November 28, 2011

Sometimes You Get Gut Punched

I've been meaning to tell you all about this experience for a couple of months now. Back in August, I booked a day player role for a feature film called 'Hello, I Must Be Going...' starring Melanie Lynskey (Two and a Half Men). I had about 3-4 lines in the film playing a restaurant hostess that flirts with Melanie's ex-husband as they walk into the restaurant where I work.

The scene was filmed in Connecticut so I had to travel there by train the day before and the producers put me and the other actors up at a hotel. The morning of the shoot, we were all driven to set and once I got there, I immediately had feelings of trepidation. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, I just had a nagging feeling that something bad was going to happen. I pushed the feelings aside because I wanted to have a good shoot and I was still very excited about playing this part. I had just filmed 'What Maisie Knew' (the scene with Alexander Skarsgard) a couple of weeks before and I was still riding that wave of happiness at booking two big features back to back.

I went to hair and makeup and waited to be called to set. Production was behind schedule so we got started a couple of hours late probably around 10AM. The scene was seemingly pretty simple, Melanie's character walks into the restaurant with her ex-husband played by Dan Futterman (A Mighty Heart), he and I have a little inside joke/flirtation, and then I walk them to their table and give him a flirty smile as I walk away. After that, the two of them (the two exes) have a long conversation that results in her walking out on him. Simple.

So, the director decides to shoot the second half of the scene first. This is where I walk them to the table...etc. However, their conversation is well over 5 minutes long. Shooting me walking them to the table, handing them menus and the long conversation takes a few hours, allowing the director to shoot the wide shots, two shots, and Dan's closeups. Then we broke for lunch.

While eating, this is when that nagging feeling comes back. I overhear the director saying how they have to be out of the restaurant by 4PM. It's after 1PM and we have not shot Melanie's closeups yet. The set also needs to be completely changed around. Once lunch is finished, the crew gets to work changing the set in order to shoot Melanie's closeups. Once they start filming her, this takes another couple of hours. The director is running the scene from start to finish for every single take. There were many takes where either Melanie or Dan flub lines and the entire take needs to be scrapped, even if it's almost finished. Keeping in mind, each take lasts roughly 7 minutes. All in all, the second half of the scene probably ran close to 30 takes.

When the second half is finally finished, the crew begins to strike the set. At this point, the restaurant workers have started to arrive and are preparing to open the restaurant for business. I had known for sure around 2:30PM that my lines would not be filmed but the director, Todd Louiso, finally confirms it once the scene wraps. He obviously needed to shoot the second half first because it was the most important part of the scene and I understood that. He was also very apologetic and seemed genuinely sorry that I would not get to fully play my role. Despite the apology, I was bitterly disappointed and very angry. I could barely contain my tears long enough to walk away and call my manager. Once I got him on the phone, I broke down. He explained to me that I was still booked and going to be billed as a principal actor, that I would still get paid the principal rate. But that didn't matter to me.

It was heartbreaking. As an actor, you spend so much money on classes/headshots/clothes/etc., you go on audition after audition, facing rejection after rejection. But, you keep getting up and going to the next one because you know that your time is going to come. Then, you finally book that job, the job that will give you perfect footage for your reel, look great on your resume, and give you that emotional boost to keep going. You sign your principal contract. You even get on set, get your hair and makeup done, get dressed, and spend the whole day doing your job, waiting for your little moment to shine.

And then the rug gets pulled out from under you. To work so hard, to be that close, to literally be on set and then have the opportunity taken away, through no fault of your own, is infuriating. 

I remember having to pull myself together long enough to say thank you and goodbye to the director and producers. I thanked them for the opportunity and I remained as professional as I could under the circumstances. Even Melanie seemed really sad that I didn't get to do my part and she also apologized and gave me a big hug before I was taken back to the train station. I spent the hour and a half train ride home trying not to cry. But when I got home, I cried for two days every time I thought about it, or talked about it. I kept getting angry. I was angry at the lack of time that resulted in my part getting cut. But I was even more angry at the fact that a role that was so important to me, wasn't really important at all. That was the worst feeling, knowing that I didn't matter, that I was expendable.

I suppose you could call it a humbling experience....and being humbled pissed me off too (haha!) because I feel that I have a deep appreciation for everything that I get out of this business. I don't take anything for granted and I work very hard. I kept trying to figure out the lesson in this situation because I didn't understand what I was supposed to be learning.

