Kevin.

What Is It?

The best way I can describe TAN is that it’s like a “graduate school for the working actor.” Kevin teaches seminars (topicals) a couple times a week on all of the topics a working actor needs to know. There are recitations (power groups) that meet once a month to keep everyone accountable, network, and share resources. And top-notch industry guests like show runners (Jonathan Prince), agents (Tracy Curtis), acting coaches, and casting directors come are there almost every day imparting their wisdom and giving you a chance to create relationships.

Just like grad school you get what you put into it, so sign up for as many topicals as you can, go listen to the guests, and meet as many people as you can. Everything is included in your cost (see below) and there are no requirements…attend when you can, don’t when you have to help Aunt Greta with her chili cook-off.

Like most universities, the school is only as good as the students, and the members of TAN are top-notch.

Topicals

The topicals are primarily led by Kevin, and cover everything from demo reels, to your resume, contracts, casting director workshops, phone technique, and the like (full list here). It’s kind of like class for an hour and a half. If you have gained any insight from my previous blog posts, then you’ll absolutely take something of value from these topicals. A great deal of my outlook and the information I have comes as a direct result of these sessions. These are a glorious way to learn from Kevin’s 20+ years of mistakes (and successes!) in LA so that you don’t have to repeat them. It makes me feel like I’m skipping classes of life…

Industry Guests

These are akin to your guest lectures at grad school. Take a look at TAN’s calendar to see who has come into The Actor’s Network recently, and who’s slated to come in soon. Agents, managers, casting directors (Joseph MiddletonMarci LiroffDanielle Eskinazi, and Bonnie Gillespie are just a few examples of the casting people who’ve I’ve seen speak), producers, writers, you name it. These industry guests volunteer (they don’t receive any money) an hour of their time to come in and answer actors’ questions. Just watch your feet when you attend these things, ’cause people be droppin’ knowledge.

Power Groups

There are 9 (optional) power groups…kind of like college recitations. These are group of about 30 actors from TAN who get together once a month to discuss goals and progress, share resources, and ask questions. Each group is led by an experienced facilitator. These are a great way to meet other productive actors, and begin to really find a sense of community, one of the hardest things to do in this city, particularly when you first arrive.

Blog

The Actor’s Network also recently launched a kick-ass blog written by 16 of LA’s finest in myriad categories. Think of it as your homework. 🙂

Reputation/Whactor Factor

TAN has a stellar reputation around town. Being a member provides you with some serious legitimacy, and proves to most that you’re not a ‘whactor’ (compliments to bad boy Kristoffer Kelly for the term). Throw their logo on your resume if you want, and know that TAN is a 99% whactor-free zone.

Cost

$50/month. Seriously. I can honestly say that you get more from TAN for your money than any other single thing in Los Angeles (unless maybe you steal stuff…but the guilt and fear of getting caught probably make TAN worth it anyway).

There is also a one-time $55 charge when you join for the membership binder etc. Oh, and there’s a discount if you join for a full year, and once you are a member for 3 years your cost goes down to $200/year. They do ask that you pay in 4-month increments, though you can split your initial payment of $265, paying $165 up front, then your next $100 a month later.

Try going to grad school for those kinds of dollars and cents (I know, I know those are all even dollar amounts, no cents. Cut me some slack, I’m just some dude with a blog. Sheesh).

How Do I Join?

If you are in LA, the first step is to check out a (free) orientation. More details here. From there you fork over some moolah and get crankin’.

For those of you not in Los Angeles, you can still join as an online member, and get access to a number of benefits outlined here.

If I Were King…

…I’d make every actor sign up for TAN, get in a power group, and attend every topical and guest speaker for 6 months. After that you could go on your merry way if you felt like it wasn’t for you, but the information is priceless, and those 6 months would (hopefully) put everyone in the proper mindset to pursue this profession.

Moreover, it’s can be daunting to feel like you’re making progress in your career as an actor. TAN not only gives you specific information and help in moving forward, but it also provides a grounding for your actor life in Los Angeles. Surrounding yourself in this community will be a tremendous benefit as you navigate this nutty industry.

