The Cure for an Actor Depressed

It’s inevitable.

Living in Hollywood and NYC and chasing the dream of being a paid actor has it’s ups and downs. And I’m talking “mountains and valleys” high-lows. Or, mountains and the Mariana Trench that goes 6+ miles below sea level.

It’s even harder when you’re surrounded by the successes of friends in your immediate acquaintance. You’re happy for them but you’re left wondering where YOU went wrong, or how you could have hustled harder. This feeling of acting inadequacy can shove you down so hard that you end up lying prostrate on the couch, elbows deep in a pint of peanut butter swirl ice cream (hey, at least it’s a delicious depression!).

The short term answer to helping get yourself out of the Doldroms is to distract yourself, but do so productively.

So here’s a step by step guide to get you back on those actor toes (completing this list should take 2 weeks or less):

  1. Put. Down. The. Ice. Cream.
  2. Finish that movie you’re watching and then watch one more. After that last film, it’s time to get moving.
  3. Shower. You probably haven’t done that for a while and today is most certainly a “Must Shower Day”.
  4. Brainstorm ideas for a short film. I’m talking super short. Three to five minutes tops. Keep it simple: Simple dialogue. Simple scene locations. No car chases, no explosions. The less characters/extras/props, the easier it will be to shoot!
  5. Look at your resume and update that baby. Are your headshots up to snuff or do you need to make an appointment for new ones?
  6. Write the short and make sure you’re the principle character. You’re doing this for your own benefit as well as experience.
  7. Google competitions to which you can submit the short. Make sure the deadlines haven’t passed and that the criteria for the competition is met through your short.
  8. Work your connections–talk to people about finding an editor/director of photography/sound tech/scorer/etc that are interested in working on a project you’re doing. Bonus points if they’ll do it gratis or for a “friend of a friend discount”. Does someone have a camera you can borrow (if you don’t already have one)? Maybe sound equipment? A house you can shoot in?
  9. Cast the short. Use LA Casting or Breakdown Express to hire other actors if you have decided against casting your friends (more on the pros vs. cons of that in another post).
  10. Once your cast and crew are set, pick a date in the very near future to shoot. Get the call sheet out to everyone and get your equipment locked down.
  11. Shoot it.

Now you’re in post-production. HOORAY! The timing for the next few steps depend on how fast you can get that puppy scored, the entry dates to the competitions, when your editor can take on your project (if you’re not editing), etc. But at least you’ve made something that showcases your writing/acting talents! Exposure is key. My personal downfall is staying on top of post production–I can get things “in the can” but revisiting them to finish is something I desperately need to work on. Having something to improve always keeps me from resting on my laurels!

How do you get yourself out of the doldroms? What projects help you to stay motivated?

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Applications Out the Wazoo

One of my favorite pastimes senior year of High School was applying to colleges.

I’m not even kidding a little bit, as weird as it sounds.

Filling out applications combined two of my favorite things: talking about myself and office supplies. Way back in 200-, when I was attempting to further my education, applications hadn’t been fully converted to the internet. Cracking open the plastic and paper wrapping surrounding my brand new G-2 Gel pens to meticulously pen my information into tiny little boxes was pure gratification. I seemed to have a knack for finding colleges and universities that had NO application fee (very rare) and I filled those out with reckless abandon, never intending to actually attend any of those particular institutions. I knew I needed to go to a state school (much more affordable), but that didn’t stop me from seeing where else in the world I could’ve possibly attended school.

SO YOU WOULD THINK that filling out applications for script writing competitions and network writing fellowships would be right up my alley.

WRONG.

For some strange reason, almost all of the competitions and all of the fellowships have entry periods and deadlines that overlap, and in some cases almost entirely coincide–to the date, with one another.

“Oh, that’s actually convenient,” one might think to oneself, “you can just submit the same thing over and over to each competition.

WRONG AGAIN.

Each and every one of them has different criteria–most require a “spec” script which is a script you write using characters and stories from a show that’s currently on TV. HOWEVER, some require a 30 minute comedy spec, some require a 1 hour drama spec, some allow you to spec shows that are available only through streaming (Hulu, Netflix, etc), some require that the show you’re spec-ing be in at least it’s 2nd season, some allow you to spec an animated show, etc etc.

Some competitions require you submit a pilot–which is a show completely originated by you. Some require the pilot to be in the exact same genre as the spec script you are submitting (which does nothing to show your range as a writer).

