Friday, December 28, 2012

2012 Video Distractions Roundup

These are the best of the best - the videos that I watched over and over all year. The awesomeness is obvious --

What were your favorite YouTube videos this year?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Hump Day Update: Holiday Hiatus Edition

You know how it is – Christmas cards to write, sugary treats to make, and a slew of errands to complete before traveling for the holidays. No really, I’ve been super busy!

Ugh, excuses. I’ll return to regular blogging soon. Expect a renewed commitment to daily posts when the new year hits. Until then, here’s what’s been happening in my world --
  • Got the stamp of approval from my agent on my sci-fi pilot outline, so I’m going to script. The goal is to have a readable draft done by New Year’s Day. If I can do that, I’m treating myself to a new pair of jeans. You heard it here first.

  • Started Kristen Bell’s #30DayHomies fitness challenge on December 1st – you can track my progress by following me on Twitter. Call it a headstart on the inevitable New Year’s “get in shape” resolution, plus prep work for my role in Early Retirement next year. Haven’t missed a day so far!

  • Became completely obsessed with this a cappella holiday tune from last year’s Sing-Off winner Pentatonix –-

  • Received a slew of screeners and scripts for the WGA Awards – more than I can watch! One of the big name screenplays will probably win, but I’ve been loving the scripts for smaller indie films like Silver Linings Playbook and Friends With Kids. Looking forward to seeing Looper and Celeste and Jesse Forever before voting.

  • Had a month full of WriteGirl! Two writing workshops (in which I wrote poetry!), met my incredible mentee, and had a blast at Drag Queen Bingo Charity Night at Hamburger Mary’s in West Hollywood. I love this organization so much!

  • My small parts in two episodes of Grey’s Anatomy finally aired. My small parts in two episodes of Don’t Trust the B-- in Apartment 23 should air in the new year – I’ll let you know as the dates approach!

  • Got another rejection letter from my first round of literary journal submissions. Immediately submitted to two new journals. Onward and upward.

  • Pulled together a few scenes to submit to the NBC Diversity Scene Showcase. I didn’t get in as an actor, let’s see if I have better luck as a writer! One scene was modified from a one-act play that I’d completely forgotten I’d written until I found it on my hard drive. Better than finding a twenty in an old pair of jeans!

  • Shot a corporate industrial video with the awesome Sunil Malhotra. We were complete professionals, expertly improving the most ridiculous job interview ever before snapping into the written lines. This is us with the director --

    Truly, I’m impressed we didn’t ruin any takes with our shenanigans. We both agreed if it were a sexual harassment industrial, we never would have gotten through it without breaking down into a puddle of laughter.

  • Wrote several PSA spots for an ad agency about mental depression. Really fun work, despite the subject matter. Hope the client is pleased!

See? Told you I’ve been bu-sy!

Finally, here’s my 2012 holiday card to all of you – here’s to a new year filled with love, career success, and joy!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Scolding from a Master

This deliciously blunt rant comes from director Arthur Penn, best known for directing The Miracle Worker and Wait Until Dark on Broadway and Bonnie and Clyde on the silver screen. First posted on Follies of God by James Grissom, this piece speaks for itself. Enjoy.

In Defense of Friction

"I do not want to know another thing about what a nice guy or gal someone on the stage is: This is entirely irrelevant to me. Some sort of desperation has crep t into our theatre--all of our arts, really, but we're discussing theatre--where we feel a defensive wall is erected around the meretriciousness of our work by highlighting how hard someone has worked; how many hours they've put in at the soup kitchen; how many hours they spent researching the aphasic mind in order to replicate the actions of one; how many ribbons sweep across their breast in support of causes; how much they love their lives and how lucky they feel to be on Broadway!

There is very little art, but there is a great deal of boosterism. Fill the seats; buy a T-shirt; post something on the Internet; send out an e-mail blast.

I'm in my eighties, and I think I should have left this earth never knowing what an e-mail blast was.

I saw a play recently that was festooned with understudies: Not the actual understudies, but the hired, primary actors, all of whom performed (if that is the word) precisely like a competent, frightened understudy who got a call at dinner and who raced down to take over a role. No depth; no sense of preparation. These were actors who had learned their lines and who had showed up. And that is all.

