me, me, me

January 13, 2010

James often accuses me of not listening.  And he’s right.

I am often guilty of thinking I have a better idea of what he’s going to say next and interrupting him to guess rather than just simply hearing him out and finding out first hand the nuances of what he has to say.

Especially since he’s a writer, this is an egregious crime.  He thinks about words, he knows a lot of words, and it’s down right infuriating to him that I would interrupt him to put words in his mouth and think I know better what he’s going to say.  I am busy trying to guess at what he’s going to say rather than hearing him and seeking to understand him.  Pretty shitty, really.

I think this is probably somewhat akin to trying to think of my next line when my scene partner is speaking rather then hearing what they have to say and letting the line come to me in the moment.  An egregious crime in the acting world and one that many amateurs never make it past.  Which, quite frankly, lends to shitty acting.

I’m engaged in the conversation.  But for the wrong reason:  namely, if we want to really get down to it, to feed my own ego. And not, as I should be, on understanding and connecting to my partner.

Ego is an interesting thing.  You need one if you’re ever going to make it as an actor.

An ego : Big enough that you can walk into an audition room and own the room.  Big enough that you feel you are worthy of being watched. Big enough that you believe people should spend their time and energy watching you.

But if you have too big of one, you’ll quickly burn out – or never really achieve true greatness on an artistic level so you can truly listen and collaborate and understand and connect with your co-stars, director, etc.

And I think it goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that behind that ego, there better be a bottle rocket of talent and joi de vivre that’s so downright watchable that it makes up for the fact that you think you’re so worthy of being watched.

It’s a tricky balance really.

And one that comes all the better, I think, when you really, truly, learn to listen in real life.  Not just in the make believe world we actors would like to dwell in all the time.

The best actors are good listeners.  Because, let’s face it, acting is a collaborative art.

So is life.  It’s a collaborative thing.  I’ll get there, James.

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gains and losses

January 11, 2010

This weekend I:

lost a job (fired from the coat check.  the boss thought I wouldn’t show after I expressed dissatisfaction with the (count them) two coats that were checked in 5 hours last week – so he hired another girl.  so be it)

gained a night with James (Sat night spent watching New Wave rather then checkin’ coats yo!)

lost a part (the MFA callback – rocked it out but he went with the other girl)

gained another (I’ll be playing a psychotic housewife in a different short that involves knives and frying pans and a man tied up in a closet.  delicious fun!)

lost a coaching session (my 60 year old prodigy booked a commercial and had to cancel)

gained a student (I now have 4! beautiful students under the age of twelve.  I’m so happy!)

lost a date with the director of the film I’m producing (cancelled due to more pressing business than hanging out with anonymous actresses)

gained a friend (went and saw a play with a very talented actress from my acting class who I’m excited  to get to know)

lost my lunch (food poisoning – one of the downsides of being an adventurous eater in NY – I’d say I get it about 4 times a year.)

gained some knowledge (of how to find a place in Cannes during the festival; how to make a chicken pot pie – James and I made 4!; of the three characters I am currently exploring – the young would be French girl, the psychotic housewife, and a broken hearted singer; how to look French and speak a few phrases and have a passable accent; AND how to seduce a man (James) with a French accent.

Such is the life of us thespians.

We are constantly shifting gears.  We fill our schedule with meaningful events so we don’t go crazy without purpose and then erase the events and replace them with different ones when our agents or students or directors or body tells us something has come up.

it’s a dizzy life. But I’ll take it.

my french day

January 10, 2010

With the promise of Cannes looming in our near future and an upcoming audition for me for a film paying homage to French New Wave Cinema, James and I decided to have A French Day.

We listened to French language CDs in the car while I drove around to hang my posters for my class (finally ! )

He read a Cannes guide while I went into various businesses.

We stopped in a French cafe and had a conversation with a Frenchman while we ordered baguette lunch with cafe au lait

I sat and scored my sides with my accent guide book while he cooked French roast boeuf.

We cooed to our chien (that’s french for dog) in French accents.

And finally we culminated our French day with the Godard classic A Woman is a Woman (1961).

James loved it.  I thought it was okay.

I felt like Angela and Emile spent an awfully long time talking in circles about wanting to have a baby or not and that it took a long time for anything to actually happen.

