Friday, December 31, 2010

My Radical New Year's Resolution

In 2011, beyond necessities such as rent, utilities, gas, & food, I will not buy anything. Zip. Zilch. Nothing. No cute new shoes, no new mascara...nada.

Because the truth of the matter is this – I don’t need anything. I have a closet full of clothes, plenty of extra shampoo & toothpaste in case I run out, and so much stuff in my apartment that I don’t know where to put it. I live in blessed abundance – all my needs are met – I want for nothing.

So the buying stops today and will remain halted for an entire year. No more new stuff. Unexpected needs will likely come up throughout the year, but that’s when my resourcefulness will have to kick in. A friend’s birthday? I’ll make them a card from my ample stock of craft supplies. Something break? I’ll fix it. Want to make waffles? I’ll borrow a waffle-maker from a friend.

The goal is to heal myself of the stinking entitlement of excess that I believe plagues the country and put us into economic woe. You may say I’m not being a good US citizen by supporting the retail industry, but I have to believe that being an educated, working, and voting tax-payer who volunteers and donates to charity has more positive impact on the national community than buying a new toaster. Besides, everything is made in China these days – buying that toaster only supports an economic dependency that’s going to bite us in the ass later in a big way.

My hope is that the time I would be spending driving to stores or price comparing can now be spent writing & furthering my life goals. You know, the important stuff.

So here goes. My no frills, no purchasing year of inventiveness and creativity. Follow my blog now for all the tales of my adventure and feel free to leave any questions or challenges in the comments below. There are probably many things I haven’t thought of, but I’m confident I can figure them out as I go along.

After all, I have everything I need right here.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 Video Distractions Roundup

The videos I couldn't stop watching this year when I was supposed to be writing.

First, a gem for the ladies from Sarah Silverman on Conan:




ClaraC just released her first album, but she also records covers & mashups right in her apartment - a real DIY inspiration.




The great John Lopez was cinematographer on this tasty tidbit. Short, sweet, and funny!




Nicole Scherzinger & Tracie Thoms on the Hollywood Bowl stage. I saw the show live, but watch this whenever I wanna feel fierce.




Max Adler plays a gay-hating bully on Glee who is secretly gay himself. This video he made for The Trevor Project made me cry. I now want his body.




An animated tale from Mike Birbiglia, the best Moth storyteller / comedian / sleepwalker ever.




And finally, just because...




Curse you, online videos. Why are you so damn watchable?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010: The Numbers

# of blog posts written: 70

# of blog comments: 75

# of blog followers: 18 (won’t you follow too?)

# of dollars raised by my blog: 0 (donate via Paypal on the right!)

# of followers on Twitter: 125 (follow me there too!)

# of acting auditions: 25

# of acting jobs booked: 12 (so grateful!)

# of scripts written: 1 (very bad)

# of scripts started: at least 12 (better)

# of applications to writing fellowship programs: 6

# of acceptances into writing fellowship programs: 0 (try again next year)

# of industry events attended: 30

# of new industry contacts made: over 100

# of short films produced: 2

# of short films written & directed: 1 (see my Interpretations short here)

# of days spent feeling discouraged: 365

# of days spent revitalizing & refocusing on my goals: 365

Thanks 2010! Here’s to an even more creative and productive 2011!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

You Writ Good Fr Me!

"You did me business ethics propsal for me I need propsal got approved pls can you will write me paper?"

The author of that cringe-worthy sentence paid Ed Dante $2,000 to write a business school research paper for her. He did and she graduated with an MBA.

For a truly jaw-dropping look into Ed's world of writing for hire, check out this article from The Chronicle of Higher Education.

A man approached me once to write a law school admissions essay for his brother in India. He offered a whopping $50. I refused, saying the most I could do was edit his final draft after he wrote it.

When he finally gave me a draft to edit, it was a disaster. Rambling statements, incomplete sentences, and incoherent arguments. I corrected the spelling and grammar errors and returned it, though upon reading this article about Ed Dante, I feel dirty even having done that.

Though I took the $50.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Fiction Black Friday: NaNoWriMo Sample, Part 2

Click here to read NaNoWriMo Sample, Part 1

Her sister’s voice now came from the doorway. “You’re not wearing any shoes.”

Calista looked down. Her socks were starting to soak through with melted snow. Her crying paused for a moment as she contemplated how she didn’t notice the cold, even as she wiggled her wet toes encased in fake wool. Grief was a powerful thing, she thought. She turned to finally face her sister, who stood sour-faced in the doorway.

“I had to get out,” Calista said.

“Don’t be so fucking dramatic,” Jen snapped, and she closed the screen door between them, leaving Calista out on the patio. Calista watched as she walked away, unraveling the scarf around her neck. Cashmere, she thought, or pashmina at least. Jen had great taste in fashion. She was just a horrible sister.

Calista looked back out at the yard. There were memories here too, but at least outside she could breath. The vegetable patch where her parents had nursed their crop every spring and summer. The lilac trees that had conveniently served as first, second, and third base whenever needed. The tiny fence her parents had put up to keep the neighbor’s tree leaves from blowing into the yard and becoming their problem. So many details in one stretch of land. Her land now. Hers and Jen’s.

