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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.
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.
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.
First of all, thanks to all of you who showed up to the first #LAActorsTweetup. It was a resounding success which means…time for a second one!
If for some reason you didn’t see the post on the lovely Judalina’s Blog, then here are the details…
Monday May 17th
5364 Wilshire Blvd. 90036
Free parking behind bar/restaurant
(Happy hour goes til 7pm – all beers are $4, wells are $5 and all the appetizers are 1/2 off)
Them: How many hats are YOU wearing?
Actor? Director? Producer? Vagabond?
Come wearing a crazy hat. Seriously.
RSVP over at Judalina’s Blog
See you there, wearing a crazy hat!
Today I thought I would stray from my usual advice-y, resource-heavy posts and share just a little bit about what’s going on in my life as an actor.
I’m finally starting to see the final (or close-to-final) products of a number of projects I’ve filmed in the past months. (In my last post on student films you can see a preview of one such project.) What has been very gratifying is that the caliber of the projects I’m doing is going up. It used to be that I dreaded seeing a final product of something I was in, as most assuredly there would be a boom mic in half the frame, the sound would be off, or you would hardly be able to see the actors. Now you can almost always see the actors, the cuts actually make sense, and some of my acting ain’t half bad. Yay for progress. =)
It makes sense to me that a solid demo reel is one of the best ways to get more film work. If I’m trying to get hired to act on camera, what better way than to show myself acting on camera? Being the nerd that I am, I acquired Final Cut and spent innumerable hours putting together the next iteration of my reel. A reel is a constant work in progress, but I’m pretty happy with what I have now. The next step will be to create a separate comedy and dramatic reel, but for now this is what I got. Check it…
One of the first things most people tell you to do when you move to LA is get yourself on the different submission services, and start clicking and submitting away. When I started pursuing my career in Los Angeles I submitted to every project that even remotely had a character like me, which was great. I went on dozen of auditions, met some great people, and did a number of those lovely aforementioned projects. In the past few months, however, I have all but stopped submitting myself on these sites. The reason for this is that after a number of conversations I realized that the kinds of professional projects I’m aiming for (read: things you could actually watch on TV or in theatres) come as a result of relationships. I stopped looking at my success for the week as how many auditions I went on, but rather how many agents, casting directors, producers, or fellow actors I met and interacted with. Not only has this helped progress my career, but the reason I love this business so much in the first place is my passion for meeting and developing connections with new people.
One of the cool results of shifting my focus to relationship-building is that I’ve been able to bridge the on-line and off-line worlds in some cool ways. Some fellow actors and I organized the first-ever #LAActorsTweetup, bringing together the wonderful community of actors on twitter for an evening of merriment. Follow me on twitter for details on the next one, and look for an upcoming post on how to organize a tweetup in your city. Every time I meet another friend I knew online in person, I have to say that it makes me feel very “21st century.”
If you don’t practice acting, you’re not going to get better at it. In addition to taking weekly classes, some friends and I are going to start getting together every week or two to practice our on-camera technique. (We were inspired by Secrets of Screen Acting, the book and podcast by Patrick Tucker). I also purchased a camera and tripod so I can work on my on-camera acting as well as self-tape auditions. Additionally, when I feel like I need to practice my audition skills, I go on a binge of self-submitting until I get a few auditions that I can use to hone my skills.
If you haven’t had a chance to check out my personal website, zip on over to http://www.benwhitehair.com/. I’ve made a few updates recently.
My college professors will be happy to learn that the amount of research I do on a daily basis is insane. I am constantly looking up people on IMDb Pro, reading blogs, or checking out the agents of the most recent co-stars on my target shows. I have also begun to watch 1 or 2 episodes of every show on television, with particular regard to structure, and what the actors are actually doing. Is their acting “big”? Small” How are they moving their face? How is the laugh track affecting my perception of the show? What is the tone of the show? How many co-star and guest-star roles are on an average episode? All of these things have given me a much better sense of what is actually in the marketplace.
Agents and Managers
Ahh, the proverbial search for representation. In the past month I had a few different meetings, offers, and rejections from agents (commercial and theatrical) and a manager. In short, I’m going to continue searching for people to bring on my team that I feel in my gut are going to be the best to help me move my career forward. It’s very tempting to just say yes to anyone who offers to represent you, if only to be able to say “yes” when someone asks you if you have an agent. With that said, I think it’s ultimately wiser to take a step back, take the long-term view, and build a team of people who are all perfectly on the same page and as dedicated to my career as I am. The search continues…
I absolutely love living in Los Angeles, and I’m starting to really make some tremendous friendships here. In the end, what more could I ask for?
