Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What Does Your Headshot/Resume Say About You?

When I showed up for my first play audition (as a favor to the playwright), I was asked for my resume. "You mean with my chemistry internships and stuff?" I replied, confused.

I was one year out of MIT and totally clueless about what an acting resume was, let alone what a headshot should look like. Honest to God, this is what I brought to my next audition:

That is a glamour shot from Taiwan, my friends! Hugging a plastic pole - that spells professionalism, right?

Fast forward many, many years of experience later -

We had an industry guest at my acting class last night and I snuck glances at some of my classmates' acting headshots/resumes. I was very surprised to see bad headshots that didn't look like the actors, resumes formatted weirdly, headshots that weren't 8x10 size, etc. It was easy to separate the amateurs from the professionals. Or at least, the amateur-looking headshot/resumes from the professional-looking ones.

What impression does your headshot/resume make? Because you can be the greatest actor in the world and still make a bad first impression with your headshot/resume before you even open your mouth.

So take the time to get it right. Search "How to Create an Acting Resume" online for advice and follow the steps. Get together with fellow actors and critique each other's headshots. Ask every actor you meet to see their resume and notice how they list their credits.

I'll even show you mine to get started:

Monday, February 27, 2012

Oh What an Oscar Night!

The Oscars 2012! Debate all you want about the importance or non-importance of the event - it's just a really fun evening for me.

Back in Boston, my best friend K used to have epic Oscar parties, complete with Oscar trivia at the commercials (this was the pre-DVR era), a make-your-own Oscar statue craft station, and an Oscar pool that got mighty competitive. Plus K's famous hot artichoke dip, served with Doritos - the key to delicious.

Last year, I got food poisoning an hour into the awards and spent most of the evening laying on the floor in my friend's guest bathroom. I was determined not to repeat the spectacle this year.

I thought the show was elegant and classy - Billy was great, Will & Zach killed it (in a good way), and the SCTV reunion made me happy. All in all, a great night with great friends. I watched with my laptop, refreshing and gasping at Nikki Finke's live-snarking while checking on my two Oscar pools - one to win about $150 and the other to win $50,000! I got 15 categories right by the end of the evening, though not enough to win either pool. Ah well...

Even though it was relatively early on the West coast when the show was over, we ended up deconstructing the evening and gabbing about everything from Lars von Trier to what if Star Wars: The Phantom Menace was a watchable film until past midnight. The dogs couldn't stay awake:

What was the highlight of your Oscar night?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Mentor Day

Saturday kicked off with a quarterly meeting of great Asian-American minds in entertainment, held this time at Visual Communications in Little Tokyo (also home to the East West Players).

I go for the networking, encouragement, and inspiration, but also to see people I've come to consider friends and colleagues. We had a sparkling discussion about Lin-sanity, diversity casting and hiring in television, and why it's so damn hard to break into directing TV.

I also found out an actress friend is 25 weeks pregnant (Congrats K!), talked on a panel with Leo Chu, creator of Supah Ninjas! on Nickelodeon, and spotted yarnbombing on the sidewalk. All in all, an illuminating morning.

In the evening, I met up with MIT undergrad J who reached out to me because he's interested in acting. My first piece of advice? Graduate and get a good job! This acting thing is a marathon, not a sprint - there's plenty of time to figure out acting classes, headshots, and agents. Get a job, an apartment, a good car - then worry about the rest. I guaranteed he'd be happier in the long run than that guy working as a barista to support his acting career.

He was only in town for the weekend, so I suggested meeting at my favorite burger joint in LA - Umami Burger. Sorry, Father's Office, but this place rocks my world. New addition at the La Brea location - each table had a touchscreen unit for viewing pictures of menu items and playing games.

J recognized the tablet immediately because the company who makes them had been recruiting at an MIT Career Fair. Ah, I miss those career fairs - swag galore!

We chatted about acting and what's going on at the ole 'Tute, then headed over to the Kodak Theatre for a glimpse at the Oscars setup. We couldn't see much, but there were a few good spots, including one at the top of the stairs before the entrance to the theater. We used our brass rats to activate our Wonder Twin powers:

How are you spending Oscars Sunday?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Just Me and My Notebooks

Unlike yesterday, which involved driving all over SoCal, this sunny Friday held no appointments, meetings, or classes, which meant a full day writing at home - in pajamas! Ah, the perks of being an artist...

