Archive | March, 2011

Give it your all, and then let it all go

28 Mar

I’ve walked out of an audition thinking that was the worst I’d ever done. I’ve walked out thinking that was the best. And I’ve made the mistake of hanging onto every word, movement, reaction from the casting director hours later. It’s a waste of time.

The best thing you can do (and I understand it’s not the easiest!) is to go in, give it your all, and then let it all go. I like looking at every audition as another opportunity to perform. That is what I enjoy doing most after all. So walking into that room I’m feeling good, excited even but not nervous because I may not know how to “audition” but I sure as hell know how to perform. When I leave I then forget about. I’m already thinking about the next thing. Where am I having dinner that night or what are my weekend plans.  Then, when I do get a call that I got a call back or I got the job it is sheer icing on the cake. It reduces stress level big time and I think even improves the quality of my audition itself.

It’s the same way I like to approach acting in a film or play. You do the work- the research, the script analysis, the physicalizations of the character, memorizing lines, connecting to the story, your scene partner, etc etc. But when it comes time to shoot or to perform in front of the audience, I let it all go. I did the work so I trust that I’ve done what I need to do to give the best performance and therefore I will.

Give it your all, and then let it all go!

“LA” is not LA

21 Mar

Time and time again I have conversations with newbie LA transplants, or with people not from here and have no intention of moving here, who are all pretty confident in what Los Angeles and what a Los Angeles person is like:

LA is full of plastic, fake and superficial people. Airheads. People who only care about how they look, the car they drive and the people they know.

There is no nature. No culture. No worthwhile restaurants.

It’s a cold and sprawling place where the only good thing (this everyone agrees on) is the weather.

Well, I was born and raised here and I must say, none of this has been my experience… until I meet someone who’s never been to LA until now, fresh out of college, with stars in their eyes (to be the next Spielberg or DiCaprio or Streep). It’s like they become the very thing they say they despise. It’s weird.

Sure there are some fake or superficial people here and there, but fake people exist everywhere! Perhaps I live in a bubble, but none of my friends care that much about how they look. Sure I’ve got some friends who are more into fashion than others, they like their good shopping trip as much as the next gal, but it is not something that consumes or defines them. And a lot of my friends are writers, directors, producers, actors, musicians, aspiring or otherwise.

Once in a while I will meet someone who’s fresh off the plane, their first time ever in Los Angeles, and they are dressed in the designer jeans, faux aviators and fancy briefcase. But why? Who said you had to wear that? I mean, if it’s legitimately your style than ok totally cool. But if it’s not and you think that’s going to get you further or enable you to fit in, I think you’re wrong. I mean, maybe there is something to be said for “dressing the part”. But, call me naive, I like to think that you being you will get you where you need to go. Believe it or not, this town is full of REAL people.  People who are passionate and artistic and going after their dreams. Who want to see others achieve their dreams too. I meet them everyday on film sets, in theaters, at screenings…

And this nonsense of LA being cold, unforgiving with no culture or nature or history- wrong, wrong, WRONG! First off, I live in Silverlake/Echo Park, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Down the street from me is one of the oldest restaurants, established in 1927 still with that old-school charm. Left and right of me are old public staircases that people used to use to get down to Sunset Blvd or up to where the train once ran through town. Including the old “Music Box” steps from Laurel and Hardy’s famous piano moving scene from their 1932 comedy of the same name. And just a couple miles from there is Chinatown, filled with authentic restaurants including my all time favorite dim sum place that I have been going to ever since I can remember.

And you want nature? Well try the many hidden coves along gorgeous Malibu Beach, or the miles upon miles of hiking trails through Topanga Canyon, Temescal Canyon, Malibu Canyon, Griffith Park, and on and on. The breathtaking Huntington Gardens with acres upon acres of gardens from all over the world.

Culture too? Well, yes, believe it or not we’ve got that too. How about the hundreds of art galleries and art walks: The Brewery Complex, Downtown Art Walk, Chung King Rd Galleries, Venice Art Walk, Culver City, Frog Town, Bergamont Station just to name a few. And museums: LACMA, The Getty, Getty Villa, MOCA, Norton Simon Museum just to start you off… Theater: Mark Taper, Ahmanson, Actors Gang, Kirk Douglas and the millions of black box theaters that I mention on this very blog!

In fact, one of the many things that I absolutely love about this town is that there is endless exploring to be done. There is always a new trail to climb, a new restaurant to try, a new play to see and new interesting people to meet, but then there are also the staple places that you keep going back to like my fave dim sum or stretch of sand. To me, that’s “LA”.

Learning On The Job

14 Mar

Last month I filmed this new webseries called “Ruth and Lori”. Having just wrapped principal photography on Spooks and now filming this, I’ve been getting a lot of on-camera experience, which has been great. I’m definitely new to the film world and the majority of what I’ve done is low-no budge kinda stuff, but it’s been a great learning experience along the way (in addition to great reel material and meeting some pretty cool people).

