Tuesday 20 September 2011

Flat out

Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop
Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop
Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop
Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop
Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop
Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop
Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop
Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop
Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop
Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop
Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop
Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop

That's it.

Thursday 15 September 2011

NZAG presents: What's My Type? Acting To Your Strengths

What's My Type - Acting to Your Strengths

Tuesday 13 September 2011

Quickpost 7

12-13 September

Yesterday, I contacted an acting coach, recommended by my agent. I have my first session with her Friday next. I am very excited!

I've also started working on a scene from Rachel Getting Married with a bit that lends itself as a monologue. I've done a first analysis of the text and it's quite fun!

I'm also back on doing my GenAm practice sentences and reading out loud in that accent.

More work has been done for the NZAG/Peter Feeney workshop in October. It's getting really exciting! Wish us luck that we book out!

Have I mentioned that I have my first audition of sorts in months tomorrow afternoon? Yay!

Monday 12 September 2011

Acting class with Micheal Caine

I love Youtube. Where else you watch an acting workshop with Michael Cane from 1987?

Here are some of Michael Caine's wisdoms on movie acting from that workshop:

“Once you’re in front of that camera NOBODY exists, nobody except the other person in the scene. And what we do, we actors who are in the movie, we hang onto each other’s eyes. That’s the most important thing in film. Eyes. Eyes.“

On relaxing in front of the camera: “You know that you have no enemies. Everybody is on your side.”

“The camera is like a belt or a net behind you. And someone saying, someone standing behind you and saying, ‘Look, you can relax, it’s okay. You don’t have to push it…’ . Just relax and let it come out.”

“If you’re going to do action and movement, plan it absolutely perfectly, so you do it exactly the same over and over again. You can change your performance but you cannot change the action. Otherwise the close-up, the medium shot and the master shot do not match.”

“You cannot bluff [the camera]… you need to do nothing but you must feel, you must look and you must listen because she will see everything you do. She’ll pick it up and you don’t have to throw it to her. And she will love you even though you ignore her for the rest of your life.”

“In movies the camera is always your best friend.”

“You see, everybody is there to get the greatest performance from you that you’ve ever given. Everyone will help. The electrician up there, he will go scrambling along there and get that light absolutely right, so that there is glint in your eye. Everything is done for you, to help you do it right because it’s bloody difficult and everyone knows it.”

Wanna watch the workshop? No problem:

Sunday 11 September 2011

Lira Kellerman in Home At Last

My blogger friend Lira Kellerman who writes the witty, highly informative and truly lovable blog The Struggling Actress is staring in the new webseries, Home at Last! Out soon. I am very much looking forward to watching!

Check out the trailer here

Quickpost 6

10-11 September

Again, over the weekend my actual actor exercises had to take a back seat. I have done a lot of reading though; some more of Bonnie Gillespie's  Self-Management for Actors and I've discovered, thanks to my actor friend Richard Whiteside, the amazing Larry Moss' The Intent to Live.

Watch this if you don't believe the amazing bit:

You know how some teachers and some methods speak to you? It has been like this for me with Meisner. I just like, I get it. It's the same with what Larry Moss teaches. Only that I feel even stronger about his ideas. He draws from the Meisner technique but also adds other elements like the strong text analysis teachers like Stella Adler emphasised. I'm really excited to delve into the exercises in Moss' book!

The main reason I haven't been able to be diligent with my acting exercises this week is that I worked very hard to get a workshop for the NZ Actors' Guild off the ground. I am very pleased to announce that we will hold a Branding for Actors Workshop in early October taught by the ever awesome Peter Feeney!

It was my first time organising an event like this and I really hope it's a success. The lovely actress/publicist Brianne Kerr is doing the publicity for the workshop, so with that and the fact that the workshop is going to ROCK, I have no doubt that places will sell like hot cakes!

I also have my first meeting about another very cool event presented by the NZAG first thing tomorrow. Back to the acting regiment right after!

Thursday 8 September 2011

The Kid In The Front Row Film Questionaire

I don't do questionnaires, usually but the Kid is pretty darn great, so here goes:

1. What film has been sitting on your shelf for six months waiting to be watched?

Frozen River - I know I'm going to be devastated by this film and just keep putting it off. What can I say, I'm a wuss!

2. What is the one film you know word for word?

Cars - My son makes me watch it with him about once a week... Otherwise I am utterly hopeless, with the exception of thankfully the films I am actually in.

3. What screen character breaks your heart?

Ree in Winter's Bone

4. If you could bring an actor back from the dead, and had to pair them on screen with a current actor (who is no older than 40), what would your combo be?

I'll have to get back to you on that one.

5. How often do you check your phone in the cinema?


6. What film do you love which no-one else quite seems to 'get'?

I have a love-hate relationship with bad romantic comedies and I don't even 'get' that myself.

7. What is your favourite Al Pacino film?
 I don't like Al Pacino.

8. Why do they always manage to make us go one size bigger with the popcorn?

I don't know. I don't eat popcorn.

9. Share one memory from a cinema visit long ago.

Some friends of mine made me watch Rob Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses. They wouldn't let me leave the theatre. I am scarred for life.

10. Have you ever used a line from a movie, in your life, without anyone knowing you stole it? Give details.

That would require me remembering lines from films people have actually seen. I shall do my best to make an attempt at being so clever in the future. In the meantime I shall bask in the glory of my son thinking that I am fantastically hilarious when I say 'Pit stop!' in a terrible excuse of an Italian accent.

Quickpost 5

7-9 September

Since you already know about my awesome first  DIY coldreading session, I won't say any more about that. Do read the comments on that post though. Insanely talented Wellington local Richard Falkner has some really fantastic suggestions!

Alas, I must admit that I had zero time for anything much these last two days, not in the acting department anyway. I spent all my time on the phone and email to get a couple of, might I say AWESOME, events for the NZ Actor's Guild off the ground. It's going rather well so far and I am hoping to be able to make an official announcement soon. Fingers crossed!

Tuesday 6 September 2011

Cold reading DIY

My god this is f***ing hard!

Here I was, sitting at my desk with a pile of sides thinking, 'How hard can it be, really? It just reading lines, saying the words!'

So, I chose a random scene, read over it a couple of times and off I went into the crappy little camera built into my otherwise trusty computer. And I'm telling you, reading sides with no one reading with you sucks even more than reading them with a crap reader! Especially, when you're doing the whole cold reading thing and have to read not only your own lines but the other character's lines as well.

Totally threw me. So, it is probably the perfect way to teach myself the art of cold reading. It means that I really really really have to focus. It means that I have to decide on and commit to relationships and intentions and all that juicy stuff way faster than I normally would, which incidentally means that there's less chance of me second-guessing myself.

But man, this first cold reading DIY session was hard! One nice thing to see though was that through all the confusion of this first attempt I lost less of my GenAm during the scene than I would have thought. Practice might have not yet made me perfect but I sure have improved a lot. The other good thing about this first session is that the only way form here on out is up! And that's exactly where I want to go. It's a win win situation, really.