People are often surprised to hear I do most of my writing by hand - pen to paper, like in the olden days before typewriters or computers. There's something about the tactile method of processing thoughts into the written word that gets my creativity flowing. And I always have one journal that's solely devoted to brainstorming and freewriting.

My blank (preferably unlined) notebooks are the canvas for my writing - developing new ideas, beating out plot points, exploring character back stories, or just working out my thoughts.

Today, I decided to sweep my last year of notebooks and look for stray story ideas that could be revived or revisited. A look back at my creative mind dumping during my last trip around the sun.

Here's what I found:
  • Brainstorming babble for dozens of pilot ideas that went nowhere, including my failed attempt to make an orphan cult seem interesting and several misguided pages contemplating turning Kindergarten Copinto a series. (I don't know either.)

  • Fragments of old ideas that pleasantly surprise me. I delighted in finding six pages devoted to this gem of an idea:

    Oh, if only...

  • Character name trends - my bad guys are almost always named Bruce, after my sister's evil ex. Most of my handsome leading men are named Tommy, after...well, that's a story for another day...

  • Ample amounts of self-flagellation and freaking out - e.g. - "I have nothing! I don't know what my voice is or what story I want to tell!" and "What are the themes I resonate with? Who frickin' knows!"

  • Equal amounts of self-encouragement - "Come on, you can do this, damnit!" and "Closing the gap - that's all I'm doing. Don't look down - keep fighting through!"

  • And finally, utter randomness I can't even remember:

Have you ever found something random you've written & not remembered why you wrote it?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

From Long Beach to Studio City

Today was one of those driving days, where my car racked up more miles toward its ultimate goal of 240,000 miles, which, according to the Car Talk guys, is the distance between the Earth and the Moon. A nerdy goal for any nerdy car owner.

Started with a drive down to Long Beach for a meeting. Before this freelance job came up, the last time I'd been to Long Beach was when we shot this:

Yup, that was the episode my former writing partner and I wrote. Ty Trullinger is the man.

Long Beach seems like a nice city - wish I could have stayed all day. Plenty to see along Shoreline Drive, including a ferris wheel:

and The Aquarium of the Pacific!

Office buildings amidst palm trees:

Unfortunately had to head back home to squeeze in a tiny interval of writing time before heading up to Relax & Write class in Studio City. The drive over the hill was decidedly less scenic:

Though I got some great writing done in class!

How many miles do you have on your car?

Getting There

Last night was spent at a casting director workshop. Oh what a night...

Usually the casting director will bring scenes for actors to read, either from the show they're currently casting or from past shows they've cast.

Last night, we were asked to bring our own scenes, which I dislike greatly. It's difficult to find good scenes and then the pressure is on to give a perfect performance since you've conceivably had plenty of time to prepare. I much prefer the even playing field of a cold reading situation.

I brought my go-to scene of late - a guest star wife role from NCIS which starts right after she's been attacked in her home by a stranger and shot him out of self-defense. The character is in a heightened state of fear and worry when Agent Gibbs begins the scene, so I took myself out of the room to prepare.

In the silence of the hallway, the task of "getting there" feels daunting. How to scare yourself half to death in a vacuum? I gave myself plenty of time to try technique I could remember to evoke a strong "moment before," from picturing myself in jail to describing the attack to Agent Gibbs.

Then it was a matter of keeping this heightened state until it was my turn. Because you don't want it to fizzle too soon. After a few false starts, I finally went in and did my scene. Pushed the first scene a little, but the second scene was there. Afterward, the casting director looked truly impressed and kept praising me for my quiet, solid presence. Phew!

Went home and promptly returned to obsessing over the Woot-Off! I really want one of these, which I've seen on the Woot-Off! before:

Actors, what do you do to "get there" before a heavy scene?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Momentum Machine

How does one generate momentum in their career? Then keep it going when the going gets tough?

I do it with the help of friends like Christopher.

