Been in LA for 4 Years and All I Got Was this Lousy T-shirt

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On July 20th, 2012, I arrived in Los Angeles to start my professional acting and writing journey. I was 24, slightly heartbroken/very single, without an acting agent, without a job, and wondering what the hell I had gotten myself into.

4 years later and life has proven that it can be cyclical in the shittiest possible ways.

I’m newly heartbroken/single, without an acting agent (though, I did briefly have one), and still wondering what the hell I’ve gotten myself into.  But I have a job so I guess I can be thankful for small mercies. And I’ve learned to avoid Adele this time around, which is hard because her latest album is perfection.

4 years seems like a lifetime ago–24 year old me had just left her collegiate bubble not long before her journey and was so optimistic about all of the golden opportunities that surely abounded in Tinseltown.

And then I got here, inhaled my first lung-full of the months of dust that had collected on the streets due to the extreme drought conditions and learned what racial type-casting parts are available to women that look like me (maid, thug’s girlfriend, slave, repeat).

It would have been easy to high tail it back to the East Coast. It would have been easy to quit pursuing this astronomical goal and resign myself to a life behind a desk or wiping baby butts that don’t belong to my progeny.

But for some reason, which is frankly beyond all sane thought and comprehension, I am still here. epdlt

 

I am still here and still as in love with lists as when I arrived back then, so I’m going to give you a bunch to sum up what I have accomplished and what I’ve learned.

Things I HAVE accomplished:

  • I’ve lived in the same apartment consistently for the longest period of time EVER. As a Navy kid and due to a turbulent teen experience, I’ve never lived in one house/apartment/dorm for longer than 4 years.
  • I’ve somehow chipped out a reputation as a highly sought after childcarer. As a nanny, I’ve reached the top of the pay bracket in the last 4 years and established myself in many celebrity and high-networth circles as the girl to hire (now, only if my acting and writing took off like that).
  • I’ve managed to support myself financially since I graduated from college 6 years ago, and paid off my student loans (which were supporting me the previous 4 years) in less than 5.
  • I have significantly reduced the amount of panic attacks I experience and that’s probably my GREATEST accomplishment.

On Work:

  • There has to be a balance with the rest of your life. You’ll go crazy/lose friends if you don’t.
  • Having lived a life constantly trying to make ends meet, it’s hard to say no to paying job opportunities, even if you’re financially in a good place. Practice saying “NO” or you won’t have time to pursue other goals.
  • Sometimes we have to do jobs we don’t actually want to do in order to fund our dreams. You are not in the position to be a freeloading millennial. You are not a trust fund kid. Suck it up. Go to your survival job.

On Hollywood and The Grind:

  • It’s all about who you know–and even sometimes making big industry connections won’t do shit unless they are ready to go to bat for you. WHICH WON’T BE OFTEN because so many people here are “risk averse” unless there is something specifically in it for their benefit.
  • Connections can be formed in the weirdest places–like when you go to help someone potty train their kid and they mention they’re an agent and would love to read your work (happening right now, in real life).
  • You have to put in the hours, the thousands of hours, to even make the tiniest bit of headway. But if you don’t, you’re not getting anywhere fast.
  • If you’re a POC, Hollywood is currently interested in “diversity”–and “diversity” includes anyone other than cis-gendered straight males. So white women and white LGBTQetc men are clumped in there with you. Don’t let this be a fad–let it be the new reality by refusing to play a stereotype or a trope (as much as possible). It is entirely possible to write POCs without being offensive, predictable, and boring.
  • Be supportive of other artists–you can’t play ALL OF THE ROLES so try to be excited when your friends/colleagues book.
  • Many people outside of Hollywood won’t know what a coup it is to even GET the audition in the first place. Celebrate every small victory.
  • Even when it feels like you’re banging your head against the wall with new headshots, new (expensive classes), and invested money leaking out of your ears, just keep going. Half the battle is sticking around and outlasting the competition.
  • And the best advice I’ve received (this tidbit of wisdom coming from a successful comedy producer): BE PATIENT.

On Love and Relationships**:

  • Dating is hard. Dating sucks. It’s a necessary evil unless you live in a culture with arranged marriages (and by all accounts, those aren’t fun).
  • Getting hurt is the worst. But if you don’t open yourself up, if you refuse to be cautiously vulnerable, you run the risk of never making that meaningful connection again and pushing away something that could have been great.
  • Don’t settle–you will find someone that loves you just as much, wants to be with you just as much, and isn’t afraid to both show and tell you often.
  • If you’re with someone that is changing how you perceive your value or self-worth in a negative way, END IT. RIGHT NOW. GO. DO IT.
  • Don’t stay with someone because you’re afraid of being alone. Worse than that, don’t stay with someone because you’re afraid of being “the bad guy” by initiating the breakup. Inaction in stringing someone along is more hurtful than taking action.
  • And if it doesn’t ever work out that you meet “the one“, Jane Austen was a spinster and a #BadBitch so you’ll be just fine.