Monday 5 September 2011

Quickpost 4

5-6 September

My focus is still on accent work, so I ran my practice sentences and read out loud in GenAm both days.
I even managed to do my ballet workout both days. I am using muscles I never knew I even had. Painful fun.

I can't seem to bring myself to get stuck into the cold reading exercises. I have sides printed out, I have a big bathroom mirror, I have the ability to read. So, why am I not excited to give it a try? It feels like I'm too scared to. I guess, I'm feeling rusty, very rusty. There is that (irrational) fear lurking in the back of my mind that I might have lost 'it', you know, everything that I've learned and worked for over the past couple of years. Better get over it soon. I want to be performance ready when the drought breaks!

I've also started working on some really cool things for the New Zealand Actor's Guild, being on the board and all. Stay tuned for more info over the next few weeks!

Saturday 3 September 2011

Quickpost 3

2-4 September

Over the past three days I have been concentrating on practising my GenAm whenever I got a chance. Learning an accent, it turns out, is the perfect tool for me to hone in times where I have very little time to myself. I just had to find the right approach and method. With the help of Penny Dyer's audiobook, I've been making really good progress. If I keep it up I'll be able to record a sample before months end and make it available to my agent and post it on my other actor profiles. I am very excited! Have you any idea how much more sellable it makes in NZ me when I have mastered the GenAm? I'm starting with RP this week. Watch this space!

I've also started reading Self-Management for Actors by LA casting director Bonnie Gillespie. She's been writing a fantastic blog, The Actors Voice, on Actors Access since 2004. So, there is already a heap of fantastic information on that blog (thank Richard for pointing me to it!). But I was particularly interested in learning about actor branding and that's what her book provides in a more comprehensive and centralised way.

Since I am just starting out in the industry, I thought it would be a good idea to know what actor type I am and how to use my brand to my advantage. I am not trying to get type-cast. I'm just interested in how to sell best what I have naturally. If I have a clear idea of who I am as an actor, I can bring that essence across clearly in my headshots, in the way I dress and come across. This will give both my agent and any CDs a clear idea of who I am, what I am naturally suited for and of how to market and, well, sell me. 

I cannot imagine anything more tedious for a CD than looking at an actor's headshots or at an actor in person and not knowing who this person is. After all, they are going through stacks of photos and whole flocks of auditionees to find the right candidates for often very specific breakdowns. Even in a comparatively small market like Wellington or New Zealand even, when you are just starting out, you need to get known for something. If that something is something you're naturally good at, that's a huge advantage and a good starting point. It might not make sense to everyone but it makes sense to me.

Playing your primary type over and over is not a limitation. It's a shortcut... There are so many people pursuing acting in Los Angeles that the best shot you've got to ever get cast is to get known for being very good at the one thing folks will most want to see you doing. And the more consistently you provide casting directors with that one thing, the better you brand yourself. The better you brand yourself, the more of a prototype you become. And when you're a prototype for a role, you're the one the buyers think of when writing the breakdown. Heck, if you're really at the top of our list, you're the one whose agent we call with an offer, rather than even writing the breakdown for that role.

Now, New Zealand and Wellington are not LA by any means. They are MUCH smaller markets. But I still have the feeling that the same principle applies. I think it might be more of a balance act here between finding your brand and avoiding type-casting but I also think that knowing my type and building my brand is a useful starting point.

What do you think?

Thursday 1 September 2011

Quickpost 2

1 September

Nothing much to report today.  I guess actress-wise days like yesterday are the worst. It was a pretty good day all around but there was just no time or space to do much for my actor's toolbox. I managed to squeeze in a reading of my GenAm practice sentences while cooking dinner though. It felt good to at least have done something. So, lesson for today: Even if you only have five minutes, use them!

P.S.: Congratulations to Toronto Actress, who has just booked a major commercial! And congratulations to my fried V, who has landed herself a gig on a big feature! Well done guys, you're an inspiration! xx

Tuesday 30 August 2011

Quickpost 1

As prove that I actually have started practicing what I preached yesterday, here is what I have worked on in my bit of spare time over the last two days.

30 August

General American: I listened to my new Penny Dyer audiobook (Access Accents: General American - highly recommended!!!), took notes and worked with the practice sentences for shaping GenAm vowel and consonant sounds.

Wrote some fiction: Not a screenplay because for some reason that format stifles all creative energy in me. But I did write the beginnings of a story. I have no idea where it's going or what form it's going to take but I have been writing fiction. That's HUGE! I guess shutting up my inner critic and banning her to a deserted island somewhere far out in the Pacific Ocean counts as work too.

Creative visualisations: This is daydreaming, really. I gave myself ten minutes to relax and fantasise about my dream job in as much detail and colour as possible. Anyone wanna take a guess what that dream job is? I will only say that getting to live this dream if only for ten minutes and only in my head was already AWESOME! While I'm hanging out for the dream to materialise, I'm definitely going to actively dream about it. The richer and more detailed and over the top, the better. In fact, I shall do some dreaming right after finishing this post!

31 August

Workout: In the morning I took a two-hour walk through the zoo with my son and his friend. Chasing after two two-year-olds is serious exercise! It's also voice work, uhum... My son and his friend generously agreed to have a nap after lunch, so I postponed housework and had a New York City Ballet Workout session in the lounge instead.

General American: Went over all practice sentences once with the idiot tongue. You know, speaking with your tongue lolling out of your mouth. (No, I'm not going to put this on tape, thank you very much!) The went over them again twice, listening to Penny and repeating after her.

Reading out loud & GenAm: Read a news story out loud in a General American accent. To my surprise my GenAm has already improved heaps! Wonder if I can manage it in real scene work yet?

Well, that's it for today. I think, I've made a good start on the whole surprising myself front. Off to do some serious daydreaming for a bit. Hope you're doing the same!

All I want to do

'All I want to do is surprise myself.' That's one of the things you should tell yourself right before going into an audition or in between takes or when going on stage. I think Jack Plotnick wrote about it in his book somewhere. I think it's brilliant advice. If you really truly only want that when you are performing, you give yourself permission to let go, really live the moment and be totally spontaneous.

But I've been thinking, 'All I want to do is surprise myself', doesn't only apply to going into  scene work. It applies to life in general or more specifically to making the most of life. It's a way of giving yourself permission to get rid of bad habits, you know, the ones that are basically self-sabotage. There are the more obvious ones, like the habit of wedging out in front of a truly terrible reality TV show, instead of say learning lines or day dreaming or working on an accent or even just reading a good book. And then there are the more hidden and more sinister habits, like the ones where you tell yourself that you're no good at something; like teaching yourself an accent or writing a screenplay. 

If you live by the motto that all you want to do is surprise yourself, then surely at least once every day your eyes will be open to one of those bad habits and you can say, 'Hey, listen bad habit! Crawl back under the rock you came from. I am not going to do as you please. Not today!' 

