R U Leaving Your Soul in the Seat?

“When someone fears losing your affection, he or she will strive to keep it. Perhaps you have strived to keep someone’s affection, too. Fear of loss is not love.” – Gary Zukav, The Seat of the Soul

So you’ve got all of your tools in place. You’ve explored your Brand (I like to use the term, “Essence”), you’ve got your perfect headshots, your reel is up to date, you’re in class, your resume is growing. Congratulations! But there’s something no quite right. There’s this intangible part of the business that seems to open doors for everyone else, but you haven’t quite got it yet. What is that?

An actor friend of mine spoke about his early career mistakes, and it took him awhile to understand the biggest one. He had the looks, confidence and talent, but every time he left his seat in the waiting area to walk into the audition room, he said he left his soul in that seat. He didn’t know why, but he chose to leave the most authentic part of himself outside the door. Perhaps, he thought, no one wanted to see that? He thought professionalism was the ability to compartmentalize. In his mind, “Leave your sh&t outside the door” also meant “Leave your self outside the door”. He paid the price for hiding his best parts.

When I was in my twenties I knew that it was the time for making mistakes. I loved turning thirty, because I knew I was done making mistakes. Boy, was I in for a big surprise! As my mistakes continued, I mistook that for not being good enough. Thus began my downward spiral of contorting myself into a more “palatable” me. I played small and stayed safe. While my peers’ careers got sidetracked by starting families or dealing with serious life issues, my career got sidetracked by my lack of self worth.

Life immediately changes when we relax into who we are. When we relax into our own skins we no longer need to prove anything. The adolescent cry, “You don’t know me!” morphs into the quiet knowing that it’s perfectly OK if most people don’t get me. The most attractive people we know are those who know there is nothing to prove. And when we can enter the room with our whole self – free of the need to book the job and free of outside approval – doors will open.

BRING YOUR OPINIONS/QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS TOPIC TO MY TUESDAY FACEBOOK LIVE, 12PM PST

 

Facing Reality – is it good or bad?

We don’t see things as they are;

we see them as we are. ~ Anonymous

Every day news networks lead with shocking headlines solely to increase their ratings. To quote playwright, Adam Langer, “You never hear anyone say, ‘that’s too awful to be true.’ No matter how awful it is, you can believe it, why not no matter how good?” (Vivian in Film Flam)

Some may say that seeing the awful is facing reality. That in order to be safe, we must dutifully arm ourselves with worst case scenarios so as not to fall victim. We must watch the news, binge on real murder stories, click on depressing reports about our health care system and the environment – this keeps us ahead of the game! Beware hopeful stories, for they must be treated with suspicion. We must be careful not to have too much hope or else others will call us naive.

Our reality is based on what we believe. I like to play Black Jack, but I never win, because I have a hang-up about gambling. On the other hand, I believe so strongly in my body’s immune system that I’ve never had the flu even though I’ve never had a flu shot. Our beliefs are strengthened by what we choose to focus on. Good news – we can consciously shift our focus as soon as we are triggered by negative comments or disturbing stories. There is always good to be witnessed, and science shows it makes us healthier. Every horrible headline can be countered with something good. This is one of my favorites from last week: https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/montana-governor-signs-executive-order-keep-net-neutrality-state/

Focus on the Good

You’re probably already seeing the connection between this and your career. I’ve encountered some crappy people and situations throughout the years, but the moment I no longer allowed them to predict my future, obstacles disappeared. Einstein said, “The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.”

Tune in to my Facebook Live – every Tuesday at 12pm PST – to further discuss this week’s blog topic on “The Recognized Actor” FB Page.

I Know Why You’re Not Marketing

“The key to happiness is not to make yourself into a different person; it is to let yourself be even more of who you really are.” – Dr. Robert Holden

I work all day with actors who are stuck when it comes to their marketing. They are sincerely puzzled as to why they never get around to it. Some reasons they give are: “I don’t want to brag”, or “I don’t think it will do any good”. But I know it’s something more.

The biggest reason why we’re not doing our marketing is because we are stuck in the futile effort of trying to second guess what “they” want. To remedy this, we attend branding workshops where they hand out lists of adjectives for fellow attendees to label us. We listen so intently to what others are saying that we start to believe them. Yes, you’re right – I AM the Latina single mother who has a secret! We push to come up with something cast-able, so we settle on a brand that is not quite us. Our materials smack of subservience, pleading to be called in. As a young actor in Chicago, I was told that I would get more work if I wrapped myself in my Latin heritage. Speak the language, look the part. This confused me. I wondered how I was supposed to do that? I grew up in a Lithuanian neighborhood, my family never spoke Spanish, and I have no hips!

