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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
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.
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.
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.
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…
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 Middleton, Marci Liroff, Danielle 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.
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.
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.
$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.
If you’re like me and SOOO over school, don’t fret. Replace the word “school” in this post with the word “home.”
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.
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.
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…
“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!
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
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
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)
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
The second you begin to want something, really want something, is the moment you should look back and realize that this thing will not, now or ever, solve your problems. It is when we let go and allow the things that will happen or will not happen to come to fruition that we should realize that our problems and ourselves are under control. Not until this moment are we finally able to make dreams come to reality. Desperation, greed, obsessions… they are all born of the desire to heal one’s self and one’s situation. And this pattern repeats itself as we continue to lose control and allow our possessions and obsessions to control us. Our needs to be like others, or to be better than others, or to just be better than ourselves prevent us from specifically reaching these exact goals. When you realize and accept that you, already, are all of these things… these things happen much faster.
Brief respite of profound thoughts before I head off to my first day of rehearsal.
Things have changed for the better here in the sweaty sticky city. I am finally in a place of comfort and self-contentedness that would not have come without almost a year of struggle, depression, and flailing. My horrid, repeat HORRID living situation (on which I have been counting down the days to end since day 248) is almost over. We are at day: … let me check… 25! And I am rushing out the door to drop of a deposit and two application fees for a Brooklyn apt (3br) to share with two friends from work before I head to my first rehearsal for a small, non-union, PROFESSIONAL production of Medea.
Backup: I went home to Boulder, CO in mid April to reassess my life and decided to stay in New York City. I pontificated on this subject in a little Lauper dedicate bit entitled Time after Time. Lots of allegories to time.. it was lovely. Yet I digress. Since that decision, I have been able to see more clearly the light at the end of this years toxically suffocating tunnel. And that little light has given me hope. And I find now that, if you have one avenue of hope, one little light, one tiny alternate route: as long as you have options, you are never fully lost.
My little light is the end of this lease. If I haven’t articulated this enough: I am psyched to leave. Have I ever discussed my roommate? Leaving out names: hes disgusting. I write this as I look over to his bed across our shared studio and see the equivalent to a crime scene chalk body outline only in yellow on white (the sweat from his body outlining his skinny body onto his never washed, once white bedding).
I crawl through his trash and hair sheds to get to my half/corner of the room. We haven’t spoken in 4-6 months since the day I suggested we sublet and part ways and his father threatened to sue me if I tried to find a sublet for my half. I have stopped using the kitchen and the shower as their filth repulse me. I did one full, head to toe cleaning of both rooms before I went to Boulder in February and have sworn never to touch, dirty, nor clean either of those spaces/surfaces again. Its thoroughly passive aggressive and feels oh-so-right. He doesn’t understand the concept of sharing space and consistently puts his meat products on top of my vegan food in the refrigerator, bath products (including old razors, gallons of Tommy Bahama, a hair straightener?, all over body bronzing powder! and aqua net) on top of my things on the bathroom shelves, and refuses/refused to trade closets with me even though he chose the closet on my half of the room upon move in (so he literally has to step behind my divider screen to get to his shit – eliminating any chance of privacy a girl could hope for. Furthermore, he exhibits a nightly ritual I like to call: “midnight tranny trechno” wherein, between the hours of 2 and 7am, he listens to loud club music and cooks steaks (or eats rotisserie chickens off the kitchen floor???). The worst part of it all is that he is an artist (?). Rephrase: he is THAT actor. The actor that only does film, that has an agent but really just complains about how his agent doesnt get him work, and who thinks that art is a lovely sentiment but that partying and sucking up to celebrities’ children is the only way to make connections. Upon move in, he mocked my calling myself an ‘artist.’ Did I mention that he doesn’t know how to flush a toilet and throws his used toilet paper into the trash can? SAVE ME!
I don’t know if he has talent. I’ve never seen his work. He doesn’t get work … he also doesn’t leave his bed.
BUT we wish him well and no harmful thoughts :-p He would never harm me or my stuff and for that, I am grateful. I suppose.
As a result of the stress/tension/anxiety in this living situation, I have become incredibly ill. I stopped getting periods (for 8 months), I gained significant weight and became pretty unhappy. That is all changing. After a brief trip home to Indiana to visit the family on the farm and after two of my very best friends from CO moved to NYC – I finally don’t feel alone. Before, I had left my community and come to new york entirely by myself and felt that I was missing out on everything I had left behind. Now, everyone has dissipated and that community doesn’t exist anymore. We are all alone and, as a result, I feel that we are all back together again (for we are in the same situation). And there is comfort in that.
