December 30, 2006
Headshot Photographer/Casting Director Q&A
So, I get a lot of questions from folks at MySpace (heck, I get a lot of questions via emails, message boards, private messages, phone calls, in person at supposedly non-industry events) and I do my very best to answer questions when I can (as I know that if folks in the industry don't seek out my opinion, I no longer have a job as a columnist and author... yeah, I could "just" cast, but I really love writing too, so I'm grateful for the questions, even when I have answered the same ones a dozen times or more).
Well, after having a week off (with pay... THANKS, SHOWFAX!) from my column, I'm itching to get three columns churned out on Monday (The Actors Voice, The Actors Voice--Your Turn, and The Actors Voice--POV). What a great warmup I received in my inbox! A bunch of headshot questions from Zero Dean. (Oh, and I'm still going to do the follow-up requested at this earlier blog entry on headshots when I have time.) Now, I've answered headshot questions asked by actors many times. (In fact, here are the two most popular headshot columns at Showfax: Bad Headshots, Good Headshots; and Bad Headshots, Good Headshots II--from which the images in this entry are pulled.) But to be asked questions of a headshot photographer is new (and totally cool). It's kind of like when I'm asked questions about the auditioning process of producers rather than of actors. It's a different perspective, depending on the audience!
So, because lovely Zero is all about the "good toy share," we're doing this Q&A in blog form, and I hope that everyone gets a little something out of it. Yay! (Zero's words in italics.)
I know that it's important that the person showing up for a casting/audition actually look like their headshot. It makes perfect sense. You want to see all their features and get a good idea of what they look like and if you could see them in a role.
Without question, this is THE most important issue. An actor who shows up looking nothing like his or her headshot has wasted everyone's time. And, worse, that actor may have been PERFECT for a role we cast the week before, but because he or she submitted a headshot that got that actor called in on a role THIS WEEK (a role he or she is WRONG for, based on the in-the-room look), we never even knew to call that actor in for the perfectly-matched role the week before.
It makes perfect sense that we all want to choose photos that look flattering or that make us feel good about ourselves. But save THOSE photos for your family and MySpace. The headshot that is going to get you WORK is the one you should use as your calling card. Otherwise, you're basically giving out a business card with your name spelled wrong and a typo in the phone number. It's useless to us and it could cost you work.
With that in mind, I'm wondering what you would consider an acceptable amount of retouching in a headshot...or in which areas/cases it is acceptable (or to what degree).
First, I guess, are you totally opposed to retouching?
No, not totally. Sometimes it's necessary, as there are things that could distract us and make us focus on the "stuff" in an otherwise perfect headshot (flyaway hairs, a gloop of mascara, a shadow cast by equipment, etc.). So, certainly, there are times when retouching is appropriate and necessary.
If not, then:
Q. If a person has bad skin (acne or blemishes, but no "scar" damage that changes the surface of the skin), but their condition is either temporary or something that could easily be fixed with make-up, is removing or at least lessening the appearance of that condition in a headshot acceptable?
That depends. (Oh, "that depends" will be my answer on all of these questions, I'd bet.) Sometimes people are delusional. They actually believe their acne is temporary, but the truth is they ALWAYS have blemishes. So, there's a trap here wherein you (the photographer and/or retoucher) are left having to judge the seriousness of actors' skin conditions when they SAY they're having a flare-up that "never happens" when they may just not notice how their skin looks outside of the day they schedule headshot sessions.
If makeup can cover the blemishes, it's assumed that makeup in use for the headshot session will do just that! This is why a professional makeup artist (who is familiar with the photographer's needs, lighting techniques, and how their artistry will "read" in the finished product as created by that photographer) is so essential. If, after being made-up for camera, the acne is still reading through, I'd assume that means the acne would read through on a gig as well!
Perhaps you want to offer the actor the option of having the acne retouched, but with the caveat that if the actor shows up for the follow-up session with you and has the same acne situation as during the shoot, you gently suggest that a "real" headshot is going to serve them better.
Q: What about skin discolorations, moles, or spots?
I wouldn't retouch a mole, freckle, or anything else that the actor isn't already camouflaging with makeup. I have freckles and I have a mole on the side of my nose. I once had a photographer present me with retouched headshots (he had removed my freckles and the mole, figuring that's what I would want), and I was baffled. I said, "Thanks for going to the effort, but my freckles show up everywhere that my face does! I need the original version of this print." So, if it's something that makeup can cover (and the actor is also showing up to all auditions made-up to the same extent), that's one thing. Retouching those ever-present characteristics is not something I would advise.
Models can count on a career of being retouched before their photos ever see the light of day. ACTORS are human--flaws and all--and that means their individuality actually helps get them cast. The MAJORITY of actors who work every day are very normal-looking people with imperfections everywhere. Headshots should reflect that truth.
Q: Is removing minor scars acceptable?
I could see this being appropriate ONLY if the scars are NEW and the actor will be using the headshots when the scars are no longer new. I have an actor friend who has a pretty deep scar on her cheek. She showed me her new headshots and there was no scar! I asked why she'd had it retouched out and her reply was, "It's ugly." My response was, "So, what do you do with it when you show up for auditions?"
See, no one who sees her for an audition (based on getting an appointment off that retouched headshot) is going to think she's somehow gotten that scar between the day of her headshot session and the day of her audition. And if that scar is something that would keep her from getting cast, then the fact that it was REMOVED from her headshot is something that will serve to piss off the casting director who wasted a slot on an actor who had NO SHOT at getting cast in this role. Worse, perhaps there was a role for which her scar would've been "that thing" that helped her BOOK it--but she wasn't considered for it because she looked perfect in her headshot.
I cannot stress strongly enough the fact that headshots are more like BUSINESS CARDS than photographs, in terms of their PURPOSE.
If you misrepresent yourself, you're going to cost yourself work. Not every time... but often enough. And in an industry where every actor complains that they're not working enough, why would you want to be the one who creates an obstacle to your getting cast?
Q: Since wrinkles actually affect the surface of the skin, is lessening wrinkles acceptable or would you rather they be "full on" in a headshot?
