As Creatives, we often feel the pressure of having to prove what we’ve accomplished, especially at holiday gatherings. Consider this alternative:
Instead of listing what we’ve done (or going down that rabbit hole of what we’ve not done), let’s reflect on what we’ve experienced.
It is our life experiences, not our accomplishments, that make us who we are. Think about that. Think about all the cool stuff you experienced last year – in the last decade – that has brought real impact to your life and is responsible for the awesome person you are. Look at your favorite photos. The best ones reflect experiences, not activities.
When we look at what we want to achieve in the next decade, we can choose to either be in a state of anticipatory delight or in a state of aggressive control. Our daily routines can either be filled with aliveness or crammed with forced discipline.
Every day, I am delighted to discover new, unplanned opportunities: auditions, table reads, theatre productions, showcases, interviews, etc. Actually booking a job is just the icing on the cake!
Let’s create 2020 Goals that make us giggle at the possibilities, ones that are free of promises to “do better”. When we play with setting career goals – I’m talking full-on play – we always end up having fun.
I found myself light-headed and physically strained in less than fifteen minutes. This really annoyed me, so I blew it off. Then I felt dizzy. Then my chest began to tighten. OK, I thought, you’re not thirty anymore, time to stop.
Last week, I attempted to go up the Chief Peaks Trail in Stawamus Chief Park, BC Canada. I was encouraged to do this by the hair & make-up gals from the set of Riverdale just a few weeks prior. When I researched the hike on YouTube, I thought, Nah, better stick with something more appropriate for a middle-age woman traveling alone. Something like the Museum Of Anthropology or Butchart Gardens, which I did. Then Jeff said he was going to The Chief, and asked if I’d join him.
Getting a TV gig during a pandemic is like winning the lottery, but it comes with an aftertaste of survivor’s guilt. At the end of August, I was flown up to Vancouver, BC, to shoot a TV show and would stay for several weeks. How could I be so lucky to get work and get to stay in a much more “COVID safe” country like Canada? The two week, government mandated quarantine, satisfied my lapsed Catholic guilt. I mean, I shouldn’t really be enjoying this, right? To resist enjoyment was futile – my first day on-set was heavenly. But it wasn’t too late to be miserable. Lonliness crept in steadily during my down time before I shot again, and my hopes of citywide explorations were dashed – Sorry, closed due to COVID. With social distancing and mask wearing, I couldn’t even strike up a conversation with a stranger at a cafe. A part of my day was always spent people watching from my seventh floor balcony. So when I discovered that two friends and their son were also in town, I grabbed up any time their family schedule could spare me.
Maybe it was the elevation, maybe it was the intense physical exertion that triggered my hot flashes – who knows? I just knew I had to take it slow, so I rested whenever I felt like it. I ate an apple, and stared at the magnificent pines across the way for a good twenty minutes before I felt better. It also gave Jeff time to befriend a chipmunk. The hike resumed with continued challenges – ladders and rope chains in several places – but we forged ahead, laughing a good portion of the way. And then we made it.
While we ate our lunches atop the first peak, gazing over the waters of Howe Sound, we thanked each other for being there. Neither one of us would have attempted this solo. While other hikers seemed to take it all in stride, we felt like we’d achieved something monumental. Looking at that huge wall of granite hours earlier, I never thought I’d end up on top of it. Seriously. I actually thought the trail would take us somewhere else.
If we feel pain from isolation, then relief comes by reaching out. There’s magic when we say yes. There’s magic when we join with others. Life is meant to be experienced. Every. Single. Bit. The breathtaking vista is inseparable from the uphill struggle. Laughter, and the luscious smells of fresh earth and wood come with sore toes and shaky quadriceps. Even during a pandemic, even when people are crying out for justice, even when our country seems so divided, there’s magic. All we have to do is show up, and start walking. We’ll see it.
“It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pays tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.”. ~ U.S. Dept. of Labor
What a difference a month makes! In August – out of work for four months – I wrote about my frustrations with commercial self-tape auditions. The process had become so demanding and complex, that I questioned whether or not it was worth it. If booked, would I even arrive on a safe set? Factory workers, front line workers, and (soon) many teachers (will) know the critical importance of a COVID-safe working environment. We all want to work, but at what cost? Since then, I’ve had four live commercial auditions – three remote and one in-person. I’m happy to report that two weeks ago, I shot a national commercial. #adsgounion
As I’ve witnessed production slowly opening up (and sometimes closing), I’ve pointed out the simple economic fact that only those who can afford it, can produce. The amount of money and time (and time is money) it takes to ensure on-set safety for all cast & crew is notable. My in-person audition had only one actor at a time in the lobby (two at most), there was no sign-in sheet (less contact), hand sanitizer was everywhere, and just one session runner in attendance who was masked & shielded the entire time. Two days before my fitting, I was given a “quick turnaround” PCR COVID-19 test (the most reliable). Currently, there are three test types.
