Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Long Days, Long Waits; That's Indie Set Life

2:27pm- Here is a sample of my current life. Today I am shooting a cool web series in which I have a small supporting role. My call time was 9:00am. I was here by 8:30am. We haven't shot any of my scenes yet. We are blessed with an amazing location and are filming in this huge broiler room of an hospital. As awesome as it's gonna look on film, down here it's hot, the air is thick, and there is no cell reception (don't ya hate that feeling?). And can I tell you something? I'm pretty used to it all by now. This is indie film set life. I'm pretty happy just to have a chair to sit in, a bathroom near by, water, and an electrical outlet so that I can at least make sure my phone is charged. The fact is there is still no other job that I would rather be doing right now. My favorite things to do in these situations? Go over my lines, submit to castings (when I get reception that is, grrrrr), meditate, and nap. Oh, and take pics when it's allowed.

   (The broiler room of the hospital where
    we shot in Brooklyn. Looks pretty cool
    right?)

3:45pm- Okay I'm back! We just had lunch which was muy delisioso! (We ate at an Hispanic cafe.) So it's almost 4:00pm and I'm still waiting to shoot. I'm enjoying my coffee and I'm still feeling great. The point is that when being on set you must have a lot of patience. Because if you don't, you won't enjoy the experience. (And that's one reason why you should only pursue acting as a career if you deeply love it.) And when you are finally shooting who knows what conditions you may have to endure; from the freezing cold to the boiling heat. AND never make plans for after shooting; you do not know when you finish. Trust me. You never finish when you are scheduled to. (Maybe sometimes, but it's film and there are too many variables involved.) Acting takes extreme dedication. So my advice for when you are waiting to shoot is to relax and take in the entire experience.  Realize where your are. You could be enduring a shift at your soul crushing day job. (Okay, I know that's dramatic and not necessarily true for all actors.)
    (Actress Michele Q. Williams getting 
     into character)

5:33pm- Right as I ended that sentence I was summoned to set. And still had to wait a hour for me to get some work in. And the room we were in felt like a sauna. And I sweat buckets. And it was still fun. What I had wanted to finish saying was, take in the whole experience. You are where the magic happens. You are someplace special. Relish it. When you see the finished piece it will all be worth it. And the experience you gain also makes the endurance worth while. 
   (Peeping up through the catwalk at 
    actors Marie Nathan and Chandon
    Sethi as they film a scene)

7:04pm- I still don't know when we will finish. I'm not going to lie. Today is turning out to be a tougher day than I anticipated. Extreme conditions can challenge even the most focused and enthusiastic of people. 
   (Figuring out lighting and stuff with 
   director Kelvin Guevara and director of            
   photography Jordan Rennert)

9:38pm. Still going. Getting a migraine, but still going. I'm actually reading what I wrote earlier and taking my own advice. It's working. Also being able to text my husband on my break to get some encouragement helped too. They say we will be done by midnight. I'm not sure though. Lol. The heat is truly affecting everyone here. Still all good though. 

10:43pm- Still working guys!! Some of the scenes are being postponed (not mine). The Excedrin I took hasn't fully kicked in and I don't think it will by this point. :-( 
   (Okay this isn't from the broiler room 
    shoot, but I wanted to get a pic in of
    Darryl Davis who did sound and also
    acted in the series. Photo credit goes 
    to Michele Q. Williams)

3:16pm the next day- No we didn't work all throughout the night it's just by the time we were finished I was too drained to update the post. The last hour of the shoot was extremely difficult for me (and I'm sure all of us) as my migraine had worsened and I was beginning to feel nauseated. But somehow we all pushed through and got what we needed because, well, there was no other choice. We finished about 12:45am and I got approximately 1 1/2 hours later. I definitely woke up dehydrated after sweating all day yesterday. Lol. I'm now currently waiting to be picked up at the train station so that I can film my last scene. 