She closed her eyes and listened for the sounds of home. The familiar white noise of her small town neighborhood. So different than the constant sound of cars and dogs from her apartment in LA. Here, the sounds were of trees rustling and doors opening and closing in the neighborhood. The occasional dog barking. Everything was smaller here. Less. Except the memories.

The sliding door opened again. Calista turned and saw her sister standing in the doorway, fighting back tears. “I’m sorry I yelled at you. Would you please come inside now?” Jen was angry and annoyed. As if Calista were standing in the snow in order to spite her sister, to force her to show her emotional cards. Everything was an attack against her in Jen’s world, she was so filled with resentment. Calista had learned long ago not to attempt to reason with her sister in moments like these. Jen was wholly unreasonable most of the time. Calista had learned to just deal with it.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Red Carpet Sophomore

My first turn on the red carpet was a disaster. I didn’t know how to stand, my face was shiny despite my excessively expensive makeup job, and I had stupidly decided to pair $10,000 worth of borrowed diamonds with $14.99 shoes from Payless Shoe Source. Jezebel said I looked like I’d walked out of Forever 21. I was the walking definition of clueless.


My second red carpet attempt at the CAPE Soiree last week was still a bit clunky, but a vast improvement compared to my first. I Googled tips on how to pose and practiced in front of a mirror. I shopped for my dress more than a week in advance and matched everything to it meticulously. I addressed every detail of my look, right down to the acrylic French manicure. And I looked and felt better because of it.

Yes, getting your picture taken by photographers can be a silly part of the business. Talent is what matters, right? How well you look over your shoulder at the flashing cameras is irrelevant.

Still, this is an image-based business and how you’re seen can be just as important as your craft. It’s all part of playing the showbiz game. And while part of me would love to scoff at red carpets as superficial, shallow parades of ego, the other part knows that self-publicity is part of this world and it doesn’t hurt to get in some practice now. Angelina Jolie makes it look so effortless, but she’s been practicing since she was 10.

So now that turn #2 on the red carpet is under my belt, I look forward to the next. Maybe next time I’ll try looking over my shoulder.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Fiction Friday: NaNoWriMo Sample, Part 1

My first NaNoWriMo experience, otherwise known as my return to fiction, was a beautiful mix of creativity and pain. I failed to reach the 50,000 word goal with my novel writing, but I did complete approximately 19,000 words. Pointless drivel, in my opinion, but perhaps I'll let you be the judge. Here's a small snippet of my would-be novel...

The house was like a museum. A museum of pain. Heartache, limitations. Everything preserved in time – not only the furniture and d├ęcor, but the emotions. The opinions about every painting on the wall, the judgments of every bedspread, the guilt over the smudges on the wall and cracks in the counter. The details of how the house looked before this iteration. Before the new dining room and family room had been added. Before the bathroom had new linoleum. Every day that was lived in that house was sealed in time. Humming with history. 30 years of memories and it was so loud, it nearly deafened Calista as she walked through the rooms like a ghost.

Calista hadn’t lived in this house for a long time. As soon as a driver’s license had afforded her precious freedom, she’d begun her escape. College in another state, then work. She hadn’t lived here since high school. She’d gone from being a resident to a holiday visitor, never staying longer than week in its clutches.

She’d moved on. Yet now, standing in the room that used to be hers, the bulletin board on which she’d tacked calendars and Ice Capades tickets still hanging on the wall, she realized that she never had. The house mirrored her every move. Contained it, held it until this moment, when she could see that the house had always been with her, even when she was away. It had always been home. But now what would it be? She had no idea.

Calista heard the garage door open with an all too familiar moan. Her heart choked with grief as her mind flew to the inevitable, irrational thought. It’s Dad! The garage door rattled to a halt and Calista began to cry. Her father could never open that garage door again. He was gone. The sound had been just another memory in this house circling her throat like a vice. She had to get out.

She walked out of her room, through the kitchen, and toward the back door just as her sister Jen came in from the garage. She didn’t have time to say hello – she was on a mission. Bounding down the two steps to the family room, her hands nearly crashed into the sliding glass door as she struggled to undo the lock with her gloved hands. The heavy plastic switch slipped helplessly from her fingers as she grabbed at it. She heard her sister behind her.

"Hello? Walk right by me, why don’t you?"

Calista tore off her gloves, flung them to the linoleum floor, twisted the lock and heaved open the door. Another quick snap and the screen door slid open. And she rushed out onto the snow-covered back deck. Free. She gasped for air and cried, wailing like the child she’d just become again standing in the house she grew up in. She held her instantly ice cold fingers to cover her face as she wept, the tears flowing across her skin like hot silk.

Click here to read NaNoWriMo Sample, Part 2

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tools of the Trade: A Library Card

I carry all the essentials in my bag – keys, phone, and my library card.

As an actor, there will be times when you need to read a play to find a monologue or watch an episode of a TV show for an audition. Netflix and Amazon are great resources, but they cost money, and you need to save your pennies for classes and filling up your gas-guzzler.

Your local public library is all free, all the time. Maybe you haven’t stepped foot into a library since the days of college research papers and study groups. If this is the case, I invite you to rediscover the stacks at your nearest branch. In addition to books, libraries can have DVDs, music CDs, audiobooks, and magazines. The resources at the public library are an actor’s best friend, saving you time and money in your pursuit of art.