Once I found comfort, once I re-found myself, auditioning became much better. I had an audition for a small paying production of Medea (with a classical, movement based company). http://www.xoregos.com/ – I believe that I am chorus (a role I have played before at CU Boulder) but I may also have a small role as the Nurse. Either way, there is a lot of movement and a lot of tragedy involved and I cant be upset with either of those things. We find out specific casting today at our first rehearsal. I am very excited. I am being paid to act in New York City. The wheel has begun to roll. We open in mid July and have many benefit performances in CENTRAL PARK! More to follow on this subject since we haven’t really begun…
In addition, I had an incredible audition for a Children’s Theatre touring company based in Jersey. It was a last minute call in to audition so I went back to my old stand by pieces which weren’t necessarily appropriate for the genre but were strong pieces on their own. They loved my work (or at least said they did and then proceeded to have a 30 minute conversation with me about the beauty of Boulder, CO and how Flagstaff is both a road filled with danger and people have sex in parked cars). I don’t know if I will get cast – I haven’t heard anything yet – but I do know that I had a great audition and through no fault of mine would I not get cast. Its funny though. I went back to old pieces that I did for my BFA audition (when I was super comfortable in my own skin and KNEW what I deserved and what I was capable of), and earlier this year I went back to Bikram Yoga (a practice I abandoned in college when I got a boyfriend and began to lose myself because… truth be told… he really did make me happy enough all on his own). It is funny how sometimes we have to abandon who we are to realize we had it right all along. I am not saving up money to go to the Bikram Yoga teacher certification training. Hello Sally Mae! May we have a brief chat?
I am finally getting back on track. And I can SEE that track now because of that little light at the end of the tunnel. And it will get brighter. And I will get stronger. Who knows… maybe I’ll even get another boyfriend! :-p
… probably not
– E. Beuchat
Filming just wrapped for I Can’t Get No, a DePaul student film directed by Andrew Messer and starring some incredibly talented Chicago actors. We’ve spent the past two weeks shooting, re-shooting, hauling equipment, setting up lights, and staying up ’til 3AM perfecting this film. Needless to say, it was the best kind of exhausting there is.
I had the privilege of portraying Cal, a young man who is tired of living “unsatisfied in an unsatisfactory world.” One afternoon over lunch, Cal tells his best friend Jared that he intends to take his own life the following day. Playing this part, I encountered a number of acting challenges that forced me to step outside my “comfort zone.” But the more takes we shot, the more I felt the stage actor in me begin to relinquish control and let my natural instincts take over. I could feel my body becoming more aware of itself in front of the camera, and it felt great to watch the raw footage afterward and see the payoff. 🙂
If you’re in Chicago and looking for a training center to learn and/or improve your on-camera technique, I recommend The Green Room Studio. I’ve only completed the first level of their program, but it has already helped me become a more confident film actor. Check it out!
If you’re like me before I moved to Los Angeles a year ago, then you have absolutely no idea what casting director workshops are. In short, they are places where you pay anywhere from $30 – $50 (or more) to meet a casting director, and perform a scene they give you there or a scene you have already prepared (depending on the workshop location). Basically, you are paying to audition for the casting director, although that language–paid audition–is central to the recent crackdown on these CD workshops. There are a large number of workshop locations around the city with various formats, but in most all cases a casting director, associate, or assistant comes in to the workshop for a couple hours and watched anywhere from 15 – 30 actors perform. It should be noted that while the CD does indeed receive money, oftentimes the majority of the money goes to the workshop place itself. The community has been split for a while on the merits/legality of these workshops, and the recent controversy has sprouted some spirited discussion and opposition to the new law.
Rather than go into great detail on workshops, workshop locations, and the like, I would like to offer you an email response I sent to a recent discussion that started on Hollywood Happy Hour (side note: if you are not on this email list then you are truly missing out). For more information on workshops themselves, please check out this post from Brains Of Minerva, or this incredibly informative post by Bonnie Gillespie on the issue (note: her post was written after I first published my thoughts below, and includes excerpts from it).
So, here it is. Some of my thoughts on CD workshops…
I think the topic of Casting Director workshops is extremely important to our community, and wanted to add my two cents.
Let me start by saying that I have attended dozens of workshops and have, in general, been quite pleased with the result. I have met a number of people in casting I would not have otherwise met at this juncture, and have formed a number of strong relationships that will certainly carry into the future. All this to say that I have no bitterness whatsoever towards workshops, though I have had some growing concerns…
It seems the core of this issue is the idea of paying for a job interview. To me, that it’s illegal is almost beside the point, because so is speeding and tearing that tag off my mattress, and I don’t find the legality of either activity particularly compelling reasons to avoid them. The issue here, though, is that if anyone in a field is allowed to PAY for a job interview, the playing field suddenly becomes very lopsided, and unfairly so. Should Rich Kid Sally have a better shot at that coveted office job with flexible hours, high pay, and an understanding that you’re going to need to leave for auditions over Poor Kid Joe merely because she could pay for a job interview? At that point, we are no longer looking at merit (or even connections, social intelligence, whatever) as a reason for hire. Suddenly the well-to-do are able to (ostensibly) move to the front of the line simply because of money. Restricting this practice does not come from a motivation of restricting choice, but rather to protect large portions of the population as well as attempting to have as level a playing field as possible. It’s the same reason why politicians are allowed to buy advertising, but not actual votes. 🙂
Now, some have argued that workshops are not paid auditions, to which I have to wholeheartedly disagree. Yes, there are actual classes and other one-offs that are more educational, but I have not been to a *single* workshop in which the VAST majority of attendees were there primarily because the CD could potentially give them a job. If the workshops were run by writers instead of casting directors, I have no doubt that workshop attendance would dramatically decrease (which is ironic, because writers probably have more power to hire actors than CDs do, but that’s a whole other Oprah). Even the top-rated, most legitimate workshop places I have attended speak tongue-in-cheek about the “educational” value of the workshops. Everyone knows that in the end workshops are (primarily) a way of attempting to procure future employment. Yes there are exceptions, yes workshops can be good audition practice, and yes some CDs are more edifying than others, but I find it hard to believe that if CDs were suddenly stripped of their hiring power that ANY actor would attend these workshops.
