Greetings, from the Doldrums!

Well, hello there.

It’s been while–how’re things on your side of the screen?

Me, oh, you know, same old same old.

The weather’s been really great in LA, lately. And by “really great” I mean “very typical”. We’ve got a drought here, I don’t know if you’ve heard. I think we’re going on year 4. But they’re promising a very wet El Niño season this year, so maybe there’s an end in sight.

What’s that?…how’s the acting going?

Oh, well, no call back from that network audition which was QUITE the bummer, but there’s always next year. No great accolade’s from this year’s writing competition’s either, so that’s another bummer.

And we’ve got the short we made all finished–just need to sync the final score to the final cut and we’re shipping it off to short festivals for the coming year.

Other than that, this place resembles the Doldroms, as popularized by the children’s novel “The Phantom Tollbooth”.

I was super pumped about my finance series, until I wrote a really excellent blog post, relied on WordPress’ “autosave” feature, and had my brilliant musings zapped into the interwebs, without promise of retrieval. I should really get back on that cyber-horse, but my complacency has kept me from doing anything worthwhile or important on that level.

It’s easier to whine about becoming stagnant than it is to actually do something about it.

I’ll get back to it this week…maybe…or maybe I’ll slip into a lethargic puddle of mush. Watching time tick by and praying that I’ll have more time to make up for the time I’ve wasted.

Until then, have a great weekend, kiss the kids, and send my love to your mom.

XOXO,

Short and Feisty

PS send ice cream and/or chocolate. Netflix bingeing isn’t the same without confectionery refreshments.

For When Your Heart is Willing but Your Brain is Dead

I swore that when I found a 3-day-a-week nanny job, I would bust my butt writing EVERY SINGLE DAY that I had off.

I had fanciful ideas of waking up the morning after my 72 hour shift (some of those sleeping hours, I should mention) hitting the shower, getting dressed, grabbing the laptop, and typing away until my fingers were cramping and bruised.

Sadly, that’s not been the reality these last few months.

Once upon a time, about a year ago, I was able to punch out the first draft of a feature length script in a week. This is while I was working 50+ hours a week with a 2 hour round-trip commute. I literally had “little to no time” but I knew what story I wanted to tell, I identified so deeply with the characters that the dialogue just spilled out onto the paper, and I felt no pressure to get it done.

Now that I have 4 solid days of the week that could be almost entirely dedicated to writing, I should be producing more.

I have a handful of excuses I’ve bandied out to justify my lack of creativity, some are as follows:

  • By the time I get off of work on Monday evening, my brain is so fried and frazzled that it takes several days to recover. Not only is nannying physically exhausting, it’s mentally and emotionally tiresome as well. So many tantrums, so much whining, so many emotions and angry words are hurled at you in that profession. I’m not sure how nannies keep their sanity. Mothers HAVE to love their kids, but us, we’re a rare [read: insane] breed of people that are capable of loving someone else’s spawn, even when they launch insults at us.
  • I’m switching my focus between writing and acting and this is prime time when it comes to finding an acting agent for the unrepresented.
  • I’m tired. Like, REALLY TIRED.
  • No one’s going to read this shit, why am I even writing it??

Some excuses are more justifiable than the others, but HEY, I’m being honest, here.

I need to find a way to work through all of these roadblocks. A smart idea would be to set up a writing schedule with concrete goals and deadlines. Holding myself accountable is the dark-side to that new moon (I tried really hard to make that analogy work, right there. Did it?).

I could try to organize writing groups to motivate me and my writing pals.

Or I could just drive to Santa Monica, saunter into Dunkin’ Doughnuts, get a double chocolate doughnut and a strawberry glazed doughnut, drive back home, sit on the couch, turn on Netflix, watch as many episodes of Parks and Rec as my attention span will allow, cry because that show is done and gone forever, and wallow in self-pity.

I love having options.

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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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On Being Scared Sh*tless

There isn’t a lot that gets me shaking in my boots. I’ve got some amazing confidence and self-esteem (that I suspect, unfortunately, presents as arrogance sometimes) and I like to think of myself as being fairly brave.

Backpack in Europe alone? Check.

Move across country? Check.

Drink milk a day after its sell by date? Hell no.

But you get the idea.

However, when there’s uncertainty or even a hint of feeling out of control, I lose it.

And GUESS WHAT.

It’s about to get real uncertain up in this piece.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been watching and re-watching my all-time favorite movie: “You’ve Got Mail.” I can feel you judging me for loving a Norah Ephron film, but I’m not ashamed. One of my favorite quotes from Meg Ryan’s character Kathleen Kelly, a small business owner, is dripping with existentialism and is something I ask myself about every six months:

“Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life – well, valuable, but small – and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven’t been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn’t it be the other way around?”

Earlier this month, I asked myself my own version of this question on the blog with a little more vagueness than I usually allow myself to type. I was in the throes of deciding whether or not I’d be brave enough to leave my cushy nanny job and go back to piecing together several paychecks in order to have the flexibility I need to pursue acting and writing in LA.