Say you have an audition for Romeo and Juliet. Get a free library card and you can borrow a copy of the play to read, find a Shakespeare monologue in a monologue book, and rent the Leo & Claire movie version to see their interpretation. Don’t forget to pick up a book of helpful tips for auditioning for Shakespeare and the audiobook version to listen to in the car on your way to your audition.

I’ve also watched previous features from a director I’m about to meet and entire seasons of TV shows as research. Once I auditioned to play a Japanese war refugee and found an Asian accent for actors CD the day before. It got me a callback. All this in a one-stop shop just around the corner.

Now go get that library card...

Friday, November 5, 2010

Fictionless Friday: Confessions of a Short Film Failure

Of all the projects on my creative to-do list, the one item that inspires the deepest feelings of panic, procrastination, and general malaise is the short film script I need to write. Actually, I have two on my list. One for an actress who wants to collaborate with me but is likely to run off and win an Academy Award any day now, so I need to hurry if I want to make it happen. The other is for an actor’s collective that I was supposed to deliver a month ago.

When I showed up at our last meeting empty handed, another actor guffawed in surprise. “And you’re a writer!” he teased. “I know!” I laughed in response, smacking myself comically on my forehead. Though inside, I was lashing myself on the back with a whip in total despair.

Short films are worthy artistic endeavors for so many reasons. They can be self-produced star vehicles. Opportunities for experimentation and education before embarking on a feature-length project. Exercises in different methods of storytelling. Basically, a great way to practice, practice, practice.

And yet I can’t get myself to think in short film mode and work on these scripts. None of my ideas can be wrapped up in 5-10 pages, and those that can feel flat and uneventful.

Perhaps it’s because mastering the art of writing short film feels like the exact opposite of the skills I’m trying to master as a television writer. I’m attempting to create a series with long-running arcs, character conflicts that can go back and forth for multiple seasons, and a world rich with an endless amount of stories to tell. A short film, by contrast, is a beginning, middle, and end, lickity-split. How exactly do I do that?

The worst part of having this block when it comes to writing short films is that the deceptive simplicity of the task creates a whopper of a self-doubting train of thought. If I can’t even write a 5-page script, how can I call myself a writer?

I have a friend who has ideas for short films all the time. He calls and tells me about his latest idea, and the next time I see him? Boom – he’s written it! Then I read it. Boom – it’s gold! 10 pages of genius and it’s only his first draft. Color me defeated.

How’s this for a short film idea? Self-flagellating writer can’t think of anything to write a short film about. She frets about it for a month with no tangible result. In the end, she blogs about it and vows to work on it tomorrow.

The end. For now.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Novice Novelist’s NaNoWriMo Notions

I’m writing my first novel this month.

Ambitious? Definitely.

Presumptuous? Perhaps.

Possible? Absolutely!

You see, I won’t be doing it alone. I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month (abbreviated as NaNoWriMo), an annual project that encourages and supports writers to write every day in November toward a singular goal – a 50,000-word original novel.

When I contemplate meeting this challenge, I go back and forth between thinking it will be an effortless flow of creative mojo or a guilt-drenched exercise in futility. 50,000 words in 30 days breaks down to 1,667 words a day. Considering my usual writing pace, that’s just under 2 hours a sitting. That shouldn’t be that difficult - I spend as many hours a day catching up on Hulu and DVR.

Until you consider the days I get invited to dinner with friends after work or the days when I feel about as creative as a tree stump and drown myself in Netflix Watch Instantly instead. Distractions that will hold painful consequences this month. Skipping just one day will mean 4 hours of writing the next. Hours will pile up like a dam if I’m not careful. This will be a solid exercise in discipline for me.

And really, that’s the most exciting part of NaNoWriMo. The goal is not to write 50,000 brilliant, ready-for-Kindle words that inspire and move even the coldest of hearts. The goal is just to write. No time for the inner critic to get in the way here. Even with a day job, I know I have plenty of time to write. This month, I challenge myself to give that time to myself and leave all distractions behind.

Plus, there’s plenty of inspiration from which I can draw. Last year, 32,178 writers successfully met the NaNoWriMo challenge. If they can do it, I can do it. And a slew of authors have had their NaNoWriMo works published, including Sara Gruen’s exquisite novel Water for Elephants,which will soon be seen as a feature film starring Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson, and Christoph Waltz.

So here I go. I don’t even know what my novel will be about, but I’m ready and excited for the adventure. If you've done NaNoWriMo before, please leave your inspiring words of experience (or cautionary tales) in the Comments. See you in 30 days!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Battle of Facebook Hill

I started a fight.

I didn’t mean to, really. It all started so innocently. A friend sent me a column from a popular journalist on a hot-button topic that I happen to have a strong opinion about as well. Feeling a “hell yeah” in my gut, I posted the link on my Facebook profile and went about my day.

By morning, my posted link had gathered 5 comments. One FF (Facebook Friend) from Georgia grumbled that the journalist was being a counter-productive dickhead. Another FF from Canada thought the FF from Georgia had lost perspective and wanted the dickhead to be President.

My initial reaction to the comments was flattery. People visited my profile page! I’m seen! A fleeting self-centered moment that was quickly forgotten considering what came next.

God came along.

That’s right, God entered the conversation, and not to be crass, but all hell broke loose. Pretty soon, I was getting email notifications every hour that another FF had commented on my link. Two FF’s in particular became engaged in fervent battle, citing federal law, lobbyists, and the Bible.