When looking at the actual laws being put in place, I think it’s important to look at who they affect as well. To be honest, I’m not really worried about the actors who are on top of their game, doing their research and everything else in their power to forward their career (read: the actors who most benefit from workshops anyway). It’s the countless masses of others who are unaware and are more apt to need protection. I moved to L.A. about a year ago, and started doing workshops because it seemed to be “the thing to do.” I never thought twice about it until this controversy arose. That concerns me. If we as a community proffer that paying for job interviews is the standard, then it will indeed become so. I recently encountered an actress who had just started acting about 6 months ago. She was deep in research over all the workshop places because that’s what everyone else was doing. I guess I’m less concerned about a law keeping her from attending a workshop, and more troubled with the fact that workshops were her default method of moving forward. She was surrounded by a community of intelligent actors; why was no one saying that perhaps she should get a little more training or do some more research on what workshops actually were before diving in head first? This is the actor who needs protection–be it provided by the law or from her peers.
The bigger question for me, is how we want to be viewed as an acting community. Why is it that we demand for our right to pay for what used to be free? I’m certainly not advocating nostalgia over the “good ol’ days” of general meetings and play attendance (I’m too young to do so anyway :p), but when was the last time someone even asked for a general meeting? We claim to be a community of creatives, and yet when it comes to the business pursuit of our careers we often become myopic, doing the same things as everyone else. We live in a time where there are more ways than ever to get on the radar of anyone with the ability to hire us. From social media to self-submitting to self-producing to web series to networking events to more television shows on air than ever before to good ol’ fashioned phone calls–there are so many myriad ways to get ourselves and our work in front of people on the other side of the desk I worry when there is an uproar over not being able to pay for the privilege. In a day and age where an email or even a tweet can deliver a reel of our best work to anyone instantaneously, I am reticent to think that actors cannot get their work seen by CDs in any other way than a workshop. What if actors simply started dropping off hard copies of their demo reels to casting offices. How much more effective and efficient might that be than paying $40+ and 2+ hours to see a CD for 5 minutes? I would wager that if actors called casting officers saying that they couldn’t afford/were opposed to CD workshops, and asked to send/drop off a demo reel that they would have a 90% success rate in getting it viewed. Don’t have a demo reel? Well get together the 20 actors who were going to go to the workshop, pool the $40 a piece, and take that $800 to hire a full crew (DPs, writers, editors, the whole nine…) for a day to film reel material for everyone. Or take the next $800 from everyone’s next workshop and produce a showcase, or a web series, or a play, or whatever…all ways to get your work seen. Or hell, if it really is about the educational experience, then take all that money and hire one of these CDs to come direct scenes for 2 hours, or see a play, or critique demo reels, or be filming something and have the CD show up to direct/critique. What better way to get Casting Directors to know your work than to invite them onto a set to see how people work…?
I understand why actors do CD workshops. I certainly know why I’ve done them. It’s one of the very few guaranteed ways to get your work in front of a legitimate casting person. More than anything, workshops make me FEEL like I’m part of the greater, more legitimate acting industry in the city. And if I’m honest with myself, workshops are easy. It’s far easier for me to plunk down 40 bones and know that I’m at least starting an industry relationship than it is to pick up the phone and cold call a producer.
I would hope that we wouldn’t need a law to protect us from ourselves. And again, I honestly don’t care that much about the law itself, but I also don’t buy that actors will do workshops no matter what. The same was said about no one wearing seatbelts, or hockey players not wearing helmets. Interestingly, in both those cases the community-at-large desired the law, but broke it individually. When polled, professional hockey players said they wanted everyone to wear helmets, but without a guarantee that everyone would, there was an individual disadvantage to do so. It wasn’t until it was mandated that ALL hockey players wear helmets that they did so…and happily.
If I’ve learned nothing else in my year in Los Angeles, it’s that the community of actors truly is brilliant. People are smart, supportive, and caring. Whether we decide to do workshops or not, I just hope that we can take a hard and honest at look at why we do them, and if they are indeed the best thing for our community AS A WHOLE. We’re all in this together…
Thanks for reading one actor’s opinion. =)
As always, we invite you to add your comments and discussion below.