You've seen his guest blogs around here, and hopefully you've seen the short film I produced for him:

(Misusing Irony was just accepted into the LA Film+Music Weekend, so watch for news on this blog for our screening at The Downtown Independent in March!)

After a morning of typing up more of my writing, we met for another personal catch-up/career pow-wow over foodie food. Lunch at Whole Foods then dessert at Whipp'd, formerly known as The House of Dole Whip, courtesy of a Groupon that expired today!

As artists, it's good to have someone keep you accountable on your projects. Christopher and I definitely do that for each other. We spun some ideas for marketing his newest writing projects and talked a little about my latest breakthrough and upcoming meetings.

We're planning an action short film about a hitman/hitwoman pair if anyone wants to give us money!

Coming up tonight: a casting director workshop and more typing!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Pirate's Favorite Socks? Arrrrgyle!

Spent the afternoon researching literary journals and discovered one thing – there are a bazillion literary journals! Too many in the Poets & Writers directory to read and explore in a few hours. I ended up searching for some Top Literary Journals lists to help me whittle down the pool and eventually chose five journals to receive my first short story submission – some print, some online, from the large-scale to the small-time.

I also started to type up the piece I’m planning to submit, contemplating how to tackle the second draft:

The rest of the day was devoted to a reunion of former Disneyland co-workers. We headed down to Buena Park to see our fellow former co-worker David in the Pirate’s Dinner Adventure. Ahoy, matey!

Dinner and a show on a pirate ship – what could be better? We cheered and whooped like crazy while David, playing the role of the Orange Pirate, swung on ropes, fought with swords & spears, and engaged in fantastic stage combat with the other scoundrel pirates.

I know I’m biased, but he was the best pirate in the show. Just look at this six-pack!

Highly recommended, especially if you have kids! Or if you’re just a kid at heart. Watch for discount tickets on Goldstar!

Back in the Saddle

There was denial. Then there was more denial. And finally, thanks to my spiritual healer (and chocolate from the 99 Cents Only store), there was a breakthrough.

Translation: I’m back! (You missed me, right?)

To get back in the swing of things, on this blog and in life, I’ve decided to repeat my Writer’s Diet Experiment, in which I blog about just about everything I’m doing all day for a week.

I usually prefer to write blog posts on a specific topic, but I think it will be good for me to be accountable to someone for a while. Namely, all of you! At least until my mojo has fully returned. (You can be the judge of when that’s happened...)

This experiment was inspired by the blog The Actor’s Diet, written by my friend Lynn Chen, who actually blogs twice a day. Could I ever be that prolific? We’ll see.

Here we go –

I began this morning as I often do – lying awake in bed ruminating on fragments of ideas, willing them to form into usable concepts. The view from my sleepy spot:

After about an hour, I got up and found a note I had scrawled in the middle of this night:

Unlike some of my half-awake notes, I knew exactly what this one meant. I went to my computer and added it to my TV pilot whiteboard.

My computer has been a dangerous place for me lately, sucking away my time and attention like a Dementor. My daily to-do list is long - read Cynopsis, Deadline, & TV Line, submit for projects casting online, check on my eBay auctions, Facebook, Twitter, read The Actor’s Diet and Junk Food Guy, and attempt to crawl out from under my mountainous inbox.

Unfortunately, in my denial-filled stupor, I’ve been spending way too much time on my don’t-have-to-do list – Cake Wrecks, Dealery, YouTube, Martha Stewart, etc. My healer suggested I limit myself to 30 minutes of email/social networking time in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening, which is damn good advice. I’ll start doing that tomorrow.

On with my day –

Last night, before attending another spectacular Rant & Rave at the Rogue Machine Theatre, my friend L and I committed to brushing up and submitting one short fiction piece to at least three literary journals by March 1st. First work order of the day – search through Poets & Writers for three literary journals that would vibe with my voice.

What are your biggest Internet distractions?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Denial Ain’t Just a River in Egypt

The day I found out the pilot I developed at CBS hadn’t been picked up, I sighed heavily for the briefest of moments before declaring my firm intent to move on. After all, I had plenty on my writing to do list – new pilot pitches, brushing up my last script, first draft of my graphic novel, typing out my Marblehead novel, etc. I could finally catch up with friends I hadn’t seen in months and blog every day with ease.