I spoke to the director afterwards. By all accounts a nice and talented and smart guy. I asked him why a particular part in this play--a Group Theatre classic--had been given to this certain actor. He's a great guy, was the response. Prince of a fellow. Well, perhaps, but send him home to be a prince to his wife and children; he is a shattering mediocrity. But nice and easy counts far too much these days. Another director told me--proudly--that he had just completed his third play in which there wasn't one difficult player; not one distraction; not one argument. Can I add that these were among the most boring plays of our time? They were like finely buffed episodes of Philco Playhouse: tidy, neat, pre-digested, and forgotten almost immediately, save for the rage I felt at another missed opportunity.

All great work comes to us through various forms of friction. I like this friction; I thrive on it. I keep hearing that Kim Stanley was difficult. Yes, she was: in the best sense of the word. She questioned everything; nailed everything down; got answers; motivated everyone to work at her demonically high standard. Everyone improved, as did the project on which she was working, whether it was a scene in class, a TV project, a film, or a play. Is that difficult? Bring more of them on.

Is Dustin Hoffman difficult? You bet. He wants it right; he wants everything right, and that means you and that means me. I find it exhilarating, but in our current culture, they would prefer someone who arrived on time, shared pictures of the family, hugged everyone and reminded them of how blessed he is to be in a play, and who does whatever the director asks of him.

Is Warren Beatty difficult? Only if you're mediocre or lazy. If you work hard and well, he's got your back, your front, and your future well in hand. He gets things right--for everybody.

No friction. No interest. No play. No film. It's very depressing.

I don't want to know about your process. I want to see the results of it. I'll gladly help an actor replicate and preserve and share whatever results from all the work that has been done on a part, but I don't want to hear about it. I've worked with actors who read a play a couple of times and fully understood their characters and gave hundreds of brilliant performances. I don't know how they reached that high level of acting, and I don't care. My job is to provide a safe environment, to hold you to the high standards that have been set by the playwright, the other actors, and by me. I hold it all together, but I don't need to know that your second-act scene is so true because you drew upon the death of your beloved aunt or the time your father burned your favorite doll.

Now the process is public, and actors want acclimation for the work they've put into the work that doesn't work. Is this insane? Read the newspapers, and there is an actor talking about his intentions with a part. I've pulled strands of O'Neill into this character, and I'm looking at certain paintings and photographs to gain a certain texture. And then you go to the theatre and see the performance of a frightened understudy. But a great gal or guy. Sweet. Loves the theatre.

Every year or so, I tell myself I'm going to stop going to see plays. It's just too depressing. But I remember how much I love what theatre can be and what theatre was, and I go back, an old addict, an old whore who wants to get the spark going again.

I don't think we can get the spark going again because the people working in the theatre today never saw the spark, so they can't get it going or keep it going if it walked right up to them and asked for a seat.

It's a job, a career step, a rehabilitation for a failed TV star or aging film star. I got a call from one of these actresses, seeking coaching. I need my cred back, she said.

This is not what the theatre is supposed to be, but it is what the theatre now is.

I don't want to just shit on the theatre: It's bad everywhere, because it's all business, real-estate space with actors. It's no longer something vital. I used to think that the theatre was like a good newspaper: It provided a service; people wanted and needed it; revenue was provided by advertisers who bought space if the paper delivered, but profit was not the motive--the motive was the dissemination of truth and news and humor. Who goes to the theatre at all now? I think those in the theatre go because it's an occupational requirement: They want to keep an eye on what the other guys are going, and they want to rubberneck backstage with those who might use them in the future. But who are the audiences? They want relief not enlightenment. They want ease. This is fatal.

I talk to Sidney Lumet. I talk to Mike Nichols. I ask them if I'm the crazy old man who hates everything. You might be, they say, but you're not wrong. They have the same feelings, but they work them out or work around them in different ways.

The primary challenges of the theatre should not always be getting people to give a shit about it. The primary challenge should be to produce plays that reach out to people and change their lives. Theatre is not an event, like a hayride or a junior prom--it's an artistic, emotional experience in which people who have privately worked out their stories share them with a group of people who are, without their knowledge, their friends, their peers, their equals, their partners on a remarkable ride." ~~ director Arthur Penn

I love this. A scathing indictment of modern day showbiz priorities that I'm guilty of embodying myself - get hired, be liked, rinse and repeat. Color me respectfully scolded, sir.