Riddle: What combines free pool and ping pong, libations, and social media?
Answer: The first ever LA Actor Tweetup!!!
What in tarnation is a tweetup, you ask? Well, it’s a bunch of people who know each other on twitter, getting together in the real world to, as they say, “kick it.” So, get your party pants on, and join us at Busby’s on April 12th to meet some amazing people. The nitty gritty:
You, silly. And that person sitting next to you. No, not them they’re creepy.
The other person. Yeah, them. They seem nice. Bring ’em along.
6pm – the cows come home
(Happy hour goes til 7pm – all beers are $4, wells are $5 and all the appetizers are 1/2 off)
Busby’s (on Wilshire not Santa Monica)
5364 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Free parking behind the bar/restaurant.
If free ping pong and awesome people isn’t convincing enough, then how about because
this is a relationship business. Or because you have nothing better to do on a Monday night.
Or because if you don’t come it will make us sad. Really, really sad.
If you would like to join us, please leave a comment below so we can have a head count.
And leave your twitter handle (e.g. @JohnDoe) so we can start following you. 🙂
(*NOTE: The following was written & formatted based on Chris Guillebeau’s article “HOW TO CONDUCT YOUR OWN ANNUAL REVIEW,” which can be found in its entirety at www.ChrisGuillebeau.com.)
(*NOTE: Furthermore, I have copy and pasted the post made recently by fellow contributor, JVB, to ease my formatting. He’s a gem, ain’t he? Yes, we can concur on this!)
Yo, 2009! I got some bones to pick with you. You, my friend, were a bitch, and I for one am both relieved that you are leaving and contemplative of what you have given me to consider.
It’s me, your ‘friend,’ Emily. I am not going to pretend that we get along. But, as I have realized, you are in my life for some reason. To test me, to try me, to measure me. I seek not to fully understand your motives but I am now, I can strongly say, at a point where I can accept them.
Dear Playbills readers: you have missed me, I know this. I have been absent. As Ben put it so aptly: acting is one of those art forms where you cannot begin to actually succeed or produce anything until you are fully in yourself. I think I gave myself too much to take on this year and 2009 didn’t like that too much. She saw me take on transition, focus, ambition, and growth all at the same time and was almost offended that a mere mortal would test her thus. So, what did she do? She spat on my eager little dreaming face. I was down and out for a bit but I have returned. The year is ending and 2009 is going on a repose. I am returning with clarity and focus. This year should have just been transition and if I look at it solely through that lens: I see success. Only success. So, 2009, FUCK YOU! Thats what I have to say to you!!! I succeeded, you bitch. And I couldnt have done it without you testing me to see if this is really what I want and who I am. So, again 2009, FUCK you, and THANK you.
As the year winds down, I am beginning to pick of the pieces of my life and myself that I lost in the big move to New York City and the big graduation from college. Unpacking is a process. Process. Process the process. Ok. Done, though never really done. Oh, its almost too much to think about and thus why I put it in such poetic terms.
Like J to the V-B, I am now going to take a look at 2009, in review. The highlights, the lowlights, and the unmentionables there within. Let us begin: hands inside the vehicle at all times.
Theme: “This is no Miracle on 34th Street!” (to quote my father, who I saw for the first time in 7 years this year – but that story is for a different blog on a different day. A blog I might one day entitle: Everyone and Their Mother has got Daddy Issues). In more Elementary terms, dear Watson, we’d call this year: the year we realized the difference between expectations and reality while still attempting to dream.
What Went Well This Year:
- I graduated from college and received a BFA in Acting (though this was technically Dec 08):
- I completed something that I started 3.5 years ago and have fully dedicated myself to a profession and art that I love.
Apart from this, graduating from college is really just that. Its the process that is too much to delve into in this one subsection in this one blog.
- I completed something that I started 3.5 years ago and have fully dedicated myself to a profession and art that I love.
- I had my first three professional acting gigs
- I cannot begin to share my love and admiration for The Colorado Shakespeare Festival who have gotten me started on a path that I now know is the one for me: classical works
- They gave me an opportunity to play classically challenging roles as well as new challenges like playing men.
- This experience has taught me the type of people I always hope to work with the type of work I always hope to create. Yes, every company has their flaws and I am not saying that this is the pinnacle of high art or production values but there are no better people and there is no better mission statement. This company solidified my confidence in myself, my love for Shakespeare, and my faith in good people making honorable works.