My feelings on the topic aside, I was seriously impressed. I was witnessing the power of Facebook. My little corner of cyberspace had suddenly become a forum for open discourse. The column from the journalist was no longer the center of the debate. This was about justice!

So to all the people who “don’t get” Facebook or think it’s just a waste of time, I say this. Facebook is an expression of what I love about America. It’s a democracy. People of all types, ideologies, and economic status are free to come together and say what they want to see. No one has to agree to disagree – they can just disagree.

I have FF’s who are die-hard Tea Party Republicans, apathetic teenagers, Mormon PTA members, and cross-dressing engineers. Facebook is a place where we can celebrate our birthdays or call each other heartless sycophants and still be okay. All profiles are created equal and everyone has a voice.

So I may have started a fight, but I’m not sorry I did. Here’s to continuing the discussion…

Friday, October 22, 2010

Fictionless Friday: Narcissism Reality Check

According to this Gawker article about Facebook profile pictures, the fact that I utilize one of my headshots means that I’m a narcissistic careerist. It’s an amusing article – snarky and cringingly accurate at times.

I mentioned it to a close friend, relaying the conclusion that I’m a narcissistic careerist, and he laughed heartily. “That’s hilarious, because you are!”

“What?” I said, somewhat startled.

“You’re totally a narcissistic careerist! That’s what you are!”

Just typing his words makes my emotions swirl into a troubled froth. Now before you start composing your blog comment calling him mean-spirited or rude and telling me not to listen to any of it, let me be clear. This person loves me very much and loves himself too, so there’s no belittling or demeaning going on here. That’s not what he does. He just calls it like it is. I appreciate having his level-headed perspective in my life. And he’s never wrong. He’s just accurate.

Believe me, I’d love to tell myself that he’s wrong. That I’m the pinnacle of modesty. That I never boast about my accomplishments or hold myself above others. Because I’m a frickin’ angel, don’t cha know?

But I know that he’s at least a little right. I enjoy having credits from television shows that people have heard of. I smile inwardly when I have to turn down a lunch invitation because, “I’ll be on set.” I write a blog all about myself, for goodness sake.

I’ve always said that all actors need to be a little bit of a diva in order to break through the waves of self-doubt washing over Hollywood. Perhaps I’ve taken my own advice too far.

So my emotions are swirly this morning because I’ve just been called on my own stuff. And I know he wouldn’t have said it if it wasn’t true. I’m not the best at self-awareness. Who is, really? Who is capable of being fully aware of how their words and actions are perceived and understood by others? Who is completely accurate in this world?

My friend is.

So I’ll say it - I am a narcissistic careerist. But now that I know that, hopefully I can turn things around for myself.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Obama So Phat, He’s Gone Viral!

I met Ron Butler four years ago on the set of Ugly Betty. We played fashion reporters and bonded while trapped inside Geisha House in Hollywood. Fourteen hours later, a friendship was born.

Since then, Ron has continued to work in film and TV, including a regular role on Nickelodeon’s True Jackson, VP, described as Ugly Betty for kids. Talk about full circle.

A few years ago, I learned that Ron had created a second career for himself as an Obama impersonator. I watched videos of his live appearances at look-alike conventions and thought, “Holy crap – he looks just like Obama!’ Which clearly bodes well for his career as an Obama impersonator.

So when Ron asked me to be a part of a viral Obama video he had written and was planning to produce and direct, I replied an emphatic YES.

The shoot was incredibly fun. I haven’t been surrounded by so many musical theater people since my days at Disneyland. Between shots, the actors sang one-liners from [title of show] and ragged on Wicked. It was awesome.

The finished product launched online this week – watch it below. I love that it’s not just a musical parody, but a thoughtful and praise-filled virtual fist bump to our Commander in Chief. Enjoy and spread the word!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Koji Steven Sakai is my Writing Yoda

Koji Steven Sakai knows what it means to be a writer. He said something in this interview in Hyphen Magazine that has stuck in my head ever since I read it:
"I don't believe in writer's block. I always tell new writers that the biggest difference between professional writers and amateur writers is that the amateur writers waits for inspiration but the professional writer creates that same inspiration every time they sit down to write."
A powerful call to excellence for new writers like me. One of my favorite pieces of writing advice ever.

Koji is also on my mind because tonight is opening night of The ID Film Festival, which he co-founded two years ago with fellow filmmaker Quentin Lee. (Yes, he’s the guy who directed The People I’ve Slept With, the romantic comedy that Koji wrote and produced.)

The festival is packed with a variety of features, shorts programs, and events for filmmakers, all taking place at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in Little Tokyo. Check out the schedule at the ID Film Fest web site and get your $30 festival pass online.

I recently bombarded Koji with a handful of questions and he graciously responded. He’s cool like that.