For more fabulous insight from creative legends, check out James Grissom's blog Follies of God.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Revolving Technology Door

Look who came home today!

"I spent seven days at the laptop repair shop and all I got was this stupid new LCD display."

I have to say, this last week was painful without my laptop. No Microsoft Office, no Final Draft, no Photoshop - what's a multi-tasking creative hyphenate supposed to do? I was like a manufacturer without a factory. No bueno.

Thank goodness I got this miracle of technology over Thanksgiving break --

That's an iPhone 4, baby! I have officially entered the 21st century. And I love it. L-O-V-E!

Of course, getting a new phone meant it was time to say goodbye to my faithful Sony Ericsson TM506. You can see the ghostly image of my new Hello Kitty case in the reflection --

I sent it off to be recycled to support the National Council Against Domestic Violence. If you have old, unused mobile phones or other digital electronics hanging around your house, consider donating them to support their programs - it's a win win!

And with that, my revolving door of technology is closed for now. New blog posts to come soon!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Forced Hiatus

The good news? I finally got an iPhone!

The bad news? Less than a day after my new phone ushered me into the 21st century, my other vital device had a jealous fit and rendered itself useless in protest.

So even though I had a slew of new blog post ideas over Thanksgiving break, I'm still on hiatus until my laptop is repaired. I'm posting this via the Blogger app, hoping it doesn't look too wonky.

Thanks for your patience everyone! New posts coming soon about acting, writing, and my semi-sorta-glamorous life as a volunteering, food-loving nerdette!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Every End is a Beginning

Stephen Falk created Next Caller, a comedy that got picked up by NBC.

Then NBC took it away.

He tells the whole story with bracing honesty on his blog post "Advice To Young TV Writers (but really: What Happened To My NBC Show)" - a must read for all television writers!

Special kudos to Stephen for his postscript about hiring a gender balanced writer's room. That's how you do it, showrunners...

Monday, November 5, 2012

Money Monday: Theater for Cheap

I don't pay full price for anything if I can help it. And yet, I can't stop seeing live theater. Stellar acting performances and killer writing inspire me as an artist. And there's nothing like taking in a live performance with an audience...and occasionally crying my eyes out next to them.

Thank goodness for Goldstar! They offer discount tickets to live entertainment in cities all over, including theater, comedy, sports, music and even things like wine tastings, sushi making classes and harbor cruises. Most offers are half-price off!

Best of all, it's free to join. How much of a no-brainer is that? They often have tickets for big-time venues like The Greek Theatre and Cirque du Soleil, so you can save money and get inspired by the best.

Did I mention it's free to sign up? What are you waiting for?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A True Hollywood Horror Story

Stories like this remind me that Hollywood can be a horrible, heartbreaking cesspool of evil. Part of me is grateful I've never had to deal with something like this. The other part of me says, "Get ready. This bullshit is coming."

On his blog, screenwriter Doug Richardson tells the sordid tale of his legal thriller idea that swirled around the cesspool getting eaten by sharks. It's a page turner like no other. Enjoy.

The Smoking Gun, Part 1.

The Smoking Gun, Part 2.

The Smoking Gun, Part 3.

The Smoking Gun, Part 4.

An Open Letter to Student Filmmakers

Dear Film Students,

You are all so beautiful and eager. You can’t wait to get out of the classroom and start making your films. You’re excited to find actors to bring your vision to life. You can already picture the thunderous applause at your Academy Award qualification screening.

As an actor who has auditioned for and worked on many student films, I applaud your enthusiasm. You are the next generation of filmmakers and yes, many of you will go on to be Oscar nominees.

But right now, there are things my fellow actors and I experience over and over that need to be addressed. Because frankly, we know more about the business than most of you – especially if you were in junior high school when we started our acting careers.

So with all due respect, here are a few things you really need to hear --

1) Don’t make us drive out of town to audition.

Actors are juggling day jobs, auditions for paid roles, and our everyday lives. If you ask us to drive to Thousand Oaks or Long Beach for a student film audition, we probably won’t go. Especially with gas prices being so high right now.