- I cannot begin to share my love and admiration for The Colorado Shakespeare Festival who have gotten me started on a path that I now know is the one for me: classical works
- I auditioned for tons of theatre, and it is in this process that one finds themselves. I have yet to land anything significant (or anything at all) in New York City but I DID land THREE professional roles in Denver. That IS something and something that I forget.
- Taught me how to audition and how to swim in this enormous city
- Given me perspective on my life. I have always thought that life is measured by success and that, if I wasnt on Broadway or in movies, that I was no real actor and that my life has no meaning. What I have learned over anything else in this enormous move to NYC is that that is not what life is. Life is not money or credits. It is your relationships with the world around you and with yourself. Depok Chopra would be so proud of me right now but I hate to say it: I would be happy with good friends and good food any day of the week right now and I am working on accepting that. This does not mean that I am not driven and focused and that I dont still have enormous dreams (because I do) but it is all about perspective and expections. Take, for example, NO MIRACLE ON 34th ST (the theme for 2009, that bitch). I moved here with a movie in my mind. I was given the reality. My father has been to NYC once and he wanted to go to Macy’s but they were closed for rennovations and he says, “well, what the hell, this is no miracle on 34th st.” And that is exactly what life is. Things are closed for rennovations. People are already cast in roles even though they are hosting an open call. Men have wives though they tell you you’re a goddess and Starbucks WONT tell you they are out of Chai until after you’ve waited in line for 20 minutes. BUT, life not being a movie is also an amazing thing in it of itself. You can breathe. You can take a day off. You can change everything in an instant and when you do succeed, it is that much greater. And though I hate to live in the future and wait for this “success” to make me happy – it does get me through the rough days. And it has certainly gotten me through 2009 (that bitch!)
- I moved to NYC/left home/became independent/started a career as an actor/retail associate! This year was rough for many, in a fiscal sense. My family declared bankruptcy and I decided to move to the most expensive city in the world to pursue the most competitive career in the world during the worst economic crisis of all time. Fortunately, I love my President and so I remain optimistic. Apparently, I am always optimistic. I work in a store with late closing hours and a lot of customer traffic – when we close, I apparently, according to other employees, am too happy. I look at myself and I think that I am depressed. Other people look at me and see someone who is always happy. AGAIN – my expectations of myself are not realistic. I expect myself to be bounding with glee, partying every night, cuddling with a boyfriend, and paying my bills with acting gigs. The reality is: I am always smiling and I am always dreaming. So, in the end. I AM happy. I just dont accept it because I am waiting for a bigger, better happiness. But, as I review the year, I realize that I am happy. And I cant help it:
- Transitions are hard and you have to give yourself time (YOUR time, not anyone elses measure of their transition time) to adjust.
- The years directly out of college are the hardest for anyone. Accept this too.
- I have realized that, in order to do what I WANT to do, I need to get more training. I have made a few decisions:
- I HAVE APPLIED TO GRAD SCHOOLS – blog entry to come.
- I am taking control of my physical and mental health.
- I am assessing my own relationship with money and examining the worlds relationship with money. It is a sad one – on all accounts and an issue that I feel needs to be addressed. However, that is another blog post on another day
- I am looking into learning something new, again! At the beginning of this year, I began Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at Easton Academy in Boulder, CO. GO TO EASTON if you too decide to take up Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. They are the best people in the world and I cannot begin to tell you the impact that it has had on my life and my perspective of the world. A philosophy that I have fallen in love with is one entirely based around breathing, playing life like a chess game, and not wasting energy in areas where energy ought not be wasted. Happiness is simply about observing the world around you and making choices. I take what I am given and I choose: I choose happiness. However, in the Spring, I injured my elbow and stopped my training. It was something new to learn after college when I was lost wondering who I was and where I was going. And it was something to keep me in shape. It is not my passion and that is okay. After I moved to NYC, I tried to stay in shape through running but that just did not agree with my body. Then I spent a few weeks hemming and hawing between Capoeira (another Brazilian martial art) or Aerial Trapeze/Acrobatics. Which would be more “me?” Which would help my acting career more? Which could I actually afford? I am STILL making this decision and, at some point, I want to pursue ALL of these things. But, today, I decided to go back to YOGA – my base, my home. When I began college, I was taking Bikram yoga classes once a day, every day of the week. I was in the best shape of my life, I was taking my life in my own hands and steering it any way that I wanted. Today almost killed me. I am out of shape but determined to get back there. I started a program: 30 days for 30 dollars. I am going to go once a day for 30 days and hopefully get back into the swing of 1) health, 2) being in touch with my body and 3) being in touch with myself. I miss being a hippie and I have been running from yoga and myself for too long.