So, finish up that chili and get your butt down to Santa Monica and Fairfax. I promise you won’t regret it.

P.S.

If you’re like me and SOOO over school, don’t fret. Replace the word “school” in this post with the word “home.”

P.P.S.

Ok, smart ass, I know there’s no such thing as a “grad home” but you get my point…TAN is a great place to be.

I’d like to share a moment I had last week.

On Thursday night I was standing backstage at Donny’s Skybox Theater, mentally preparing myself for my first show at The Second City: A full 30-minutes unscripted performance with Hugs and Pullups. As the team warmed up, I looked to my left and saw the above picture. I had to stop and take a moment.

John Candy, Dan Akroyd, Eugene Levy, Rosemary Radcliffe, and Gilda Radner.

“Oh boy,” I thought, “What am I getting myself into!?”

Call me crazy, but here were five of the most talented performers ever to rock Chicago all smiling (or, in the case of Eugene Levy, looking bad-ass) back at me, as if to say, “Hey JVB, go get ’em, tiger!” I was in their house, and they we’re welcoming me in.

The moment was incredibly humbling, and made me realize just how lucky we are to be professional actors. I mean, really… who could ask for a better job than this? Sure, it’s not exactly the most stable career, nor the most financially promising, but…oh, what the hell, I’ll say it: Acting is NEAT! It’s FUN! We get to do the same things, perform on the same stages, that our childhood idols got to? Sweet!!!

Here’s my point: Actors, let’s make sure to appreciate little moments like these that sneak up on us when we least expect them. They’re a great reminder as to why we’re here, what came before us, and what may lie ahead.

~JVB

PS – While writing this post, I accidentally misspelled “performers” several times, typing “perFROmers” instead. Clearly Eugene Levy’s 70’s-tastic hair has made an impression on me…

Yesterday I was talking to a potential employee for one of my businesses, and she mentioned that her boyfriend was an actor. She said that he had come out to Los Angeles for 6 months to act, before “failing” and going home. Failing. That was the perception. I couldn’t help but think that he hadn’t even been her long enough to buy a box spring and take the cover off his couch. Hell, I’ve been stuck on the 405 for longer than he’d been out here. Alright, that’s a slight (very slight…) exaggeration, but you get my point. I’ve written before (here, here, here, here, and here) on being in this for the long haul, and how it almost always takes at least a decade to build the careers we imagine for ourselves. This phone conversation, though, got me thinking about expectations, where they come from, and what people think they can, or should, achieve when coming to this city.

I’ve been in Los Angeles for a little over a year now, and started actively pursuing acting almost exactly a year ago (I had my first audition in Los Angeles last July).  And here’s the deal: I haven’t been on TV. I don’t have a theatrical agent or a manager, though I did have a commercial agent for a few months (we have since parted ways, but that’s another blog post). I haven’t had an audition on a studio lot nor have I even auditioned for a major union commercial. There was no “pilot season” for me, and as of right now I’m not “coming to a theatre near you.” I’ve had meetings with 3 agents who decided not to take me on. That’s right. I’ve been here a year, don’t have any representation, no recognizable credits on my resume, and no auditions for major projects.

But guess what. I’m kicking ass. Honestly, my career couldn’t be going better. I stopped clicking and submitting via submission services in favor of relationship-based job getting, and now instead of auditioning I get offers. And when I do audition, I’m doing it for people who already know my work and call me in directly. I have a reel that I’m proud of, and footage coming in the next few weeks that will make it 10x better. A film I was in just got accepted to the LA Shorts Fest.  The companies I started allow me to have a flexible schedule and pursue my acting career as I see fit. People read my blog and ask for my advice. I have actual friendships with casting directors, writers, producers, and directors. I’m friggin’ happy.

And, more than anything, I am constantly surrounded by amazing people. If there’s anything I’ve learned about success, it’s that it comes as a direct result of the quality and calibur of the people around you and the company you keep. I’m ingrained in brilliant communities that support and inspire me. The people around me have the right attitude, are always eager to help, and believe in me. They introduce me to people, refer me to others, and actively help me in my pursuits. Although it is not as obviously tangible as an agency logo or “NBC” on my resume, the strength of my community is how I define my success…and I have it in abundance.