Yesterday was probably one of the toughest days I've endured as an actor, but looking back now all I can think about is what went right and just how blessed I am for this opportunity. 
    (Me as smarty pants tough chick
     Wagabriela)

     (A few cast members with the creator 
      of The Great Internet Swindle, Tom
      Khan. From left to right: Michele Q. 
      Williams, Chandon Sethi, Ian Stults,       
      and Tom himself)

   (My second shooting day was much                        
more relaxing, quicker, and cooler)

Monday, September 15, 2014

How I Let Go of Each Audition

I think it takes a lot of practice and experience to learn how to and be able to truly let your auditions go. Especially if it's a role that you really wanted or felt connected to. And even more especially if things are slow. It becomes easier and easier with time as you realize there will eventually be another one if you stick with it. For me, understanding that what's meant to be mine will be mine helps. I also have certain things I do right after an audition to help me put it out of mind. I wanted to share a few of those, which is particularly appropriate because I just got out of an audition for a film that had a script and concept that I loved. 

1) Focus whole-heartedly on my very next task whether it be going to work, cooking dinner, cleaning the litter box, or finding my way way back home. 

2) As soon as I catch myself analyzing any part of the audition I stop. I just stop. It's pointless. This is something else that takes time and practice. That being said, in the moments right after the audition is over I do think it's neccessary to note anything of importance. Like significant notes about the production team in case you are called in again or things that you learned worked or didn't work. But after that initial evaluation everything else can drive you mad and bring you down. 

3) Make sure that once I have saved any contact information from the production team I delete any emails or voicemails pertaining to that audition. The heart doesn't feel what the eyes don't see. (Or something like that.) I won't throw away any physical sides or scripts yet, but I do tuck them away in one of my acting folders. 

4) Look for more auditions of course!

5) Focus whole-heartedly on any acting related thing coming up including auditions, classes, screenings, events, rehearsals, and shoots. 

6) Write in my blog or do something creative. 

7) Remind myself that getting the audition in the first place is a big deal and means I'm doing something right. 

8) It also helps to literally sing the words "let it go" while imitating Frozen's Elsa. Yes, you have to mimick her movement from that scene as well. Trust me, you will feel much better. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

How I Chose Acting as My Career; and When Things Really Clicked for Me

I thought it would be fun to do a post about how I got started in acting and when I finally understood what being an actor means. 

The Beginning:

If you have by any chance read my bio on IMDB you know that I actually began by doing a few church plays when I was a kid. I didn't yet know that I would one day want to pursue acting as a career, but I always had so much fun; especially when I discovered the magic of being myself. After one particular performance, when I was a pre-teen, I received several compliments about being such a "natural." This prompted me to take theater classes at school the first year they were offered as an elective. (I think it was seventh grade.) It was when I started these classes that I made the firm decision to be an actress when I "grew up." And no matter how nervous those classes made me I pushed through and always tried to do my best work. I believe I was also kinda influenced by one of my favorite literary characters; Jessica Wakefield in the Sweet Valley High series. Lol but it's true. She was everything I wasn't. She was thin, blonde, popular; and she wanted to be an actress. I always thought that was "so cool." So when I discovered how much I loved acting too and how special and happy it made me feel, my mind was made up; there was nothing else--and still is nothing else--that I wanted to do. Of course, when I was that young I thought for sure I would be famous by the age of 24. I also thought that I would be a size double-zero, living in a Hollywood mansion, and engaged to Jonathan Taylor Thomas. (Or maybe by that time I had moved on to one of the Backstreet Boys. I can't remember but it was definitely post my love affair with Zack Morris. Yes, I'm totally aging myself. The beautiful thing is that I DON'T CARE!)

So, I took drama classes in junior high and all through high school. Acting class always made me nervous, no matter how much I loved it. I knew I had talent, but I was extremely shy and found it difficult to shine. It wasn't until the year that I graduated from high school that I began doing community theater. I'm not sure why. I wish I would have begun sooner. I just don't think I really knew much about it or how to approach it, so I just stuck with school plays. Also, it took me years to understand the work that really goes into pursuing an acting career. In many ways, I consider myself a late bloomer. 