Ensure the largest talent pool for your auditions by holding them in town. In Los Angeles, CAZT is free for producers and Space Station is affordable as well. You can also hold auditions via Skype or invite actors to put themselves on tape. Come to us and we’ll come to you.

2) Tell us where we’re going.

“Auditions will be held in Butler 22A” may mean something to you, but we’re not familiar with your campus. Send us directions, send us a campus map, tell us where we can park. Post signs along the way to help us find you.

And for goodness sake, put a sign on the door that says “Auditions Are Here!”

3) Be clear about what you want to see in the audition.

Don’t just send us the script. Tell us which pages you want to see so we can prepare in advance. That’s how it works in the big leagues. If you’ll be taking us through improv or movement exercises, let us know up front. We’re game for anything but we don’t like surprises. We just want to show you our best work.

Oh, and if the role is for a non-dialogue film, don’t give us five pages of dialogue from Sleepless in Seattle for the audition because you think it’s a similar character. You’ll just get a Meg Ryan impression that is unlikely to help you cast your role. Plus we think it’s weird. And monologues? Nooooo...

4) Respect the relationship between actor and student filmmaker.

My friend Christopher describes it as a symbiotic relationship. We need each other. I know you think your short film will be the next THX 1138, but you’re not doing us a favor by allowing us to be in your masterpiece. Understand and appreciate that we’re taking time and energy out of our lives to work on your project for free. Respect us and you’ll earn our respect.

And perhaps the most important thing student filmmakers need to learn about working with professional actors --

5) Say “thank you” as often as possible.

Never underestimate the power of gratitude. We’re doing fight choreography and falling down stairs without stunt pay, crying on cue for twenty takes, and doing our best to hit every mark. It’s all in a day’s work for us. We’re happy to help you realize your vision. Pay us back by saying “thank you” and meaning it.

Thanks for listening. We’ll see you at the audition for your next film!


Your Actors

Monday, October 29, 2012

Video Distractions: Super Nerd Alert!

Yes, I'm an artist who went to MIT. And even though I spend most of my days creating words and envisioning characters, I am damn proud of my techy-nerd heritage.

My latest favorite videos reflect my penchant for all things geek --

First, perhaps the most amazing Gangnam Style parody ever - MIT Gangnam Style!

I heart this parody so much! Not only does it show off a campus I love and miss, it's a great showcase of the incredible diversity at MIT - cultural, academic, sports, and more. Plus perfect lip-syncing, Logs a cappella, and Noam Chomsky! MIT PRIDE!

One of the comments said it best - "Only an MIT Gangnam Style video could feature: the MIT Dean of Admissions, one of the principal leaders of the Human Genome Project and co-chair of President Obama's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, the father of modern linguistics, and one of Time's '100 Most Influential People in the World' in 2012 for his liquid metal battery research."

Another fun tidbit from the comments - "Richard Yoon, the star of this video, is an absolute legend. 5.0 GPA, plays on the football team, and I once witnessed him save a kitten from a tree in Killian court."

That's an MIT overachiever, baby!

Next up, a nerdy video referred to me by an MIT alumna --

Did I make one? Of course I did! Still working on getting them perfect - it's my new dinner table trick...

Finally, proof that nerd work is cool --

A little too much woo-ing, but who doesn't love a good Rube Goldberg machine?

Do you have any nerdy videos to share?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

My Journey with The Red Shirt

My friend Christopher is excessively creative. His latest project - Journey of Red Shirt.

He's taking this red shirt --

And sending it around the world. Here's how it works --

Genius, right? He gave me the privilege of kicking off the whole thing, so I wanted to do it right. I decided to wear the red shirt on my busy, busy Sunday.

The shirt was a little big for me, so I decided to dress it up --

Sorta works, right?

First stop - Sunday brunch with MIT ladies at the super elegant and super yummy Bottega Louie. Their beignets were like heaven - warm and fluffy. Portabello mushroom fries - SO good. My Lobster Breakfast Hash was gorgeous but just okay --

Bakery at the front was stunning --

A fantastic morning of nerd girl bonding - love MIT women!