I did that today. It felt wonderful. It made life more fun. I think, I'll keep surprising myself, actively and every day. 

'You don't like it. So you say.
Try it and you may, I say.'
Dr Seuss, Green Eggs and Ham (or Green Eggs and Sam, as my son would say.)

Monday 29 August 2011

Working that muscle

Lately, I've been working hard on piecing myself back together. Getting new headshots done and the prospect of a workshop with a really awesome actress and coach at the end of next month certainly helped.

But my acting muscle feels a bit stiff, so I've finally also been more active about what I, despite next to no time or space to myself, can do to get back and stay in shape. There must be something I can do and even if it's only for ten minutes a day!

So, I've been doing a bit of thinking and a lot of reading and found some great ideas for daily exercises that I want to share here and then dive in full steam myself today. It's a bit of a rough list yet, so I'd love to hear what you guys do on a daily basis to help you stay in shape and grow!

Daily Exercises

Voice exercises: Exercises on the floor on your back morning and night, start with a voiceless hissing sound, then a voiced humming sound, and then a voiced sighing sound, the latter two sliding up and down your range. To loosen your yaw and aid your articulation: tongue-twisters!

Cold reading: Work the same text a few times and challenge yourself with finding a new read each time. Get sides from Showfax.com, the library or read the paper out loud!

Read out loud: 10-15 minutes every day.

Emotional content work: When cold reading or reading out loud incorporate emotional content work. Decide on a number  of emotions and then practice cold reading while living into and evoking those emotions, trying to transition smoothly between them.  

Learning lines: Use different techniques on the same text to see how each feels. Try the same technique on a modern and a classic text and see if it works the same way.

Make your piece physical: Say a line; move a body part. Then repeat a few times until you are speaking and moving at the same time. Singing works as well!

Personal work: Practice exercises like having a conversation with your fears, writing a letter to someone telling them that you love/forgive/despise them.

Camera audition skills: To practice focusing on your reading/scene partner pick a specific spot to focus on while doing your cold reading or even while having a phone call! You can also use your own reflection in the bathroom mirror. Use it as your focus spot or to study what you face does, how it changes, if you have any ticks.

Accent days: Pick an accent and speak only in that accent all day, with the exception of important business meetings/phone calls and auditions.

Action: Pick a simple physical action to perform. Pick a physicality. Imagine a high-stakes situation, including relationships, in which you need to finish your action within 5 minutes. Set a timer and don’t stop until it goes off or the action is finished. You can do this while doing housework!

Visualisation - objects: Sit or lie down in a comfortable position, either in a chair or on a mat on the floor. Breathe deeply and feel yourself relax with each exhalation. Imagine a specific object from your home—something you see every day, like your coffee mug, toothbrush or cereal bowl. Recreate the item in detail, sense by sense. First visualize it in as much detail as possible. Then focus on how the object would feel in your hands. Then imagine what it tastes like, what it smells like. Then focus on what you hear when you are holding the object. (If you want to work on sense memory use an object that holds a strong emotional memory or just work on your visualization skills with any object.)

Visualisation - worlds: Learn a short text, then using visioning, free-associating or whatever else works for you, create the world the character lives in. Say the text with your eyes closed, envisioning this world. Then do it again with your eyes open, tracing yourself around the room, seeing what the character sees.

Monday 22 August 2011

The Glee Project Take 2

One of the comments on my first Glee Project post was from Zoje, who said the following:

I have seen the first nine episodes of "The Glee Project" and while I agree with you that reality TV is exploitative in general, this show does serve a purpose. For one thing, all of the kids on this show are immensely talented and this may be the biggest, broadest exposure they ever receive in their lives -- I expect a lot of them will be able to use the experience of being on the show to broaden their careers and future opportunities. Secondly, the "winner" will be written into SEVEN episodes of the show (they state this repeatedly on the show itself). This is such a competitive business - for actors, writers, singers, etc. - and a show like this can really give some people an opportunity who might otherwise have never received any recognition at all. The producers, directors, choreographers from Glee who participate in The Glee Project seem very respectful and sincere - and I wouldn't be surprised if several of the kids end up making appearances on the show next season.

I was obviously wrong to assume that the winner of the Project would win a pittance of role. A seven episode run is a reoccurring role and more than most actors could ever even dream of their entire careers. So, that winning the Project leads to an actually fantastic thing really is amazing for the winner of the show -         SPOILER ALERT        - or winners in this case as the first season was won by two actors.

Zoje is probably also right to assume that some/all of the other finalists of the Project will get some sort of guest appearance on Glee and good on them.

However, neither the winner's prize nor the opportunity for the non-winners justifies, in my eyes, the exploitative nature of this programme nor it's undermining of the actor's safety net that is the casting system. 

Here's the thing, all reality TV shows are for the vast majority of the contestants the 'biggest, broadest exposure they ever receive in their lives.' And that is exactly the issue that I have with these shows. They promise their contestants an 'equal' chance at whatever prize, where in most cases it has been decided from the very beginning who is going to win the show. In some shows, like New Zealand's Next Top Model for instance, it is blatantly obvious who will get eliminated every week. Some shows manage to hide their agenda and be a bit more subtle. However, since the winner is at least to a very large extent decided from the get go, all the eliminated contestants went through the humiliation that is a reality TV show for mostly nothing. 

As we all know, on reality TV no one gets represented the way they actually are, the producers and editors decide that. The eliminated contestants' prize is the 'biggest, broadest exposure they ever receive in their lives' but this exposure neither represents who they truly are nor leads to bigger and better things in the vast majority of cases. Just think how many of the by now surely more than 100 finalists on American Idol can claim to have made a career of the exposure they got courtesy of that show?

I also disagree with the statement that the Glee Project 'can really give some people an opportunity who might otherwise have never received any recognition at all.' Since the prize of the Glee Project is a role on a scripted TV show, the producers might just as well have held the open casting call they held to assemble the cast of the Glee Project and left it at that. The 12 Glee Project contestants would have had the same if not a much fairer chance of getting that seven episode role and the bit parts perhaps now being offered to the eliminees. They certainly would not have had to go through the exploitation, humiliation and degradation that is the Glee Project. 

Perhaps the producers, directors and choreographers on the Glee Project acted 'very respectful and sincere' in other parts of the programme but forcing the contestants to reveal on national and international syndicated TV their biggest secrets while standing around half-naked in public was enough to do my head in. Forcing the contestants to reveal such personal information and fears, surrounding them as being gay and being called fake certainly doesn't do anything for the contestants or their careers. It's simply another exploitative means for the Glee Project's producers to make the show attractive, certainly not something they do because they care about these kids' futures.

Yes, exploitation is a huge part of all reality TV. It's kind of the point of reality TV if we're being honest. The point I am making about the Glee Project is that the Glee producers already had an open casting call for Glee's next season that gave these 12 contestants all the chance they needed to win a role on the scripted show. To make them jump through extra hoops and drag them through the dishonest mud of reality TV, lying to them about everyone having an equal chance at the big role, is unethical - especially in a business were actors work their arses off every day, for years and without pay and the only safety net we have is that if we get a professional audition, we can do our job without exploitation and humiliation, and go home with the same chance as everyone else. 