Never, never, never remove wrinkles. (Hey, that's not even close to an "it depends" answer, is it?) We have plenty of 20 year olds from which to choose. Embrace your age range. Truth is, many people are MORE castable the older they get. Smoothing out those wrinkles could cause us to categorize you incorrectly (and again, get pissed when you walk into the room older than your headshot indicates you should be). One of my least favorite things to write on the back of an actor's headshot, during an audition, is: "She's ten years older than this." But I write it all the time. Sorting through headshots on the film I'm currently casting, my most common cry was, "Actors have no idea how old they are!"
See, now that I've met many, many, many of the 8000+ actors who submitted for this project, I KNOW what they look like in person, so their headshot becomes more of a placeholder for the in-person knowledge I have (rather than the ONLY measure of "age, type, look" I have for the actor). And MANY actors submitted for roles a decade or more outside of their age range. I'm not talking about actual age. (I don't give a poop about actual age. It's as irrelevant as anything else, in casting. You don't play 20 or Japanese or dumb blonde because you ARE 20 or Japanese or dumb blonde. You play 20 or Japanese or dumb blonde because you play 20 or Japanese or dumb blonde. It's called acting. All of it.) Anyway, a lot of actors suffer from thinking they're younger than they really could play. Their headshots shouldn't support that personal delusion (since that's all it is).
[eyes] Looking away from camera acceptable?
Q: As long as you can see the eyes, does it matter to you if a person is looking (with their eyes) directly at the camera?
It's fine with me for actors to be looking away! But remember, I don't cast commercials (and I think it may be an issue for commercial CDs who want that full-on smile and smiling eyes). As long as I get a sense of an actor's look, type, age, and VIBE, it's fine with me that the headshot be a bit more stylized... just not TOO much so. Headshots are about the actor's brand, not the photographer's brand.
[face] Looking away from camera acceptable?
Q: Do you prefer a face to be generally "squared off" (not necessarily perfectly, but close) to the camera, or is headshot with a face at an angle (more cheek facing the camera) acceptable?
Totally fine with me! Again, commercial CDs may disagree. I think I can handle the more stylized photos once I know an actor's work (again, the headshot becomes more of placeholder than the one and only reference point that I have for an actor's look, type, age, etc.). But an askance look doesn't cause me to eliminate an actor's headshot (irrespective of whether I know his or her work). Fine with me.
Q: Last question...and this one is just a curiousity of mine (and likely, even if you were to answer "yes" to this, I'm not sure you'd want to admit it, right?). From an artistic standpoint, does it really matter at all how "good" a photo looks or how it might stand up as a "portrait" as long as it accurately reflects what the person looks like? I mean, you're not really grading the photographers, are you? I guess what I'm asking is, can a bad photo still make a good headshot?
The answer is definitely yes. A bad photo can still be a good headshot (good headshot = representative of the actor's look, type, age, vibe). That said, anything that distracts us from the fact that it's a good headshot (such as the fact that the actor's forehead is totally cropped out, an actor's bare feet being the focal point of the photo, poor quality of the photo itself, bizarre lighting, use of props, "campy" photo staging that every actor who shoots with that same photographer ends up with) could be a reason we choose to eliminate the actor from the "good list."
Remember, we're looking for ways to cut down the numbers from the very beginning. We have thousands of actors from whom to choose and anything that can help us eliminate an actor, we'll use it (no matter how arbitrary). It can be the fact that the actor is repped by an agent we don't like working with, where the actor lives, how much the actor looks like our ex, or... yeah... poor photography! We may decide that means the actor doesn't take enough pride in his or her career to shell out more than $50 for headshots. Right or wrong, it may be used as a reason to cut the actor from the mix.
And an actor's goal, at this point, is to stay in that mix long enough to get the appointment, and then kick so much ass at that audition to book the role.
December 29, 2006
Your Opinions, Please
Like most well-intentioned folks on the planet, I started out this year putting all of my receipts and banking statements directly into Quick Books or whatever the hell kind of imperfect software we bought after having worked SO DAMN HARD on taxes in early 2006 and resolving, "Never again!" to the "playing catch-up" routine with corporate finances, come tax time.
Cut to December 29th... I think I have imported online banking statements twice in 2006 (but I have print-outs to fill in the rest, of course) and that corporate tax deadline of March 15th is coming faster than I'd like, especially with as much casting work as I already have laid out for first quarter 2007.
Do I *bother* putting all of this crap into the software or just do the old-fashioned pen-and-paper version that has worked so well (but that takes maddeningly longer to do each year, as you'd expect from a growing corporation)? I mean, I can see spending something like THREE STRAIGHT DAYS (and those are three straight Bonnie days with very little sleep) inputting data and then STILL having to do two weeks of my pen-and-paper stuff if the software sucks as much as I think it does.
When do I get to have one of those accountants to whose office you show up with boxes of receipts and a check for services (rather than one to whose office I have to show up with everything WAY organized)?
December 28, 2006
Xmas 2006 in Photos
It's always a highlight of our year. Even if we haven't come up with a name more satisfying to Eric than "Christmas" for the ritual, it's still a blast. ;) Well, we'll work on a proper name for this event that's now six years old while I look for a non-non-stop flight to Fiji. ;) Hee!
Here are some of my favorites (click to enlarge). To see all of 'em, click here.
Thanks again, Tracy and Dick for hosting! Lemmeknow if you find 2005 photos for me to add to my collection. Such a blast, EVERY year. Love you guys!!
December 25, 2006
Looking forward to our annual orphans' Christmas celebration. I can't believe this is our sixth year doing it. I guess you *can* build a family in Los Angeles after all. ;)
I guess I never uploaded my photos from 2005. Or did I take no photos at the 2005 event? I know I got glutened while there, so perhaps I took no photos. This year, I'll be fine for photography (since I got glutened at the movies yesterday afternoon and spent the evening in bed sick, sick, sick. Glad I got that out of the way (*sheesh*). I'd really like to not get glutened anymore. That'd be nice).