Below is a list of skills (many of which I didn’t even think of before getting into all this) that I’m honing:

  • Hitting your mark. Without looking like an idiot by looking down on the ground as you walk. This is especially tricky when, say, you’re running into a scene, or turning around and walking backwards into it or going from mark to mark.
  • Acting with a pole. Or a cupboard or piece of tape, whatever happens to be serving as your eye line while your costar takes a break or is awkwardly standing right next to the piece of tape because the camera shot wont allow her to sit where she’d really be.
  • Acting to someone’s left ear. Sometimes your mark is not a piece of tape but the actual actor your acting across (imagine that!) BUT the way the camera’s angled it actually looks better if you look ever so slightly to their left which makes their ear a perfect target for eye line. This, I’ve found, has probably been my biggest challenge in this whole list. I immediately want to look at the eyes and then fuck up the shot, like, ten times in a row.
  • Acting to a stand-in who isn’t saying the lines you are reacting to. Once I had the joy of acting to a stand-in because the actual actor was gone for the day, and it didn’t matter since we only needed to see a sliver of shoulder for the shot so you’d never know the difference. However, to keep it consistent I’m looking up at the person when delivering my lines. The challenge was when someone else read the other lines and not the stand in during the scene. It was incredibly weird and awkward.
  • Consistency. Repeating the same action for continuity’s sake. And for the sake of increasing your odds to get your best performance in the final edit. If you held a cell phone in your left hand in one take, you better always hold it in your left hand from then on. If you took a sip of your tea at your first line in one take but at your 10th line in the remaining takes, even if that first take was the best, it might automatically get ruled out because it wont match up with the other takes from other angles. To make it easier on everyone and to ensure you’ll always get the best take in the final cut, make sure your big movements and actions are the same– always take that sip of tea at the top.
  • Avoiding obtrusive objects that have been moved for the depth of field to look better on camera but in reality are just really awkward and cumbersome. This one’s real fun. You know how “objects in the mirror are closer than they appear”? Same concept. Objects in real life are a hell of a lot closer than they appear on screen.
  • Staying in frame. It’s a great little challenge when you have to be real, natural, in the moment but “don’t move your head too far to the left or raise your arm and further than your shoulder because you’ll go out of frame!!” (Actors are mere props anyway, who are we kidding?)
  • Getting shiny. Apparently, what I’d like to consider a natural glow isn’t as attractive through the camera lens. Huh.
  • Justifying unjustifiable movements. For the sake of a specific shot, you may need to stand in place even though it makes no sense and you want to walk. Or, that you are turned away from your fellow actor until a certain cue and then turn to them even though it makes no sense based on the script or the character. However, it may make perfect sense to the director who wants a very specific scene. It is our job to justify that seemingly incredibly unjustifiable action so that it looks completely effortless on screen.

The real challenge at the end of the day is to maintain truthfulness in all of this. Feels weird to act to a pole? Well, you better make it work. That is your job, after all.

Like A Sponge

7 Mar

This is a post I somehow never got around to writing, so it pertains to an experience I had almost a year ago.

I spent one late afternoon and evening last March helping out as an extra on a friend’s film. I met her through a mutual friend who I knew from my  acting class I was taking at the time. (This is networking people! Not just exchanging business cards at a mixer). The mutual friend was putting together a speed reel and needed another actress to be in it so she asked me. Her friend directed it and that is how we met. We loosely kept in touch and here and there and I’d get emails from her needing some help either as an assistant, PA, grip or extra. For this particular project I was free the day she needed a few extras so I agreed to do it. I am very glad I did. Since it was a low budget feature, the scene was small and there were only a handful of extras. Therefore, we were not treated like cattle (as I have been before, enough to turn me off from ever doing extra work, at which point I vowed to only do it for special occasions like this one).

I was on set for most of the day silently taking everything around me in, soaking it up like a sponge. I observed the way they ran the production- the people involved, what they were doing, how efficiently were they running their set (all things to keep in mind whenever I got around to making my own movie). I observed the two lead actors do their one scene take after take. Did they have a process? What was working? What wasn’t working? Why? I actually read for the lead role and did not get cast so I also thought ok, why was she cast? Why does her look work? Was I the right type or the wrong type? I took in how my friend directed. How did she get the necessary performances out of her actors. Was she communicating effectively. If I were in their shoes would I understand what she meant? Would I want more direction? Less direction? Would I chime in with my own opinion? Would I simply take the orders?

It was a great learning experience. To be able to soak that much up without having to endure the trial and error on your own was invaluable. Of course I think it is important to learn and try and fail yourself, it’s also great when you can get a little leg up whatever way you can. Not to mention, I helped out a friend. That is how bridges are built and in this town you want as many bridges as you can get.