December 17, 2009
A love letter to writing.
I read Colleen Wainwright's post about Sundays. And I realized I owed my blog a few things. Year-end round-up posts (always some of my favorite to write), more posts in general (this has become a home for 12 of 12 and little else, it seems), and a love letter to my writing ritual.
Why the latter?
Because with all the talk I've done about feeling the feelings this year, I realize I've spent the better part of a decade writing something every freakin' week for actors, and haven't really written about what that feels like.
Colleen's post, plus something that happened several times in Sydney, tells me it's time to put this into words.
I love writing for actors. Almost every week for ten years, I've shown up at a blank Word doc on a Mac laptop (first an unnamed tangerine clamshell iBook; then the Chicklet, a silver G4 PowerBook; then Zed, a white G4 iBook Pro; now Sid, a black 2.16GHz MacBook) and asked myself, "How do I start this?" and the answer takes shape in words click-clacked out at 83WPM or so in response. It's like a ouija board. I just put my fingers out there, and it comes.
First there was "Casting Qs" a biweekly, then weekly (this happened very quickly, as the column was a popular one) column Rob Kendt (then editor-in-chief, later associate publisher) of Back Stage West asked me to create. It was 1999. I was an actor. I was doing in-house temp work at BSW and came in once or twice every week or so, to cover a desk when someone was out sick or on leave. I was given some assignments here and there, mostly transcription work from other reporters with stacks of tapes to get through. And then one day Rob asked me to write "Casting Ouch," a 200-word blurb about a casting notice that ran previously in BSW that turned out to be skeevy, when actors showed up for the audition.
Within ten minutes, I emailed him the blurb, based on the bullet-point list of facts I'd been given, and suddenly he was standing over me at my cubicle-for-the-day, an eyebrow raised. "Who are you?" he asked.
"What do you mean? I'm Bonnie Gillespie," I flirtatiously answered.
"No," he clarified, holding a print-out of the words I had emailed to him, "What's your background? How did you do this?"
I said, "Oh! I have a masters degree in journalism."
He quickly escorted me to his office and offered me a job. I declined. He offered a different job. I declined. (Dammit, I was an actor and no flexible survival job was going to turn into a real job with benefits and a regular paycheck. No thank you!)
The third offering was an actor-slash-writer's dream come true.
"How about a freelance column? You interview casting directors. Ten cents a word. Basically, a hundred bucks a pop. Is that flexible enough for you?"
I'm thinking to myself, "So I get to go into the offices of casting people who won't invite me in when I want to show up with a headshot and resumé, but because I show up with a notepad and a microcassette recorder, they'll give me access? And I'll get them talking about themselves for an hour or so, write it all up, turn it in, and you'll print it in a publication read by tens of thousands of actors per week? And you'll pay me?"
"Do I own the rights to my work?" I asked.
And a deal was made.
Over 250 casting directors interviewed in three years. Some of my best friendships in this industry started over coffee or lunch or cocktails with a casting director willing to have this chick from Back Stage West ask some questions, to demystify the process for actors everywhere. A life-changing turn on a path that would lead me to become a casting director (or as Colleen said last night, "A writer who works in casting." I like that), leaving acting behind, yet causing me to write about it every freakin' week.
Three books for actors: Casting Qs, which is of course a collection of the first hundred or so interviews I did for Back Stage West; Acting Qs, which is a collection of interviews with working actors, conceived and co-written by rockstar actor-writer Blake Robbins; and "my baby," Self-Management for Actors, which is in its third top-selling edition, and pretty much what I'm known for creating, based on those interviews and the map I drew out for my then-boyfriend Keith Johnson, as I advised him on how to navigate a professional acting career without hitting the many potholes so many actors seem to land in, as they go.
And now I'm coming up on six years of weekly columns with Showfax at a place they named "The Actors Voice." (I lost the fight over the apostrophe.)
While I was in Sydney recently, I did day-long casting workshops with some of the top casting directors on the planet. People with decades more experience than I have, and certainly with films under their casting belts that have grossed more money than anything I've ever cast would ever aspire to bring in. Let's face it, I specialize in micro-budget indies. And I have no complaints. I love the niche I've built for myself in casting, and I'm very good at what I do: Working with amazing scripts, brought to me by rockstar teams, and going after actors who aren't in it for the money. That's a perfect business model for Cricket Feet Casting, and as we come up on seven years of my life in casting, it's working really well.
But I knew, as I was doing these workshops with these awesome casting directors, that theirs were filling up due to their IMDb pages. The films they are known for casting are the reason actors want to be in front of them; they want to be seen by someone who has cast such high-profile stuff. Because they'll continue to cast high-profile stuff. Because they could be the person who helps facilitate a big break.
Not me. My IMDb impresses no one at first glance. It's only after clicking around and realizing what I've been able to do at micro-budget levels with first-time directors, often, that you begin to understand there's something cool going on. To even get a script in front of some of the legends I have cast speaks to the years of relationship-building and the amount of trust agents and managers put in my word, when I tell them that reading the script will not be a waste of their time. My picker is good. My word is even better.
So, when my workshops were low in the numbers, I wasn't surprised.
And then something happened in the very first workshop of the eight I was hired to conduct for the Australian Institute for Performing Arts. An actor who had driven in from across the country (sorry, continent) to be there said, "I got into acting because I knew I could do it, having read your columns and your book." She excitedly bought the third edition to replace her well-worn copy of the first edition and asked me to autograph it. She asked someone else in the class to take a photo of us together, while I signed the book.
I was in awe.
And then it happened again, in another workshop. And again, in another. And then I had brunch with a manager who told me she structured her business model "LA-style" based on what she learned about self-management from reading my book, and that's allowed her to tier-jump significantly faster than anyone predicted she would (and a Sydney-based casting director friend of mine verified that was absolutely true of this manager and her rise through the ranks).
That's when it hit me. I'm never going to be the kind of casting director that actors rush out to get face time with based on the "hit" I just cast. It's not about the opportunities that I can provide anyone, that they care to meet with me, in general. It's that they know they're going to learn something. It's that I've shown through my words to them, for decades, that there is a way to keep your sanity while in this show business pursuit. And they value that.
So, this is a love letter to the opportunity Rob Kendt gave me in 1999 and the one Bob Brody and Gary Marsh gave me in 2004: To write, weekly, for tens of thousands of actors, worldwide.
I am so completely humbled and blessed and honored to have the venue at which we all meet up and get to work.
As I mentioned to Colleen last night, I was very late to self-identify as a writer. I don't know why, but I was hesitant to claim it, even though writing generated (and continues to generate) the greatest chunk of my income each year. I guess I saw writing as high art, and I saw what I was doing as just journaling in public. Sharing my shit with anyone who cared to read it. Opining.
But dammit, if the 112 Twitter "lists" I'm on have taught me something, it's this: Y'all tell me I'm a writer. (Sure, a few of those lists call me a casting director--and one even calls me an agent, which I'm not--and a few more call me "fun to read" or "funny" or "smart," but it's the bulk of them that call me a writer. So, I claim it. I started claiming it a few years ago. Now I really do.)
Keith and I had dinner last week during which our conversation turned to "my next book." And we're debating a couple pretty awesome options, while wondering when there will be time to work on any books during production on the series; launch of the web distribution channel; touring to teach actors in other cities, states, and countries; and casting and producing several films in 2010. And we want to buy our house. And Keith wants to knock me up. And there's just so much going on.
But that I know there is a "next book" (or rather, several more) is pretty dang cool.
I love the blank page and the promise it provides.
I love filling that page, week after week.
And I love that you fine folks love the order in which I sometimes arrange words. That's pretty dang awesome. And I'm feeling that.
I remember fighting with my mom, as she would say (when I was a pre-teen, writing some script or short story or poem or song or whatever), "My daughter, the writer." I would fire back, "MUH-THUR! I AM AN ACT-TRESS!" and stomp a foot and leave the room.
Okay, Momma. You--as always--were right. And thank you for having nurtured that in me. It's a gift and I treasure it. You taught me the beauty of the analogy, and I never seem to run out of 'em.
Let's hope not, anyway.
June 21, 2009
Self-Management for Actors is on Kindle!
Well this has been an exciting week! :)
Next, of course we have Quinn with us, and that means every day is packed with fun and love and episodes of "The Quinn Show" for Facebook.
And it currently has NO reviews. ;) Sure would love it if those of you who've so kindly written reviews for the in-print edition could share your thoughts on the Kindle version page. Whether it's at the Amazon.com page or not, we sure would LOVE to have your feedback. This is our first venture into the world of the e-Book, so please let us know if there's anything we could do to make the reading experience even more awesome. :)
Enjoy! And thanks for the support.
May 14, 2009
Thank you, readers of Back Stage West for including me among the list of "Favorite Casting Directors" (again!) and--this year--among "Favorite Industry Blogs" (behind the awesomeness that is Nikki Finke, of course) in the 2009 Readers' Choice Awards for Los Angeles.
February 3, 2009
Then and Now
And five-and-a-half years earlier, there was another. The first edition party.
While I appreciate every single one of the fans, friends, proofers, contributors, and supporters worldwide, the truth is, I just couldn't do it without you, Keith. I love you, baby.
November 24, 2008
Book's in the mail!
So, after a busy morning in which I worked out, got asked to cast another indie film, contacted potential space to rent for my new venture starting up, and finally loaded 200+ books into Keith's car, it was time to head to the post office to mail the crap out of these promo copies of Self-Management for Actors. (See my video blogs at Facebook here if you're down with the Facebook. Clearly, I've become addicted to video blogging to the exclusion of posts here!)
Bin ONE (of five) at the post office, behind the counter already. A wall of other packages nearby. The dude at the spot next to mine was all up in arms about the clerk's unwillingness to round up the amount on his receipt for postage. I mean, he went on and on (loudly) for quite some time. I, on the other hand, was having a "Disney day." Birds chirping, woodland creatures approaching to help carry my skirts, music playing. ;)
Wall of SMFA3. The first of many. The line of customers was really wondering what this was all about. One asked Keith--as he hauled in the fifth or sixth box of packed books--if we were eBay sellers or something. Ha! No. Just giving away books to the wonderful people who helped make 'em possible!
Last boxes of SMFA3 on the floor awaiting counter space. After about ten minutes, I started helping Yon (our most awesome clerk) by stamping MEDIA MAIL on all of the packages. I went through two self-inking stamps before she finally gave me a BRAND NEW one. :) It was really fun to be a helper. Like back when I got to go to work with my dad and send "memos" through the pneumatic tubes.
Here, you can almost see Yon's little head behind the wall of books. We've been at this for nearly 90 minutes at this point and Keith is buying additional postage from the self-serve machine to help the process along. Yon has commented (thinking we've sold all of these copies of the book) that we'll be millionaires by the New Year. "Yes," I told her. "That's the idea." ;) Hee! Gotta do the affirmations, yo!
Headed back to Keith's car, we decide to snap photos of ourselves a good ten feet away from one another, holding the ends of the receipt. (Yes, there were more receipts, from the self-serve machine, but you get the idea, here.)
(And here.) Ah, we love this part. It really is a little bit of Santa Claus action. As I unloaded, stacked on the counter, and MEDIA MAIL stamped each of these packages, I thought about the recipients of the books and how grateful I am to everyone for being a part of this process. Whether you contributed, proofed, or mentored me somehow, I'm so filled with happiness that soon you'll have a copy of my new baby to enjoy.
And now I have my living room back. Very important!
August 21, 2008
Long Overdue Long Update
Phew! Okay, so.
I have been working on the edits for the 3rd edition of Self-Management for Actors since August began. I got my first seven chapters to proofers on August 4th. The book has 46 chapters. I continued to get chapters to my awesome proofers daily through the 15th and had all of their feedback by the 18th.
I've been entering changes and trying to cut content (the book was originally going to be 368 pages but looked like it would be 630+ pages as of the 15th) since then and--today--the 520-page *near-final* manuscript was FedExed to the final team of proofers who do the cover-to-cover read and get notes to me by the 29th.
And then this lovely book hits the printer on September 1st. And will be in stores everywhere by Thanksgiving (if not sooner).
Our international distributor tells us we've already sold 800 copies. Yay! But also: Oops. The book is now 150 pages longer than originally listed (and it's now also eight bucks more per book). Wow.
It was the last couple of days that were the most intense. I woke up at 6am Wednesday and said, "Today is the day I call failure on my SMFA3 goals." I just knew there was no way I would have everything ready in time. No way. But when I went to bed at 5am Thursday, I had logged in 22 hours of work on the book, 45 minutes nap time, and 10 minutes on Wii Fit.
I slept for four hours this morning and then finished up everything to have Keith take the manuscript to Kinko's to copy and then FedEx out. I was back in bed at 4pm and up at 7pm. So, my sleep patterns are wonky (and the heat works well with that... bleh) and now I'm feeling all buzzed and antsy. I've found that opening three weeks' worth of mail and paying a few bills has helped calm me down. Soon, I will listen to at least a week's worth of voicemails, as I've not even had the phone volume UP for at least that long. Book mode is serious focus, y'all.
In other news, the breakdown for the November 2008 Cricket Feet Showcase went out on Monday. Submission deadline is the 25th. Auditions will be held on September 8th. I'm so looking forward to meeting our new cast!! And to working with Chil and Eitan and Tamika and Keith again, as always.
I can't believe what a great couple of years it's been, doing this showcase. Just awesome.
I'm being interviewed by Spun Gold TV next week. This will mark my third televised UK interview in 18 months. First was for BBC Breakfast. Second was for UTV in Ireland. This is another London-based outfit and they're sending an actor to Hollywood and following her as she meets with people. Apparently, it is now known in the UK that I give good, "cheeky" TV in a very fun, biz-savvy manner. Cool. That'll help when we're ready to take the roadshow abroad.
News on that: We're going to try and do some LA-adjacent tours and speaking engagements in the last two months of 2008, and then we'll head to other cities and states (and countries?) in 2009. Very much looking forward to this. Haven't been on the road in a long time.
Saturday is my 20th high school reunion. I will not be there. Two main reasons: 1. August. 2. Atlanta.
I mean, c'mon! October, I could do. But Atlanta in August? Dunwoody Country Club in August? In formalwear? Really? Nah. I'll have more fun hearing the stories, I'm sure.
Let's see... what else?
The four-week class I was supposed to teach at the Hayworth got pushed to November.
I've lost 40 pounds since Christmas. (And five inches off my waist, thankyouverymuch.)
I get to hang out with the director of Another Harvest Moon next week and catch up on all the tales from the set and plans from here.
I can only imagine the tales will be outstanding (the ones I've already heard are hilarious and touching and inspiring).
And that the plans for this film are... big. I got chills looking through the photos at the website just now. Dear GAWD, this film is going to be amazing.
I still need to read a script that's been sent to me for a casting bid. It's a $2M thriller and looks good from quick skim of a couple of pages. (Honestly, I've been so busy with the book, there's been no time to do other stuff.)
I've learned I'm really good at compartmentalizing. (I mean, I knew that already, but it's become VERY clear with all of this work on the book this month.) When I go into book mode, I'm a machine. It has been nearly three years since I've had this experience, but it really is like riding a bike. It all comes back to you and hopefully you've given yourself enough empty road to not bump into anything at first.
As with the 2nd edition, I have both the HUGE worry that I've messed up whatever was good about the book by making changes to it AND the certainty that it might possibly be the best book for actors ever written.
This "sure you suck" and "sure you rock" simultaneous opinion is pretty tough to maintain, but somehow I find a way. ;)
Okay. Not sure what's next. So much got set aside in the past three weeks that I just need to start on something... but I also need to just CHILL. Perhaps I'll play computer solitaire for about five hours straight. That'll be fun. And maybe a walk to the beach when Keith gets home, just to remember what that's like. Oooh! Or a midnight trip to the gym. A good sweat in an over-air-conditioned facility might feel REALLY good right about now.
Or maybe I need to just sit here for a minute. :) Just be.
OH!!!!! HUGE thanks to the actor who sent me free passes to the Magic Castle (I've never been!!) and also to the actor who sent me half-off passes to Glen Ivy Hot Springs (I've definitely been!!) as encouragement for working so hard on the book. :) I love you guys. Also love my friends who made me take playdate breaks once a week or so while all of this was going on.
Man, I've got it so damn good it's just ridiculous.
I hope you can say the same, everyone. I've missed keeping up with you all. Catch me up! What's going on in your world?
July 27, 2008
Quick Bonnie Gillespie Roadshow Survey
Quick Bonnie Gillespie roadshow survey, if you don't mind.
The third edition of Self-Management for Actors will be out in October and a book tour, speaking tour, seminar series, roadshow of some kind will be on the books. YAY!
Last book tour, we did it ourselves and hit four cities outside of the many events held in Los Angeles. It was a wee tour, but we had a blast and got to meet a ton of people, talk acting, sign and sell books, and all that cool stuff.
This time, I've got a producing partner and a plan for making it a much bigger "thing" than just a book tour. And we're gonna do a bunch of research, formally, before announcing anything official.
Whether this roadshow involves "just me and Anna" or becomes a group endeavor remains to be seen. Whether these events will be "signings in bookstores" or weekend-long courses remains to be seen. Whether we're talking about freebie quickies or fee-required intensives remains to be seen.
Here's ALL I want to know right now (although, I welcome your feedback on format, timeline, cost, number of participants and instructors, etc., if you're feeling moved to share such):
Where should we go?
Yeah, I can check my wholly under-utilized Eventful page to see where a few folks have said, "We'd come out and see Bon," but I'm posting this blog entry at the Spynotebook, my MySpace, and my Twitter (as well as at the official Cricket Feet Mailing List) in order to get a sense of where y'all are.
Where should we tour?
Give me your city or the biggest city nearby to which you would travel in order to have a little visit. And if you want to tell me whether a quickie book signing is your speed or a weekend workshop would rock your world, let me hear that (with the understanding that only one of those types of things would be a freebie, natch). ;) But, again, the REAL focus of this survey is to find out WHERE we should go.
- New York?
- Somewhere in Texas? Where?
- Pacific northwest? Where?
- Australia? Which part?
- Should we do a "Self-Management for Actors" CRUISE?????? Would y'all get on board with that? Like a WEEK of SMFA stuff on a floaty boat somewhere cool?
No promises yet--except that every response will be considered and added to the master list as we begin researching feasibility in each location.
If you're a super-duper organized person who wants to be a local "event coordinator," let us hear from you on that too! Like a, "set it up and your tuition is free" kind of producer person, maybe. ??? And if you work at a college or university campus and want to have your drama department or student activities division schedule a visit, I've been hired before as an associate/visiting professor, so there's an option for that as well!
Okay. Enough for now. NOW YOU. Holla! ;)
And we look forward to seeing you--wherever you may be--SOON!
July 20, 2008
Why I Think I'm Struggling
Okay, so I'm struggling with digging in on production of the 3rd edition of Self-Management for Actors. Really struggling.
And I think I figured out why.
One, it's been a long time since I wrote a book. Like... nearly three years. And while I'm really good at all of it once I'm IN THERE AND AT IT, it's the getting started that's tough. Ramping up and trying to remember what my style manual looks like, what my presets in each of the three software packages I use might be, even what font I prefer to use (or want to try out this time)... it's all stressful.
Next, I don't remember what the book is like. The old edition. I actually need to sit and read it--cover to cover--again to remember what goes where and figure out what new stuff replaces old stuff, what new stuff gets inserted where, and what old stuff is just OUT altogether this time. And because I've read it all before (many, many times) and because I also happen to write this type of stuff every week for my column, I lose track of what's where and when I wrote or said what and whether it stays or goes or... what.
How many new essays have been contributed? How many have been pledged but are still outstanding? How many that have already been contributed should I send back to the contributors to see if they'd like to do any tweaks, seeing as it's been MONTHS since some of them have come to me (back in time for the first deadline on this book)? Eesh. Admin. It's a bear. Top it off with the fact that Amazon.com has now listed the book as OUT OF PRINT rather than DELAYED and they won't let me tweak the date without backup from our international distributors who can't be bothered 'til they know we're at the printer... which means we're going to be slow on pre-sales. Great. Grrrrrrrrrr!
Finally, during production of Acting Qs: Conversations with Working Actors and then again during production of the 2nd edition of Self-Management for Actors, I had something really amazing that served as a means of being totally disconnected from the world, allowing me to focus entirely on me, my brain, my bod, my soul, and my book.
This time, I do have my Wii, but no spa trip scheduled or affordable during this production period. Dangit.
While I may be able to churn out a column for The Actors Voice and a Your Turn every single week, and then moderate a POV twice every month, it seems BOOK WRITING requires a very different skill set. I need good rubbin' and the peace of the desert in order to get into book mode, fully.
Now to make my home more spa-like... hmm... that may be the first order of business.
Looks good so far. ;) Just need to find a way to disconnect all sources of technology and distraction. And then get reeeeeeallllly relaxed.
May 30, 2008
Well, that was cool!
So, this will be a long rambling story with a not nearly exciting enough punchline, but it's one of those great "feel goods" that we all need sometimes. So, here it is.
Back in 1999, I was still an actor. My fellow actor friends and I used to do karaoke every week (at least once a week, often twice) and every few months, we would even brave the Farmer's Market for their legendary, loud, large, all-day karaoke and booze-fest on a Saturday. So, on one Saturday we were there and so was TLC, casting for A Dating Story. Being actors, we had to figure out a way to get on that show (on ANY show) and so we decided that I was friends with two of these people and they didn't know one another and I wanted to set them up. Perfect. Me: the yenta. She: the hotty from down south. He: the good guy you really wanted to see win.
The truth: they had dated in college and I had only met him once. But whatevz! Who cared? It was only reality TV and we wanted some face time!
Cut to: The producer and crew from TLC are with us at Amy's apartment, shooting the setup segment. The producer is who we'll follow from here (because the rest of the story isn't relevant).
The producer and I stayed in touch for a little bit after that, but only a little bit, since I was no longer acting--so why would I need to stay in touch with a producer for TLC? But then I put out a breakdown at some point in either late 2005 or early 2006 (can't recall) and I got submissions from a new management company showing up on Breakdown Services and the manager's name was very familiar.
He: Is this Bonnie Gillespie?
Me: Yes it is.
He: Is this the Bonnie Gillespie who was once an actress?
Me: Yes it is.
He: Well, this is the Kevin Kahn who was once a producer for TLC and Pie Town Productions.
Me: Holy shit! I just saw your name on Breakdowns.
He: Yup. And now I'm calling to pitch my clients.
And on from there.
So, we've formed a new relationship as CD/manager, which is very different than the actor/producer relationship, but still cool because obviously we go "way back," as they say. Kevin has pitched his awesome clients. I've seen 'em. They're good. He specializes in comedic people. Awesome. He comes to our first ever showcase. Loves it. Writes a great testimonial. Meets with people. All good.
But now I haven't heard from him in awhile. Weird. And then Tuesday night, Keith brings the mail from our Hollywood PO Box and there's a postcard advertising the April showcase that's come back undeliverable. To Kevin. Boo! He's no longer at that address and I've not kept up with him enough to know that. Bummer!
Cut to: yesterday, and I get an email from Kevin. Totally out of the blue. He's producing a package on casting and wants to know how the hell I do this crazy job. I reply that it takes a special balance of being crazy, tolerant, and totally incapable of taking too much too seriously while also behaving as though everything is so serious that it could cure cancer. By the way, I just got mail back from your old address, where the hell are you now? I have a new showcase coming up and you have to see these awesome people.
Turns out he's no longer managing talent, but is back to doing packaged stuff for TV. Cool. Here's the new address. Let's stay in touch. If you ever need anything, blah blah blah.
(It's now today and the phone rings.)
He: Is this Bonnie Gillespie?
Me: Yes it is.
He: Is this the Bonnie Gillespie who was once an actress?
Me: Yes it is.
He: Well, this is the Kevin Kahn who was once a producer for TLC and Pie Town Productions.
Me: Well, hello there!
He: I have no time... I'm on the red carpet producing a package right now, but I had to call you.
SFX: Red carpet goings-on. Very exciting.
He: So, there's this guy on the team next to me, the on-camera guy, and between interviews and stand-ups, he's reading this book. He finally takes a piss break and puts the book down, face down, and whose face is staring up at me from the back of this book? Yours! And it's your headshot from your acting days! He's reading this performing arts book between bullshit on the red carpet and it's YOURS. You're out there, baby. People are buying your book!
Me: And reading it! Yay!
Anyway, it goes on, but the point is, this was one of those very silly things that just reminds me how very silly, random, and AWESOME this whole business is.
Just. Like. That.
PS--The 3rd edition of this awesome book will be out in October. I swear it will be done.
Happy weekend, y'all. ;)
January 1, 2008
I think I have figured it out (and it has to do with a word I used twice in the first three words of this sentence).
In heading around the "feeds" last night to see what folks were saying about the writers' strike, I noticed the title of a post by major entertainment news source Nikki Finke.
The title of the blog post, if made by a more likable person, would've been one word shorter.
As Expected, Big Media Ignore... reads a hell of a lot more "one of us" than As I Expected, Big Media Ignore... (especially considering the fact that EVERYONE expected it).
And--putting aside the strike, making this all about semantics and not at all about the topic--there's something nice and "we're all in this together" that makes some people inherently more "readable" than others. Sure, some readers want experts. They crave directives. They hunger for being told JUST how it is.
But I think there's something really exciting about knowing what your simplest word choices might be saying to your readers.
(Could this be why I suddenly like Harvey Levin more, lately? He's just so dang, "into it" without being sooo inside--and proud of it--that he needs to show us he's IN more than he wants to share his toys.)
Believe me, I'll remain a huge fan of Nikki's, despite her overindulgence in, "I broke the story and no one is giving me credit for it," moments or anything else that makes folks say they don't love her. I can only imagine how cray-cray my life would feel if my column's 50,000 hits per week neared the numbers she must get, or if I received ten times the 200 or so emails I get per day. (And, yeah, I know it is probably nowhere near Nikki's top goal to be likable.)
Hmm. Something to ponder, at least. Maybe by journalism students out there.
December 22, 2007
Why We Write: a must-read
So, while I was in the dentist chair, Nikki Finke posted the first in a series of essays called "Why We Write" (the brainchild of WGA members Charlie Craig and Thania St. John). I am now de-Novocained enough to use my computer for a moment. (And why do they only give a girl Motrin after such a painful procedure and assure her, "It'll do," for the pain?)
This first one is by Greg Garcia (My Name Is Earl) and, like I said in this blog post's title, it's a must-read. Made me laugh and cry, as good writing is known to do.
Of course, they're looking for contributions from high-profile WGA members, but if they want my take on it, I'd recommend posts like "The Human Element," "The Strike," "Community, Creativity, and Cheers," and probably the last couple of paragraphs in "So, this was fun."
Go. Read. Be inspired. Remember why we love these brilliant, creative people.
December 14, 2007
SMFA3 Cover Leaked!
Yes, it's true! Way sooner than we were ready for it to happen, the lovely cover for the 3rd edition of Self-Management for Actors popped up on the French version (I know!) of Amazon.com, and that meant it was only a matter of hours before everyone got a sneak peek.
So... here 'tis.
Thank you, Shelley, for doing such lovely work! Hee!
I've taken a break from content work to update the Self-Management for Actors website and MySpace page. Yeah, I still need to update the contributors' area, plus TOC and testimonials, but you get the idea. ;)
Thanks, everyone, for the relentless support. Y'all rock. And I really am grateful to you for reading!!
December 3, 2007
Better Get To Work!
So, I get this Google Alert on Self-Management for Actors.
And I realize the ISBN is not the ISBN of the existing edition(s) of Self-Management for Actors.
So I decide to check it out.
Ruh-roh. That's the 3rd edition up on BN.com!
On Amazon.com too!
And that's definitely not the 2nd edition that's showin' up.
So... um... I'd better get to work. Already way behind my first two deadlines.
'scuse me if I seem MIA for a bit, here. I gotta get this sucker to the printer--and fast! Yowza!
November 22, 2007
My First Los Angeles Thanksgiving
No. Not today. Today is my... um... what... tenth Los Angeles Thanksgiving? Yes. That's it. Nine Thanksgivings "this time" I've been living out here (Yowza. My tenth anniversary in LA is next year? Eep!) and the one from "my first time" living in Los Angeles--you know, before the Northridge Quake. Before OJ. Before the area code called "323."
Okay, so once upon a time, I was a vegetarian. I'm not sure why. Oh, wait, I remember. I'd had my wisdom teeth extracted and I ended up not eating for the entire summer I turned 15. I got blissfully anorexic. Like 108 pounds. And I'm tall. So that was killer-cool. Eventually, I would have to eat again, though. (And how! Hah!) And when I did start eating again, I never added meat back in.
Well, not never. Obviously. I think I went about three years without eating meat. I ate seafood, since that didn't walk around or get milked or anything, but I was a pretty dang good vegetarian, I think. I wasn't militant. I wasn't doing it for "animal rights" or anything.
No one ever really noticed that I didn't eat turkey at Thanksgiving. I would eat dressing and gravy, so why should anyone expect that I would end up hiding that little wedge of white meat under my cranberry sauce? I guess I wasn't a great vegetarian after all. There's turkey broth in the gravy, right?
So, back to My First Los Angeles Thanksgiving.
This dinner took place in Calabassas in 1993. I was away from home for the first Thanksgiving of my young life. My boss, president of the musical artist management firm where I worked, fancied himself my LA-based father figure, and called my mother from the office to tell her I'd be having a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at his home.
Awesome. I couldn't wait. Mom was thrilled. Ended up mailing Jeff a thank you note, saying it meant the world to her that her baby was being taken care of so far away from home.
I asked if I could bring anything, as good southern girls do, and was told just to bring myself; his wife would have everything prepared. Truth be told, his wife was more of a supervisor in that kitchen; directing traffic made up of four non-English-speaking employees. I chose to hang out in the study with my boss, a record label exec, and Meat Loaf's business manager. I had more in common with them, somehow.
Dinner is served. Yay!
Why are there raisins and walnuts in my cranberry sauce? How is oyster stuffing considered a complementary dressing for turkey? And where are the mashed potatoes? Where is the candied marshmallow glaze across the sweet potatoes? Where is The Parade of Casseroles? And why are we drinking wine? I'm expecting iced tea so sweet that a spoon stands up in the glass.
Suddenly, I miss home.
Give me over-cooked green beans, five different forms of starch, and cranberry sauce with rings on it, fresh from the can. Then, I'll be able to pass out after Thanksgiving dinner like every other loyal American former vegetarian: properly stuffed, in front of the television, hoping to be woken up for pecan pie, pumpkin pie, and banana pudding with Nilla Wafers.
Tiramisu is for communists.
November 18, 2007
The Actors Voice, 11/19/07
Here's how tomorrow's The Actors Voice starts out.
Last month, I spoke to a group of actors down at UC Irvine. (Have I mentioned that this most recent graduating MFA class blew me away at the April showcase they put on with Harvard/ART? Just, wow. There's some major talent, there. So, when Richard Brestoff asked me to come chat to the current crop of students, I was happy to do so). After a little Q&A, I watched the actors do some sides I brought with me, then gave feedback to each actor, plus advised them on how I saw their "primary type" based on the work they'd just done. (Believe me, this last thing is something I could build an entire career around doing, if I wanted to. Actors really crave knowing how "their type" comes across to casting directors.)
Okay, so one pair of actors deviated from the script during the read. Actually, two pairs of actors did this. One pair did it to great success. The other pair, I had to redirect back to what was on the page, as their deviations didn't work.
So, the question came: "During auditions, when can we stray from what is written on the page and when should we stay married to the text?"
Continue reading this column shortly, along with a Your Turn follow-up on last week's "The Strike" piece at Showfax.com.
Be sure to visit The Actors Voice: POV for a POV from Philly-based CD Susan Gish.
As always, THANK YOU for reading!
Live your dreams! If you don't, someone else will.
October 21, 2007
The Actors Voice, 10/22/07
Here's how tomorrow's The Actors Voice starts out.
I'd Like To Thank the Academy
Last month, I tuned in for some fraction of the Emmy Awards. Truth be told, I'm a bit of an award show junkie, so it was really bizarre that I had absolutely zero interest in staying home to watch the Emmys this year. Not only did I not cut short the afternoon plans I had, I actually extended my plans to include a dinner meeting with a colleague rather than racing home to catch up with the show. Call it The Ryan Seacrest Factor, if you will. But I'm not even sure that's what turned me off to it. I just kind of wasn't in the mood.
Still, when I got home from my dinner date, I turned on the Emmys and joined the show in progress (actually, it had been over for hours, but we get that lovely tape-delayed version here in LA which just really pisses me off, seeing as every tease from the news anchors includes shots of the winners backstage in the press room. I'm like, "If you're gonna force us to watch on tape-delay, then for the love of all that is holy, you should be forced to do spoiler-free news teases on the same channel." But I digress).
I found myself pausing the TiVo to let the show get in the system for ten minutes or so, then watching the last hour of the Emmys by fast-forwarding through all of the "bits" (except for the brilliant impromptu award acceptance by Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Steve Carell), fast-forwarding through the host's intros, and even fast-forwarding through some of the clips of nominated shows. I wanted to watch the acceptance speeches (well... some of them. Some were just... too much. I'm lookin' at you, Gidget). I wanted to hear who these fine actors--actors at the top of their game and at their happiest career moment--listed among those who helped them get to this point. Was it their friends, their family members, their agents, their show's producers, their co-stars, their personal trainer? Who would they choose to honor in that seconds-long moment they are given to do so?
As always, THANK YOU for reading!
Live your dreams! If you don't, someone else will.
October 7, 2007
The Actors Voice, 10/8/07
Here's how tomorrow's The Actors Voice starts out.
So, you might recall that I was hinting around (but superstitiously not revealing too much) about a "big thing" for which I put myself "out there" a couple of months ago. Okay, well my plan was to have next week's column announce some splenderrifically delicious news about a new chapter in my writing life... but at this point (even though I haven't heard the official word that I'm not moving forward with this "big thing"), I'm thinking there's value in sharing where I am right now, which is absolutely certain I didn't make the cut.
I mean, even if by some miracle I am selected as one of only three writers in this year's Warner Bros. TV Comedy Writers Workshop within days of posting this column, the fact remains that right now, I'm suffering from something actors face every single day: the let-down.
Continue reading this column in the morning, along with a Your Turn requesting a bit of help in putting together my *next* column (which will be all about life as a series regular) at Showfax.com.
As always, THANK YOU for reading!
Live your dreams! If you don't, someone else will.
September 29, 2007
SMFA, 3rd edition--calling all PROOFERS!
(This is a repost from the Cricket Feet Publishing Proofer Patrol mailing list. Basically, I want to be sure I'm reaching my proofers who have changed email addresses since our last edition AND open up Proofer Patrol slots for aspiring proofers. Yay!)
Like I don't have enough going on.
Yup. Gonna do the 3rd edition of Self-Management for Actors for Pilot Season 2008. That means we're going to the printer right after Thanksgiving.
Nope. I'm not kidding.
So... you fabulous proofers, are you with me? In for another round? (I still love you even if you're not up for this one, I promise.)
Here's what I need to know from you, if you're into it (ENTER THIS INFO when you sign up for the Yahoo Group):
- That you're into it.
- What you're into (fact-checking, copy-editing, web research, indexing, general once-overing).
- Um... your favorite thing about grammar? I don't know. Something fun for number three. ;)
Okay, that's it for now. As always, THANK YOU for the love and affection... for the English language, that is. ;) And me. :) XO
(determined to fill a library by 2045)
September 23, 2007
The Actors Voice, 9/24/07
Here's how tomorrow's The Actors Voice starts out.
I was watching this weekend's Georgia game and heard one of the commentators say something that seemed somewhat meaningful. This was in the final moments of the fourth quarter. The score was tied and the Bulldogs had the ball. With less than one minute to go, we either had to score a field goal or go into OT. Obviously, scoring a field goal right then would be preferable. Game over. Let the celebration begin. But we only had one time out, and our coach was saving that for setting up his kicker, rather than having him sprint out while the clock was still running. So, we needed to get a first down to stop the clock (without using that one last time out sooner than we wanted to).
The commentator said something along the lines of this: "They can't be thinking about the field goal. It's not about how to score the field goal. They need to get this first down and that's all they can think about right now. Don't worry about that score. Get that first down." And I thought, "Hmm. How tough that must be, staying focused only on the thing you need to make happen first and not about what it means to be able to get through that in order to do the bigger thing." And then, as if on cue for a "hey, write this week's column about this, Bon," moment, I came across a paragraph in this awesome book I'm reading (Created by...) from showrunner Barbara Hall.
[When] I was halfway through writing the pilot [for Joan of Arcadia], I realized I had no real idea what the series was all about and I shouldn't even finish writing the pilot. I thought about calling CBS and saying, "I just don't know what this show is, so let's not even bother." Then, I had a change of heart. I decided that what happens to the show after I finish the pilot is not really my business. My business was to finish this pilot. So, that is what I did.
So often in this business we find ourselves consumed by our goals and our dreams to the extent that we lose sight of the one thing we need to get done in order to even have the opportunity to score. And that's why sometimes the best thing you can do is train yourself to stay present. Because thinking too many steps ahead can actually prevent you from getting the chance to go for it.
Continue reading this column in the morning, along with a Your Turn filled with answers to quick questions at Showfax.com.
As always, THANK YOU for reading!
Live your dreams! If you don't, someone else will.
September 17, 2007
The Actors Voice, 9/17/07
Here's how today's The Actors Voice starts out.
As you may recall from a column two months ago, I'm adding some content here at the Showfax archives that originated in my first book: Casting Qs. So, here's another of the chapters. This one, on the importance of doing theatre in a film-and-TV town, features direct quotes from 22 casting directors. Enjoy!