Sunday 21 August 2011

FAIL: The Glee Project

There was an ad for the Glee Project on the telly just now. For those of you who don't know the show, it's another American Idol spin-off of sorts. The show serves as an extended 'audition' for a 'role' on the FOX show Glee. After a pre-selection process the top 12 contestants go through a series of tests and challenges, and are eliminated one by one until one of them wins the Project and the coveted role on Glee.

Now, at first glance this show isn't much different from formats like American Idol but far from just annoying me and boring me to tears, I feel like the Glee Project is outright unethical - from an actor's perspective at least. 

The kids on the Glee Project vie for a role that is unspecified in size and type. We don't know whether the role is recurring and making them a proper part of the Glee cast or whether it is just a one episode guest starring role or even less than that. Most likely they're going to be a blip on the screen. After all pre-show 'casting' for season two of the Project is already in the pipeline.

Any other TV show and all other roles on Glee go through proper casting processes, specified by union rules. These casting processes certainly do NOT involve humiliating actors in public and on (inter)national television. Unlike the Glee Project, which in the episode just advertised on NZ TV for instance has the contestants 'facing their biggest secrets' by standing around in public, stripped down to shorts and a white tank top with big signs strapped to their fronts and backs, reading things like 'Fake' and 'Gay'.

What the fuck does that have to do with 'casting' or a fair shot at a job? This show certainly doesn't 'serve as an audition'. On the contrary, it is nothing more than actors' exploitation and worst of all exploitation of child/teen actors. As if actors needed any more exploitation than there already is by the way the market functions anyway! 

The only way TV shows, films and commercials get made is that producers and creatives can choose from an enormous pool of actors of all ages and types that they can - with the exception of A-List stars - regard and treat as interchangeable and lets face it disposable. The only reason producing anything for the small and big screen is possible, is because actors agree to be available but unemployed as actors 95% of the time. The only protection we have from this system completing screwing with us is that professional productions adhere to proper casting processes that give us a fair chance at the jobs our agents put us forward for, without public denigration and humiliation adding to the constant rejection we constantly have to deal with in this crazy job of ours.

Along comes Oxygen and rips this one safety net to shreds, using and abusing the hopes and dreams and aspirations of 11 teenage actors. Actors who never had a chance of getting that most likely pittance of a role because the network would have decided before the Glee Project even started what they were looking for for the next season of Glee. It makes an absolute farce of what should have been a proper, non-humiliating open casting process, where young actors would have been treated correctly, fairly and with respect.

If this is a sign of the times, hold on to your sides and your sanity dear fellow actors because casting is not only going to get harder but also uglier and more exploitative. Lets hope that a format like the Glee Project can only be conceived within the confines of a musical show like Glee. 

I am fully prepared to put on a song and dance for a job on TV or in film but I do reserve my right to be treated fairly, respectfully and work hard for these jobs within the proper casting processes. It's all I've got.

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Something to be proud of

This morning, I went to get a take-away coffee and ran into an actor friend of my unhusband's and mine, who was enjoying a scrumptious looking breakfast at the same café. Said friend happens to have earned himself a major part on a certain, very big and very famous feature film currently being shot here in Wellington.

New Zealand film fans are enormously proud and justifiably so that not only are the majority of crew on The Hobbit New Zealanders but that a great number of Kiwi actors have earned big parts in the film(s). It's a remarkable feat as it is that Wingnut/3 Foot 7 and the creative and business geniuses behind it have succeeded for a second time in bringing such a prestigious and expensive film to this part of the world. This is especially so after all the drama surrounding the project through most of last year. What is even more remarkable though is that this time around and despite last year's drama, the number of kiwi actors with major speaking parts is so very high! With six of the 14 dwarves played by Kiwi actors and various others rumoured and confirmed in smaller speaking parts before all casting has concluded, The Hobbit already exceeds - and by far -  what New Zealand actors had ever dared to hope for.

So, no wonder that we are proud that not only is The Hobbit being filmed in this country and not only does it provide jobs and amazing experiences for our large pool of extremely talented and hard-working creatives and crew behind the camera, but that it also shows off our acting talent (which granted is exclusively male so far but still). No wonder that Kiwi film fans are by and large happy and very proud.

I must say though that I had a bit of a weird feeling at times sitting there with my friend. No one came up to him while I was there at least, nor did I see people whispering or pointing but there was a definite air of recognition. I don't even know if my friend realised it. After all, this is new to him too and it has taken him 20 or so years to get to this point. But I kept seeing people shooting me glances, knowingly, approvingly, almost conspiratorially. 

I'm going to make myself feel really special here by assuming that they were also thinking, 'Oooh, she must be an actress in the films as well, oooh...' Well, they got the first part right, and they were definitely thinking, 'We know who you're talking to. It's great, innit? He's on The Hobbit and he's one of us!'

Something to be proud of.

Thursday 21 July 2011

Chin up! That's the spirit!

Chin up! Keep on trucking! Think positive! Let your light shine! Don't give up! Just do it! Keep believing! Get'em Tiger! Courage! Patience!

That's the spirit, right?!

Feels more like 'Fuck you!' today, more like Self-preservation! Keep your sanity! Don't lash out! Fucking breathe!

Wednesday 20 July 2011

Mid-2011 recap

Change agents - check

Possible auditions to apply for: 5

Auditions applied for: 5

Auditions: 3

Jobs: 1 (without audition)

Time spent on professional development: 1%

Time spent on child-rearing, housework and non-creative paid work: 99%

Going stir-crazy: check


Tuesday 12 July 2011

Crisis of faith

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about how women are portrayed on stage and on screen. To say that the portrayal of women leaves a lot to be desired is a big understatement.

More often than not women are the exception among a cast of many men. Yes, there are films with a lot of female characters but name me one and I will name you twenty that fall into the one-Smurfette-among-a-nation-of-Smurfs category. In fact, if anthropologists from another world were to watch what we put on screen, big and small, and on stage they would assume that planet earth's human population is made up of roughly 10% women and 90% men. Anyone suggesting that women are quantitatively extremely under-represented on stage and screen is seriously delusional, and so are the people who believe it's economically sound to leave the interests of 50% of the world's population and the enormous market they represent largely untapped. I have said it before, go apply the Bechdel test (at least two women, who talk to each other, about something besides a man)!

You're gonna tell me now that things are changing.

At the box office we've had smash hits with big female casts in Sex in the City 1&2, Mama Mia and most recently Bridesmaids. The stigma of 'women's entertainment' being entirely unprofitable might be slowly rubbing off but just because you put more women in films doesn't really mean we have achieved anything at all.