- I began writing. People say that I should be a writer and that I have a way with words. When, in this city, I have found that I cannot perform and act or am not allowed, I need SOME form of artistic expression. I draw, I sing, I dance, and I write. I began PlaybillsvsPayingbills.com with Joe and Ben with the intention of writing more. Now it has become more of a Forbes of acting and less of an artistic expression which is admittedly one of the reasons why I do not post as frequently as I ought to. But it is an amazing outlet and, as I find myself and help myself, I hope to help others. As the bew year approaches, I hope to write more. In fact, I am writing a book (whose genre, contents, themes I know not) merely so I can quote myself all of the time. But it is something that I need to do.
- I realized the importance of a community, of friendships, family, and support systems. This is one reason why I have decided to reenter the world of education. However, its more than that. Moving to the largest and loneliest city in the world has taken its toll on my love for isolation. Don’t get me wrong: there IS nothing like a quiet evening alone (Paramore quote) but there is also nothing like connecting with another human being. I have taken a vow of all negative influences (including bad dates and focusing on relationships when I ought to be focusing on myself) and this is incredibly beneficial as well as lonely. However, it has left me free to see the true relationships that I do have in my life. My fellow writers are one of these relationships that is strong and real. My relationship with my sister, mother, and step father is another. And then there are the few friends from home who I have realized with always be in my life. This was a huge breakthrough for me and one that can only help me on my path to not only realizing who I am (to help my acting and my career) but also on my path to knowing what life really is all about.
This is the section where I am going to talk about what didnt go well this year:
And yet – I have decided to venture from the outline and NOT write about these things. I have learned from my mistakes and I have made many in the past year. But I am not going to relive them. I refuse. Writing them here and ending my post with the things that have plagued me the most these past couple of months will not do me any favors. I take every negative instance from this year, every challenge, every bump in the road and I say: you’re a bitch, fuck you, thank you for testing me, and thank you for teaching me. I will not go into the challenges, but I will go into the lessons that I have learned:
- There is no such thing as a “good deal.” There are only good things, and bad things in pretty packages.
- You will find in life that you have fewer friends than you thought but that these few friends are better friends than you ever could have imagined.
- No one is thinking about you: they are thinking about themselves. You should do the same. You should live your life for you and do what makes you happy. Apologize rather than asking for permission.
- Our disappointments are ONLY the result of having unrealistic expectations on ourselves.
- Your environment affects you more than you know: where you live, where you eat, who is in your world. Negative surroundings will breed negativity within you and vice versa. If you are unhappy where you are: make a change. It is the most difficult and the most important decision you will ever make.
- Dont compare yourself to others. Ever. The time it takes for you to succeed, get cast, adjust to a city, find love, lose weight, read a book, find yourself: its all on one time line and no one elses. Live your life and not someone elses.
- Dont ever waste your time trying to convince someone of your worth. Those who are worth your time will recognize it immediately.
- Learn new things – it takes 2 weeks to develop a new habit (good and bad). I hope to collect hobbies and know as much as I can in this life. As actors (to quote a great post by Ben earlier this year) it is our duty to love learning all sorts of things as we have to be all of them at one point or another. Evolve. Grow. Adapt. Challenge. Change. Create. Write single word sentences. Its all good.
- Never give up on your stupid, stupid, STUPID dreams. (I am still working on this one)
- Know thyself
To social striving, upward mobility, and making good impressions.
I am radically honest, sensitive, brilliant, and blunt. I hold up a mirror to the best and worst facets of human life.” – Vajrayogini
In my previous post, there was a section called Yes, There Is A Lame Side To This City, in which I failed to mention the biggest drawback from a life Chicago: The Weather.
If you’re like me, and grew up enjoying Colorado’s 300 annual days of sunshine, then it’s hard to imagine living in a place where seeing a blue sky is as common as a Cubs World Series victory (okay, maybe I’m exaggerating). My point is simple: Chicago is a cloudy-ass town, and it takes a while to get used to. After a while, you will simply accept this and happily go about your business as usual, albeit a little more pale.