I worked in several plays while living in Virginia. Each one meant something very special to me and even though I've come to realize that I enjoy acting on-camera much more than on-stage, I know that my background in theater is priceless. It's something that I will always be proud of and grateful for. (My preference for acting on-camera doesn't mean that I don't submit for play castings if a role is suitable for me!) Quickly too, I decided not to go to college or a fancy acting school. I made the decision to rely on my experience; to start at the bottom and work my way up; and to take classes at studios when needed. (Please note that this is not the right decision for everyone!)

NYC vs. LA:

Eventually, working in plays became not enough for me. I wanted more opportunities. I wanted more accessibility when it came to pursuing my passions and that meant that I would have to make a move to a bigger market. At the time that I moved the only obvious choices were New York City and Los Angeles. Even though when I was 13(ish) I imagined living in Hollywood, when it came to the time, I was completely obsessed with Manhattan. I went for the first time on a school trip when I was 17 years old and fell madly in love. I knew I would love it though. In fact I chose that trip to New York over my class ring. (My parents couldn't afford both.) It made sense completely that I would love the energy of the city and all the tall buildings. I was always bored in VA. Even as little girl I was fascinated with the downtown area of Roanoke, the city in which I lived. Roanoke had one "skyscraper." Now known as the Wachovia Tower, it stands 21 stories tall over downtown Roanoke. We lived on a hill and riding the bus home after school there was this one spot where I could see that tower. Everyday when the bus got to that spot I would stretch myself a little higher to make sure I got my daily glimpse of the building. I was in elementary school at the time. 

Also, being an impatient night-owl who highly desired convenience, NYC seemed perfect.  

The Revelation: 

Once I moved up here though it still took years for me to pursue acting hard core. I still didn't see the amount of work and hustling that needed to go into it. I thought it was good enough to work in a project here and there and to take break afterwards before starting the next. Like, when I booked something, I wouldn't even look for auditions until the production was completely over. Even when I did look for castings, I didn't get many auditions. I couldn't even get auditions for student films. Then, when I got married I barely even thought about acting. I didn't audition for a whole year and a half. I still wanted to do it. At least, I still told people I wanted to do it. But I had kind of given up.

Thankfully, I eventually felt the urge to get back to into it. My husband was one-hundred percent supportive and gave me all the encouragement I needed. This time around things were different. I started getting more auditions and bookings than before and one project seemed to lead to the next. Which in turn motivated me to start hustling more and to work as hard I needed to. I don't know why it was different this time. It didn't seem like I had changed. I had the same experience. I was using the same headshot. I was using the same casting sites. Maybe it's because I truly realized my deep love for acting in it's absence; I let myself be naturally drawn back into it without even thinking about it. Maybe it's because persistence really is the key. That, I can say now without a doubt. When people ask me when did I get started in acting, I tell them when I was a child, but I didn't truly start pursuing it until a few years ago. 

Sometimes I wonder if it is unhealthy how much I love acting because I feel like I'm utterly obsessed with it! But love is the reason I pursue it now and whole heartedly. Not only because of how much I love the craft, but also because I want to be a blessing to others. And I want to glorify God with everything He has given me. 

   (A picture says a thousand words, and 
   this one says I'm happy doing what I 
   love.)

Friday, August 29, 2014

An Actress Learns to Network Part One

Baby steps. 

Ugh!! How many times exactly do I have to hear about the power of friggin' networking?!! I mean come on....I guess enough times as it takes for me to realize that it could actually be worth it. By now we all know that the only way to make it in this biz is to network. It's all we hear about. For some, like me, this induces a deep feeling of dread. I mean, I'm great when it comes to meeting people on set and staying in contact with those I've worked with, but the thought of speaking to people whom I don't know in the least is daunting. Especially in a party-like setting. However, it apparently isn't enough to connect with those you meet naturally, like on set, auditions,or in class. You have to go to these special events where industry will be present and try to make genuine connections with people you don't know. And not just actors, but those who could potentially give you acting jobs. (I mean, that is the point, right?) It's risky!! Lol. I have my moments, when I'm completely comfortable or excited about something, of being talkative and outgoing, but for the most part I'm an introvert. It takes a lot of energy for me to "be on" and make interesting conversation with even people I know, let alone strangers. (Of course, it's worth it for people I like <wink and a smile>.) When I'm at my day job I'm forced to talk to customers. The thing is I can do it very well and sometimes actually enjoy it. The other thing is that it drains me completely. It can take a lot for me to think of things to say on the spot. 