That's because also more often than not, female characters are extremely stereotyped and/or lack any resemblance of fully-realised characters. We are 'the whore', 'the virgin', 'the teacher', 'the carer'. Female characters are sickeningly often (mis-)constructed around their sexuality. In those many many cases the only character trait is that of either being 'pure' or of being a 'sexual deviant/demon'. The only thing the creators of these characters have to say about women is that our sexuality is something dangerous we use to get what we want. Usually, what these evil demon seductresses 'want' isn't even something that is explained to the viewer but simply exists to 'screw over' the male protagonist, so he can overcome and ultimately stand victorious. Because of this ancient trope of female sexuality as something dangerous the other archetype of female characters is that of 'the virgin'. These virtuous characters are the teachers, guides, healers and mothers that are inherently good because they are entirely a-sexual and therefore 'safe'. These 'virgins' character traits are reduced to the 'female' traits of caring and nurturing, and exist for the singular purpose of guiding the male protagonist through his physical and/or inner journey.

Obviously there are quite a few other stereotypes that are used to portray female characters ('the needy girlfriend/mother', 'the tomboy/she-man', 'the bimbo'...) and they are used  pervasively whether the character is minor, supporting or a lead. And just because a film or tv show passes the Bechdel test doesn't mean it's female characters are written as true whole human beings. Most female characters are written as stereotypes that are more often than not negative and therefore painting a picture of femaleness as something bad, annoying, dangerous, less worthy and/or as something that merely exists to assist and nurture.

Are there stereotypes for male characters? Of course there are and aplenty! But if you add the overwhelming amount of badly written stereotyped female characters to the fact that female characters make up a minuscule amount of characters on stage and screen, you get just how bad the picture is for women in visual story-telling. And since TV and film at least are everywhere, so are their negative messages about women and about what constitutes 'femaleness'.

We grow up with these messages and many of us eventually start to believe them. We certainly have come to see the under- and misrepresentation of women in film, tv and on stage as the norm. Most of us don't question the status quo. We're just not that bothered. After all we don't go to the movies to question and bother, we go to be entertained. We switch on the TV to switch off. We go to the theatre for the magic and the big moments.

We are extremely well conditioned to be entertained almost no matter what crap we are fed. I am absolutely guilty of not thinking when I watch a story unfold on screen or on stage. I watch with my heart and my guts and my senses. My intellect takes the back seat. That's the one thing I love most about visual story-telling, that I can just let it take me on a journey, that I don't have to steer.

Then came the year that I hardly went to the movies at all; not because I was a student and constantly broke but because I was sick to the death of having the choice only between romantic comedies and films with (almost) all male cast.

Yet, I didn't really start questioning what is going on with women on screen and on stage until after I realised that I wanted to be an actress. As an actress, it comes with the job description to notice the gendered availability of roles and obviously that's always ticked me off. I want to work after all!

But over the last few months I also started thinking about the quality of those few female characters. The more I thought about it, the more I spiralled into an utter crisis of faith. One of the reasons I am an actress is because I am so utterly intrigued by living other lives, being other people, other women.

But what the hell do I want to be an actress for if the only women I get to play are nothing but  awful stereotypes and plot devises?! So, here I am, at a cross-roads.

I can reject the whole industry and not be an actress, which  I fleetingly considered a few times. But that would only make me feel like I have even less of a voice and I would be going back to a place of repressing my desires and passions, and that's just not a place I want to go back to.

Or I can do my damnedest to encourage writers to write more true and whole female characters and to  really think about what they say about half the world's population when they take to their pens  And I can care for those characters that I will hopefully get to play, as stereotyped as they may be and as much as they may lack any resemblance of true and whole human beings. I can create their back-stories and I can create a futures. I can create their belief systems, their hopes and aspirations, their positive traits and their flaws. To break them of their boxes and make them real whole women, that's gonna be my responsibility - even if they will only get to live in my head.

And I can write about women in film here and maybe get you think about women in film a little more than you would otherwise.

Wednesday 29 June 2011

Pixar and girls in movies

I love Pixar. Always have, always will. Finding Nemo, Toy Story and Cars are some of my favourite films ever. In fact, wonder boy loves especially the latter two (now five, really) so much that our household, actually make that the whole family, has a more than slight obsession with these films and their characters.

Speaking of characters, what bugs me about Pixar films (and the film industry as a whole) is the lack of  (fully realised) female characters. Girls and women alike do not find adequate representation on screen in either quantity or quality. Girls and women on screen are most often stereotyped and/or only serve the purpose of helping the male protagonist in his journey throughout the film.*

Pixar movies are not free of that fault. Just think of Sally, in Cars, who's only purpose it is to be Lightning McQueen's love interest and the one showing him that he needs to slow down to get an appreciation for life. All the other female Cars characters, who are by FAR outnumbered by male characters in any case, are really only side notes. Holly Shiftwell in Cars 2, while kind of cool because she can fly, doesn't have any storyline or character development of her own and again is really only there as Mater's love-interest. All the really cool stuff is reserved for the boys and the girls are nothing more than token minorities and teacher-therapists.

There are no noteworthy female characters in Up, one story-less female in Ratatouille and the two female characters in Monsters Inc are the stereotypes of the whingy, needy girlfriend and the ugly, manlyish boss lady.

Finding Nemo has Dory, the loveable side-kick with memory problems. Don't get me wrong, Dory is funny and I can't help but love her but again, she has no story of her own. We don't even know why she has memory problems, and her disability only exists for laughs and not to deal with Dory's own story and struggles. She remains no more than a side-kick and guide - both in terms of physical direction through her capability to read and to speak 'Whale', and in terms of challenging Marlin's attitude and beliefs, so he can experience change and growth.

A Bug's Life has three female characters amongst a sea of male characters: Atta, Dot and the ant-queen. Not much to say about the ant queen, except that at least it's biologically correct. Unlike Jerry Seinfeld's Bee Movie, which completely changed the gender characteristics of an entire species just so the main characters could all be boys. Mind you there's enough of that in A Bug's Life (and Disney's Ants) as well! Then there's Dot, the little sister-sidekick character, who's only function, aside from providing the cute-factor, is to get the hero back onto his hero track and to get rescued. Atta, is another love-interest character, who doesn't really do much more than to make the hero's life harder and through her disbelieving in him forces him to come into his own.

Then there are the Incredibles, who have more female characters than any other Pixar film both in terms of the actual number and in relation to the number of male characters. However, there's not much good to say about the characterisation of those female characters. There's not much to say at all about the babysitter, she's basically an animated stereotype of her 'profession'. Edna is the mad genius designer of superhero suits, a direct reference to Hollywood costume designer Edith Head by the way. She's super cool, a technical genius and takes no crap. She is also so de-feminised that I would not have recognised her as a woman, had it not been for her name. She's even voiced by a man. Mirage is the sexy, seductive villain (with a change of heart), basically the bad Bond-girl type of the film, and an extremely overused stereotype of a 'female' villain. 