Casting directors always advise actors, "Do theatre. Get involved in theatre. Do a play. Period." Actors write me to ask, "Does that really work?" So, I posed a few questions to several busy casting directors, in an attempt to find out precisely why they so strongly recommend working in theatre (and, perhaps more importantly to the actors reading, whether or not CDs attend theatre and, if they do, how the heck to get 'em to show up).
Continue reading this column now, along with a Your Turn in which the stand-in question from a few weeks back is answered at Showfax.com.
As always, THANK YOU for reading!
Be sure to visit The Actors Voice: POV for the first POV in a four-part series from Prague-based CD, Nancy Bishop.
Live your dreams! If you don't, someone else will.
August 27, 2007
Crappy Writers Are Crappy
I read a lot. Mostly scripts. I also read books about the industry. And columns. And blogs. It's kind of my thing.
Okay, so in the past three weeks, I've read a book a week while on the machines at the gym at 2am five days a week (yes, really. I'm that badass now) in prep for this kinda big bunch of things I've got going on.
And the first two books I read ROCKED. Simply ROCKED. They were fun, funny, informative, and had tons of personality with very few typos (believe me, that kind of shit goes a long way with me).
And then... *thud* ...I decided to pick up a book that I got on gift certificate a year ago, when prepping for my "big entertainment attorney meeting." Because of where I'm going tomorrow, it's suddenly a wee bit more relevant than the one chapter for which I bought it.
And it SUCKS! Son of a fuck, it sucks so much that I wanted to hurl it across the room (which, technically, would mean "off the treadmill loft and onto the head of some cute but unsuspecting 'I love the mirror' freeweights guy down below")... and now I'm pissed because I have nothing in the queue to take with me to the gym tonight and, well, tomorrow's the big meeting and I need as many distractions as possible (hello, vodka in the freezer).
I just thought I'd take this opportunity to say that even non-fiction writers owe their readers a personality, their audience a VOICE.
Ugh. Mediocre is just *not* an acceptable baseline level for escapism material (even when the escape is "work-related").
PS--Speaking of other things I'm OVER, let's include my effin' craptastic 'puter and its busted-ass mouse that keeps selecting shit I didn't select and unselecting crap I'm still clicking-and-holding on.
PPS--Good LORD... am I cranky or WHAT?!?
August 26, 2007
The Actors Voice, 8/27/07
Here's how tomorrow's The Actors Voice starts out.
Issues of Race
Do you believe that actors of color (black actresses in particular) face any unique challenges out there? Is there anything beyond "preparation meeting opportunity" that we can do to be seen? I don't know if it's "Bitter Actor Syndrome" or what, but I've heard stories of being asked to play slaves time and again, of needing to look like Beyoncé to score a role, etc. I pretty much dismissed these things, because I firmly believe that you create your own reality. What are your thoughts?
So, after running that question once in Your Turn and receiving exactly zero replies when I asked readers to share their experiences, I decided to directly email some of my favorite working actors who could be considered members of ethnic minority groups and find out what they might have to say. Because I received so few replies to that request (even though the replies I did receive were amazing), I again ran this Your Turn last week. And boy, did y'all step up this time! Even many of those actors I had emailed came through, when they realized I was getting so little feedback. THANK YOU!!
What started as a really complicated debate about whether the struggles Hollywood actors face are universal or specifically unique based on issues of race has turned into a really complicated yet inspiring collection of, basically, how to work through it all, no matter who you are or how you're built. [Please note that whenever someone has asked to be quoted without attribution that I personally know that actor and can assure you that his or her IMDB credits are at a level to which most actors--of any race--would aspire.]
Continue reading this column in the morning, along with a Your Turn in which I ask for your help in directing an actor to some good resources for stand-in work at Showfax.com.
As always, THANK YOU for reading!
Live your dreams! If you don't, someone else will.
August 19, 2007
The Actors Voice, 8/20/07
Here's how tomorrow's The Actors Voice starts out.
The Blind Leading the Blind
I recently did something that took me way beyond my comfort zone. In a couple of months--when I know the outcome of this brave thing I did--I'll let y'all know what it was. But for now, I'm doing that superstitious thing that actors do after testing at network for a series regular role on a pilot: I'm keeping this thing pretty quiet. What I do want to share with you--about this recent experience--is something that I now better understand about Actor Mind Taffy. And a potential risk we face, when we're "new" at something.
What I learned in going through this new scary experience is that, when we muster up the courage to do a "hard thing" it is really "easy" to do two other things: obsess about the stuff we don't control and look to others for advice, no matter how "clueless" those others might be.
Here's how it hit home for me.
I was in the middle of doing the equivalent of the whole "staples or glue stick" debate. This is something that is so easy for me spot, when I see an actor doing it. I am quick to say, "Hey! Snap out of it! You're engaging in Actor Mind Taffy and you MUST stop to save your sanity. You will never do it the 'right way' for all potential recipients of your headshot and resumé, so you need to find the way that's right for YOU and then let the rest go. Believe me, no one cares anyway. They're way too busy to look at such things. No one in the history of casting has ever seen the headshot and resumé of the exact right actor for the role and then said, 'Oh, too bad. Can't cast her. She used two staples instead of four.' Never. Never, never, never."
Continue reading this column in the morning, along with a Your Turn asking--again--for help with issues of race and casting at Showfax.com.
As always, THANK YOU for reading!
Live your dreams! If you don't, someone else will.
August 15, 2007
LA Bloggers Live
This event takes place at the Tangier Lounge on Wednesday, August 22nd, 6:30pm. (There is a $4 cover charge at the door.) Here's the line-up of live bloggers as of this moment.
So, for those of you who have been hankerin' to hear a little Dear Middle-Aged Balding Entitled A-hole at El Cholo, done all live and proper-like, now's your chance.
I anticipate greatness. The last time I went to hear CoCo do the live blogging thing, I CRIED with laughter. That horrifically wonderful belly-laughter that makes you double over and get a cramp. It's soooooo good.
Thanks for the support, everyone! Hope to see you there!
August 12, 2007
The Actors Voice, 8/13/07
Here's how tomorrow's The Actors Voice starts out.
What's Your Motivation
Ah, Alfred Hitchcock got it right. "When an actor comes to me and wants to discuss his character, I say, 'It's in the script.' If he says, 'But what's my motivation?' I say, 'Your salary.'" Awesome. Method Actors may want to argue with me, as I side with Hitch, but I think some actors spend so much time mired in thoughts of how to bring realism to their characters that they sometimes spin off the grid of reality itself. It's actually pretty simple: You're hired to do a job. Do it. HOW you do should be invisible to everyone else. Get "there" by doing whatever it takes to get you there. Just do it. But the more you let others in on your process (that is, until you're being interviewed by James Lipton), the higher the risk you're causing someone to glaze over and start thinking of that other, less "precious" actor we could've cast.
Please understand that I'm not bashing any one acting technique or the actors who subscribe to it. Hey, if you can bring the talent, I'm gonna cast you eventually, and I really don't care HOW you get there. But that's really the point: It's not about HOW to anyone outside of you. And I'm not just talking about connecting with the characters you portray. I'm talking about doing the rounds, networking, meeting with agents, staying on the radar of casting directors, doing plays, whatever! Your process is as unique as you are and what works for you might not work for anyone else. But this column isn't about motivation in your acting technique.
See, if there's one thing I've learned about this showbiz thing, it's that most folks seem to think there's some magic recipe to success in the industry. And that if they could just get their hands on that recipe, they'd be living their dreams. Well, I hate to break it to you, but there's just no such thing as one magic recipe. You take a look at what others are doing, try on some things, decide what works for you and discard what does not, and stay focused, disciplined, and committed to walking your path. As for what, specifically, motivates you to walk the path of the actor, well, let's look at some good and not-so-good types of motivation.
Continue reading this column in the morning, along with a Your Turn filled with follow-up emails on last week's "Don't Drop the Ball" at Showfax.com.
Be sure to visit The Actors Voice: POV for a POV from a self-proclaimed "Auditioning Actor" on Wednesday the 15th!
As always, THANK YOU for reading!
Live your dreams! If you don't, someone else will.
August 5, 2007
The Actors Voice, 8/6/07
Here's how tomorrow's The Actors Voice starts out.
Don't Drop the Ball
I scrapped this column last week in favor of turning in The Big Lies. (And, wow, y'all liked that one. Thanks!) But, I've been doing some thinking about why I wasn't in love with Don't Drop the Ball enough to stick with it, turn it in, and save The Big Lies for later. Ah! I think I figured it out. It has something to do with Actor Darwinism. Actors who aren't doing everything they can to keep their career afloat are basically selecting themselves out of the oversaturated talent pool and leaving more room for those actors who are better-prepared, more professional, dare I say more deserving of our attention. So, yay.
But then that makes me question why I bother writing any particular column, from week to week. I mean, if there's something to the whole "Actor Darwinism" thing (and actors self-selecting right out of the mix to help us with an already enormous task of finding the right actors for every project, in a sea of seemingly infinite choices), why does the need for "writing for actors" even exist? I write for both beginners (who hopefully get off on the right foot in this career by reading before they leap) and seasoned pros who might need a little re-focusing from time to time. So, am I simply delaying the inevitable, by presenting folks with ways to re-focus for a minute when they'll only end up un-focusing themselves again over time?
Perhaps I scrapped last week's column because it leads to an existential crisis! Why does anyone write anything for anyone? If your career isn't working, maybe that's what's meant to be! Why should we monkey with it by sharing tips that might help you along in ways that aren't organic to your default mode? Okay... then why should we offer classes? Why should the educational system itself exist, if I think like this? If nature always wins out, why nurture anyone, ever? Oy. Yeah. That's why I dropped the column. It heads down the path of, "Why are we here? Why do we bother? What does it matter anyway?" and that's not what The Actors Voice is about! Nope... it's here to--hopefully--provide you with some good ideas and maybe get you out of your own way. A-ha! Now that that's out of MY way, let's get to a very common problem for actors: Dropping the Ball.
Continue reading this column in the morning, along with a Your Turn follow-up on last week's "The Big Lies" at Showfax.com.
As always, THANK YOU for reading!
Live your dreams! If you don't, someone else will.
July 15, 2007
The Actors Voice, 7/16/07
Here's how tomorrow's The Actors Voice starts out.
Trust That You're Enough
My husband and I have a relationship that is built on two fundamental principles. One: Always trust that we each have the other's best interests at heart (that way, even when we're fighting, we know it's because we both want a result that improves our relationship or current situation). Two: Always go for the funny. (I tend to argue that that last one is the more important of the two, but it's really because of the first one that the last one works so well.) The idea is that, if there is a joke to make, you'd better take the shot (even at the other's expense). That keeps us laughing, no matter what. Nothing wrong with that.
But this week's column is about the first principle: TRUST. And it's not just trust in an intimate partnership I'm talking about. It's trusting your fellow castmates, trusting your director and producer, trusting your agent and manager, trusting your acting coach, trusting yourself. All while pursuing a career in an industry where self-doubt and cut-throat tendencies seem to rise up. No, it's not gonna be easy, but it sure will be wonderful, once you embrace trust in your career's path.
Continue reading this column in the morning, along with a Your Turn about the unique issues facing actors of color (Are there any?) at Showfax.com.
Be sure to visit The Actors Voice: POV for a POV from a very busy TV casting associate.
As always, THANK YOU for reading!
Live your dreams! If you don't, someone else will.
July 1, 2007
The Actors Voice, 7/2/07
Here's how tomorrow's The Actors Voice starts out.
Bringing the Kids Along
Ooh, got a great question from a reader recently.
What is the best way to handle being a mother in this business? I am currently (and surprisingly!) pregnant, and moving to LA in a year. Obviously, my husband and I will have a baby by the time we get there. Is it bad protocol to bring a baby to an audition? I know daycare is the obvious choice, but if I happen to have her for the day...
I worked as an actress in Chicago for almost four years and mothers would sometimes bring their children to the auditions, and of course leave them in the waiting room while they went in for auditions. I just wanted to feel out LA before I make any major faux pas.
As for auditions I'm holding, I might not even know that babies are along for the ride much of the time, since many actors--like those you've observed in Chicago--choose to leave their young ones in the waiting room with friends or other family members they have brought along. I would imagine that session runners might have a less-tolerant stance on this sort of thing, simply because of the overcrowding involved, when you show up with an entourage. But the handful of actors who have brought babies into my audition rooms with them have either done just fine or had their focus so completely split that their auditions were blown from the beginning.
Of course, I'm just one CD in a city of 600 of us. And I cast SAG indie feature films. So, what about the other CDs who are casting studio features, TV shows, commercials, theatre, industrials, voiceovers, and so on? Well, for a sense of what the general vibe might be about kids joining their parents at auditions, I decided to check in with a few working actor parents (some whose kids are also actors, others whose are not) and Anne Henry of BizParentz.com for their advice on this issue. Huge thanks to Robert Clendenin, Eitan Loewenstein, James Runcorn, Anna Vocino, and the amazing BizParentz.com for giving us a sense of what's going on in casting offices all over Los Angeles.
Continue reading this column in the morning, along with a Your Turn about adding video to your Actors Access account after making a submission (and whether the CDs of that submission will be able to see that video) at Showfax.com.
Be sure to visit The Actors Voice: POV for a wonderful POV from one of LA's top voiceover talents.
As always, THANK YOU for reading!
Live your dreams! If you don't, someone else will.
June 29, 2007
A New Experience
I have earned a living as a writer for the better part of a decade. But, as anyone who has followed my career knows, I write nonfiction. I get paid to write nonfiction. No one seeks me out to create fictional worlds and populate them with characters (for that type of experience in my career, I have to be hired to cast fictional scripts I did not write).
And even though I have written fiction, it encompasses about 5% of the work I have ever put out there and less than 1% of the work I have ever been paid to put out there. That said, I did attempt The 14-Day Screenplay Challenge last year (as you may recall).
I got a grand total of about 18 pages into the script and then gave up. Ah, well... it happens, right? At least I tried.
Cut to a couple of months ago. It's time to start reviewing material submitted for the Cricket Feet Showcase. We've done a call for submissions and we're ready to read! I figure, "Well, hell. My 'screenplay' is only three times the length of some of these scenes we've been sent. Why not at least get coverage on it?"
So, I strip away its identifying marks (like with the rest of the submissions) and send it along to the reading committee. Turns out, folks like it. Every submission got a "consider," "consider with rewrites," or "pass," and every writer got a "consider" or "pass." My work got straight considers, even though there was hardly a scene to use. It was the start of an unfinished screenplay. There was no stand-out scene to put into showcase format. There were no two characters speaking to one another for any length of time that could work in a showcase scene. But it still got considers.
During final scene selection and casting, I took another stab at Moshi's world. I pulled the scene that had the most potential for showcasing--even though it was only one-third of a page in length--and fleshed it out, bringing it to four pages. Having lost all objectivity on whether this scene could possibly work (and being totally unsure as to its strength as a scene, at this point, since what was originally assessed was NOT this piece, really), I handed it off to my partners (Keith and Eitan) and told them to have their way with it.
Each did some punch-up. Each tweaked a line or two. And when I read the final version, I was very pleased with it. This was getting exciting.
I cast two extremely likable and high-chemistry actors in the roles and then I handed the script off to Anna (our director--who is also a phenomenal writer) and told her to feel free to continue with rewrites as necessary, as she certainly recognized that this scene had been severely retooled from the first version, anonymously submitted to the team (including her) over a month ago. She came back with another round of changes that improved the scene even more. I was delighted.
Cut to last night. We had the showcase "first looks" session, wherein we got a chance to see each scene in its pre-Anna shape, to get our first feel for where scenes should go and where we are strong/where we need work. And as I watched the scheduled scenes get checked off on my spreadsheet, I realized something potentially life-changing was about to happen. I was about to hear my words performed live for the first time.
Yes! It's true! People don't typically gather on stage to read my columns aloud or do dramatic readings from Self-Management for Actors in front of an audience. "Oh, crap," I thought. "What if it sucks?"
And then Emily and Kerie took the stage... and they were brilliant. And the words they were saying were brilliant. And the beats they were taking were brilliant. And the ad-libs they threw in were brilliant. And the improvised moments were brilliant.
Best of all, the audience laughed. And not because they knew I wrote the scene or anything like that. They laughed because it was funny. And sweet. And real.
Holy crap, that's a delicious feeling. I think I might be hooked. And just like the short-short story was always my speed (when I did write fiction), the five-minute, two-person comedic scene seems to feel right for me, now. Awesome. It. Is. On.
June 3, 2007
The Actors Voice, 6/4/07
Here's how tomorrow's The Actors Voice starts out.
So, last week, I participated in a SAG Foundation event with fellow casting directors Bruce Newberg and Erin Toner. We talked about everything from what online services we use (Breakdown Services, Actors Access, IMDB-Pro) to the likelihood of unrepresented actors getting seen by us (everyone gets a shot) and from headshots (no one cares if they're in color, as long as they look like you) to demo reels (we love 'em short and online). Obviously, we didn't always agree on "what works," but that's part of what makes these free events so awesome: Actors get to learn how things are done in specific offices rather than assuming that everything is done the same in every office. Just like actors aren't all alike, CDs aren't all alike.
One of the emails I received after the talk seemed to have something in common with another email that I had received about last week's column on creating your own demo reel footage. Both supported my theory that sometimes all an actor needs, in order to start making things happen, is to just start making things happen! And that often requires a paradigm shift. We tend to get so caught up in all of the things we think we're supposed to do that we miss out on doing things that actually might be a lot more powerful (and more fun)! For example: I said (at the SAG Foundation talk) that if actors took half of the energy they put into "finding the right agent, targeting mailings to CDs, getting a better agent" and put that into creating their own short films, showcases, or plays, the people they're so eager to get in front of would seek them out!
But if you've been conditioned to believe that the busy, frantic energy you're putting into mailings and meetings and researching people is "enough," it might take a true paradigm shift for you to understand that you could choose to work smart, not hard.
Continue reading this column in the morning, along with a twist on the need to change your name, in the Your Turn section at Showfax.com.
As always, THANK YOU for reading!
Live your dreams! If you don't, someone else will.
May 28, 2007
The Actors Voice, 5/28/07
Here's how today's The Actors Voice starts out.
Footage Is Footage
A few months back, I was the guest on Judy Kerr's web-based series Acting Is Everything (yes, a web-based series that accompanies her essential book) and we talked a bit about demo reels and whether actors could--or should--create footage for their reels or only stick to professionally-shot, "legitimate" clips of their work. I believe those roads intersect, if the footage you create is professionally shot. And in the era of YouTube, your clips could easily be seen by more people than might ever lay eyes on pilots that don't "go."
So, if you're sure you've got the talent and that all anyone needs to do in order to take a chance on you is see the goods, it might be time for you to consider a DIY approach to getting your demo reel done. Heck, even if you have good footage, perhaps it's just one great scene and a bunch of outdated, one-liner stuff that isn't serving you today. And remember; if it's not getting you work, it's costing you work. If you've decided that you're ready to take your reel to the next level (or to create your first "real" reel), let's jump into some tips on how to get it done right, as poorly-produced footage could actually be worse than having no footage at all.
Continue reading this column right now, along with a Your Turn about that damn name change issue at Showfax.com.
Be sure to visit The Actors Voice: POV on Friday for what is quite possibly my favorite POV thus far. We've brought POV closer to home, and it's Andy Henry's turn to share the inside scoop on the casting process inside one of the busiest TV casting offices on the planet!
As always, THANK YOU for reading!
Live your dreams! If you don't, someone else will.
May 13, 2007
The Actors Voice, 5/14/07 (and a few weeks before)
Yikes! It's been a MONTH since I last promoted The Actors Voice (it's been way busy; my apologies for having been out of the promo loop)! Well, here's what's happened since my last promo blast.
We looked at Multiple Electronic Submissions, Paying for Representation, How To Work the Room, LA's Best On-Camera Classes (and rebuttals and warnings about one of the recommended coaches), and Bad Cover Letters/Good Cover Letters. Woo!
When To Pay Commission
Sometimes a Your Turn question comes in that is so well-suited to a full-on column that I just can't resist. This question, from a wonderfully-talented and business-minded actor, represents dozens of similarly-themed questions I've received from actors everywhere.
Electronic casting has made auditions more available than ever. For the diligent actor that goes after "everything" in Back Stage West, on CraigsList, at Actors Access, etc., what is the best way to deal with commission payments when said actor books a job independently of the agency they are represented by? No one wants to rock the boat, but should an actor pay a cut to their agent even if the agent does nothing to procure the audition or review the contract? If so, what is fair to the actor? Thanks for your input.
The short answer is easy: Always pay commission to your agents and managers. Always.
Now, here comes the long answer (which is all about WHY paying commission--yes, even on work you booked all by yourself--is a good business decision).
Continue reading this column in the morning, along with a Your Turn about an ethnicity-related name change at Showfax.com.
Be sure to visit The Actors Voice: POV to see contributions from casting directors in Reno, NV, and Washington, DC! (Still looking for the 5/15 contribution, so I'm not sure WHERE that one will come from... feel free to send your favorite speed-writing CDs my way!)
As always, THANK YOU for reading! I'll try to stay on top of my weekly promos from here on out! :)
May 4, 2007
The Ultimate Guide to Productivity Group Writing Project
My first thought (before following any links, just reading her emailed head's up) was, "Cool. I've been remiss in blogging lately and I loves me a good meme." Second thought (after following links) was, "Ack! What the EFF do *I* know about productivity?!? And how on Earth would I write about it in such a way as to be worthy of inclusion in a group writing project of this quality?"
And then I started composing a comment to post at Colleen's entry on the subject. It started out as a quick "way out" of having to do this, and then it became exact evidence of precisely how it is I am productive: I start out thinking, "Eh," but then KEEP GOING until I am thinking, "Holy crap! This is IT!"
So, here's the comment in its entirety. Enjoy!
Oh dear me, I am so embarrassed to say this, but my one and only productivity tip is this:
Pretty shitty tip, no?
Because while I have a buttload of ideas about what makes me as productive as I am (doing what I love 95% of the time, doing what I dislike but have to do only 5% of the time; finding inspiration to ACT on ideas before the monkey mind comes in and distracts me or tries to talk me out of acting; writing quickly, editing slowly; using color-coded transparent pockets to organize papers, using color-coded Entourage rules to organize emails; going radio silence for blocks of time in order to recharge and reconnect with Self; cubbies, glorious cubbies; intern days once a week; holding my feet to the fire with regard to my deadlines--both for getting work done and stopping the work; doing as much of my living in public as possible, so that I don't have to answer as many individual questions as the inefficient public would like to have me do; trusting that I am valued not for what I do, but for the very fact that I simply AM; and playing as hard as I work, just not as often), it's the lack of sleep that *really* allows me to be as PRODUCTIVE as I am.
And how can you turn that into a tip? It's a disorder!
Ah well, maybe THAT's my tip.
Turn your disorders into tools to help you ROCK.
Ooh, much better.
There you have it!
And now I tag/request posts on this topic from some of my favorite productive people: Adam Marcus, Alex Collins, Anna Christopher, Anna Vocino, Bob Brody, Camille Mana, Dawn Andrews, Debbie Campbell, Faith Salie, Joel Viertel, Kimberley Browning, Kristina Hughes, Mitchell Fink, and Stephon Fuller.
Happy weekend, everyone.
PS--Anyone else love it when CNN covers Paris Hilton's DUI jail sentence news and breaks for commercials... one of which is an ad for the Hilton Family of Hotels? Man, that's good stuff!
April 19, 2007
Principal vs. Principle; Theatre vs. Theater
So, today was cool. I spoke for four hours at Rolling Hills Prep about writing, casting, and living a freelance lifestyle. It was awesome. The local media covered it.
More on that in a moment. First, the bigger issue. Principal vs. Principle and Theatre vs. Theater.
For once and for all...
When you're talking about your role in a project or the onset of filming your project, you mean "principal," as that's the only option that can *be* an adjective, and that's what you're listing on a resumé in the billing column: the type of role (principal, supporting, featured; recurring, guest-star, co-star); or in your blurb about starting the main part of your work.
In case you don't believe me, here's my backup:
principal is an adjective that means "main or primary"; principle is a noun that means "beliefs or morals."And more:
A principle is a basic or fundamental idea. The word principle is always used as a noun.
As an adjective, principal indicates that the noun it modifies is the most important thing in its class.
As for the theatre/theater debate, there's more grey area here. And part of what makes the English language so damn cool is that it is constantly evolving (and bastardizing itself at rates much faster than mutations in other languages, historically).
Meanwhile, here's my basic guideline, backed up:
Theatre: refers in general to the art of live performance. Also, the building in which live performance takes place. Theater: refers to the building in which movies are displayed.And more:
To go to the theater means to go to a movie while to go to the theatre means to attend a live performance.
Okay, why is this on my mind?
But in spending four hours talking about a writer's life, I realized a few things:
- It's weird to earn a living as a writer (probably as weird as it is to earn a living as an actor; it's so random, taste-based, and fickle). It's especially weird to earn a living as a writer for nearly a decade.
- Defining your voice is the only way to create a following as an artist. Yes, you can be a technical writer and do very well for yourself, financially. But to connect with a larger audience--and to be sought out for what you have to say--requires being authentic. Every time.
- Knowing the rules gives you room to break them. (During the talk, I split an infinitive and then commented on how I can totally do that, because it's a part of my writing style. The fact that I *know* I did it makes it okay. Sloppiness and personal style are two totally different things... and that makes the difference between a [non-pro] blogger and a writer [for hire].)
- Branding yourself is essential. You know when you read my work, you'll come across a "y'all" and a "damn" and an "eff." It's just the E in ME, communicating that way. You'll also get a no-BS take on just about anything. I have a lot of opinions. One student asked how to get hired to write with total personal freedom. I told him that the only way to do that is to write for free with total personal freedom, get known for that, and then say yes when someone else realizes there is money to gain from being in the "you" business. Hell... acting is exactly the same! Get yourself known everywhere as the YOU you are. When the hirers need THAT, you're gonna get the call.
Damn. It's just so simple. Do what you do. Do it well. Do it on principle or do it as a principal; do it in a theatre or on a screen at a theater. People will learn that's your YOU and they'll show up to pay for it again and again.
November 16, 2006
Announcing THE ACTORS VOICE: POV at Showfax.com
From this week's Your Turn:
Hello, Actors Access,This is not the first email of its kind to come to my inbox. In fact, I've previously done my best to try and get good information from NY-based professionals in an attempt to provide at least something for the non-Hollywood readers of The Actors Voice.
First, thanks for your service. It's feature-rich, it's above average usability-wise, and--most importantly--it works.
But I have one big complaint; there is no column for working New York actors. LA-based hopefuls and professional alike have Bonnie and Mark. What do I have when I have questions about New York industry etiquette, or auditions, or the business part of show business? I've got nothin'.
Now, I'm proactive. I'm currently on hiatus from one show and rehearsing two others while working a corporate day job AND interning part-time in a talent agency. If I've still got questions after all that, don't you think a bunch of other New York actors do as well?
One day I hope to be knowledgeable enough to write a column for you about the New York industry. Until that day arrives (and to help it arrive sooner), could you find someone else to write it?
Thanks for your time. I look forward to hearing back from you!
However, the stars must've really been aligned when this particular email arrived. Within three days, I had emailed some ideas back and forth with Showfax general manager Bob Brody and was then having a power lunch with Gary Marsh, owner of Breakdown Services, pitching what I am proud to say will be rolling out soon. (Drumroll, please.)
Introducing The Actors Voice: POV!
That's right, STARTING TODAY (and running on the 1st and 15th of each month), I'll moderate a column from the POV of a casting director, agent, publicist, studio head, working actor, filmmaker, screenwriter, show-runner, or any other industry pro in another market. Look, we all know that Hollywood isn't the only place where actors can earn a living pursuing their dreams. Sure, it may be the place where the numbers are greatest, but in an ever-shrinking world where a willingness to embrace technology allows for real-time casting happening across several time zones, it's time to provide outstanding information from industry professionals worldwide! We've got you covered in every professional showbiz market imaginable. This is gonna ROCK, people! Thanks for encouraging us to bring you the best information possible, wherever you live! Glad to oblige.
Visit The Actors Voice: POV now! Woo!
October 29, 2006
The Actors Voice, 10/30/06
Okay, so here's what you need to know about The Actors Voice this week... the server on which The Actors Voice lives is going through a little upgrade right now... and it's not yet back up and running (and it may not be for a while). Ugh. I know... but it's one of those things that happens when you start putting out a little advice column for actors and suddenly get more hits per week than your server knows how to take.
So... assuming the techies get everything back in order shortly, here's a taste of what you'll be able to read at The Actors Voice in a few hours.
Demo Reels (Revisited)
Last week, I was a judge for the Inaugural Reel Actors Film Festival. I'd long been planning to revisit my two previous columns on demo reels, but the act of sitting down and making notes during a couple of hours of full-on, concentrated demo reel watching inspired me to make this the week I finally did that. I haven't changed my opinion about the importance of demo reels (high), the best length for demo reels (short), and the true purpose of demo reels (to leave us wanting more, after showing us how to cast you), but I have absolutely had a few shifts in thought that I'd like to share with you. Also, I have now seen some interesting trends in demo reel presentation that I think could benefit you, when you next head to the editor (or your trusty Mac with Final Cut Pro installed).
Check Your Demo Reel for These Sins
Highlighting someone else's performance instead of your own. If you must choose scenes in which someone else plays the hero, remember that your editor can help you edit the scene so that it is all about you. YOU are the hero in your demo reel, even if you weren't in the original scene. I have seen some amazing reels in which it seriously looks like Dr. McDreamy only exists to tell the nurse, "I agree. You're right," in an all-about-her version of the scene. It's awesome to show the world that you've worked with the biggest actors in the biz. But your reel isn't about getting them a job or maintaining the essence of the scene as-seen-on-TV. It's about getting you more work.
More of that good stuff, plus a YOUR TURN introducing a NEW column at Showfax.com as soon as the techies get the 1's and 0's lined up.
As always, thanks for the support and encouragement. I'm really excited about this new column that's due to start up on November 1st! But I'll always love my first column the best. (For you trivia buffs out there, that'd be "Lunchroom Report" in the Josephine Wells Elementary mimeographed weekly newsletter.)
August 25, 2006
I recently learned that my column gets 35,000 hits a week. How is that possible?
And why aren't I rich?
Or at least a blogebrity?
August 11, 2006
2006 Book Tour
In 2004, I spoke at the Drama Book Shop in New York, University of Georgia in Athens, and yourAct Studios in Atlanta. And I was only "on the road" for a few days. I think I now want to do an even bigger road show this time around, speaking at more colleges and doing more book signings.
This is all Faith's idea, BTW. She's helping me cook up a way to come see her in New York (where she'll be living for the next year or so, doing her new radio show for PRI) and the more speaking I do, the longer I can stay. Hee!
Anyway, I'm thinking I need a rockstar New York "producer" type for this tour (looking like October-ish). Anyone out there with contacts (or willingness to make some) interested in helping me put this thing together? (Good news... I should be an even easier "sell" on the lecture circuit due to the success of my books and the festival heat for the films I've cast.)
All right... let's hear it! Who's into it?
August 7, 2006
I just have to say THANK YOU (okay, *scream* THANK YOU) to Deborah Cresswell, Mitchell Fink, Keith Johnson, Kathryn Joosten, Shon Little (and OF COURSE Miss Jodi), Blake Robbins, Faith Salie, and Rachel Scheer for making my column rock this week.
I owe y'all.
August 4, 2006
While Keith and I were on our walk tonight (and I was bitching my ass off about some things I'd read recently that were really pissing me off), I finally GOT it.
I will always feel like this every now and then, as long as I continue to dole out advice for actors just starting out.
Just like the grad student who teaches Freshman English to a hundred
eager required-to-attend 18 year olds each fall, I will end the semester having really REACHED about twenty of 'em (and hope that they remember to thank me for having taught them about the wondrousness of the language and its power), having passed-on-through the majority of 'em (as they head on to whatever else it is they want to do with their college careers), and having flunked a couple who I know I'll be seeing again next year, as we do it all again.
And when the new school year starts up, I'll occasionally feel the need to say, "Don't y'all REMEMBER this from when I went over it last year?" But I can't, because almost none of these students were IN this class a year ago... and even if a few of them were, they sure as heck aren't BACK here because they GOT all of this the first time around.
I guess I get pissy about it from time to time because, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, sometimes I just answer questions by providing links back to where I've answered the same questions before. And before that. And before that too. And sometimes even if someone emails me and says, "I've read EVERYTHING you've ever written and I love your advice," that same someone will end the email with, "But I just need to ask you ONE QUICK QUESTION." And that question will be nothing more than that actor's inability to READ what I've written and APPLY it.
Just because I didn't say, "And you, Chris, this last part of this week's column is especially for YOU," doesn't mean that Chris can't assume that it might somehow apply... and not just in general terms.
Just needed to vent. I love what I do. I don't mind answering a zillion questions. And I LOVE LOVE LOVE that people feel they can reach out to me with questions. But what I REALLY love is when someone shows me they GOT what I meant when I said something, and asks something that BUILDS upon that concept, challenging ME to help them get better information.
But there will always be a freshman class. And I have to be okay with teaching the fundamentals over and over again sometimes. Or I have to not be a teacher. And that's not my style, now is it?
July 20, 2006
Nine Rooms in the News
I blogged about Nine Rooms before (but didn't say why... heh heh).
Now we're in the news. Woo! Yup. I said we. Yippee!
Well done, "roomers"!
July 7, 2006
This Week's Column
Okay, let's vote. Will this week's column be "Actors Can't Read," "It's Just a Job," or "How To Get Off the Blacklist"?
PS--All of these will be column topics, eventually. Which one is Monday's?
June 20, 2006
Press release from UK Cliff: Nine Rooms: A BlogCom
Nine Rooms is a dramatic comedy based around the weblog of five main characters. It's a weekly blogcom, experienced through the postings of people who share a house that has (figures) nine rooms.The characters (dramatics per sony)
It launches on June 20 and is created by me, Cliff Jones, and includes some of the best writers I know (online writers from the blogosphere, virtually, and around the world, literally).
How does Nine Rooms work?
You read Nine Rooms by visiting the blogs of the characters, which are updated every week with their own perspective on events within the house and their own interconnected lives.
- Alan Cross: 27 year old insurance clerk and games console addict.
- Joey Standton: An enigmatic figure of no fixed vocation. He is 25, well travelled, with a combination of sharp observational skills and poor timing.
- Claire Goodwin: 28, edits a TV listings magazine. Former employee of Gina's mother.
- Gina Nelson: Californian, 25, in London on a break and a mission to find her natural parents. Her wealthy philanthropist mother died recently and Gina received with her inheritance the news that she was adopted and taken to the USA as an infant.
- Nick Stampfer: 37, former owner of a restaurant which was sold, his mother owns the house but has been squandering his inheritance around the world since her recent divorce.
For the purpose of the plotline, no one character knows that any other character is writing a blog and (between you and me) they will interact with members of the public who post to their sites, and seem like real individuals who hold normal lives, reply to blog comments, post pictures online and do all the things that bloggers do.
The sites are live, the emails are set up and the storyline has been written for the next couple of months, but the scripts themselves come largely from the writers. There are a few other characters due to join the cast, I guarantee there will be twists and turns along the way, so check Nine Rooms every Tuesday and follow the story.
June 20: Nine Rooms is coming. Nine Rooms ARE coming?
June 14, 2006
I came very very close to calling it quits on the 14-Day Screenplay Challenge today.
Instead, I decided to stick it out, prep for Salvation, Texas callbacks, update the Cricket Feet Casting website a wee bit, pay some bills, mail out some books, watch four episodes of Family Guy, go for a walk, and hold off on surrendering to the "I can't do it" monster until after Thursday.
I figure, if I pull an all-nighter of writing while Keith is picking up Quinn tomorrow, take a break to nap and do the HBFF panel, then continue writing 'til my date with Babes McPhee Friday night, I *may* actually finish a screenplay of some kind.
So... no calling "failure" on this experiment just yet. (And even if I "fail," I'd like to say that I didn't FAIL, just for the fact that I sat at my computer with Final Draft open every day for the period of the challenge and at least took a stab at something terrifying.)
June 11, 2006
This is funny. Click on the image to get the full experience (with pop-ups that explain why each actor landed where on the Full House Career Pyramid. Hee!
Reminder: tomorrow is Chad's 12 of 12 photo day. Finally, I have some exciting stuff going on during the appointed day. Hee! Fun stuff! Bonus photo this month is one taken at the same exact moment, all around the world (7am PDT). Ooooh! Between this and the collective creative energy of the 14 Day Screenplay Challenge, you'd think the planets were surely trying to align. Still on page 18 over here, but today is column and screenplay day... then I schedule callbacks for Salvation, Texas. Yippee!
June 8, 2006
Casting My Ass Off
Well, lookee here! They've added my name to the poster for Salvation, Texas. *giggle* So cool!
We're in prereads all day tomorrow, which should be loads of fun. I can tell the director is a wee bit nervous, having never worked with a casting director before. He's used to putting out a breakdown in Back Stage West and having loads of no-shows. I assured him that actors don't no-show on me (believe me, if they want to get in on the bigger-budget stuff, they kind of just CAN'T stiff me on the little things) and, from the looks of the day's schedule, he's going to be WAY impressed with these amazing, professional, performance-ready actors I'm bringing to him. Oh, I love sessions! It's when the possibilities are endless. These rich characters will only begin to take shape tomorrow, in the 3-D. I love it!