Why another Asian-centric film festival? What makes the ID Film Festival different?
KOJI: I don't think there can be enough Asian film festivals! :) But what makes this one different is that it’s a festival by Asian Pacific Islander filmmakers for API filmmakers.
What actor, Asian-American or otherwise, do you most look forward to working with someday?
KOJI: Ken Watanabe, because he's so sexy! And my mom loves him! She'd love to meet him!
What was your biggest unforeseen production obstacle while shooting The People I’ve Slept With and how did you overcome it?
KOJI: The biggest obstacle is just money. But we overcame with it with a passionate and professional crew and cast!
Who's kicking ass the most in the Asian-American media world right now?
KOJI: Justin Lin – he’s the only Asian American filmmaker to make 100 million in box office. Until someone beats that, they aren't on his level.
Dream lunch date?
KOJI: Hmm... I'm married so it'd have to be a business date. But my dream lunch date would be with President Obama, because I have a huge huge huge MAN CRUSH.
Thanks Koji! See everyone at IDFF tonight!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Frak the Nielsens - We've Got Tweets!

Alessandra Torresani couldn't have looked more like a Cylon if she tried. Shiny, silky hair, full red lips, wearing a black mini dress that showed off her long, statuesque legs. Clutching a handheld mic, her sexy, raspy voice implored, "Please tweet! Hashtag CapricaisBack!"

I witnessed her heartfelt plea last weekend at an exclusive screening of the Caprica Season 1.5 premiere, hosted by SyFy. Alessandra appeared on stage with series stars Esai Morales, Sasha Roiz and Executive Producers Ronald D. Moore, Kevin Murphy, Jane Espenson, & David Eick. Each one begged us to get the word out about the show in their own way. Ron expressed pride and excitement in the new episodes and said he couldn't wait for us to see them. Esai declared he was "frakkin' sick of reality TV." Kevin Murphy asked us to find a Nielsen family, because "it only takes one." Everyone asked us to tweet. And then tweet some more.

As we settled in to watch the episode (which was absolutely fantastic), I couldn't help but think there was something wrong with this picture. Caprica is an excellent television show - sharply written and expertly designed. Featuring superb acting performances by under-appreciated veterans of the biz (Eric Stoltz, Esai) as well as stunningly talented new faces (Alessandra, Magda Apanowicz) and cameos from genre favorites (James Marsters, Patton Oswalt). Yet as SyFy's Mark Stern clearly stated before introducing the screening, Caprica won't get a Season 2 unless people watch - now!

Now I'm pretty sure no one is tweeting about Two and a Half Men, and that show pulled in 13.8 million viewers in the premiere of its 8th season.

What gives? Why do good shows always have to fight so hard? Even within its genre, Caprica is a top-notch show, yet it's still struggling for viewers to stay on the air.

So watch the show, won't you? Caprica Season 1.5 premiere tonight at 10pm on SyFy.

And then Tweet away - Alessandra will really appreciate it.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Films. Lots and Lots of Films.

I love a good film festival. It’s like one-stop shopping for movie buffs. An intensified week or weekend of all-things cinema, served up with a variety of themes – gay films, films made in downtown LA, or films featuring frogs as protagonists.

(Okay, I made that last one up. Or did I?)

And you don’t have to be a fan of the particular theme in order to enjoy it. Because film is universal, don’t cha know. I had a great time at last year’s Frog Film Festival.

(Seriously, I’m kidding.)

Case in point – the ID Film Fest, which takes place this weekend at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in Little Tokyo.

At first glance, it looks like just another Asian-centric film festival. Indeed, all the featured films are made by Asian people and have a bunch of Asian people in them.

But a closer look will tell you that these films are must-see gems. The opening night presentation Fog looks crazy good - a tension-filled powder keg of a directorial debut.



And check out this trailer for Air Doll – no English subtitles, yet I still understand enough to want to see it.



Films and programs are $10 each or $30 for an all-weekend pass. Steal, people!

So come on down and check it out, whether you’re Asian or not. I’ll be there, volunteering and soaking up the cinema glow.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ken Choy is My Number One Fan

That’s an exaggeration. Ken Choy is really a fan of any Asian-American artist who’s trying to make it in the media world.

That’s why he created MAPID – Mavericks of Asian-Pacific Islander Descent – “dedicated to the development and promotion of underrepresented artists, writers, activists, and future community leaders and their supporters, friends, and allies.”

Ken is a producer, director, actor, and writer, not to mention a networking god! A few words from the man himself:

Why are groups like MAPID important?
KEN: There's this impression that those who are in the arts are "me me me." But to get ahead in the entertainment industry, a team effort is required. You absolutely have to be a team player. It's totally un-Darwinian which most of us are ingrained with. MAPID is an ever-expanding team and only exists because of what people put back into it. I've always been with the same mind-frame – as high a level I get to, I'm taking people with me.

Who's kicking ass the most in the Asian-American media world?
KEN: A whole bunch are making waves. Justin Lin has motivated many emerging filmmakers with Interpretations. Daniel Dae Kim, Kelly Hu are just some of the celebs that give back to the community. Edwin Chung just got a promotion at NBC. The Korea Creative Content Agency (KOCCA) brought an amazing group of people for their recent event Koreans in Hollywood. But I'd have to say, I'm impressed most with the Racebending.com folks who are awesome and really made an impact in the discussion.

What's the best thing undiscovered Asian-American talent can do for their careers?
KEN: Explore what their strengths are. The industry is not a "You Can Have It All" biz. Focus on who they are, what they do best, and begin to brand and market that. You have to create an entree point. Worrying about being typecast before you get cast in the first place is self-defeating.

Dream lunch date?
KEN: Takeshi Kaneshiro. I wouldn't turn down Jeremy Sheffield, though not sure about his recent career choices. Who is he? See, that's what I mean. A Native Hawaiian physical therapist who can give me massages every night!