**Full Disclosure–Newly heartbroken/single me thinks the above advice is complete horse shit. But some day (hopefully soon), I’ll let it sink in again.

On Life:

  • Hiring a housekeeper to come once a month is WORTH IT–especially if you’re horrible at cleaning. Paying the money for this luxury will truly raise your spirits beyond measure.
  • Getting married, having babies, owning a house, the “normal life milestones”, etc. may come at a slower pace than your friends back home. But you’ve got a goal, here, and dwelling on what you “don’t have” won’t get you any further to it. Those things aren’t out of reach for you, so be happy for those who are taking the fast track to them.
  • Keeping in touch with non-LA friends and family is key to longevity out here. Having your own cheering section to comfort you, even if over the phone or internet, is sometimes more meaningful than in-person relationships.
  • Your metabolism will slow down. Exercise isn’t an option–it’s a necessity to keep you from turning into a blob.
  • Wash everything in cold water with cold water detergent. And bras last longer if you air dry them.
  • You may miss the simplicity of the life you left behind–but that life wasn’t meant for you, so think about it in the past as a learning experience and not something you abandoned.

And finally, “nothing worth having comes easy”. Life is hard,  but wanting something bigger and better for yourself–wanting your dreams to actually become your reality–takes an incredible amount of moxie–remind yourself that you’ve got it.

“There’s been trials and tribulations
You know I’ve had my share
But I’ve climbed the mountain, I’ve crossed the river
And I’m almost there, I’m almost there
I’m almost there!”
–Princess Tiana, The Princess and The Frog

It’s Time for an Update

It’s been a million years (really 2 months) since my last blog post, which calls for some updates.

1) Me reaching my lofty goal of finding an agent by June 1st didn’t quite happen. I did, however have two agent meetings (a feat that I don’t think I would’ve accomplished without having set that goal in the first place). One was an “invited open call”– something I had never even heard of before I stepped into their office. Essentially, it’s like an open casting call for people that’ve reached out to them that fit the demographics they are looking for. You go in, perform a prepared monologue, and do a cold read of another piece and that’s it. Kind of a let down because you don’t actually get to talk to the agents, it’s more like a traditional audition for a show.

THEN, my other meeting was a legit agent meeting with a boutique agency that I didn’t think meshed well with what I’m looking for. In short, the owner was a little too eccentric and we didn’t even discuss my prior experience or projects…the owner made some sports analogies along with providing some personal anecdotes and offered me representation. I know the old adage “beggars can’t be choosers” but it didn’t feel like a good fit!

I’m seriously hoping that I made the right choice in moving on from that one, but I’m beginning to feel my leg rear back to kick myself in the pants.

Hmmm, what else.

2) OH! The short film I shot to get out of my “woe is me” rut last March is almost completely finished. I always wondered why projects took so long in post production and I’ve finally figured it out: if you don’t have a motivated enough producer, shit doesn’t get done.

In this case, that producer was me.

I opted to have the film professionally edited and scored, which added time to the overall production, but not so much that it took that insanely long to finish a 3:30 short.

At least it’s almost done, so put away those judge-y eyes!

3) I spent the last month nannying for two families at once. Though the financial boom from this decision will certainly help this nearly-starving artist, my productivity in the creative realm hit an all-time rock bottom. Not one blog was written. Not one script was researched or typed. Not one audition was had.

Not to mention I nearly went insane forgoing days off for three weeks. I had a nice little panic attack and cry-fest. Really “cleaned out the emotional system”. Not to mention that it unclogged my stuffy nose.

So maybe I won’t do that again.

In conclusion: I wish there was more to write, more updates to give, and more progress in the acting/writing career realm, but I’ve got nothin’. I’m as disappointed as you are, really, but them’s the breaks.

But I did see this incredibly cheesy quote floating around the Internets this week, and I’m hoping it’s prophetic:

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“PUT ME IN, COACH, I SWEAR I’M AWESOME! or “Finding a Hollywood Agent Post-Pilot Season”

It’s officially post-pilot season in Los Angeles which means some actors are celebrating the auditions/callbacks/and bookings that that particular season brings. Other actors are crying into their vanilla lattes because their agencies may have given them the boot for not getting the results they wanted them to (which can be entirely unfair as a lot of those decisions are out of the actor’s hands).