James thought it was a beautiful tribute to women – to their vulnerability and the virtue of that in a time when the sexual revolution and woman’s movement was encouraging woman to be tougher – and perhaps – more like men. When in fact – a woman is not a man, a woman is a woman!  I’m not a film critic and have not read any literature on the film, but that made sense to me – and somehow made me like the film just a little bit more.

and I must admit, my accent did improve quite a bit after watching the film.  As technically sound as I was coming across in my pronunciation today, James thought the accent was good but that I sounded an awful lot like Tom Waits when I was doing it.  Not like a woman at all!

Fact is, French woman are softer than me.  I don’t do many things delicately or softly.  I am blunt, forceful, loud.  Maybe at times, I am a bit like a man.

So, it took watching a whimsical, uninhibited French exotic dancer with Hepburn like style and no shame about her predicament to get the nuance of the accent and loose the forcefulness.

Adding a little bit of Anna Karina to the part took away the Waits and suddenly, I was French! – and very much a woman.

Voila!

Merci Godard!




The worries of a pot smoker

January 6, 2010

There is one resolution I didn’t mention:

I will smoke no more than once a week.

I like to smoke pot.  I do it when I have to clean the house.  Or in this case, when I spend a belated birthday with my mother-in-law.

Oh –  not to avoid relating to her.  She’s the bad influence.

There really is no time to smoke more than once a week in the year 2010 –

but tonight was the night I was to go out with my very wild mother in law for a late birthday celebration.  We had never gone out just the two of us to party in the 8 years that we have known each other and with James at a work party, tonight was the night.

So, 5 days into the new year, I broke my resolution and smoked with my mother in law (I had smoked 6 days before on new year’s eve.)

These things happen and sometimes in life you have to go with the flow.  Smoking teaches you that.  The trick is for it not to teach you too much so that you’re always just going with the flow. Or nothing will get done.

But all was done for the night outside of an MFA film project callback for Thursday.  And that can wait till tomorrow.

Plus, now I have something to blog about. : )

I am not advocating the use of illegal drugs in America.

But I do think it makes me a better person if on occasion (no more than once a week), I smoke pot in the privacy of my own home.

I get out of my groove.  Stop worrying about things I can’t control.  And get things done that otherwise seem menial.

And I philosophize. James calls me The Philosopher when I smoke.  Because I filabuster him with something to say on everything.

Tonight, with him gone and me back home from going out with the mom in law (a lot of fun by the way) I just have you to philosophize to.

I had three auditions today.  McDonalds.  Lean Cusine.  And Verizon.  All voice over.  All in the booth for 5 minutes, but an hour  apart, running around to different parts of the city for the silly, fun task of reading and recording commercial copy a few times over with a casting director in the hopes of making $5,000 and pleasing my agents so they send me out more.   It took up the better half of the day.

Voice over auditions are taking over my life.

Three today.  Three tomorrow.  And it’s only Tues. night.

I’m not complaining.  I am so so happy to be getting auditions.  An actor without auditions is like a a painter without paint.  There’s no potential there.

But – I live deep in Brooklyn so its not terribly convenient to run home in between auditions when they’re at 10:30, 11:25, and 1:40 as they were today – or 11, 2, and 5 as they are tomorrow.  And let’s face it, as crucial as it is to pay the bills, voice over auditions aren’t exactly artistically enlightening.

So in the dead of winter, with an hour or two in between auditions spread out all over the city, you are forced to explore the city – check out new bars, coffee shops – or during less glamour times, look for the closest Starbucks.  And try and get some work done.

I had hoped to spend the day tomorrow papering my neighborhood (a neighborhood that is surprisingly provencial for NYC in the sense that a lot of the people in the neighborhood don’t leave the neighborhood) with posters for my kid’s class.

That will not be happening.  All the kid like stores will be closed by the time I get home around 7.

I’m starting to sweat it.  I start classes in a week and a half and I only have two confirmed students and two potential students.  What if only two people show up?

For three hours?  My mother in law, Gina, she says “then you just make them the best three hour class they’ve ever had.”

That makes sense.  But I’m still a little worried.

But there is nothing like a little pot to postpone the worry of what you cannot change. Thank you, Gina.

Once home, I ended the evening doing something I never do.  Watching television.

I haven’t watched a show since I was last on TV in September.  You’d be surprised how many actors don’t watch television.  Until they have a reason to.

