If you haven’t seen this video on how Ian McKellen is (was, *sad panda*) such a brilliant actor, then you’re seriously missing out:

I love this video because it reminds me that sometimes I make acting more complicated than it needs to be. I mean, there are 6-year-old kids who act brilliantly, so it can’t be that hard, right?

Now I’m most assuredly not saying that anyone can just pick up a script and be a brilliant actor. I dare you to try heading to your local supermarket armed with any script and get that lady next to the pomegranates to do a little scene with that dude stealing the cashews…not that simple. On the other hand those same people, sans script, are acting all the time. They’re interacting with the people around them, having conversations, living life.

I find it particularly important to remember this, especially when I’m acting on camera. On a film set you never bring your own props, they tell you where to stand and where to look, and at the end of the day all you need to do is talk to people. That’s what I tell myself if I ever get worked up. When all is said and done, it’s just talking to people. All of it. The business, the craft, the networking…it’s simply talking to people. I can do that. In fact, sometimes I can be pretty good at that. And I would wager that every now and again, you’re pretty darn good at it too… 🙂

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).

his bed

his bed

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.

MOVING ON

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

BAH

… probably not

Namaste
– E. Beuchat

Whew!

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!

~JVB

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.

So, I write about a time a lot on this blog. I’ve written about my thinking about time, that it takes 10 years to make it, what I was doing 10 years ago, how to look back and set goals for the future, more thoughts on how long it takes to make it, how I’m going to be a doctor, and my thoughts on patience and marshmallows. Continually, though, the topic of time comes up again and again in my conversations with other actors.

Most commonly, discussions of time revolve around how long it takes to ‘make it’ as an actor. If you go check out any actor whose work Grandma Ethel in Kansas would know, my guess is that 99% of the time there is about 8 – 10 years between their first IMDb credit and the first one that is highly recognizable. You can also assume that said actor was probably acting in some capacity for at least a year or two before their first IMDb credit.

Some people get discouraged by this–oh my God, I’m never going to make it, what do I do?!?!–but as I’ve written before, I think this is great news. It means that the vast majority of the time, people are making it because they work hard, are easy to get along with, and stick with it. I recently read a commencement address that Lisa Kudrow gave in which she talks about how she got fired from sets, had pilots not get picked up, and that it was 8 years until she got the role on Friends. Jenna Fischer has a similarly brilliant post on taking the long view and persevering. It took her 8 years in LA before she landed her role as Pam on The Office. The other thing to remember here is that while all of these actors were working their way up, it’s not like they weren’t acting or doing cool things. They were acting in plays, short films, student films, and doing small roles on TV as they progressed. I have to think that at least most of the time, they were enjoying the journey.

It also strikes me that if you don’t enjoy the journey you’re going to go crazy, because is there really a point where you would be totally satisfied with your career? If you’re making 30 grand a year on commercials, wouldn’t you be that much happier if you were pulling in 40? Once you get that coveted first network co-star, won’t you be itching for more, then disappointed that you don’t have a guest star credit? Then there’s the disappointment of all the pilots you’re in that don’t get picked up (George Clooney had about 7 before ER)…and won’t that single, lonely Oscar look better on your mantle if it had a golden friend next to it? The cycle is never-ending, so it becomes imperative to enjoy each step along the way, or you’ll never make it the 6, 8, or 20 years it might take to get closer to your ultimate goals.

So What the Hell is my Point?

Point 1: Celebrate

If you’re like me and the relative beginning of your career, then be gentle with yourself. Celebrate the seemingly small successes. You didn’t book “just a webseries,” you “booked a friggin’ webseries!!!!” There’s so much competition in this city, even getting called in for an audition means you beat out hundreds if not thousands of other actors.

Point 2: Note Your Progress

I’ve seen a lot of actors get discouraged because after a couple years they feel like they haven’t gone anywhere, but almost always they’ve made tremendous progress. Think back to when you first started pursuing acting. Did you have anything on your resume? Had you ever had an agent? Were a part of a union? Had been on a professional set? Read for a legit casting office? Or even been in something you were proud to show your friends? All the steps along the way can get lost, but remember that they’re all important. You’re honing your craft, meeting people, and (hopefully) having a blast. You really have come a long way.