What you can’t get used to (nor should anybody ever get used to) are the bone-crushing cold temperatures of January and February. I don’t care if you grew up in Nome, or you have Army training in cold weather situations, or you’re Santa Claus, or blah blah blah. There is nothing more defeating than checking the weather report before commuting to a rehearsal and seeing “-27 degrees” on the screen. That’s right, let me spell it out for you: Negative Twenty-Seven.
Somewhere, an arctic polar bear’s balls just shriveled up into his body.
And if you’re somebody who hates humidity, Chicago summers aren’t for you either. Personally, I don’t mind it at all. It makes me feel like I’m in the jungle, and you know how I love a good safari.
My point is, the weather is b-a-n-a-n-a-s. I love Chicago, and will have a hard time leaving this city when I do. But, if pleasant weather is a make-or-break factor in choosing your next place to live, I’d probably look elsewhere.
I was recently reading the multitude of posts by the brilliant Ben Whitehair, fellow PlaybillsvsPayingBills contributor, and I realized that I have fallen behind (again). I’ve been busy crashing EPAs (Equity Principle Auditions – which, side note: are always open to non-union actors if you are willing to get there an hour, two hours, a day early) but mostly indulging in my post-collegiate angst by streaming… 2… 4…. 6 Netflix videos a day while working retail at the Urban Outfitters in the middle of hipsterville. Lets admit it: I just graduated college, I just moved away from home for the first time, I am just now fully supporting myself for the first time, I know no one here and am doing this all for the first time, alone, and in New York City. I am not excusing my lack of enthusiasm for blogging or my recent dip into the recession-depression, but I am admitting to it. Right here, right now: I admit it. I have been a big WET BLANKET. Boo, Emily. Boo. Not okay.
So, to get me back into the swing of things – I am going to respond to Ben’s blog about why or why not to move to L.A., New York City, or Chicago. He chose L.A. and has given many of his reasons for doing so in his post, City of Angels. Granted, I have only been here for 3 months and I will be very honest in saying that I have no clear answers on how to succeed here as I am not doing that. But I am surviving. And I did make the choice to move here over the other options so I will share with you those reasons now.
NYC is awesome …
…though maybe not for everyone. New York City is alive. It is its own character that just happens to host millions of people with their own unique and lively characters. It has a pulse, a rhythm, but also a demanding pace that you can quickly get lost within if you do not have a good head on your shoulders that can keep you above water. I love the possibilities of New York – when a project fails, when an opportunity passes you by, there are millions and millions to look forward to within the next blink of an eye. The people, the culture, the food – I can say that I both love them and hate them for their own reasons (and the main reason would have to be money). Its an expensive place to live and there is no denying that. Free things can be great but, for the most part, this is life. And you have to grow up quickly if you are going to live here without the ‘rents picking up the tab. But, if I am grateful for anything over these past three months, I am so grateful for the smack in the face that New York has given me. I have grown up more in these couple of weeks than in the total sum of my life before moving here. New York teaches you about discipline, hard work, earning what you get, and being proud of every single thing you accomplish because you have to work your ass off for it all. You will never feel like you havent accomplished something – theres always a sense of fulfillment for just surviving the day. And of course – New York City is the center of the world: theatre, film, museums, clubs, restaurants, universities, parks, rivers, public transportation, new ideas, artists, musicians, the greatest hospitals, etc, etc, etc… You will find it ALL here.
Apart from money, like Ben, I have also noticed that #1 reason people don’t like New York City is related to community: “If you don’t find/establish a community, you will be lost.” There are people everywhere but at the same time, it can make you feel even more alone if you have no one. I moved here alone and that has been the hardest part for me. “If you don’t have cool/fun/invigorating people in your life, you won’t like where you’re living. Duh. It has little to do with (NYC) itself…”
There is an insane amount of opportunity here
Haha, I can pretty much copy and paste this section verbatim from Ben. I will do just that and interject my own differences tailored for NYC. Here goes: “I often hear people talk about how moving to (New York City) is scary or a bad move because there are so many other actors here. While I suppose that’s true, it has been mind boggling to experience how many things are being filmed (and how many shows are being cast) at any given time in this city. The number of short films, student films, commercials, TV shows, etc. being put on tape at any given second in this city is nuts.” In New York City, you will find there is decidedly more Musical Theatre and more stage productions than film projects. I think that the BIG fear for people moving to NYC is not that there are so many actors here, its that there are so many TRAINED actors here. There is a mild pretension here that REAL actors go to New York City because stage work is more legit than film or something bogus like that. I was worried that this would be the case but it was also NYC’s appeal for me as I felt that I would be joining the ranks of legends. I have realized that there are just as many pretty people with no training here as there is everywhere else so dont let the pretension scare you away. The truth is that there are good actors and bad actors everywhere. And then there is you. You can only be you. So, that is what I am trying to do: be the actor that I am and continue to grow, evolve, and challenge myself every step of the way to keep up with the ‘legit New York actor’ as well as the ‘beautiful starlet.’