And some actors, like yours truly, are in the throes of “mail out season”. This is often seen as the bottom of the barrel as far as courting representation is concerned, because everyone has dreams of being approached by the best-of-the-best and being swooped up. Guys, that just doesn’t really happen, much.

In order to get an agent, I mean a really good one, you have one of the following:

  1. You can get something called an “industry referral”. That means someone you know in the industry (director, producer, etc) or another actor friend has to put their faith in you and submit your name to an agency for their consideration. This isn’t likely to happen because many of your friends in LA who are actors are friends with dozens of other actors–they may feel guilty referring you and not all of their other pals.
  2. If you have successfully booked work on ACTUAL TV shows or features or ACTUAL national commercials, without the help of an agent, you’re a freaking wizard please show me your ways. That means you have a lot of leverage in finding a really awesome agent.
  3. An even less likely way to get an agent is to get discovered. This means that someone that’s looking for new talent sees your work, goes to one of your performances, or something as random as “seeing you walking past the food court in a mall and thinking you have a good look” approaches you and asks for a meeting. This probably happens more than I realize, but it hasn’t happened to anyone I’m close to, so I think it’s pretty rare.

If none of these have panned out for you, “Mailing Out” is your best option and it’s exactly what it sounds like. You get your best headshots and attach your resume to the back of it. You write a brief cover letter explaining who you are and why you’re awesome and why they should meet with you in person. DO NOT INCLUDE ANYTHING ELSE. No gimmicks, no cheesey props, and DEFINITELY NO GLITTER–Tobias Fünke learned the hard way:

Spell things correctly! Make sure you put the right letter in the correspondingly addressed envelope! You take both of those bad boys, put them in a big old envelope (no folding!), and mail them to agencies that allow for “unsolicited submissions”. peter-parker-crying-meme-sends-agent-query-misspells-agents-name

If you mail them to agencies that DON’T accept unsolicited submissions, I can assure you they will be trashed (I know a Junior Agent that works at one of the Big 5 and he assured me he spent a lot of time in the mail room just tossing headshots and resumes into the “circular file” aka the garbage).

Now that technology is superseding the the good ‘ole days, a lot of agencies allow for submissions to be e-mailed, as well. This usually brings the fastest results for actors because there’s no lag time between you sending it and them reading it. They can also just quickly tap the “reply” button and ask you to come in without exerting much effort. Again, check to see that the agency accepts emailed submissions.

Last Thursday I emailed out to about 15 SAG Franchised agents (that means they’re “legit”). By Friday morning, I had two solid meetings scheduled and 2 tentative meetings–that’s a lot, even though it might not seem like it! On Friday morning, I mailed out to all of the agencies that didn’t accept emails and I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Agents are one of those special breeds that will only respond if they want to see you–if you never hear from them, you assume the answer is a “no”.

I’m crossing the heck out of my fingers that by June 1st, I’ll have representation.

Spoiler-Free Thoughts on “American Hustle”

Well…as spoiler free as possible.

  • This movie is really long…maybe too long. Be prepared.
  • Holy crap, Louis C.K. is in this? Semi-reprising his role as Officer Dave Sanderson, the cop in “Parks and Rec”, but this time working for the F.B.I.
  • Yes, there is a crazy cat lady featured in this film. Thank you, Hollywood, for finally giving some representation to this very real type of woman (and some men, too).
  • They got Amy Adams looking reeeealll haggard in a scene or two–THANK YOU for that. I’m tired of seeing her always looking angelic. That and the copious amounts of side-boob, an especially hilarious pee-ing scene, and some other speckles of nudity put her solidly in the running for that Oscar she’s gunnin’ for.
  • Bradley Cooper in perm-hair-rollers  is surprisingly NOT AT ALL HOT.
  • Robert De Niro without hair is surprisingly hot (jk/lol).
  • SO MUCH CHEST HAIR. The 70’s were apparently a furry, furry decade.
  • There are black people in this–no, they don’t have speaking roles (well, a secretary with one line), but at least they’re still featured (and not as homeless/druggies) in a NY/NJ based movie–unlike the first season of GIRLS. I’m not saying we need to force diversity into every story, but when you’re in a major metropolis such as The Big Apple/New Jersey…
  • Shows of fidelity are best symbolized by the passing of a kitchen appliance from one friend to another.
  • J-Law is real cute in this movie, she’s also kind of gross and a little creepy (which just makes her more endearing)–she needs some accent work, though. Kind of love that she doesn’t take her clothes off when this role could have clearly called for it (sorry, that was a spoiler).
  • Elton John–“Yellow Brick Road”.
  • This movie is way too freaking long.
  • Everybody in this movie is a hypocrite–I think that’s the point.
  • Louis C.K. is awesome in this–can he get a “Best Supporting” nom, please?
  • “You’re too beautiful to be unhappy”. HAHAHAHA.
  • Christian Bale is aiight. The beer belly becomes him.
  • Am I still watching this? It’s been over 2 hours. How has my limited attention span allowed for this?
  • Cold Cut King of Long Island.
  • Anti-climactic ending.