Anyway, Merry Christmas, everyone! Stay grateful! I'm off the the kitchen to make my famous dip (hey, it's one of a few things I CAN make, so that makes it famous).
December 24, 2006
2006 in Questions
1. What did you do in 2006 that you'd never done before?
Get taken to lunch by an entertainment attorney to discuss "packaging" me with his producer and filmmaker clients on future $10M+ feature films. Oh, also... join MySpace.
2. Did you keep your 2006 resolutions? Will you make more for 2007?
I usually don't *do* resolutions, as I use my birthday as MY new year (and pledge to leave some things behind and invite other things in, each new age--at my birthday). But New Year's Eve 2005 at BBBC's, Keith and I actually wrote down a list of things we welcomed into our lives for 2006. Truly, the Power of Intention and the Law of Attraction is strong, as we hit about 90% success on that list. We'll be doing it again this year (although I think we'll need to write it up before we head out for the evening's activities, as we'll be in a much more festive location to ring in the new year this year (than last).
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Well, Eitan's wife is in labor right now, from what I understand. So, the answer was going to be NO (and I guess *technically* it still is NO), but I think we have a 2006 baby coming into the gang shortly.
4. Did anyone close to you die?
A kid who came close to being cast on Mr. Personality (and who I later introduced to a fellow casting director friend of mine--and they dated for a while) died in a bicycle accident in February. CD Phyllis Huffman died. We weren't close, but she was a mentor of sorts. Lovely, talented actor Victoria Sparks passed away this summer. She had auditioned for me several times (and was a Georgia gal), so that was sad. Still, nothing compared to last year's losses.
5. What countries did you visit?
I'm a homebody. As usual, just this one.
6. What would you like to have in 2007 that you lacked in 2006?
I would really, truly love to ALWAYS have that feeling that I've flirted with a few times recently: When you can spend and spend and spend and never once feel like you're looking over your shoulder for the "uh-oh... maxed out the card" moment. REALLY enjoyed the several months this year where there was a LOT of financial freedom. So, it's not something we *lacked* in 2006, just something we want *way* more of in 2007. That, and the really cool feeling when your clothes don't fit because you've dropped weight for no apparent reason. That's been cool this year too. Hee!
7. What date from 2006 will remain etched upon your memory and why?
Man! That's tough! I actually just scanned through my whole calendar for 2006 in an attempt to find THE THING that really will stick with me, and it's just bizarre how much STUFF I'm going to remember forever. I mean, there were screenings, awards, investor table reads, and many "first time at this level" casting experiences. Plus Keith became a recurring character on "the most watched show on the planet" for 2006. We had blissful spa experiences, major quality time with Quinn, and I met some really amazing people in 2006. I guess, though, if I had to choose, it'd be my birthday that stands out. It was perfect. I sat on a barstool at my favorite place from 5pm to 1am and pretty much everyone I love and know showed up to give me some love. That's a pretty cool way to ring in a new year. I mean, if you get to choose it, that's a good marker of time.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Getting the casting files in order. This is in big part thanks to my Rockstar Intern. We got the headshots organized and built the Casting Wiki (Keith gets thanks for that too). I built the cubbies and am simply thrilled with my current workspace. I know that doesn't seem like a big deal, but it's something that impacts my working life every single day. And an efficient Bonnie is a happy Bonnie. Despite how much I embraced inefficiency this year.
9. What was your biggest failure?
Hmm. I think I lost my temper once at someone with whom there will likely be no "fix." I'd like to say that's my fault, but honestly, the more time away from it, the more I realize their unwillingness to forgive is the reason we're not past it all. That's SO really not a failure, but I just can't think of anything else.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
A few sniffles and Santa Ana Winds-induced nosebleeds, plus a Thanksgiving mini-migraine (barely a blip compared to my pre-gluten-free mega-migraines), but that's it. Oh, and bumps and bruises because I'm clumsy... but, eh, whatareyagonnado?
11. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Cousin Faith's. She wasn't sure she was ready to take a career jump that looked like a "weird" choice. She told me that she had asked for guidance and then the phone rang with this radio opportunity. Unsure whether she should take it, she asked for my advice. I told her that since she asked the universe and she was given the answer, she at least should give it a shot and see what comes of it. Well... bless her cross-country move and the launch of her new show! I'm so excited for my cousin and her brave choice to just see what's out there. Runner-up: My stepdad's. He's just a freakin' rockstar and I'm so proud of his GRACE.
12. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
The biggie is someone about whom I won't blog, because if I do, it'll be much less surprising when the cops show up and book this person for a felony. Let's just say you may call yourself a "devout Christian," but I never saw anywhere that Jesus said, "Steal everything and lie, lie, lie." Enjoy the handcuffs. Can't wait to see you on "COPS." More specifically, certainly W still holds a top spot on that scale. Oh, and again with the vague: also a very small, cowardly friend who hasn't had the balls to apologize to me in nearly six months. And I totally called it. Just two days after "it" happened, I mentioned that it was going to be one of those things for which I would instantly forgive the person, but for which that person wouldn't even bother coming around to check in about, months later. I guess I just have to enjoy the fact that, eventually, they all do come around. And I'm still here. Same as always. Way ready to move on.
13. Where did most of your money go?
I think we paid to print the second edition of "Self-Management for Actors" in 2005, so that would leave our anniversary trip with Quinn to the La Costa Spa and LegoLand (two days of LegoLand, baby). We really overdid it, but it was SO worth it. Quinn is only here once a year and we wanted to have an amazing time. We did. I seriously can't wait to go back. I think I had about six straight hours of spa treatments bookended by room service, champagne, and hottub fun with the boys.
14. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
The midterm election results. Rockstar cool.
15. What song will always remind you of 2006?
"Here It Goes Again" by OK, GO. I mean, really. Those treadmills are SO 2006!
16. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder?
Always happier. Daily.
b) thinner or fatter?
Actually thinner, according to my clothes. Yay!
c) richer or poorer?
Suddenly poorer, but that's not indicative of the whole year, just this month, suddenly. Damn taxes and reckless spending!
17. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Exercise. I probably exercised manically 250 days of the year. The problem is, all of those days took place before October, which means I feel like a slug now. Of course, I've dropped weight since I *stopped* exercising (weird), but my point is that I really enjoyed the daily walks, Pilates, overnight trips to the pool at the gym, etc., and kind of had to back-burner all of that when my career got way too busy to fit it all in. Eh, quality problem, I s'pose.
18. What do you wish you'd done less of?
OCD rituals. I actually have a lot of them in check, but the few I still have were really raging this year (but I know why, so I have a shot at putting them in check next year).
19. How will you be spending Christmas?
Same as every year since the tradition began in 2001: Orphans' Christmas with our friends. We may not see each other much throughout the year, but we are always together on Christmas, which is really dang cool.
20. Did you fall in love in 2006?
I fall in love every minute of every day.
21. What was your favorite TV program?
"Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" followed closely by "Saved." Man, if last year was the year of the sitcom, this was the year of the episodic drama. Rockstar good stuff.
22. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
I hate no one. Life's too short for that nonsense.
23. What was the best book you read?
Okay, this will make me seem like a total narcissist (and maybe I am), but "Self-Management for Actors" (2nd edition) rocks my socks and seriously makes me think I could resume my pursuit of acting and DO SOMETHING, since the advice in it is so good. Now, that said, please know that I enjoy MOST some of the contributions by others--not just my writing (but I do love my writing. I mean, if I can't love it, how can I expect anyone else to?!? Actors should feel the same way about their acting, dammit)!
24. What was your greatest musical discovery?
OK, GO for sure. And not just because of the video.
25. What did you want and get?
More time with Quinn, a Roomba, a raise, a deeper sense of trust with the person who lied to me most last year.
26. What did you want and not get?
The kick-ass house on 16th Street (that's okay... we'll have it within the decade), a film I cast qualifying for an Oscar, less clutter in my house.
27. What was your favorite film of this year?
"Little Miss Sunshine."
28. What did you do on your birthday? How old were you?
See number 7, above. 36.
29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
More than one thing: world peace, infinite money, a permanent weight of 150.
30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2006?
Same as always: jeans, black cami tank top, duster.
31. What kept you sane?
My sense of humor.
32. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Barack Obama. C'mon, 2008! Let's do this thang!
33. What political issue stirred you the most?
Does it count as a political issue if it's a political person hitting on high school kids who are looking to learn about the government, volunteering their time as pages? If that counts as political, then that's gonna be my biggie. I'm embarrassed and infuriated about Mark Foley and people on both sides of the aisle who kept the scandal quiet for far too long.
34. Who did you miss?
My mom, as always. Also Quinn. Seems the more time you spend with someone, the more you miss him when he's gone.
35. Who was the best new person you met?
Jessica Bendinger. Definitely. Kiki Longpost comes in second. For reals.
36. What valuable life lesson did you learn in 2006?
Stuff is just STUFF. It can all go away and nothing else matters. It's the people, it's the love, it's the sense of centeredness. That's all that counts.
37. What song lyrics sum up your year?
The times that we were close were far and few between
In the darkness at the dances in the school canteen
Did she close her eyes as I did and we held each other tight
And, "La la la la la la la la la," means, "I love you."
She danced with me and I still hold that memory soft and sweet
And I stare up at her window as I walk down her street
But I never made the first team, I just made the first team laugh
And she never came to the phone, she was always in the bath
In the end, it took me a dictionary to find out the meaning of "unrequited"
While she was giving herself for free at a party to which I was never invited.
December 22, 2006
Okay, so there's no snow here (although it is raining today) and Quinn is fascinated by the fact that the average low temperature in Los Angeles is higher than the current high in his town, but I just got these Calvins from Tony and they're cute, so I'm posting 'em here (I'm not into the email forward thingy).
Click any to enlarge. They're dang cute and worth the click. Promise.
Final thoughts: Identity is a good concept, but has sucky execution. Thwok has nearly perfected her ninja roll. Toasting you all with NyQuil is not as fun as toasting you all with something else.
December 20, 2006
When I was six years old, my brother married my sister-in-law. I was the flower girl. My sister-in-law had been in my life since I was six months old and I had just assumed that she would join my brother in living at our house after they got married. I hadn't even considered that the two would go live elsewhere. I was cute and sweet like that.
When they returned from their honeymoon, they brought me foreign money. I had never seen it before. It had lovely colors, shapes, and textures. The bills were different sizes. There were holes in the coins. And there was such artistry in them! I treasured these pieces of foreign money. And a collector was born.
Quickly I learned that every other place in the world had money that was more beautiful than ours. And every time anyone I knew visited another place, their souvenir for me was whatever they had left over, when emptying their pockets (after exchanging the "big" money for American bills). I began to treasure this collection, because it was not only made up of money from places I would likely never visit, but of gifts brought to me by people I knew and loved. It wasn't like I went to a bank and exchanged money so that I could *have* a collection. I *had* a collection because people who loved me brought me back little bits here and there.
By the time I was an adult, this collection was pretty dang impressive. I actually bought one of those collectors' exchange rate books to find out what the money was worth. But putting coins into sleeves and labeling them, like collectors do, somehow took the fun out of it all. What I loved about my collection was taking it out and handling it, comparing the designs from different parts of the world. Nothing was "mint" except by accident, so what did I care if someone on eBay would pay top dollar for something that I happened to have? I never intended to collect something that was worth something... only something that was worth something to ME.
Cut to July 2006. I'm auditioning actors for Three Poems and a gorgeous young man comes in for the role in which we will cast, well, a most gorgeous young man. It was a fun day of casting, let's just say that (we had a lot of eye candy to enjoy). So, this young man comes in and says, between takes (we're going to exchange out his scene partner and do a little redirect, so there's some chitchat), "I was actually reading your book in Afghanistan last year." Huh?!? That's random. "You were? Um, how?" "I knew I wanted to be an actor and I was living in Norway, so I signed up for a term of service in Afghanistan that would then allow me to come to the US to pursue acting. I ordered your book from Amazon.com and had it with me while I served in Afghanistan. It was essential to my ability to put my plans together for coming here. And now here I am, auditioning for you!"