Fittingly, I hulu-ed Weeds since I’d never seen it and had recently met an actor who has a reoccurring on the show.

Like the pot, Weeds gave me a chance to relax.  That is, after all, why most people watch television.  To relax and stop worrying about the life they cannot change tonight. It is America’s D.O.C. -well, that and Prozac (but I digress.)

Tomorrow I shall tackle the problem of students.  For now, Good Night you voyeurs, smokers, readers, and watchers.

bluffing your way to legitimacy

January 3, 2010

Today I spent part of the day organizing a kid’s acting class to teach that I have been working on putting together since September.

With the help of Craig’s List, brochures, an ad in the paper, and word of mouth I have managed to collect about 7 potential students. Modest fair, I know.  Recently, my thinking has been that if I could just get a class going with at least 4 people that more would follow by word of mouth by the students and their parents.

At this point, I have given a date for the class to the few parents who have expressed an interest and now I am just going to hustle and somehow miraculously get at least four people to come.  I have no idea yet how I will pull this off – but I am confident that the chill of failure will make me sweat enough to pull it off.

Organizing a class has been much more of a challenge than I had originally anticipated.

There is a running theme with all of the projects in my life taking much more time than originally anticipated, I would have to say.  Is it just me or do all of you out there also feel that it just takes so long to legitimize your own life?

I am a part time teacher.  Part time producer.  Part time screenwriter.  Part time coat check girl.  Part time housewife.  Full time actress with a part time paycheck.

Wearing so many hats gets exhausting.  But I’m gonna fake it till I make it, nonetheless.

After all, failure only happens to those of us who are trying in the first place.  And when you fail as many times as I have, you eventually stop wincing when you get knocked down and start to enjoy and even relish the battle scars.  That’s my  goal on the way up (and sometimes down),  anyway.

A good year

January 2, 2010

Today is the first official day of new resolutions for the year.

Eat a salad every day until May when I go to Cannes.

Get back down to a comfortable size 2 – the clothes still fit but right now there’s a growing muffin top.

Do The Presence Process (a book by Michael Brown) with my husband. This one is not on his enthusiastic list but if I initiate the way, he has somewhere between agreed and wants to do it agreed to do it with me.  It’s part philosophy part psychology and I highly recommend it for learning to stop being so reactionary in life.

Do rewrites on my feature film I’m trying to produce so that I’m thoroughly happy with the draft. I have probably written over 200 drafts of this thing.  It’s close but not there yet.

Get funding for the feature. Just half a million.  No big deal.  : )  Sounds crazy but it’s possible considering how well some of the members of our team are doing in their own careers.

Write a short of my feature. I have a potential investor for this one so I’d just be silly not to spend the time.  I have actually been working on this one for a good month now but turning a 120 page idea into a 20 page one is hard.

Stop using credit cards completely.

Never, ever go back to waitressing. Oh lord, I hope so.

Get my kid’s acting classes off the ground so that I am able to teach one day a week and make enough to supplement my career.

Get to the point of absolute joy in the auditioning process. A big one.

Blog at least 5x a week.

Run or do other exercises at least 3x a week. I’ll be going later today with my husband and the dogs.

I have not added anything about actually booking acting jobs.  I can’t control what I can’t control and somehow that seems contrary to finding the joy in auditioning.  Though really, booking is the main thing I am hoping and praying for in the New Year.

Though I have new resolutions every year that often are carried out and achieved, this is the first year I have both written them down and declared them aloud.  My husband and I – let’s call him James – just because I’m sick of always saying “my husband” – James and I wrote them out and read them.  Like kids.  Like finally becoming adults who were aware of the short lived nature of resolutions without the backbone of declaration and audience.  It felt good.  And achievable.

It’s going to be a good year.

Shaking the pressure under grace

December 31, 2009

I had a rehearsal today with an actor who is quite good for being a new actor.

That is to say that he’s been at it for three years.

He left a very successful career making six figures a year to become poor and be an actor with no prior training or experience.

And he’s done quite well for himself. He’s had a couple reoccurring roles on soaps as well as a few other principals on cable and a small part in a movie for HBO that he deemed “not very good.”

All without an agent.

Needless to say, I was impressed.  In describing his resume (which I’d tactfully inquired about), I realized that he’s almost surpassed what has taken me almost a lifetime to achieve.

Of course, he wasn’t as good as me.