See Ken and MAPID in action next month as they co-sponsor the 3rd Annual ID Film Fest at the Japanese American National Museum. At which this here blog will be a media sponsor! Woot! Follow this blog for more details to come...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Tools of the Trade: Getting Your SAG Card

It’s a classic catch-22. How do you get a role in a feature film? You need a SAG card. How do you get a SAG card? You need to get a role in a feature film.

So you want to be a card-toting, dues-paying member of the Screen Actors Guild. Who doesn’t? Being in SAG means access to roles that actually pay money! But getting into SAG is difficult for one simple reason –

SAG doesn’t want you to get in!

There are already thousands of SAG actors that don’t work consistently. The majority, in fact. Yet every SAG actor has an equal vote in all union issues, most of which don’t apply to them yet. Letting more members into SAG just means more unemployed actors making decisions that affect the small percentage of the membership that actually is working.

So they make it wicked hard to get into SAG. And wicked expensive – initiation fees were $2,277 last I checked. But if you want to move your career forward, getting into SAG is necessary and in my opinion, it can be done.

Here are the ways:
  • Taft-Hartley – A fast pass into the ranks. Easier if you’re under 18, a celebrity in a different field (like Jordan Farmar), or if you have a crazy talent like fire-eating that happens to be needed on How I Met Your Mother this week. Make sure your resume lists all your special skills, but only if you can actually do them. Taft-Hartleys seem to be more common in the commercial world, so try to get a commercial agent right away.

  • Background Vouchers – Get with a good call-in service and be professional. Show up on time, bring good wardrobe choices, and stay where you’re supposed to be. 2nd 2nd ADs like actors who listen to them, work hard, and don’t complain.

  • Via AEA or AGVA – Snag a lead role on stage or in a theme park, and a year later you can become SAG Eligible. Disney’s Pixar Parade, anybody?
But most of all, be diligent! It’s a long road, but you’ll get there eventually. If I can do it, so can you! Click here to read Part 2 of this series!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Logo Land

Thought it was time to give my blog a logo. What do you think?

My logo inspiration:


Famima!! With two exclamation points!! One of my favorite places ever!!


This logo will do for now - unless there’s a brilliant graphic designer out there that wants to design a few alternatives for me. Anyone? Bueller?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

To Do: Procrastinate and Be Impatient

I’ve accomplished so much today! I’ve done three loads of laundry, emptied the dishwasher, and vacuumed the living room! I even cleaned my keyboard! What haven’t I done yet?

Oh right...

Write.

Procrastination is a sneaky little devil. Disguising itself as productivity, eating up precious hours, slinking into my day and refusing to go away.

Whenever I’m running errands, waiting in line at the post office or stuck in traffic on the 405, I fantasize about writing. I picture myself curled up by the window with my notebook while the words pour out with graceful ease. I’m glowing with creativity. Any man who happened to see me in this state would be immediately drawn to my intensely beautiful aura, stunned by the breathtaking sight of me in my element. It’s an idyllic tableau in my mind’s eye. Me. Writing.

But then I get home and open up said notebook, and I can’t find a comfortable position on the sofa. I have emails to answer and vital Tweets to check. I often end up inspecting my pedicure, reading my past writing, or rambling for a while before drawing a huge X through the page, punctuated by an angry scrawl – “Who cares???”

Procrastination gets the blame, but I know that impatience and self-imposed expectations are my real enemies. The unnecessary demand for results that stunts my creativity and keeps me from diving in without fear.

And then I remember – bird by bird. A brilliant anecdote from Anne Lamott’swonderful book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Any daunting task becomes less daunting when you break it down into pieces. Everything is written one word at a time. One paragraph at a time. One page at a time. Bird by bird.

And then, I write.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Fictionless Friday: An Update

My writing has gone to a dark place. A delightful and delicious dark place. And although I’m enjoying it, I have no idea what happens next.

Two months ago, my writing mentor challenged me to set my fiction writing aside for a while and start writing about myself. To find the material that’s already within me, lying in wait to be discovered.

Didn’t seem like a difficult challenge. If anything, I was game to see what I would find once I dove into the dark recesses of my soul. So I did.

Sixty days later, I have almost 100 pages of material. I’ve written about my family, the pain of being an outsider, the guilt of failed relationships. Tearful and charged words about school picture day and my hatred of eHarmony. I remembered stories about train rides to Kansas and the Sears catalog that I thought I’d forgotten. Gotten angry over casual encounters of the kindergarten kind. It’s been a thrilling trip into my psyche and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.

But now, when I look at those 100 pages, I don’t have a clue what to do with any of it. How do I take all of my personal junk and use it in my fiction writing? Or my new television pilot ideas?

Putting my stories into my characters would just make those characters sad, pathetic losers. Perhaps that’s simply borne out of self-judgment, but I just don’t see how the dark details of my life can possibly be applicable.

Maybe you think it’s obvious, but I’m still waiting for the click. The ah-ha moment where I see how my personal material can be mined in my fictional narrative.

Established writers always tell me to write what I know, but who wants to see a show about my crazy little life? I don’t know. But until the pieces fall into place in my head, I’ll continue writing about myself. Fictionless and fancy free. We’ll see what happens next.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Emmys 2010 Roundup

I love the Emmys. There are plenty of people in the industry who roll their eyes and sneer at award shows, labeling them self-indulgent, commercial spectacles filled with false self-deprecation and ego. And they are. But I still love watching it.