I was in a state of shock. I mean, sure, I GET that my book is "out there." I've had the thrill of walking past the largest bookstore in Manhattan and seeing my own book displayed in the window, facing millions of people who pass by every day. I've received the emails that say, "Your book changed my life," and "I'll thank you when I win my Oscar because I never would've thought I could do this career without you." But something about having this amazingly talented, naturally MEANT for acting kid in front of me, telling me that he had been in a few different continents in the past couple of years, all the while reading my book and planning for this moment... I don't know... it just felt like one of those WONDERFUL punches in the gut. The kind where you GET that there's a ripple in the water a world away, just because you toss in a pebble.
Sure, I remember the very first days of putting Self-Management for Actors together. I remember the binders upon binders of information on the foot of our bed in our apartment in the Hollywood Hills. Only the bedroom had air conditioning and I was on migraine watch. I had to stay cool and quiet... perfect environment for doing my book. But I was scared. What if SMFA *wasn't* really a book? What if it was just a bunch of ramblings from a kid actor who could never really cut it as an adult? What if it was all anecdotal and not at all practical to actors working today? What if--even worse--it was all wrong? I could actually MESS UP someone's career with this load of hooey.
Keith assured me it was GOOD information. My friends on the BackStage.com message boards assured me it was GOOD information. My mentor Judy Kerr assured me it was GOOD information. My friends at higher tiers in the industry assured me it was GOOD information. So, onward I went. Six weeks in my bedroom from start to finish... then the book was off to the printers. I couldn't believe it was done.
So, why am I thinking about all of this today? Well today I received a little package from Thor Knai, the talented (and, oh yeah, really gorgeous) actor who spoke with me about my book this summer. See, he's back in Norway right now and we had been sending comments back and forth on MySpace. I mentioned that I collect foreign money. He mentioned that he liked reading my books. We each sent packages across the world and here I am fondling my kroner bills and coins with glee. I hope he's enjoying Acting Qs as much!
December 19, 2006
On 12/16/06 11:44 AM, Claude wrote:
> Dawn told me that you have been on a gluten free diet and that it's
> prevented migraines. I have a chronic problem with migraines and would like
> to ask you about this. Would it be okay to call you over the weekend? If so,
> what # should I call?
I suffered from migraines (about four a year or so) from the age of 17 to the age of 32. At age 33 and 34, I started having ten or more debilitating migraines per year. I was bed-ridden and in a really bad way, by the end of 2004. Clearly, they were getting worse and my work was suffering.
I also have OCD and it was getting worse, which is odd, as it usually improves with age. Additionally, I had gained a LOT of weight in 2004. No change in diet or exercise, just a big weight gain in a very short period of time.
What led me to the gluten-free way of life was the fact that, coming off a very bad week-long migraine in early November 2004, my joints were in excruciating pain. I was trying to transcribe the interviews for my third book, and my hands were cramping up, wrists were terribly inflamed, and I was just in a lot of pain. I posted to a private message board online (membership of actors whom I advise on their careers), asking if anyone had any advice for how I could get my joints to stop aching long enough to finish the book.
An actor friend of mine started asking me questions: "Bon, you just came off a migraine didn't you?" "Yes." "And you've put on weight." "Yes." "Have you been checked for celiac disease? Or at least a gluten intolerance?" "What?!?" I had never heard of any of that, so it seemed very odd. But I was in a lot of pain, so I began to do some research.
Sure enough, wheat gluten has been linked to everything from OCD to migraines to drastic change in weight to autism. It's actually VERY common to have a gluten intolerance, but in the American diet, it's not something that the FDA would ever want explored or widely tested. See, we live on GRAINS and to tell 15% of the population to stop eating wheat gluten would cause a major blow to the industry. But in other countries, they actually TEST for celiac disease in childhood, and the availability of gluten-free foods is VASTLY superior to what we have access to here.
Okay, so in December of 2004, I decided I had nothing to lose, so I went off wheat gluten (the non-medical way to "test" for a gluten intolerance is to take yourself OFF wheat gluten for two weeks and then have a very high-gluten meal to see if you have a severe reaction). For two weeks, I was incredibly healthy. Lots of energy, no joint pain, no migraines, nada. When I had gluten two weeks later, I not only got sick to my stomach (loads of abdominal distress), but I broke out in a rash around my lips and got very swimmy-headed. I decided that cutting out wheat gluten would be an easy thing to do, especially if it would solve my joint pain, migraines, and maybe even correct the sudden weight gain I'd experienced in 2004.
So, now that I've been off gluten for nearly two years, I can tell you the following:
I have not had a single migraine in two years (after having had a dozen in each of the years 2003 and 2004), my fingernails and hair have grown long and strong (healthier than ever), my skin looks great, my joints are fine, and my weight is beginning to stabilize (takes a lot of time, though, when you put on that much in such a short time). Point is, I am healthier now than I have ever been, and I credit that ALL to having cut out wheat gluten.
Here's the theory behind it:
The human digestive system has been around for three million years. Wheat gluten was introduced to the human diet about ten thousand years ago. We are not all so easily adaptive as to have the means to break down "new" foods (some human digestive systems do better than others). It's the same way that processed foods don't work for some people or that alcohol doesn't work within certain cultures who had alcohol introduced late into their evolution.
Since I now know my body does not process the protein of wheat gluten efficiently (and it may have done so, for the first 30 years of my life, but then reached a tolerance level of something it couldn't break down well and then shut off, causing the symptoms described above), I have to look at gluten as a poison to my system.
Yes, I *can* have gluten, but it's a choice that could make me very sick. Especially now that gluten has been out of my system for so long, even a little bit of it can really send me into a day of severe illness (like an allergic reaction).