So, are you in SAG? Who’s your agent?

Why is it that actors ask these two questions the first time they meet a fellow actor? It’s hard enough feeling like you constantly need to justify your career to “outsiders,” so why do we do this to ourselves? How is it that somehow having an agent legitimizes you as an actor? I know someone who has been with (a reputable) theatrical agent for 4 years…and had 4 auditions from them. I know actors with the TOP agencies who never work. And I know actors without agents who work all the time. Finding out someone’s union status or representation just doesn’t really tell you all that much.

For me, I have stopped asking actors I just met these questions, in favor of asking if they have been working on any cool and exciting projects lately? That leaves the door open for them to talk about pretty much anything, and hopefully relieves a little pressure that actors so constantly encounter.

Final Thoughts

I challenge you to start measuring your success based on your relationships. How many professional industry contacts do you have in your database? (You do keep track of that right?) What is the level of the people you have these relationships with? How strong are those relationships? If you randomly decided to shoot a short film next weekend, how many people could you get to show up as a favor to you ’cause they think you’re awesome or believe in you?

It’s much easier to your friends and family back home that you’re going to be on Criminal Minds next week than it is to say that you just had an amazing coffee date with some producer over at NBC who wants to meet again next month, but I would wager that the latter is a greater career success than the former.

What about you? What were your expectations when you came to LA (or wherever)…?

“I can’t believe I made that face!”

“Why do I keep moving my head so much?”

“I’m speaking way too loudly here…”

These are just a few of the self-critiques I made while watching the final cut of I Can’t Get No, a student film written and directed by Andrew Messer.

In my film acting class, I was told that some actors like to watch themselves on screen and spot areas they might need to work on, while others prefer not to, believing it only interferes. This leads to the question: Is it possible to accurately rate your own work? After all, you know your own face/expressions/voice better than anyone else, right? But can you really keep an objective point-of-view?

Myself, I’ve always preferred not to watch, simply because I usually wind up feeling bad about my acting. For some reason, I look right past all the good things about the performance and my brain only identifies the areas I could have done better, leaving me feeling embarrassed and deflated. Logic tells me that if I can get past my insecurities and watch myself with a constructively critical eye, then there can be room for tremendous growth as an actor. Plus, shouldn’t I be looking for footage I can use in my reel?

With that in mind, I’m going to opt for the path of most resistance and spend a little more time studying my own work after the fact. There’s a lot of upside in knowing thyself, and I intend to reap the benefits.

What do you think? Are you one of those people who prefers not to watch their own films? What’s your process? Is this an area where it might come in handy to go beyond film classes and hire an acting coach? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

~Joe VB

I started to write a post on theatre in Los Angeles, but realized that I wanted to spend more time on it than I had. So for now let me say this: there is an immense amount of theatre in Los Angeles, and in general it gets a bad wrap. Shows like Spike Heels, however, are doing everything they can to combat that perception.

Spike Heels is playing this weekend and next (June 19, 20, 25, 26, and 27) at Theatre 68 in Hollywood, and I would highly recommend that you go check it out. The play itself was written by Theresa Rebeck in 1990, and 2 years later opened in New York starring Kevin Bacon as Edward. Directed by Robert Marra, Spike Heels points a keen eye on sex, relationships, and gender dynamics in life and in the workplace, with an emphasis on the myriad difficulties women face in particular.

For starters, the technical aspects of the play are wonderful (mad props to the technical team, including Danny Cistone as set designer and Matt Richter designing the lighting). Music is used perfectly to set the mood both prior to and during the play, and the fully realized set very much brings the audience into the world of the characters. My only complaint on that front is that the actors were staged behind the furniture a bit much for my taste, detracting a tad from their performances.