Then head to Visual Communications in Little Tokyo for a directing workshop with the great Henry Chan --

Henry used the same scene from Hannah and Her Sisters that he used at the directing/acting workshop I did at the DGA last year, bringing back fantastic memories.

It was wonderfully educational seeing the process from the other side. Henry is a fantastic teacher and an all-around awesome guy. Can't wait to work with him!

Final stop for the day - Atwater Village for the inaugural Work in Progress reading. I shared a piece of my latest sci-fi tale to a packed house --

And that was the red shirt's journey with me! Where will it go next? Follow the red shirt at @JourneyRedShirt.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

I Love Gays Because I’m Human

My name is Teresa and I’m a straight ally – a heterosexual who is passionate about equality for homosexuals.

And it’s not because I’m a fag hag or because being pro-gay is the hipster thing to do. I advocate for gay rights because I’m a compassionate human being who thinks every argument against LGBTQ equality is the most infuriating bullshit I’ve ever heard.

But wait – perhaps you’re one of these anti-gay people. Perhaps you have an argument or two that you’d like to present to me, just to play devil’s advocate. You want to talk about how the Bible clearly states homosexuality is a sin or explain to me how traditional marriage will be tarnished if gays are allowed to marry. Or maybe you think there’s nothing wrong with the current guidelines for domestic partnerships. Why change what isn’t broken, right?

Bullshit. Go screw yourself.

To me, equality for gays isn’t a religious or political issue – it’s a human issue. Are you a human being or not? Because you and the stinking politicians trying to prevent gay equality can dress up your prejudice with Bible speak and family values rhetoric all you want – it still comes down to the fact that you consider homosexuals to be a class of citizen separate from yourselves. You’re you and they are not like you.

And that, in my humble opinion, is a load of bullshit.

We’re all human beings. We are all more alike than we are different. That’s a truth I learned myself after spending my childhood being teased and criticized for being different. I internalized that “I’m different” treatment and wasted so much time trying to fit in, only to realize that my differences are what make me truly loveable. I deserve love simply because I’m human.

So if you’re hanging on to some pipe dream of life that’s free of these scary gays and their gay agenda, you need to wake up. They’re here, they’re queer, and they just want to be treated like human beings.

If you still disagree with me, I cordially invite you to see Artist At Play’s latest production, Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them. It’s the spectacular West Coast debut of the award-winning play by A. Rey Pamatmat that runs at GTC Burbank through November 10th. Buy tickets here!

Title character Edith (Amielynn Abellera) and her brother Kenny (Rodney To) are kids living on their own, protecting each other while fighting like siblings do, surviving day to day in an uncertain, dangerous world.

And in the midst of the harsh realities of child abandonment and rural isolation, Kenny explores a new relationship with classmate Benji (Brian Hostenske). Yes, a gay relationship. We see their connection develop slowly and organically, thanks to deft, nuanced performances by the actors. Benji goes through the heartbreaking process of coming out to his family and Kenny is right there to hold his hand and tell him he’s going to be okay. Their relationship is so sweet and beautiful, I couldn’t help but think, “What the heck do anti-gay Republicans think they’re protecting the world from?!?!”

Rodney To and Brian Hostenske in
Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them
by A. Rey Pamatmat
Photo by Michael C. Palma
Because at the center of my gay advocacy is this belief – love is love. This play underscores this core value so beautifully. Kenny and Benji’s story isn’t about being G-A-Y, it’s about the thrill of young love, the innocence of sexual discovery, and the joy of finding someone who lets you be who you are. The same themes you’ll find in Romeo & Juliet or Disney’s Beauty & the Beast. Love is love.

So if you’re one of these people I mentioned at the top of this article who feel like you have a legitimate reason to oppose gay marriage or any number of gay equality issues, I challenge you to see Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them and not be transformed. That’s how good this play is. You can crinkle your nose when the two boys kiss all you want, but by the end you’ll see that there is nothing to fear, there is only love to be celebrated.

And if you don’t feel that, then I’m sorry – you’re not a human being.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Prop 30: For Red Rubber Balls Everywhere

Erica Rood is a Los Angeles public school teacher, a brilliant writer, and a good friend. She wrote this opinion piece on Prop 30 that I just had to share. It doesn't quote numbers - it comes from the heart.