Because at its core, the Emmys is a celebration of the medium I love so much – television. Viewers are reminded of the exceptional content on TV and incredible talent is acknowledged and honored.

For the people who work in television, the Emmys are a party weekend. TV actresses exchange their H&M for designer gowns and borrowed diamonds. Hardworking TV writers escape the writer’s room and parade the red carpet like movie stars.

And it all gets me excited. I’m excited for people I’ve worked with who are nominated. Excited that I’ve worked on nominated shows. Excited to be a part of such a good-looking, talented community. And I get really excited thinking that someday I’ll be in one of those seats at the Nokia, wishing and hoping they call my name.

No use critiquing the show itself. Award shows are flashy, fleeting entertainment. They’re simply means to an end – a fancy stage presentation for handing out trophies. This year’s show was serviceable with several enjoyable moments.

Until next year’s TV lovefest...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

One Line Wonder

“Ever have a bedpan emptied on you?”

My one line in the episode of Lie to Me I shot this week, for which I was in hair and makeup longer than I was on set. Almost 7 years after my television debut on ER, in which I exclaimed,

“I’ve never done a rectal!”

Ah, the joys of playing doctors, nurses, reporters, and other professional characters that exist to support the plot. One line here, two lines there. Nameless faces interacting with the main characters. It’s a fine art to be sure, and I’ve got it down.

And before you think I’m biting the casting hand that feeds me, I am absolutely grateful for every single one of these roles. I know that for every one-line secretary audition I get, there are at least 2,000 other actresses who wanted to get that audition too. But for whatever reason, I got to audition. I got the part. I got to try on Trina Turk and Diane von Furstenberg at my wardrobe fitting, get my hair and makeup done alongside Amanda Peet, and eat endless amounts of chocolate at crafty. I live a blessed, blessed life.

Still, I know that each one of these jobs is just a step towards a shift in my acting career. A shift toward roles where I get to show emotion. Roles in which my character has a name and gets called by that name. Roles that allow me to break top of show. Roles which have more than two lines. A career shift that is coming soon enough – all I need to do is continue to work hard and be patient.

Right now I’m happy to fit whatever stereotype is needed – Asian-American, intelligent, capable (fill-in-the-blank). But I can’t wait for the day when I play someone the audience remembers. Perhaps I’ll be the girl that everyone thinks is the victim at first, but later discovers is the killer! Or perhaps the girl who witnessed a mob hit that needs protection from retaliation. That will be cool.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Tools of the Trade: Online Resume Links

So you say you’re an actor? You want to work in TV and film? Then take this key piece of advice to heart:

Make sure people can find your acting resume online!

A few weeks ago, I was looking for an actor for my short film project. Not a problem, I thought. I know plenty of actors. Just had to check their union status first. So I logged onto Facebook, perusing the profiles of my actor friends, looking for links to their online acting resumes.

And I could barely find any! Their profiles detailed what TV shows they watched, their birthdays and siblings, and all the animals in their fake farm. But rarely did I find a link to their acting resume in the Links section. Rather than send a message and wait for a response, I simply moved on to the next person.

So this is for my actor friends and anyone else out there. Help me help you! After you create your resume on Actors Access or LA Casting, broadcast the link to it any way you can. Put it on your Facebook profile, YouTube channel, blog, email signature – anywhere and everywhere! If you don’t, who knows how many jobs you’re missing out on.

Start broadcasting!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Fictionless Friday: Anthem for Los Angeles

I recently told a new acquaintance that I’ve lived in LA for almost 8 years, and he instantly broke down that time down into phases – honeymoon, hating, and the final, inevitable acceptance. In reality, I had no such phases. The phases of my time in LA have more to do with the jobs I’ve had and the friendships I’ve made. The city itself had nothing to do with anything.

But personifying Los Angeles and then blaming it for problems seems to be popular sport. It’s an easy target, I suppose. Hating LA while living here has been around for decades. People talk about living in LA like it’s a force of nature. A beast to be tamed. Newcomers have an adverse reaction to it like it’s a virus or unwanted party guest. They gripe, complain, hate it violently or loathe it quietly with lofty disdain.

Because this is no ordinary city. This is the City of Angels. A city where dreams are pursued with fervent passion. Where movie stars appear on the big screen as well as the Starbucks next to your apartment. Where trends are made and even your housekeeper wears Juicy Couture. Where possibility hangs in every shopping center – I could get discovered! It’s a city of dreamers.

I once met a pretty blonde wannabe actress who told me that to get her career started, she was going to the Bar at The Standard every night because “It’s the best way to be seen.” Now I try to look presentable every time I leave my apartment, but the idea of going to a swanky, overpriced bar just to put myself on display is ridiculous. I’d rather read a book.

But like attracts like, and there’s plenty of people like this actress in LA, sharing dumb secrets with each other, learning how to be chic and trendy, dreaming big dreams. They live in their version of LA. And when that version fails to fulfill its promise, it’s the city’s fault.

I, for one, let LA off the hook. It’s just a place. A generally sunny place with an ocean view and incredible Mexican food. The people who live here make it what it is. People created the crowding, the homeless, the economy, the smog.