More than anything, though, wonderful acting by the ensemble cast provides a through line to the show. The energy of the play is sustained throughout, despite a smaller audience the night I went (fellow actors will appreciate the particular challenge in doing so). Lydia joins the cast in act two, but Alexis Boozer delivers a wholly crafted performance despite her short amount of stage time. As her fiancée Andrew, James McAndrew provides the most conflicted of the characters, endeavoring to be the moral compass of his friends, ultimately realizing the life isn’t quite as cut and dry as he’d like it to be. Unfortunately for him, life cannot always be reasoned with. Carolina Groppa (also the producer of the play) as the impulsive Georgie drives the energy–both sexual and not :)–though the play, delivering a delightfully charming performance. If we learn anything from the show it’s that, as Georgie says, “sex was never this complicated in high school.” Lastly, Daniel Kash as the smooth-talking lawyer Edward is, pardon my French, freaking hysterical. Go see the show if for no other reason than to see Kash’s smarmy brilliance.

As with any show, Spike Heels was not perfect, but the commitment and energy of the show more than make up for its flaws. If you’re looking for something to do this weekend or next, get your keester over to Theatre 68.

To purchase tickets and get more information please visit this Plays 411 link.

1. MOVING TO GREENPOINT – WILLIAMSBURG

Today is the day, my good friends. I move – from the Upper East Side (New York’s quiet, family oriented, wealthy, primarily Jewish neighborhood wherein I have found solice in my Bikram Yoga studio/friends, my local vegan salad/sandwich/juice shop, and my Starbucks’ baristas who consistently ask me for my number, give me a discount, and know how to make a gal feel special and loved – also where I have miserably shared a studio with a veritable dipshit) to Greenpoint, Brooklyn! Listed as #5 in The New York Times on April 12, 2010 as one of the top 50 “Most Livable Neighborhoods,” in New York, Greenpoint is up and coming as a trendy place for young professionals and artists who are perhaps too poor for the more expensive East Village or Williamsburg real estate but too “scene” to move North to Wash. Heights, Harlem, or even the Bronx.

“…But Greg Pitts, 53, a ceramics instructor who moved to Greenpoint four
years ago, said he loved the working-class Polish character of the
neighborhood and had wearied of the noisy weekend stampedes of the
young, drunk and club-bound.

“It’s New York, so I guess I shouldn’t be complaining…”

The one thing that wont change will be the smells. The Upper East Side smells of urine. Why? Well, in addition to the homeless people who sleep on every street corner in every neighborhood in New York City, there is an abundant population of small, peppy dogs that adorn my blessed block. It always smells of urine. And, on days when I feel sluggish and just want to wear some oversized slouchy pants that drag ever-so-slightly on the ground below, it makes for a fun little ‘human frogger’ adventure, dodging sliding pools of yellow as the run downhill towards the street wondering if I can pass them before they trickle onto my pant legs and pass safely to my secured destination. More times that not, I win. As for “Little Poland” (my beloved Greenpoint):

“The wind turned, and a pungent blast of something chemical — nail polish
remover? — wafted by. “The smells are bad; you know, they worry me,”
said Ms. Aiuto, as Isaiah ran a few circles on the grass. “I guess a lot
of places in New York are not going to be great for your health.”

Moving in New York (er, moving in Brooklyn) is actually quite a lot easier than I had anticipated. I don’t have a lot of things but having a bed makes it very difficult. If you just have clothes, books, pots and pans (as a typical studio dweller or minimalist may only require), you can move slowly, over the course of days, via the trains, buses, and cabs – if you have the cash. I, however, have a bed. Its small, its a twin. If I weren’t so broke all the time, I’d just leave it or sell it and buy a new one at the Sleepy’s on my block in Greenpoint. Alas, this is my situation. So I give you two words of wisdom:

1) Man with a Van
2) UHaul

Man with a Van is cheap and dependable. They are the best deal you can find if you need MOVERS (people to pack your things, carry them, load and unload, etc). I don’t need that – I took boxes from work and am a phenomenal packer if I do say so myself. But they have been recommended to me on more than one occasion. There are Men with Vans all over the country actually so just do a google search and call around. You should be good to go. In my situation, however, the BEST deal is UHAUL. To rent a 10 foot truck for a whole day is only $20. That is, to clarify, IF you pick up and drop off the truck in Brooklyn. Reboot the search and find a pick-up location in the City and the rate becomes $89/day. And, again, we are reminded as to why I 1) have to work four jobs to live here and 2) am moving to Greenpoint! You get the van/truck/whatever you’ve rented for as many hours as you specify and then you pay for miles (either $.99 or $1.79 depending on size of rental) at the end of the day. If you’re moving within the city or between the boroughs, this means not so many miles and a very very very reasonable moving deal. Its an incredible tip!

Upon moving, we discover many things need to be changed: cable, electric, billing address, address change in general, and maybe even your stage name? Oh wait… that’s just ME! Which leads me to my next order of business:

2. NAME CHANGES IN THE PERFORMING ARTS INDUSTRY (often referred to as “the STAGE NAME”)

It’s official. Your New York City contributor is no longer the oft mispronounced Emily Schmidt-Beuchat. From this time forward, I will be Emily Beuchat (and considering even Emily Beauchat). Your comments on this subject matter are GREATLY encouraged and appreciated.

But why this “sudden” change? Why this drop of a Schmidt? Where will the Schmidt go? Will it go peacefully?

According to our favorite resource these days, Wikipedia: “A performer will often take a stage name because his/her real name is considered unattractive, dull, unintentionally amusing or difficult to pronounce or spell, or because it has been used by another notable individual or because it projects an undesired image. Sometimes a performer adopts a name that is unusual or outlandish to attract attention. Other performers use a stage name in order to retain anonymity. The equivalent concept among writers is called a nom de plume or pen name, while the term ring name is used in professional wrestling.”

My fight name, if I were to quit acting all together and really pursue Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with some moxie/chutzpah and a smile, was and will always be “Emily Schmidt BOOM-shaka-laka” (and my song to enter the ring would be the theme song to JAWS… or Black Cat by Janet Jackson). But these are just thoughts I have late at night…

The stage name is a much more serious consideration. And quite controversial. With family names, especially with names less American sounding, it becomes a big question as to whether or not you are “selling out” to fit a certain type or mold in this industry. Let’s face it, the industry is rarely, if not never, going to come to you. Don’t be a sell out but also don’t give them hurdles to reach you. This being said, its completely a personal call whether or not someone changes his or her name for the sake of their career. I have chosen because of various conversations with my mother (the hippie/giver of the “Schmidt” and the hyphen to both my sister and myself) and her reasons are this:

  1. Schmidt-Beuchat is too complicated to say, spell, and remember. You need to have something that makes an impression (which this name does) but not because its too overwhelming. People remember my name but not as what it is but that it was long and interesting sounding. Contacting me, I can only imagine, has become a task in email rerouting hell.
  2. Schmidt-Beuchat sounds like a married name. The number one question I get at auditions is, “is this your married name?” So not only am I there, fragile in my auditioning state but I am in addition saddened and reminded of my state of alone-ness in this world as a strong, single lady.
  3. Beuchat is French and it means Beautiful Cat (Beu from Beau for handsome (m) and Chat for Cat (m)). Schmidt is German and makes me sound like a Nazi. And, according to my mother, in this industry filled with many powerful people of all backgrounds, it is not good to ever be associated with the Nazis.

Other reasons to change ones name, according to Wikipedia, are:

  • To disguise a family connection (as in the case of Nicolas Cage who sought to hide his relation to the Coppola’s or Emilio Estevez who chose not to take his father’s professional name, Sheen).
  • Guild and association rules: SAG, British Equity, and others have strict rules on having no duplicate names (often actors change their names simply by choosing one that isnt already being used professionally). For example, Michael J. Fox has his lovely J because Michael Fox was already a member of SAG. Or Terry O’Quinn (JOHN MOTHER F*ING LOCKE) is actually Terry Quinn but that name, too, is already in use.
  • Involuntary Name Changes: sometimes agents choose for you… This is not something I would advise. I think, and this is just me, if you are going to change your name, do it out of necessity (association rules) or because YOU have chosen to. Don’t let your agent or someone TELL you that you wont succeed without it. If they’re blaming your NAME as the sole reason to your not being an A-list star, you may want to reconsider working with this person. This will only be the first of their long list of excuses.
  • Ethnicity!!! or changing a name to disguise one’s heritage. Take Freddie Mercury, born “Farrokh Bulsara” to Parsi parents. At one time, Jews in Hollywood were encouraged to anglicize their names to avoid discrimination, and still happens today. In an extreme example, Margarita Carmen Cansino (an American Spanish actress) underwent electrology to change her hairline to more “Northern European appearance,” and renamed herself Rita Hayworth. … more on this controversy later…
  • Ease of use – the AEA (actors equity association) advises performers to select a name that is easy for others to pronounce, spell, and remember.
  • “Some performers while playing great attention to their skills and abilities give little thought to the difference that a well-thought-out name can make to their career. Often it is only after the realization that a poorly chosen name results in an undesired impression that a person or group decides on a different name.”
  • Relevance to image – (more specific to the music world) – take for example; Sting, Slash, Sid Vicious, Necrobutcher, Rob Zombie, LADY GAGA – who is actually a complete character on stage and in her musical career than she is from her typical, personal self! Every member of the punk band The Ramones took the pseudonymous “Ramone” surname as part of their collective stage persona. And Norma Jeane Baker changed her name to the far more glamorous-sounding Marilyn Monroe.
  • Euphony and ease of remembrance – pretty straight forward…

So, peacefully, my mother and I will bade my Schmidt farewell.

In further conversations with my boss at Theatre Communications Group / American Theatre Magazine (for which I am now the official/temporary PR person – funny how things unfold), Teresa Eyring commented that Emily Beuchat has a ring to it. Its very French. Americans love French things because we assume that there is always an element of culture there that we can never truly possess. Furthermore, she suggested I even change the spelling back to the original pre-americanized “Beauchat.”
This is a suggestion that I like… but I haven’t quite made up my mind about it. Beuchat is still very difficult to say and changing it to Beauchat would definitely clear up some pronunciation confusion. However, then I will really have CHANGED my name. And this leads me to more of the “controversy” in this subject;

How much of yourself are you willing to change in order to reach your dreams in this field?

Be careful how much of yourself you change in order to fit a mold or type. Often, the best and most successful actors are their own type or are already a certain niche. Let yourself fill a void rather than try to squeeze into an over crowded section of the industry. Your greatest talents and your uniqueness are your assets. However, in the case of Rita Hayworth, her alterations worked in her favor. SO, my only TRUE and sincere advice can be, again, to do it for you and not to let someone require it of you. Same goes for breast implants, any sort of facial plastic surgery, and other ventures with you which you may feel uncomfortable (porn and prostitution).

As far as stage names are concerned, think of it in this manner: the industry refers to them as “professional names.” If you separate the issue and look at it as “for use in a professional capacity” then the name change becomes less personal. Less controversial. Less offensive to your parents, friends, heritage (maybe).

SO…

To my friends, family, and landlords, I will continue to be the sweet, hyphenated, Emily Schmidt-Beuchat from Boulder, CO.

To my colleagues, casting directors, audiences, and THRONGS of adoring fans, I will now be Emily Beuchat (… BeAuchat pending).

(comments on this specific post are greatly encouraged and appreciated)
Much love,

Emily Beuchat

Alrighty. As we continue to grow and expand this blog, we discussed updating our logo (the image you see at the top of this blog). However, we disagreed on which image we liked the most. 372 games of rochambeau, 14 mud wrestling fights, and an Egyptian battle to the death later, we were bruised, battered, and still hadn’t come to a decision.

So, we decided to came to you. Our readers. Please fill out the poll at the bottom of this post for which image you would like to see on the top of this blog. You can click on the images to see a larger version of them, and please leave additional feedback or suggestions in the comments section.

Thanks in advance,

JVB, Em, and Ben

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