On Friday, the director of The Masquerade and I have a coffee date with the "name actor" we hope will be the star of her film. She is so so so nervous (she's never done a name actor meeting before), so I sent her to read "Taking the Meeting" and told her to relax, she'd be fine, charming, and wonderful. And he'll accept the offer and so will the other "name actor" we went out to today. And life on the festival circuit will be grand.
The meeting for How I Lost My Mind and Killed Someone yesterday was beyond rockstar. Looks like the guy I scouted last month for the lead role may be the actor we go after, now. He's not a name (yet), but he's perfect for this and I know he would rock it beyond our wildest dreams. Of course, I cracked myself up realizing that I didn't think of one of my actor-friends (who is a "name") for one of the roles, because, y'know, she's my friend. So, when her manager sent over her tape, I came off as brilliant and now we're going to set up a coffee with her and the director. AND, I got to make an offer to one of my favorite big time character actors today for a minor role. He and Keith and I are going out for pie next week. Yippee!
I'm just so glad we're moving forward on HILMMAKS. Breakdown will be released July 10th and cast will be locked by Labor Day. I love that. A timeline! And I adore Joel and Trevor. They're such fucking rockstars. It's awesome to spend time with them. Loads of energy, creative passion, and vision. Man, people like that are a blast to share the planet with.
In other casting news, I now have FOUR offers pending for new gigs. It is time to start saying my least favorite word: "NO." When projects are amazing and people are wonderful and you LOVE a challenge... how do you say no? I know... you just do. I will. I must.
June 5, 2006
Fiction vs. Non
Observation: Writing a screenplay is HARD.
Day three of the 14-Day Screenplay... I'm at the top of an empty page nine.
But ask me to create a world, get the visions that exist only in my head onto paper, and you will see me STUCK.
Doesn't mean I won't do it, I'll just struggle in a way I'm not used to struggling, while writing. I guess it's good to stretch an unused muscle every now and then, eh?
June 4, 2006
Other 14-Day Screenplayers
In my seemingly unending quest to procrastinate, I've decided to link to the blogs of other good folks out there who are taking the 14-Day Screenplay Challenge. (Notice their progress bars are actually MOVING.)
Go check on, encourage, poke, or otherwise worship AM, Chalkie, Dave, Delora, James, Lee Thomson, Matt Courtney (our
enabler sponsor), oneslackmartian, Optimistic Reader, Pei, Robert Hogan, Robin Kelly, Twixter Scripter, and the brilliant Babes McPhee. Also worship Anna, who is using the 14-Day Challenge to do something so so so so so freakin' cool and brilliant (GO, girl)!
Now I'm going back into Moshi's world (yes, Jodi, I *did* name her Moshi) and not come out 'til I've hit page 20. Oh, crud. No. Not just yet. I have to do some casting stuff first. In case anyone tells you it's EASY to cut the list from 2800 actor submissions to about 75 actors you'll actually bring IN for auditions, they are dirty rotten liars and not to be trusted.
June 3, 2006
14-Day Screenplay (Hour 11)
Eleven hours into the 14-Day Screenplay Challenge and I have written ONE page.
So, in addition to writing another 19 pages before midnight tomorrow (my goal is 10 pages a day for nine days and then lots of cleanup), I shall create audition sides for Thursday's Salvation, Texas prereads, write this week's column, send panel topics to my Hollywood Black Film Festival panelists, pare down producers' lists for all three films I'm casting since we have meetings on all three this week, and have a dinner-slash-casting meeting (tonight) with a NBF couple I met at lovely Anna's last month (THANKS, ANNA--maybe I *can* cast a TV series)!
Blog break is over. Gotta get that progress bar (bottom left) moving up. How's your first 11 hours of the 14-Day Screenplay Challenge going? Sound off, folks!
May 30, 2006
New Casting Gig
Yup. Looks like I've found a way to make the 14-Day Screenplay Challenge even *more* stressful.
And no, I don't know why my column hasn't posted this week. I turned it in Sunday night. *shrug*
Okay, time to put together the breakdown. It rolls out tomorrow. Woo! I'm 'cited!
May 26, 2006
Fun Joel made it look so cool that I'm going to do it.
Yup. I'm in. I'm gonna write a screenplay in 14 days. And I'm gonna hold my feet to the fire through blogging.
Who's with me?
PS--As if I needed a sign that this would be a great day for me, it started out with an email from my NBF, the writer/director of THE BEST MOVIE EVER. So, in the spirit of always always always sharing your bliss, being public about your passion, and squealing with glee like the kid that you are, I encourage all of you to SHARE WITH THE WORLD what it is that makes you happy. You just may get a thank you note from someone who likes knowing that HER passion brought you such joy.
May 14, 2006
Ethics in Journalism
Okay, so I have this great topic for tomorrow's column about mistakes actors make in choosing their headshots. Believe me: they make LOTS of mistakes.
But this week's column idea troubles me for a few reasons. Identifiability: Do I want to do the black bar over the eyes thing like they do in "Fashion Don'ts" in the back of Cosmo? Yes, sure... but part of what MAKES a headshot work, even if it breaks ALL of the rules, is that it captures SOMETHING (and usually that's all about the eyes).
How about a big blur or pixilated dot like they use on COPS or Cheaters when someone doesn't sign the release? Okay, that works, but then no one is going to be looking at the POINT I'm making (about obnoxious cropping, odd character poses, overall BAD composition) if they're looking at something right out of The X-files, right?
There's the scorned ex-girlfriend technique, wherein I "cut" the face out, but if I'm doing that in examples of ALL headshots (the ones that WORK and the ones that DON'T WORK), can you really tell what it is that I'm saying WORKS about one and what doens't about another? Ugh! I'm so frustrated over this!
I already know I'm going in with a big couple of paragraphs about how effin' frustrating this topic is to begin with, as I'd much rather NOT write it, do a column on something "safe," and not risk having actors pissed that their headshot--even if only THEY recognize themselves--was used for something other than the reason it was submitted to me in the first place.
I totally get that. And I also know that I write a lot about my experiences in casting and never does a producer contact me and say, "Hey, I want to hire you to cast this movie, but I don't want you to write about anything that you observe about actors or how they can better their chances of making it in Hollywood during the process of casting this film." It is a part of hiring ME to do a job: I'm going to glean information from the work *I* do and turn it into a column or book or topic at a speaking engagement and help actors with it. It's just how I roll.
Do I go "balls out" and just write the column, use the photos unretouched (except by the photographer, of course) and explain my reasoning, knowing that more people will LEARN from this than will be BURNED by this? Or do I edit the photos (which will be presented at the exact size as the samples you see, above) to protect (or at least somewhat mask) the identity of the subjects and explain my reasoning for that? Those are my two least-icky options. The ick-filled option is to write about something else altogether... and that's a way wussy move.
I guess yet another option is to write about the issues without having the visual examples. I know I can write up a storm, but can I really explain well enough what I'm talking about when saying that a headshot in which the actor's forehead is cropped down to her eyebrows AND the tip of her chin is cropped out does NOT serve the actor AT ALL? I mean, I can bitch about it... but until you see the absurdity of it, will you really GET what a bad headshot choice it is?
My job is hard today.
April 27, 2006
I will come back to this:
I need to blog about a comment from Babes that inspired me: I have quite elaborate, spontaneous fantasies.
A love letter to one of the most endearing traits of my lovey-hubby (and it has to do with his dad-hood).
The lengths I will go to to avoid getting a haircut.
But right now, I have to get ready to go for a walk. Yay!
April 20, 2006
Need advice from NY actors.
Hey, y'all. Happy Thursday. Any NY actors out there who read my blog, could you do me a favor?
I've been asked (several times, actually) to recommend a Self-Management for Actors that is more NY-based. Having never spent more time in NY than a few weeks at a time, I'm certainly not the one to write such a book (and that's not what these folks are asking), but I'm wondering if there isn't already something out there like my books, but NY-based.
Is there? Lemmeknow. Thanks!!
PS--Meeting about the next feature film I'll cast later today. Woo! Will share details when appropriate. ;) Hee!
April 17, 2006
Predicting TV Show Success
Most of y'all know that I write a weekly column for actors called The Actors Voice. Well, I wanted to specifically mention this week's column for those of you who (like me) enjoy a little behind-the-scenes calculation about which TV shows will be given the best shot each season. Yes, I'm a big ol' math geek. I embrace that truth.
Ever wonder why some shows (Emily's Reasons Why Not) will be given only one episode to prove themselves while others (Joey) are kept on life support far longer than ratings should allow? Well, there's actually some measure of predicting you can do this time of year to get an idea of what the fall season will look like.
I hope you'll enjoy the piece and share your comments here. Thanks.
April 14, 2006
Five Books I'll Read Again and Again
I was in bed the other morning, looking at my "for pleasure" bookcase (which is the only bookcase allowed in the bedroom, as feng shui dictates work books must remain in work spaces) and came up with a quick list of five favorite books that I will (and do) happily read again. Obviously, I'm not counting any of my books, because much of the reason I read those again and again has to do with editing and updating (and only a wee bit of narcissism). Anyway, I'm now going to take a moment and share those books (and reasons for my great affection) with you. Books are listed in the order I first discovered them.
Click any image for the Amazon.com page associated with the title.
The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff. I had just broken up with my boyfriend, graduated from high school, and gotten hired as a bartender at Chili's. I was preparing for my trip to Madrid, where I would stay in a model's crashpad/hostel with my lifelong friend Becky Hewes, who had been modeling in Paris and Madrid for the year since she had graduated from North Springs. I had been looking for some good travel reading and "the guy" at the bookstore saw me thumbing through Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. He handed me The Tao of Pooh and said, flirtatiously, that he was sure I'd dig it.
And dig it I did! I spent most days in Madrid roaming the Plaza Mayor, visiting with street artists, and reading this little guide to life in terms any lover of the One Hundred Acre Woods could understand. The fact that the first play I ever did was The House at Pooh Corner certainly helps with the endearing level. My notes are scribbled all through the book, which makes picking it back up a pleasure for several reasons. The life lessons (never a Bisy Backson be) are still valuable and the information about how to get to El Corte Inglés makes me smile.
Lovingly, Georgia: The Complete Correspondence of Georgia O'Keeffe and Anita Pollitzer compiled by Clive Giboire. Mom and I used to love going to Oxford Books (RIP) in Atlanta. We'd pretty much make a day of it. After I graduated from college (but just before I moved to Hollywood for the first time), I was looking for books that would help me understand who I was (or who I *potentially* was) as a woman, a feminist, an artist. Georgia O'Keeffe did a great job of helping me GET myself; not through her work, but through her correspondence with a lifelong friend.
I had had similar correspondence with Faith Salie (and continued to, later, when we'd each gone to grad school and again when we took turns living in Los Angeles--but never at the same time until 1999). I never thought of any of our 20-page hand-written letters about our experiences and travails through creative expression and love while being strong, intelligent women as anything special until I read the eerily similar exchanges between Georgia and Anita from nearly 80 years before. Suddenly, living alone for the first time, 3000 miles away from "home," I felt a connection to some purpose. I didn't understand it, fully (and I suspect I still don't), but I sure as hell knew it was right for me to be an artist in Tinseltown.
Sadly, this book is out-of-print (and therefore all the more valuable to my personal library).
Nine Lives: From Stripper to Schoolteacher: My Year-Long Odyssey in the Workplace by Lynn Snowden. Having been driven home to Atlanta by the Northridge Quake and an inability to stay on-task with my Brilliant, Age 23 Life Plan in Hollywood, I was facing the all-too-typical quarter-life crisis, unsure of what the heck I wanted to be when I grew up. That's when I found this amazing book (also out-of-print) from a participatory journalist. (I began reviewing my time in Journalism School to see if I'd missed some cool course, which would've given me permission to write books like this one. No such luck.)
Snowden spent a year living the lives of nine different women (yeah, way before Morgan Spurlock started his excellent series 30 Days), trying on the careers of Skid Row pyro-technician, ad copywriter, publicist, substitute teacher, Vegas cocktail waitress, housewife, stripper, rape crisis counselor, and factory worker. Two things happened while I read this book for the first time. I learned that it is, in fact, possible to have a bunch of different jobs and remain sane (but it would take reading Barbara Sher's I Could Do Anything... If I Only Knew What It Was in 1997 and Deborah Jacobson's Survival Jobs: 154 Ways To Make Money While Pursuing Your Dreams in 1999 to really change my life). And, I began to appreciate the role of the journalist-columnist-author. I'm pretty certain--based on the two journalism degrees, five years of weekly columns, and four books I've added to the world's library--that this book was a big part of laying that groundwork.
I'm beginning to believe that I only ever pursued acting as a means to write about it. And, as I develop the book on understanding casting (for filmmakers), I wonder if perhaps I'll look back and say that I pursued casting as a means to write about that too. Hmm.
Anything by Ralph Waldo Emerson. The book I've linked above looks pretty similar to what I would've read in grad school (but really, you could read anything). Of course, I'd read Emerson's works throughout high school and undergrad, but it wasn't until the early spring of 1995, when I spread out a blanket under the trees in Athens' Memorial Park with my Aussie Love, Dominic Hughes, that I really GOT something meaningful out of essays like "Self-Reliance" and "The Over-Soul." I was just in a very receptive place, spiritually. I'd done a hard reset of my life's plans, surrendering to the purgatory to adulthood that is grad school and becoming quite open to whatever new path might lie ahead.
It wasn't until Bob Brody wrote a review of my second book in which he said, "I swear Bonnie Gillespie is Emerson reincarnate," that I spent a little more quality time studying the dude. While I'm sure Brody was likening Self-Management to "Self-Reliance" (a comparison which I'll humbly accept on the basis of the similarity of title alone), I'd love to think I have it in me to someday be remembered as a leader, a teacher, a philosopher, a poet, a person whose words have staying power. I should be so lucky.
Excuse Me, Your LIFE Is Waiting: The Astonishing Power of Feelings by Lynn Grabhorn. The above-mentioned Faith Salie gave this
amazing astonishing book to me in late 2003, right after it had changed her life (which it then did mine). Definitely heavy on the touchy-feely, Wayne Dyer/Deepak Chopra/Caroline Myss scale, the late Lynn Grabhorn did a wonderful job bringing that woo-woo to a more accessible level. I know that is true because of the response others--to whom I've given copies of this book--have had. Cynics have become believers. Eeyores have become Tiggers. Those without... suddenly have.
The Law of Attraction is real. Keith and I are living proof of that. But just as yoga, feeeeeeeeling good (or buzzing, as Grabhorn also liked to call it) is a practice. Sometimes the overwhelming humanness of us overtakes what we've read, learned, and experienced... which is why this book is such a frequently re-read one in our home.
So... what are your happy re-reads?
April 7, 2006
Request for Info
Quick request of those of you in the industry who've been through the process of courtship by an entertainment attorney. Could you make contact with me, let me take you out for a cocktail, and allow me to pick your brain about what to expect from a "let's do lunch" meeting at a pretty freakin' high level? That'd rock. Thanks.
March 29, 2006
Great Review of SMFA2!
In this review (free download of the whole newsletter in PDF at this link), I am grouped with the LEGENDS of writing about the industry (K Callan, Judy Kerr, MK Lewis, and the late Larry Parke), two of whom I count among my most important mentors (and dearest friends) in my authoring journey.
I am humbled. Truly.
Thanks, Bob, for the outstanding review. I really do appreciate it.
And Proofer Patrol, Contributors, Supporters of ALL KINDS... thank YOU! I couldn't have done it without you. And... thank you, Keith, for being the "test subject" for the whole SMFA concept. I love you.
March 21, 2006
"Casting Qs:" Decision-Making Time
Okay, folks. I need your help in making a decision about the fate of Casting Qs: A Collection of Casting Director Interviews. (I know you won't be able to comment on this post for very long, so when comments go all disabled/wonky, please still email your opinions on this issue, as I really do want some advice that originates outside my head.)
Do I begin the process of recontacting the interviewees (all 200+ of them from the course of my career, not just the 120 who appeared in the first edition of the book) to get their updates, conducting new interviews with the latest up-and-coming hot casting directors in town, writing up all of the interviews, editing the old ones to make them better (and shorter, to compensate for the larger number of interviews in the next edition), hiring the kickass graphic designer to do a new (way cooler) cover, promoting a new book (which is not a "simple" task, ever), putting my delightful proofer patrol back on "high alert" for the proofer duties they do so well, and spending the (gulp) near ten grand that it would take to make all of that happen?
Do I spend a little less than that (like, near eight grand) and let the existing book (outdated info, typos, and all) be reprinted with no changes whatsoever so that there is inventory, when people order the book?
Do I spend nothing and let the book go out of print, so that once these last few hundred copies are gone (by mid-2007, if current sales trends continue) there are no more Casting Qs at all?
Okay, obviously, the last choice is the laziest. It's also the cheapest. I can just let the book sell out and then, maybe next year do another version of it when money isn't so tight (we lost over ten grand last year as Cricket Feet, Inc.--ouch). I can't imagine doing the middle option at all, since why would I want to spend thousands of dollars reprinting a book to have a 2007 copyright when its data is all from 2002? Obviously, I'd want to do it "right," but since Casting Qs is not likely to be a "hot seller" like Self-Management for Actors is, I wouldn't see any of my investment back for a couple of years. Typically, that would be okay, but right now, it's a little scary, financially.
What about turning Casting Qs into an e-book? Does anyone read those? Would that sort of format be appropriate for a series of casting director interviews? Bob Fraser tried to convince me to "go e-book" at a breakfast meeting last year with Judy Kerr (and she'll be doing that after her 11th (and final in-print) edition of Acting Is Everything is released late this year. He said he's made TONS of money going e-book format with his books. I guess I just have the whole, "It's not a book if it can't live on a shelf in a library somewhere," mentality. Also, I know (heck, I assume) that colleges and universities (our biggest customer base for Casting Qs) aren't likely to pick up Casting Qs as a required text book for students, if it's something they can download from a website for a small fee.
Or am I behind the times? Would this be the best option? What is "required reading" like in colleges today? Are e-books fair game?
Heck. I just don't know what to do on this issue. The "if I won the lottery" answer is: I'd do the second edition of the book, with all of the love and care I poured into the second edition of Self-Management for Actors and just be happy to have another baby of which to be so proud. Of course, I haven't won the lottery, so I can tell I am, in fact, concerned about the financial issues involved here.
Any/all feedback is greatly appreciated.
March 10, 2006
Oh my, my, my, my, my. Busy gal. But I did want to come by and say HOWDY!
Taxes got pushed back 'til I return from San Diego next week (subbing Billy Cowart's classes there) and I'm seriously grateful for that. Even after a couple dozen non-stop hours of working on our financials, I still had/have work to do. Should finish it all up today. Phew.
Made offers to two name actors for HILMMAKS today. That is seriously so much fun! Yippee! The other feature film I'm casting is on hold while producers get some legal stuff together (they weren't as ready to begin casting as they'd thought at our meeting earlier this week), which is good b/c it gives me a bit of breathing room to (hopefully) get some deals made on HILMMAKS before issuing the next breakdown.
Spoke to Billy DaMota's class at the Strasberg Institute last night. That's always such fun! Really talented kids over there. And catching up with Billy is a blast. He has a new book that we may publish through Cricket Feet. Stay tuned on that.
Keith is at an audition, then off to CSI Miami casting for his intern gig. I'm hoping to get our financial statements to a good "finishing point" before he gets home, so that I can then get my column written (early) and do some Roxbury work before leaving town. I'm very much looking forward to being entirely offline for a few days. There's something very comforting about that sort of break from the daily noise.
Let's see... other things to catch y'all up on...
Books are selling remarkably well. I'm so very pleased with how happy folks are with Self-Management for Actors. In fact, it's in stores now, so the numbers should continue to increase this month. Yippee! More important than sales, to me, is that people like the revisions. That's a big ol' happy. Otherwise, as long as we don't lose money on the printings, I'm just fine and dandy.
When I went to update the Cricket Feet site with some more screenings for Queen of Cactus Cove, I did a little poking around to see what's up with some of the other films I've cast. Holy crap, y'all! Hombre Kabuki also got into a qualifying festival for the Academy Awards, which means it is entirely possible (though certainly not probable, but a girl can dream, right?) that TWO FILMS I cast will be up for Best Live Action Short Film on Oscar night, 2007. HOLY CRAP, RIGHT?
Also, I learned that Chandler Hall will have its world premiere next weekend at The Other Venice Film Festival. I don't know anything about the fest, but I'm so freakin' excited to get to see how the film turned out. The film's website has a trailer and stills. Looks great! And honestly, I've been so busy that I haven't even had a chance to add a link to that site from the Cricket Feet site--nor have I edited together MY casting demo reel, which includes clips from all of these films that are (all at once it seems) starting to become available.
Hmm. Maybe I'll do some of that here, and y'all can go see the trailers on the sites where they currently live, and I'll use this post as a reminder to myself to come back and do all of this linking from the Cricket Feet site when I have a chance.
I haven't even gone blog-reading all week for the most part. Eesh! I am one busy Bon! Okay, I'm going to go ahead and post this entry even though it's really boring and then I'll try to come back before I head south in order to link up some trailers. Man, I need an assistant.
BACK: Okay, here are some links to trailers, if you'd like to see some of what I do for a living (outside of writing, which you can see every week).
Queen of Cactus Cove trailer.
Chandler Hall trailer is available here.
Hombre Kabuki trailer. (Hombre Kabuki came out of casting for Each To Each which is in post right now.)
The Moor trailer is up at the Cricket Feet site.
February 26, 2006
My Wish for You
Is that you will, at some time in your life, know the joy that is coming up on a movie theatre and seeing the title of a film you helped create "up in lights."
I also wish that you will see your book in the window at the biggest bookstore in Manhattan. And that you will sing, speak, and/or anything else you really love to do and be met with standing ovations, even flowers. If it's the kind of thing that gets you off, I also wish for you to be stopped in the street by fans asking for an autograph.
And I hope that, like me, you realize that all of these things are really cool while you're still young enough to enjoy them all--and you're not at all bitter about any of the road you walked (or people you encountered or risks you took or choices you made) to get those things to come true for you.
And if you've not had a dream come true for you yet in your life, get to it. From the greatness of 90210, remember what Val said to David on the cliff at the Santa Monica bluffs (yes, where we got married), "Either get busy living, or get busy dying."
I have some personal goals for the rest of age 35. My professional goals continue to be met, and bettered, and met again. I'm gonna work on me for a bit more right now. And that excites the hell out of me.
Two more things, before I sign off and get some sleep for a bit (jeebus I scared myself, thinking it was MONDAY 3am instead of SUNDAY 3am just then... phew! I still have a day! Phew! Okay, anyway):
1. Do you like great music? Do you like great music by British guys who write great witty blogs and help edit books about actors written by online friends on other continents? Yeah. Me too. Go listen to "Boathouse Row" and learn the greatness that is Cliff.
2. That was some way long blog entry I wrote a few days ago, no? Eesh! Anyone finish reading it yet? Keith said it was "too scary." Pff. Actors!
EDITED TO ADD: OMG! Have you seen this blog entry about a guy who lost out on a job b/c of his blog/hobby? OMG! That's a HOOT! And sad. Thanks for posting that, Chip. I find that just FUNNY! And sad. And FUNNY! Poor guy. *giggle*
February 13, 2006
Click here to read what another CD says about some monologues you shouldn't do. (Guess which monologue, of those listed, I used to do.)
Click here to read about the difference between Hollywood trade publications (with blogs) and amateur bloggers who write spoilerific posts. I must admit, I feel mighty high-and-mighty, writing professionally with the backing of two journalism degrees sometimes. It's like I hold myself to a higher standard of sharing, having been schooled to journal. ;)
Today's meeting? Effin' rockstar. I'm sooooo exhausted. Can't keep my eyes open. That's what busting ass on a casting meeting and having gotten no sleep while gearing up for the meeting will do to a gal. Details later. Short story: ROCK. STAR.
Oh, also: new desk arrived. Happy Bon. G'nite!
February 12, 2006
So, I've been stressing out all weekend about how on Earth I'm going to get everything done for my meeting tomorrow, what with another meeting today--one that's going to take a big chunk out of my day and therefore my ability to get prepped for tomorrow's meeting--and a column due.
Then, in the style of something CoCo wrote about last month, this morning brought a cancellation for tonight's dinner meeting. Awesome.
Not that I didn't want the meeting to happen--we've actually been working to schedule this for MONTHS--but the timing will be better later. Today, I shall write my column and prep for tomorrow's casting meeting. Phew! That's plenty of work, believe me!
February 7, 2006
I'm taking a moment to get out of the sun that shines on my "work seat" during this time of day and, from the floor, share some long-overdue updates. It only makes me more giddy that the actor I want THE MOST for one of the roles in HILMMAKS is on TV right now! Hee! It's a sign!
Okay, so the updates.
First, Pamela Newlands (AKA Sassy McLassie, and a contributor to SMFA2) shared this goodie with me. It's an interview with her that ran in the East Kilbride News (and that was subsequently picked up by the wire and run throughout the UK) in which she pimped out my new book.
And if that's too large for you, just click here to see the "all about Bon" part of the piece. *giggle*
Oh, and so it doesn't get buried in comments, I'll share a share from super proofer Julie-O (who has scored a righteous gig recently--ask her about it) a link to Swingline Tot50 staples, though you'd better buy in bulk, with that $8 flat shipping fee. Thanks, Julie-O! Happy stapling, proofers!
Okay, so, for the other giddy, giggle-filled info that I can't technically share with the world yet. Remember that post in which everyone tried to guess stuff about the starfucking namedropping I did? Okay, well, I can't say what, but I can add some names to the collection. Oh, but maybe that's too much. I know! I'll be a link-sharer instead of a name-dropper. How's that? Kiki, does that make me a starlinker instead? Hmm.
Okay, so the links for my *giggle* start here: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. Yes, I've woven in non-names with names, plus earlier-posted names with new ones... just to make it fun. And because everyone loves a good
boost in the starmeter ratings, click this and this too. *giggle*
PS: the word of the day (per this post) is OKAY.
PPS: not telling, Ed. But it's not what you think it is. I'll tell you later. No one knows. Really. Honest.
~2 d, 23 h
February 6, 2006
Okay, the first review of the new edition of Self-Management for Actors is in!
The new book is even better than the last one! (if that's at ALL possible!!) Congrats!!!!!!
Yay! I can officially relax about having wrecked it! Phew!
~1 d, 22 h
February 3, 2006
Proofer/Contributor Party Photos
Thanks to everyone who came out last night to help us celebrate the birth of Self-Management for Actors, 2nd edition.
Time to plan: 46 hours. People who showed up: 36. Money spent at El Cholo: $380 (+$150 tip). Number of pink Swingline Tot50 staplers given away as party favors: 23. Amount of fun: infinite. Volume of love: loads. Number of laughs: lost count. The bliss that is our amazing group of friends: truly priceless.
I love y'all.
January 31, 2006
SMFA2 Is Here!
The second edition of Self-Management for Actors is IN LOS ANGELES! Woo hoo!
Gonna do a little social gathering on Thursday evening, if you're around, in town, and local to Santa Monica. Comment/email for more info. We'd love to have you with us for the wee celebration. Meanwhile, I've GOT to stop freaking out about the idea that maybe I've ruined my book by changing it at all since the first edition. Ah... rebagging groceries, right?
Anyway, stay tuned for big, official events. Meanwhile, I can't wait to hear your review of my new baby!
Hiya! Been awhile. Busy. Office is looking gorgeous (photos to come) especially thanks to a stunning new lampshade with crystals hanging from it (beautiful present from the Lindsays). New fax machine "system" is really cool. Next, we're going to put up a stunning curtain to divide the "office" and "living" spaces. Oh, and I'm going to finally get a desk. (Did you know that you can't buy a desk like I want anywhere in person in Southern California?? Yeah. Gotta go online. Drat.)
Meeting tomorrow with Gary about a new joint venture with a major trade publication. Eeeeee! I'm quite giddy. Also finally got paperwork done for another casting gig, which means I'll be releasing some info in an official capacity soon (on several projects at once). I'm just blown away that it's already almost February. Wow.
Oh, man, I haven't even mentioned the fact that the second edition of Self-Management for Actors reaches our warehouse TOMORROW! Ack! I so kept thinking I had more time to prep--and now it's almost here???? Ack! I had a dream that it was a huge bomb and no one bought it and I cried and cried. And then I went over to Deb's house and slept on a leather couch, took drugs in my sleep, and woke up with Christmas lights strung all over me. When I woke up, I was craving a Sloppy Joe. Do you think that's normal?
More catch up later. I need a shower.
December 31, 2005
The Sum of All Years: 35?
Am I what I did, ways I survived, or how I feel about it all today?
Am I who I was raised to be, how I rebelled against that, or what I've created from scratch?
The Sum Of All Years is an autobiography where the word count for each post is limited to the corresponding age for that entry. This entry, 35, doesn't *really* exist yet, as I'm not half-way through that age yet. So, for now, this is where I stop and reflect. And I don't know the answers. How could I? No one does. And anyone who pretends to is just a better bullshitter than I am. Point is, I'm here. I'll continue to post a "new year" each birthday, so check back 11 July 2006 for the "official" Sum of All Years for age 35. So far, so good. Thank you, Cliff, for the challenge. Thank you, everyone, for being open to this, for commenting on the experience, for taking on the challenge of it all, for finding inspiration in it, and most of all for enjoying the read. See yaz next year!
December 29, 2005
The Sum of All Years: 34
Regained weight, published third book, got married, discovered first silver hairs.
LASIK, gluten-free eating, and open-valve living changed my life.
Cast another ten films. Spent many nights at Dan Tana's with Brody.
December 28, 2005
The Sum of All Years: 33
Published rockstar second book, Hollywood Happy Hour went global, hired to write for Showfax, (unhealthfully) lost weight on Atkins, went on book tour, cast three more movies, brought Thwok home, Quinn visited again.
December 26, 2005
The Sum of All Years: 32
December 24, 2005
The Sum of All Years: 31
Met Keith in person, moved him to Hollywood (the sign under which he proposed), took him to Sundance. Friends had babies, I turned down a book deal, Cricket Feet was born.
December 23, 2005
The Sum of All Years: 30
Mom dies 20 days after diagnosis. Kitties come live with me.
Dawn's Nurse Bonnie (nice to care for someone who will live through it).
Writing gig leads (online) to Keith.
December 21, 2005
The Sum of All Years: 29
December 20, 2005
The Sum of All Years: 28
December 19, 2005
The Sum of All Years: 27
December 18, 2005
The Sum of All Years: 26
Commissioned to document elementary school broadcasting, which becomes my thesis; named Olympic soccer venue technology coordinator; visited Spain (again).
Momma marries Papa Bear.
I graduate (again).
December 17, 2005
The Sum of All Years: 25
Threw bullseyes for dart league, bought WUOG's mascot (DJ Kitty), modeled my hands, earned a 4.0, and tried to check myself into a mental institution.
December 16, 2005
The Sum of All Years: 24
December 15, 2005
The Sum of All Years: 23
Apartment view: HOLLYWOOD sign. Living alone.
Worked for platinum recording artists, making more than my mom had ever seen.
Taught gang kids playwriting.
December 13, 2005
The Sum of All Years: 22
Atlanta's busiest hand model.
I break up with my boyfriend, sign with three agents, and win $1350 on a Ron Gant homerun.
December 12, 2005
The Sum of All Years: 21
Shacked with a guy. Thought we'd marry (ah, young bliss). Graduated, attempted suicide, found hope throwing myself into my acting career.
The Sum of All Years: 20
Woke up crying on my 20th birthday. Expected fame by now.
Instead, recruited for UGA, led WUOG, chilled with Robyn.
December 9, 2005
The Sum of All Years: 19
December 8, 2005
Self-Management for Actors (2nd edition)
It's up. The site, at least.
Just a few more weeks 'til the new baby is on the shelves. And only six weeks late! Woo hoo!
Thanks proofers, contributors, artists, and all wonderful supporters. Much love!
The Sum of All Years: 18
The Sum of All Years: 17
December 6, 2005
The Sum of All Years: 16
Buy first car... in which I am raped.
Begin prescription painkiller addiction that lasts a decade.
December 5, 2005
The Sum of All Years: 15
First love, first sex.
Lied on drugstore work permit to help support us.
December 4, 2005
So, I've had a debate with one of my most-respected, brilliant friends about the "word" li'l. She tells me it's wrong... like ya'll is wrong (sheesh--I shudder to type that so very incorrectly).
Well, I say li'l is correct, simply b/c it displays the use of apostrophes anywhere there are letters removed. Keith says that means the true correct spelling is li'l' (displaying missing letters on two sides of an L).
Just like 'til is the proper use of "until" when shortened, I stand by my li'l.
So does Google. So does Urban Dictionary. No. I don't care that Lil Kim or Lil Bow Wow do it differently. They probably also write "ya'll" and "till" (and say "supposebly"), meaning they lose all respect and therefore don't get a vote in this.
Loose/lose and then/than counts double.
That's all I'm sayin'.
The Sum of All Years: 14
No drama club? I'll start one!
Literary club, honor roll, show chorus, yearbook staff.
December 3, 2005
The Sum of All Years: 13
Wrong hair, wrong clothes, wrong accent, wrong side of the tracks.
December 2, 2005
The Sum of All Years: 12
I lived with Cleo.
Learned to gamble, worship the Braves.
December 1, 2005
The Sum of All Years: 11
November 30, 2005
Sum of All Years: Who's Next?
And do say hello to folks when you stop by. Too many hits to the blog without a "hello" can be unsettling. You'll see, when you're in "the thickest years" of your project.
The Sum of All Years: 10
Brilliant teacher taps in: I begin teaching English to refugees.
November 29, 2005
I'm going to make an observation about the process of taking on The Sum of All Years project.
It's more like therapy than I'd anticipated it would be. And it's hard to distill each year down to its most... what? Most life-defining? Most memorable? Most exciting? Most wish I could forget it? Most still a part of me? Most what I've conquered? Most how I now see myself... events. I still don't know. And I'll save most of my postmortem for, well, after.
Just know, if you take on this challenge (as many of you have said you'll do), you'll likely find some truths about yourself that you didn't think you'd ever make public (and wonder what the agenda has been in keeping things to yourself... as well as what the agenda may be in revealing them now), and you'll learn you're both more and less broken than perhaps you thought you were.
Again, more at the end. Just wanted to get that out there, as fair warning for anyone taking on the project.
A part of me wants to stop. A part of me cannot. A part of me must. A part of me will not.
Thanks for reading, just the same.
The Sum of All Years: 09
Mom goes New Age.
I am molested.
November 28, 2005
The Sum of All Years: 08
Dad returned... left again.
Can't afford Montessori anymore.
The Sum of All Years: 07
Starred in first play.
Move over, Barbra.
November 27, 2005
The Sum of All Years: 06
Dreamed Daddy left.
Then he did.
November 26, 2005
The Sum of All Years: 05
Momma's light. Daddy's little girl.
November 25, 2005
The Sum of All Years: 04
My brother, my hero.
November 23, 2005
The Sum of All Years: 03
November 22, 2005
The Sum of All Years: 02
November 21, 2005
The Sum of All Years: 01
November 16, 2005
"Casting Qs" Event Tonight!
Stop By Brentano's in November to meet your favorite authors:
Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 7:00PM - Bonnie Gillespie Casting Workshop with casting director discussing Casting Qs (bring your headshots) (Performing Arts)
For further information, please contact Brentano's at (310) 785-0204
Brentano's Century City
10250 Santa Monica Blvd.
Los Angeles CA, 90067
November 1, 2005
Losing My Touch
This is what happens when an HTML junkie begins to age...
She can't fix code on a page she's been maintaining for over six years. Yup. Something went wonky and I can't fix it. Can't. Don't even have the right headspace for the analysis. I usually can line up an old version of the code and a new version and find exactly where something went wrong and put it back in order. Or AT LEAST I can pull one of Keith's old Java Script books down and figure it out from there. This time? No way.
I'm officially getting too old to code.
Meanwhile, still finishing edits on the book and still having a LOT more to do than I'd imagined I would, this close to Mercury going Retrograde. Looks like a new breakdown will go out this week for the first of three films to cast before year-end. And what I really need is some paid time off to get everything organized so that I can actually do all of the things stretched out before me and hire someone to help.
Oh, y'know what hurts? Microwave popcorn bag-induced papercut on the pinky. Yeah. Ow.
Happy November, all!
October 11, 2005
Tomorrow is our Nonaversary. Yes, we celebrate the day we didn't get married, 12 October 2002. It's always so much fun, since we invented the holiday.
First Nonaversary: stay in bed all day and say, "Thank you for not marrying me."
Second Nonaversary: champagne brunch and pottery painting.
Third Nonaversary: do a series of date nights to make up for the fact we're working on the 12th.
And yes, we count the one in 2002 as our First Nonaversary, since we invented it. And yes, we still say, "Thank you for not marrying me," to each other... only now we're married, so we kind of only mean, "Thanks for not marrying me on THAT day."
Yes, I'm taking work on our honeymoon (but anyone who knows Keith knows, by virtue of the fact that HE's going, I'm taking WORK on my honeymoon anyway), but THIS will be stuff I can do while he's sleeping. *giggle*
Oh, I'm sooooooooo excited! Yippee!
Who Do You Love?
Okay, peeps-who-love-to-read, which font do you like best?
I won't tell you which fonts are "winning," just that SMALLER is better, since otherwise I must cut major content. Grr... it's like I'm writing my dissertation all over again (no wonder I dropped out on my PhD)!
October 9, 2005
So, I've pulled a major all-weekender and gotten bootyloads of work done on the updates to the new edition of the book (woo damn hoo), and that means it's time to get to the proofing!