So I keep my eye on myself. What am I contributing to society? Who am I supporting by spending my money? What’s important to my quality of living? And so far, my perspective has worked for me. I’ve had my ups and downs in my almost 8 years of living here, but they’ve been mine. And LA, for its part, has been a great place to live.

Here’s to the next 8 years in the City of Angels.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tools of the Trade: Demo Reels

Demo reels are quickly becoming a must-have for actors at all levels, especially now that casting has moved almost entirely online. Production moves faster than ever and casting directors want to see immediately what you look like, sound like, and feel like. Having a solid demo reel that showcases your talent can be integral in getting you the job.

If you don’t have any tape on yourself, doing student and independent short films are a great way to get scenes for your reel. No, you won’t make any money – you’re getting paid in footage. Look for roles that you’re likely to be cast in. If you think you’re a shoo-in for a medical examiner on CSI, try to book a student film in which you play a doctor.

To ensure you’ll get the footage in a timely manner, have the director or producer sign and date a simple contract that states you’re working for free in exchange for a copy of your work and expect to receive it within 60 days. Once he signs it, you’re owed your footage in the time allotted or else you can take him to small claims court.

But if you’ve done the submission game for student and independent films for a while without any significant result, then shoot something yourself. Use a scene from the TV show you’re perfect for or find a scene from a film that fits your energy. Make sure it showcases you in a role that you’d be cast in. Shoot it in the highest quality HD you can find, keep it under 3 minutes, and you’re golden.

But do it right. Crappy tape is NOT better than no tape at all. Your demo reel is a professional tool for your career – make sure you present something that looks professional. Find people who know what they’re doing to shoot and edit your reel. It’s worth the investment.

Finally, avoid the Actor Slate service offered by Breakdown Services for creating a one-minute general interview that shows off your personality. What it really shows casting directors is that you’re a beginner who’s not ready for on-camera work.

I just updated my own demo reel and present it here as an example. Professional editing done by the talented and handsome Ian at Bubba’s Chop Shop. If you have a demo reel to share, post it in the comments!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Notes from a First-Time Filmmaker

“He should be looking left of camera, right?”
“The sun is moving!”
“We need a half apple.”
“How about this case of grill tools?”
“Slate in!”
“The slate is now diamonds.”
All overheard during my short film shoot last week. My directorial debut, which sounds fancy and grand, but was really just a starter project – a three-minute short film for Justin Lin’s Interpretations Film Competition. And though the whole thing unfolded gracefully, I definitely got a healthy taste of the challenges of filmmaking.

First, my simple little three page script went through several revisions. One of my writers groups gave me great suggestions on early drafts. I wrote out implied domestic violence, added a Grandpa character to eliminate questions of child abandonment, and changed the ending three times.

Then there were casting obstacles. Finding a non-union older Asian male to play Grandpa proved harder than expected. Eighteen white guys submitted to my breakdown, but no Asians. I ended up finding a non-actor through a friend of a Facebook friend. And a few days before my start date, my leading man fell out and had to be replaced. After multiple Tweets and phone calls, an amazing actor from my theater company was able to step in.

In between creating a shot list and call sheets, I bought snacks for craft services and hunted for props. Flowers that looked like they were bought at a gas station. Picture frames that could be used and then returned the next day. And a gaudy painting that played a key role in my story. I ended up finding a beautiful monstrosity at the Out of the Closet thrift store.

Shooting was a joyful exercise in DIY filmmaking. We used beach towels and blankets from our cars to cover up the windows. I taught an 8-year old first-time actress about finding her mark. Every moment was filled with beautiful work - trying to visualize imaginary sight lines, keep the boom shadow out of frame, and scribble notes on the daily editor’s log.

My first film was a learning experience for sure, but also a masterpiece in its own way. I’m so proud of how the shoot went. My cast and crew were amazing. Working so tirelessly for nothing but love and lunch. I couldn’t thank them enough for all their hard work and talent. Now the footage goes to my editor, and for a moment, I can focus on the other short film I’m producing and brainstorm future projects. Because now that I’ve done it once, I can’t wait to do it again.

Update: Watch the finished product below!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Finding Writer's Gold

I could say I was taking a break, but really I was looking for distraction. Rewriting my ninth draft was making me anxious. After successfully defragmenting my C: drive, I turned my attention to cleaning out old files from My Documents. That’s when I stumbled across a one-act play that I honestly didn’t remember writing.

At first, I thought I might have written it with my former writing partner, but after checking the creation date in the file properties, I realized that wasn’t possible. When did I write this thing? I read it over and over. It wasn’t bad. Funny, fresh, and snappy. Where did it come from?

And then I smiled, because I knew. It came from me.

Two years ago, when I set out to be a solo writing entity, I didn’t have a single completed script to my name. Now I’m writing so much that I have pieces I have forgotten I’ve written!

The one-act was a delicious find. The writer’s equivalent of finding twenty dollars in the pocket of an old coat. I clicked through my writing folders. They were packed. Completed scripts, short film drafts, pilot pitches, outlines for a handful of features, virtual whiteboards filled with ideas – a beautiful mess of creativity. Treasures collected over months of exploration, inspiration, and being a writer.

I know I’m still a baby writer, but on that day, I felt triumphant. I tucked the confidence boost into my mental wallet and returned to rewriting my ninth draft. The tenth draft is almost done.