For the feature length competitions/programs, some allow adaptations, some only original work, some have a minimum page count, all have a maximum page count (yet, they’re not all the same) and all of them cost money!

Most require some sort of bio, some require a resume (even if nothing on it says that you’ve been paid to be a part of the entertainment industry) some want an “artistic statement”, some want photos of you drinking a glass of water upside down while ASL signing the National anthem*.

*No, they actually don’t want that last part, but sometimes it seems like they stop the requirements just short of that!

To Date: I’ve submitted to 2 network fellowships, 2 feature length competitions, and I’ve still got more to go. So until the end of May, I’ll be trucking along, submission after submission until my fingers fall off and hit the floor. Pray for me.

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27 Trips Around the Sun– A Short and Feisty Birthday

Oh, my LANTA. I can’t believe it’s been 27 years since my eyes first beheld the harsh lights of the hospital delivery room. I came out screaming and yellow, since I happened to have jaundice. I spent plenty of time in a tiny little incubator to “get things moving” and that’s the last time I spent anytime in something resembling a tanning bed.

This is the first birthday where I actually feel “old”– I can’t really explain it, but I no longer feel like the spring chicken I always thought I was. Yes, I will look back at this blog in 50 years, using the wifi connected micro chip imbedded in my skull, and laugh at the thought of considering 27 to be a geriatric age. But–man–I’m at an introspective time of my life where I look back on all that’s passed and think, “Back Then was a long time ago.”

I miss the days of going to Taco Bell with my best friends before Girl Scout meetings, of the elation I felt on the first days of elementary school, and I miss the feeling of invincibility that tiny little Short and Feisty used to radiate. From my teenie tiny stature, I could be anything I wanted to be and do anything I wanted–I just had to grow up a little more, learn a little more, and wait for the future to come to me.

Now, to be honest, all I feel are limits.

I hate to Debbie Downer my own birthday, but I’ve always been a realist. I’m feeling the limits of my spinster hood (no joint finances, no kids, no house with a washer/dryer in unit–I want the washer and dryer more than the rest, no shame felt), I’m feeling the limits of Hollywood (knocking on your door, suckas, won’t you consider opening a crack?), and I feel the limits of my sanity working this Nanny Day job with children trying to test me at every moment. BUT–

and that’s a BIG BUT

along with these limits, I’ve been able to see a tiny stream of light symbolizing what could be if I tried a little harder, waited a little longer, and stopped watching so much damn Netflix!

So here are some random positive epiphanies that I couldn’t have come to at 26 that I am now experiencing at 27:

  • Though lacking a nuclear family for which I am the boss/dictator/queen head of household, I am abundantly wealthy in family, friends, and friends that are family. I’ve got a ton of tiny babies to send love to, from a distance (unfortunately), and friends who patiently counsel me through some really difficult moments. I’ve got more true friends than I can count on two hands and two feet!
  • I’m still in LA–one of the toughest parts about breaking into the entertainment industry is learning how to survive in NYC and LA: two of the most expensive places to live in the US. But my former full-time work schedule allowed me to save up enough and find a job that allows me to cut back on hours and actually write more. It also puts me in a position to audition more if I ever strike gold twice and find another elusive agent.
  • I’ve stopped actively looking for Mr. Right. If that bastard wants to show up within the next decade, great. After that, all bets are off because I’m becoming a COUGAR.
  • My anxiety levels have plummeted since quitting my celebrity nanny job–I’ve learned that I’m definitely not suited to working underneath a “type A” Nanny Mom Boss. I know too much about children to be micromanaged! As a result, my quality of life has skyrocketed.
  • In the last year, I paid off both my student loans and credit card debt–in full. With the exception of my car loan (a big exception!) I’m living debt free and it’s incredibly freeing.
  • I’ve been researching several lifestyle changing opportunities that I could pursue while also pursuing acting/writing. I’m not at a place where I feel I can share them with the world, but I’ve told a few friends and family and have largely gotten support. I’m excited about the possibility of them, and I desperately need to have life goals separate from Hollywood.
  • I ran two half marathons last year–HOLY CRAP I RAN TWO HALF MARATHONS IN THE LAST YEAR.
  • I’m alive. I’m breathing. My body is (mostly) fully functioning. If that isn’t potential for greatness, I don’t know what is.

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How to Run a Half Marathon Without Really Trying– runDisney’s Star Wars Half Marathon

Ok, Short and Feisty, you’ve got this.

