What Makes Your Acting Career Grow?

All of my life, I’ve been so devoted to my career that it would take me by surprise when I’d see some actors not do obvious things like submit for auditions or mail the headshots they just paid hundreds of dollars for, or even trying to learn about the business. They never understood the value and the payoff of “planting seeds”.

Beware impatience.

For instance, when I was working in Chicago, a theatre director called me in for a lead in a show I never submitted for, and was ultimately cast. My roommate, a fellow “actor”, said, “Hunh – must be nice.” Her tone implied how “it must be nice not to have to do anything and still get a called in”. I was speechless. Had she not seen me bust my butt over the last several years, auditioning, auditioning, doing staged readings, auditioning, performing, auditioning, doing free work, performing, etc? Did she not see how it made perfect sense that my name would come up for this kind of role, because I had already worked so much around town? I mean, we’re talking years. (Truth is, she never submitted for anything.)

So what I’m saying is, it’s vital to plant seeds. Yet doing activities that are supposed to get us ahead when they have no immediate result, is the hardest thing to do. So we don’t, and we’re back to where we started for another day . . . another week . . . another month . . . another year.

This is why I hold Action Groups. This is why my programs do the things that actors just can’t bring themselves to do. Even if you don’t work with me, do something that will hold you accountable. Do something that will make the tasks easier for you. Just don’t do nothing. Nothing grows from nothing.



If you’ve never seen the holiday film, A Christmas Story, I apologize for all of the references here. (Seriously, you’ve never seen A Christmas Story?)

During my recent participation in a business webinar, I botched an opportunity to talk with one of my favorite authors. I love this woman – I’d been listening to her for 7 years – her business and life coaching always gave me something meaty to chew on. (High praise from a vegetarian.) Since my business flow had become stagnant, I felt I needed help. They opened the phone line for questions. I didn’t really have a question, so much as I wanted to talk with her. I thought it’d be kinda cool. Like “touching a rock star”, ya know? I had it all planned out: I’d listen to her other callers first, and formulate my question based in theirs in time for my turn. But I ended up getting through. The screener immediately asked for my name and my question, which I didn’t have. Really – I didn’t think I’d get through! christmas-Ralphie_santa Suddenly, I was about to be “face to face” with my hero, but I never really expected that. This is where I felt like Ralphie in A Christmas Story when he finally gets to sit on Santa’s lap: Put on the spot, I squeezed a lame business question out of my butt. Something about overcoming overwhelm in a sea of competition? What? Whatever – I thought I could reformulate it into a better question before they got to me, right? Not a chance, because not only did I get through, I was also the very first caller! Before I could think, “What was I thinking”, I was on the phone with this world-renowned, life/business coach. When she asked me for my question I, like Ralphie, blurted out the equivalent of “football”. She snatched that up like a single woman diving for a wedding bouquet. This was her cue to launch into old advice I’d heard her give at least a dozen times before. I mean, I was such a big fan that I knew virtually all of her tips. As she went on about something completely irrelevant to me, I felt myself desperately trying to climb back up the “slide”, in an attempt to rephrase my question. All I heard was “blah blah blah” until she finally asked, “Is that true?” No it’s not!! You got it all wrong! is what I wanted to scream, but it was now too late to defend or explain my true situation – the boot had touched my forehead.ChristmasStory_boot I simply replied, “If that’s what you hear from my voice, then it must be true.” Not what she wanted to hear, which prompted her to move on to the next caller. My mic got cut off, and down the slide I went. From somewhere in the “cotton pit”, I heard her say to her partner, “Well, I’m not a mind reader!”

I felt gypped. I felt like I had finally gotten my Little Orphan Annie decoder ring and all I got was a lousy commercial! She gave me old advice. It was a template – cookie-cutter – advice. I was sooo angry and frustrated . . . and embarrassed. I knew it was the wrong advice; it was so clearly the wrong advice – based on the wrong question! So I started to think, well what did I want her to say? What I wanted her to tell me was . . . Wait! This is when I realized that I knew all along what the right advice was. OMG – It wasn’t a matter of me needing her or any other expert’s opinion. It was a matter of me just doing what I needed to do! The hard truth: without accountability or support, I had cycled into over thinking, fear and procrastination. This “Doh!” moment propelled me into action. I immediately dug out a list of objectives I had begun in January and began with my most difficult task: reaching out to people I didn’t know. Scary.

A month later, I still know it’s the right thing to do, and I’m committed. I’ve been told that real progress – more often than not – is made with just ten seconds of outrageous courage. Not only do I believe it – I know it.

How to Dodge the Flying Sh*t

slippery-slope-3One year ago, the beginning of my downward spiral began. On September 11th, my boyfriend’s father called to say he didn’t have long to live. I drove my boyfriend to the airport, supporting him with strength and optimism. I thought he’d be back in two weeks. Instead, he spent four months tending to his dad’s declining health. From September to January, I drove back and forth from my place to his – over the hill and back – to forward his mail and personal items, water his (now dead) plants, and care for his cat. Kitty’s renal failure required special care. As bad timing would have it, I began to suffer from painful facial eczema that greatly affected my quality of life. My strength and optimism were beginning to wane. Just before Thanksgiving, my computer died. With all my running around I had no time to see friends. I was quite alone, and started to feel it. We decided it was best if I moved in to his place. I felt a sense of relief, but now I was looking at having to purge thirteen years of my lifePallBearers. On New Year’s Eve, I gave my thirty days’ notice, and on January 3rd, my boyfriend’s father died. I had my phone turned off when he tried to call me. Epic Fail.

I jumped on a plane to help with his dad’s funeral, but didn’t expect to help with his mom as well. Dementia was setting in, and now her son had a new reason to stay even longer. Back in L.A., I had to either sell or give away most of my belongings before I could move. It wasn’t until March when I felt I could finally catch up with my business and my life. (Really, there is no “catching up”).

Now six months had passed, and my savings were drained. Commercial auditions were unusually scarce, and theater jobs trickled. I still suffered from the eczema, buGetting to know yout could no longer afford a doctor. In May, Kitty was diagnosed with cancer and needed even more care. In June, my theatrical agent went out of business, I had a terrible falling out with a friend, and my dentist informed me that I needed a $1000 crown. July was a very dark month. Then on August on 29th – in the vein of “wfronthat else could go wrong?” –  my parked car was totaled by a reckless driver.

Don’t’ ask me if I can see that “everything happens for a reason”. That’s a question to occupy the mind, not the heart. Here is what my heart awakened to: Every terrible thing I experienced gave me something concrete to fix/solve, and every single time, it revealed itself as a distraction. Everything distracted me from working on my art and on my business. This is not to say that I place no importance on these outside events. I very much do. What they’ve brought to my attention, however, is my willingness to put my art and my business aside in favor of them. There are no clear outcomes, no guaranteed results in creative endeavors. To do the work for the sake of doing the work is “poo-pooed” in our culture – How can you enjoy (fill in the blank) when (fill in the blank) has happened? Are you making money at it? Are you forwarding your career? These questions are nothing but excuses for not showing up to the canvas. couch_potatoDuring hard times, it is more acceptable to self medicate in front of the TV than it is to expand ourselves. What we must see is that exercising our talents – with no societal agenda or audience approval –  is how we feel better, feel joy, and reap the rewards.

What is that thing you’ve been yearning to do that will expand your talents and put a smile on your face? doingMakeUpAre you too busy checking off your to-do list to get down to the real work? Are you doing the work, but repeatedly coming up for air to see if someone is clapping? Expanding our talents is what we are meant to do. It is not selfish. It is mandatory, and it gets us through the hard times.