And then I remembered that I came out here for a reason, and it wasn’t to wipe tiny tushies and noses. It wasn’t to walk to and from playdates, and it certainly wasn’t to dedicate my time and energy to helping someone else achieve the exact same goals that I moved out here to achieve.

I moved Out West in 2012, but finances had me “off ramp” in 2013 to full-time employment and I’m (weirdly) thankful it happened. In the last 1.5 years, I’ve paid off my credit card debt, smashed through a majority of my student loans, and completed several outstanding courses in improv and sketch writing (which I wouldn’t have been able to afford, otherwise). I’m not at all rich, and I’m certain I’ll have bills to pay for the rest of my life (duh) but I’ve also learned that–

there will never be a “perfect” time to start living the life I want.

There will always be a logical reason to hold myself back, to not take risks, to not make myself available for something truly magnificent to happen. There will always be someone good-heartedly acting as “The Voice of Reason” trying to get me to see that I should play it safe forever.

I’ve come to the decision that, barring homelessness, those deterrents aren’t good enough to side-line me anymore.

It’s time to make moves.

Bring it, 2015.


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Baby’s First Visit to The Academy: Nicholl Fellowship Ceremony 2014

Almost a year ago, I submitted a first draft of a feature length script to the Academy Nicholl Fellowship.

I know, I know, you’re scratching your head wondering: “What are you doing submitting a draft to the premiere screenwriter’s competition? The one put on by The Academy—that awards their winners with $35,000 to encourage them to write an entire script in the following year? The one with over 7,000 entrants from all over the world? The one where they only choose, at most 5 or 6 winners out of the entire pool?!”

And you’d be right to ask.

The sad fact of the matter is that I really, truly hate editing and re-writing my work.

It’s my writer’s Achilles heel.

I sailed through high school turning in first drafts, stumbled through college doing the same, and nothing has changed since I graduated nearly 5 years ago.

In the real world, that’s obviously not going to fly.

HOWEVER—even with the handicap of not sending in a polished script, I ended up placing in the top 10% of the applicant pool. So I’m somewhere ranked between 700 and 380, where the cutoff for quarter-finalists falls (my script fell short of advancing to the quarterfinals by two-to-six points). Landing here entitled me to receive a comment over email from one of the two to three readers that rated my script. Usually when screenwriter’s submit to competitions or submit to find representation, they get almost no feedback beyond a casual and curt “no thanks.” This was a pretty significant “get” for me. The comment was equally encouraging, constructively critical, and reaffirming.

Just think what good may befall me if I add some discipline into my life and concentrate, for goodness sake!

That small accomplishment lit a fire in my belly that told me, “Hey. Maybe if you try harder you can actually make your mark in this industry. So stop being so freaking lazy.”

The Academy hosts an award ceremony for the winners and it was just my luck that it was in Los Angeles (hey, I live there!) and also FREEEEEE to attend. What better way to see what it takes to win this puppy than to hear from the writers that won this year.

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4 scripts won (2 dramas, a comedy, and a sci-fi), 5 writers (2 were part of a team and will then split their $35k) received their awards and gave a short speech, and 4 actors (check out that line-up!) read a scene from each of the scripts.

On Stage (right to left): Clancy Brown, Ansel Elgort, Tessa Thompson and Jack O'Connell, with Rodrigo Garcia at the podium.

On Stage (right to left): Clancy Brown, Ansel Elgort, Tessa Thompson and Jack O’Connell, with Rodrigo Garcia at the podium.

You can find more information on each of the winning scripts and screenwriters right here, but one of my favorite parts of the night was hearing about one winner in particular.

Sallie West, the writer of the winning screenplay “Moonflower”, had just been laid off of her job working for the US government after decades of service. She was a technical manual writer for the technology aboard Air Force One when they made her job redundant. She sat at home, reeling from the news (this happened right around the holidays last year) and decided to try her hand at writing creatively. Even at middle age, she thought she’d try her hand at something new. She wrote her screenplay, submitted to the contest, and told herself that there was no way in hell she would win.

Fast forward nearly a year later and she’s accepting the award to a thunderous round of applause and sitting on thousands of dollars worth of free money that will enable her to hone her new craft.

And the only thing that separates her from other people with raw, but tremendous, talent is the fact that she got in front of her computer and wrote. She thought of an interesting and original concept, sat down, AND WROTE.

AND WROTE!

That’s what I keep telling myself I need to do. There’s no use in planning, and worrying, and daydreaming if I’m not willing to sit my bootie down, shut off the internet, and freaking put the words on the paper!

For the 2015 competition, I’m submitting an edited script from the competition last year, I’m submitting a second new script this year, and my ultimate goal (that has a bit more optimism than realism) is to submit a third, any genre (you’re allowed up to three). Entries are accepted from January to May. I’m writing this here on the blog so that friends-of-the-blog and real-life-friends, alike, can keep me focused and motivated.

Keep checking back with me.

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