Don’t misunderstand. I’m not being boastful, just honest.  Though I still sell youth, I’m an old dog.  I’ve been at this since before I could understand it.  When it was just fun and no achievement at it meant anything.   I’ve spent hundreds of hours studying and reading and being with auditions and performance.  I now have a technique and an emotional body to draw from.  I have a technical way of working which I think will probably elude him until time and study gives him that.

But as we went over our scene, I was impressed with his freshness. How he got better quickly and how what he did came naturally without technique.

And how he came at the whole game with a great deal of confidence.

I was reminded how that is my biggest roadblock.

“Trust yourself” one of my agents said the other day when I was surprised at her complimenting my read for a recent audition I’d put on tape and deemed not very good due to my nerves.

Some part of me doesn’t trust myself enough when it matters.   For the big whigs : )

I don’t feel fully welcome at the party and so I arrive nervous and already apologizing for my attire.

When in fact if I fully wore whatever I came in – having carefully selected my party dress and the speech to say with it – I just might find myself the belle of the ball.  After all, I didn’t crash the party.  I was invited.

There is the acting and then there is the aura that one wears when one shows up.

That grace under pressure that can never be acted.

But rather, just exists in a bright young thing.   OR –  can be rediscovered by an old dog (who’s not that old, just a little tired) who is finally starting to remember and live what it is to be fresh.

An actress cannot be anonymous

December 29, 2009

Hi.  I’ve been wanting to write a blog for a year now.  to share me with you.  to share a sense of what it is like to blindly navigate the machine called fame.  and yet – all the blogs I’ve looked at of actresses (save for one anonymous one called Cranky Actress), just seemed so – I don’t know – trivial.

who cares about a bunch of unknown maybe talentless young needies, right?  And if I can’t care about all these other’s, how can I expect others to care about mine?  Cranky Actress, the one exception worked, I think, because she left an element of mystery.  And in that mystery even a touch of universality.  i wanted to know who she was.  but I couldn’t : ) AND she was funny.  and smart.  that’s key folks.

By being anonymous I don’t have to fear offending or being too nice or pc or anything.  I can say whatever I want.  And I won’t get a stalker (at least not one who will recognize me)  ; )

since I will not permit you to see my face, what can I tell you?

I work.  not with the regularity that I would like – but suffice it to say that I get the (very) occasional fan letter.  I’ve been on all three of the former major networks.  if I google myself well over 10,000 hits come up (as opposed to 28 million for Angelina Jolie or 190 for my husband who, though a writer, is not yet trying to be famous).  I was a regular on a network show this summer.  I started acting when I was seven.  I’ve been in NY and had an agent for seven years now.  I don’t have kids I have dogs.  I’m spiritual but not religious.  I go to the ocean to find peace.  I am happiest when I am playing someone else.

i get nervous in auditions.  in fact as much as I wish for my phone to ring, the minute a big audition comes in it fills me with dread.  I get his distinct unbreathable knot in the center of of my chest and it doesn’t let go.

I attribute this to a need – an intense need – to be someone.  right now, as an unemployed, former waitress who doesn’t book with enough regularity, it is easy to feel like I am not really someone that matters.  I know I am not alone.

sometimes I am able to combat this with yoga.  or running.  or the recent read of something enlightening like Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth.  writing my own material and working on my own projects helps.  sometimes, not so much.

this year I have made some noted progress in the way of unwanted nerves.  my goal for this coming year is to actually find the joy in auditioning.  in not getting the job.  in just doing it.  for when I don’t care whether I really get the job or not I really really do shine.

I want to strive to always find the play.

in life I work to be known by the world.  not because I want to be famous but because I want to work.  and in our celebrity driven culture it is a lot easier to work if you first have fame.

here, in this spot, I will work to be known only for my thoughts, and what I might have to offer in the way of advice or sharing with you.  how pretty or not or perky or not or talented or not or nervous or not I am will not matter.  only the work and the words.

I will tell you about my auditions.  the people I meet.  my leads.  my failures. the jobs I get.  the ones I don’t.  the suckiness of working in an industry where sex sells and youth sells and having a husband that’s not in the business is akin to “just not wanting it enough.” But, also – the beauty of how having a husband (in addition to loads of wonderful things) cuts through a hell of a lot of bullshit on the way up.

You will watch me become.  and if I am lucky, I will find beauty, peace, and joy in the anonymous connection of you.