Prop 30 isn’t an educational proposition. It is a financial proposition, and yet it affects education more than any other program. It is a last resort scare tactic to force the people of California into paying more money in taxes, to put ABC chewing gum into the hole in the bottom of the public education life raft. It doesn’t fix anything, it doesn’t prevent the money from being diverted to administrative costs, it doesn’t do anything except stop thousands of teachers from being fired, and countless others like myself, from taking another pay cut.

In an effort to prepare for the defeat of prop 30, California has withheld millions of dollars from schools this year. If it passes, the money will be returned, if not, then it will begin a chain reaction of continued cuts across public education.

Haven’t we heard this before? Cuts to education, and yet this time, I feel like there really isn’t anything else to cut. Sure you can fire teachers and combine grade level classes, if you fill comfortable with your child sitting in a class of 44 kindergartners.

I suppose your student can get by without technology in the classroom. I currently have 3 computers for 22 kids allowing them each a meager 15 min. a week. That’s okay though, they all have cell phones right? Can’t they learn computer literacy at home?

But I can’t tell you to vote for prop 30 because it doesn’t fix anything. It is a stopgap measure to prevent the worst from getting worse. It provides no reform to fix any of the existing problems. Problems of state channels that funnel educational funding elsewhere, and districts that are such a maze of bureaucracy and staffed with people so far removed from the classroom, but they may as well be in south equatorial Australia.

So I can’t tell you to vote for it because it’s bad legislation. However, it is such bad legislation that if it doesn’t pass, our students lose the most.

Bigger classes, less school days, mass layoffs of newly credentialed teachers, (highly qualified, ebullient, and tech savvy teachers at the bottom of the seniority totem pole), delayed facilities repairs, and even less sports equipment.

Call it hand ball, call it wall ball, call it fun at recess. The game where competitors take out their academic frustrations and energetic wiggles on an unsuspecting red rubber ball in front of cheering legions of classmates. If prop 30 does not pass, frivolities like sports equipment are the next things to go (after art and music of course).

So, if you can remember what it felt like to bounce that red ball high over your head, and the rubber thud it made as it touched back down to earth, consider voting in November. If you can remember how dirty your hands got from the skin of the ball as it licked the blacktop, register to vote. If you can remember creating obscure names like waterfalls and poppies and a whole host of other nouns for different ways the ball could bounce that left yard teachers scratching their heads, consider voting for prop 30.

It won’t fix education, but it will prevent thousands of teachers from being laid off and class sizes from doubling. It would keep my salary where it is, sitting modestly just underneath the middle-class demarcation, and save a red rubber balls for millions of students across blacktop statewide.

Consider voting yes on prop 30 for the red rubber balls.

Erica Rood is a third grade public school teacher. In her fifth year of teaching, she encourages her students to make their voices heard when they see a need in the community.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Weekend Crazy Days

My weekend is so packed, I'm looking forward to Monday when I can relax!

Friday was filled with personal dealings as I celebrated Spirit Day by wearing purple. By the time I arrived at the sold out Dis/orient/ed Comedy show, I was exhausted.

I've reviewed this all-Asian-American female comedienne lineup before and was looking forward to this encore performance.

A packed house indulged in $4 PBRs before the show --

Hosts Jenny and Atsuko did an amazing job hosting the show --

And I was thrilled to see D'Lo again. We performed together at Tasty Words in April. Though again, he disappeared after the show before I could tell him how fabulous he was. Ah well, next time!

(For those wondering why a "he" was performing at an all-Asian-American female comedienne show, look up D'Lo on YouTube.)

Saturday started bright and early with carrying folding chairs and handing out programs for an all-day volunteer retreat for WriteGirl.

This is my first year as a mentor volunteer and I'm already having an amazing time. Today was filled with group activities --

Goodies like free journals for our year of writing --

Inspirational words from WriteGirl Executive Director Keren Taylor --

And a panel of published writers sharing their professional experiences with us --

Though of course the highlight of the day was the spectacular potluck lunch --

WriteGirl volunteers can cook! My contribution was meant to be a pesto rice pilaf, but I added too much chicken stock to the rice cooker, so it became risotto --

Capped off Saturday with opening night of Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them - more on that experience later!