What we really want to say is, “This is me – take it or leave it!”

We admire people who unapologetically march to their own drummer. They are truly the most successful. So how do we find our drummer? Pay attention to the details. When we see the connection between the roles we most want to play and the ones we’re usually called in for, we begin to hear that drum. When we identify that “thing” we bring to every role, the drum gets louder. When we observe how uniquely we navigate life, we bear witness to our authenticity.

If you haven’t noticed by now, this is not just about marketing. It’s about life. If we’re bending over backwards to be more palatable to someone, or if we’re hiding parts of ourselves to fit into a group, we’re not living fully. Be authentic. Be happy.

David Bowie

Cookies Are the Cure

There’s this great scene in the film, Soapdish (1991), where Sally Field’s character – an aging temperamental soap star – is depressed. Her assistant asks if she needs to go to the mall. Through tears, she nods “yes!” Jump cut to her bedazzled self descending down the mall escalator where slowly but surely more and more people recognize her and soon she’s surrounded by adoring fans who want her autograph. Depression cured. Alas, we are not soap stars, nor do we have malls where validation awaits to greet us. Any validation we do get is fickle and unreliable. Others’ opinions of us are based on how they’re feeling that day, after all. (And we cast our opinions in the same manner.)

At least once a week, I see a post from someone who is getting kicked in the teeth by life. Friends try to cheer them up with virtual hugs and well-meaning, but overused sayings. The truth is, if we don’t pick ourselves up, we’re gonna slide right back into the muck. Coming up with a pep talk in the middle of a personal slump, however, is nearly impossible.  Or is it? Here’s how we can prep our pep talk in an honest, look-at-the-facts sort of way before we need it: Make some cookies. I’m not talking empty calorie cookies, but “cookies” that shift our perspective in just one bite. This idea comes from ultra-marathon runner, David Goggins.

Get a jar  – or a vase, or a box, (or ziplock bag you can keep in the car) – and fill it with notes spelling out all of your personal achievements. Their size doesn’t matter, just as long as they matter to you. Here are some of mine:

  • You returned to college at forty, did the work, and graduated as class valedictorian.
  • You traveled the U.S. staying in four star hotels, because you showed up as an actor.
  • Your rode your bike from St. Paul, MN to Chicago, because you decided to.

So when you’re feeling like you can’t possibly get through a painful time, or recover from a gut wrenching blow, reach into that cookie jar and tell yourself the truth.

 

 

 

 

Social Media – What’s Really Going On?

When confidence is crushed by comparisons, social media has raised the bar on “keeping up with the Joneses”. What’s an actor to do?

The other day, I saw a celebrity’s IG post get over 500, 000 likes. Not 500K followers – 500K likes.

Actors fret over numbers – how many followers/likes do I have? – because they think it’s the be all end all. They think it’s important to casting. So now there’s a rat race to increase these numbers. I’m gonna say something controversial here…I think it’s bullsh&t. I think that for 80% of us, these numbers are unnecessary. I know that some CDs say social media is important, but I know others say it isn’t. I know some actors have been asked for their account handles at auditions, but I know I never have. What’s really going on here? Let’s break it down.

The way I see it, social media is important only when you’re on either end of the spectrum. On the low end: independent projects may choose to rely on “high followers” to help promote/fund their films – essentially using these actors as producers, without the producer credit. On the high end of the spectrum, a big budget TV series may – when narrowing down a series lead – choose the actor whose on-line visibility relates closest to their show.

My page expresses me as an actor

If you notice, I just outlined two different types of social media categories: numbers and presence. The numbers thing is just that – numbers. Companies who specialize in increasing numbers “like” my posts all the time, hoping that I will buy their service. I’ve been liked by strangers with over 20K followers, but I see nothing of substance when I click on their IG page. So not only do I know they paid for it, I also know they’re using me to employ a tactic designed to further increase their numbers.

What must be observed here is the difference between numbers and numbers with meaningful content.

Celebrities and people with great content build their following organically. Here’s how we, too, can create meaningful content  – find our POV. Humans are attracted to distinct, interesting points of view. This speaks to a person’s essence. A few weeks ago, I showed how self-improvement/self-growth is nothing more than the emergence of who you really are. So don’t just post a picture of your food, tell us how you see it. Share with us who you really are. Otherwise it’s just a another lunch pic.