No, you didn’t do any training,

No, you’re probably not as hydrated as you should be, and

NO, it was not a good idea to skip out on using a port-a-potty because you “think they’re the grossest invention of this Modern Era”.

But now you’re at the starting line and they’re singing the National Anthem and you’re feeling really patriotic and YOU’VE GOT THIS.

Last minute stretch, but not too much. There are a host of new studies that tell you NOT to stretch before exercise, so maybe just loosen up the nerves with a couple of bounces and a quick twist of the torso.

Ok, fireworks are now going off to signal the start of the race, but you’re in one of the corrals waaay in the back with the slower runners, so you’ve got a while to wait.

Just shuffle your feet for a while and don’t think about how freezing it is before dawn in Southern California.

Take a minute to adjust your playlist on your iPhone–yes, the course officially discourages using headphones, but some people don’t feel like the rhythmic slapping of their shoes on the pavement (or the painful sound of your thighs rubbing together) is all that motivating.

Ok, you’re corral is walking closer to the starting line. This definitely isn’t a race to get your “PR” set, because there are so many people, your best bet is a slight jog for the first mile or so, but you wouldn’t have sprinted that anyway.

Check your watch to track your official start time–it’s now been about twenty minutes since the “Elite Runners” and Kenyans!! in the first corral started.

Ok, light and easy, slow and steady, feel the bounce in your toes.

Hey, this feels pretty good. I’m breathing easily through Disney’s California Adventure and LOOK there’s Chewbacca posing for photos. Don’t stop, though, because those photo lines take FOREVER to get through and you WILL be swept from the course if you don’t maintain a 16 minute mile.

Ok, Mile 1 and you clock in at 9 minutes?! You go girl! That’s really good for you since you run slower than molasses going uphill in the winter. Just keep going.

Mile 2–Hmm, starting to get a cramp in your side. Make sure you’re hydrating at the water/PowerAid stops. Everyone is wearing such creative costumes! How does that person run with an elaborate Boba Fett helmet on their head?

Mile 3– Those cramps are still there, but you know it’s not because you’re dehydrated. You have to go #2 and port-a-potty is your only option. Stop sneering and pull off to the side!

Mile 4–Oh, so you’re too good for the port-a-john? You’re loss, friend. Relief will be temporary until the end of the race.

Mile 5–Is it over yet?! Why did I decide to do this again? The sharp sting in your lungs overshadows the cramp in your stomach.

Mile 6–You feel like you’ve been running for an eternity, but you’re not even halfway there. Dear God, when does the running stop?

Mile 7–Oh, hooray! A Clif Shot energy gel to make your blood sugar level even out…oh, my-LANTA this junk tastes those disgusting gel candies your friends and you would scarf down in the mid-90’s. Throw it away and get some water! YOU WILL NEVER GET THAT TASTE OUT OF YOUR MOUTH.

Mile 8–More than halfway there. You can do this. Oh wait, your digestive system isn’t cooperating again? Don’t whine to me about it, I told you to pull over at Mile 3.

Mile 9–Why do your legs feel like lead? Yes, they may be “the size of big tree trunks” (Love Actually), but they shouldn’t feel like solid wood. This is unnatural, conquering long distances was the reasons cars were created, we aren’t doing this again.

Mile 10–lkjdfoaiedkangahgia.

Mile 11–2.1 miles more to go. The end is nigh. That Golden Bathroom in the Sky is almost in sight. Your legs couldn’t stop running even if you wanted them to. Thank goodness you remembered the “body glide” to rub in between your thighs and on your arms to keep chafing away. You can’t forget what happened the last time we did this and you didn’t moisturize–that wasn’t pretty.

Mile 12–Why does it feel like you’re running backwards. And how did that person wearing a full body card-board Death Star just pass you?

Mile 13–the longest .1 miles of your life. But finish strong and step it up! You’ve run/walked this far, you can run the rest!

Mile 13.1–SWEET VICTORY. But no sweet relief, yet.

Collect your medal, sprint (read: crawl) through the photo line, grab a snack pack, and get to the nearest bathroom (which isn’t for another .1 miles near the parking garage). Are you moving at all? Because, at this point, you can’t feel your legs.

Spend the next 5-8 minutes enjoying the most gratifying bathroom experience you’ve had in your entire life. Most importantly, you can finally sit down.

While you slump back to the car, pull out your iPhone and Google more races. You’re feeling unstoppable.

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