I wrote in a post earlier this year (or the end of last year) that I would make an effort to attend some of these networking events. (Premieres and screenings don't count since I already know half of the people in attendance.) However, the thought of going to a party, picking out someone to speak to, and then actually going over to them and introducing myself typically makes me want to throw up. Especially when actors can be known to be desperate creatures. And I definitely don't want to be seen as desperate. Or as disingenuous. Or as a bumbling idiot. 

Also, I've always wondered if networking in this way is really truly necessary. Like, do actors really make connections at these events that prove to be valuable in the future? And by valuable, I don't only mean jobs. A valuable connection could also be meeting an amazing photographer who will cut you a great deal on headshots. It could be meeting an acting coach or a manager. It could even be meeting an actor who has a manager or coach who is currently taking on new clients. You never know. But, because of my fears, and lack of belief that these mixers actually produce any fruitful connections, I've always kind of blown off invites to industry parties. I say "kind of" because I do briefly consider attending before sending the email to the trash bin. 

Cut to lately. Despite a mostly productive 2014, I've been a little down. Up until the end of July I was constantly booked and busy to the point that I was a little happy when things slowed down a bit. It's nice to have time to jog and cook with my husband. Still, there has been a nagging feeling deep inside that I need to take more steps, different steps, to boost my career. This feeling comes from the fact that even though I have supporting roles in independent films that are available on DVD, I still have to depend on a "survival" job. I'm still not making much money acting (or any really). I guess the realization really hit this year how much it takes to actually make a living acting. Every time I'm rushing to my job in retail to make it on time so I won't get in trouble there is a voice inside telling me that nothing I've done acting wise has amounted to anything or ever will. It's telling me that my talent isn't good enough to make a living doing what I love. This isn't true of course, but it's sometimes there and not only does it shake my confidence to the core but it also destroys my inspiration. Hence the reason (one of the reasons) I haven't blogged since February. 

I've been racking my brains trying to figure out what to do in order to give my career an edge over the competition. I have faith in God, but in time likes these my faith is tried and it's honestly hard to hang on. Praying for guidance and not getting answers is tough. For me, there are so many places for an actor to go that it's overwhelming. There are classes,  workshops, one-on-ones with casting directors, one-on-one with agents, and the list goes on! The choices swirl around in my head and it's impossible for me to decide and I end up doing nothing. Of course, that is God's plan sometimes; for us to wait on Him (patiently) to give us clear direction. It's harder than it sounds. Lol. But I know from past choices that I would much rather wait on Him than waste money and time on something that isn't right for me. 

Once I (kinda) let go, the answer became clear to me that I should attend a networking event. But which one? Now that I actually wanted to go to one, there didn't seem to be any coming up. Well, literally a couple days after I made this decision, I received an invite to one which occurred earlier this week. I knew I would be off of work night, it was free of charge, and my guts told me that this one was the one to start with. 

As the days grew closer to the evening, I was feeling extremely anxious, but also determined. And when the evening arrived and I was on my way, I was actually feeling excited and hopeful. I knew that even if I didn't get the courage to speak to any one, that I would at least get a taste of it and something positive would happen. But as I sat on the bus to NYC something else arose inside of me; a confidence and a knowing that I would reach out and meet someone new. I already had a fellow actress and friend who would be meeting me there, which took some (very little) of the edge off. And chances were one of us would run into somebody we knew. It didn't happen, but still...