I think I've sent invitations to all of the proofer patrol members who re-upped for this edition to join the new let's-keep-it-all-in-one-place Yahoo group. If you're in for the proofing but haven't received your invite, click and join, please. Updates are happening FAST (got that Nonaversary trip coming up).
Yes, five-weeks-to-printer was ambitious. It'll be more like seven. It's gonna be okay... still out just before we sell out of the first edition (by like a dozen copies, if the math works out).
PS--THREE new scripts this week for casting, each with a budget near $2M. Rockstar!
Posted by bonnie at 10:22 PM
October 7, 2005
Oy, I am so so so so so so so busy. Working like a madwoman on the book's revisions (and damn if this book is not getting HUGE); too busy to answer emails and phone calls asking me to cast, do book signings, and various speaking engagements; and it has (again) been too hot to move this week.
|You Are Apple Cider|
Now, if Friday chooses to be below 90 degrees, I'll feel like it's Fall and that'll be nice. I'd like to be less annoyed by weather and more inspired to cut HUGE chunks of stuff from the book. Anyone up for clearcutting? I could use some help, but it's really thick underbrush at this stage (and I usually try to spare my proofer patrol from such heavy lifting).
Posted by bonnie at 2:00 AM
October 4, 2005
Well, That Was Fun
So, I just got off the phone from an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
We've booked our Nonaversary trip (yippee)!! And life, she is good.
Meanwhile, if anyone has a print subscription to THR and sees the blurb, could you save a copy of that edition for me? Thanks!
Edited to add: looks like Steve Tom is also in this episode. (He's contributing to the new edition of Self-Management for Actors. Hee.)
Posted by bonnie at 9:43 PM
September 21, 2005
That's the sound my nose makes.
Book event, good. Kitties (all three), spread out all over me, begging for bed. Keith, on his way to the bed.
Yeah. NyQuil says I'll be going too. *skrawnk*
I'm going to be healthy tomorrow, dammit.
Posted by bonnie at 11:42 PM
Acting Qs Book Event 9/21/05
Blake Robbins (co-author and working actor) and I will be doing a book signing and talk with Jill Andre and Stephon Fuller (both working actors we interviewed in our book Acting Qs: Conversations with Working Actors) at Brentano's, Century City, on Wednesday, 9/21/05 at 7pm.
PS--Camille Mana may also stop by!
Posted by bonnie at 1:25 AM
September 17, 2005
1. Working on the book helps calm panic attacks.
2. Watch the pre-Emmy Emmy Awards (Creative Arts version) tonight on E! to see Kathy Joosten pick up her Emmy (plus casting directors April Webster, Mandy Sherman, Alyssa Weisberg, and Veronica Collins Rooney for Lost; John Papsidera for Lackawanna Blues; and Scott Genkinger and Junie Lowry-Johnson for Desperate Housewives). That's so cool! Maybe someday, the Oscar people will do an award for casting. *sigh*
4. Book stuff: anyone who's read Self-Management for Actors have an opinion about a chapter I'm on the fence about keeping? That'd be the STAND-UP COMEDY one. I mean, I cover SOAPS and EXTRA WORK and HOSTING, so there's room for it... but I don't cover VOICEOVER. I can't cover everything, of course, but I'm just wondering... did the STAND-UP COMEDY chapter stick out as out-of-place? Should I keep it and add in VOICEOVER and LOOPING? Hm.
5. Blogging seems to recharge my panic levels, so I'm going back to book edits. Wish me luck! Watch the Emmys tonight and tomorrow night too. Congrats to my friends and colleagues!
Posted by bonnie at 1:36 PM
September 15, 2005
Hey, Proofer Patrol
Early request of the proofer patrol for the 2nd editon of Self-Management for Actors:
If you are on my proofer patrol and you have the first edition handy, could you be so awesome as to "bunny up" to do one of the following things?
1. Look up every casting director whose name is in the book (you can use the index for help) and find out whether they are now (or no longer) members of the CSA and/or CCDA?
2. Look up every casting director whose name is in the book (again, you can use the index for help) and find out what their most recent credits are (this is an IMDB job)?
4. Visit the sites in the Online Resources section of the book and determine if those sites still exist and, if they do, if the description is accurate?
Holla, helpas! You get copies of the book and my undying love! Oh, and acks in the acks section, of course! Deadline... October 1st, so there's plenty o'time.
Posted by bonnie at 9:18 PM
September 14, 2005
Well, starting next Monday (the 19th), you can see her every week at 8pm on UPN! Woo hoo!
You may recall that Camille is featured in my book Acting Qs. Hee hee! Yay! Speaking of the little book: co-author Blake Robbins will be on The OC for the next two weeks *and* the wonderful Bob Clendenin (along with his wife Erin, of course) has welcomed his second son into the world! Woo hoo! Further, Jill Andre (who smoked up the screen in The Moor Sunday night) will be joining me and Blake on the 21st at Brentano's for a talk and book signing.
Oh, how much I love bragging on my friends!!
'member when I was all airheady a few months ago? Well, I'm there again. I really hate it. Anyone recall how that ended up leaving my life, after having been such a pain in the ass for me? Really hate feeling all out of sorts.
And, as if my blog is in retrograde, both my Google ads *and* Blogpatrol are now broken. WTF?
Okay, back to the good stuff: congrats, Camille, Blake, Bob, Jill, and everyone else in my life who's doing some really cool, amazing work! (Even spied Subhash on TV today!) Me? Gotta get my head grounded and then I can get these book revisions going. HUGE THANKS TO THE PROOFER PATROL AND CONTRIBUTORS ALREADY ONBOARD!!
Posted by bonnie at 11:45 PM
September 7, 2005
Okay, so it's time to revise Self-Management for Actors and get it on the shelves by 15 November 2005.
Yes. You read that right. I will attempt to turn this book around and hand off to the printers in FIVE WEEKS, max. Soooooo... if I seem to hibernate for a while, that's what's what. And if I spend way too much time blogging, know I'm procrastinating and kick my bootie, okay?
Oh, and Joni, it seems we need to start our production company soon. I've been hearing that would be a way good thing. 'Til then... gotta write, yo!
Posted by bonnie at 1:17 AM
August 29, 2005
The Moor: Los Angeles Premiere
I'm so very excited! I hope you'll all be able to join me in celebrating the Los Angeles premiere screening of The Moor at 8pm on Sunday, 11 September 2005 at the Arclight as a part of the LA International Short Film Festival.
Woo hoo! This is only the second public film screening of the 15 films I've cast thus far in my career. I'm very proud of this one and I hope everyone enjoys the beautiful story as much as I do. Russell Banks wrote the story and his daughter Caerthan adapted it and directed the 35mm film with an amazing cast and crew!
You can view the trailer here: The Moor (QuickTime 1.9mb).
As usual, with film festivals, there are no free passes, so I'll understand if you can't make it to this one. Still, wanted to get the word out. Also, on that same day, Gary Marsh of Breakdown Services and I will be doing a panel ("Producing Your Film from A to Z") with a few other wonderful people who help steer filmmakers through the indie production process.
Since I'm in an updatey mood, here are some other things coming up in the next few months:
- Sunday, September 18th, 1:45pm, guest-speaker at Actorsite
- Wednesday, September 21st, 7pm, FREE Self-Management for Actors seminar at Brentano's in Century City
- Thursday, September 29th, 6:30pm, prepared scene showcase at AFTRA
- Saturday, October 15th, 8pm, opening night of Shrinks at the Hudson Backstage (purchase tickets here)
- Thursday, November 3rd, 7pm, guest-speaker at Emerson College LA Center with Brad Lemack
- Sunday, November 20th, 4pm, Youth Actors Expo panel moderator ("Insight from Casting Directors in TV, Film, and Commercials")
- Tuesday, December 6th, 7:30pm, guest-speaker at the SAG Conservatory at AFI
Fun stuff, fun stuff, fun stuff! Yippee!
Posted by bonnie at 7:04 PM
August 27, 2005
Be careful when you say something bold out loud, okay?
Case in point:
Tuesday night at Dan Tana's, I boldly said to Brody that I would NOT be casting a film in September, since I must use the month to write the next book, due out November 15th.
Arrived via messenger today:
Feature film script with SEVENTY ROLES TO CAST.
See? Saying things out loud just never works out right! How am I supposed to say no to getting to cast 70 roles?!?
Good thing I don't sleep. Maybe I can do both.
Posted by bonnie at 3:09 AM
August 15, 2005
Did I share this with y'all yet?
And, it seems that my friend Brad sees this in my future:
Still editing tape for Teenage Dirtbag producers to watch online in Idaho. Callbacks next week. I'm exhausted. Very busy week, here.
Posted by bonnie at 7:31 PM
August 11, 2005
Another Friend To Brag About
Yay! Amy Harber did one of those "hometown press" interviews I so love, and lookee here:
I'm so pleased to have been mentioned as an author whose book had a positive impact on Amy's acting career (alongside my book-mentor Judy Kerr) and to have been mentioned as a "friend" who shared some words of wisdom with this talented actor!
Hee hee! You GO girl! Way to work it! And THANK YOU!
PS--Happy birthday Dawn, Mitchell, and the mighty TicTac.
Posted by bonnie at 3:08 PM
July 31, 2005
Got this email today:
Was loafing doing an extra gig for Malcolm in the Middle last week and someone had your Acting Qs book prominently atop a pile of books on the AD's table in holding all nite. Seemed like a clever mode of getting its name out there. Did not find out whose it was though.
How effin' cool!
Posted by bonnie at 2:32 AM
July 27, 2005
Get those reviews up, baby! Woo hoo!
Posted by bonnie at 8:00 PM
July 18, 2005
Finally! Here are some photos from Quinn's visit. Click on any to enlarge by quite a bit.
I really love these photos. Thanks again to the amazing Cathy McCall for doing such great work. We're really happy with the way you made us all look so good!
Enjoy these photos (and this post) for a while. From the looks of this week, it's going to be pretty tough to get to post. New feature film casting gig, next Self-Management for Actors seminar, meeting to discuss the next-next feature film casting gig, HHH joint venture press release to create and blitz media with, plus packing for the trip to Missouri to cast a weekend's worth of short indie films for the American Academy of Art's Indie Filmmaker's Bootcamp. Hoo, boy... that's some lots of stuffs!
PS--The NEXT book (the one I haven't written yet, the one that's only been announced to our distributor due to the fact that their catalogue runs way early) has already presold 571 copies. What IS that?!?
Posted by bonnie at 12:12 AM
July 9, 2005
Where to begin...
Where do you begin when you have so so so so much going on that you can't even begin to STOP and organize thoughts into words (much less organize thoughts into words that accurately represent the non-stop goings-on)? Whew! I am spinning!! LOVE IT... but it's a LOT of swirl. I feel like I'm in the center of a kick-ass Spirograph design with lots of color. It's gorgeous, complex, and thrilling to behold. But, man, is it a lot to wrap my brain around!
We've finished up prereads for Shrinks. Wow. Some of the most amazing (and also some of the most baffling) actors I've seen, for this one. I'm thrilled with the actors we'll be bringing to callbacks (once we are able to cut down even further; we currently have too many actors on our short list). As for what was baffling... well... let's just say I actually WISH there were a Hollywood Blacklist so that I could make sure one actor is on it. *shudder* I have written (for the first time, ever): NEVER AGAIN across a headshot. I'll explain why over drinks somewhere, sometime... later.
Just got back from the Chandler Hall table read (I didn't stay for any of the read itself; just went at the start to get the last two actors to sign off on their SAG contracts and to get *my* final check for casting services). It is so very cool to see all of the actors cast in one place at the same time. Casting directors never really get to do that. We may see two or three together during chemistry checks at callbacks, but it's so neat to see a dozen confident, CAST, happy actors gathering, meeting, ready to begin the journey that will result in a feature film a year from now. Very gratifying.
Happily completing my essay (to go with my application) for joining the CSA. Received a copy of the letter Michael Donovan wrote on my behalf. It made me cry. What a wonderful man! And truly, he has been a mentor for me since the very beginning of this road (heck, even before I had any idea it was a path)! Wonderful letter. Wonderful man.
In fact, Michael was one of the first people Keith called with the good news. Yup. Keith Johnson, just three years after his first acting gig in Los Angeles, has signed with Origin Talent. That's right. THE Origin Talent. That's Origin Talent of JP Manoux, Katie Stuart, Patrick Malone, Susan Wood, Rodney Rowland, Kate Flannery, Christa Campbell, Suzanne Krull, Patrick Bristow, Jf Pryor, Will Wallace, Sean Bell, Rusty Joiner, Lindsay Hollister, Jake Hanover, Jessica Lancaster, and *ahem* Bob Clendenin fame. Awwwwww, yeah! That's a working actor agency, baby!
Fucking rockstar development. Abby Casey is the best manager on the planet and Keith Johnson now has a manager and TWO agents. Kathleen Schultz for print (signed earlier this week), and now Origin frickin' Talent. So so so so so amazing. Just unbelievable and delightful and perfect. Congratulations, my working actor baby. Oh, and break a leg at your THIRD producer callback session for Big Love. Nail it to the fucking wall!
*ahem* Sorry 'bout the f-word all over the place. I'm just really happy.
Okay, so in a week full of amazing developments, I get this email from someone who has read my advice in a new book published by the UGA Alumni Association.
Seems my advice to 2005 UGA grads is on page 35. You can download the whole PDF by clicking that phrase. If you just want to see my passage in If I Only Knew Then..., click here (also PDF, just smaller). I shared advice that was shared by my aunt Jean, back when I was in crisis over my decision to move back to Atlanta and go to grad school. I couldn't believe I was actually considering leaving Hollywood. It was my PLAN. She taught me about Plan A and Plan B... well... read the passage. You'll see. Cool to have already gotten email about it.
And, I sent a note to Aunt Jean to thank her for the advice and to show her the impact it obviously had on me. I'm guessing she doesn't even recall that particular conversation, but it certainly helped me, in those tough early-20s (when you're so sure you know how your life is going to turn out and think it's WRONG to not know (vs. how blissful it is to not know, which you eventually learn)).
I love living in Santa Monica. We're almost at our anniversary here. So blissful. Being so close to the beach, being able to walk everywhere, the cool weather, the friendly people. Ah, people laugh about, "Never wanting to go east of the 405," but Keith tells them I try not to go east of 26th Street! The temperature drops there, when you're coming back from "the rest of LA" to the Westside. It's not just that, though. It's also the vibe. My pulse actually slows at that point. I relax differently. It's awesome.
And while I love my digs... man, doesn't this place look cool?
It's almost that time! I'm really excited about this birthday. It's been an outstanding year.
That's Ash in last weekend's LA Times. (Click it to see the whole article/scan--very large.) Go, girl. You are definitely the breakout star of MTV's The '70s House. Win! Win big!
Okay. If you haven't already, shame on you. And go NOW. Read the brilliance that is (collectively) Colleen Wainwright's "Searches, We Get Searches" blogs. Of course, every bit of her blog is brilliant, but it's the SEARCH stuff that makes me *snork* (snort-laugh). So much, in fact, I asked her to teach me how to track searches to my blog so that I could try to be so funny.
So far... here's what I've got. In seven weeks of tracking, the most interesting searches that have come my way have been (and my lame attempt at comedy follows each):
Eva Longoria Golden Globes (Yes, yes she does. Mmmmmm.)
Greer Shephard dress (She does, too. Probably once or twice every day!)
Miata touch-up paint Miata (That's catchy! I could sing that.)
photo of Kevan Jenson (Hm. I don't have one, but I'll see if I can snap a pic on the SixHundy on Wednesday, if you'd like.)
star caps (Tooth-coverings for famous people? Headgear for celestial bodies? Five-point bullets? Nah... just a bright-orange, garlic-smelling herbal drug thingy.)
How'd I do, Coco? You say the searches will get better with time, right? ;) Hopefully the comedy will too.
Just transition artwork, above. It says my name. Cool, huh?
Okay, so we took a vote in the Gillespie-Johnson household. Best Hunter: Thwok. Sexiest Vixen: Salema. Sweetest Oaf: Archie (although Keith was close on that one... he's not as sweet).
Oh, and Lily, here's my blog!
'Til next time!
(reminders to self: blog about why a special agent from the ATF stopped by on Thursday, the cat that meditates to the Stones, Fantastic 4, and cool sofa repair guys. also look up the date's for Joni's vist, find out if the casting gig in MO and the trip to Tahoe are mutually exclusive, roll out a SMFA seminar press release, and consult the SixHundy for the rest of the scary to do list. that is all. back to work. stop with the blogging and trust that you'll remember all the other shyte you want to write about when the time is there to do so. seriously. go now. now.)
Posted by bonnie at 11:41 AM
July 5, 2005
Such Super Cool Press
Got a cool little gift in my inbox today.
It's coverage by the ATAS (those cool Emmy people) of the panel I moderated back in May. Rockstar cool.
Posted by bonnie at 1:53 PM
July 1, 2005
Reasons I'm Sad/Reasons I'm Happy
1. (Sad) . Honestly, Luther (and one of the Tonies from Tony Toni Toné) was one of the best-smelling guys I ever worked for, back in my Left Bank Management days. As much as I loved taking weed over to JT's house, catching Richard's stalker, making the world believe the '93 album was the second LP from Meat, making the last contract offer ever made to Nirvana, chilling with the brothers G, or helping Joey with his folks, I have to say that it was Luther Vandross who was loving, sweet, genunie, and just a big ball of love-to-hug. What a loss! Too soon. We'll miss you.
2. (Sad) . Are you kidding me? You couldn't wait an effin' three years to help us out? Ugh. I remember when you were brought onboard, Ms. Sandra Day O'Connor. I'm feeling as old as you must feel. I just feel mad at you for handing the keys of freedom over to that rat bastard W. Grr.
5. (Happy) . Did my application for the CSA and asked for reference letters from my favorite casting mentors. Very happy. *fingers crossed* for approval, seeing as the vote for new members takes place on my birthday (that can't possibly be a bad sign).
6. No pic. Just love. I'm a happy happy happy gal. Cast is near-locked for Chandler Hall (even received flowers from the actor we cast in the lead; a lovely note saying, "I didn't know what your favorite flowers were, so I sent you mine. Thanks for everything! Your Jimmy Bravo," (SUCH A CLASS ACT)), auditions are scheduled for Shrinks, and... best for last... Keith has signed with his first AGENT. Yup. My cute boy now has a PRINT AGENT in Los Angeles. It would seem "NFL-lovin' grill dad" is big biz in the sale circulars! Cool deal!
Big weekend. Big love. Woo damn hoo!
Posted by bonnie at 11:22 PM
June 21, 2005
1. Got the prereads for Chandler Hall scheduled (sides out, top actors for each role scheduled, etc.).
2. Got A New Tomorrow final cast list handed off to production (just need to get the cast webpage updated now).
4. Sent out MOST of the comp copies of Acting Qs. Got an amazing thank-you note from Tom Fontana, as well as super feedback from actors interviewed. I'll share soon.
5. Quinn had his playdate with Drake (that's Drake on set, above). They really enjoyed themselves. Turns out Puzzle Zoo is like the coolest store EVER. Will post photos from Quinn's visit when I can. I promise!
6. Got someone at SAG to agree to fax over the Limited Ex talent contract (even though it's only good for another couple of weeks--then we go to Ultra Low Budget contracts for SAG). Bless you, Paul Bales, for the fax!! (Will pick up a copy of the AEA 99-seat Code while in the building tonight, thanks to Nancy Daly.)
7. Got Quinn *mostly* packed, though he'll leave without his memory book completed this year, for the first time (bummer. I just could NOT get it together quickly. We'll mail it later). LOVE the drawings he's leaving behind. Perfect fridge material!
8. Confirmed that tonight's SAG LifeRaft event is over-booked with a waiting list--which means it will fly by (and we're taking 150 copies of Self-Management for Actors to give away). C'mon DayQuil! Hook me up!
9. Got Quinn's "LOVE QUINN" scrawled on all of our thank you notes from this week's 1/2-birthday gifts and treats. Seriously, Quinn had an amazing time! (I'll get 'em out in the mail later.)
10. Purged a few thousand pages of sides from previous projects' auditions, which felt good in a major way. Amazing the little things we can do when sick that happen to improve the general spirits, without taking too much out of us physically.
11. Slept. That was the biggie. Still not 100% (and Keith is worse), but enough to get the talk done tonight, get Keith and Quinn to the airport, and then get back home to write the breakdown for Shrinks, do Rox work, update the business-hours list for tomorrow, and get all of the email-based contact work possible done before Wednesday rolls around. Ack. Exhausted just looking at all of this.
So, I'll stop. Time to get on the road soon anyway. Thanks for all the good vibes, everyone! They feel GREAT!
Posted by bonnie at 2:25 PM
June 14, 2005
How Cute Are We!
What say he?
I am really enjoying the book. While I was on set Saturday, I showed it to the actress I was working with and she started reading it like it was hers. I was hoping to read in the "hurry up and wait" time. It’s pretty addictive. The stories are great!
Yay! Thanks, Stephon! And THANKS for sharing YOUR story!
BTW... the upgrade to Office 2004 (when it has become fried by your effin' Tiger upgrade on a Mac [yeah, laugh it up, folks who love it the once every NEVER that a Mac does something PC-like and craps out]) is basically painless, although it does take about THREE HOURS.
Further BTW... Quinn is learning major strategy in Hello Kitty Uno. Or, well, he WAS. Right now he's in Catalina with his dad. So cool! Me? Casting meeting tomorrow. News to come. Yippee!
Posted by bonnie at 7:14 PM
June 13, 2005
And here are today's updates, as of this moment.
a script to read, offers to fax, feedback to provide [still dragging feet on this one], bills to pay, books to sign [ended up chatting, instead], books to pack [ditto], books to mail [yeah, yeah, yeah], headshots to open, headshots to sort [still in progress], headshots to purge [I think this one is a forever-in-progress deal], a screen to put back in a window [waits for Keith], three websites to update [ugh. dragging feet], a font to install [actually can no longer use Word. major problems since the Tiger upgrade. Ugh], and dayplayers to enter into the Breakdowns system to email to producers [not urgent].
Wow, and I also did about ten things that weren't on the list. That's fun. Still more to do (always)... but I'm super-intimidated by the items I saw in last month's Real Simple (just got to read it) called "This Clean House." I'll post that insane list later. No WAY I could keep up with THOSE standards. *shudder* I'm supposed to wash my lamp shades every six months?
PS--I love Fight for Fame. Is that wrong? Should I lie? (Ooh, it's probably due to the high number of people in each week's episode that I know. That would explain part of the appeal.)
Posted by bonnie at 5:19 PM
June 12, 2005
List Thus Far
Updates to the list thus far:
I have a script to read [read enough to know I'll accept the offer to cast it tomorrow],
a column to write, offers to fax [got authorization for dollar amounts on three of them, holding on one more], feedback to provide [this is going to take forever and I always worry I miss something and end up just not doing any, which I hate, since I know it helps the actors to get feedback], bills to pay [that's the very next item, I promise], books to sign [can do that with wine, later], books to pack [ditto], books to mail [pack 'em up for Keith to take after he and Quinn return from NoCal], headshots to open [ugh, that's forever in the making], headshots to sort [this list is still way overwhelming], headshots to purge [I thought I'd gotten so much done today], a screen to put back in a window [waits for Keith], a shower to take, litter to scoop, dishes to wash, three websites to update [coming soon], a font to install [having some bugs with the Tiger upgrade... must research], and dayplayers to enter into the Breakdowns system to email to producers [later].
Holy bejeebus. I thought I'd gotten so much done already. Lists are evil. (No, they're not. I know that.)
PS--I cannot watch ten minutes of television without seeing an actor I know. That's kind of cool.
PPS--It seems I will get to officially make an offer to one of the most talented actors I know tomorrow (and someone I count as a friend) to star in one of the movies I'm casting. I'm so so so so so freakin' excited about this film. Can't wait to make it official!! Rockstar!
Posted by bonnie at 6:10 PM
June 9, 2005
If you were involved with this:
and you're free tomorrow evening, meet me at:
(or post a comment here/send an email to let me know you want to join us and I'll be less cryptic and give actual information).
PS--If you weren't involved with Acting Qs but you want to be one of the first people to buy one on the planet (since it's not yet available anywhere else), you could come too. Just lemmeknow, so that I bring enough of the SEXIEST LOOKING BOOKS EVER! Ack! So excited!
Posted by bonnie at 3:44 PM
June 3, 2005
Theory of Car Drama and Showbiz
Okay, so I've always had this theory (and it seems to pan out, according to most actors I've talked to) that if you get a parking ticket while you're at an audition, you will book the gig.
Well, yesterday, Keith's car was towed. And he had a rockstar meeting (over 90 minutes) with an amazing agent, after his rockstar manager hooked him up with a week filled with agency meetings. Have we mentioned how much we love Keith's manager?
So, if a parking ticket during an audition means a booking, I think it's safe to say that a tow-away the morning of an agent meeting means you're going to get signed. We shall see.
In other news, A New Tomorrow is almost fully-cast. I'm doing some offer letters to name actors on Monday for this film *and* for Chandler Hall, based on some wonderful pitches we've gotten since the breakdown went out Wednesday night. Excellent progress.
Quinn and the book arrive next week. I'm teaching four classes next week plus attending an amazing CBS/TMA event. It's just an amazing, kick-ass life. Period.
Posted by bonnie at 11:10 AM
May 30, 2005
Special Day: 8 June 2005
Okay, so not only is 8 June 2005 the day that Quinn arrives for his annual visit,
but it's also the day that Acting Qs reaches Los Angeles.
Now, while I get ready for a big casting meeting for the NEXT feature film (Yippee!) and prepare for callbacks on the CURRENT feature film (Woo hoo!), you go read this (brilliant) and this (also brilliant). Oh, and go outside to enjoy this PERFECT day! Wow!
Posted by bonnie at 11:42 AM
May 21, 2005
Get To Work, Gang!
Get to it, gang that I love! Y'all know what to do. Wheeeeeeeeeeee!
Posted by bonnie at 6:34 PM
May 14, 2005
Proofer Patrol Party Photos
Some of the book's lovely amazing proofers came out to let us buy them some drinks and foods and thank them muchly for the heavy-duty proofing work they helped us do!
Just so happens, we got the blue lines the evening of the party. Yippee! This rocks! Thanks again, everyone!
Posted by bonnie at 12:22 PM
May 11, 2005
It's official. See y'all there. And yes... that's how "y'all" is spelled. Don't punk out.
THE FIRST ANNUAL ACTORS CASTING/AGENTS PANEL AND BOOK FAIRE
THE ACADEMY OF TELEVISION ARTS AND SCIENCES and the Performers Peer Group "Road to Success" Series presents NAVIGATING THE NEW HOLLYWOOD LANDSCAPE FOR THE WORKING ACTOR
Casting Directors: Richard Hicks, Jane Jenkins, Ellie Kanner, Sonia Nikore, April Webster.
Agents: Chris Barrett of Metropolitan Talent Agency, Glenn Salners of Stone Manners Agency, Robin Spitzer of Origin Talent Agency, Mitchell K. Stubbs of Mitchell K. Stubbs & Assoc., Jeff Witjas of APA
Produced by: Conrad Bachmann & Alex Georgiev
Moderated by: Bonnie Gillespie
When: Saturday, May 21 2005
Where: CBS Studio Center, 4024 Radford Ave., Studio City. Please park in the structure (Gate A) north of the main gate on Radford. Pre-registration and photo ID required to enter the studio lot. Security guards will direct you to the commissary and event location.
Gates to open at 9:30am
Book Faire: 12:30pm-2pm
Come for the Seminar, Stay for the Book Faire.
Actors Access and Showfax members are invited to attend a FREE seminar sponsored by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. If you have already RSVP'd through the Academy, you are set. If you haven't, just go to:
Click here to RSVP and fill out the online form to secure your reservation. Only attendees with valid confirmations will be allowed to attend this free event. If you want to just come for the Book Faire, be at the CBS Radford gate at 12 noon.
After the seminar you will have the opportunity to meet and greet authors who have set the standard for books for and about actors. Meet Terri Apple, Bonnie Gillespie, Margie Haber, Ellie Kanner, Rob Kendt, Judy Kerr, Brad LeMack, Nancy Rainford and other signature authors.
This is an exciting must see event at CBS Radford. Topics will include how technology has changed the way agents and casting directors work and how actors can take advantage of this new work flow.
Posted by bonnie at 11:49 PM
May 3, 2005
So People Love the New Book
Not yet on Amazon... but there's bureaucracy there.
Sell, little book, sell!
Posted by bonnie at 11:41 PM
April 2, 2003
Bonnie Gillespie's Resignation Letter to Back Stage West
Cricket Feet, Inc.
P.O. Box 1417
Hollywood, CA 90028
2 April 2003
Steve Elish, Publisher
Back Stage/Back Stage West
New York, NY 10003
Dear Mr. Elish:
Regretfully, I am writing to tender my resignation as casting columnist for Back Stage West. What follows is a detailed chronological accounting of the events leading up to this decision, thus ending my affiliation with Back Stage West—a publication I have been proud to work for since October of 1999.
In the week of February 17, 2003, while covering for Casting Assistant Cassie Carpenter in-house at Back Stage West, I was asked by Rob Kendt (Editor-in-Chief/Associate Publisher), Marjorie Broder (Marketing/Advertising Director), and Suzy Starling (Marketing/Sales Assistant) to create and moderate a panel of casting directors for the 2003 ActorFest, taking place Saturday, April 26th.
By this time, I had conducted several highly successful free casting director panels in conjunction with Back Stage West at Take One Film Books in West Los Angeles. Each of these panels (taking place about once every six weeks since November 2002) had well over 100 actors in attendance, filling the aisles and sitting on the floor to be a part of it.
My reputation for being an excellent moderator was beginning to become known. I realized that moderating a panel of very different people with sometimes totally contradictory opinions on subjects relevant to the acting community was a skill and that I should be pleased that I am always able to bring out the best in these panelists and get useful advice to actors who so crave this information.
When Rob, Marjorie, and Suzy invited me to construct a panel for ActorFest, I was thrilled. I knew that would mean an audience of up to 500 actors and the opportunity to bring back some of the top casting directors I've had serve on panels before—as well as a few people who I'd only interviewed and not yet had appear on panels. I was told, in repayment for my services, I would receive a $115 discount on the cost of a booth on the trade show floor, meaning Cricket Feet, Inc., could get a booth for $450 to sell Casting Qs: A Collection of Casting Director Interviews as well as other Cricket Feet titles, and my actor consulting services.
I immediately began booking casting directors for this panel with the one guideline, "Someone from television, someone from film, someone from commercials, someone from theatre, someone from reality. We want the top people from each type of casting." That directive came from Marjorie and was the only limit put upon my ability to contact and book casting directors for the ActorFest panel. My panelists would not be paid, nor would I—which is also standard practice for my free casting director panels. We all donate our time.
By the end of the day on which I was asked to do the panel, I had already booked three casting directors: Michelle Foumberg, Twinkie Byrd, and Michael Donovan. I also handed Suzy Michelle and Michael, who were willing to do Focus Sessions that were, as of that time, unfilled by casting directors. It was my pleasure to help Suzy with the task of filling those slots, as I knew, when I called in favors to get these casting directors to agree to the panel in the first place, I could also ask them to come for one extra hour to help Suzy for a $100 honorarium.
By the end of the week in which I was asked to do the panel, I had secured two more casting directors: Bob Morones and Kimberly Hardin. All five of the casting directors I had contacted at this time were eager to be a part of ActorFest and sit on a panel I would moderate. We began discussing plans for the questions I would ask, the types of questions that would likely come from the audience, and what to expect from the experience as a whole.
In that same week of February 17th, I was contacted by casting director Katy Wallin regarding a new show for Fox she had been hired to cast. She needed some out-of-town recruiting done and wanted to know if I knew of casting directors who would be willing to do such work. I made some calls and connected a few people to one another, as this is a very typical "side-effect" of my work with casting directors. It is known by all that I know casting directors—as a community—more than anyone else. I also refer people to one another on a regular basis for jobs and projects, CSA recommendation letters, etc. I love connecting good people to one another. It is a passion!
After helping Katy with a few leads for out-of-town recruiters, I was again contacted by her—this time because she needed a casting coordinator for four weeks. I explained that I am not looking for full time work, nor do I want to parlay such a job into a career, but that I would like to meet with her and her partner, Sheila Conlin, for an interview. That interview took place on February 24th and I was hired that day.
During the four week assignment, I got to see two amazing casting directors—one who has spent 15 years growing her production company, casting company, and acting studio; the other with major reality TV credits—navigating the casting process for a lightning fast assignment for Fox. I realized that either of these women would be an asset to the ActorFest panel. Since I already had booked a casting director with reality TV show credits (Michelle Foumberg), I looked to Katy to fill the sixth slot in the panel.
I let Rob know that Katy was my pick for the sixth panel slot and his response, via email dated March 18th, was, "Just make sure Katy doesn't say a word about AIA." I assured him that her acting school was quite a separate venture from her casting company and production company. I told him that I'd seen, first hand, how separate those companies are, in day-to-day operation, and I also mentioned to Katy the need to keep AIA out of the panel discussion. "Of course!" She responded, adding that she thought the panel was about casting, not acting schools. We were all on the same page.
A few days later, my fiancé and business partner Keith Johnson called me at the casting office for the Fox project and told me about a phone call he'd just had with Rob about Katy's space on the panel. The basic information was, "Marjorie has vetoed you and Rob. Katy is off the panel." According to Keith, his conversation with Rob was brief and conveyed information about Marjorie's displeasure over the inclusion of Katy, as one of her companies is a major advertiser in Back Stage West and her appearance on the panel would be considered a conflict of interest. I decided to discuss this matter with Katy when we next spoke about ActorFest, after the end of our casting job, which was quickly coming to a close.
Meanwhile, Suzy had emailed me to let me know that Lila Selik had offered her services as a panelist when Suzy had contacted her about putting flyers for ActorFest in her casting office. Based on the recommendation from Suzy, I contacted Lila on March 28th and offered her Katy's spot. I also set up a "Casting Qs" interview with Lila for March 31st, at which time we would further discuss the details of ActorFest.
Also on March 31st, I called Katy to let her know she would not be on the panel. I left a message conveying my apology for having her plan to be a part of it and now canceling, but that Marjorie pulled rank and Rob had delivered the news to Keith, who delivered it to me.
Katy called me on the morning of April 1st to speak with me about other business as well as to ask about Marjorie's objection to having her on the panel. I told her that I suspected the issue was based in the fact that AIA has been a booth-holder on the ActorFest trade show floor in years past and that the upcoming AIA Career Festival has been discussed as a "competing" event to ActorFest, despite the fact that it is free.
Katy decided to call Marjorie, stating that she would like to keep relations between Back Stage West and all of Katy's companies as positive as possible. Katy also wanted to ensure that Marjorie felt welcome to attend the AIA Career Festival on April 5th in order to invite actors to ActorFest.
Marjorie called my home around 1:30pm on April 1st and left a message. I called her back around 2:30pm. She told me that she had, "no interest in talking to this person," and wanted to know why Katy had left a message for her in the first place. I speculated that Katy wanted to clear the air about the back-and-forth on the panel, but Marjorie said she did not intend to call Katy back, as the matter was closed.
I assured Marjorie that the panel was now set with six panelists—not including Katy—and that promotion was continuing forward as planned. She felt the need to explain—at length—the long-standing policy (which she attributed to Rob) of seeing panels as editorial (meaning: no advertisers or service providers allowed) and all else in ActorFest as advertising (meaning: no conflict for participation). She proceeded to yell "at" Rob through me on the phone. I calmly suggested that Marjorie leave me out of any of her issues with Rob and his enforcement of policy and let me know what I could do to soothe this situation and have the best panel possible.
Marjorie assured me that I had done everything by the book and that my panel was going to be great, that she was very grateful for my work at the paper and for ActorFest. She also continued to blame Rob for not having contacted Katy himself to cancel her for the panel. I assured her that everything was fine—that Rob had called Keith, who called me, who canceled Katy. Marjorie wanted to know exactly what Rob said. I put her on the phone with Keith, as he was the one who spoke with Rob, and I could only speculate.
Keith and Marjorie spoke for a moment about Keith's conversation with Rob and then Keith got quiet for a while. When he next spoke, it was to debate Marjorie's logic in saying that policy states that no one who makes money off of actors can appear on an ActorFest panel. Keith disagreed. He presented the fact that I make money off actors with my book and my consulting services—so how can I moderate the panel under that policy? He presented the fact that most casting directors who are not employed fulltime by a studio do some sort of supplemental work such as teaching, participating in workshops, authoring books, owning schools, partnering in production companies, producing music, acting, etc. Quickly, Marjorie changed her train of conversation over to the difference between these examples of supplemental work and one of Katy Wallin's companies, AIA. She then mentioned all of the money they were making off of selling booths to advertisers at their upcoming free Career Festival. Keith, who had recently written the check for Cricket Feet's booth space at ActorFest countered with, "Yes. For $250. You're selling them for over $500." Marjorie then hung up on Keith abruptly.
An hour later, Suzy called me to let me know that I would need to contact the casting directors on my panel to find out which ones are teachers or owners of companies that provide services to actors. I explained that I was not willing to do that. I had set this panel—with most casting directors—six weeks earlier and was not going to start making changes on a roster that had been approved by Rob and had been seen during its early development (the week of February 17th) by Suzy and Marjorie, with not a single mention of this policy to exclude panelists who earn money off actors.