I use my actor’s “pitch” in my bio

So when a producer asks for your social media handles, they’re researching you. They want to see a real person, they want to see who you are. (They also want to see that you’re not an idiot.) I am on FB and IG every single day. Several times. I continue to stumble, but my desire is specific: to maintain authenticity while expressing my POV.

What’s the Big Deal about Pilot Season?

There’s this buzz that happens every January in the industry. Pilot Season. This time of year, I see a sh%t ton of ads telling (selling) actors to “be prepared for pilot season” with
  • New Headshots!
  • Acting Classes!
  • Image Makeovers!
  • New Representation! etc. etc. etc.
Something’s not right here, I think. By the time January comes around it’s too late to have this stuff ready for pilot season.  I mean, doesn’t the word “prepare” automatically imply prior to?

Many actors hold a misconception that pilot season is only for those who have top representation or who are series regular material. (Whatever that means.) There’s this idea that booking a pilot is better than any other acting job. People move cross country every winter, spending a year’s savings on a three month gamble.

It’s time to demystify pilot season. Companies use the tantalizing prospect of booking a pilot as bait to sell their product. Look, either you need new headshots, classes, an agent or not. Ask yourself, What do I need to support my career right now?

Almost two years ago, Dorothy, a SAG eligible actor, decided it was time to join the union. She decided it was her time to do TV and film, and joining SAG-AFTRA was what she needed.The moment she made that decision – and I mean within a month – she got her first TV audition. Her musical comedy experience was an easy transfer to sitcoms. Offices began to call her in repeatedly, and six months later she booked a pilot.
About a year ago this time of year,Joy walked her headshot into a casting office, because she knew she was perfect for a new show. Today she’s filming that show as the series lead! The series, however, never had a pilot. The network simply greenlit the entire season – a perfect example of how pilots are not the be all end all.
(Both Dorothy and Joy had participated in Action Group, and used Marketing Tools to support their careers.)

Booking a pilot as a co-star or guest star can be just like any other acting gig. Yes, it’s fun to be on the ground floor of something new – something that could be the nation’s next big hit – but at the end of the day, it’s just solid work. So if your goal is to book solid work, then forget about the term, “pilot season”, collect what you need, and do what you need to do – now. If you can’t figure out what that is, then ask yourself, What do I really want? Your answer will guide yo

April 15th is About Me, Not the IRS.

Tax season is about more than just my finances. It’s a time to dig out all the stuff I did last year. When I’m gathering all my data, I find stuff I forgot about…and some stuff I’d like to forget about. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Tax Day is in the Springtime. I see it as a kind of Spring Cleaning when I can see what I want to keep in my life and what to throw out. If not for taxes, I’m sure I wouldn’t do it at all.

The value of life reflection is underrated if not completely dismissed. I learn from my mistakes (OK, maybe not always the first time around), and I learn from my successes. Especially now that I’m in a career “drought” it’s good to be reminded that last year was pretty darn good. When we review, we remember the crappy things that we survived, and we remember the wonderful things that came to fruition.  Reviewing my life patterns gives me perspective on the Big Picture.

I’m a big fan of looking at the Big Picture. It provides clarity when I can otherwise get caught up in the daily noise of survival. I see why I’m willing to undertake some projects and  why it would be wise to eliminate others – not easy for A-Types. It’s kind of like purging the closet. I can identify patterns that will either help me move forward or continually keep me stuck. Try this: open your calendar and review everything you did last week. What patterns do you see? Look around your home and do the same thing. What patterns do you see? Your refrigerator. See a pattern? Your car. See a pattern there? What one thing can you do today to improve your life flow?

The best person to tell us about our lives is us. The trick is listening to that person…that wise, wise person. So when you dread pulling out all your paperwork to do your taxes, look at it as an opportunity to make new decisions about the rest of your year.

 

 

Matchmaker, Matchmaker

Yeah, yeah Valentine’s Day, blah, blah, blah…..

So what do romantic relationships have to do with marketing yourself? Well if you’ve ever been on a dating site you know exactly what! If you’ve been out of the on-line dating scene, let me share some striking similarities….

THE PROFILE PHOTO – Going through potential dates’ photos is both exhausting and hilarious, because you see snapshots under the “WTH-were-they-thinking?” category: Women showing how hot they are with “slut” photos, and men showing their “adventuresome” side with long distance shots of them skiing, hang gliding, zip lining, etc, but you can’t see their faces? This is what happens when we get trapped into contorting ourselves into images of what we think they want.