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I Won’t Be Seeing “The Lone Ranger” and Here’s Why:

I was colorblind until I went to high school.

No, not literally. I went to a Catholic school where most of my classmates were predominately white; or, in reality, Filipino, neither of which I am. I’m of mixed heritage–African American, Hispanic, and Native American. If we were to meet at a party, one of your first questions may be about my ethnic background, because I’m pretty ethnically ambiguous.

But my race didn’t make a difference because we were all treated exactly the same when we entered through the preschool doors at 4 years old.

At 14, when I left that sheltered institution for the mean, hard, hallways of an inner city public school, it became evident to me that the small Utopia I was raised in was an anomaly.

I’ve only experienced blatant racism once–and it was in high school from a butt hole boy that happened to be African American and didn’t consider the way I dressed or spoke to be “black enough”.  That’s another story, though.

When I moved to LA, it was even more evident that the playing field is not level in Hollywood, either. 9 out of 10 casting breakdowns (or listings) are for caucasian men and women. After that, comes African American, followed by Hispanics, trailed by Asians.

At the tail end–not even a blip on the radar–are Native American actors.

Hollywood’s attitude towards the First American ethnic group is much the same as America’s general attitude: we often forget they exist.

We stole their territory, killed them with smallpox, and dumped them onto tiny patches of land and said “Go at it”.

We remember them at Halloween when we dress in shambley-faux imitations of their traditional garb, or when we’re kids playing the politically incorrect “cowboys vs. Indians”.

Ever since the dawn of film, Native Americans have been misrepresented as violent, unfeeling, bad guys (take a look at almost any early spaghetti western) who require elimination in order for the good guy to prevail. (For a great documentary on this topic, head over to Netflix and watch “Reel Injuns”.)

For them, the chances of landing a role with a positive outlook on their people, or any role in film and television, is slim to none.

[SN: a big shout out to Parks and Recreation on NBC for featuring an ACTUAL Native American actor, Jonathan Joss, in a role that doesn’t mock their entire existence.  That show is all kinds of awesome.]

ANYWAY, my point is, roles are not readily available for Native American actors.

No co-starring, guest-starring, or even bit roles.

So when a movie re-make as monumental and iconic as “The Lone Ranger” comes out, why the hell is Johnny Depp, by and large A WHITE DUDE, bestowed the privilege of being Tonto?

For freak’s sake, people!

And to mask the fact that Depp is, indeed, A WHITE DUDE, and not a Native American, they paint his face WHITE as if it’s some kind of tribal paint.

WHAT!??

Disney, look at your life. Look at your choices. 

Even the TV version cast a Native American (Jay Silverheels). And that’s back in the early 1950’s when casting was even more whitewashed than it is today!

Yes, Johnny Depp is a chameleon, he’s played lots of different roles, but this is too much. He’s effectively stolen this opportunity from hundreds of actors who get little to no opportunities at all. Okay, okay: he claims to have distant ties to a tribe; so do I (as do most people–it’s the “romantic” thing to do) and I can respect that; but, I’m not going to submit myself for those roles.  There are actors in Hollywood that were born and raised in a tribe and would be much better suited to represent the “people” onscreen.

I would argue that casting Depp this way just further exacerbates “Main Stream America’s” attitude towards completely ignoring the existence of this subset of people. They’re so invisible, that we’re not even going to cast them to play their own people in a summer blockbuster. EVEN THOUGH, they are banging down the doors to gain entrée into Hollywood.

I’m not-so-secretly happy that the movie is getting panned by a majority of critics.

This casting misstep is egregious.

It’s unforgivable.

And I’ll be showing my displeasure by refusing to spend my money on it.

Photo Credit: FanPop.com

Nooope. | Photo Credit: FanPop.com