The on-set experience required patience. Every crew member wore provided masks and shields at all times unless they were eating. This commercial was shot on location, so breakfast was served in a parking lot, and lunch was served on a lawn area. In L.A. we have the option of outdoor dining 99% of the time – a Hollywood luxury for sure. Personnel Zones were assigned on the call sheet, so only the bare minimum of crew was allowed indoors. Actors had to wear masks & shields until camera rolled. The masks made it difficult to hear voices, so the director used a mic. Every hour or so, the on-set COVID Safety Person stopped work to spray all hi-traffic trailers with an aerosol disinfectant that looked like a mobile fumigation kit. He also made the rounds – like a high school hall monitor – making sure we wore our masks. Trailers kept their doors open (except when I changed my clothes in wardrobe). There were only three actors in the spot, so no more than two were on set. In the afternoon, a union rep happened to pay a visit. I felt very safe.
This was a perfect example of how, with detailed research and adherence to protocol, work can begin. If there is the smallest of human error, however, (i.e. one person attends a crowded function the night before) it can quickly go south. National headlines report famous people who’ve contracted the virus, but news about lesser known folks is hidden in the pages of local papers. This is why we must commit to solidarity with our fellow workers by demanding on-set safety, and be willing to walk when we feel unsafe. The possibility of being out of work for a year is a small price to pay when it comes to long term neurological effects or even death.
As you celebrate this Labor Day, commit to solidarity with your co-workers. Share information, speak up, and take personal responsibility for strengthening your immune system. Yes, the opportunity for work is what we all want, but in order to keep working we must remember we’re all in this together.
Recently, I read the article, Dear Hollywood: We Don’t Want to “Go Back to Normal.” Normal Wasn’t Working. While it was written from the perspective of a professional crew person dealing with insane hours, on-set bullying, and impossible expectations, it made me look to see how actors were affected – specifically with commercial auditions. While the author’s complaints were legitimate (thousands have agreed with him), one could say “Well, at least he was getting paid”. Actors don’t get paid for auditions, but it absolutely is work.
I’m not here to suggest paid auditions. I knew the deal before embarking on this career, but back in the day, we had higher earning potential. I missed the “golden era” where an actor could buy a house from one commercial. Four years ago, I did two national network commercials – a car company and an insurance company, arguably big money clients – but my combined pay was lower than the national poverty level.
Since Quarantine, there are fewer auditions, but commercial casting directors are accepting more and more self-tapes. The ad agencies’ audition demands have moved from the casting offices, to the actor’s home. Not only are we freely giving these ad agencies our talent in the form of auditions (also giving them new script ideas in the process), but now we’ve become unpaid session runners, location scouts, editors, and DPs. And here’s the kicker: ad agencies have yet to sign on to safety protocols recommended by our union. So even after jumping through hoops with self-tapes and editing, we’re not even guaranteed a safe set.
Who needs actors? More and more we’re seeing auditions requiring real families, friends or couples who are quarantined together with “no experience necessary”. I used to feel a camaraderie with actors who booked, because I knew they pounded the pavement on the regular, but now we’re seeing non-actors booking spots – not by luck, but merely because they live with a professional actor.
“Great occasions do not make heroes or cowards; they simply unveil them to our eyes. Silently and imperceptibly, as we wake or sleep, we grow strong or weak; and at last some crisis shows what we have become.” Brooke Foss Westcott
Sure, the current conditions give ad agencies a good excuse. But just like the article mentioned above, the industry is growing comfortable asking us to do more (like re-shoot auditions, record different angles, submit within 24 hours, etc.) Capitalizing on our fears, the industry expects us to ask, “How high?” whenever they tell us to jump. Home schooling will begin soon, but the demanding audition requests will continue, because they assume we have more time and that we we’re desperate and grateful for any crumb of an opportunity to work.
Whenever I look back to why I became an actor, I’m reminded of my truth: I’m an artist who mirrors human behavior within the human condition. It has nothing to do with television commercials. I look forward to navigating what is next with grace, and with my dignity in tact.
“In every crisis, doubt or confusion, take the higher path – the path of compassion, courage, understanding and love.” Amit Ray
“Well, given the current situation we can’t plan anything anymore!” How often have you heard that these days? We can’t seem to move forward unless we have a set of givens. For the first time ever, we’re experiencing our lives with no certainty and no predictability.
Or are we?