The biggest thing that I have learned from this is that no matter how close you get, how hard you work, or how much you may think you deserve something, things don't always work out and you have to be able to bounce back quickly. It's okay to feel upset or sad, but you can't let it stop you from moving forward. I've also learned not to put too much stake into really small roles that aren't integral to the story because, most of the time, if there is a lack of time/funds, that will be the first part to get scrapped or end up on the cutting room floor. I look at these parts as necessary for establishing relationships with casting directors, building a resume, and building reel. Once you do enough of them, you'll get the chance to start auditioning for parts that really mean something to the story and allow you to be more creative as a performer.

November 14, 2011

Progress Report

This past month has been VERY busy for me and while I have a couple of awesome bookings, my booking ratio wasn't that high this month.

1. Most excitingly, I shot a co-star role on the TV drama 'The 2-2'. This show is being executive produced by Robert DeNiro and stars Leelee Sobieski. It's a cop drama centering around a group of young rookies. In fact, I think the original title of the show was 'Rookies'.

2. Had a general meeting/audition with a casting exec at BET. She's prepping for a slew of new tv pilots that BET will be producing next year and wants to see what kind of talent NYC has to offer. The meeting was awesome and she had nothing but great things to say about me. She was gushing over my headshots and told me that my performances were very natural and that I have a very bright future ahead of me. Hopefully I'll be auditioning for some series regular roles for her in the next few months. 

3. I took a 4 week improv class at The PIT (People's Improv Theater) and had A BLAST!! It was so much fun and really liberating. I was scared shitless at first but I learned quickly to just let loose and go balls to the wall. It's already helped me in my auditions, especially in terms of thinking on my feet and being more courageous with my choices. I'm currently researching classes at UCB (Upright Citizens Brigade) and may take one with a couple of my friends.

4. Auditioned for a lead role in a Hallmark Channel movie, no dice. That was a bummer because the story was pretty awesome. I also auditioned for a lead role in a SAG low-budget feature. No dice there, either.

5. I have had a handful of commercial and voice over auditions. I had a callback for one of the commercials today and they are currently holding me for ten days. I'm never optimistic about VO auditions because in two years, I have never booked a single one. I mean, NOT A SINGLE ONE!

6. I shot a print ad for Always feminine products, and while it was a long grueling shoot, the pay rate is very high and kept a smile on my face.

7. I re-signed with Buchwald, this time for 3 years. 

8. Oh, and I had my first guest star role audition for a show that will not be named because it's pretty embarrassing. I didn't get it, but it was exciting to move up the TV audition ladder. 

----So, as you can see, I went out a lot for a pretty large range of projects and I only booked two. I think that it's time for me to get back into a really great acting class because I'm starting to go out for bigger roles and I want to make sure that my skill set is up to par. 

November 10, 2011

Q & A

I hope you all have been well!!
Anyway, this past month has been pretty busy and blogging just kind of fell to the back burner. I have a progress report post coming up in the next few days. I'm sorry for taking so long to post the answers to these questions, I feel pretty terrible about it. 
Dreamlover225 asked....
Hi! Andrea you're such an inspiration. About a year ago, I moved to NYC to model and I havent had much luck.

Its difficult because I hear so much conflicting advice. I read a book that says you don't need professional pictures to apply to an agency but then others say that you do.

I don't know if its difficult to get into an agency at this point and time because of the economy or what.

I really appreciate your advice, though. Good luck with everything!
---Thank you!! Now, I know that you posted this question on my "Becoming A Commercial Print Model" post, and that post pretty much answers your dilemma in great detail. Here is a quote from the post:
"The photos don’t have to be amazing, but they should be professionally done (re: look professional) even if they are the result of a trade. A simple smiling headshot is perfect when you’re starting out."
You absolutely need at least one photo in order to get started as a model. It doesn't have to be a professional photo, but it has to look professional. Re-read my blog post, it's a pretty comprehensive summary that could help you get over your current hump.
Mark asked....
Say someone who is like me, all they got is one student film, would it be ok for them to start going after commercials. OR would it be a bad idea since it can make them a SAG?
---Go after commercials whenever you feel like it, it's up to you. Booking one commercial will make you eligible. Any SAG jobs you book after that will make you a "must join". I would go after commercials while still trying to build my resume with student films/indies/shorts/etc. Joining SAG before you have enough experience or even a reel can result in you being unable to compete on a professional level.
Never join SAG until you have to. Once you join, you will be unable to audition for any non-union work. 
Erica asked....
Hey..this is more a commercial question. How do I get a talent agent if I don't have a reel? Do I just submit pictures to the agency? I've already taken on-camera commercial classes.
 ---You don't need a reel for commercials. Reels are really only meant for tv/film actors. You would find a commercial agent much the same way you would find a theatrical agent. You would submit a headshot and resume via snail mail (email if you're bold), or ask a friend for a referral. Some actors try to meet agents and workshops and seminars, it's not my cup of tea, but it's an option all the same.
Harold asked....
What are the turn off and turn ons Casting directors would find in a resume.
--It might be better for you to ask this question to a casting director or an agent, but I'll do my best to answer you. Based on things that I've read or heard the past few years, CDs don't like when actors list extra/background work on their resumes. They also like for resumes to be well formatted and spell checked. If you don't have any experience at all, listing just your training is fine. If you're very young (under 22 years old) it's okay to list high school and college theater productions on your resume.