I explained that I didn't want to get into a "pissing contest" with anyone about it, but that I considered the panel set, as is, and that I would not be making any changes to it. Suzy asked if I could ensure that there would be no discussion of classes or services during the panel, no distribution of literature about the casting directors' wares, etc. I was insulted. "Obviously, Suzy, that request is coming from someone who has never seen me moderate a panel. Talk to Rob. Talk to [office manager] Rosa [Fernandez]. The two of them have attended my free panels and know that they are all about helping the actors learn and nothing else," I insisted.
Suzy assured me that nothing she was saying was coming from her decision-making process, but that the policy would be carried out. I restated, "If you're removing panelists, you're also removing your moderator." We hung up and I then emailed Suzy the following, "Please don't take it personally. I have worked very hard putting this panel together and feel very strongly that it is a good mix of people that everyone will enjoy. As I said, if you ask anyone who has ever attended a panel discussion I've moderated, you'll learn that it is never an opportunity for panelists to pitch their services as a coach, a consultant, or anything else. I'm considering the panel set, and this matter closed."
I also emailed Rob, even though he is out of the office, to let him know what had transpired and where we now stood with the issue.
An hour later, I received another call from Suzy. This time she said, "I'm just the messenger," and proceeded to inform me that the casting directors who teach are being called—by her—and removed from my panel. Also, that I was being relieved of my duties as moderator.
I let her know that I understood the decision but that, since my relationships and reputation are what got those panelists to agree to participate in ActorFest to begin with, that I would be contacting them as well, so that they would know that I was no longer moderating the panel. I do not feel it is professional to have someone these casting directors have never spoken to call and inform them there have been changes—when their last contact has been with me about the format of the panel and the questions, parking arrangements, time of arrival, etc. Suzy agreed that I had the right to call these colleagues and we hung up.
I immediately began calling my panelists. The only person who was contacted by Suzy prior to being contacted by me was Lila Selik, who called me the instant she hung up with Suzy, livid that she had been removed from the panel due to the fact that she teaches classes to agents and managers on the art of the pitch. I assured her that this issue has me upset as well and we discussed the options that Lila was considering: filing a discrimination suit, writing an open letter to the major Los Angeles publications, mobilizing members of the CCDA against Back Stage West, etc. She later faxed me a draft of a letter she is developing, as well as calling me several more times throughout the evening to get information about her fellow panelists and the personnel at Back Stage West.
While Lila's reaction was the most extreme, it was certainly not the only one of its tone. Every casting director I spoke with was very disappointed in the fact that the panel would not exist as it had been established—as long as six weeks earlier in some cases—and assured me that their favor was to me, not to Back Stage West.
We all bank on our relationships in this business, and I have—over the past three years—developed relationships that go beyond the strictly business level with many casting directors. I consider these industry professionals to be my friends. They are a selfless group of people who—for a living—work to help other people fulfill their dreams. They don't mind being in the background while others receive praise for the work that they do. I find those qualities to be the same qualities that teachers possess. They are thrilled more by their students' successes than their own.
It stands to reason that nearly half of all casting directors do some form of teaching, workshop, or guest-speaking engagements on a regular basis. These are people who enjoy sharing their knowledge. And, yes, some of them do that for a fee.
That, in itself, is not a conflict of interest that should prevent any casting director from appearing on a panel discussion. I always try to include a diverse selection of casting directors on my panels so that actors may benefit from information provided by all of the various types of people who make up the casting community. I do not discriminate against those casting directors who earn money from actors. My rule is: you get actors jobs, you qualify for my panels.
The fact that this arbitrary policy was suddenly enforced after Marjorie blew up on the phone with me—and then with Keith—about her anger at Katy Wallin for having the AIA Career Festival three weeks before ActorFest is not disputable.
Had anyone ever, in the week of February 17th or thereafter, mentioned to me that there was a policy to which my selection of casting director panelists must adhere, of course I would've followed that policy or—if I felt I could not do so—declined the offer to create, promote, and moderate a panel in the first place. This eleventh hour stunt is disrespectful of me and my panelists, as well as the actors who were sold—at $40 a pop—a ticket to ActorFest, banking on the fact that they'd be able to attend this well-advertised panel. I understand that it was the most popular of the three panels offered this year, and was already well on its way to selling out completely.
Throughout all of this, Rob is out of town and therefore unable to settle the matter. Had the call from Katy come a week later, when Rob is back, I am certain that he would've handled the call, told Katy how to deal with Marjorie's issues with AIA, and that would've been the end of it. Instead, this has become an issue over which many casting directors are up in arms. I suspect, once actors begin to learn about it, it will become an issue of demanding refunds for a panel to which they'd bought entry, since it no longer exists.
After having left a message for Rob on his home answering machine, I received a call from him (from Kentucky) late on the evening of April 1st. Rob asked what it would take to get the panel back on track. I told him that, even if I wanted to, I didn't think I could unring this bell and get the casting directors back. They are not happy with Back Stage West or this sudden policy enforcement. It would be rude of me to go back to them and even suggest that we could patch things up and go on with the show.
At this point, I am becoming aware of what this experience means, with regard to my relationship with Back Stage West as the freelance casting columnist.
I have been penning the weekly column "Casting Qs" since June of 2000 and I very much enjoy interviewing casting directors for actors. However, after having been used as a pawn in this political strategizing by Marjorie against Rob, I do not feel as though my role, my reputation, my relationships, and my readership have been respected whatsoever.
I bring a great deal of good will to Back Stage West through my regular appearances at free casting director panels, speaking engagements, book signings, my countless hours spent answering reader email and questions on the Career Chat forums, etc. I am always an advocate for Back Stage West, and my column is clearly one of the most popular features of the weekly paper.
I take all of that very seriously.
Without the respect of those people above me at Back Stage West, I do not see how I can continue forward as a weekly columnist and not feel that I am betraying my readers by staying silent about the horrific injustice that was committed all in the name of Marjorie Broder's in-office politics.
As of this time, I will not be contributing weekly "Casting Qs" to Back Stage West.
People talk all the time about the importance of loyalty and integrity in relationships in this town. I do more than talk. I live by my word. I did everything I was asked to do in this situation and I got burned. Some people I care very strongly about got burned too. That's not something that gets fixed with a band-aid.
cc: Rob Kendt, Editor-in-Chief/Associate Publisher
Marjorie Broder, Marketing/Advertising Director
Scott Proudfit, Managing Editor
Gary Marsh, Breakdown Services
Bob Brody, Showfax
Michael Donovan, CSA/CCDA
Bob Morones, CSA
Lila Selik, CCDA
Katy Wallin, CSA
April Webster, CSA
Beverly Long, CCDA
Billy DaMota, CSA
Bonnie Zane, CSA
Brett Benner, CSA
Cathy Henderson, CSA
Danny Goldman, CCDA
Debby Romano, CSA
Debra Zane, CSA
Elisa Goodman, CSA
Francene Selkirk, CCDA
Gary Zuckerbrod, CSA
Jackie Briskey, CSA
Jane Jenkins, CSA
Jenny O'Haver, CCDA
Julie Selzer, CSA
Kate Brinegar, CSA
Lawrence Parke, Acting World Books
Linda Phillips-Palo, CSA
Marc Hirschfeld, CSA
Mark Paladini, CSA
Mark Teschner, CSA
Matthew Barry, CSA
Melissa Martin, CCDA
Michelle Gertz, CSA
Mike Fenton, CSA
Patrick Baca, CSA
Paul Bennett, PB Management
Peter Golden, CSA
Phil Brock, Studio Talent Group
Robin Nassif, CSA
Steven Nash, Arts & Letters Management
Stuart Stone, CCDA
Terry Berland, CCDA
Tracy Lillienfield, CSA
Messages In This Thread
Bonnie Gillespie's Resignation Letter to Back Stage West
Bonnie Gillespie -- Wednesday, 2 April 2003, at 9:28 p.m.
XOXO I'm VERY confident that the loss of that nonsensical drama in your life ...
Sterling Wolfe -- Wednesday, 2 April 2003, at 9:40 p.m.
You were the reason to check in at BSW , You will be missed but am glad I can find you here.
shawn cowam -- Wednesday, 2 April 2003, at 10:08 p.m.
I agree! Bonnie, BSW just shot themselves in the foot! *nm*
Anna M. Kumor -- Thursday, 3 April 2003, at 7:32 a.m.
The Paper is not called "B.S. West" for nothing. *nm*
Sterling Wolfe -- Thursday, 3 April 2003, at 12:50 p.m.
If you feel that way, then please CALL BSW and Tell them so!! *nm*
Keith Johnson -- Thursday, 3 April 2003, at 2:36 p.m.
Bonnie, Sad News for the Real Talent in LA. Best Wishes to YOU! *nm*
Galen B. Schrick -- Thursday, 3 April 2003, at 12:44 p.m.
WOW. It amazes me the nonsense some people try to pull.
Corey Klemow -- Wednesday, 2 April 2003, at 10:40 p.m.
A "moral" stand at forty bucks a head, Corey. LOL *nm*
Dea Vise -- Wednesday, 2 April 2003, at 10:49 p.m.
The one who loses the most is BSW for losing the megatalents of Bonnie G. :( *nm*
Brad Slaight -- Wednesday, 2 April 2003, at 11:42 p.m.
Laura Lock -- Thursday, 3 April 2003, at 12:19 a.m.
:( I'm shocked at BS's stupidity! Better things ahead for you...but you know that! XOXO *nm*
Kathryn Johnston -- often lurks, sometimes posts -- Thursday, 3 April 2003, at 1:46 a.m.
Bon, you have my love, my respect, and my total support. Godspeed, baby sister. thumbs up *nm*
Debra McCarthy -- Wednesday, 2 April 2003, at 11:56 p.m.
clap, clap, clap Ditto - and Tritto!!! clap, clap, clap *nm*
Eric Halasz -- Thursday, 3 April 2003, at 7:49 a.m.
...and the kiddo makes a sexto (& if you've ever had toes... nah, fergit it). *nm*
- N. Barry Carver • FlickeringImage.com • -- Thursday, 3 April 2003, at 8:10 a.m.
Bonnie, your integrity has always been impressive. What a sad, stupid ordeal for you. Love & Support *nm*
cindy koellisch -- Thursday, 3 April 2003, at 8:35 a.m.
Oddly, under "integrity" you'll find a picture of BSW chiefs!
- N. Barry Carver • FlickeringImage.com • -- Thursday, 3 April 2003, at 9:48 a.m.
Miss you already! *nm*
Christopher Behrens -- Thursday, 3 April 2003, at 9:58 a.m.
Huh. I thought it was under the word "waffle." Maybe both words, I guess. *nm*
Sterling Wolfe -- Thursday, 3 April 2003, at 12:18 p.m.
I prefer the term "tergiversational" but I like 'em big.....er, words, that is. *nm*
Kyle \/ogt -- Thursday, 3 April 2003, at 1:58 p.m.
Cool. I had to look that puppy up! LOL *nm*
Bonnie Gillespie -- Thursday, 3 April 2003, at 2:06 p.m.
oh, Kyle... Eschew obfuscation. ;) *nm*
shelley delayne -- Friday, 4 April 2003, at 11:12 a.m.
But... but obfuscation is Kyle's hobby! LOL *nm*
Elizabeth Tindal -- Friday, 4 April 2003, at 2:51 p.m.
Ahh, but the guerdons of it.... *nm*
Kyle \/ogt -- Friday, 4 April 2003, at 5:07 p.m.
you guys should be using your way with words at googlewhack.com! *nm*
Billy DaMota -- Friday, 4 April 2003, at 7:13 p.m.
Wow! That's some messed up stuff!
Melanie Dale -- Thursday, 3 April 2003, at 10:21 a.m.
I'm a bit confused with Foumberg's participation in the "focus session."
Sterling Wolfe -- Thursday, 3 April 2003, at 12:17 p.m.
Just asked her to come post for herself, but...
Bonnie Gillespie -- Thursday, 3 April 2003, at 1:05 p.m.
I LOVE Michelle! Welcome, girlie! *VBG*
Dea Vise -- Thursday, 3 April 2003, at 1:16 p.m.
Hi DEA!!! You're so sweet! :) *nm*
Michelle Foumberg -- Thursday, 3 April 2003, at 1:46 p.m.
thumbs up thumbs up for Michelle, and thumbs up thumbs up for us behaving badly, LOL *nm*
Sterling Wolfe -- Thursday, 3 April 2003, at 1:19 p.m.
I have removed myself from the Panel!
Michelle Foumberg -- Thursday, 3 April 2003, at 1:25 p.m.
Fantatistic, plus congrats on CSA. thumbs up thumbs up *nm*
Sterling Wolfe -- Thursday, 3 April 2003, at 1:33 p.m.
Thanks, doll. See you at AIA's Career Festival Saturday. Big hug! *nm*
Bonnie Gillespie -- Thursday, 3 April 2003, at 1:40 p.m.
I call Bonnie the matchmaker! LOL
Dea Vise -- Thursday, 3 April 2003, at 3:04 p.m.
Hi, Michelle! Welcome! *nm*
Billy DaMota -- Thursday, 3 April 2003, at 4:57 p.m.
HI Billy!! My fabulous sponsor!! :) *nm*
Michelle Foumberg -- Friday, 4 April 2003, at 11:12 a.m.
So proud of you getting your first chip. LOL
Billy DaMota -- Friday, 4 April 2003, at 12:14 p.m.
Michelle's name is still being used to sell tickets geez
Sterling Wolfe -- Friday, 4 April 2003, at 1:22 p.m.
Don't throw your new Tivo up against the wall... That's all I ask :) Sorry for your situation :( *nm*
Jim Brownfield -- Thursday, 3 April 2003, at 12:37 p.m.
Your column was the 1st thing I looked for!
Laura Graul "marylousmom" -- Thursday, 3 April 2003, at 7:38 p.m.
Bonnie ," cream rises to the top". ; ) *nm*
Fred Dresch -- Friday, 4 April 2003, at 9:06 a.m.
Congrats Bonnie for standing up to your convictions: pedal to the metal and bury the speedometer! *nm*
Ho-Kwan Tse -- Friday, 4 April 2003, at 3:39 p.m.
Too bad they didn't appreciate you.
Jennifer Bishton -- Saturday, 5 April 2003, at 8:25 a.m.
December 24, 2002
It's Like This...
And another Blog is born.
From here I'll share the view, random as it may be, and answer questions about life as I see it. Do with that what you will.
September 24, 2002
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Question: How do I find the agent representing a particular actor? --Bill
Answer: There are a few ways. Sometimes, actors will list that information in their IMDB.com entry. A good website to check is WhoRepresents.com. That's their specialty: who represents whom. After you've checked those sources and come up empty-handed on an actor or two, try calling SAG's actor locator line. That's 323.549.6737. During normal office hours (on the west coast), you can call and ask for up to three SAG actors' representation information. They can provide mailing address and phone number for each agency as well.
Casting QsBonnie Gillespie is a Los Angeles casting columnist, the owner of Cricket Feet Management, and the author of Casting Qs: A Collection of Casting Director Interviews.
September 17, 2002
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Question: What do you think about headshots that show several different shots of the actor in different clothes and different poses on one 8x10 vs. traditional headshots with one shot on the 8x10? --Fernando
Answer: Hi Fernando,
The only market in which I've heard of those composite (or picture within a picture) headshots working is in San Francisco, and specifically for children. There is a talent agency there that likes their kids to have at least two different looks on a headshot, and that seems to be the accepted norm by casting directors in northern California.
In Los Angeles and New York--and from what I can tell about other markets such as Chicago, Atlanta, Orlando, and Canada--the best bet is a straight-forward headshot, face forward, smiling, no hands in the shot, no extraneous "information" about where you are or what is around you, visually.
Now, if you are a model, you must have a comp card. However, that's generally smaller than an 8X10, and it has a headshot on one side and three or four smaller "character" photos on the other side.
Hope this helps!
Casting QsBonnie Gillespie is a Los Angeles casting columnist, the owner of Cricket Feet Management, and the author of Casting Qs: A Collection of Casting Director Interviews.
September 10, 2002
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Question: Do agents look for minimum heights when it comes to signing male actors?
Answer: Hi Adam,
Some certainly do. Of course, the limits are imposed less by performing arts agencies than by modeling agencies. Modeling agencies will have height minimums (usually 5'8" for women, 6' for men) for print ads, runway modeling, and other non-acting appearances.
For acting, most agencies are much less concerned with height than they are "total marketability." Are you someone whose talent they feel they can get behind and market to casting directors? If so, that's really key.
That said, there ARE agencies that specialize in commercial acting, and there are some restrictions on height in that market (though not nearly as many as there are in straight-out modeling agencies). A friend of mine is 6', but his agent told him to put 5'11" on his resumé because--get this--Japanese car companies will not consider men over 5'11" for their auto ads that will run internationally. A man of that height is considered too tall to sell their product.
So, don't try to be any height other than the height you are. If there's a market for your talent, you'll find the right agent to represent you, at whatever height!
Casting QsBonnie Gillespie is a Los Angeles casting columnist, the owner of Cricket Feet Management, and the author of Casting Qs: A Collection of Casting Director Interviews.
September 3, 2002
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Question: I am doing a project for my school. I was wondering if you had any way of telling me how many people consider their profession acting? or related to acting? Do you know where i could find demographics like that? Any help would be deeply appreciated. --Amanda
Answer: Hi Amanda,
I would start with SAG. That's the Screen Actors' Guild. Their website is http://www.sag.org. A little research with SAG can give you an indication of how many professional actors are registered members of SAG, the professional actors' union. I believe the number is over 100,000. Of course, a very small percentage of those actors actually earn even poverty-level income as working actors. So, as for how many people ARE professional actors and how many CONSIDER themselves professional actors...well, those numbers vary greatly.
You should also check with AFTRA. That's the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. That includes newscasters, sportscasters, radio DJs, talk show hosts, and other non-acting performers of TV and radio.. Their numbers are lower than those at SAG, but there is some overlap, as many members belong to both unions.
And then there's AEA, Actors' Equity Association (also known as Equity). That's for professional theatre actors, for all those folks on Broadway, Off-Broadway, in touring companies, and working in theatres all over the place.
There are unions for variety performers, unions in other countries for performers, so many groups in support of the acting professions. I honestly believe that these unions would be the first places to start with your research. It's not going to account for all of the people who do local community theatre, or perhaps those working actors who do non-union work in industrials, videos, and feature films that do not operate under union contracts. Plenty of performers earn a good living doing that, and are not going to show up in the numbers the unions provide. Still, you'll get a good ball-park idea from their numbers.
As for those whose careers "relate to acting," that's going to include agents, managers, assistants, directors, casting directors, writers, crew members of all kinds...and there you're getting into very high numbers. Perhaps a visit to the websites of the ATA (agencies), TMA and COPM (managers), DGA (directors), CSA and CCDA (casting directors), WGA (writers), and IATSE (other crew members) would get you a few numbers there too.
Good luck with your project! I'd love to know what you learn!
August 27, 2002
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Question: I have my first audition for a talent agency coming up in one week. I was told to prepare a monologue, of the "commercial" variety, under one minute. I am not sure what this means - clearly they do not want a monologue from a play... Am I supposed to write this myself, or recite a commercial? What would be the best thing for me to prepare? --Victoria
Answer: Hi Victoria,
Have you ever heard a radio ad? I know that TV commercials may be a little harder to envision in monologue format (since there are visual elements to distract from what you're hearing), but if you start with a radio ad, you may be able to grasp what it is that the agent is asking you to do.
The agent wants to know whether you are "commercially viable." Do you know how to use the proper inflection to emphasize the product? Do you know how to color the dialogue so that there are variations from the start of the piece to the end of the piece? Do you leave the consumers of the ad wanting to buy the product you've advertised? Did your voice match the style or flavor of the product?
So, listen to a few radio ads. I suggest, for a first commercial audition, that you stay away from car ads. They tend to be very hyper and contain a lot of "small print" language that is tough to deliver. Pick a local fast food chain or an amusement park that is running regular ads. Don't go for anything too sophisticated with loads of funny voices. That'll be too much work for this first shot. Tape record the commercials and then, when you've narrowed it down to three or four top choices, transcribe those ads word for word.
Now, try to "do" the ads. Which one is your favorite? Which one do you do best? Now, which one actually makes you sound best? Which one, when done in a mirror, gives you the biggest range of facial expressions and animated reactions? Finally, time yourself and make sure that your reading comes in at the same amount of time as the original (down to the second). That's probably one of the most important elements, as you really do need to show the agent that you understand the timing of commercial copy. Going overtime will not impress anyone. If the agent wants to hear you do the ad slower, she will ask you to do so. Be ready for that.
That's it! There's no major character breakdown to do, no plot development, just a sound sense of timing and the ability to know where the key words are in the copy. If you have time, grab a copy of one of the books on acting in commercials. There are quite a few out there by busy commercial casting directors. They'll break it down in more detail than I could ever provide for you here!
Good luck, and keep doing good work!
August 20, 2002
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Question: Hi, I'm kind of young, and I want to try out for a part in a movie, but it's my first time, so I don't know how to write a resumé to a casting director. Think you could help?
Answer: Hi Jennifer,
There are many excellent books out there on how to format your resumé and how to write cover letters, etc. Basically, you want to look at as many other actors' resumés as possible and get an idea of what the format is, based on your level of experience and training.
The basic format for an actor who wants to work in TV and film is this:
phone number (or agency info)
Weight: optional, really
|Character/Status (lead, supporting)|
Character/Status (lead, supporting)
|Character/Status (principal, co-star)|
Character/Status (principal, co-star)
|Character/Status (if not well-known)|
Character/Status (if not well-known)
Conflict List Available Upon Request.
Of course, don't say you have a demo reel if you do not. If you do not have any commercial conflicts at this time, you can change that line to "No current conflicts."
You'll see variations on the above, but this is the general format and one that works very well for most people. The casting directors you submit to are going to expect your resumé in this format, so don't get cute or deviate much from it.
Hope this helps!
August 13, 2002
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Question: What do casting directors look for most in children? --Tony
Answer: Hi Tony,
In short, casting directors are looking for children who have a life outside of acting. They want to see an actor but also a child. This person should have a host of extra-curricular activities going on, and acting should be just one of them. Casting directors tend to shy away from hiring child actors who are all actor/no child. The actor should be well-read and relaxed, confident in his abilities.
Also, casting directors look at the entire family when selecting children for projects. They know they will be hiring the whole family, essentially. So, it will be important to the casting director to see a well-balanced group; one that is very supportive of a child's desire to act without being overly "stage-mothery" in its support.
Casting directors find that most children are better at cold readings in the audition setting than adults. They are less inhibited, as well as being less "in their head" about the process and the importance of getting the part.
Preparation, on the part of the child, should include watching films and TV shows with a critical eye (scouting out the types of roles for which she would be considered), reading and discussing the script with parents, and practicing for the audition. The child should go in comfortable "in her skin," so to speak, and not try to be a little adult.
After that, the casting process is very much like it is for adults. Casting directors are looking for people who fit the character breakdown and who--if playing members of a family--look as though they could actually be related to one another. If the actor is talented and within the scope of what the producers of the project are looking for, the actor will usually land a callback. That means the actor is "hireable." After that, it's just a matter of which "way" they decide to go with the role.
Or, as one casting director put it, "You come in and act, then we do our mumbo jumbo." Don't be overly concerned with the mumbo jumbo part of it. Just go in and do good work!
August 6, 2002
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Question: I am a 22 year old non-union and non-represented actor. I would like to know if the rumors I hear are true, is it really who you know and luck that gets you the job? I am getting fed up and I want someone to take a chance on me. I will be successful but I need someone to believe in me to give me my chance. Thanks, Kristopher
Answer: Dear Kristopher,
The first person who needs to believe in you is YOU. I know that sounds trite, but really, it is the most important element to success in the industry. Being non-union is a temporary situation, and there really is an awful lot of non-union work to be had, while you work toward getting your SAG card. Representation will come, too. In fact, you may consider looking to sign with a manager first. An agent may not be interested in signing a non-union actor, but a manager (who usually takes on fewer clients than agents do) may be willing to take a greater risk (and larger percentage) and sign you without your union membership or even lots of credits.
Luck is a huge element of making it in the business, that is true. And the Who You Know factor is big too. So, make yourself luckier by learning as much as you can and being ready when the opportunity arises. Know more people by doing as much work as you can at this stage in your career. Do small theatre work. Do student films. Work on shorts and staged readings. Take every opportunity that presents itself and you will soon have quite a database of contacts. You'll have worked with people on the set and these folks will know you are professional and talented. They'll remember you and want to work with you again... and again. That's really how it all happens.
So, begin by taking control of your own career. Get as much work for yourself as you can, be professional, and network with the people you meet behind the scenes on every project. Stay in touch with people (keep them apprised of your performances and progress in the industry) and remember that you are in this for the long haul, not a quick rise and fall.
Keep doing good work!
July 30, 2002
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Question: As a senior Film student at the School of Visual Arts I am curious as to where to start looking for young boy actors. We are looking for a white boy ages 9-14 for a sci fi piece shot in New York and Philadelphia. I am not sure what agencies deal with kids and how to contact them. --Eric
Answer: Hi Eric,
Agencies are a great resource, of course, but you may also find many talented young actors just by posting your casting notice on a few Internet forums or contacting a few local acting schools.
If you are paying actors, of course, an agency or management company would be a great start. Without pay, though, agencies may be reluctant to get their actors involved, as agencies and managers work on a commission-only basis and only earn money when their clients work for pay.
So, assuming you're looking for actors to work on a copy/credit/meals basis (which is customary for student projects), I suggest that you contact a magnet school for acting in your area, perhaps a school for the performing arts, and definitely after school programs that focus on the performing arts.
I mentioned Internet forums as well. That's because there are many, many online discussion groups for parents of child actors. Many of those include open posting sections for casting notices. Since children are involved, you'll need to be prepared to include references (perhaps your major professor's name and contact information).
Finally, my favorite resource is Breakdown Services. While they have a daily listing that goes out to all agents and managers in New York and Los Angeles, they also have an "Actor Access" section on their website. You can submit your casting notice to them (forms are available at http://www.breakdownservices.com) and select to include "Actor Access" as an option. That way, your project is seen by everyone--not just the subscribing agents and managers.
You should include a submission address, phone number for more information, and a deadline by which submissions should be received. All of this will help you have as smooth a casting process as possible!
Hope this helps,
July 16, 2002
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Question: I'm sure this is a common question, but I want to act in film or television -- I'm not interested in professional theater at all. After school (some training in theater of course as well as film), should I settle in New York or Los Angeles. I was wondering if Los Angeles was really that much more advantageous for film and TV than New York. --Alex
Answer: Hi Alex,
Well, New York is definitely more theatre-centric than Los Angeles, but I haven't met a single actor in Los Angeles who *hasn't* done stage work. Nor have I met a single casting director who doesn't value theatre for the training, the discipline, and the acting chops it gives its participants.
So, I want to warn you, that if you think you can have a lasting film and/or television career without setting foot on a stage professionally, you may be in for a rude awakening. Good acting is most fully developed on a stage, and because most casting directors come from a theatre background themselves, they value that on a resumé much more than a certain look or on-camera credit.
But, yes, while there is a growing film and television market in several locations, Los Angeles will always remain where the majority of films and television shows are produced. And while theatre actors are respected everywhere, you are far more likely to "get away" without strong theatre credits in Los Angeles--but not for very long.
July 9, 2002
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Question: I have 500 headshots. I have absolutely no experience except a class I took for auditioning. What can I put on my resume? How horrible is little or no experience? --Amy
Answer: Hi Amy,
"Little or no experience" is not at all horrible! It's where EVERYBODY started. Don't let anyone make you think or feel otherwise.
Now, you may have put the cart before the horse in getting all those headshots printed up before having some more experience under your belt, but it doesn't mean you can't get somewhere! You just need to be creative.
What does that mean? Well, one actress I once worked with had her resumé laid out with her name, contact number, height, weight, hair color, eye color (all standard stuff) and then a little paragraph that basically said, "Why try to make it look like I have more experience than I do? You either like my look or you don't and, if you want to know if you like my acting ability, you'll have to call me in. I hope you will!" And people did! They said they loved her blunt honesty.
So, first off, I would try to get some student credits (get involved with student-directed projects in your area--which you won't likely be paid to do), take an actual scene study or acting technique class that meets on an ongoing basis (rather than just an audition technique workshop), and do a little community theatre. You'll find that your resumé will build up in just a matter of months.
Meanwhile, you can try the creative approach and see how many doors that opens for you. You never know! Good luck!
July 2, 2002
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Question: I have heard that sometimes films and soap operas hold auditions in several different cities across the U.S., even though they may be based in New York or LA. I am wondering how I might find out about when and where such auditions are. I am particularly interested in auditions for soap operas that might be held in the Chicago area. --Jeanie
Answer: Hi Jeanie,
In Chicago, you should hear about major auditions coming to your area. Make sure that you keep up with the various Chicago-based online communities for actors as well as staying involved in acting classes. They tend to be very well-informed, when it comes to scouting trips being made by casting directors.
Also, if soaps are your main area of interest, check into http://www.SoapCity.com. They have all sorts of message boards and discussion forums in which insider information is shared on a regular basis..
Finally, I would recommend that you submit your headshot and resumé to New York and Los Angeles-based soap casting directors to let them know that you are interested in being on their radar screen, so-to-speak. You never know when your look might spark interest in a casting director who is planning a scouting trip!
April 30, 2002
ActorsBon: Crying on Cue
Hello! I really need your help and if you have any advice I'd really appreciate it. I was wondering how people in like movies and everything cry on cue. I can't figure out how they do it. I've tried thinking of events in my life that have made me sad but it doesn't work and I don't know anything else to try. So if you have any ideas I'd appreciate it. Thank you for your time!!
There are many schools of thought on how to act (and that includes crying on cue). Some people say you should put yourself in the position of the person you are playing, and by living as that person, whatever is written in the script that makes your character cry should also make you cry, if you are in character.
Others say that you should put yourself back into the mindset of a time in your life that made you sad and let that memory take you to tears. I'm not a big fan of this technique, as I find it distracting to involve my own personal history when portraying a character. Also, if the moment you choose to focus on was a really tough one, you could slip out of the character and into your own emotions... and then where are you in the scene?
So, you'll hear different pieces of advice on how to do that... my preference is to hear music (aloud while rehearsing, in my head while performing) that moves me and associate that swell of emotions with the lines that are supposed to move me in the scene. That mixed-media approach will often help bring me closer to the emotion required by the script.
Hope this helps!!
April 23, 2002
ActorsBon: Not Laughing
I'm not sure if this is the kind of questions you answer but, there are no acting schools or anything around me, and I've been trying to get into acting at like theaters and everything, and whenever I get to a funny line that I have to say I always start laughing. So I was wondering if you had any tips or techniques to help me get through a scene with a straight face. If you could help me I'd really appreciate it! Thank you for your time!
Oooohhhh, is this something I've faced! I was 17, doing a Shakespearean play in which I had to keep a straight face while all my peers and friends and foes sat laughing and laughing and laughing some more. It was TORTURE.
I was told, by my coach at the time, to think "forward action." This didn't mean a dang thing to me at the time, but what she meant was, place the tip of your tongue at the back of your front teeth and keep your tongue from laying down in your mouth.
I know that sounds weird, but it's amazing what that action did for me.
I was able to put the tip of my tongue at the back of my front teeth and suddenly I was put in a very serious stance. I was so busy concentrating on that action that I could NOT laugh, even if I wanted to.
Now, what this means is, you have to focus your energy away from the scene for a moment (which is risky) and you have to be able to not betray the facial expression of the scene while you pay attention to what your tongue is doing.
Like I said, I know this sounds weird, but it's the only thing that has worked for me to be able to put away laughter.
Some people suggest thinking of some really horrible event in your life, in order to get to seriousness, in the face of laughter. I disagree with that. I find that getting off into some personal tangent takes you away from the scene even more than you may be by just doing the tongue technique, and that could send you off in such a way as to destroy the honesty of the scene.
Anyway, that's how I got past it. And I can still do it, even when I'm trying to be funny in a social situation. I can keep a straight face for days. Good luck! Let me know how it goes for you!
April 16, 2002
ActorsBon: Where Do I Begin?
I'm a 21 year old college student living in Long Island , who recently took an acting class and fell in love. I shocked myself and now I finally know what I want to do and why I couldn't figure it out for so long. I am about to chase what some would say is a dream, but hey life's too short not to. So my question to you is, where do I begin? I don't know where to start. Can you help me please?
Welcome to the dream life! It's so gratifying to be a performer. You did the right thing by starting with a class. I'd suggest that you continue to do some training. Invest in good classes with various teachers so that you can learn the fundamentals, as well as improvisation, scene study, and audition technique.
Meanwhile, try to get into a play at a local community theatre. Theatre is a great place to start, as you really do get to put a lot into the process of putting together a play and seeing it all the way through. There is a lot out there for you to read. Read everything you can get your hands on. I have a list here on the Actor's Bone of the books I like to recommend. I would ask your former acting coach to recommend a book that's right for "where you are" in terms of level, experience, and goals.
You're absolutely right that life's too short to not pursue your dreams! Have fun and make sure that you are learning from every experience. After you've taken another couple of classes, gotten into local theatre, and done some reading, you can begin to look into the larger elements (like agents, unions, and professional pursuits).
You may want to pick up Back Stage, a weekly paper for the east coast (I work for the west coast version), to see what sort of things are going on in the business and what sort of student films and other "starting level" projects are going on (things where you work for free, but get a copy of the tape of your performance).
I hope this helps. Remember that everyone was a beginner at some point, and there is nothing wrong with having questions. NEVER pay anyone to represent you as an agent or manager. They only get paid when you get paid. And when it's time to get headshots (black and white photos you use to submit to projects), you should research a few photographers first to compare prices, quality, and personality. It's important to be in sync with the person who's responsible for capturing your TRUE image on a headshot.
Let me know if you have more questions. I hope this helps, and that you have a lot of fun pursuing your new-found passion!
April 9, 2002
ActorsBon: Where Do I Look?
Hello! I am kind of new to the acting world and was wondering about something. I was hoping that you could help me. I was wondering, where do you look when you are auditioning, and someone is just reading the lines with you and not acting out a scene, do you look at the camera, or the person?
Thank you for your time and all of your help! I appreciate it very much!
When you audition for an on-camera job, there will be a camera in the room, most of the time. You should ask the person for whom you're auditioning whether she would prefer that you look into the camera or at your reader. It is always preferred that you ask what they prefer than make a mistake and have to start over (also, that could throw you if they ask you to start over, and nobody wants that!)
Usually there is a reader (and sometimes that person is the casting director, but usually it's someone who is there JUST to read with you) who may or may not have any acting experience, so you're expected to "act with a wall" sometimes. It's good practice to be able to act with no one helping you out, since that way you won't be ill-prepared, when in the room auditioning. If you're auditioning for a commercial, many times there will be a need for directly-into-the-camera reading. That's true especially when there's a pitch about the product in your script. If the pitch-person would be talking to the viewing audience, rather than to someone else in the commercial, your best bet is to prepare to deliver your lines to the camera, as you would in the actual commercial.
Good luck, and do good work!
April 2, 2002
ActorsBon: Written Writing Advice
Just a quick note to let you know I am really enjoying reading your new "BON" section on The Actors Bone. You give great advice to everyone! From there, I clicked on to your website link and read the latest news - congratulations about the new Chicago-based magazine you will be writing for - that's awesome!
I've been trying to get back into writing after not really doing anything for quite a long time. Starting off small - I just wrote a few movie reviews and I'm contemplating what to do next - maybe trying my hand at some short stories or something. The whole screenplay/one-woman show, etc. seems a bit daunting at the moment (as well it should) so for right now, I guess I'll work on smaller projects and try to get the creative juices going.
Anyway, just wanted to say hi & congrats on your all great work lately.
Talk to you soon,
You are so kind! Thank you for the support. I'm so thankful that I have various places online for my work to show itself off. Honestly, if it weren't for my bonsite (and the Writing Archive), I would've never been tapped for the Chicago writing gig. Make sure, once you do get some more "clippings" of your work, that you keep a nice, professional website going so that people who like to hire freelance writers can find you! It SO pays off, let me tell you!
Have you picked up the huge book called Writers' Market 2002? I still use my 2001 version, but it's a great bible for freelance writers. There are all sorts of listings of where you can get published, how much they pay, what their requirements are, etc. Also, I run a Yahoo Group called The Writing Circle. You should come subscribe. There's VERY little email traffic (mostly just me passing on information on writing contests and such) and there's a great Bookmarks section I set up which includes links to all sorts of screenwriting contests, freelance-driven magazines, etc.
I also really liked the book Secrets of a Freelance Writer and others like that (one called Feminine Wiles about submitting to women's magazines, another called -- I think -- How to Sell Your Work Without Selling Out) for ideas on how to pitch your work to various papers, magazines, trade publications, etc.
The most important thing, at this stage, is just keeping a copy of everything you do. I did free movie reviews in the Atlanta Journal & Constitution (they were looking for readers to contribute and I sent in reviews on three movies I'd seen) and that meant, even though I didn't get paid, I had proof that the largest daily paper in Georgia wanted to print my work. So, print out (or put on a website) your reviews and anything else like that. You'll feel like you're starting off small, but I'm living proof that that stuff pays off!
Wait until the story comes pouring forth, with regard to the one-woman show. I'm always working on mine (and on one with another actor friend) and it's amazing how daunting that is, even for someone who's been writing for a living for a couple of years. Just keep making notes and stay organized. That story will come through.
Have you seen "Jonna's Body, Please Hold" yet? It's the most amazing one-woman show I've ever seen. She performs it free every six weeks or so at ACME in Hollywood.
Take care and keep me posted on how things are going for you!