Then there is Helen, the mom, whose superpower as Elastigirl is the ability to stretch very far and very thin and make her body into all sorts of useful shape (a parachute, a boat, a slingshot). As the mom, again her gender roles are manifest in a very stereotypical happy home-maker manner. After all, she's the one who is content with just being a housewife after all superheros are forced into secrecy. It is her husband who hates being 'normal'. While the way she uses her super-powers are really fantastic and fun, the powers themselves are stereotyped as well. All females are flexible (in the wider sense) you know, and it's really handy being thin, too. The only cool thing about Mrs Incredible is that she's an excellent spy and jet pilot. Mind you, the film's writers didn't even let her land the plane, it just had to crash.

Lastly, there is teenage daughter Violet, who is a 'typical' teenager, wants to blend in with normal people, not stand out and really wants a boyfriend. Her super-powers are invisibility and the creation of force fields. Oh, come on already! How many more times do we have to suffer a female character that tells us to blend in, not stand out, not make any trouble - that it is good to be (essentially or actually) invisible?! I wonder if Pixar added the force field power (which is actually really awesome) just so that Violet wouldn't be entirely annoying and badly stereotyped? On any account, they have failed. She's still annoying the heck out of me. Not because of who she is, mind, but because of what she shows her audience a 'teenage girl' to be like. That's what her audience is asked to identify with. Like her mother, who is not allowed to dislike domesticity or to have the power of being super strong because that 'obviously' had to be reserved for her husband, Violet is not allowed to be a strong (mentally and physically) young woman who doesn't mind sticking out and who's not obsessed with boys. 

In Toy Story 1&2 there are Bo Peep, Mrs Potato Head and Andy's mom (who does not even have a name), who are really only there, with no own story or character development whatsoever.  Jessie in Toy Story 2 is a fully realised character with her own back story, her own troubles, realisations, and developments. I love that about her! A girl character in a movie who is more than just a talking prop. What I don't like about her is that she has no active driving force at all to the story development. It is her back story that drives Woody to make the decision that changes the direction of the story but Jessie doesn't take any action to change the story herself. Instead of rescuing herself from her sad imprisoned situation, she needs a male character to help her out. She's essentially the Damsel in distress. Also all of the Toys who go to the rescue of Woody are male characters. 

In Toy Story 3 Jessie is the one who convinces the toys to go to Sunnyside day care centre to escape getting binned. She creates the starting point of the whole prison escape adventure but that's as far as her story-driving powers go. For the rest of the film she is nothing but Buzz Lightyear's love interest. Toy Story 3 also has Barbie,  Mrs Potato Head, Bonnie, Trixie and Dolly. The latter two characters' purpose is to help Woody on his way and Bonnie is the character that is needed to provide the toys with a new home and the character of Andy the chance to grow up and let go. I do think it's really neat that the toy's new owner is a little girl though and I love the way she plays with them. Of the gang of toy escapees there are only two females and only Barbie takes any kind of initiative to help in the escape. However, she does so by essentially seducing (in a very PG way) Ken into trusting her and then betraying that trust. That's a very stereotypical way of representing a female character. It is the very light version of what's called the 'evil demon seductress'. For some unexplained and unexplainable reason you never see male character use their seductive prowess (PG or XXX) to get their way. It is only ever female characters and as Toy Story 3 and The Incredibles, with with Mirage, prove this stereotype is even used in kids movies!

So, at the end of the day, female characters in Pixar movies are completely under-represented and have no stories, character developments or driving force of their own. Where they do, their stories, developments and driving force are subservient to the male characters stories and needs, and where they don't, Pixar's female characters aren't even fully realised characters at all. Sadly, all this is true across the board, whether we're talking about animated or real action films, shorts or features, TV, books or video games. Of course there are notable exceptions, there always are notable exceptions to the rule.

This all probably makes me sound like I hate Pixar's guts. Believe me I don't! As I said at the start, I love (most of) Pixar's films. I have been taught and gotten used to identifying with both female and male characters. Through what I see on TV and in films, what I have read in books and experienced in computer games, I have been conditioned to see it as the norm that the overwhelming majority of fictional (and fictionalised historical) characters are male. I can watch films that tell boy's and men's stories, I can even love them. But it doesn't mean that I have to be content with and not resent the fact that girl's and women's stories have always been and still remain largely untold. That our stories are marginalised and that we are constantly told our stories aren't worth telling (as much as boys' and men's stories are) because  of what exactly? Because our stories would not yield as much profit for the companies that produce and publish them?

Tthe reason for girls' and women's stories being perceived as 'risky investments' is not because our stories are less worthy of being told, or are less exciting, important, amazing or challenging. The reason for our stories to remain marginalised lies in something so sad and so simple as this: While girls are encouraged to identify with both female and male characters, boys are actively discouraged from identifying with them. If little Lottie came home to her parents and said, 'Mummy, daddy, Buzz Lightyear is the most amazing toy in the whole wide world!' what would they say? And if little Larry came home and said the same thing about Jessie or Barbie or Mrs Potato-Head, what would they say? As long as boys and men are discouraged to identify with or at least take an interest in female characters, in their stories, opinions, struggles and successes, our stories will remain largely untold.

Until production companies, publishers and games producers start taking a leap of faith and just dig into the potential of 'female' stories, this conditioning of boys only identifying with boys will not change. In the end, the use and characterisation of females in Pixar's films is only symptomatic of the condition and the conditioning.

That's why I relish every movie that comes along telling a girl's or a women's story. That's why  I cannot wait for Pixar's new movie in the works Brave. That's why I hope to whatever higher powers may exist that this film will be amazing and it's female lead will be a brave, non-stereotypical girl who is cool and awesome and wonderful because she is who she is, not because and not despite being a girl. And I hope they market the hell out of it.

Go on Pixar, I dare ya!

*I'm leaving WALL-E out on purpose because it's been way too long since I've seen it and I want to watch it again before I say anything about E.V.E. In the meantime there is this.

Tuesday 21 June 2011

My friend's on the telly

Taking inspiration from my blogger friend Lira over at the Struggling Actress today. She has just shared the success stories of a few actors she knows. And I think that's a great thing, sharing SUCCESS STORIES. It makes me believe that one day this will be me and that after that day there will be even bigger and better things to come. These things are possible for my friends and classmates, they are possible for actors from my own home town. These things are possible for you and they are possible for me. You just have to keep believing, and pushing, and doing what you can. Like every dream it starts in your head and even if you feel like you have no control over making your dream a reality, what you can control is how you think about it, how you feel about it. So, instead of wallowing in your self-pity because you're stuck and instead of feeling envious of other people's successes, celebrate them and create a mind-set of POSSIBILITY. Watch your friends and classmate succeed and choose to be MOTIVATED by them; choose to let them inspire you to keep DREAMING.

This is my friend Richard. He's hilarious, hard-working and has had a lot of work recently. Congratulations, Richard!

Wednesday 15 June 2011

V48Hours and God Bless America

We made a film. We had 48 Hours. We won BEST SONG!