So what have I done since that day?

Nearly nothing.

Oh sure, I’ve been trying to work. A few hours here, thirty minutes there – producing worthless drivel. I’ve skipped a ton of days on this blog. And I still haven’t made lunch dates with friends.

Mostly I’ve been staring at the blank page, feeling about as creative as a cement block.

Finally, I could ignore it no more. I was in denial. I *am* in denial. My instinct to be professional and a go-getter had kicked in so that I didn’t have to face any feelings about my pilot not going. And I ended up in this limbo place where no creativity can bloom. Ugh.

So while I thank my spirit for trying to protect me, I’m going to let myself feel sad for a while. Because it’s a bummer that my pilot didn’t go. Yes, it was a wonderful opportunity for which I have incredible gratitude, but it’s over now. Just like theater actors have post-show blues when a show closes, I’m letting myself have post-pilot blues.


Anyone have any Ben & Jerry’s?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Video Valentines

Love, love, love...

Love, love, love...

Love, love, love, love...

All you need is love!

All you need is love!

All you need is love, love!

Love is all you need!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Check out my MIT friend Vlad's new Web series Connection Lost, a sci-fi Valentine's Day tale. Visit their site for a discount code on Equal Exchange fair trade chocolate!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Money Monday: Making Money from Thin Air

Artists know – every penny counts. So why not make sure your money is making you money?

Here’s how my money makes money every time I spend online or offline:
  • Credit Card Rewards - I prefer the cash back kind of credit card over those that offer mileage or reward points. With my Costco Credit Card, I earn 3% cash back on gas, 2% cash back on travel or restaurants, and 1% cash back on everything else. (The cash only pays out once a year, but there’s no annual fee.) Research the best incentive credit card for you at Bankrate.com.

  • Dining Rewards - I’m also signed up for MileagePlus Dining, which earns me United Airlines miles every time I use my Costco Credit Card at one of their participating restaurants. Yup, that’s double dipping rewards! The program is also available for other airlines, so check your favorite airline’s Web site for dining rewards.

  • Airline Shopping Malls - Any time I need to shop online, I click through one of the airline shopping malls first to earn miles. I usually check them all to see which airline mall will give me the most miles for my purchase at any given store. There are several to check –

  • Upromise by SallieMae – Earn dollars for a child’s college plan by registering your credit cards and grocery reward cards and then spending on particular brands. They also have a shopping mall that can earn you money when you clickthrough to shop online. (I’m saving for my goddaughter to go to MIT.)

  • GoodShop – If I can’t make money for me, I’ll make it for someone else. GoodShop gives money to the charity of your choice every time you clickthrough their site before shopping. They also offer exclusive coupons and offers! Plus they’re the only incentive program I can find that earns money from shopping at Amazon.com, so I clickthrough their site every time I need a book. Right now, I’m contributing to the East West Players every time I shop!
Any other incentive programs out there worth mentioning?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Moment in Time for Whitney

I heard the news of Whitney Houston's death the way I hear about most happenings in pop culture - over Twitter.

A few of my favorites:
@RonnieButler: There comes a point when we exhale. Rest in peace Whitney Houston. #whitneyhouston

@foodjunk: Somewhere Whitney Houston is playing baseball in a corn field with Shoeless Joe Jackson.
She was only forty-eight years old. Such a tragic end for one of the greatest talents of our time.

The tributes and retrospectives abound online, so I'll just add this - among all the amazing singles and videos and live performances, one that will always live in my memory is her rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" before Super Bowl XXV.

It was 1991 and I was a metal-mouthed high schooler with a wealth of emotional hang-ups who sought solace in music. Whitney was my drug.

Her performance was exquisitely beautiful in every way. Seeing her sing the national anthem so effortlessly with her own Whitney-style brought me to my feet. Her version did what that song is meant to do - inspire pride and rally patriotic spirit. My band director pointed out later that she had changed the time signature from 3/4 time to 4/4 time, which was just further proof to me she was a musical genius.