Under your "Special Skills" section, don't list anything that you can't do very well. If you've only been on a skateboard once, then listing it as a skill would be a mistake. Should you be called upon to show a casting director that skill, you will be perceived as unprofessional and misleading. Don't be afraid to list things that seem mundane, such as the fact that you have a valid US passport. If you live in NYC, listing that you have a driver's license is good. If you live in LA, it's pointless.

Sandy asked....
My main focus is on Tv/Film, do you think it is a must to have some theater background? Have you done theater and what was it like?
---I don't know if it's a "must", but it can NEVER hurt to have a theater background. A lot of casting directors love actors that have worked in theater. I have done a bunch of theater but haven't been on stage in about 3 years. I absolutely love theater and I find it to be very challenging. Performing on stage in front of hundreds or even thousands.....hell, just 10 people is very scary, but also exhilarating. The adrenaline rush is insane and so is the high that you feel as you're coming down from a performance. I would recommend that every actor perform in at least one play.

JJ asked....
Casting directors seem to love you! Im glad. But how is it that your charm them?
---I don't try to charm CDs. I just behave as myself. CDs are real people and they can tell when you're being fake or genuine. They just want to see you as you are, not putting on a front because you're trying to impress them. 
I think I have a pretty awesome personality, but I'm sure that there are people out there that can't stand me! Hahaha! Not everyone is going to love you, and that's okay. Always be yourself and you'll win more fans that way.
djwhiley asked......
I'm so happy you're doing this.
Lots and lots of questions to ask...
1. How do you determine your type? Am I the girl next door, wall flower, leading lady etc? It seems important to know this for headshots and knowing what roles to submit for
2. What sorts of photos should I have in my portfolio to start with?
3. NY or LA??
4. Do I really need an agent/agency to start?
Thanks in advance!
---I'm assuming that your first question is for acting? You don't need a "type" for commercial print. Commercial print, is about you as a person. If you're interested in finding your type for the purposes of acting, I wrote a blog post once on how I figured out my type. Bonnie Gillespie, is an indie casting director and a really great columnist for Actors Access. She's written countless columns on how to figure out your type. Are are a couple that I really like: here, here, and here.

2. You don't need a portfolio to get started in commercial print. Here is the link to last post that I made regarding how to get started as a print model.
3. That's up to you, both are great markets. If you are more interested in theater, I would say NYC for sure. For tv/film, there is more work in LA, but NYC is still great. Mayor Bloomberg signed a ton of tax incentives last year that make it more economical for productions to shoot here in NYC, as a result, over 20 TV pilots were filmed here this year, many of which were picked up. 
4. For acting, not really. You can start doing student films and no-budget indies without an agent. For print work, you need an agent in order to be seen for print castings.
Joel asked....
You should do a youtube channel, that would be so cool. Can you also talk about your experience of Acting Schools in NYC, what they were like and which one you like best. And which was afforable.
---I've considered a youtube channel, but blogging is already a lot of work! 
I've only been to one acting school here in NYC, The New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts. I dropped out after one semester so....yeah. The classes were great, but it was too restrictive for my blood. I don't have enough experience with acting schools to justify writing an entire post about them. I prefer private acting classes with less than 14 students. 
Finding a great acting class is a lot of trial and error. You just have to keep trying out classes until you find what works best for you.  I'm currently on the hunt for my next
Dear Lovely asked....
I didn't want to have to ask this here because it's not a big question or anything but I'm curious. Did you ever take a picture for a Social Psychology textbook? lol
I'm reading through my textbook now and I swear this is you! If not, you have a doppelganger! lol

---Not that I know of! I did do a shoot for a test prep book once, but it was for the cover. Hmm, I'm curious to see the photo though. Maybe it's from a stock photography shoot I did a few years ago.