Point 3: Take the Long View on Relationships

This point is probably worth its own blog post, but it’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about and want to get out there. When you take the long view of your career, you lose all desperation with relationships. You don’t need that Casting Director you just met to cast you in something next week, because you have faith that you’ll cross paths with them again and again in the years to come. Moreover, the next time you meet them you will probably be further along in your career, and that CD/Producer/whomever might be able to help you significantly more than they before. Next week they might be able to read you for a co-star, but in 3 years they might have a series regular on a pilot that they could then call you in on. Start forming relationships just to form them, not because you need something right now. It might take decades for you to “cash in” on a relationship, but how much better will that be if you’ve spent a decade merely forming friendships and positive business relationships?

As a quick tangent, I should also say that it is much more personally and professionally rewarding to approach relationships with the goal of helping the other person, rather than hoping that your new acquaintance can help you. It builds up your brand as a quality person, and in the end makes people want to help you even more. Just think, if you were able to refer 3 of your incredible actor friends to a Casting Director and helped to solve their problem, how much that CD would love you and desire to help you out (not to mention if just feels good). Whether it’s karma or basic human psychology, when you are a good person and help others, they want to help you.

Enough rambling…it’s been a couple weeks since my last post and I’ve had a lot on my mind. Hope it’s been of any value. As always, we love reading your comments. =)

How many hats are YOU wearing?

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

6pm

Busby’s East
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!

At a Las Vegas buffet, you can load your plate up to the ceiling and eat like a king without thinking twice.

In acting, I’d like to suggest another tactic: common sense. I learned this the hard way this week.

Between auditions/callbacks for student films, helping run the business side of an awesomely-ambitious improv team, planning a fund-raiser for my theatre company, and making weekly classes/rehearsals, I have worked myself sick.

Like…literally. Sick with a very stubborn flu.

And when you can’t really move, let alone get out of bed, the acting business changes.

  • You can’t answer emails.
  • You can’t tweet.
  • You can’t rehearse.
  • You can’t attend meetings.
  • You can’t perform.
  • You can’t go to your classes.

…and suddenly you find yourself way behind the pack on all these commitments you made. And in my case, that elevates stress and renders sleep and impossibility. Which is why I’m awake now, my very first morning of moderately good health, at 5AM writing e-mails and blogs, simply hoping to relieve that stress and get back on the same page with everyone so that I might actually get a couple hours of sleep before work.

HERE’S MY POINT:

FRIEND/LOVED ONE – “You do too much. You’ll work yourself sick.”

ACTOR – “Bah! I’m an ambitious young actor. Hard work equals success!”

FRIEND/LOVED ONE – “Yes, but you simply can’t say yes to every single thing that comes along, or you’ll get buried alive.”

ACTOR – “Bah! I’m an ambitious young actor. Hard work equals success!”

FRIEND/LOVED ONE – Punches ACTOR right square in the damn nose.

Trust me, that punch is the best thing that could happen for ACTOR. Don’t overdo it, kids. Hard work is super important, but you have to know when enough is enough for the time being.

You don’t wanna be the one at the Las Vegas buffet with no appetite and a fever, do you?

~JVB

Ben Whitehair

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.

Projects

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. =)

Reel

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…

Relationships

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.”

The Craft

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.

My Website

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.

Research

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…

Final Thoughts

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?

How long has it been since I’ve written something for the website? How long has it been since I’ve done anything remotely related to this industry? How long has it been since I had that “moment” that reminds you why you’re in this industry at all?

A long time, my friends.

Lying in my bed I hear the clock tick,
and I think of you
caught up in circles of confusion —
is nothing new

As I listen to Cyndi Lauper’s classic (and my stepfather’s, God bless him, favorite song of all time), ‘Time After Time,” I am reminded of a few things. First, the high-top sporting, Meth addicted lady who sings Cyndi Lauper songs at the 53rd and Lex, E platform and occasionally in Union Square. She’s a combative one, that crazy. However, she really does sound like Cyndi Lauper and, for what its worth, its a good time listening to those good old 80’s ballads. She does some Madonna occasionally but it doesn’t carry the same fervor, unfortunately. But she’s tenacious.

Daily, I see her rocking her shit and/or arguing with some wind flutist who has swept under her radar and taken her territory. She’s aggressive but its almost as inspiring as it is heart wrenching. Here is this girl who works so much harder than I do at finding an opportunity to perform. She is there every damn day come rain or shine. Granted, I don’t think she has many other money-making opportunities because of the smack but she doesn’t sit back and say ‘woe is me, I have no opportunities to perform, no one will cast me.’ She MAKES her own Midtown Karaoke (as we will call it). I watch her and I contemplate: I am trained and I know that I love to perform but do I get up at the crack of dawn, carry my karaoke machine to the subway, and belt tunes for the compassion-less commuter? Do I even get up at the crack of dawn and crash Equity only auditions in the hopes that I will be seen at all anymore? At one point, I would have. As of late…something has changed. I don’t do these things. I also don’t do Meth – so thats the good news.

