Overworked and Unpaid

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 



Eating with the Seasons

Frankly, I get a little shaken up when I see gutted pumpkins on people’s doorsteps. It seems we only use squash as a decorative medium or as part of a toddler’s playground called a pumpkin patch. Do we ever teach our children to eat it? Only in America do we have the audacity to use good, edible food for decoration. OK, I’m stepping off my soapbox.

Zucchini. Not as festive as the pumpkin, and often overlooked. It seems the only thing we do with it is mix it in with sugar and flour and make zucchini bread. As if we needed another empty carb during the holidays? So I decided to experiment and use it. Guess what? Zucchini is easy! Here’s what I did:

DAY 1: Zucchini and Tofu Tacos                DAY 2: Zucchini Omelette


TIP: Always add colorful foods to your dish!


TIP: Always add “live” foods to your plate (i.e., zucchini & grapefruit).







DAY 3: Zucchini Breakfast Burritos


TIP: Eat with the seasons, i.e. add apples as a side dish!

DAY 4: Zucchini Butter with Sweet Potato!


TIP: Use coconut oil instead of olive oil when cooking.


TIP: Good carbs have fiber. Bad carbs have nothing.





I hope this post was inspiring. Shoot me back some healthy recipes of your own!





The Tortured vs. The Healthy Artist

As I sit in the fallout of tortured “geniuses” before me, I reflect on how we, in an effort to feel safe, separate our art from our daily living.
I watched the documentary, Salinger, on PBS’ American Masters. As an actor, I’m fascinated with human behavior. Salinger was – is – a writing phenom, but what interested me was how he wrote as opposed to what he wrote. Not long after Catcher in the Rye was published, he moved from Manhattan to Cornish, New Hampshire, an idyllic, sacred place “away from it all”. But unlike most writers, who use their sacred places with scheduled intent, he used it (and his windowless office) non-stop, and it became a place for him to hide. I see obvious parallels to this and the abuse of natural drugs. Originally intended as medicinal and sacred, plant based drugs are now used as modern day transports to “hiding places”.

There’s a false romance that plagues our arts. It is one that says we must be a “mess” in order to be a genius: Van Gogh, Sylvia Plath, Curt Cobain, Whitney Houston, Phillip Seymour Hoffman – you get it. But, come on, we know that it doesn’t have to be that way. We can be “normal” and still fulfill our art purpose. Yet still we continue to romanticize eccentricity bathed in the light of genius and fame. As with Salinger, we categorize his willful separation from his family (and his odd Lolita complex) as just a part of him being a genius, and turn our palms upward. What can you do? Something. I believe we can do something. I wondered, as I watched this documentary, if his work would have benefited from healthy relationships. Could he have created art without having to deny his daughter and wives the affection they so craved? Could being a good father, neighbor, teacher, or husband, have driven him to write even better works?
In the five main areas of life – career, relationships, health, finances and spirituality – artists tend to focus on only one: career. I want to pile all of these areas in the same car, and take a road trip through art. I imagine good health supporting my career. I imagine frequent, in-person contact with loved ones fueling my career. I can see a strong spiritual base inspiring my creativity, and a good financial flow that keeps me abundant in art supplies. Being a loner is considered cool. Being career driven at the expense of personal relationships is deemed admirable (unless you’re a woman). Being an outsider, being separate is considered synonymous with being a genius. It’s also synonymous with being a serial killer. We are not separate. We are not our art. Our art is simply an expression of who we are. And who we are is the sum of all of our parts.