Team Name: Seriously Tanked

This film was made as part of the 2011 V48 Hour Film Festival in Wellington, New Zealand.

The required elements were as follows:

Genre: Musical or Dance
Prop: A piece of bent wire.
Character: Bobby Young (an Ex-Bully)
Line: "What have you got?"
Technical: Freeze frame ending


Monday 30 May 2011

Lovely shade of green

There's a reason why I haven't been blogging for a while.

The other day I had a discussion with a few friends about the difference between envy and jealousy. I think the general idea that we agreed upon was that envy was the more destructive feeling of the two. Being jealous is basically saying, 'You're so awesome, I wish I was like you!'

That's not necessarily a bad thing. It might even encourage you to do better, to work harder, to dream bigger.

But envy is different. Envy is saying 'You're so awesome, I wish I was like you! I am so so jealous that I don't want you to be who you are. I don't want you to be awesome. Actually, you're not awesome, you're shit!'

I'm pretty sure even the most mild-tempered of us have the occasional bout of envy, especially in a business were being 'successful' is so hard to achieve. When I say 'successful', I don't just mean the financial success of being a full-time working, potentially even famous, critically acclaimed actor or actress. I'm talking especially about the kind of success that comes in this business from letting go of the fears of scarcity and rejection, and by being and staying in the business of acting/being creative, whether or not this makes us financially successful. I mean the success that stems from creating your own work and opportunities, from being happy because we allow ourselves to be creative without the need for anyone from the outside (CDs, producers, directors...) to give us cause and opportunity.

We all know how hard it is to be either or both kinds of successful, creatively and financially. But if we manage to actually be content with being creatively successful, we can let go of the fears of scarcity and rejection, and of the nagging need to also be financially successful. But we also know how hard that process is!

And here's the thing, it is so much easier to feel angry that that actress just keeps booking EVERYTHING, and even angrier about that actor who has just started out and just keeps booking things because he is so DAMN good looking. It's so much easier to be jealous and even easier to be envious, than to examine our own lives and possibilities, and figure out a way to be creatively happy and successful if not financially so.

I have been feeling very jealous lately. No, actually that wouldn't be so bad. It might even help shatter this constant feeling of paralysis. But no, I'm not jealous, I am envious! I know I am wrong but getting out of this funk currently seems like an impossibility. Try as I might to make myself creatively happy, life currently gets in the way every single time. It makes me angry, it scares me, and that paralysing envy finds a wide open door to my heart and mind. Worst of all, on those opportunities were creative fulfilment is offered from outside myself I am not even capable of truly enjoying it. I have chronic FOMO and I wouldn't be surprised if I woke up tomorrow to a 'lovely' green-tinted reflection of myself staring back at me in the mirror.

I am acutely aware that a lot of this is happening in my head and that my awful energy is not helping things improve.  I also know that I need to stick up for myself and for what I need more often and more vehemently. But man it is hard!

There you have it. I am not exactly blogger material at the moment.

Friday 22 April 2011

Can you believe it?

Can you believe it? I have actually been kinda busy with acting stuff. You know, for someone at a certain point in their career and living in Wellington, NZ.

I am still reeling from the work and the fun and the frankly amazing feedback I got at a Camera and Audition Workshop taught by Peter Feeney the weekend before last. Apparently, I am much better than I have given myself credit for. I know, shameless self-promotion...

It was fantastic to get together with other actors and just work our arses off for two days. It's such an inspiration to watch other actors work and grow. I got to work with the amazing Liz Kirkman and watch my beautiful friend Jess Manins produce fantastic work! At the end of the weekend my creative batteries had been recharged and I felt incredibly lucky.

Since the workshop I've had a couple of auditions, have self-submitted to a couple more shortfilm projects and my Easter present was that my new agency profile went up. I know, it is time for new headshots but I think that will unfortunately have to wait until my bank balance has recovered a little.

I have two more auditions coming up next week so besides enjoying a four day weekend hanging out with my two boys, I will spend some time working on scripts. Yay, actor work!!!

And, not acting related but best of all, by a long shot: My wonderful, beautiful, amazing niece has made me a first-time great-aunty. Welcome to the world Violet! May you be blessed with love and luck and a long, wonderful life!

<3 <3 <3

Wednesday 6 April 2011

If you don't have a plan, you don't have a clue

You know what they say about best laid plans. But what if you want to be a film maker and you don't have one at all? Well, then you end up with disaster zones like the one mentioned half-way down this post.

The team producing the webseries I auditioned for today really seem to have it together. After the aforementioned bad experience last year, this time around I had done my homework before the audition and done some googling. It turned out that a friend of mine had worked on another webseries with these guys a few years back and he told me that his experience had been nothing but positive.

I also came to the audition prepared with a couple of questions and this is what I found out. The team has an absolute shoestring budget but they have a well-thought out plan for all stages of production. They have written the first three episodes, assembled their team, and have decided on their locations - all of which are within 5 minutes walking distance from their base location. They have thoroughly thought about and decided on a shooting plan for the series - schedule to be determined once casting is completed of course. They know that they need their post-production to be minimal for a cheap, fast but high-quality turnaround, and have planned accordingly. They have a plan for distributing the series and potentially even get funding for future episodes.

What I also like about these guys is that while shooting the series they want to inspire others to get off their bums and get shooting themselves. So, the entire making-of process will be documented online, so people can see that when you have a good head on your shoulders and a good plan you can be a film-maker on a next to nothing budget. Awesomeness!

So, good luck to them and good luck to me too, aye!

First audition of the year! UPDATED

I have an audition for a webseries later today. It's my first audition this year and I am really excited! Plus if I get the part, I will be playing a god. That's right.

It'll be really nice for a change to be all powerful and actually have control over my, well her, life ^_^


I think I nailed it! The director/producer was very happy with the first take, saying that he loved my take on the character and that it was different to what the other actresses before me had done (Strike!). He gave me redirection for a second take and said that he was happy with both takes. I offered to give him another interpretation and he liked that one as well.

I am terrible at judging how well auditions go, maybe you're not meant to be good at that anyway. It's all about doing your job and then letting go. That said, I'm very happy with what I did and I think that's all I can ask for - beside getting cast that is...

Monday 28 March 2011

Agency issues

So, let me explain my agency issues. When I first started looking for an agent I had the choice between established Wellington agents and Auckland agents with Wellington offices or even just a Wellington division on their books. 

I didn't have a whole lot of confidence in my marketability back then and so I thought seeking an established local agent, even if I got on their books, meant that their would be many trained and experienced actresses in my age group who would get audition slots over me every time. No chance for an audition, might not have an agent in the first place, was my thinking.

I had similar issues with the Auckland agencies with the added trouble that it would be even harder to build a relationship with them, being half a country apart and all.