What has changed?
Flashback–warm nights–
almost left behind
suitcases of memories,
time after–

Well, some time ago, ‘Time After Time’ held a different place in my life. It was part of the pre-show music for my last production at the University of Colorado. I was playing L’il Bit in Paula Vogel’s How I Learned to Drive (my DREAM role… one of many). And I would think of my loving Step Father and his weird adoration for this tacky tune and how he was my biggest fan in the world (instead of these days when I think of my Step Father’s incessant rant that, by my not becoming a Doctor, I am wasting a very powerful mind). And, from that moment on, I would always associate this song with preparing for that role: imagining the strength of that character’s relationship with her uncle, my relationships with family, with the people who raise you, shape you, mold you. For good and for bad. And, now that the show is closed and the reviews have been written, and the set has been struck – I associate that song with the feeling of sheer bliss. Accomplishment. Touching audiences. Impacting people. Breakthroughs. Growth. I grew in that production as an actor as much as I have grown as a person here in New York City these past 10 months. But, these days, “Time After Time” is slipping back into a distant memory. I used to be able to hear the song and have a physical reaction: immediately transferred to that feeling, that “moment” in time when an actor, an artist, realizes what its all about. I cant go into what it IS all about. That “moment.” That specific feeling. That’s like asking someone to describe what an orgasm feels like. Its different for everyone but at the same time, so indescribable.

I don’t remember that feeling anymore (the former, that is ;-p). I remember liking it. I remember loving it and I remember it being the reason I have dedicated my entire life up until this moment to pursuing a job that will provide me with that feeling. Up until this moment…

This is what I have been struggling with: when your passion and your “job” are the same thing… you are destined for sadness. Is this true? The security guard at my day-job/store says that that is a road to disappointment. We have deep conversations during my mind-numbing shifts at my oh-so-classy retail establishment. Another reason why I have taken a sabbatical from my theatrical career: the three day jobs I must work in order to be able to afford to live here and pursue acting are killing me softly with their song. And they further my thoughts of finding a more practical day job. Maybe I am wasting my intelligence. Maybe I should go back to school for Medicine (or for Bikram Yoga teacher training or Vegan Culinary school… more up my alley(s)). But that is me listening to everyone else. Listening to my step father
… listening to his own projections
… listening to my worries.
Listening to bills piling up and day jobs not making the cut.
Listening to self-imposed deadlines.
Listening to critics that don’t exist.
Trying to be everything to every one while being nothing to myself.
I should really just listen to 80s music and the meth-heads karaoke machine…

Sometimes you picture me–
I’m walking too far ahead
you’re calling to me, I can’t hear
what you’ve said

It is important to know thyself and be strong in one’s independence. It is just as important, for us social creatures, to have support. I moved here alone – no family, no friends, few contacts, and a dream shared by millions. I left everything behind. And I foolishly thought I had to cut my ties in order to isolate myself enough to see myself clearly. What I did instead was lose myself completely. This is when I stopped wanting to submit to auditions. I first took my break after the Graduate School auditions. I then decided to continue the break when I realized that I wasn’t pursuing my “dream” with the spirit and perserverence I normally with which I typically pursue dreams. That was when I realized: I dont know what I want. I am crazy when I KNOW what I want – nothing can stop me. I am the Cyndi Lauper girl! I have the gawl, I have the training and I have the talent – of this I am fully convinced. But do I have the heart? Or, MORE IMPORTANTLY, do I have more FEAR than HEART? What a scary question to have to ask yourself.

I have heard so many times that the majority of the people in this world are too afraid to follow their hearts… to follow their dreams. My step father followed a business model. He left it later in life when he was offered his dream job. The recession hit and he was fired. We filed for Bankruptcy two months after I moved to New York City to be an artist. No wonder he wants me to be a doctor. And how selfish did I feel? Moving to NYC to be an actor, to do what I love, to feel warm and gooey with my career that fulfills my ever waking spirit… How masturbatory “the arts” suddenly became. And how the pressure to succeed exponentially increased. The fear. The loss of heart. The loss of memory.