It took a few months for me to really get the hang of it. Gluten is in EVERYTHING, it seems (since wheat is a common thickener in most processed foods), but if you start out going "all natural," that helps a great deal, as foods that aren't processed pretty much CAN'T have gluten in them. Eventually, I got brave about going to restaurants and asking for what I needed. Amazingly, most restaurants are educating their staff about gluten allergies and everyone has been very good about making sure I don't get sick. Some restaurants even pride themselves on their gluten-free menus!
I have a TON of websites to send you to. One of them has a printable allergy card that you can take with you to restaurants, so that they'll know exactly what you can and cannot have. Some celiacs are very sensitive to cross contamination (like, if your wife were to make a sandwich on the counter and leave crumbs and you were to later cut up an apple on that area of the counter, you could get "glutened") and some are not (like, if you order a salad with dressing that happened to be thickened with gluten, you can tell within the first bite or two that you're not going to be able to eat it, but you won't get violently ill or anything, so it doesn't have to keep you from enjoying the rest of your meal out--you just don't finish the salad).
I'm a member of a few discussion groups online that have been very helpful. They have regular gatherings of gluten-free folks both online and in person, to share ideas for good places to eat, ways to make your own kitchen "safe," and doctor referrals, etc. I think we're very lucky to be in a community where food allergies are understood and there are many options for us to still live normally. Middle America is still just learning about this stuff.
I mentioned restaurants with gluten-free menus. Well, PF Chang's is one of the best. Its gluten-free menu has MANY items on it! It's great! I also love going to Planet RAW because there is not a single thing on their menu that I could EVER eat that would cause me to get glutened.
There were some labeling laws passed in late 2005 so now everything that has wheat gluten in it must say so on the label. That's very helpful! (Because before that, "modified food starch" could be listed as an ingredient, and unless you knew for sure that it was corn starch vs. processed wheat gluten, you couldn't safely eat it. Now they *have to* spell it out.)
Whole Foods is a good store. They have pamphlets at the entrance with guides to gluten free items. Even better is Wild Oats, as they put big stickers right on the shelves next to the price of each item that say GLUTEN FREE. Very easy. Trader Joes also takes good care of its gluten-free customers.
Okay, that's enough to get you started. Now I'll share a whole bunch of web links with you, for your year-end reading. Please let me know if you have any questions. I was very nervous but excited two years ago this month, as I hoped we had found the cure to my most debilitating chronic illness. And, I'm here to tell you two years later that we DID. And it continues to be very exciting. I love being migraine free!!
Eating guides/food lists/lots of links within each page:
http://forums.delphiforums.com/n/mb/list.asp?webtag=celiac&ctx=1048576&cacheTag=x34-39 (also support forums)
Gluten-free Cooking School:
My favorite magazine:
My bestie's gluten-free blog:
"Any time I see someone succeed I am happy, for it affirms my belief that I live in a world where success is possible." -- 20 August 2004
The Year in Review
Take The First Line From The First Post Of Each Month Of 2006. That's Your Year In Review.
January 2006: Flickering Image Film Festival Please join us Saturday, 7 January 2006 at the AFI Mark Goodson Auditorium, 2021 Western Ave., Hollywood 90027 for the screening of the ten winning films for the 2006 Flickering Image Film Festival.
February 2006: *giggle* What do Scott Foley, Julia Stiles, Tracy Pollan, Judith Chapman, Leslie Charleson, Chris Coppola, Jenna Von Oy, Christopher Masterson, David Anders, Andrew Bowen, Jessica Hecht, Richard Riehle, and Harriet Sansom Harris have in common?
March 2006: How To Make Me Happy for Three Bucks Buy me something way geeky, way useful, and way cheap. You'll have my heart forever.
April 2006: Not new, but... seriously one of the funniest things I've seen about the whole navel-gazing navel-gazing that is blogging.
May 2006: *ahem* So, we have to get from Point A (home) to Point B (USC) through Point ¡Sí, se puede! for an industry event this evening. Ack.
June 2006: Could you use that in a sentence please? As I upload demo reels to the Cricket Feet Casting server for the director of Salvation, Texas to watch (sort of pre-prereads), I have the Scripps National Spelling Bee on ESPN.
July 2006: Best Anniversary Present EVER Now, the trip to La Costa Resort and Spa was pretty dang amazing, as anniversary presents go. But, c'mon... can you BEAT THIS?!?
August 2006: August? Wow. Is it really August already? Holy cow, this year has flown by. (I know, I know... people always say that sort of thing. Blah blah blah.)
September 2006: Happy September As Keith and I went for our walk last night, he mentioned that yesterday was Maria Montessori's birthday.
October 2006: Hee! How much do I love my sister in law?
November 2006: Faith's PRI Show Debuts Friday From today's Washington Times: Fair Game--Public radio is no longer just for baby boomers and news junkies, it turns out.
December 2006: First Casting Announcement Woo hoo! Congratulations to the first actor cast in Broken Windows!
December 17, 2006
More Casting Numbers
• 51% of the taped preread sessions will not be viewed again (producers were there for prereads in the room, so they decided right then who they needed to see again)
• 49% of the taped prereads will go up on the server for producers to review and discuss, as we cut the list down further
• 20% of the actors we scheduled for auditions didn't show up (this is actually a really low percentage, among casting directors in Los Angeles)
• 48% of the actors who did not show up were unconfirmed no-shows
• 32% of the actors who did not show up left a message to say they couldn't make it
• 20% of the actors who did not show up were confirmed no-show, no-call (now blacklisted) types
We had one crasher.
The breakdown went out one month ago today. We have had 7804 electronic submissions from 384 different agents or managers, have seen 254 actors in person (including name actor meetings), and have cast three roles (yippee)! Of those three cast actors, two were submitted and one was a straight offer with no pitch. Ten actors have put auditions on tape from out of town (so far. I'm expecting a bunch of tapes Monday). Before beginning live auditions, we reviewed 588 demo reels online.
Okay, now the really geeky stuff.
Of the actors we saw at prereads, 75% use staples to attach their headshots and resumés, 12% do NOT attach them, 6% print the resumés onto the backs of the headshots, 3% glue them on, and another 2% brought no resumé at all (just a photo). Only eight actors didn't bring a headshot at all! Word's getting out!