March 26, 2002
ActorsBon: Minimum Road Travel
Greetings! I am an actor relocating to LA. And I have never driven around in LA. I have a car, but I would like to keep my road travel to a minimum until I am able to better navigate through LA. Where should a newly arrived actor live, so that she does not have a long commute to casting, directors, agents, and studio contacts? For now, could you consider all price ranges (in addition to the cheapest of the cheap)?
Wow. That's a toughie. There are so many places to live in LA... and so many price ranges. A good way to start, if you don't want to do a lot of driving around, is by doing some research online. There are many apartment and house guides online, and you can do a search by price, by amenities, by size, etc.
If you have no idea what zip codes to even start with, I'd suggest checking out one of those services that profiles neighborhoods for marketing purposes. Here's a link to one of those: http://cluster2.claritas.com/YAWYL/Default.wjsp?System=WL
Next, if you haven't spent much time in LA, I suggest that you pick up either (or both): The Film Actor's Complete Career Guide: A Complete, Step-by-Step Checklist of all the Things Actors Seeking Professional Film and Television Careers Can and Should Do, When and How to do Them, from the Very First Steps to Top Starring Careers - by Lawrence Parke (This book includes essential information on where to live, traps to avoid, where to study acting, resources, interacting with those who've seen and heard it all by the time you've just learned the vocabulary, unions, promotion, resume formatting, and blank forms for your own record-keeping. A must-have,
How to Make It in Hollywood - Everything You Need to Know About Agents, Managers, Lawyers, Chutzpah, Schmoozing, the Casting Couch, Godfather Calls, Rhino Skin, Handling Rejection, How to Be Lucky, and All the Steps You Need to Take to Achieve the Success You Deserve - by Linda Buzzell (This book includes... well, everything. The author is both a psychotherapist and career counselor who has held many industry jobs. Featured sections include The Game, Who You Are, Industry Jobs, Niche Targeting, The Pitch, The Action Log, Your Team, Survival Issues, Luck, and A Glossary of Hollywood Terminology. Absolutely, without a doubt, a must-read for anyone planning to do the acting thing.)
Those are reviews from my columns. Both of those books include a general breakdown of neighborhoods and explain the importance of location, in getting to and from auditions.
Another piece of advice is to get the "Welcome to LA" issue of Back Stage West. I believe the last one that was done came out in January. We publish one every six months, and include a little map and an explanation of each neighborhood. Just call the BSW office to get information on ordering back issues. (323) 525-2356.
Now, the best way to GET a place to live in LA is to (sorry to say) drive around with good buddy and a cell phone, going up and down the streets on which you want to live, looking for signs posted in windows saying "For Rent." Usually, by the time the best places are up for grabs for even a DAY, they're already spoken for. So, if you see something you like, call from the driveway and say you'd like to look at the place. Have your checkbook handy, along with references, as most places won't hold a unit without a hefty deposit and some words in your favor from past employers or landlords.
Is it possible to find something not TERRIBLY expensive, centrally located, and available? Yes. Absolutely. But, you may have to hit town (perhaps bunk with a friend or find a temporary housing situation) before you can really refine your housing search. There's no amount of online research you can do that will compare with the experience of being here and seeing where you want to be.
Hope this helps.
Good luck with your move, and keep doing good work!
March 19, 2002
ActorsBon: $600 To Get on a House Reel?
I met with a non-SAG Los Angeles agency who is interested in repping me for voiceovers. I have no experience in VOs. This agency, from all I have heard, does not have a bad rep, but I have not heard good. I have heard little of anything. They offered to help me make my VO demo and put it on their agency VO demo for a total of $600. Is this a scam like "Faces, Int - put your pic in a catalog for no one to see for $1000" or does a VO demo cost about that much normally?
Please help! I did hear some of their clients' VOs on their agency CD and they sounded really good. Is this the normal cost a VO demo would be, or is it just a pay-to-play?
Thanks for writing. I have found, with most LA agents, that you *will* hear something about them, if you ask around enough. You mentioned the name of the agency (which I won't reprint, don't worry) and I *have* heard not so great things about them... so, for what it's worth, proceed with caution.
Getting onto an agency's "house reel" should not come at any charge to you. They want you on their sample demo because your voice could get them a commission. Of course, I make these statements with the assumption that you are already shopping around a VO tape (even a homemade one).
A VO demo of your OWN should cost a few hundred dollars at the most, and this amount would usually include studio time alone with a producer who knows how to get your best range in the fewest takes. A VO demo of $200-$300 is one you could get locally, including printing of the jewel case, labels, etc. Individual duplication varies, based on how many units you want. In this case, I would say that, if their VO demo sounds good -- really really good -- you should say that you would like to be included on it, and you will be working with your VO coach to produce a reel from which the agency can sample material for their reel. If they have a problem with that or still assert that a charge would be included, run and run fast. Agencies ONLY make money when their clients make money. Period.
Now, as for VO coaches, I have several I could recommend. The basic deal is, you sign up for a certain number of sessions and, included in the course fee is your "graduation" reel, of sorts, produced by the coach or the coach's producers. Of course, more important than my recommendation is whether you click with the coach. You could call around, try to do some auditing, listen to samples of their students' work, etc. The reason I think a coach would benefit you (and VO work pays very, very well) is that it's a small front-end investment for what could be a long career.
You mentioned not having much VO experience. I think that you could get experience by doing non-paying VO work on student films (many of them are filmed non-sync, which means they need VOs in post), doing non-commercial promo work (like in-house productions ANYWHERE you know someone who could get you "in"), and -- of course -- by taking classes. My experience came from radio. I worked as a DJ at a college radio station for seven years (undergrad and through my master's program). It was amazing discipline, and it is the only reason I had even a (self-produced) VO tape to shop around when I moved out here.
I hope this info helps. Please let me know if you want any specific contact information or recommendations. For now, just keep your intuition turned way up with that agency and keep doing good work!
Thanks for the GREAT info and advice!!!! I definitely do not want to get scammed or taken by an agency... I would appreciate any VO coach recommendations, etc. I have singing and acting experience and training, but little VO. Thanks for the tips, you probably saved me some hassle. The agency was indeed asking $350 for anyone WITH his or her own demo to be included on the CD, and $600 for anyone without a demo to be on the CD, the $600 including an in-house producer making the demo for the client and including it on the house CD.
Hi Again, Becky,
I'm glad the advice helped. Yeah, if they're charging people who already have produced reels just to be
included on their in-house reel... that's a big scam right there. Run and run fast. Good job keeping your intuition tuned in!
A dear friend of mine swears by Nancy Wolfson as a great VO coach and reel producer. Other reputable coaches who produce reels are Terry Berland, Susan Blu, Aliso Creek, and Kalmenson & Kalmenson. What I would suggest, really, is for you to post on The Bone-Yard, Wolfesden, Actorsite, et. al., that you are looking for a VO coach who does classes that result in a reel. You will get so much first-hand advice there, for sure! Also, ask your current and previous acting and vocal coaches for recommendations.
I recommend, before you do anything, that you check out a couple of great books: The Art of Voice Acting - The Craft and Business of Performing for Voice-Over, There's Money Where Your Mouth Is - An Insider's Guide to a Career in Voice-Overs, Making Money in Voice-Overs - Winning Strategies to a Successful Career in TV Commercials Radio and Animation, Word of Mouth - A Guide to Commercial Voice-Over Excellence.
You can go to Samuel French and flip through any of those, just to see what you might want to buy. Some of the tips you'll get just by browsing will help a great deal, I'm sure. Hope this gets you started.
Oh, one more thing... Back Stage West will come out with a spotlight issue, 6/20/02, all about voiceovers. How's that for good timing?
Take care, and keep doing good work!
March 12, 2002
ActorsBon: From Model to Actor
Fantastic job on the interviews! FANTASTIC! I have been looking for something like this, you may have saved me a lot of time. I am coming from a successful modeling career and going into acting. It took me years to learn the ropes of the way modeling really works and I've been hoping to find some way to learn them in acting.
Actually I have a couple of simple questions. I plan to be in Hollywood. I believe training is important. Mary Jo Slater mentioned a few universities that she respected. Are any of those here in the L.A. area? Also, I know that there must be some respected managers and agents (does a person really need both?) in the area, some that are professional and work best with these casting directors. Is there a list of some sort that you know of?
Take care and THANKS,
Thanks so much for your email. You're ahead of the game for having "learned the ropes" in modeling. You'll at least be prepared for what you need to look out for in acting. More than anything, stay smart about the business, study with people you trust, and find a way to learn from every experience. Okay, that being said, here's some specific answers to your questions.
You'll find that everyone has a different opinion on whether or not you need to be trained at a university for theatre. A college degree is always an asset, whatever the degree is in, but as for the idea of coming to LA to go to get a BFA or MFA in theatre, you'd probably do better choosing a school in your area. I'm not saying there aren't great programs in LA, just that they are very competitive and you'd do better to get a degree before coming out here, if that is your choice. Back Stage West has a guide to colleges and schools you might want to check out. Go to the website to find out about back issues. Also, Samuel French bookstore is a great resource for actors.
As for managers and agents, let me address these separately. Managers are not regulated by SAG or AFTRA, so you'll want to make sure that your manager is at least a member of TMA, the Talent Managers' Association. Agents should be SAG franchised, and SAG offers a list of these for the cost of a self addressed, stamped envelope. Go to the SAG website to get more information. For more in-depth information, browse the racks at Samuel French and find the guide that works the best for your style.
Once you've gotten a list of agents and managers you're interested in, you still have to find out if they are accepting new clients, if they are on your level (meaning, you don't want to get lost in a sea of faces just like yours), and if they have a good reputation for getting in to the best casting directors. The only way to find that out is through knowing people in the business who will give you their opinions. A wonderful website I like to recommend is a bulletin board discussion group of professional actors: The Wolfesden. Sterling Wolfe, along with a few other actors, put this site together as a way for us to discuss this crazy business, network, and get advice. I suggest that you read through the posts, do a search of the archives, and generally read up on topics of interest before posting your first message. That way, you can make sure not to ask a question that's just been answered, at length, in a post below.
Do you need both a manager and an agent? Depends. Since you come from a modeling background, you may want to have a separate print agent on top of those two. After a while, you'll want a business manager on top of that. Publicist too. This can get pretty confusing. Again, Samuel French offers books on Agents, Managers, Casting Directors, all sorts of great references. No one can tell you when the right time is to have more than one person representing you. That is up to you. Some doors, a manager can get you through. Some doors, only an agent can. Again, if it's a big agency, you may want the individual attention a manager could give you. It's so hard for me to assume what's best for you!
As for workshops, there are a bunch of those. Casting Directors' and their assistants conduct workshops, agents do too, and so do managers. So do folks that have no attachment to any sort of potential job. The best way to take care of yourself is to find classes by reputable teachers (ask around) who will let you audit a class. Auditing is important because you can get a sense of the teacher's style and personality, plus know if the type of students s/he attracts are on your level.
The best advice I can give you is to keep asking questions. No one will fault you for being new to town, so just ASK. Go to a search engine and find out about the sites I recommended like SAG and Samuel French and also back issues of trade papers that might serve you well. Just do your homework, keep learning from every possible source, and remember that opinions are just that, opinion - not fact. Research will pay off!
Good luck, and let me know how it goes for you!
March 5, 2002
ActorsBon: Ten Answers for the Price of One
I am a very frustrated well-trained and good actor. I just got my MFA in theater and am teaching acting. I am an actor, singer, and comedian who has been unable to get an agent because I am no beauty or what ever and no I'm not SAG yet. I am also gay and although that really doesn't matter I feel a little type cast.
Anyway, my questions are: 1. There is a new gay network starting with MTV and ShowTime and I have to get my info to the right people before programming is set. I have several wonderful characters that would be perfect as comedian hosts or main characters on new sitcoms etc. I also have a number of great ideas for killer show with several treatments. Is there anyway I could send you a tape to look at of my stuff and see if you thought that I had a product. I am really lost, but I am not being some diva, I am good, and my stuff is legit and real and sometimes funny. Anyway, write if you think you can offer any advice and would look my stuff over. Here comes another pilot season and there it goes. I'm 36 and I am a great character if I just had someone pushing me, I could make them a lot of money. Sorry if this sounds pathetic but it is.
Thanks for writing! Okay... where to begin?
1. Stay focused. Don't get frustrated. There are SO many ways in... and so many more ways than anyone really knows. Don't ever think you've exhausted all of your resources. Your energy just needs to be focused on one route at a time.
2. What's that route, right now? You have the training. You are teaching, so you have the resources at your fingertips. You can do more than "just act" and, if you can do comedy, I suspect you can also write your own material and think on your feet. All good things.
3. Being SAG before you're ready is a dangerous thing. Not being SAG at a certain age comes with a stigma. I know that's the hard part, right now. If your primary goal is getting your SAG card, you should sign with some of those Extras Services and then go on every job you can, making nice with the AD, and mentioning that you're looking for vouchers. You'll get them. Just be persistent and flexible -- and most of all, professional.
4. You don't need to send a tape to me. While I'm sure I'd enjoy seeing it, it doesn't really matter if I think you're talented or not. You should send your work to people who have the power to hire you. That said, you really don't want to send a tape that isn't requested. CDs just don't have time to view unsolicited tapes.
5. Create a great press kit. It should have your headshot and resume, any press that's been written about you (reviews of shows you've been in, flyers from stand-up you've done, etc.). Send THAT to CDs and to the producers of the new gay network you've been reading about in the trades (I'm really excited about this, BTW). Ask, in your cover letter, if you may set up a meeting or send in a demo tape. If you have a show going, invite them to the show.
6. If you don't have a show going... get in something. Take one of those great stand-up classes that ends in a performance at The Comedy Store or The Improv. Get in an improv show with a small theatre company, so that whenever someone asks, "Where can I see you?" you always have a quick response (and a flyer) handy.
7. Beauty or no beauty... there is a place for everyone in this town. Know how to market yourself. It's not about being the best looking guy in your category. It's about knowing what your category is and being the most prepared, most professional, most talented YOU you can be. I have a dear friend who makes a TON of money being "that weird guy" in a ton of shows and on commercials. Know your market.
8. Your being gay really shouldn't have anything to do with how you are cast. If it does, then you need to decide if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Once you decide what your category is and how to best market yourself, if being gay gets in the way of how that formula works, start looking at ways to market yourself in the way that works best with being gay. To that end, finding a way to contact the producers of the new gay cable network will help quite a bit. But they aren't the only game in town... just stay up on the trades.
9. Networking groups are wonderful. Not only will you have the resources you need, right at your fingertips, you'll find that there are people right where you are, in terms of their experience in LA, and they can give you advice or at least be a friend to commiserate with, should you need that. I don't know of any specifically gay-themed acting networks out there, but that doesn't mean none exist. I would spend some time at Samuel French, browsing the racks, and see if any of the guides there include reference to groups you'd want to check into. I would also recommend that you visit a web-board called The Wolfesden and read the archives. This is a great board of working actors, managers, and writers who post about acting, the biz, specific questions about all different elements of the experience, etc. There are a bunch of boards, but this one is a personal favorite. Of course, you've found your way to The Actor's Bone, so you're already one step ahead of the game right there.
10. Stay focused. I know that was item number one as well... but really, just know that you're not in this alone! It's all a part of the journey.
Let me know how things go for you!
Good luck, and thanks again for writing!
February 26, 2002
ActorsBon: First Contact
Thank you for your articles at Back Stage West. I read them online. You had a feature article on pilot season. At the end you gave us some very important CD name and address information. Thank you.
My question is, I am new about one year to acting. I just got my headshots a few weeks ago. I am SAG-eligible but have not joined as of yet. Should I send my headshot and resume (have done many indie films, etc., and many skills) even though they have not specifically requested a audition for a specific role? If so, do I send a short cover letter mentioning where I got their information? Please advise.
Thanks for writing. Hope your year is going great! Do you have an agent? Manager? If so, defer to them on their advice about contacting CDs directly. If you do not have representation, I would suggest that you send either a postcard or a headshot and resume to the CDs who are working on projects you feel you'd be good for. If you send a headshot, make sure to include a short, but professional, cover letter, introducing yourself.
Do not follow up with a phone call. CDs generally do not like receiving phone calls from actors. They do, however, generally like receiving a postcard following up on the submission, or alerting them to an upcoming performance (where they can see you work in theatre or on TV).
Just because you're "new" doesn't mean you should shy away from getting in front of CDs, just know that they are very busy during pilot season, and you may not get very far doing just a blind submission.
Wait for another month or so before targeting agents and managers. During pilot season, agents and mangers are really focused on serving their current clients. A dedicated mailing to CDs would be good right now, but only to commercial CDs or indie film CDs (no one doing a pilot). April will be your go-ahead time for the agent search. At that time, grab The Agencies, a guide by Acting World Books. I highly recommend it, for the most updated agency information.
Whatever you do, stay professional and courteous. I find it is always best to be honest about where you are in the business (that you are SAG-eligible, etc.). Do as much non-union work as you can, while you still can, and learn learn learn! Are you in a class, now?
Check out an actors' web-board like The Bone-Yard or Wolfesden. They are my favorite places to keep up on the business with working actors, managers, CDs, and writers. Lurk for awhile, and ask questions after you've searched the archives.
Oh, there are so many resources! Spend some time at Samuel French, looking through all of the guides and books there. And get connected with a group of people -- it's always great to have people to bounce ideas off of, run scenes with, share stories.
Let me know how it goes! Best of luck -- and thanks so much for reading (and writing). Have fun, keep at it, and keep doing good work!
February 19, 2002
ActorsBon: Not To Sound Cheesy
I just wanted to send you a quick note thanking you for a great discussion on Saturday at AIA. In case you were wondering, I'm the guy who asked about "Feedback." I guess the follow up question was not clear. I wanted to find a balance between getting feedback from CDs without having to jeopardize your relationship with them. I guess, with everything, it can be done through relationships and proper communication.
I really enjoy your column in Back Stage West and am an avid fan (Although I did not want to say it publicly without sounding... cheesy). The information that you gave us is not only helpful but special. Keep up the excellent work and I'll hopefully see you again.
- Aaron, Future Working Actor
Thanks so much for taking the time to write to me. I love what I do (both writing for and talking with actors), so it's always a bonus to be thanked for doing what I love. I would say, as far as feedback goes, try to get it from sources other than CDs right now. During the February-March pilot season, even CDs who aren't doing pilots themselves feel the stress of the schedule. So, if you are in a class or doing plays, working with others in the industry, ask for feedback from those folks right now. You'll get some info that you can learn from as well as maintain your relationships with casting professionals (without taxing them right now). Hope that helps! Thanks again for being a fan! We all need those, right? ;)
Take care, and keep doing good work!
February 12, 2002
ActorsBon: Intuition on High
I have read your comments on Scientology's involvement with the seminars that are held there. I inquired about being addressed with these issues and was assured that they did not wish to convert me or teach me abut their religion. I was however offered for the film to be shown. If I do the course offered, should I be concerned about the religion part of Scientology being introduced into the course?
Thank you for your time,
I would just go into any situation, wherever it is hosted, with my intuition on high. There are many, many places where actors spend money to further their craft, and it is always a risk as to how much each workshop or event or seminar is worth. I would say, if you ever have a feeling that you are not getting what you paid for, move on, rather than trying to stay longer to see if it suddenly becomes worthwhile. It's usually pretty easy to tell in the first few moments whether or not something is right for you. Just be aware and you'll do just fine.
Good luck to you, and thanks for writing.
February 5, 2002
ActorsBon: An Interesting Pickle
My manager has a few very notable clients, and then there's someone like me. She tells me, "even though you're in a few films with one lead at Sundance 2001, and two of them are nominated for indie spirit awards, you won't be seen by agents [and I guess casting directors too] until you land a job."
Although I have no blockbusters behind me, my resume is strong with film and some TV (New York work) and I have video to prove it. I've gotten everything on my own (aside from the four national network commercials this year). I've read others' insights on what an unknown, working actor should try, and my hands feel loosely tied. Should I sit back, type and send short letters to CD's, NOT send letters to agents, and hope a CD "gets it" then brings me in where I ultimately book a role (in LA) so a "strong agency" sees I will make them money? Or is my manager snowing me? I'm from the east, after all.
Hmm... interesting pickle you're in. I can only give you an example of what happened to a friend of mine in a similar situation a couple of years ago. He was sick of getting all his own work and having his theatrical agent tell him there was just no way to get him sent out on commercials "at his level" -- and he had good credits! So, he got together his two-look postcards (done litho by ABC Pictures for about $100 per 1000) and sent one to each commercial CD and provided his theatrical agent's contact info only.
Well... the agent starts getting calls from commercial CDs, ready to see him for this role and that role. Agent calls my buddy and says, "Well, you've got guts, going around me... but you got yourself some work... and kept me in on it... so, I'll sign you across the board."
Boom! He's working more now than ever.
Risky move, but it worked for him. So... I guess my advice is... try getting your manager some commissionable work (yes, you'll be doing all the work... again) and then see what she says. March is not the time to try and land an agent anyway. It's pilot season, which means they are all currently focused on their roster of clients, not taking on new ones.
Now, if, in a few months, your manager is still discouraging you from getting an agent, I'd consider going ahead and submitting to agents anyway. Email me again after trying the mass postcard mailing and let me know how that went. CDs (generally) love postcards, so go for it!
Keep doing good work -- and thanks for writing.
September 23, 2001
Recommended Reading for ActorsBone.com
Before even heading to LA to give acting a go, aspiring actors should skim, if not memorize, the chapters of the following essential books and guides.
An Actor Succeeds: Career Management for the Actor - by Terrance Hines & Suzanne Vaughan
I like this book, even though it's a bit out of date, because it is the first of its kind, featuring Q&A formatted interviews with casting directors, agents, managers, a writer-producer, an attorney, an accountant, and a publicist. When I first read this book, I was amazed that there was no "industry standard" when it comes to sending unsolicited headshots, demo reel formatting, or audition etiquette. It's nice to know that every CD is different, when it comes to likes and dislikes. That way, as a self-marketing actor, you can do what makes you comfortable and know that there will be CDs with whom your methods click. Much of the work I do in Casting Qs came from the early influence of this book.
The Agencies: What the Actor Needs to Know - by Lawrence Parke
This guide is so regularly updated that anyone seeking representation would be just plain silly not to keep buying it. It has the most current contact information for agencies, plus union affiliation status, and a list of what "types" are being targeted by each agency.
Be a TV Game Show Winner! - by Marla Schram Schwartz
An often overlooked way to get TV exposure, and make some good money while you're at it, the game show has long been a popular outlet for aspiring actors. There's more to booking a game show than just sending in a headshot and resume. While game shows encourage actors to apply (union status doesn't matter), the producers will want you to not "technically" be an actor. This book includes information on how to be chosen, how to win, how to handle the IRS, and how to be chosen again and again to appear on game shows and win fabulous prizes!
Breakdown Services' CD Directory
Updated quarterly, this is a great resource for the most current contact information on CSA and CCDA members, as well as independent casting directors in LA. I use it every day.
CSA's Casting By...
This is sort of the IMDB in book form; a list of which CSA members cast what projects and who produced those projects as well.
How to Make Yourself (or Anyone Else) Famous: The Secrets of a Professional Publicist - by Gloria Michels
This book may be out of print, but I like it because it includes checklists for fame-making formulas, ten commandments for dealing with the media, and recommended reading. Any book along these lines would be a nice addition to an actor's bookcase.
July 23, 2001
ask the industry «
Submit a question for an industry pro to answer.
Question: Why is it so hard for an Indian male like me to get into the industry? Sometimes I feel they discriminate? Is it true? What does a casting director look for in an actor? Looks or talent? --Bhairav
Answer: Oh, Bhairav, I feel for you!
It's so hard to be anything other than what EVERYONE else is, in the flavor of the month-loving industry that is this one. People who are very much the type you're sure you see on screen all the time may lament the fact that there are no roles for them, just because they have blue eyes instead of brown, or because they are 5'10" instead of 6'1".
Casting directors are known for saying that they "know it when they see it." Producers, writers, and directors will communicate to the casting directors their needs and sometimes they won't do so in concrete terms. Sometimes they'll describe qualities, rather than physical traits, and it becomes the casting director's job to bring a variety of types to the callback for the others to see.
As Donna Ekholdt, Senior Vice President of Talent Development and Casting for Big Ticket Television, once told me, "Casting is like cooking. And I'm a master chef, trying out all sorts of ingredients until I find the right blend of flavors." Many times, a casting director will think she needs one flavor, but then she learns the director has chosen a different flavor than originally anticipated. Well, that shifts the whole recipe, and there's another need to fill.
Flexibility is a job requirement of a good casting director. So, to answer your question about what they look for, it's talent, it's a look, it's a vibe, it's chemistry with the other actors in the scene, and it's a connection to the material.
So, do good work, get your resumé the best-looking it can be, make sure your headshot is excellent, and then build those relationships. Good work gets noticed. And believe me, everyone is saying "now is the time" for minority groups to get that long-overdue notice. Non-traditional casting is becoming the norm--and that's great news for you!
December 3, 1998
At Least I'm Always Bonnie (Summer 1998)
I was born Bonnie Athene Gillespie. I've been called Bon, Bon Bon, Bonathan, Bonifer, Bonalyn, Bon Boneri, Bonifred, Bonular, Bonuelo, Bonita, Bonissimo, Bonnarie, Bonnalie, Super Bon Bon, and Bon Bon Jovi, just to list a few.
I've always liked my name, just different parts of it at different times in my life. In high school, I liked that I was the only Bonnie in 1,100 students. Everyone knew who you were talking about when you said "Bonnie."
Bonnie is my great aunt. My mother's mother's older sister. I love her dearly and am proud to have her name. Athene was my mother's best friend's name. She was angry that I shared her name. I can see why. I love the uniqueness of "Athene." Not quite Athena, it's still derived from the Greek Goddess of Wisdom. I have never met another Athene.
When I began pursuing acting professionally, I became Bonnie Athene. No one ever included the Athene when they heard Bonnie Athene Gillespie. It's such a long name, and Gillespie somehow always gets misspelled or mispronounced (I'm baffled at this). So, Bonnie Athene was born. She still gets fantastic credit card offers (of course! She had a checking account, paid rent, and maintained utilities with no debt... her evil twin, Gillespie, on the other hand...).
Three years later, after earning a Master's degree, Ms. Gillespie hit the scene. I was a teacher. Most of my students had never heard of Bonnie Athene. To them, I was only nicknamed Ms. G. See, that name's just too problematic to most people!
So, who am I? I do not know. I've toyed with the idea of taking on my mother's last name: Simonds. It is unusual (not Simmons, but sigh-munds). But I'm not sure that it resonates with me.
And shouldn't that be what our names do for us? Our last names usually belong to our fathers' fathers' fathers. That's not what defines us. So what is? I guess that's up to each of us. And we can always change our minds.
November 26, 1998
Don't Get Me Started (Spring 1998)
I have more than a few pet peeves where the English language is concerned. Most of them involve TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms). Take a look at these TLAs: ATM, PIN, SAT, HIV. They may look fine in print, but think about the way we SAY these TLAs: "A.T.M. Machine," "PIN Number," "S.A.T. Test," and "H.I.V. Virus."
Answer me this: what the Hell is the M for in ATM? The N in PIN? Why do we feel the need to repeat ourselves? It couldn't possibly be for clarity! What, we want to distinguish the Automated Teller Machine from the Automated Teller MUPPET? Come on!
Then there are words that don't exist... and I hear these all the time. My top three least favorite are "conversate" (as opposed to "converse"), "supposebly" (instead of "supposedly"), and the worst of all: "a whole nother." What they Hell is "nother"? Yes, "whole" can go between words like "a" and "new," but not INSIDE a word like "another." Sorry, that's just wrong. I thought this was a new phenomenon until I saw the re-released "Star Wars" in which Luke Skywalker himself says "a whole nother." Sigh....
Now, I understand the importance of creating words and phrases in our cultural communications. I love using expressions with my friends that we know are truly our own. But let's get this stuff straight:
Y'all is the proper spelling, not ya'll.
The apostrophe in decades goes before the number, not before the "s," like '80s, not 80's (that's possessive).
Its is possessive, it's means it is.
Your is possessive, you're means you are.
Their is possessive, they're means they are. See there?
For, four, fore; two, to, too... oh, I could go on and on. But I won't. Instead, I'll just continue my quest to correct grammar worldwide. I should be busy for quite some time.
November 19, 1998
Don't You Dare Take Away My Redux (Spring 1998)
When I heard that Phen-Fen and Redux were being pulled from pharmacy shelves, I panicked. Could my druggist still be in the dark about this news? Could I convince him to dispense all of the refills left on my prescription?
I hadn't taken either Redux or the Phen-Fen combination in months, but I still felt that my one chance at losing weight was being taken away. How could my thin self ever emerge without drugs to help me along?
Considering that Redux only helped me briefly in my first round with it and Phen-Fen made me feel insanely hyper and out of control, I'm not sure what made me clutch the remaining pills as if someone was coming over to take them from me. Why had I kept them this long anyway?
When your body feels too big for you, you grasp at any promise for achieving the size, the life, you feel that you deserve. I remember when I first heard that a weight loss drug was being developed. I took an article to my doctor, begging for the prescription, even though the drug hadn't been named yet.
At first, I felt disappointed that I didn't weigh enough to take the new drugs. I wasn't clinically obese. Yet. Eventually, I was. Now, I thought, NOW, I could begin to lose weight.
No pill, no diet, no exercise program, nothing that comes from outside of us can EVER cure our emotional obesity. Now, I do not suggest that physical fitness cannot affect our weight. There is, however, a difference between physical and emotional weight. My emotions are what sent me into a panic over the news on the dangers of these weight-loss pills: if I have no safety net, how can I eat what I want?
These are not issues of someone with a weight problem. These are the issues of an emotional attachment to weight. No prescription drug can ever dissolve THAT cellulite.
November 12, 1998
EX-cellent Fashions (Spring 1998)
There is something I pull out of my closet every winter with a smile. And I wear it with pride. It's my leather bomber jacket. Actually, it's not really my jacket. It's an ex-boyfriend's.
I didn't take it from him. He gave it to me. He'd moved to Boston where the jacket wasn't warm enough. It's perfect for Southern winters.
His Zippo is still in the right-hand flap pocket. He used it to light cigarettes during my trip to visit him in Beantown. We were both in college and had both picked up vices. His was smoking. Mine was drinking. Eventually, we'd both cheat on one another, but that's not what this is about.
There's something wonderful about putting on a piece of clothing that belonged to someone you once loved. You may be a totally different person now, but wearing a lover's jacket is an embrace from a memory. You once were someone else and you were in love. The positive attachments to the look, the smell, the feel of his jacket erase all painful remnants of our relationship, at least for a moment.
I took an inventory of ex-lovers' trophies that I've accumulated over the years and found myself swept away by the memories of this one's strong arms, that one's poetry, the kisses, the passion....
There's one rule I always follow in my collecting: don't tell a new love that you're wearing clothes that belonged to an old love. That's just asking for trouble. He says, "Cool jacket," and you smile, knowing he's not the only one who thought that.
And when he tells you that you look beautiful in his flannel pajamas, smile again, knowing your collection is about to grow once more.
November 5, 1998
Getting Tested (Spring 1998)
I've done it twice. Signed up for the low-cost HIV testing and accompanying counseling. The counseling is mainly to educate the "patient." Are you aware of the ways in which HIV is contracted? Do you always practice safe sex? Do you know the sexual history of all of your sexual partners? Here, have some literature. Here, take some condoms. Now, why do YOU think you need to be tested? What will YOU do if the test comes back positive?
The first time I was tested, I'd been taking a Journalism class on the portrayal of HIV and AIDS by the media in the 1980s. I'd never had protected sex and I was beginning to wonder why I thought I was immune to HIV. My boyfriend at the time found it bizarre that I wanted to start using condoms months into our sexual relationship. I guess I was just hoping to make up for past indiscretion.
Getting tested was nerve-racking. Yes, I was well-educated about HIV and AIDS. Yes, I knew what to do to reduce the risks. No, I was not following common sense rules. Why, I do not know. So, I committed to myself, that if my HIV test came back positive, I would become a spokesperson for monogamous, heterosexual, female contraction of HIV, spreading the proverbial word. Despite this commitment, I was, of course, relieved when my test came back negative.
I swore that I would never have unprotected sex again, since it was such a joy to KNOW that I was, in fact, HIV negative.
Another commitment down the tubes.
"Girl, what is your problem?" I asked myself in the waiting room for my second HIV test. It was five years later, I was single, and I, this time, wanted to feel the rush of knowing I'd tempted fate yet again, only to remain HIV negative, through several unprotected encounters.
Do I like taking risks? Do I feel rebellious doing something that I know is stupid? Do I get a buzz just from being tested? Or is it that I trust my partners when they tell me not to worry? That I get off on having unprotected sex (more than having protected sex)? Great questions. But I do not have the guts to discover the answers.
October 29, 1998
It's Not Personal (Spring 1998)
I never answer my phone. Not ever. I blame this behavior on having grown up in a household in which my mother's at-home business meant phones ringing off the hook at all hours, every caller in need of my mother's time and energy.
Mom used the answering machine as her secretary. It found out all of the pertinent information in advance and allowed her to return the calls at her convenience. I liked that element of control. I still do.
When Caller ID came out, I thought I'd never want it. Why bother? It's only going to tell me what my full-volume answering machine will tell me in one more ring... but less. The machine also reveals what the caller wants. If only Caller ID did that, I wouldn't seem like such a snob to all of my friends. I'd actually answer the phone.
I do that so infrequently now that, when I do pick up the phone, I'm greeted by, "Oh my God! You actually answered the phone! I'm shocked!"
You know, that's pretty annoying. Hearing that just makes it that much longer before I do that again.
Maybe it's an issue of control. I don't like being surprised by people. If I can call you back, I'm prepared for the conversation. I've allocated enough time to deal with you. Sure enough, if you "catch" me answering the phone, I'll end up spending a precious hour listening to your story, regretting having picked up the phone. That's no fun for either of us.
I don't like the telephone. Why should someone have the right to talk to me for as long as they want to, whenever they want to, just because their schedule permitted it? Hell, let's meet for coffee. Send me an email. Write a letter. THAT'S communication as the art form, not the interruption.
Don't even get me started on call-waiting!
October 22, 1998
Love Me, Love My Cat (Spring 1998)
I know that cats aren't for everyone. I've got no problem with that. But if you're in my life for any stretch of time, you're going to encounter Muffy.
Muffy is my 17-year-old feline friend. He's not a she, despite his feminine name. Hey, I was a kid; it was the '80s. I'd heard stories of "Muffy, Biff, ALTA League, and add-a-beads," and figured I'd better fit in. Who knew?
Muffy's pretty much deaf now. He howls like a starving infant for a few hours every night. His once-outdoor-hunter-mentality has given way to a passive, sleeping-23-hours-a-day purring furball one. But I love him just the same.
He's been there for me when boyfriends and girlfriends have bailed on me. He's let me cry into his fur. He survived an earthquake with me. He loved me when I felt unlovable. Muffy has moved across the country and back with me, seen me through career changes, and still falls asleep curled up next to me every night. His love for me is unconditional, as is mine for him.
So, you're in my life? Muffy is now in yours. Yes, I know he's old. Yes, his breath is awful. Yes, the litterbox smell is hard to cover up. And, yes, I will feed him scraps from my plate and hold him when he wants to be held.
You'd think a partner would see my loyalty as endearing, knowing that my compassion and love is as generously doled out to him. That isn't always the case. Muffy has been seen as a nuisance, a pest, a buzzkill, an interference in a grown-up relationship.
Take a closer look: I care for my pet as his teeth rot, his hearing goes, and his senility creeps in. If you're smart, you'll realize that this unconditional compassion is something you will need someday.
October 15, 1998
My Collage (Spring 1998)
There's this wall in my apartment that I stare at when I need something. That something can be inspiration, courage, hope. It's my Image Map, a visual representation of who I want to be and who I feel I am.
I heard about an exercise years ago in which the placement of images on a poster board could help turn visualization of goals into manifested realities. I cut out photos of pencil-thin models, fast cars and other glamorous images dutifully. Mission Accomplished? Yeah, if the mission was to depress myself into an inadequate funk.
Now, sometimes it takes an exercise finding us on its own time before it clicks for us. Doing something because it sounds like it will work isn't the answer. We have to feel it asking to be done. And so it happened.
I found myself tearing pages out of magazines, clipping photographs into appealing shapes, and glue-sticking them into a huge collage. It now fills an entire wall in my apartment, and it truly motivates me. There's a cozy fireplace, an indoor swimming pool, a woman roller-blading, gorgeous meals on beautiful china, a female film-maker hard at work, a man lovingly holding his son, a couple embracing tenderly, friends sharing a coffee moment.
These images are emotional, not mental, not physical. I suppose the waifs in my first collage could be considered emotional, but they did not conjure positive feelings in me, only negative, self-defeating ones.
There is nothing wrong with having, and stating, our own goals for our "perfect selves." But it is a complete self that feels rewarding to pursue; not an image that reflects none of our soul.
October 8, 1998
Naming Yourself (Spring 1998)
There's an opportunity we get when we start our first email account. It's also a responsibility. We get to name ourselves.
Perhaps we're in college. We get an ".edu" account. This has already identified us as someone affiliated with a college or university. Many times, our email ID will already have been chosen for us (first initial, last name, ID number, etc.), but if we have the freedom to name ourselves, we should go into the endeavor knowing that this name could be with us for years.