Unlike Ben, I started focusing on the stage when I was in the second grade. I vaguely recall a post of Ben’s where he compared a lady with outside interests and a man who lives-eats-breaths only theatre and said that the girl with outside interests would be more successful in the long run. I took a deep breath when I realized that I am much more the theatre-nerd guy (though I DO do Jiu Jitsu, fine arts, and write). After I graduated, I was very lucky and went straight into an educational touring production of Hamlet with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival and then acted in the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s summer season for the second year before moving to New York City. I moved here having gone on 2 professional auditions: the tour and the summer festival. When I moved here, I began submitting for everything on day 1. I bought toilet paper and a bed on day 2. I had an audition on day 3. I have not booked anything substantial. I’ve probably submitted myself for an average of 25-50 projects every day, I’ve probably gone on a total of 60 auditions so far (including the ones that accepted my submissions and actually scheduled me an audition as well as EPA’s that I have crashed and gotten in to). Of these auditons, I have gotten 1 student film project and no call backs for anything else. I have not doubled my resume by any means. My resume is awesome but quickly growing out of date. The only thing that I can say is this: a man from The New School came to my audition techniques class my Junior year of University and told my eager BFA class that, in NYC, you have to audition 100 times before you get 1 call back. In New York City, it is, sadly, ALL about who you know. A Broadway director friend of mine (who was AD for Julie Taymor’s The Lion King) told me that the first thing she looks for on a resume is to find how she may be linked to that person – who do they know in common. So, its slow here: getting a connection is equivalent to getting the role which makes auditioning pay for itself. Especially since, when you arent getting the chance to perform, you get to do it in that little room as frequently as you are able. You learn to LOVE auditioning because it becomes your chance to perform.
I, too, am a nobody here. I don’t have an agent, had never been on a legit TV show, and wasn’t in any of the unions. I am EMC (equity membership candidate for the Actors Equity Association) but it has only gotten me to the head of the line once. But I have heard on more than 50 occassions, successful actors say this: you do NOT need an agent, you do NOT need to be equity, and you do NOT need to shamelessly sleep with everyone to make it here (especially on the stage).
The traffic DOES NOT SUCK and public transportation is AWESOME (but expensive)
You do not need a car here. I never took my driving test because I knew I’d be coming to NYC. You do, however, need to get around somehow (especially if you arent living in Manhattan and even when you are). Its a small place, you will learn, but its not small enough to walk absolutely everywhere efficiently. You have to pay for some mode of transport. The subway is awesome and I find to be mostly reliable but its $89 a month for an unlimited pass (which is justifiable if you use your pass at least twice a day). Traffic only sucks if you have a car or if you ride in cabs. But my thought has always been this: plan for traffic. Plan for incidentals. PLAN. There are so few things you can control in the audition/work process. One of these things is your punctuality. Wasting someone else’s time is a clear way to make a bad impression.
There are seasons and each is beautiful.
Fall in New York City is THE BEST thing to look at in the world. You get magical snowy winters, you get beautiful blooming springs, and … you get sweaty awful summers. BUT, everyone leaves for the summer which makes it worth sticking through. Pools, beaches, few pieces of clothing.. there are ways around the heat. Its not too bad if you enjoy change and seasons. My main reason for not moving to Chicago is the weather reason; I HATE WIND. Chicago is a magnificent theatre city with, albeit, amazing stage actors and incredible training programs. Its the damn wind. THE WIND. Dont even bring it up, I dont want to talk about it anymore!!!
The competition will kill you
I think I’ll just quote Ben verbatim on this one too: “Ok, whomever is spreading this rumor should be flogged. Yes, there are a ton of actors here. Yes, there are lots of people who look just like you. Yes, there are tons of beautiful people. Yes, there are lots of very talented actors. No, there are not enough jobs for everyone.” BUT…
- The actors here are nice (albeit, CUT THROAT, in New York City but I think its because we have winters with snow and so people have to worry about the whole keeping warm issue). I haven’t met a single actor who was discouraging towards me or didn’t help in any way they could. People want to help others. They want to help you succeed, because then you might return the favor. We’re artists, we’re in this together.