This pandemic has reminded us that life isn’t predictable. Turns out, the only things we ever planned for were the things we were pretty sure about. Now that the important things are coming to the forefront, we see the true nature of life… is unpredictable.
Let’s look at goals and plans. The first is a vision, an aspiration, or a great desire, while the second is a “how to” strategy. Plans, while helpful in some areas (construction, engineering, creating systems), are completely useless when it comes to a vision. Once we know where we want to be or what we want to do/have, we can choose to either be open to infinite possibilities, or we can stick to one, rigid plan. Take notice of how many times something wonderful happened when we barely lifted a finger. When I decided to move to L.A. 22 years ago, I had no plan. When I arrived, I simply followed what was in front of me until I had booked three network TV gigs and a national commercial within my first year. And I had planned nothing.
When business started to shut down in March, I noticed how fearful people had become. As time progressed I noticed the urgent attempts to locate “reliable predictions”. People wanted to know what was going to happen and when it was going to happen so they could relax and move on with their lives. But it’s the other way around, really. Fear breeds the need to control. It’s opposite is surrender. When we relax into our world instead of trying to control it, only then can we move on with our lives. We can choose to plan every moment of our lives, or we can surrender to every moment in order to live.
I recently posed a question on social media: What motivates people to re-post negative news stories regularly? I got several responses that could be summed up as such:
Our nation needs to be informed in order to vote correctly.
In order to prevent becoming numb, it’s important to hold on to outrage.
The reality is that negative news stories are our reality.
We need to make others aware that “negative news stories” are shaping our future.
It’s a way to warn the dimwitted about what’s happening.
I was surprised that…I was surprised to see people referring to only two things: our current administration and racism in America. While everyone answered to the logic of posting negative stories, few responded to the need for posting – the motivation. This reminded me of a phrase I stumbled upon while in high school:
“Don’t ever think you know what’s right for the other person. He might start thinking he knows what is right for you”.
~ Paul Williams, Das Energi
Moral outrage can produce great change, but when we point fingers at our neighbors for not thinking the “right” way, we lose our minds either trying to control their POV (an impossible task) or gleefully watching for their comeuppence (schadenfreude, anyone?). Ignoring negative news is near impossible, but allowing it to rule our state of mind is insanity. As Einstein once stated:
“The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.”
I thought, “If I can figure out why I’m sad, then I can fix it”. I began a data search in my brain, picking out this and that, mulling over missed opportunities, lost loves, bad behavior, etc. Nothing clicked with what I was actually feeling. Instead, bringing up these memories just made me feel worse. I then woke up to a new thought: The sadness I’m feeling is all based on my thinking, and so I quickly switched gears. “OK, good. All I need to do is change my thinking. Think about something else…” I lay in bed, not wanting to get up until I solved this, so I mentally searched for an activity that would get me out of this “stinkin’ thinkin'”, something that would change my thought pattern. The only ideas I came up with were shallow distractions. Then I woke up again.
OMG – This is about judgment! For years, I had decided that feeling sad was bad for me! My whole life I saw sadness as something to be endured, avoided or fixed. “Hey, what if I didn’t judge it anymore?”, I thought. “What if I didn’t see it as something wrong?” In that moment – literally in that instant – my sadness disappeared, and I smiled.
My experience wasn’t about correcting the sadness, but rather about how I judged it. I laughed as I saw the simplicity in it all. Could it really be that easy? Yes, because I felt it.
At a recent audition, I entered a small waiting area, and saw only one other actress. She was standing, facing the wall with her back to the center of the tiny room. She was “getting into the zone”. I grabbed the keys to the ladies room and left. When I returned, she was still facing the wall. Suddenly it occurred to me – she was trying to “toughen her mind”. I could tell by her body language that she was trying to control her fears. In that moment, I realized,
Oh, I don’t have to do that. None of us have to do that!
I exhaled, knowing that I’d already done the work, and that’s all I needed to do. She was called into the room, and through the thin walls I could hear her mess up the first line. On her second try, she still messed it up. They gave her a redirect (I couldn’t hear what), which prompted her to improvise in her own words. It was obvious that she didn’t understand the script.
When we hold on to something too tightly, it’s bound to slip away from us. When we’re more concerned about messing up than being in the moment, we’re bound to…mess it up. Even if we don’t forget a line, we’re liable to forget context, relationship, wants – all that stuff we spent so much time & money learning – only to end up giving just a “meh” audition.
Audition stress can be boiled down to one thing – the result of making something too precious.
This usually happens when we’re not getting as many auditions or bookings as we’d like. We’ve put so much weight on it. It’s as if this is our only (or most important) audition, as if this is the only time an office will ever call us in. We don’t even realize we’re doing it, but the heaviness is there. And then if we hear nothing – depression sets in. Making something too precious can drive us mad. We all know what happened to Gollum.
