Archive | June, 2011

Tracing the Steps

27 Jun

Nothing But Besties, short film shooting fall 2011You never know what will lead you where in this crazy acting world. When you trace an opportunity back to it’s origin (all of the baby steps that add up), it’s kind of crazy, and also a testament to the fact that you should check your ego at the door and be open to anything, try new things with new people in new places, and, hopefully, be doing this because you love it. Just follow the passion. And when you do, you will get somewhere, I promise. I already see it happening with me.

Okay, so let me show you what I mean… My example is this, starting from the end result and traced back to the precise moment where it all started:

7. I was cast in a short film that will be shooting this October. I’m pretty excited about it as the character is very fun and I know that the director/writer/producer is one very passionate, thorough guy who will put everything he’s got into the making of this film.

6. He cast me because I was in his original stage piece that inspired this movie, originating the role that I will reprise in the film.

5. I was cast in his original stage piece because I was part of the production team, including him, that produced the playwriting festival, which his piece was in.

4. He was a part of the production team because I invited him, since I had worked with him before and trusted his work.

3. I worked with him before on another show of one-act plays with another theater company.

2. I auditioned for a new theater company I was unfamiliar with that I had submitted for on LA Casting and was called in to read the part in a new short play, which he was directing.

1. I went online and made my submissions to the casting sites for the day.

You could even fork the arrows up at step 4. and add another parallel path along side it:

4. He was a part of the production team because I invited him since I had worked with him before and trusted his work.

3. I was a part of a production team to invite him to because I decided to head the LA chapter of my SF theater company.

2. I was part of that SF theater company to begin with because I had auditioned and was cast in a play back in the summer of 2007 and never stopped working with them.

1. I saw an ad on Craigslist* and submitted.

And who knows how many arrows will stem back to point 7 of getting cast in the film? That is what they mean in this business when they say, “it’s who you know.” Not, like, if you know Spielberg or something, but if you know the regular every day artists like you who you meet along the way…

*I would never do that in LA, it’s just too risky with all the crap out there… a definite Red Flag!

Don’t Be the Victim

20 Jun

As a woman, and as an ethnic woman (or should I say, ethnically ambiguous), creating an acting career in Hollywood can be a tougher objective than for other actors who are, well, male or white. Well, if you want to look at it that way that is…

I’ve found myself in many, great, intelligent, heated discussions about what it means to be a female writer/actor/producer/what-have-you in LA and also, what it means to be doing it when you’re not white. I think these are great, important conversations to have. In fact, I will be moderating a panel with different theater artists on just that — “Normalizing Diversity“–  during this year’s Hollywood Fringe. For you LA folks- it’s happening tomorrow at 3PM at Theatre of NOTE and I’m nervous as hell about it (I’m trying to push myself out of my box) so y’all better show up and support =) But, I digress. So I have a lot of these talks with fellow actors and, though I think it is always important to have a critical mind, I also think it can be dangerous to get stuck in this negative mind set if you let it paralyze you. Two weeks ago I talked about the lack of kick ass female roles in Hollywood. Browsing the front page of Moviefone to decide what movie to watch over the weekend, this was even more evident. Almost all of the films had a male protagonist or practically all male cast. Also, most of these casts were all white. And, of course, a slice of mainstream media would not be complete without a little classic objectification of women (see that nice feature up top “Summer’s Sexiest Women” including two girls licking the same ice cream cone? Gimme a break).

Let’s just have a mini roundup of the ones listed on Moviefone’s homepage, shall we?

Green Lantern
Director: dude
Writer: dude
Stars:  2 white dudes, 1 white girl

Mr. Popper’s Penguin’s
Director: dude
Writer: dude
Stars:  a white dude

Troll Hunter
Director: dude
Writer: that same dude
Stars:  white dude

The Art of Getting By
Director: dude
Writer: same dude
Stars: 1 white boy (protagonist), 1 white girl (supporting)

Super 8
Director: dude
Writer: same dude
Stars:  1 white boy (protagonist) his 3 white boy friends, his white dad, and, oh wait, there’s a girl he has to rescue! -1 white girl

Am I sensing a pattern? Now, let’s get this straight, all of these can be fine movies with fine actors. I’m not saying they are bad or shouldn’t have been made. BUT they do not represent our community as a whole- not here in LA, not in CA and certainly not in America. There are female writers and directors out here and there are a shit ton of diverse, talented actors here as well. The problem is not one film, or even these five films, but the sheer multitude of films (or plays for that matter) that get produced and put out to the mainstream that are just like these- the story of a white male by a white male.

Ok, that’s the critical mind part. Very important. We must be aware of the general market of the business we are in. And we should be watching the tv shows/films/websisodes/what have you that are getting made. HOWEVER, if I were to only look at it as “boo hoo, no female roles, no mixed-races, no parts for me!” then I’m in trouble. Because, well, let’s be honest here… no one was pulling my arm to be in this business. No one is making be do this. I CHOSE to be in it. I want to be an actor. So, what’s a half-Japanese-quarter-Hungarian-quarter-Irish-but-looks-Mexican gal to do?

Well, make my own work for one. I am completely in control of the parts I write, the work I produce, the way it is cast. It’s not very productive to just complain what isn’t available if I’m not making it available for myself. Yeah, I could say it’s too hard, too-this, too-that, but then, shit, I shouldn’t be doing this then. Career building IS hard. Acting or otherwise. And, second, patience. I know I’m not the only person who feels this way, so I will meet the others who do. As I continue to stay in this business I will meet like-minded people (already have) and collaborate with them, hear about their projects or their friend’s of friend’s projects or participate in workshop sessions for plays and movies where the producers and writers want to hear feedback and I can give my honest opinion and whether or not they take it in the end, little by little, my voice is getting heard in all of these different ways…

I’m in it for the long haul, so I might as well carve my own path.