 

 

 

 

THE PERSONAL BIOS – After awhile, you skim through the first paragraph because so many use the generic description, like “I love to laugh”, “I’m comfortable with a night on the town or relaxing on the couch binge watching”, etc. Too many people write the obvious, but don’t take the time to express sincere individuality.

THE ON-LINE EXCHANGE – “Hey”, “What’s up?”, “Hi”. I kid you not, people actually think communication begins this way. Of course, there’s the complete opposite approach where they write a tome and expect it to be personal? The problem here is overthinking. When we don’t write enough, we’re actually censoring ourselves based on the fear of saying the “wrong” thing. When we write too much, we assume that they won’t understand us, so we over explain.

Success lies in having a picture, a bio, and a pitch that truly expresses who we are. What most people don’t understand is that we can never do this alone. As I’m writing this, someone else is looking over my words, giving me honest feedback, because I know that two minds are better than one. My two cents? Team up with somebody, whether it’s for your professional profile or your online dating profile. We all need support from those who can see us as we are, not as we should be.

 

I Have Too Much Money

Yep, that’s my problem – I have more money than I can handle.losing-money And as long as I continue to believe that, it will forever slip through my fingers.

Over the last 5 months, I’ve taken money education classes through the Actors Fund in Los Angeles. The first seven weeks we examined our earliest money memories, our family history, our assumptions about money, and more. This was not easy, but with carefully guided homework and weekly discussions led by a professional social worker, we saw things more clearly. We discovered that while we (all artists) claimed to be broke or bad with money, none of us had the same amount of it. None of us had the same parenting around it, and none of us had the same “script”.

For years, I thought my script was one of 'Rent an auditorium and charge $39.95 a seat. Thank you for coming.'“scarcity issues”. Turns out, that’s just a catchphrase used to sell wealth seminars. When I discovered what my true script was, the clouds parted, and I was ready to take on the next phase of unearthing my real numbers. Discovering exactly what I earned and spent each month – down to the penny – was both terrifying and liberating. Louise Hay says, “In order to clean your house you have to see the dirt.”

Money is just one facet of our lives that needs identification. It also applies to our talents – if we don’t know what are talents are, we will never use them wisely. When I work with entrepreneurs and artists (one in the same, really) I say,  It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you. And we must begin with ourselves. What do I want? What kind of person do I want to be known as? What brings me joy? When we recognize who we really are, it frees us to fully express it. We no longer give away or talents, but instead we use them wisely, and life no longer slips through our fingers.

 

So . . . what do YOU do?

I went solo to the theater last week. Going solo is easy at a movie theater, but not for L.A. stage productions where everyone is checking each other out in the bright lights of the lobby, trying to figure out how they might know you, or looking for someone semi-famous to show up. theatre_audience I took my seat next to a young man and his wife. We were introduced by a third party who immediately walked away. (Probably to see if anyone “important” had shown up.) I was curious, and asked questions like “How do you know so-and-so?” and “What kinds of projects did you two work on?” I really didn’t know too much about his end of the business, so I couldn’t contribute much more than questions, and inevitably the conversation began to wind down. Then – with one of the most obligatory tones I had ever heard – he said, “So what do you do?” I hate this question in general, but his blatant I’m-just-asking-to-be-polite tone made me hate it even more. I suddenly beganmouth blathering about my business to which he reacted with the “eye glaze”. I tried to save the conversation by adding something more familiar, like ” . . . and I’m an actor.” That was his cue to ask me what time it was, because he “needed to check on something”. He left me alone with his wife who, thankfully, was much more pleasant.

It drives me nuts when I forget to do what I encourage my clients to do: Share your enthusiasm with others. It’s the one, immediate thing you can do to market yourself that requires no money or materials.  If I had chosen not to let this guy’s tone affect my energy, I could have shared my love of working on actors’ self-promo and how rewarding it is to see them light up with inspiration. Instead, I came off apologetic (the ultimate sin!) and reduced my business to nothing more than “marketing”. As an actor, I could have mentioned I was there to support a fellow actress while exploring new plays – instead I proclaimed my profession with about as much enthusiasm as if I were announcing my credit card debt.

I know better, right? And so do you. Have you ever found yourself talking about a project apologetically? If you know that there’s just got to be a bFind-Your-Voice-298x300etter way to marketing, then come join me in November’s SMART Action Path Program. It’s four weeks to finding your marketing voice that will catapult you into the New Year with fresh marketing materials. You will discover what holistic marketing is, just how enjoyable self-promo can be! Sign up by October 30th, because it starts Monday, November 3, 2014.