Enter Agency X, the agent I eventually signed with. They were Auckland based but just opening a Wellington branch. They were looking for local talent to add to their books and the Wellington booker worked really hard and was lovely. When I met with the booker and she was excited and informative and I was, quite frankly, clueless. I felt that the booker and I vibed really well and she made me feel great about coming to Agency X. I was also under the impression that she'd be the person that would send me out for auditions and so didn't have many reservations about the actual agent being up in Auckland.

So I signed.

I struggled but found myself auditions and some unpaid work. I worked hard in my classes and re-learned to speak a general American accent. And I kept in touch, sent updates, tried to stay positive and proactive, and show the agency my commitment and drive. It seems I have faild.

In in the past year, I had a grand total of three audition through the agency and one paid background extra job. Even though it was my understanding that they put me on their books as an actor, on their website I am listed only as 'talent' and (because I had voice lessons when I was like 16, I guess) 'singer'. I repeatedly asked the agency to change this obvious mistake... to no avail.

One year later, Agency X still doesn't have an actual office in Wellington, my actual booker sits in Auckland and is single-handedly juggling several divisions within the agency (actors, dancers, singers and creatives). There is the agent as well of course but I have never once had any communication with the agent, except following some of my updates and one group meeting when the agent came down to Wellington. I started feeling more and more uneasy and the regular emails that I received from Auckland were not making me feel any better. 90% of them were for Auckland actors and the rest of them notified me of Wellington workshops and the like that I had already found out about myself, sometimes up to a couple of weeks prior.
I was loosing all trust in my representation. So, a while ago I made up my mind that I at least needed to find out if there was anyone out there who was actually excited about representing me, someone who believed in my potential.

About two months ago I submitted my CV to three agents (for starters). One of them didn't respond despite follow-ups and another gave me no right away. Fair enough. The one agent left was actually my number one choice and an agent I knew I did not have a chance in hell to sign with. The agency is based in Auckland but because I had heard so many great things about them, they were top of my list. nonetheless. But the agent replied saying that I had a very interesting CV, that she would love to hear more about me and asked did I have a reel. I about had a heart attack, I was so flattered and excited.

Over the past two months I have had regular email correspondence with the agent. Her advice has been priceless and I am really very grateful. She said right off that she doesn't take new Wellington talent but she'd be happy to view my work if I wanted to shoot a couple of scenes. She even gave me advice on what type of scripts to choose and offered to sent some scripts through should I need them. How awesomely generous is that?! I had already chosen a scene from Crash and a lighter, more commercial one minute play. After a whirlwind of a February, I finally got around to shooting my scenes and sent them off.

The bad news is she didn't sign me. Here is what she had to say though:

'Thanks very much for all the effort you have gone to. After viewing the tapes I must recommend that you speak to [Agency A] in Wgtn and see if they can act as agent and mentor to you over the next few years.

I don't feel that [my agency] is the right agent at this point in your career and it would disadvantage you when you need to be building up your resume and working alongside an agent who is 'on the ground' in Wgtn.

Although I do sometimes take local actors on board most of them are Toi Whakaari graduates or in a younger or older age bracket.

If you look at the women in your age group that are already represented by [my agency] you'll see my problem. Too many listed for the amount of work in the market place and all of them would audition for the same work.

All the best of luck to you. If you would like me to forward these files along with your photos and resume I'm happy to introduce you to [Agent A].'

Despite knowing in my heart of hearts that I didn't stand a chance in the first place, I must admit that I was disappointed. The generousness that the agent had shown me with her time, advice, and encouragement just made me want her to be my agent really really badly.

On second thought (or second read) however, I realised that not only was she absolutely right but she did believe in my potential enough to want to recommend me to the best agency in Wellington. Pretty unreal!

That agent is actually my partner's agent and because I knew them personally, they were the first agency I ever talked to. Back then, I didn't stand a chance to get signed but had I worked hard enough over the past two years to deserve a chance now? I told the Auckland agent that I would love her endorsement and she got in touch with Agency A. When I sent her a thank you note, I got an email back saying Agent A

'was genuinely excited about speaking to you so I'm really pleased that you will be with someone who values you. Hard to find an agent these days who actually gives a toss about their actors and [Agent A] is a gem.'

A week later I met with Agent A and after ten minutes of small talk, I got sent home with two copies of a contract to look over. Wow!

I am under no illusion that auditions are still going to be few and far in between. I am hoping it'll be better though and that my new agent believes enough in me to value, support and reward the progress that I myself make happen over the next few years. And when I do get work, I will have an agent who I trust to negotiate hard for me.

So, here's to working hard, having gumption and stickability, and being with an agent who gives a toss!

Fingers crossed.

Thursday 10 March 2011

The slow and winding road

I know I have been a very bad blogger this year. It's not that I don't want to blog but when there is literally nothing happing in my actor life, I just don't have that much to say. This is a blog about an actor's journey after all.

I did get to go on a wonderful and much needed short trip with my mum, who I see about once a year since she lives about as far away as it gets. I got to visit wonderboy's other grandparents and got to explore this wonderful country with two of my favourite people in the entire world. Escaping the domesticity, Wellington and the daily grind was bliss!

Otherwise, the past two months have been tough and slow and unnerving and mind-numbingly paralysing as far as being an actor is concerned.
I have been tied down by family and work commitments, acting and/or other classes are so not in the budget this year (not that I had time for them anyway), the audition circuit has been super slow (=non-existent) and there has been nothing new from my agency either. Off late I have not even had the time to do anything for my acting career that doesn't involve money because, well, the day's only got 24 hours.

To say that I have been frustrated and on the brink of giving up altogether is an understatement. But you know what, giving up because life gets in the way of what you want is an entirely stupid idea. Maybe all this is about testing my patience and my willingness to persevere.

So, here I am, still not sure what to do to make more time to create an acting future for myself but at least I don't feel like I am dragging three tons of dead weight with me any more because yesterday I got to do some acting! For the first time this year I have said to hell with the budget and to hell with getting other things done, I need to ACT. So, yesterday I finally enlisted the help of my amazing friend and teacher Barbara and filmed those audition scenes I have been meaning to film since about my last acting-related blog post. 

It felt simply glorious!

Today, I edited the videos and sent them off to an agent who has offered to take a look at my work and provide some feedback and guidance. It's a small step but it's a step.

So, sometimes when you feel like life is getting too much and it royally sucks that you're not getting your way even a little bit, you have got to claw your way back into control. Even if it is just for an hour on a Thursday afternoon. Because for that hour nothing else matters but that you are there, in the moment, working and doing what you love. And there it is, something to be grateful for, something to remind you off all the other things in your life that you love and appreciate and should really thank the universe for every day.

My friend said something very wise to me yesterday. Even when you feel powerless to change the current circumstances of your life, you at least have the power to stop feeling shit about it. So, here's what I'm gonna do, today is a new day and I'm going to stop feeling bad about all the things that I can't control. I shall have faith that I am where I am for a reason, that the universe is my infinite supply, that wonderful things will happen under the grace of the universe and that I will recognise and appreciate even the smallest of them.

It's a slow and winding road, so kia kaha everyone!