If we choose a name we later regret, we can always use a free, web-based account. These accounts, tagged ".com," for commercial, are just that: commercial. That means that someone, somewhere, has paid for that account. If you didn't then you can bet there's some advertisement going out under your signature line on every email you send. That's fine; it's just good to know.
So, do you want to be yourself? A character? An attitude? It's totally up to you.
A good rule of thumb is to keep at least two active email accounts. Use one for your "serious" communication (work, school, relevant pen pal-ing, etc.). The other account should be your "play" account. Use this one when people ask where they should forward funnies to you. It's amazing; you will read the same urban legends, the same dirty jokes, over and over again. Many of these are BIG, and you don't want to filter through them when you're short on time. This is also a good account to use when filling out on-line mailing list forms... no telling what'll start coming to your in-box. A third account could be useful if you subscribe to discussion groups or listservs. These high-traffic generators could also bog down a daily account.
The best news is this: almost all email accounts allow you to use a "pointer" function; serving to forward all of your emails to ONE, main account. So, managing loads of email addresses becomes easier.
Overall, just have fun with it. You can always rename yourself on your next account... or the next....
Who have I been?
October 1, 1998
Numerology for Novices (Spring 1998)
I'll let you in on a little secret. When I meet you, I ask for your birthday for two reasons. One: I want to put you on my birthday card list. Two: I want to know more about you.
I'm no expert, but I love doing Numerology. Just by adding together your birth month, day, and year until I get one number, I know what drives you. And I know what kind of year you're having.
Some people get creeped out by this idea, but most of my friends actually consult me for timing their lives' big choices. Most of all, for me, it's fun. I see it like I see astrology and horoscopes. It's a type of map to your life's path. If you learn how to read the road signs, you make certain choices. If you choose not to read the map that way, you may hit a roadblock that you didn't see coming. It's totally up to the individual driving the life-car.
I'm an "8" by birth. That means I've got lessons of power; my own and the authority of others. Issues of control constantly arise for me. I'm in a "9" year right now, which is the Death Cycle. Yeah, I know, that sounds awful, but what it means is that I'm saying good-bye to my old ways of doing things, ready to move into a totally new stage of my life. So, if life runs in 9 year cycles, numerologically, what are they?
1 = masculine energy, ambition (when you start something new)
2 = feminine energy, emotion (when you doubt what you started)
3 = creative form is born (when the creation is visible)
4 = hard work (when everything is an effort)
5 = rebellion (when you play recklessly)
6 = repair, domestic energy (when you rebuild your home life)
7 = courage, cocoon-living (when you go within, spiritually)
8 = power (when the butterfly emerges)
9 = death energy, endings (when good-byes happen)
Of course, this is VERY basic. Two GREAT books on Numerology are Lynn Buess' "Numerology for the New Age" and Dan Millman's "The Life You Were Born to Live." Give it a try. After all, everything counts, right?
September 28, 1998
"Hollywood & Vines" (July 1994)
I squinted through my window, an insomniac again. Without my contacts in, I could see only the reflection of headlights in the chrome bumper of the car parked on the street, otherwise, I'd not have known it was there. I caught the shadow of a man walking by and I remembered the homeless man I'd wanted to take a photo of yesterday.
He has built himself a little home under the 101 bridge on Argyle. He's just blocks away from the most famous intersection of this city (and perhaps of this era), yet he pitches tarp over two grocery carts like he's on a campground, unaware of the stars in the eyes of younger passers-by. He's a scruffy looking man, confident, as if he's been doing this for quite some time, and he doesn't seem to resent the stares he gets from drivers of Porches, Mercedes, Jags, and even White Ford Broncos as they wait nervously at the red-light, counting the beats until green.
They feel more uncomfortable watching him than he feels at being watched.
His collection is impressive. Two grocery carts, orange tarp, several large boxes, a bottle of wine, extra sweat suits, a baseball cap, four bags of recyclables, and a mostly-dead flower arrangement next to a push broom, used to keep the carts parked.
Days ago, I was at that red-light, counting beats before green, and I wanted to photograph him, take a piece of that image back Home with me.
I am trying to escape, yet I want memories to come with me... only the good ones. This has been hard for me, living here, and I know that I've begun to reach out and around, a vine stretching to find room to grow. Yet I'm ready to cut myself just above the roots again, pick up and move on, leaving what I've woven here to dry up and decay alone.
Days later, the man is gone. He has left all of his belongings, with the exception of the wine, under the bridge for others to dig through. The home he occupied for weeks is now dark, cold. I realize that the pieces of ourselves we leave behind do not die alone. Our vines are intertwined. Everywhere we go.
September 26, 1998
"Waterlogged" (July 1994)
"On your marks, get set, GO!" Coach shouted as we plunged into the water and began our free-style swim.
The water felt cold this morning, but I warmed up with each stroke forward down the Olympic-sized pool. Since this was just practice, we were swimming without having the lanes sectioned off and that meant I'd probably get bumped into by Marcy Dell if I didn't get a very quick start.
That's why I don't like swimming with nine-year-olds, they're such pains. When we break down into age groups for competition, the girls my age always know what we're doing. It's those dumb nine-year-olds that mess us up.
I tagged the shallow end and did a decent flip-turn as I began the final lap. I was feeling good; like I'd already beaten my closest competition, Sarah Filmore. She always gives me a good challenge here, and we hate each other at school, so it's perfect. That way she can't get to know me well enough to see my weaknesses, and I can keep up the image of The Best Preteen Swimmer.
I heard the whistle blow just as I touched the wall and I had to look up quickly to be sure I'd won. I had, but not by much. Sarah smiled at me and I smiled back. That's about as close as we get.
Coach had to go and get Marcy Dell from the side and redirect her to the deep end. Not all nine-year-olds are that bad, I guess, but she just lacks any general sense of direction. Good thing she's pretty.
I know pretty is important when you're not talented, and even sometimes when you are, because my Daddy told me not to ever get fat or ugly or else I'd never keep a husband. It didn't matter that he remarried someone really ugly and that she eventually got fat too; I took those words to mean everything and did anything I could to be the prettiest, thinnest, best everything possible. But things weren't working out so well at the pool.
"Jones, McGuire, Turner, Filmore, Young..." the coach was calling the names of those who'd be on the starting team at next week's competition against the Lakeside Pool team. I sat on my favorite rainbow towel watching droplets of water fall off my hair and soak into the concrete as I leaned just off to the side when Coach said my name, "Perkins," as I knew she would. But then she said, "Stay after practice," listed four more names and then sent most of us on our way to change and go home.
I didn't cringe when she asked me to stay after because I knew why she had.
Butterfly stroke. My worst nightmare.
"Well, Katie," Coach began, "how's that Achilles' Heel coming?"
"I've been practicing," I lied, my towel now wrapped around my body as though it would keep her from making me get back in the water.
"But are you any better?" She added, "You know that you're my fastest swimmer, don't you?"
"Except the butterfly."
"Except the butterfly." She now had her arms crossed and was nodding, then she pointed back at the pool. "Ready to give me what you've got?"
I shrank inside. My dad was coming to pick me up today and I didn't want to be late. But I knew I had to practice so I begged to just do two laps.
"Make them two exceptional ones," Coach required.
As I hit the water this time, I felt hot already. I knew my coach wanted me to get it RIGHT, but all I could think was FAST, and that meant SLOPPY. I could hear her yelling as she walked the length of the pool, instructing me to concentrate.
When I got to the end of the second lap, I saw my dad outside the gate, waving and half-smiling. Although I knew he was glad to see me, I also knew he liked me to do my best and he'd say that he didn't feel that I was just then.
Before I could get out of the pool and collect my towel, Coach went over to him and began talking through the gate.
As they discussed me, I was sure, I felt myself trying to be prettier, willing my features to be better. I even closed my eyes and prayed that the candy bar I'd eaten yesterday wouldn't show.
I took a deep breath and walked toward Coach and Daddy.
"Get your things, darling," he said. And even though I knew he meant it literally, all I heard was, "Not good enough. Not pretty enough. Not thin enough."
September 25, 1998
untitled (7 August 1993)
Coffee makes me think of Cleo.
I smell her kitchen on days too hot for coffee...
perk perk perk on the stove.
The ashes and butts in trays,
Under the table cloth her elbows stick to - the newspaper clippings -
with the sugar on the table, puzzle books
and playing cards in the window sill.
She always hung up without saying good-bye
and walked to the window as we drove off.
Love your baby.
September 24, 1998
Revisiting the Past (Spring 1998)
We all know the importance of keeping a journal. A safe place to record our thoughts, fears, wishes and dreams is essential to our ability to "sort it all out." The purchase of a blank book is an exciting event. We know that our next few months, or years, will all reside between the covers. We choose that journal carefully.
Dutifully, we show up at the page every day, summarizing our experiences, fleshing out our new ideas. But how often do we pick up an old journal like a good book, eager to discover a new character and her stories?
If the answer is "not often," then it's time to do yourself a favor.
Recently, I began writing about my need for an epiphany. God, if I could only sort out my life and understand myself better! Instead of writing, again, about my confusion and worry, I opened a journal from seven or eight years ago. I picked a page and began reading.
At first, I reacted to the words critically, "Oh, c'mon, you know better than that!" "That's not how you spell that!" "What was I thinking?" I got over the self-editing in short order and began warmly remembering the sensations I'd written about. I could feel the emotions, but in a safer way. Of course, these experiences are a part of my cellular memory, so the feelings are still there, somewhere. But now I experience them from the perspective of an onlooker... with enough inside information to really appreciate all of the characters.
As I read on, I discovered dialog with myself about an issue similar to the one I now faced. Wouldn't you know it; the epiphany I was looking for was there, in my own handwriting, just waiting for me to need it.
No one knows you better than you do. The next time you feel the need to pick up a self-help book, consider the Self who wrote it.
September 23, 1998
"Fortunate Sheets" (11 August 1990)
September 22, 1998
"The Connection" (March 1996)
First of All...
My approach to writing has much less to do with mechanics than with intuition, spirit, and a sense of connection to the process of creativity. Throughout this piece, I will attempt to link process to product - rather, I will try to EXPOSE the links that exist between them. Balance is essential in the approach of any creative endeavor. Without a sense of balance, we do our art a disservice.
Of course, not everything that works for me will work for everyone. But what would be the point of omitting something that works for me when it just may work for someone who reads this piece?
There are dozens of works that have influenced my choices in writing. Some of these things may work for me today and may not tomorrow. Still, I've listed the works that come immediately to mind at the end of this piece. Within this piece, I will examine a few of them closely and I will attempt to connect the inner work with the physical work necessary to bring art OUT.
Borrowing from Julia Cameron...
The Artist's Way came to me at a time in my life when I had no idea that I was ready for a "major growth experience." I had moved to Los Angeles, alone, with no job, and immediately connected with a popular actor through a volunteer mentoring program. The week after I began working with the kids, my new friend created a group called "The Artist's Circle" for the purpose of conducting weekly sessions as suggested in Julia Cameron's book. I eagerly joined in, ready to have a sense of "home", wherever I could find it. I had no idea what I was getting into, but I had TRUST.
Here it is, two-and-a-half years later, and I am still growing from having opened this wonderful book. It is not my intention to simply quote Julia Cameron, but I would like to devote this section to a few of the "highlights" from her book (Quotes, Unblocking the Artist, and Exercises). Were I teaching a course on creative writing, photography, acting, or any other creative process, The Artist's Way would be required reading.
It is easy to dismiss "self-help" techniques as elements not connected to being a writer. The tough part is recognizing that, until we are connected to our truest creativity, we will not do our best work. Self-help has EVERYTHING to do with the process of tapping into your creative energy.
"Leap, and the net will appear." It takes having the faith to put pen to paper, to read your work aloud, to submit to journals in order to see that you WERE safe in taking that step. It won't look safe until you've done it. And even then, sometimes, you'll wonder how you did it. Don't question - just do.
"Stop waiting until you make enough money to do something you really love." As artists, we con ourselves into believing that we can't afford to "do art" full-time until we've made enough money some other way. We act as if we have to earn the right to devote a good deal of time to creativity. This is not the case. We simply have to begin - money or no money. We'll wait forever, otherwise.
"Creativity is the only cure for criticism." Feed criticism with more time for your art; not with the intention of "fixing" what was criticized, but with the goal of healing.
"Expect the universe to support your dream. It will." That's what the universe does: supports our dreams. When we expect less, that's what we get. When we open ourselves up to prosperity (not by our means - but by those we cannot see), we are more creative... because we are freed from thoughts of financial or worldly success.
"Do not fear mistakes. There are none." (Miles Davis) When we carry around fear, it blocks our creativity. Additionally, it's often the "mistake" that turns out to be the most wonderful part of our finished work.
"Do not call procrastination laziness. Call it fear." That's what it is. Fear of failure, fear of success. We procrastinate when we want perfection. We'll be able to say, if our work isn't "perfect", that it would've been, given more time. Wrong. "Perfect" never happens - so stop fearing work that isn't perfect.
Enthusiasm: from the Greek 'filled with God.' When we enthusiastically take on a task, we are not alone in undertaking it.
Unblocking the Artist...
Nurturing Friends vs. Enabling Friends. There are friends who nurture us and there are friends who keep us needy. Know the difference. Understand your choices. You won't always choose to stay away from non-nurturing friends. That's okay. Just recognize the choices, and know how they impact upon your creativity.
What's the pay off in being stuck? What's your favorite creative block? There are benefits to being creatively stuck. We all have blocks to our creativity. When we recognize that we are safe when we're not successful artists, that we are happy with actually having some measure of control over where we are - something that we may lose if we let others determine our worth through actually buying our work - we begin to understand the risk involved in tapping into pure creativity. Yes, it's scary. Allow it to be. Move on into it anyway. Back away when necessary. Recognize that you need the block's warmth and safety sometimes, but know when to risk again.
Boundary-setting. Oh, this one is tough. But, boy, is it important! When you neglect setting boundaries within which your artist can comfortably work, you negate her importance. You tell her that taking care of others, dealing with business, and working hard is more important than creating. You neglect MAKING time (and yes, you have to MAKE time; FINDING it is impossible) for the artist and she neglects her process. Set boundaries so that she can breathe. You're not taking yourself seriously if you don't make time for yourself to create. Just making decisions about what really matters to you is freeing. It means you care enough about yourself to take an interest in what's best for you. What a concept!
Image collection. Cut apart magazine images that you find comfort in. If you want a new typewriter, find an image of it. Cut it out and add it to your collection. The images can be of things you want your art to bring you (fame, fortune, material goods), things you need to nurture your artist, or simply things that please you. Visualization is a powerful tool. Create a collage for motivation. Perhaps even construct the worlds you write about with images. You may see something in the images you select that you hadn't imagined on your own.
Create an Artist Totem for yourself. Mine is a totem of runes. The Viking Runes, for me, carry powerful messages and are visually easy to remember. My totem symbolizes Self (Higher Self and personal self), The Journey (of life), and Wholeness (a sense of connectedness with the process). Touchstones are nice in that you have a little something to hold that reminds you of your process, your Journey.
Create a Life Pie. Divide it equally into these segments: Spirituality, Exercise, Play, Work, Friends, Romance/Adventure. Place a dot in each slice that indicates the extent to which you are fulfilled: Outer Circle = Great, Inner Circle = Not So Great. Where are you balanced? Where are you lopsided? When you are out-of-balance in any area of your life, your writing suffers. Recreate this Life Pie every now and then to see the impact simply paying attention to yourself has on your sense of balance.
Rearrange your furniture. This can be a great way to remove creative blocks. Try it!
Applying Spirit to the Mechanics...
In an attempt to connect the process to the product, I often "exercise" my artist. I have selected specific exercises from What If? By Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter that, in addition to those in The Practice of Poetry by Robin Behn and Chase Twichell, provide a regular "workout" for me as a writer. Additionally, I have included personal "hybrid" exercises that have, in a sense, discovered ME.
I do not suggest that writers do these exercises INSTEAD of writing, but that, when the work just isn't flowing, these exercises can serve as a way of "kick-starting" the artist within.
"Mining Memory" - For a week, write down ten things that make you angry, but don't try to explain why. In that same week, do the same for ten things that please you. Be very specific. This serves as creating a way of viewing your immediate world as a "garden full of fictional seeds." I find that the act of NOT explaining what made me angry or happy requires restraint on my part that I usually do not exert. I like to give an awful lot away. This exercise helps me hold some things back and so proves to me that the images themselves are often enough.
"Journal Keeping for Writers" - Write one page a day, playing around with format.
* Concentrate on observation and description, not feeling.
* Do not use the verb TO BE. By avoiding its use, you'll choose more interesting verbs. You'll also be more accurate.
* Experiment with sentence length. Keep the journal for a week using sentences of ten words or less. Then, for a week, try writing each day's account in a single sentence, avoiding the use of "and".
* Switch your journal to third person. Then, try mixing the point of view. Start the day in third person and switch into first person to comment on the action.
* Use an accent.
* Write in baby talk.
* Make lists for journal entries - just a record of the nouns of that day.
This exercise is great fun. It makes me smile just to fantasize about keeping my journal in a DIFFERENT way. When I actually DO it, I find all sorts of interesting ways of saying things. This helps me "get out of my own head" about things.
"Five Different Versions: And Not One is a Lie" - How we tell a story is determined by who we are telling the story to. We add, subtract, exaggerate, play down, tolerate, condemn, and so on, based on our audience. Write an account of a specific situation.
A Sample: You have come out of the movie theatre around seven in the evening and you are mugged. Your money is demanded and you are knocked to the ground as the mugger runs away.
Tell your account of this event to five different people (your mother, your best friend, your significant other, your therapist, a police officer, your child, a priest, a doctor, a lawyer, a judge, a talk-show host, your astrologer, an old college buddy you haven't seen in years, etc.). Compare the stories and notice how you shape and shade the stories you tell based on who's listening, what you want them to hear, and the response you want. This exercise is good for strengthening dialog. The next time a character shares something with another, remember this exercise. Dialog is telling.
"The Enemy's Life"
Week One: Write a scene that brings to fictional life someone you hate. Make the reader hate her. It might be someone who annoys you, whose manner you can't stand, whose voice grates on you, someone who has offended you or done you some harm. Take on someone who is evil on the grand scale. It can be someone you know, someone you know about, or someone based in history.
Week Two: Write the same scene from the point of view of this person, and write it in the first person. "Story and only story is the peaceable kingdom where you and I and the next fellow can lie down on the same page with one another, not by wiping our differences out, but by creating our differences on the page. Only on the page of a story can I look out of your and my and the other fellow's eyes all at the same time."
Spending the week between assignments is important. The first week's assignment is really fun when you're trying to get out of your anger or frustration with someone who has pissed you off! The second weeks' assignment is difficult, because you begin to understand the nasty character... perhaps even better than you wanted to. What's great, though, is that you really do round out that character. In acting classes, I've learned that there are no true "bad guys". Even the most evil character we can imagine has, in his or her heart and mind, a positive justification for his or her actions and choices. This exercise is a good reminder of that aspect. The easy choice is the ruthless monster. The difficult one is the honest character.
Clustering: Gabrielle Lusser Rico's technique from Writing the Natural Way asks that we place one word in the center of a page, use stream of consciousness to come up with the surrounding words, and let that free-association provide a theme or story. The right side of the brain gets "kick-started" this way. Use a few of the elements to create a story. You'll really feel that you are in the element after spiraling words around a page.
Do an interview with your characters. I learned this from countless acting coaches. If you have a block that keeps you from understanding a character with all of the intimacy necessary for a complete story, interview him. Without any of the author's judgments or agenda in tow, ask the character about his history. Ask what brings him to the point at which he enters your story. Take notes as if you are on an ethnographic field study. Notice the richness of the language the character uses. Study the subtleties. Then wait. After about a week, go back and read the original story. How much better do you know the character? Now let the reader in on that growth. You do not need to reveal anything from the interview itself. Don't push; just add in the subtle understanding you've gained.
From The Tao of Pooh...
This poem means a lot to me when my work is criticized for not "measuring up" to certain standards that academics have created. Writing, FOR ME, is a form of personal therapy. I do not write to please others. But, lo and behold, occasionally I do please them. I get published, I win prizes, I gain recognition. So, to all the artists who feel obligated to adhere to rules that go against their inner voice, I quote Benjamin Hoff. "There is more to Knowing than just being correct."
What Works for Me...
After reading the "Nuts and Bolts" section in Richard Hugo's The Triggering Town, I've decided to word these tips as rules and state, as Hugo does, "I find the axiomatic tone preferable to a lot of qualifiers. If these work for you, good."
Be aware of what you say to yourself about being a writer for a week or so. On one half of a sheet of paper, write down the negative things. Counteract each of those messages on the other half of the page. You'll be amazed at the amount of negative self-talk you actually engage in, where your creativity is concerned.
Be silly. You owe it to yourself to play. How else can you truly understand characters who take the risks that academe prevents us from taking?
Creativity dies when you dangle a carrot in front of yourself. Do not feel as if you'll only be rewarded when you are creative enough. Recognize that creativity IS the reward.
Don't feel that anything isn't worth writing down. You may write something, put it away, forget all about it, and then come across it years later, only to find that it is exactly what is missing in a piece you're currently working on. You just weren't ready for the entire story when you began.
Drink hot tea. With honey. It soothes the soul.
Eat what you want, when you want it. When you are writing, if you deny yourself the little things you crave, you will resist the messages coming to you from your subconscious. That's where our cravings AND our artistic impulses lie. Don't stifle that voice. Ever.
Explore minutiae. Details, details, details. They mean so much.
Fictionalize reality. Your best friend shares a story with you that has you rolling with laughter. Write it down. Cut out the stuff that's boring. Add details that were left out or that didn't exist. Give the true story as much as it needs to "click". Take a small notebook with you everywhere you go. You'll never know when a story's waiting for you to find it.
Find inspiration in everything. When a classmate questioned my inclusion of Richard Bach's Illusions on my reading list for this project, I was surprised. I thought that every writer, every artist, found inspiration in just about everything! No, the book doesn't include any tips on writing - not any that are spelled out as such. But, the book does provide lines such as, "The river delights to lift us free, if only we dare let go. Our true work is this voyage, this adventure." For me, that line alone frees me from the everyday quests that dictate how life is lived for most people... and for me... most of the time. A reminder that the joy of living, writing, BEING is in the process - not the product - boosts my creativity (and, HEY! I end up with a product to boot).
Get "out there" what's in you. Share your writing with others. Get feedback. Take only SOME of it seriously. Some feedback is just plain destructive. Even when a group is assembled for the purpose of providing constructive criticism, personality conflicts, jealousy, and competition creep in from time to time. Create a personal "filter" for what is constructive and what is destructive, and give credibility to the feedback accordingly. Try not to take things personally, even when you want to scream, "Hey! That's my baby you're talking about!" Scream that out at home later.
Habits are "economical" to our energy, to our conscious and mental processes. That's why we often choose habits rather than getting creative. Economize in wording, not in choice making. It's when we have to work, not choose the obvious solution, that we are creating something.
Have a favorite pen. Don't be afraid to use it. NEVER loan it out.
Keep a pen and paper next to your bed. Write down dreams that wake you up, ideas that pop into your head during the night. Even though you assure yourself you'll remember them in the morning, write the thoughts down right then. That's the only way to maintain the lush details of dreams and images.
Keep away from Poisonous Playmates. Julia Cameron devotes a good deal of The Artist's Way to the ways in which we sabotage our inner artist. One big way is to surround ourselves with people who deplete our energy, friends who look fun to be around but then fill our heads with doubts about our potential. The more positive, life-affirming energy around us, the stronger our artist becomes.
Let the reader taste all of the ingredients in your piece without revealing the recipe you used.
Let your cat lie on top of your work-in-progress. He knows when you need a break from seeing your piece.
Listen to classical music. Its rhythms are inspiring (as is the fact that most of it was composed by men who were much younger than I am now).
Listen to NPR. For me, National Public Radio reminds me that, simply put, the world is a very big place. "Americans" forget that anyone else exists (just look at the term "Americans", hijacked by residents of the United States to refer to them and them alone). NPR also reminds me that there are other ways of speaking. The British accents and sentence structure in the BBC reports get me imagining new possibilities for my characters now and then.
Look at artwork. See writing as creating a work of art and realize what a huge contribution you're making to the world's art collection. Then, deflate your ego and get back to work. It's important enough to put down on paper, but you're NEVER finished.
Maintain enough sanity to function in the real world while being true to the artist. Creation requires just a bit of insanity. The imagination necessary to create entire worlds for people who do not exist (and ones the reader believe COULD exist) is staggering. See everything as a possible story and only come down from that state of mind when absolutely necessary.
Meditate. If it's tough for you to meditate, just see meditation as the sun going down. The stars are always out, but we can't see them until the sun goes down. Don't apply pressure to see the stars. They're there. Just wait to see them. Then use the relaxed state you've found as a source for more creativity.
Never compare your work to anyone else's. You are where you are. They are where they are.
Pet the cat. Remember that your characters need sensory details, just like you do.
Play with toys. If you didn't save any from your childhood, go out and buy a few. Spending several minutes with my Bubbaloons gives me hours of renewed creativity.
Read everything aloud. For me, this exercise sometimes gets me in the bind of writing only for the stage or screen. Still, I even read academic pieces aloud. It's the only way that I can be certain that I am saying what I have intended to say. From there, I can work on the voice.
Read journals from years ago. "Keep a journal" is not on my list because I really don't know any artistic person who doesn't already keep one. I have found, in perusing old journals, material for plot, characters, and deeper understanding of a situation that one of my characters is experiencing. It's a rich resource.
Read others' works. And not always the same "other".
See everything as foreign. If you have not experienced foreign travel, think of a place that you have visited in which everything was different from what you have experienced on a daily basis. Begin to see things in your daily life in the same way that you took in those strange things on your journey. It's more than perception, it's a feeling. Use that feeling to create a sense of wonder for things that your characters experience for the first time.
Shut up the censor. Julia Cameron suggests "Morning Pages" as the best way to do this. When we roll out of bed and force ourselves to create three, hand-written, stream-of-consciousness pages of whatever, we keep the censor (left-brain) from coming alive. It figures, "Well, she's up to her foolishness again. I can roll over and go back to sleep." When you go back to these pages, you'll be amazed by how creative you can be when your censor is asleep. Speed kills the censor. Don't let your pen leave the page once you begin.
Sing. Along with the radio, your favorite album, in the shower, in the car, while walking along, whatever. You may just write something... or understand one of your characters better. Know that being creative carries a good deal of overlap with it. Rarely are we artists in one sense of the word only.
Sketch. Again, don't let the censor have anything to do with what you create. Just enjoy the feeling of the charcoal, pastel, pencil dragging across the paper.
Stop writing for a minute. Breathe. Look around. Begin again.
Submit pieces to literary journals and make wallpaper out of your rejection letters. Remember that it only takes one hit out of every four at-bats to make it into the Hall of Fame.
Tag "in the past" to any statements of criticism that you feel compelled to dish out to yourself. Remember that you are LEARNING, always, and that "I can't write poetry," is not a constructive statement in any way.
Take "Artist Dates". This is another of Julia Cameron's suggestions. Once a week, do something really childish and creative. Finger paint. Go to a children's museum (Sci-Trek in Atlanta is great). Fly a kite that you made from scratch. Bake something (even if, like me, you're not quite sure how to work that room where the oven is). Send homemade postcards to old friends just to say hello. Jump rope. This self-nourishing exercise reminds us that our artist is delicate and needs plenty of these nurturing dates to feel safe in exposing herself to us.
Take naps. They recharge the soul.
Tape-record yourself while you drive. I didn't realize until I had to make the drive (in legendary LA traffic) from Hollywood to Universal City for my UCLA creative writing night class that there's a good deal of wasted time spent on the road. Usually, I drive aggressively, commenting on the etiquette of other drivers or attempting to be "first" in the suddenly fast-moving lane. When I began taking a hand-held micro-cassette recorder on my longer trips, I found myself using the time to create characters, scenarios, or to have a "therapy session" on my own. Great way to flesh out some ideas!
Think you're crazy; it frees up what you'll allow yourself to put down on paper. Nothing's too absurd to commit to paper when you're just plain nuts.
Treat yourself like a precious object. The more you cherish yourself, the better you treat yourself, the better your work.
Try to embrace the pendulum's swing. Enjoy both extremes, but work on capturing the motion of the object. Process. Understanding the process is the essential element to getting the best out of your extremes.
Turn off the phone. Who can write when they're busy tending to the rest of the world?
Turn people's quirks into characters. Everything is material.
Write every day.
Write fast, edit slowly.
Write stuff that's really funny. Then write stuff that's tragic.
Write stuff you'll never share with anyone. Ever.
Lastly, for Now...
Writing is a natural thing. Writing well takes practice. Writing from the soul requires balance, attention, and patience.
When you are moved to create an entire would from an image that flashes before you, you have tapped into a place in yourself that is very powerful, yet delicate. Be thankful to learn the path to that place, and visit often. Your work is a gift. Share, share, share.
September 21, 1998
untitled (February 1996)
Shannon Jordan (male)
7th grade SSMS
Mom: Cathy (394-4409
Application of Material
English (Paper Topic:
Jesse Jackson), Social Studies, Science, Math, Reading
Writes L to R mirror
with red pen, color-coded index cards
3/1/93 Shannon's teacher
had him contact me. Tutor 2x/wk (summer too)
3/7/93 Rec'd letter from Mrs. Webb. Plays in class, brings no homework. Low self-esteem, few friends.
4/14/93 Low involvement. Transferring out of Mrs. Webb's class.
5/7/93 Rec'd good report from Mrs. Emerson. Great attitude in class. Getting organized.
7/1/93 Good work. Excited about 8th grade!
Brian Freedman 7th
Mom: Beth (396-1091)
leaving IRR after 7th grade
Language Arts esp.
grammar (plurals, subj./verb agreement, contractions)
reading very good
3/31/93 Met his mom (high
commitment), contract for tutoring 2x/wk.
4/9/93 Set goals.
5/1/93 When focused,
does good work.
5/21/93 No show! (Baseball
6/12/93 Amazing work.
[Letter from Kids]
Good Luck, Karen!
We know you will do great
We will miss you, but hope you have fun there anyways. Thanks for everything.
[Letters from Karen]
13 September 1993
I'm writing to you from
Los Angeles. It's crazy out here! I'm not tutoring yet I've been
too busy going on auditions! But I wanted to send a copy of my headshot
to you. I hope you like it.
I'm eager to hear how the 8th grade is going for you. I think we did so much good work in getting you prepared for pre-algebra and the term paper class. Please write soon and let me know what's going on. You are a very special young man and I expect great things from you!
Tell your mother hello for me.
All the best,
PS I have your letter
up on my wall. It keeps me going!
PS2- I'd love a school photo. Could you send one?
13 September 1993
I'm writing to you from Los Angeles. It's crazy out here! I'm not tutoring yet I've been too busy going on auditions... nothing too exciting yet! But I did want to send a copy of my headshot to you. I hope you like it.
I'm eager to hear how the 8th grade is going for you. I think we did so much good work in getting you prepared for leaving Resource Reading and entering at the 8th grade level. How are you doing in that class?
Please write soon and let me know what's going on. How's your game this season?
All the best,
PS I have your letter
up on my wall. It keeps me going!
PS2 I'd love a school photo. Could you send one?
[Letters from Kids]
I don't look like this anymore, but this is my school piture for you anyways. Are you comeing home for Christmas? I don't have a tutor anymore.
Shannon Jordan #7
What's up in L.A.? Have
you met any movie stars yet? Did you see
the any famous
people on your audition? I don't have a picture but our team picture is
next week. Shannon's mom moved him out of 8A2 last week but, our lockers
are still near to each others. Are you tutoring? You helped me alot.
"C Ya" Soon,
[Letters from Karen]
Shannon, Ms. Jordan,
I hope this note finds you well. Just wanted to wish you both a Merry Christmas and all wonderful things in the new year!
To catch you up: I didn't end up getting into the school system at all out here. Mainly, it was because of certification requirements and a bunch of other things going on in my life but it also had something to do with the metal detectors at the front doors of the schools. Yuck! What a crazy world!
Instead, I've been on stage, on TV, and running from place to place both for my career and as a mentor in a youth theatre program. I'm paired up with a kid who used to be in a gang. He's VERY talented. It means a lot to me to see a play he's written make its way onto the stage.
Remember, Shannon, it means a lot to me that you do well too. I haven't forgotten all of the work that we did. You and Brian both showed such improvement last year! Be proud! School's tough and you guys stuck with it. Keep it up!
Well, I hope you'll catch me up on what it's like being a big 8th grader! Brian tells me you two aren't in the same homeroom this year. Do you still hang out?
Let me hear from you, Shannon.
Merry Christmas Brian,
I hope you have a great holiday!
To catch you up: I didn't end up getting into the school system at all out here. Mainly, it was because of certification requirements but it also had something to do with the metal detectors at the front doors of the schools. Yuck! What a crazy world! Instead, I've been acting and working with a youth theatre program. It's fun.
Well, I hope you'll send a photo soon. Good luck with your team this season!
[Letter to Karen]
I won't be playing baseball this year. My momma says I need to spend more time in school. I'm doing okay, I might go to my Dad's this summer. If I do, I can swim at his pool and stuff like that with my half-sisters. I can't wait for the summer to get here. I have Mrs. Webb again and she doesn't like me, but you knew all about that. I'll still try to play baseball when I pass reading.
Shannon Jordan #7
[Letters from Karen]
28 April 1994
Unlike you, I can't afford the phone bill, so I'm going to jot this out and then YOU call me (heh heh)!
Couple of things right off: how the Hell did you work this city? I'm assuming that I'm just not "in" with the whole networking, schmoozing, ass-kissing, plastic-breasts, no-talent thing. I'm doing the right stuff, or so it seems, but I can't seem to connect with anything. My agent keeps sending me out on this crap that has me bounding around on a beach and I want to do something of substance. Is it time to change agencies? Try NY? Shift to singing? Do a commercial or two?
Next thing... like I told you on the phone, I'm completely baffled by this tutoring kid's situation. He just needs a little encouragement but his mom is SO hard on him. I know she's doing the Single Mom Thing and that's not easy, but she's making him drop the one thing that gives him any personality (and hope, maybe?) and now he's thinking of going to his dad's. Do I call his mom, write to her, contact her in some way in an attempt to let her know that she doing some damage here? Is that my responsibility? I'm really concerned for his development. You know what a crucial age 13 is! I haven't been in touch with him since I did my usual "Xmas Letter." Is this a good way to reestablish contact??
Okay, so solve my life on those two and then I'll do you. Are you still seeing Jason? You certainly are mentioning him less if you are.... Whatever happened with the NBC deal? Fill me in, sweetie. And come out to LA so that I don't have to be the only one here panicking with every aftershock. WHY would anyone settle a town on a fault line??
2 July 1994
I have news! I'm coming home!! Yeah, that's right; LA isn't all it's cracked up to be. Don't get me wrong, I've loved being out here most of the time but sometimes it's been rough.
Did you hear about the earthquake back in January? Well, it was pretty awful. I have cracks all over my walls and most of my stuff is broken. Still, I know that I'm lucky just for having lived through it, right?
I didn't want to move right away because I really did want to give this place a year. But I've gone on fewer auditions and even stopped mentoring ViDonm. I just don't like being so far away from home.
So, I'll be back before the school year begins (ooh, 9th grade for you... high school! Wow!). I don't know if you need me anymore, but I suppose I'll be tutoring again, just the same. Let's try to talk even if it's just about baseball and stuff.
I'm looking forward to seeing you. Take care & tell your mother hello.
12 July 1994
Well, I made it a year! Yep, I'm going through with it. I've already booked the movers. I'd like to believe what you said about there being more than the choice of LA or Home. Yes, I could come to NY and shack with you... God, that's tempting. But I don't know if I can handle rejection on both coasts. I'm thinking Home is safe and then, once I'm over this whole "LA Thing," I can venture out again. Will you still have me?
Call me when you get his letter (I maxed out the Visa to get a plane ticket... I want a fast arrival home). You know the story!
Love beyond all,
[Letters to Karen]
July 20, 1994
Pack your winter coat, baby! Have I got a birthday present for you! They're giving me 13 episodes and I can have any costar I want! Yes, read that again it's TRUE! Why did you deactivate your beeper so soon?? How am I supposed to reach you with the good news? Just the same, get here. We go up in two weeks! Call me (212) 834-9207 call collect. Hell, just show up! It's on, baby!!
This slipped through the postal service and sat in your empty mailbox for awhile. Found it when we rented the place out to a new tenant (a drag queen!). From the looks of the show, you're doing well. But, we miss you out here!
How are you! I am doing fine. I'm a nineth grader now. I am sorry I didn't write back until now, I hope you're not mad. I have some very sad news. Brian Freedman has passed away. He went on a school ski trip in 8th grade and hit a tree. He was in a coma for a while then started to recover. He came back to school to finish the 8th grade year. In 9th grade he became ill again with a genetic decease. In Late November early December he died. He was a great friend and all who knew him really misses him.
[Letters from Karen]
20 May 1995
I've started this letter so many times, but I can't seem to get it finished. Maybe I keep writing things that need to be written but that you don't necessarily need to read. Who knows? I'm babbling already.
First off, I've moved again. My old landlord sent your letter to me in January. Your letter, Shannon, shocked me. I guess that's to be expected but I can't seem to put the feeling away. I've read and reread your letter, composed several letters to you, to Brian's family, written in my journal, all in an attempt to finish the feeling. Does that make sense?
