Labor Day

“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.

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

Transforming Work into Play

So I’ve been re-listening to the philosopher, Alan Watts, talk about the concept of turning work into play, and this always excites me. He lays out examples of how tasks that are usually approached with a sense of dread and suffering, can instead be approached with a sense of playfulness and freedom. He illustrates the difference between work and play. The former must have a purpose/outcome, and the latter is done simply for joy (weeeee!). Our culture teaches us not only to separate one from the other, but to prioritize work over play. Watts suggests we blur the lines between the two.PLAY

So how do we do that? Take anything that we “have to” do. That’s what we call work. First notice how anticipating it makes us feel (yuck), and let it go. Let. It. Go. That dreadful feeling is entirely unnecessary, and just creates stress. Now, as we begin the actual work, the game is to focus only on that tiny bit we’re doing right now. Yes, this is Zen. This is being present: One moment at a time, with no self-critique and no urgency. IMPORTANT – the minute the mind wanders into thoughts of deadlines and judgment, we lose our sense of play.

That being said, I must mention there are immediate results to this. I can point to two amazing things that come out of play:  1.) Work becomes stress-free, and   2.) Magically, there is time for everything. I’m not kidding. I could try to convince you of these benefits  but that would just be too much work.

What is a “Weekend” for the Artist?

Dowton’s Abbey’s Lady Grantham’s character was best summed up in her remark at the dinner table when she asked, “What . . . is a ‘weekend’?” Their dinner guest was a doctor – someone who actually worked for a living – and he confused the Dowager with this term.Lady Grantham While it made me laugh, I have been asking myself that same question all of my adult life. From the time I was in college I worked on the weekends to support my acting career. I envied “normal” people who brought home regular paychecks with enough left over to enjoy the weekend, which often included having brunch, where someone like me would serve them. I save my weekdays and weeknights for auditions and rehearsals. And of course, when I was in a show – I worked the weekends.

After awhile, I began to see that I was living a privileged life, not a deprived one. I could do all of my errands without having to beat a crowd. I could see a matinee on a Tuesday afternoon.Reading Break I could enjoy a good book and coffee while the rest of the world was “working”. While this non-traditional life never offered me a retirement plan, I also never planned to retire. I took trips when I wanted, played when I wanted, and had the luxury of living day to day because there was no company ladder to climb or boss to please.

I still work the weekends, and I continue to work everyday for my career and my business. What I love most about it, is that my rest and enjoyment isn’t restricted to just Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Yes, I have chosen a smaller paycheck in this life, but as every artist knows, freedom and creating art is the paycheck.