Go After What You Want Until You Don’t Want It

14 Jun

I just came back from a big family-filled weekend (hence the late blog post): my birthday, but more importantly, my sister’s graduation from college in the mono-syllabic major of Art. The combo of getting older (and being in a youth-driven industry) and watching my not-so-little-anymore sister enter the “real world” (whatever the hell that means) pushed a lot of buttons. Rather, it got me thinking and feeling a lot these past few (long) days.

There was a great commencement speaker at the graduation who joked that many adults have been asking all the graduates “you majored in what?” As in, gee that’s a completely useless degree, what the hell are you going to do now? I got one of those, too- English. But, the speaker made the point that it is just as valuable to go after things like Art and English and Theater as it is to go after engineering and law because the world needs a well-rounded bunch who are going to be creative, honest, open, knowledgable, sensitive human beings who, for lack of a better phrase, can make the world a better place. It made me feel better about my degree, and my career choice for that metter. And I think it made my sister feel better about not having a long-winded introduction to her name called across the stage. (Many kids were honorary-this, honors-that, political science and bio engineering, which made the kid with the short major feel kind of shitty… “Art”)

It was a trip to watch her take that diploma because I feel like it was just the other day when I got mine. I always imagined I’d be “further along” by the time my sister graduated. But “further along” how? What does that even mean? A house and kids? A recurringrole on Community? It got me thinking about how there is no one direct route in life, and even though right now my passion is acting, it may not be what I wind up doing in the end. It could be one of many things I end up doing. As long as I am happy, and going after what I want (knowing that what I want can change) then that’s okay! Those four years were filled with wonderful life experiences, friends, travels, adventures that all make me who I am, and I also needed those four years to realize what I want right now is to go after the acting career.  And here I am, committing to it fully, finally.  In another four years I may find that I want something else, and then I’ll go after that. As long as you go after what you want and not what you think you should.

One of my birthday gifts from my mom was a Yoga DVD and book. I was reading about the yoga instructor and she took her first class in her forties when she could barely touch her toes, and now she teaches all over! I found this to be a great reminder that we are constantly discovering, changing, and growing and if we remain open you never know where life will lead you. This is comforting in a way. Sort of takes the pressure off. Right now I am doing what I want. Going after exactly what I want. Just because I didn’t get a guest spot on a network show since graduating college does not mean failure. I will continue to go after it until I don’t want it anymore.

Fun Female Breakdowns

6 Jun

Last year I wrote a post on some of the ridiculous character descriptions for females on the casting websites. It’s old news that there is an alarming lack of kickass female roles, especially leading roles, in film and TV. Well, nothing makes this more clear than the actor breakdowns I sift through each morning. Sometimes, I can’t help but laugh:

FINANCIAL ADVISOR Lead / Female / All Ethnicities /18 – 32
the spot has a spin. it’s a corner on a street, hot girl, you, on corner, clearly a wearing a scantily clad outfit, we make her out to be a prostitute. a guy drives, walks to car. you see they are having a conversation, and here random parts of the conversation “how much”, etc. cut to inside of car, the middle age guy is asking girl for stock/investment advice, because she is the financial guru. and the girl is played as smart, not super dumb….but smoking hot.

(that’s not a “spin” that’s actually quite normal- every young female character is supposed to be “smoking hot” these days)

HEATHER Lead / Female / All Ethnicities /25 – 35 / Sexual Situations
Must appear in bra

(literally, that’s all it said)

CINDY Supporting / Female / All Ethnicities /24 – 28 
A hot whore, one of the skimpy chicks that Jose has around his house. She occasionally gives him back massages, but gives him attitude about it.

(well at least she’s got a little character development- she gives back massages but has attitude)

And these are just a few of many that I see daily. Fortunately, little by little there are people breaking molds and rejecting stereotypes and there are audiences who pay to see their films and shows. I would like to acknowledge some of those awesome shows & movies:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer- probably my favorite TV show of ALL time. Everyone in our house knew that Thursdays at 7 was QUIET time. I would not talk to you if you talked to me while the show was on, you had to wait til commercial break. And you better not be cooking or talking on the phone or anything else that will make noise while the show was on or I would be one upset teenager.

Clarissa Explains it All- probably influenced me more than I realized at the ripe ol age of 7 when the show first came out. I thought Clarissa was the coolest- how she rocked headbands and bike shorts, had a pet alligator named Elvis, and not to mention, was the first Nickelodeon series to feature a female lead!

Hanna- This just came out and I was pretty excited to see it and even more stoked after the fact. Hanna is not only a kickass female character but she literally kicked ass and never once was it about short skirts and cleavage. Okay, so she’s a little young, but that doesn’t stop Hollywood from sexualizing their female leads (even Kickass the movie had pre pubescent Hit Girl in a very suggestive school girl outfit not to mention other issues that I wont get into here).

Mad Men- This show just has it right all around. Every character, no matter the sex, is so layered and complicated. And though it has “Men” in the title, so much of the show deals with the burgeoning women’s movement. It reminds us how, in some ways, far we’ve come.

Bridesmaids- I know this film has been talked a lot in recent months in relation to women in entertainment. Scary to think that so many female’s screenwriting careers depended on the success of this film. Nonetheless, I’m glad it’s bringing attention to the issue. Not to mention it’s hilarious and all the women in it are pretty talented.

Monday Night ForePlays- And speaking of comedy, I can’t finish this post without mentioning my own theater company PianoFight’s female-driven sketch comedy group. All original material written and produced by very talented women, performed in front of consistent full-houses. Enough said.