- 80% (maybe 50% in NYC) of the “actors” here aren’t taking the business seriously. This was definitely the most shocking part of moving here. (Half of the) “actors” here don’t have training, are using black and white headshots, don’t treat acting like a business, or spend only a few hours a week in pursuit of the career – OR are relying on AGENTS to get them work. My point is that the mere commitment of 20+ hours/week pursuing an acting career here will put you far beyond the vast majority of actors in this city. (The problem with NYC being that the expences get to be so much that actors find themselves immersed in their days jobs too much to commit this 20 hours to their business).”
Access to resources
There are classes, readings, internships, workshops, non-union projects, student work, fringe festivals, other struggling artists, the best univiersities, performance libraries, drama book shops, and millions of ideas and unique experiences here. I have found that there are tons of options for resources and making your own work, meeting the right people (actors connection, one-on-ones, etc), and things of that matter. BUT there is ALSO an enormous amount of inspiration here. I find that I write and think more on one 10 minute ride on the subway than I ever did sitting in a course in college learning correct sentence structures or how to play an intention. If acting is a reflection of society and human culture – there is NO BETTER place in the world to observe that than in New York City. (Insert my ridiculous stories incurred through every subway ride… but thats for another post).
No one cares what you did elsewhere
This is NOT a blessing for me (though I am very happy for Ben that it is for him). One notable exception is studying with Second City in Chicago, or being in legit LA features, but even then… Unless the things on your resume are currently running on Broadway (or also airing on NBC), people don’t really care.
“This absolutely does not mean that having things on a resume, building a reel, or honing your craft in other cities is useless, it just means that everyone moving here is starting at square one.” This is scary. But this is also a blessing. Starting at square one gives you no attachments. No one knows what to expect from you and you have no reputation: you have every chance in the world to make everything you want happen! You can… do whatever the hell you want (in theory). Its kind of exciting. Terrifying too because you dont want to make any mistakes upon all of these first impressions. Eh, two way streets. Its all in how you choose to view it.
For New York City, you can build a resume, stay in a small city and get experience and stuff like that. But, like LA, its kind of BS. Its not that people only want to see NYC stuff on the bill (which they DO) but its that they want to know WHO YOU KNOW. So… thats the real, daunting task of NYC. Slow and steady wins the race. You cant force people to accept you in and know the real you and what you’re about in one audition, in only three months of living here, and with no New York City credits. Ho hum. Keep trucking and bringing GREAT work to auditions. Again, the audition (even when you dont get the part) is KEY to getting to know who you need to know and make that tiny teeny step.
New York City is a much older crowd – in ALL areas of work. Its often said here that the 20-somethings of NYC are barely scraping by and that we are the ‘work-horses.’ Paying your dues was an expression MADE for New York City. Like Ben, “I was rather shocked to find that I am very young relative to the majority of actors taking the business seriously.” At the Equity auditions, I am definitely one of the youngest people there who isnt technically non-union because I am EMC (because becoming union takes a long time or at least a few shows). Under 30 is “young” in this city. If you’re under that age people don’t really expect you to have done anything – UNLESS you’re Musical Theatre. If you are Musical Theatre – you have got to have it from 13+. But, whats nice about NYC, there are shows here for all 60yr olds, there are shows here for all 30 yr olds. Just know that the people playing these parts and getting these roles have been here for min 10 years (on average) – so, know that you’re committing to a world of ages here.
What I would say to those of you thinking about moving here? DO IT. But do it when you are ready.
New York is a hard place to live and it is also a great place to live. Unfortunately, you wont live like a king (Ben’s apartment complex :-p). Save BIG time before coming here and learn how budget. If you are here to club and party and shop (all great things that I would do if I had the financial resources, dont get me wrong) make sure you have some expendable income or wealthy benefactor to give you that support. If you have any real desire to make money from your acting (and there is great reason not to have that as a goal), you’re going to have to accept that it will take time and that it will get you by. Broadway contracts wont even pay you enough for glorious expenses and movie star lifestyles. There is every oppotunity here that you could be a star but that is not the main goal for a New York actor. A New York actor acts for fulfillment – the money is … a bonus.