About 3% of actors don't have contact information on their headshots and resumés. And 72% of actors trim their resumés to the size of their headshots. Only 13% of actors have horizontal headshots (another 8% do that cool horizontal on the vertical style I love so much). Color headshots came in at a whopping 92%.
December 16, 2006
Bless the bones of my right-hand man!
So, Keith shot a movie earlier this week. He also helped me with Hollywood Happy Hour, even though he was kind of over it (luckily, there were margaritas involved, and he somehow balanced the amount of help and the amount of tequila required to yield that help).
Then, we moved into high gear for prereads for a film I'm casting. We saw a total of 250 actors in two days. We've never done that before. Fewer no-shows than ever. More high-end actors than ever. And a few name-actor meetings thrown in the mix for good measure. It was a good week.
But here's the thing... Keith left Santa Monica tonight after having settled me in (yes, I've had about six hours of record-keeping/note-taking/replies to agents-ing and two hours of MySpacing--the latter of which is mostly for my personal enjoyment... but I still did my best to give some good feedback to actors we read this week--still owe myself a shower and some decent food) to go shoot ANOTHER movie tonight.
He just called from the set, reporting dry ice and smoke, wondering whether he should eat burgers or chicken. He'd been a wee bit moody around 6pm (when we'd seen the last actor and he was impatient with all things actor-related), but at 10pm, he'd had a chance to reflect, and he was actually really pleased with his experiences as my casting assistant and excited about the film gig. Again... bless his bones.
Also bless the bones of my lovely non-conjugal assistant types who work for lunch at PF Chang's (and occasionally a parking reimbursement) and the education that running camera (or working as a reader) can provide to a working actor.
I swear, I love my job a big lot. But I could not do it without the love of actors who crave "the inside POV," as they work for free (or in exchange of knowledge) and they really, really, really make my job a blast.
More casting announcements to come! thanks everyone, for the interest!!!!! It only gets better from here, baby!!
December 14, 2006
Third Casting Announcement
Saw 85 amazing actors read for three roles today. Will see another 199 actors (assuming everyone shows) for four roles tomorrow. Phew! I'm exhausted!
No time to rest. Gotta finish The Actors Voice: POV before midnight! Ack! Busy Bon. Happy Bon!
December 13, 2006
Second Casting Announcement
It was so much fun to attach our first actor to Broken Windows earlier this month. Even more fun to attach actor number two, today.
And because everyone loves "yesterday" photos too, here's Howard Hesseman (bottom right) in the '70s.
Ooh, I'm just so giddy! We start prereads for seven roles tomorrow with two roles already cast. I LOVE that! Yay! Break a leg, everyone. This is going to be an amazing cast.
I'm just gonna choose to see the positive.
It's been a rough 12 hours. News of stolen cars, stolen purses, stolen cell phones, and the burning down of my stepfather's house (yes, the house he and my mother shared until her death six years ago).
Part of me wants to just cry. Use this ball of emotions as an excuse to launch into my annual "I miss my mom" funk. And another part of me wants to remind that part of me that in all of this "bad" news I've gotten in the past half-day, not one person has been hurt. Only inconvenienced.
And that's what I'm going to focus on. Everyone is okay. Lost stuff is just "stuff." Sure, there's supposedly "irreplaceable" stuff in some cases, but all that is truly irreplaceable is our very spirit... and I choose to raise mine up find peace in all of this.
And continue my work. Embracing the fact that I am very lucky to have good work to do. It's a blessing. And that everyone is okay is what matters.
December 12, 2006
HHH was awesome!
I did not do 12 of 12 this month (I know, I so suck), but I do have some photos from last night's rockstar Hollywood Happy Hour. Yay! If you want to see 'em all, visit August Young Photography (click on Menu, then Client, then Hollywood Happy Hour).
Hope y'all had as much fun as I did! Woo! (Click to enlarge.)
Aren't we cute?!?
December 9, 2006
Hi. I'm an idiot.
So, I pull out my Jury Duty summons to call the "on call" line today. It's very clear, on the paperwork, that you may call in at any time on the weekend before your first proposed service date (mine is Monday), as long as you are already registered.
Well, duh. Of course I'm registered. How else would I get a jury summons unless I had registered to vote? Duh.
So I call in, expecting to be told to either show up on Monday or call again Monday afternoon to check in about Tuesday, blah blah blah.
The system tells me, instead, that I'm not yet registered. I need to push another series of buttons in order to GET registered... so I do that, and of course the system tells me I am LATE in registering (you're supposed to register within five days of receiving the summons, apparently) and therefore I cannot serve as scheduled. I HAVE TO REQUEST A DEFERMENT.
"I don't WANT a deferment," I say to myself. But then I think, "Oh, wait. That actually would be good, as this week is already insane in the extreme, schedule-wise." So, I hit the buttons that allow me to postpone service 'til NEXT Monday, since that's when the industry will be GONE and even if I am the only one in town and therefore HAVE to serve, so what? I'll get a lot of writing done.
I hang up and say to Keith, "Wouldn't you think they would put somewhere ON this summons that you have to call twice? Once to register and once again to report? I mean, I'm an intelligent person. How could I miss that?"
I reread the first line of my summons: Do not appear without registering. No problem! I'm registered. Otherwise, how would I have received this notice?
A few lines down, I see: You are required to register using the telephone within five days of receipt of this summons. Oops. Missed that.
"Maybe they should've put that in bold," Keith says.
Yeah. It's pretty bold.
I'm an idiot.
Oh well... jury duty next week. Fair enough. I deserve to get put on a really long, boring trial after having been that stupid.
December 8, 2006
Appointments Scheduled for Seven Roles
Okay, I've just rolled out appointments for seven roles in Broken Windows and here's how the numbers are shaking out now:
UNVIEWED || VIEWED || SELECTED || SCHEDULED || CALLBACK || ROLE
0.....15.....29.....0.....0.....WOMAN HIT BY CAR
As before, VIEWED + SELECTED = total submissions. The SCHEDULED actors are already counted within the number of selects.