When it was my turn to go in,
I was focused and relaxed at the same time. It was…unusual. We’ve all heard that we are the solution to casting’s problem, but at that moment, I knew it. When I was done, they were speechless. Literally, silence hung in the air as the writer, directer, producer and CD all stared at me, waiting for/ wanting me to continue, but there was no more dialogue. Finally, the director simply said, “Can you do it again?” No re-direct. I felt he just wanted to see if I could replicate was I’d just done. And I did.
Consider the power of being an “Actor in Motion”. There’s more to an actor’s life than just being on set. Really. When we see this, we begin to see our auditions as just… something we do. They are part of the fabric of our “working actor life”. We know that there will be more. Most importantly, we know we have an actor’s life that’s filled with behind the scenes maintenance that is fun to do, like marketing and classes. (And if it’s not fun, it’s only because we’ve already decided it doesn’t matter.) See movies & shows, read scripts, surround yourself with fellow actors who are doing the work, not just talking about it.
My best clients delight in career surprises, and allow for life/work balance. They understand how “sacrificing your way to success” is an outdated social lie.
“I work with committed, driven actors who know they should be doing their marketing, but aren’t.” This elevator speech doesn’t quite communicate what goes beyond my marketing and postcard work. Whether I work with someone on a simple mailing, or a three month branding program, or in Action Group, or one-on-one coaching, I share more. I share with them a glimpse of their infinite value. Stick with me for a second.
I see, I listen, and then I shine a light on the actor’s value & inner wisdom. Once you get a glimpse of that, there’s no going back.
We don’t need motivation. All we need is a reminder of who we are: valuable, wise people. Some may say, “I know who I am. I don’t need anyone to tell me my value.” If that’s true, I ask, then why are you working so hard to prove it? Why the endless to-do lists, excessive time spent on useless research, and overkill with classes, headshots & social media? My mission statement confirms: When we rely on recognition outside of ourselves, we are seduced into traps of rule following, people-pleasing, and working “hard” to prove ourselves.
There’s so much noise going on in our heads that we can’t hear our own wisdom.
We see countless social media posts touting the efforts of “the grind” and “the hustle”. Friends regularly post memes of sweating athletes or determined celebrities who worship discipline and hard work, and anything less than that is judged as laziness or dumb luck. Those magical times when we effortlessly receive abundance – and I know you have – are dismissed it as a fluke and then we express guilt for not having worked harder. I can think of nothing more self-defeating.
It is becoming easier and easier for me to live my best life, and I invite you to learn about it in my blog. I want you to experience the ease of doing more, but working less. Or you can ask me questions in person at public events. (Info in my monthly newsletter.)
Wouldn’t you rather enjoy 2019 in a Chill New Way, as opposed to gritting your teeth through “the grind”?
Last year December 26th, I hosted a FaceBook Live event titled, What’s the Big Deal About Pilot Season?. Today I noticed that my talk not only still hits the mark, but I am now living proof of it. In the video, I said that Pilot Season had become artificially hyped up, and so I challenged viewers to take on the rest of the year just as seriously. I pointed out that being proactive can be as simple as just showing up.
Back in March, I was on a treadmill of episodic callbacks but no bookings. (I know, I know, a good problem to have.) As I was allowing self-doubt, anger, and fear to rule my mental health, I got another audition. This one fueled my anger. After all of the great auditions I had, I couldn’t believe I was being asked to go in for a “one-liner”. I couldn’t believe that after auditioning for educated, professional roles, I was being asked to go in for a Latina housekeeper.
Piss off, I’m not going!
Today’s topic: “What’s the Big Deal About Pilot Season?” Ask yer questions!
As soon as I had expressed that thought, I knew it wasn’t practical, but I also knew I needed to change my attitude. I reached out to a friend, and asked her to remind me why I should show up for this one. Very simply, she pointed out that I needed to meet the casting director, and that I needed a job. Practical and impersonal. That’s all I needed to hear.
I was so busy, that I didn’t notice that this was a pilot audition. When I booked it, I forgot that this was my first pilot! Long story short, my story beat the odds. The series got picked up, and I’ve been called back three times (so far). It’s exciting for me to be a part – regardless how small – of a successful new show.
Here’s the thing: I didn’t go through pilot season wanting to book one. I just focused on booking a job. There’s a saying, “Shoot for the stars, and you’ll land on the moon.” In my case, I shot for the moon and landed on a star.
And the only thing I did was show up.
Booking a pilot doesn’t have to be your goal, but you must have a goal. Your choice will determine your actions. No choice, no action. Where you end up can be a very pleasant surprise!