As I look back to when I was deciding whether to stay in Colorado or move to one of the big three (L.A., New York City, or Chicago), I realize that there was a lot of noise, and not that much good information. Everyone I talked to had their own opinion, but there wasn’t much reason or logic behind what they were saying. With that in mind, I’m going to try and share some of the wisdom I’ve gathered in roughly 9 months in L.A. Hopefully Joe and Emily can provide some of their insight into NYC and Chi-town.
L.A. is awesome…
…though maybe not for everyone. I love L.A. I love the people, the culture, the food. All of it. Is there traffic? Sure (see below). But there are also a bazillion authentic restaurants of every kind, museums, skyscrapers, the ocean, clubs, and the list goes on.
I have also noticed that #1 reason people don’t like L.A. is related to community. If you don’t find/establish a community, you will be unhappy. If you don’t have cool/fun/invigorating people in your life, you won’t like where you’re living. Duh. It has little to do with L.A. itself, besides that fact that the city is so spread out, it takes that much more effort to see people.
There is an insane amount of opportunity here
I often heart people talk about how moving to Los Angeles is scary or a bad move because there are so many other actors here. While I suppose that’s true, it has been mind boggling to experience how many things are being filmed at any given time in this city. The number of short films, student films, commercials, TV shows, etc. being put on tape at any given second in this city is nuts.
I started focusing on film (rather than stage) my senior year of college. From then until I moved here I bet I went on something like 40 – 50 auditions…maybe. I did a smattering of short films, feature films, and commercials over the course of about 2 years. In the first 3 months that I started actually submitting myself here (the first few months after I moved here were spent doing other business stuff and getting settled) I went on just under 80 auditions. Eighty. I doubled my film resume in that time and have now worked on almost 20 projects in L.A.
While those numbers certainly have a little to do with my look, resume, skills, etc., I’m a nobody here. I don’t have an agent, had never been on a legit TV show, and wasn’t in any of the unions. There is a shit-ton (actual number) of opportunity here.
The traffic sucks
True story. Get over it. If that’s a deal breaker for you, then I guess you weren’t meant to make it in TV or film.
And yes, you do need a car.
The weather is righteous
Yet another true story. If you hate always-72-and-sunny weather you will be sorely disappointed with the temperate climate.
The competition will kill you
Ok, whomever is spreading this rumor should be flogged. Yes, there are a ton of actors here. Yes, there are lots of people who look just like you. Yes, there are tons of beautiful people. Yes, there are lots of very talented actors. No, there are not enough jobs for everyone. BUT…
- The actors here are nice. I haven’t met a single actor who was discouraging towards me or didn’t help in any way they could. People want to help others. They want to help you succeed, because then you might return the favor. We’re artists, we’re in this together.
- 80% of the “actors” here aren’t taking the business seriously. This was definitely the most shocking part of moving here. Most “actors” here don’t have training, are using black and white headshots, don’t treat acting like a business, or spend only a few hours a week in pursuit of the career. If you’re one of these people that’s totally fine…you definitely have a better shot of making here than somewhere else. My point is that the mere commitment of 20+ hours/week pursuing an acting career here will put you far beyond the vast majority of actors in this city.
Access to resources
This city is built on making money off of actors, which leads to some scams, but more than anything provides myriad resources for actors. From classes to business organizations, whatever you need to further your career is here.
No one cares what you did elsewhere
I guess this was somewhat of a blessing for me, but it really doesn’t matter what you’ve done if it wasn’t in Los Angeles. One notable exception is studying with Second City in Chicago, or being in legit, Broadway shows, but even then… Unless the things on your resume are currently airing on NBC, people don’t really care.
This absolutely does not mean that having things on a resume, building a reel, or honing your craft in other cities is useless, it just means that everyone moving here is starting at square one.
I can’t tell you how many people suggested staying on a smaller city to “build up a resume.” While this isn’t total BS, it’s generally just an excuse to hold yourself back. If it doesn’t matter what you’ve done in another city, why not build up your resume here? There’s far more opportunities to do so.
I was rather shocked to find that I am very young relative to the majority of actors taking the business seriously. Under 25 seems to be “young” in this city. If you’re under that age people don’t really expect you to have done anything. If you’re older than that, just know that it might be that much harder.
What I would say to those of you thinking about moving here? Do it. Don’t put it off.
L.A. is a great place to live, and you can live like a king (my apartment complex) for half the money you might spend in other big cities. If you have any real desire to make money from your acting (and there is great reason not to have that as a goal), you’re going to have to move here at some point. What are you waiting for?