I'm trying to move as many SARA, BETH, JOEY, and WALT selects to other roles as possible, as one of those roles is cast, another is looking VERY good (with regard to a name actor offer we have outstanding), and the other two are going to names on a short list without auditions, no matter how our current offers go. But there are still so many great actors within those selects that I want to try and get them in on other roles, if possible.
Anyway, that's the way the numbers look today! Woo! Glad to get the schedule built. That's always very stressful and having it done is a big relief. I need a nap.
December 7, 2006
Two Things (Maybe Three)
The Roomba needs training...
...(it's like a Furbie... it requires a little coaching).
We're big geeks, because Santa brought me a Roomba and Keith a credit card-strength cross-cut shredder. Seriously. We're all about the romance.
December 6, 2006
I have five copies of Self-Management for Actors that came back undeliverable, when we tried to mail them to people ages ago. They're autographed TO those people (casting directors, contributors, etc.).
Keith and I do not agree with one another on whether it would be appropriate to leave them out on a "freebies" table at Hollywood Happy Hour on Monday, so that anyone who wants 'em can have 'em, even though they were originally intended for other people.
December 5, 2006
Damn you, Aaron Sorkin!
I'm ready for a nice "night off." I pour an adult beverage. I unhook the phone. I fire up the TiVo and think, "Ah... Nip/Tuck is starting up. No... wait... let's watch last night's Studio 60 first and THEN have some basic cable-approved porn. I'm sure Studio 60 will be 'just fine.' It's not been terribly world-rocking lately."
Dammit. Dammit. Dammit.
How the HELL am I supposed to:
a. watch Nip/Tuck...
b. continue coding web updates to the HHH site...
c. send Christmas cards...
d. just chill out and do nothing...
after having been hit by that meteor of emotions like that?
MAN, I love that show. Love it, love it, love it, love it. Frickin' awesome.
December 4, 2006
Hollywood Happy Hour, 12/11/06, 6:30pm ONE WEEK AWAY!!
Are you getting excited?!? Ooh, we are!
If you've RSVP'd, you should've received a confirmation email from the lovely Laura Lock, and that means you're all set for next Monday's event. Woo hoo!
That's Monday, December 11, 2006 for our next Hollywood Happy Hour with special guests, industry news and reviews, networking, loads of great prizes, yummy food, and adult beverages!
What: Hollywood Happy Hour filled with more fun than you could fathom! It's news, reviews, schmooze, and interviews!
Who: We'll chat with über-hyphenate Luke Yankee (seriously, we're talking actor-director-producer-teacher-casting director-author-playwright, here) and dish with rockstar agent Janet Tscha, head of adult commercial talent at Origin Talent. Julie Stevens is going to share tales from Life After Tomorrow with casting director Bonnie Gillespie)!
When: Monday, December 11, 2006, arrivals: 6pm; program starts at 6:30pm SHARP; schmoozefest from 7:45pm 'til they roll us out of there!
Where: Casey's, 613 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90017. Check out the photos at their website. We'll be on the gorgeous patio!
How Much: $5 CASH plus two items at the bar and/or restaurant (yes, sodas and food items count)!
What Else: goodie bags from our FANTASTIC sponsors for winners of our business-card drawing (make sure to bring your card) and trivia questions, lots of freebies (see below for complete list of awesome goodies)! Bring headshots for Janet and Bonnie!
Parking: well, it's downtown, which is complicated... but here's the good news: We have $5 parking after 5pm at 624 S. Grand (with $6.50 after 4pm parking just next door), plus $6 parking all day at 737 S. Grand. Bring cash and stay for the long haul! Wilshire dead-ends at Grand... freeway directions are at the venue's website. You can also take any Metro Line to the Metro Center at 7th and Broadway (it's only $1.35 each way and you're within a block of Casey's... no designated driver needed).
RSVP: with your name, number in your party, and any suggested questions for the Q&A segment to email@example.com ASAP. We WILL run out of space and cap the RSVPs at this venue.
Introducing event photographer August Young! Be camera ready, y'all!
Feeling nostalgic? Everyone's uncle, the amazing Uncle Bob, has put our shows on "tape" for our audio archives... Yay!
Free! Goodie Bags loaded with fun California Poultry Federation stuff, cosmetics and aromatherapy treatments from Pampered People Spa, memo boards from Showfax, goodies from BizParentz.com, and fun AquaHooks custom-made for HHH!
Free! Entry into the Hollywood Happy Hour raffle for all--just bring a business card to drop in the fishbowl!
You could win:
*Free headshot printing at Argentum Studios
*Free photo shoot with Kyle Clicks Photography
*Tickets to shows at The Ark Theatre
*Card Packs from Acting Outside the Box
*Three months free with MyActingSite.com
*You Must Act! version 2.0 CD-Rom from Bob Fraser
*Free seminars from Abundance Bound
*Free and discounted demo reel editing services from Lippincott Films
*Private session with Commercial Break
*Discounted headshot sessions from New Face Photo
*Discounted voiceover sessions from Absolute Voice
*Entry fee waivers for the 2008 Flickering Image Film Festival
*Tickets to shows from Theatre District at the CAST
*Discounted headshot sessions from About Face Headshots
*Free soundtrack from The Wedding Video
*Promo DVDs with deleted scenes from A New Tomorrow
*Acting Is Everything by Judy Kerr and Acting Out by Stuart Stone
*The Actor's Menu and discounted acting classes from Bill Howey
*Let's Dish Up a Dinner Party by Nelson Aspen
*Casting Qs and Self-Management for Actors by Bonnie Gillespie
*Acting Qs by Bonnie Gillespie and Blake Robbins
*Casting director labels from Landall's ActorDrops
*ActorTrack software and organizational books from world-famous Holdon Log
...and so much more!
(You must be present to win, natch.)
See you next happy hour!
December 1, 2006
First Casting Announcement
Congratulations to the first actor cast in Broken Windows!
It's Devon Gummersall.
Oh... don't recognize him? Sure you do.