I was surprised at how much fun I had and much easier it was than thought it would be. Sure there were moments of awkwardness, but I realized quickly that everyone there was in the same situation I was. My friend and I made it a challenge to speak to people, almost like a game, and we had a blast; even exchanged a few business cards. The key is to let things happen naturally. You make eye contact with someone, smile, then someone says hello. It's kinda like dating. Lol. The hardest part for me was knowing when and how to end each conversation, ask to swap cards, and move on to the next meeting. You want each interaction to be genuine but not too long. You want to make an impression, but, after all, we are all there to meet different people. And of course, you have to leave yourself open so that each interaction can take on a life of it's own. I'm confident that this skill will get easier with time. Although I only made a few connections that night, it was a great start for me personally. I was happy to have a few follow up emails to send the next day. 

The most amazing thing to me is how proud I feel of myself and how happy I feel. I feel so inspired at the moment. I even felt absolutely content while at work last night. Facing your fears and trying something different is extremely fulfilling. I know I want this career bad enough that I am willing to step outside of my comfort zone. I also know that God will continue to lead me and help me. I have to say that I can't wait until the next industry mixer!! I will definitely post about any connection that leads to a career boost. 


P.S. If you are in NYC visit www.localtalentconnect.com to find out more about this particular mixer I attended. They occur once a month and are free to attend. LTC is for artists and entertainers of all kinds. The organization has members from all over the world and you can join them on Facebook to receive updates. 

Happy networking!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Indi.com for Actors and Artists

Hi guys!! Today I want to tell you about a cool website where actors and artists can share their passion and talents with their peers AND get a chance to win great prizes; Indi.com. A very talented actor friend of mine, John Henry Soto, discovered their site recently and he has since become one of their spokesmodels, or stars. And now, I want to share Indi.com as well. This site isn't only for actors, but for other artists as well. I have seen challenges for chefs, rock stars, comedians, improv artists, filmmakers, and several others. I highly recommend you check them out and check often. They are always posting new challenges. That being said, I entered my first Indi.com contest this past weekend and my video was accepted!!! There will be cash prizes for the three videos with the most votes, but the most exciting part is that each video will also be viewed by a top Hollywood casting director. She will also choose a winner. For me, the opportunity was too great to pass up whether win or lose. My work will be seen by a  casting director!!! That's enough for me and who knows what will happen.
So I am asking please for your votes and support. It's easy to sign up/in and you can vote once a day till next Monday. Thank you greatly in advance. And  don't forget to check out their stars and their current challenges. Thank you!!!

my first video for Indi.com

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

My Goals and Plans for 2014


Welcome 2014!!! Woohoo! Can you tell I'm excited?!! And I hope you are too. We have a whole new year to make what we want of it. I'm gonna make this post short and sweet since I've been posting a lot lately. I'm going with a simple plan for my acting career for this year. I have only two main goals and a plan to reach each of them. 

Goal #1: Join SAG-AFTRA. FINALLY. 

The Plan: Work extra shifts at my survival job as much as I'm able. (I'm eligible to join, I just need the dollars.) Of course working more also means I will probably have to stop doing too many non-paying roles unless they give me some advantage to my career, or I've worked with the director before, or I know him/her. And I'm okay with that. 

Goal #2: Book a major on-camera role. 

The Plan: Take more classes. I'm already signed up for one in Feburary with a well-known indie film casting director. I can't wait!! 

So that's it! And I have to say so far so good. Yes, I know it's only been two weeks. Lol. Now you can get back to working on your New Year's goals. I wish all my readers the best this year!! Let's do everything we can to stay focused. God bless you all!!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Looking Back Over Last Year's Accomplishments

Wow, a new year has officially begun and looking back over 2013 I'd say I had a pretty good year acting wise. Despite a few slow periods, I was for the most part busy. I even booked me a few paying gigs. 

I'm not even really sure where to start. Obviously I can't mention every single thing I worked in or that would make for a pretty boring article. I'll just mention a couple of the bigger/more special things I did and talk about some new things I started doing this past year. 

I will start with film. 
Features:
I finished filming Jim Terriaca's Apex Rising in which I play a half-breed zombie human. It's a film about society, human nature, corruption, and the will to survive. I'm so looking forward to the premiere in 2014. 