I'm so sad about Brian. I really am. I think what has me even more emotional, though, is that you wrote to me. I know you are busy with school and you took the time to write to me and tell me about Brian. Shannon, you are VERY strong to have done that. I know it couldn't have been easy for you to start that letter. Does it hurt to talk about it? Or does it help? I can just see you deciding that you have to write me about this. You are a remarkable young man. It means so much to me that you wrote me. I just can't explain. It's weird. I've lost touch with all of my students somehow but you wanted to be sure that I knew. I hadn't heard from Brian since I moved to LA. I know losing Brian has been tough for you and probably for everyone in your school.
I guess I just want to say thank you for writing.
Merry Christmas, Shannon!
I guess you're in the 10th grade now! Is that possible? Are you driving yet?! I hope you have a wonderful holiday and that you and your mother are doing well.
I'm on my own again. The show didn't get picked up for next season. So, it's back to independence (probably for the best). Maybe I'll see if I can do some tutoring.
[Letter returned to sender]
JORDAN: MOVED/LEFT NO FORWARDING ADDRESS.
September 20, 1998
untitled journal entry (2 August 1998)
My father reached deep into the vines, plucking a blackberry from its home. He eyed it in the palm of his hand and then popped it into his mouth, going, "Mmmm," as he let the flavor explode.
He looked at me and asked, "You want one?" I nodded, yes, as though I were being given a special honor. And then, I felt anger. And I felt sorry for my father.
You see, my stepfather took me to his garden a few months ago. He was filled with pride as he pointed out each row of produce growing there. When he spied wild strawberries, ripe at the edge of the garden, he gasped, pointed, and whispered, "Bonnie, look at that!" I bent down and oohed and ahhed, looked up at my stepfather and caught the smile I was hoping for - the one that said, "Pick them!"
I plucked the three, tiny beautiful berries and ran up the hill to show my mother - ran in to wash one for each of us, then, encouraged by Art to eat them all, I did just that. And giggled at the feeling that came over me. "I am special!" I thought. And I grinned and grinned over how sweet my stepfather's wild strawberries were.
My father is stingy with his love like he is with berries. A simple gesture of generosity from him could've changed our relationship forever. But he did the only thing he knows how to do: took care of himself first and turned to me as an afterthought.
My brother Bill was on the path with me as I fell to my knees; breaking skin, swelling, shaking it off. Once he saw that I could walk on back, he moved ahead. He never was around the next corner - (see, I would look, expecting him to notice that he'd gotten ahead of me and wait).
When Uncle Dick saw my bloody knees, he, without a word, went to the car for a first aid kit and began to doctor me up. Bill stood nearby, watching cautiously, as Dick said, "If she were MY sister, this wouldn't have happened to her." I wanted to scream, "Yes! You big bully; you're mean to me and everybody knows it!"
Of course, Uncle Dick was only joking, but it was fun to hear.
I swabbed alcohol onto my deepest cut and begged, "Oh, Bill, come here and blow on it!" From his safe distance, all he could say was, "If that breeze isn't enough, there's nothing my blowing on it could do."
I knew then, "Bill, you have no idea what it could do."
I write this and notice parallels - notice how, for once, I am attracting men who will balance the cowards who hurt me so deeply.
First, there's Art to counter my father.
Then Uncle Dick to Bill.
And, if I think about it, Scott said to me, "No one defines you but you," which really was the flip side to Keith's demands that I defend the life choices that brought me to this moment.
I can only hope that this is the sign of a healing in progress, as I've never let a man help me heal from a man's damage.
The emotion is stuck in my throat. My anger / sadness / pity / pain / rage constricts my throat in such a way that only emotion can. And I pray, pray, pray that I will soon no longer have this sensation. That the wonderful, protective cells of my body will release the emotion they've taken on for 20 years, and allow me to feel it ALL - until it's ALL gone.
I do not want a body that is a scorecard for all that has happened to me in my life. I relinquish it of that duty. There is plenty of room in my brain for memories of all life's journeys. The rest of my body can now begin to let it go. I permit it. In fact, I command it.
Father, please bless the cells of my body as they release the memories to my brain and become the cells that they are meant to be. The scorecard is blank, now. Let it all go.
September 19, 1998
"Drinking It In" (January 1996)
There's these two women sitting across the restaurant. From the bar, I figure that they're maybe 25. But today they're kids; eight-year-olds who just saved up enough allowance to come to a fancy place for something really special.
The longhaired one, I can't take my eyes off her. She throws back those curls with every laugh and wrinkles her nose each time the contents of her glass creep up her straw, surprising her mouth.
The other one, she has a giggle that begins in her eyes just seconds before it escapes her lips. Her long legs, one crossed over the other, bounce and swing along to music that no one else can hear.
Everyone in here is watching them, I'm certain. But these girls are oblivious to everything except their specialty milkshakes. As they lean toward each other to share their secrets, I feel myself move closer - but I don't get any younger.
Maybe I could join them - if I just had the right ratio of vanilla ice cream to milk, some whipped cream, and a straw. But I end up with my usual, a red label on the rocks, tip up the glass, and taste nothing.
September 18, 1998
untitled (18 October 1993)
But I'm not ready to write it down.
September 17, 1998
"58 Days" (9 April 1991)
September 16, 1998
"Silent" (12 July 1998)
The first time I remember being aware of a tingle between my legs, I was seven. My chiropractor, who had cracked my back for three years, ran the vibrating wand up and down my spine, then across my buttocks, then up and down each leg. When the vibrations came back up each leg and toward my behind, I felt something I'd never known before. I sat up and looked at Dr. Odom as though I expected him to explain what had just happened. He never did. And for five more years, I'd feel this way on every visit to his office. But say nothing.
When I was eight, I sat in an assembly with Linda Tran. She asked if I wanted to feel something cool and reached over and pushed down on my pubic bone. "Don't you feel like you have to pee now?" she asked. I never answered.
It was the next summer that I was surrounded by several Cambodian refugees at the shallow end of the Hapeville Pool. They touched me, grabbed me, wouldn't let me get away from them - and chattered in a strange, fast language while they laughed at me, panicking, silent.
In the seventh grade, while the "cool kids" got to leave class to decorate the set for our play about Frankenstein, there was an all-out grab-fest, a preteen orgy, inflicted on the three of us girls by the three boys on the stage. Behind closed curtains, so the cafeteria staff wouldn't see, the boys grabbed our butts, our breasts, our most private parts. It was a game, to them. We returned quietly to class as if nothing had happened.
One year later, and I attend a concert with my cousin and her friends from college. I am 13, with braces, but I'm in her 2nd favorite dress and her friends think I, too, am 20. We leave our seats at the end of the concert and jam into the corridors to head for the parking lot. We are packed like small fish in this space when two men who look to me like Dominique Wilkins press their hands into our crotches and finger both my cousin and me through our clothes. Pushing away seems futile when there are tens of thousands of fans packed into this lobby. Joni and I relate to one another that this happened to both of us but never discuss it again.
Now, I am 16. I am on a date with David Michael Paul. We're in my car, pulled off in an empty cul-de-sac off of Riverside Drive. We've moved to the hatchback, where there's "make out" room. But before long, the kissing ends and I am naked from the waist down, folded in half, with my backside exposed to the world, I feel, as he shoves his hand down into my vagina. Over and over, he forces into me with one hand, while holding my legs down at my shoulders with the other. I am screaming for him to stop and he yells back, "I'm doing this for you!" I stop screaming.
Today, I am 28. I have woken up this morning with vivid memories of these assaults in my mind. I wonder what impact such early violations have had on me. Surely no more effect than having never spoken of them.
September 15, 1998
"Dolores' Pencils" (June 1994)
When I first met Dolores, I had no idea why she collected something stupid like pencils, but she was my friend, and I guess that's enough. Every Friday, she'd wait in front of the school store at Josephine Wells Elementary School, a school we both hated, and carefully pull a nickel out of her overall's front pocket. She kept it there especially for her Friday purchase. Sometimes, most of the time, she'd beat Mrs. Jenkins to the store and would stand in her Keds just waiting for the first sound of Mrs. Jenkins' high heels on the linoleum near the teacher's entrance.
Mrs. Jenkins loved Dolores because she was "our most consistent customer" through all of those years and all of those grades. Dolores loved Mrs. Jenkins because she was the provider of those pencils. Those multi-colored pencils embossed in gold with JOSEPHINE WELLS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, silly as they were, somehow meant an awful lot to Dolores.
I figure they meant a lot because she'd never sharpen them. Not one. She'd put them all in the top drawer of her hand-me-down desk over at her house on Blue Street. Sometimes she'd open that drawer and just sigh.
Every week, she'd take out those pencils - in a very ceremonious way, now that I think about it - and line them up across her desk. Each week, she'd put them in a different order. Sometimes, they'd go by color, sometimes by most recent addition, sometimes alphabetically by color names.
Dolores said that the first one she ever bought was the silver one with gold lettering. She decided to keep it new because it was the first. Well, then the second one was yellow, and that went with her hair, so she couldn't sharpen that one. The next one was gold with gold lettering and it was hard to read. A challenge! She couldn't sharpen that one either. And then there was the shipment of ones misprinted with JOSEPHINE WELLS SCHOOL without the ELEMENTARY - and when Mrs. Jenkins called them "Rare," well, forget that. You get the picture.
I didn't tell Dolores that I thought what she did was kind of creepy until about the 9th grade. By then, she'd stopped buying pencils, even though she did buy one at the school store in high school the first day of 8th grade. But on that day, she found out that all of the high school's pencils were the same colors EVERY week, and kind of lost interest in the hobby of collecting. Now she was just admiring her collection.
When I told my mother about her hobby, she wanted me to stay away from Dolores, because my mother once had a Crazy Uncle George who collected things for no reason, and HER family had always warned HER to stay away. But I didn't. I thought there had to be a reason for the collection and that if I hung around long enough, I'd figure it all out. In the meantime, friendship was enough.
September 14, 1998
untitled (12 July 1998)
She began looking around the place with less selective eyes. "I know he's here somewhere," she convinced herself, since she couldn't, wouldn't go home to an empty bed. Not tonight.
She put another $5 bill on the bar, going against her better judgment. Maybe the trip from pool table to bar to pool table would yield a visual connection of promise something to make her ready to leave. But not alone.
Another cigarette from a stranger's pack. She'd stopped smoking years ago. Bumming is not smoking, to her. Maybe he'll cup his hands around his lighter and lean toward her lips. That'll be a sign that he's the one. Tonight anyway.
If he looks into her eyes as he lights the cigarette, it means he wants her. C'mon look up, look up, look AT ME, damn it!
Inhale, hold, exhale. Flirt. Smile. Be funny.
Desperation must have a scent. It won't let HIM be drawn in. And would she want him if he were drawn to that desperation anyway?
Inhale, hold, exhale.
Finish the drink. Finish the smoke. Walk out alone. Wake up alone. And thank God for little favors.
September 13, 1998
"Belonging" (March 1996)
Cleo's fingers tightened around the handle of her mother's old cast-iron skillet as she tried to remember Edd's words before he left for work that day.
"Mrs. Simonds?" the investigator continued, still using the tone he'd learned from watching his partner go to work in countless interrogations. "We need your statement. Now."
"Of course," she replied as she turned away from the pot-bellied stove. "Did you want some tea?"
Jenkins shook his head and gestured toward the kitchen table. Cleo nodded, wiped her hands on her apron, and joined the investigator in sitting down. The man who came into Cleo's house with Jenkins stayed by the back door. Cleo couldn't tell if he was keeping folks from coming in or keeping her from leaving. All she wanted to do was know his name. Strangers shouldn't be in the kitchen.
Jenkins cleared his throat and suggested that Cleo think about the question again. "What did your husband have to do with the explosion?"
"Edd didn't have anything to do with those power lines," she insisted. "Edd's a hardworking, honest man. He works all day and night so we can keep the young'uns fed."
"Now, ma'am, I'm not disputing that. But we know Edd's in with the union effort. And they ain't up to no good."
"I wouldn't know about that." Cleo glanced at the clock to see how long she had before her youngest came home from school. The kitchen swelled with heat from an early summer and the pone of cornbread going on the stove. She felt a fly whiz past and remembered how Edd had promised to mend the screen.
Jenkins stood up slowly and placed his hands on the little table in front of Cleo. "Mrs. Simonds, I might as well just tell you, Edd's already told us what he did. So, you can go ahead and fill in the rest. We know your husband blew them lines up with those other union supporters." He squinted as he leaned in toward Cleo. "So again, Mrs. Simonds, what do you know about your husband's involvement with the explosion?"
She breathed in slowly. The cornbread must be browning by now. Her ring finger traced the edge of the apron on her lap. "Sir, if Edd told you anything like that..."
"About his PLAN to protest the union block?"
"About ANYTHING like thatÖ then he's a God damned liar." Cleo looked Jenkins over, noticed his partner shifting his weight onto his right leg, then pushed away from the table. "You'll excuse me now, I have supper to cook."
Jenkins straightened his tie and shot a look at his partner. Cleo removed the skillet from the eye with a feed-sack dishrag and spoke without turning to face the men, "I s'pose you can see yourselves out?"
It was two weeks before Edd came home. All three of the kids knew better than to mention his absence or to question the bruises they saw upon his return. Cleo worked quickly to swab iodine on the cut above his right eyebrow. She had Edd's supper ready on the night he came home, just like every night, and he ate slowly, quietly, without uttering his usual, "Good gravy, Cleeter."
When Cleo climbed into bed after tidying the kitchen, she thought Edd was sleeping, so comfortable in his own bed. Moments passed as she began to drift to sleep, then Edd whispered, "It was me." She never replied. And the topic would never come up again.
I was a nineteen-year-old in a Southern History class when I read about The Ducktown 8 and a series of bombings that took place in the 1930s. Union strikes were being suppressed by mine owners and the government, according to my textbook, and bombing power lines was the not-yet-unified AFL and CIO's way of fighting that suppression. I asked my grandmother if PoPo would've known anything about the protest activity, since he was a union worker in the copper mines of North Georgia. Cleo told me stories that sounded far too exaggerated to be anything more than personal fiction: stories of PoPo beaten black and blue, of men in suits coming to scare her, and of having to move every time local police learned that they were the Simonds, not the Simmons.
I was twenty-two years old when my mother asked for my help in sorting through Cleo's belongings. "Belongings" is this ambiguous term we use to describe the boxes of things that accumulate over a lifetime of moving, packing, moving, unpacking, packing, moving, and leaving some things packed with every move.
My grandmother's belongings included letters written by her brothers during WWII - whole sections blacked out by the censors; newspaper clippings from every time any member of our family was "newsworthy," even in the eyes of her tiny local paper; war memorabilia - the stars that hung in the window of her house while her brothers were doing battle - thankfully, none of the silver stars were ever replaced with gold - the sign that your family member in battle had died; faded photographs of people even my mother didn't quite recognize; "dud" shells from Cleo's days of funneling tetryl powder; pressed flowers; a bible; a high school yearbook; buffalo-head coins; and ration stamps for gas, sugar, and flour.
Cleo's stories filled my head as my mother and I placed certain belongings into trash bags, others into boxes marked with the names of each of Cleo's children. Another box, labeled with a big question mark, received anything that we couldn't figure out, such as some of the photos or the papers Cleo kept under her tablecloth for "security." My mother's siblings would attempt to give each of these items an identity.
Once, Cleo told me about her hair turning beautiful golden color when she worked on the assembly line at an arsenal. About bucking rivets in the wings of the B-29 Superfortress. Her stories were always so far-fetched, it seemed. Finally, I know better. Her stories now belong to me.
My mother didn't question why I asked if I could keep the photograph of my grandmother, flanked by her two teenaged daughters (one of them - my mother), squinting and smiling into the sun. I think my grandfather photographed them. I never met my grandfather. John Edd Simonds, PoPo, was dead before the 1960s ended. My grandmother, Cleo, I lived with. My grandmother taught me how to tell a fortune with regular playing cards, how to fill in bingo squares with a sponge-tipped "dauber", to root for the Braves, and that the Simonds are honest people.
September 12, 1998
untitled journal entry (28 November 1994)
It just all seems like such a dream to me: that I ever lived in Los Angeles, that I studied at UCLA, that I worked with the Kovacs, that I ate lunch on Melrose, that I worked on Days of Our Lives, that I had the opportunity to move to New York and removed my energy from that option, that I drank wine at the Hollywood Bowl, that I stood atop my apartment building and watched car accidents getting cleaned up, that I snuck my laundry up to the 7th floor machines, that I had friends and plans and things and places familiar to me. It just feels like it never happened. Yet I'm a different person for having lived those moments. The HOLA kids, the CBS job, happy hour at Acapulco, the Santa Monica Pier... all of these things impact my life still today. In just three months, I've pulled so far away from my LA life. I've also pulled away from what I thought living in Atlanta would be. I'm not writing. I'm not making enough money even to survive. I'm not creating. The only dreams I have are of things that may not even begin for months; if they begin at all. Rather than enjoying this precious time with my mother, I find myself longing for the next time that I can live alone. I'm excited about getting to make new friends, yet I've made none here. It's like I'm praying every day that I just make it, please Lord, just one step closer to The Next Place without killing anyone on the way. Substitute teaching is a drag. Working out is a physical distraction. Sleep is hibernation. Yet there are still seven hours a day left to kill somehow. I'm reading a lot. Watching TV. Daydreaming. Wishing. Fantasizing. Biding my time like a prisoner.
September 11, 1998
untitled (7 June 1998)
There is nothing
like this feeling.
It's the beginning
of the beginning
it is blissful.
left on my skin,
my lips still tingle,
and the rush
is so thrilling
September 10, 1998
untitled (19 January 1995)
This is where I am.
you are welcome to join me
yet I will not compel you
I will not entreat you
I will not beg you.
I will simply invite you
and that I will do just once
and then I will assume
Because this is where I am
and I cannot pretend
to be elsewhere
I cannot attempt
to move in order to have you.
I've come too far to be here
to turn and follow
September 9, 1998
untitled (16 January 1990)
As she wrings her hands
she gives me details
that I don't need,
"The one your father used to wear"
But I don't say a word
because I love to hear
the sound of her voice.
Again - the story
of the time when...
and I realize
her voice is all I know
not the words
"You're getting fat,"
she catches me off guard
and I smile,
knowing she means
MARRIAGE AGREES WITH YOU, SON.
"Yeah, I know - mom."
and she smiles.
Makes me promise to visit
sooner next time
and I pray as I leave
next time will come.
September 8, 1998
"My Mirror" (1 July 1987)
September 7, 1998
"Air Born" (July 1994)
I made my way to my seat, the same seat I always get, on the MD80 and took a deep breath, ready to become the Rebecca I was before the weekend. Despite the fact that this trip would bump me into the next reward category in my frequent flyer exchange book, I never found the flight back to DC easy.
Thoughts of Simon floated throughout my mind, most of them ultra-pleasant and occasionally erotic. He really was good for me, I reasoned, and slipped off my shoes to get comfy.
I didn't really mind that Tyler thought I was on a business trip... let me rephrase that... that Tyler thought Impact SENT me on FREQUENT business trips to Boston. I tried to mind. I tried to be so in love with Tyler that I would hate the fact that I made passionate love while he thought I was scouting out new bands. I just couldn't hate it.
No, I couldn't hate it at all, I thought as I fastened the seatbelt loose enough so that it would count in the airline regulations as being physically on my body without my having to feel it there. I loved having Simon in my life. His style was just so very smooth. Although I typically hated smooth guys, Simon was not manipulative; just super cool and filled with attitude. Perfect. And smooth-chested too. Not a hair anywhere. Tyler, on the other hand, was fuzzy all over. The type of fuzzy that sheds. Hairs in the bed, hairs in the bathtub, hairs on the sofa, hairs in the sink, hairs in the kitchen.... So, I had to have Simon. Yin to Yang. Tit for Tat. Compassionate fuzz in DC and smooth sex in Boston. Perfect.
I wiggled my toes at the thought of getting a hairy hug from Tyler upon my return from the airport. Breathe deeply again, Rebecca. It's another two weeks until your business trip.
After flipping through the In-Flight magazine, I began contemplating a catnap when I recognized a scent lingering in the pressurized cabin air.
Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God.
"Rebecca! Hi! I didn't know you were visiting Boston this weekend." A swirl of perfume and an outstretched hand greeted me as my mind whirled.
I cringed as I wondered if I could use my seat cushion as an explosive device.
"Amanda. Hello," I said as sweetly as I possibly could with my jaw clenched. Amanda caught the flight attendant with her fake pink nails and arranged to sit in the once empty seat next to mine.
"Isn't this fun?" she mused and I swear I thought I was going to throw up. "When did you fly out of DC? We could've carpooled to National."
"Well," I began slowly, "I, um, left straight from the office Friday."
"Me too!" she gasped, clutching at her scarf with those long fingers. "I bet we were on the same plane and didn't even know it! What luck!"
"What dumb luck," I agreed. It's not so much that I dislike Amanda, it's that she's always there: at the office, in my apartment building, in my face. She knows me at work, she knows me with Tyler. She knows I went to Boston and I can't convince HER that it was for the company.
"So, what brought YOU to Boston?" Amanda asked that question way too early to suit me. I had to think of something. Think. Think. THINK. Boston. Schools. Fish. Cheers. Doctors. That's it!
"I had to see a specialist." Bingo. Way to go, Becca! Yeah. A specialist. Good answer. I felt proud of this quick thinking and knew I'd just nipped a potentially delicate situation in the bud.
"What's wrong with you?" she asked. Crap. What's wrong with me? Something has to be wrong with me. Oh man.
"Hmm..." I began, "Y'know what, Amanda? I'm REALLY not ready to talk about it." Sounded good. Maybe Amanda's imagination would run wild with ideas of what's wrong with me and she wouldn't notice that someone not so eager to share her ailment volunteered so quickly that she was seeing someone for it.
"Oh." She accepted what I'd said then began, "Well, I was at my cousin's wedding. It was lovely. He did very well for himself. She is quite a pretty girl. They met in college. Went on a cruise for their honeymoon. Caribbean Islands. They left today...."
A wedding. WHY didn't I think of that? A wedding. You would fly out of town for something like that. Damn. That was good. Amanda kept talking as I went from figuratively patting myself on the back to beating myself up over what I'd told her. She's not going to buy it. She's going to want to talk about it some more.
As our airplane took off, I changed the subject from Boston to her current project at work and that kept us busy for about twenty-five minutes. Okay, cool. She DOES buy it and she's NOT trying to talk about it. She actually respected the fact that I didn't want to talk about this. It worked. It worked! Very nice. I was in the clear. I hadn't even prepared for this moment, yet I handled it pretty well.
The next day, I realized that preparing for the moments to come involving my trip couldn't have possibly helped anyway.
"Amanda told me that you're really sick. What's wrong?" Jill was leaning on the frame of my office door, gesturing to ask permission to enter. She was my closest work-friend and it was sweet of her to ask, but there's nothing wrong with me! I was drifting off to plan Amanda's death when Jill shuffled into the room and asked, "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, sure. It's really nothing." I felt my stomach turn as I looked away from Jill's curious eyes and to the stack of demos on my desk.
"But you're seeing a specialist. In Boston. It MUST be serious if you had to make a trip out of DC to find someone who knows how to cure it, right?" Well, Jill was right. But she was right based on a lie that I thought existed only on a Delta jet.
I retreated to the only excuse I could use honestly, "I'd really rather not talk about it if you don't mind." I immediately felt wrong, completely wrong, for saying that to her. But what can you do? You throw words out on someone and sometimes they just fall to the floor. Other times the words drip off of them slowly and ooze down like green slime, staying on them for far too long.
"Sure," I heard her say as though she'd been wounded. "Well," she began, as she moved quickly toward the door, "I'm here if you need to talk." And she walked away.
I closed my eyes and tried to prepare for what would inevitably be the next moment during which I'd have to address this issue. I discovered here that lies grow and take on lives of their own. Great. I can't keep a houseplant alive, yet I've nurtured a fib into a full-grown scam. Maybe THIS is the end of it, I convinced myself. But I only believed the MAYBE part, so I closed my office door and dialed Simon's number.
"Well! Couldn't wait to hear my voice again, couldja?" Too smooth, but hearing his voice did remind me that I really had it bad for him.
"Simon, I need your help." How was I going to present this to him without sounding like the most ridiculous woman on the planet?
"Oh? Well, I hope it can wait until your next visit. 'Cause you know that's how I like to help you."
I was melting as I remembered our forty-four hours together and the Mandarin delivery place we kept in business all weekend. Mmmm.... Stay on target, Becca.
"No. I'm serious, Simon.... I need a disease." That absolutely did NOT come out right.
I told him all about sitting next to Amanda on the plane and my stupid big fat lie and Jill's concern and my upset stomach and all of that and then I took a breath. "So, can you help me?"
"You want me to help you with this mess?" His tone was flat, as thought I'd made THAT bed without him and he wouldn't be getting into it to join me.
"C'mon Simon. What kind of specialist could I be flying in to see in Boston?" Simon seemed to enjoy this side of me: needy.
"Y'know what, Rebecca? I think you need to get caught in this one." Smooth had become smug and I was not amused.
"What?" I couldn't be much more articulate than that. I did not expect this reaction from him and this whole situation was just insane enough to push me into the land of the monosyllabic.
"It's time for you to come clean about us. Forget this job. Forget this Tyler person. C'mon, babe, let's just ride off into the sunset and be together." Wow. He can be so frustratingly attractive when he's laid-back about impossible dilemmas. "You don't need to justify us, Rebecca. Just leave it all and be with me. You like being with me. You love it."
I could hear him smiling through the phone at this game he was playing. I thought of Tyler and his analytical nature and then I thought of a life without hair in the bed, hair in the sink, hair in the kitchen. I thought about smooth Simon and our great sex. But then I remembered that Chinese food gets expensive when you order it EVERY DAY and that I would never earn any money if I lived in Boston because I wouldn't bother getting a job because then I'd have to get out of Simon's bed and I'd never want to do that. I remembered how Tyler's hairy stomach tickled me when he snuggled up to me in the middle of the night, how much I enjoyed being with someone who thought about me so often that he came up with theories about my behavior, and having a great job with people I liked. I liked earning a living and having friends and flying out of National to meet my lover two times a month. LIVING with Simon would be horrible. I would just eat and do it and sleep and do it and eat again and do it some more. Mmmm....
"I have to go, Simon."
"Well, should I be at the airport tonight?" He's so damn presumptuous.
"Good-bye, Simon. I'll call you."
"Whatever, babe." And he hung up. Not angry, not cold, just as smooth and as cool as ever. Hmph. That's Simon.
The knock on my office door surprised me, as I suppose my door being closed surprised Doug, who knocked on it.
"I understand you've been seeing a specialist in Boston," he began. I was witnessing the definition of the term out-of-hand being created. "I didn't realize that anything was wrong with your health. Particularly since I've seen no insurance claims coming through." Shit! Insurance.
"Um, yeah, Doug. Actually, I was just going to file everything at the end, y'know?"
"At the end of what, Rebecca?"
"Of my, uh, treatment?" I felt a nervous laugh escape my lips and knew that I was doing that out-of-the-frying-pan thing and it was getting way too hot. "Actually, Doug, I've got to go. I'm seeing my doctor here in town for a follow-up on my lunch hour. Would you excuse me?" I didn't wait for an answer as I grabbed my purse and pushed past Doug, feeling that he'd assume my erratic behavior was due to this mystery disease I had and would then believe that I really was sick.
It really didn't concern me that the lie was just pouring from me by now. I didn't WANT to be good at this. Lying was hard work and I was ready to resign.
Instinctively, I drove to the apartment I shared with Tyler on Dover Street and parked next to Tyler's car. Good. Tyler was off today. That meant that I could rationalize everything in the environment of his psychology and without having Simon's attitude sway me. I could be with Tyler, figure out how that made me feel, and think again about Simon's offer.
I put my key in the lock of our front door and began to turn the knob when Tyler opened the door for me.
His face was pinched in a look of true concern as he greeted me with, "Honey, are you okay?" He took one of my hands in both of his and led me to the sofa. I began to soak in the emotions that being with him created and then I saw it. On the coffee table. A stunning arrangement of flowers in a GET WELL SOON basket. Amazingly, my first thoughts were that it was very lovely and the gesture very thoughtful.
Tyler began to explain that he had gotten concerned that Jill had sent flowers to the wrong place and he called her at the office so that she could straighten out the delivery. She told him all about my dreadful illness and my speedy departure from the office this morning and about the specialist in Boston. She even transferred him to Amanda, who told him that I looked like a ghost when she saw me on the plane. When he asked about the business trip, neither of them knew how to respond to Tyler. "What on earth have you been keeping from me?" I must be the biggest idiot on the face of the planet. Here I was thinking that I only had the office to run away from. Silly me, life doesn't do things halfway.
"Tyler, I just can't talk about it right now." I felt that this response may work a little better than the one I'd used on Jill had.
The clock chimed in the dining room and I was reminded that I'd only been through a HALF of a day in complete agony. Certainly there was much more to come, I began assuring myself.
"Well, dear, I'll try to understand. Of course, I wish you felt comfortable sharing this part of yourself with me, but if you need time, I can give you that." Tyler paused to brush a stray hair out of my face and then cupped my cheek in his hand. "Sweetheart, please let me know if there is anything I can do for you." God, he is so damn compassionate it just makes me sick. Ha! I WISH! Then I wouldn't be lying! This whole thing was just driving me nuts.
I had to go into the bathroom to wash this feeling off of my face. As I stood at the vanity and looked at myself in the mirror, I asked WHO ARE YOU? WHAT HAVE YOU DONE? YOU'RE NOT EVEN SICK AND YOU'RE GETTING GORGEOUS FLOWERS!
I couldn't make myself feel sorry for Tyler. I wanted to because he was so caring, but I only felt sorry for me. I kept tossing around this new decision I had to make. I didn't want to spend more than passionate weekends with Simon. I didn't know how I would ever be able to face Jill again, especially after she spent all of that money on the floral arrangement. I just wanted the universe to re-do the very moment in which Amanda's cousin proposed to the pretty girl in college, eventually causing Amanda to get on MY flight yesterday.
I leaned over and put my head on the marble counter. It felt cold on my face and I began to move around to let that chill sink into my cheeks. I opened my eyes and took in the sight of two toothbrushes next to each other on the left side of the sink. I tried to think like Tyler: analytical. I tried to think like Simon: sensual. But all I saw were toothbrushes. Maybe if I studied them harder, I'd discover something, but I doubted it. It was pretty rare that things just jumped right out and meant something to me.
Then it happened. I saw something that changed my life forever: one of Tyler's hairs in the brush that I use on MY teeth.
I'd never moved so fast. In minutes, I was at the airport cashing my frequent flyer miles into the longest trip they'd buy me.
Boarding now? Good. Serving cocktails? Good. A seat alone? Good. Alone was very good. I didn't trick myself into thinking I'd do a lot of reasoning as to how I got into this situation and where, metaphorically, this plane would be taking me. I just found a seat that was new to me and fastened my seatbelt. Snug.
I took a deep breath and let my body enjoy the feeling of the seat and the tension of the belt, the sensation of being free and the familiarity of pressurized air. I closed my eyes and thought of nothing. It was hard to do because even though I didn't want to figure it out, I did want to, in some part of my brain, remember all of this. Human nature, I guess, to want to label it all and stick it in a box. But I made myself push it out of my mind. The sex, the hair, the job, the moo-shoo pork, the toothbrush I bought in the airport gift shop. All of it. Once this plane took off, I'd be new again. I would become whoever the place I landed in created out of me. I would be an uncarved block, as Tyler called it, ready for... whatever.
The anxiety over what my life had become in the past twenty-one hours overwhelmed me and I fell asleep before the plane left the gate.
"Excuse me," the flight attendant said, tapping my arm, "Would you like to have dinner?" As I looked toward the aisle to answer, I got a load of what was sitting next to me: the most beautiful, chiseled, perfect male specimen I have EVER seen.
Our eyes locked and I answered, "Yes," as though I had maple syrup in my vocal chords.
"Hello," he began as the flight attendant moved down the aisle. "I'm Clayton."
And again I said, "Yes."
September 6, 1998
"Dr. Molson" (June 1994)
Simon was still a dear friend of hers; although he could never understand why Rebecca chose to name her kitten after him. He vacillated between being flattered and annoyed. But that's the way he spent their Relationship too. Just because they'd downgraded things between them to a lowercase-R relationship doesn't mean he should begin to understand her any better.
Although he often found her emotional tirades sort of quirky, he still figured that Rebecca was the type who could really benefit from just a little therapy.
"She's the kind of woman," he once described to a drinking buddy, "who thinks the spotlight that shines on her while she's living her life is a whole lot brighter than the wattage on the bulb would indicate." The two men clinked beer bottles over that one. Something about that last round of Molsons elevated them to doctors of psychology.
Rebecca loved Simon, or at least he felt as though she really did. And he loved her. But there was some sort of strange cosmic imbalance that allowed them to remain friends in a universe where that stuff just doesn't happen. But he still had a hard time petting the cat when he dropped by Rebecca's apartment. It was just too weird.
Today, Rebecca was going on about some woman that she worked with who, she was convinced, was "the type of person who tells vegetarians there's no meat in dishes containing meat just because she derives pleasure from imagining their bodies rejecting the meat while their minds feel so righteous over being above eating the flesh of other animals." This was another of those observations that was going to require a few rounds at Melear's to sort out.
Simon held Simon in his lap and wondered how Rebecca could ever take herself and her life as seriously as she did. But he found himself nodding anyway, as though he was registering this conversation somewhere in his brain - and not just the sound of her voice.
"Oh! I have got to tell you about this guy at work!" Rebecca began. Simon watched as Simon jumped off his lap and went to his food dish to inspect its emptiness. He wanted to be interested in Rebecca's new "find," but he found himself wondering if she'd be having this same dialog with Simon-the-Cat if he weren't around.
"Clayton," she smiled. "That's his name." And all Simon could wonder was if, within the next year, there'd be a new pet in Rebecca's apartment or if she'd just re-name Simon.
September 5, 1998
"Stress Monster" (June 1994)
"I'm such a Stress Monster," she told her cat as he stretched and purred, not a care in the world.
"I know you think I'm calling you my precious baby and paying attention to you, but I'm really just trying to get this off my chest. I feel so set up! It's like everyone else in the world knew what I was getting into but me. And now, here I am, hopelessly dedicated to a job that's killing me." The cat rolled over and flipped his tail. He didn't care what she said, but her tone had gotten harsh and he knew better than to confuse this with baby talk.
She twirled a lock of hair around her finger and kicked her shoes off in disgust. "Panty hose! Puh-lease! Why on earth do I even bother? I sit at my desk and shrink when I hear people screaming at each other, but I scream for joy when all of that good stuff comes. Like today. When the single hit #4 with a bullet, we all danced around the office. They said it'd never break the Top 5! But, within two hours, my head was spinning - and not from all the dancing around."
By this point, the cat had moved off of the sofa and into the kitchen to inspect his food dish. Rebecca just kept on talking.
"Oh! My aching head! I know the good times balance out the bad - they really do; but I'm afraid I'm not cut out for this corporate world. So what if it's the entertainment business? When it all comes down to it, I roll around on a plastic pad behind a desk all day and that makes me no difference than my parents. And they worked for 40 years, Simon. Forty years!"
Simon looked up from his Sliced Veal in Gravy, licked his whiskers and went back to munching. He was not interested in Rebecca anymore.
"Oh, pooh!" she finally summed up. And as she flopped across the same bed she'd had in college she wished she could go back there, to that time and that mind. But she knew too much now. She'd always work.
The next feeling she sensed was physical: Simon's whiskers on her ankle. "That tickles!" she giggled. And for another day, the Stress Monster was gone.
September 4, 1998
"Manhattan Beach on the 3rd of July" (8 October 1995)
The breeze was lyrical
The conversation crisp,
as we sought out a Steadman for Stephanie
and a Southerner for me.
We stood on a crowded balcony
Watching the sun trying to set
and discussed things much smarter than we were
because that was what was required
to be "in."
I wanted then to walk into the sand
take my shoes off and feel
the cooling grains beneath my toes.
I wanted to take my buzz from a few drinks
out into the beach. Kiss the West Coast
Even before I knew that I was leaving.
But I stood making eyes
at anyone who'd look
and I laughed at every joke
even though I already knew
I took another sip of LA
and I can still taste it on my lips.
September 3, 1998
"Giving Her a Voice" (9 August 1995)
Quietly, she watched
knowing everyone else knew more
about what she saw
being done to her life.
She'd been told, she'd been shown
that image is everything
So she had the finest one
She shined the brightest
She charmed them all
And it was easy for her to follow the rules:
be good, be the best, be sorry when you're not.
Because her voice was not her own.
When she spoke, she used the words she'd been taught,
not the ones she came here with.
When she whispered, the voice was hers.
And no one listened
Or maybe they just couldn't hear her
Still, she learned to be heard in other ways:
I'm sick, I'm out of money, I'm emotional.
Oh, how she loathed herself for using these channels!
But how could she keep up the image,
follow the rules,
and still be heard?
She began to question
all she'd been taught, all she'd been shown.
She realized that they
didn't really know what they
were doing to her.
They couldn't explain what she saw.
They used rules to keep her quiet
because their rules kept them that way.
that if her whisper were audible,
it'd be a scream.
She began to speak louder,
hoping someone, somewhere
They weren't aware of what they heard at first
because they'd never listened for a voice from her before
But it was there.
And now it's here.
September 2, 1998
"Doodles" (14 March 1991)
September 1, 1998
untitled (1 February 1991)
And with sarcasm I recognized as the biting, hurtful kind my father uses,
as far as I can remember,
I hurt someone else....
I looked in the mirror and saw the sharp features of my father on my face
And wished I could throw something heavy into the reflection, sending him crashing to the floor.