NOW HERE’S THE RUB:

Something I had would not let me forget what i had left behind. Music, for me, has been my tool for characterization. It helps me tap into a physical deposit of emotions and sense memory from with to draw intentions, characters, qualities, etc. Music can release L’il Bit, it can unveil Mayella Violet Ewell, and it can awaken the hard-ass bitch on the Subway who for sure as shit isn’t gonna give you money no matter how well you sing Cyndi Lauper because I, too, am a struggling performer. Music can also help me to find something ever so precious. In that same play, How I Learned to Drive, L’il Bit is told about a “fire in the heart.” My flame dwindled in the humid winter of this city. Cyndi Lauper, some self-discovery, some self-acceptance, some self-FORGIVENESS, have all led to me to vaguely recall that “moment” and to rekindle that fire.

In these past months I have learned so much. That no man is an island. I need a community. I need love. I have learned that if you push, you will be pushed back. That it is important to find strength, find balance, find a foundation before you take a step in any direction. And, if the world is not ready for you, its because its not the right time. Whether we like it or not, time is ALWAYS moving and to put a finite deadline on dreams, particularly dreams that are artistic in nature, is to chop down a tree before it can be climbed.

Then you say, go slow
I fall behind
The second hand unwinds

Now I have not decided if… this path I am on is where my heart is. But I have decided not to succumb to fear. Fear that I may fail if I decide that it is my passion after all. Or fear that I may have to abandon everything I’ve ever worked for and what people may “say.” I have decided to explore my options and to not rush my dreams. And not to rush my life. And to not rush my decisions. I HAVE however, after much deliberation and some auditions in Denver, CO while visiting family and assessing my life/goals/life in NYC, that I am going to stay in New York another year. I owe it to this city to give it a shot when I am not in a shitty, shared-studio, living situation and when I am not in a tremendous life-altering transition. I owe it a REAL chance. And I owe myself time, patience, forgiveness, love, compassion, understanding, and heart.

Life is already better in New York. I have made the commitment to stay and now I am beginning to settle much faster than before. I am beginning to maintain friendships and walk strongly on my own knowing that the friends and family I have at home are strong relationships that I carry with me. These boys I write this blog with, those crazies I train with at Jiu Jitsu, my entire BFA class, my mother, my sister, my Cyndi Lauper-loving step father.

if you fall I will catch you — I’ll be waiting
time after time

❤

…but I’m going to write a post about student films!

As you might know, my biggest goal for 2010 is to “break into” film acting. And by that, I simply mean to start filling the gaping void on my resume under the “Film” heading. My entire career has been spent on stage, so I figure it’ll be wise to explore a fun new medium.

My 3-part checklist:

  1. Get on ActorsAccess.com. Check! Such a great tool for actors!
  2. Submit, submit, submit! Check! I recommend paying the yearly $68 as opposed to the $2 for each submission. It makes submitting to multiple roles much easier!
  3. Kick ass! 🙂

Columbia College, DePaul University, and The School of the Art Institute of Chicago are just a few institutions where the great filmmakers of tomorrow are getting their feet wet, and they deliver plenty of opportunity for aspiring on-camera actors to do the same.

Many of my colleagues complain about doing student films, insisting that the projects are somehow beneath them. Baloney! I have been having a ton of fun and learning so much along the way. I’m echoing Ben’s post in a few of these, but here are some realizations I’ve had about student films over the past couple weeks:

  1. Appreciate the journey. Take in every little moment of the process and appreciate its worth. How long did the commute take? How did the specific outfit you were wearing affect your audition? Are you noticing any common motifs from audition to audition? Classes are a fantastic tool, but you’ll do your best learning & growing on the playing field.
  2. If you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right! Keep in mind that as actors, our primary job is to audition. Forget about trying to get the part: For these few minutes, you actually get to play the part! Have fun!
  3. Give them your best You. Gandhi said, “Whenever you have truth it must be given with love, or the message and the messenger will be rejected.” The easiest thing you can do in an audition is to be professional and smile! Show up early and prepared! Treat every audition like the biggest audition of your life, and leave the casting director with a favorable impression of you as a person. Accomplish that, and the rest comes much more easily.

I have booked two film projects for the coming week, and I went on three more auditions yesterday. Line memorization has claimed almost all my free time. My CTA fare card is tapped out, and I have been going to bed exhausted at 10:00pm.

Living. The. Dream. 🙂

~JVB

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 60 other followers

Emily’s Latest Tweet

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.

Ben’s Latest Tweet