I began working in Joe Ciminera's latest supernatural horror film, Venial. I'm so excited to be taking on the lead role in this one. It's my fifth project with Joe and the first time I'll be doing an English accent in a role! 

Shorts:
I was blessed to work in several short films this past year. I'll just mention a few. "Sarah's Silence," in which I play a concerned social worker who makes a startling discovery in the home of a little girl, marked my first booking in a SAG indie. "Dark Romance," in which I play a sweet but deeply twisted receptionist, was filmed as part of the NYC 48Hr Film Contest. I've mentioned before how badly I've always wanted to work in one of those. I play a kindergarten teacher who makes a horrible mistake in the groundbreaking film "The Shattered Mind," which follows a deaf, African-American teenage girl on her journey of self-discovery. One more I want to mention is "The Awakening of Deena Harris." In this film, I play a pregnant woman who is fighting badly with her husband while being observed by the main character. Every role I get to play is special, but there were a lot of girls at that audition. And I'm sure they were all extremely talented. So it meant so much to me to get chosen for this part. At the audition, we had the choice to do our own monologue or read from one provided by the director. I followed my instincts and performed my own (from a film I worked in last year actually) and it payed off. Each of these films have been or are currently being submitted to film festivals. "Sarah's Silence" won the Audience Choice Award in the Once a Week On-line Film Festival earlier in the year. 

Just one more important short film before I move on; Redemption, written and directed by Ryan Callaway. We still have a couple scenes left to shoot and this has been one of my favorite and most challenging roles yet; playing top defense attorney to the gangsters, Leslie Walsh. I've never really played a character like her before, and I feel so honored that Ryan had faith in me to take her on. It has definitely given me more confidence in submitting to similar roles. 

Web/TV:
I worked in this awesome web-series called "Tales from the Dark," another Joe Ciminera production. I had a guest-starring role in one episode of this Twilight Zone-ish show which has received hundreds of thousands views on-line. I heard recently that the show actually aired on television throughout Texas. Although I couldn't find any evidence of that fact, it's pretty cool knowing it could be true. 

I had super fun playing a hipster in a pilot by Ryan Darden called "The Supernatural Survival Guide," about a zombie apocalypse. I recently found out from researching that the pilot was an official selection in the Independent TV Film Festival that took place in Vermont this year. Can't wait for bigger things to come for this production. 

Another pilot I booked hasn't made it into production yet but I want to mention it because I put so much prep work into the character before the audition, that when I booked the role I was thrilled. It is a comedy called "Office Madness," and you can pretty much guess from the title what it is about. My character was a cooky receptionist named Lisa who tries to be the office psychiatrist. Again, this was another completely new character role for me and I'm still holding on to hope that it will be produced. 

So not only did I get to work in several great projects, the quality of the projects I am working in is going up. I am now at the level where most of the things I am doing are seriously being submitted into film festivals. Next thing you know, those films will become official selections and then possibly get nominated for awards or receive attention. (Hopefully that begins to happen anyways. I've learned to focus on the work and the process, not any potential outcome.) One of my films, The Watchers, also by Ryan Callaway, recently found distribution which may mean Netflix and further DVD sales. (Congrats to Ryan btw!!!) So to me, that is progress. And even though I may not have booked anything major (as in the general public knows about it), I am still moving up. 

This past year was also a great year for networking for me. I am getting comfortable with exchanging business cards and connecting more with other actors on social media. I had more events to attend than usual and enjoyed every second of it. They included a movie premiere, a few film festivals, and a film fundraising party. And if all goes well, I should have even more to attend in 2014. 

So that's it! And I already have a few projects lined up for 2014. I am happy to say that I realized especially in 2013 how much I love the entire process of becoming an actor. I love the hustle, the searching for castings, the networking, the auditioning, and every other part of it. Which is good because that is what will sustain me in the journey. I may have said this in an earlier post, but Happy 2014 everyone!!! Keep following your dreams! Will be posting my goals and plans for this year shortly.