No other pre-game national anthem performance will ever come close. Love you, Whitney. Rest in peace.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Stage Door Traditions

The air was chilly and crisp, but the anticipation kept me warm. We were waiting outside the Artists' Entrance at the Pasadena Playhouse after a stellar production of Art starring Bradley Whitford, Roger Bart, and Michael O'Keefe.

I don't remember who taught me about waiting by the stage door to meet the performers. I certainly didn't do it all the times I went to Broadway shows as a youth. But once I learned how to do it, I was hooked.

Because theater actors will always come out the stage door and greet their fans. It's a tradition, even today on Broadway, where actors will autograph Playbills and pose for pictures while receiving accolades for the performance they just finished minutes ago.

I was eager to meet the actors in Art for a few reasons. One, the show was incredible - a brilliant play executed brilliantly by three skilled wordsmiths. I laughed, I gasped, it was better than CATS.

Two, I had a minor connections with two of the actors - I'd acted opposite Bradley Whitford for a day on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and had seen Roger Bart in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown on Broadway. Awkward hellos always feel less awkward when you have an "in" to start the conversation.

We waited for a while outside, managing doubt that they would come out at all. But true to theater form, they did. Michael emerged first - we told him his performance was wonderful. He smiled and walked away. (That's the other piece of stage door etiquette - the space around the stage door is where you say hello. After the performer exits that zone, you leave them alone.)

Bradley was lovely - when I mentioned we had worked together, he perked and asked, "Oh! How are you doing?" Like we were old friends - so sweet.

Roger Bart came out next, and I have to admit, I totally fell in fandom love. He was funny, down to earth, and seemed genuinely interested to meet us. When I mentioned seeing him play Snoopy on Broadway, he quipped, "Wow, back when I was a young man."

As the conversation continued, he learned I went to MIT and instantly started asking questions about how I went from an engineering school to becoming an actor and writer. I would have loved to take him out for a drink and tell him my life story, but out of respect, I kept it brief, congratulated him on the show again, and said farewell.

As we walked away, my friend realized we didn't ask for a picture, but that was okay. I look forward to working with these guys someday (especially Roger) and saying, "I met you at the stage door after Art." They may not remember me, but I'll remember them.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Hopping on the Blogger Challenge Bandwagon

I heard about this blogger challenge from my friend Lynn’s blog The Actor’s Diet, who heard about it from her friend Lauren.

The Rules:
1. List 11 random things about myself
2. Answer the 11 questions she asked
3. Come up with 11 questions to ask other bloggers
4. Tag 11 other bloggers to do this next

I want to play, but I don’t think I know 11 other bloggers. I know Lynn, Michelle, Junk Food Guy, and that's about it. And how exactly do I tag bloggers?

So I’ll do a half version, starting with 11 random things about me:
  1. I’ve never been to Europe.

  2. My high school band director told us he went to school with Jonathan Frakes, and I once wrote Jonathan a fan letter asking him to come play with our concert band. It never happened.

  3. I had insomnia for almost two years while working at Disneyland. The happiest place on earth was stressful as hell! Listening to spa-type relaxation music finally helped me fall asleep consistently.

  4. For my sweet sixteen birthday party, I asked my friends to make a donation to an environmental group instead of giving me a gift. (Yup, I was a charity nerd even back then.) My friends all made donations and brought gifts too. They were awesome.

  5. I think Angelo should have won Top Chef Season 7 instead of Kevin. There, I said it.

  6. Growing up, I always wanted to be a dancer and I still mourn the fact that I missed my window.

  7. I had braces for four years of junior high & high school – head gear, rubber bands, the whole shebang. Five years ago, a fancy dentist in LA told me I should get braces and I wanted to slap him.

  8. I was so scared by a kiddie roller coaster ride as a child, I didn’t ride another roller coaster until senior year of high school, and even then I did it under duress.

  9. I had pictures of Barry Manilow and Bruce Boxleitner in my locker in high school. I know, total dork.

  10. I actually like Circus Peanuts.

  11. I got banned for life from Google Adsense for clicking on my own ads on this blog, which I honestly did not know was against the rules. At my last day job company, we were constantly told we should click on our own ads whenever possible by our VP of Biz Dev. Thanks for nothing, Richard.

And here are answers to the same 11 questions that Lynn answered:
  1. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live? In a magical version of LA with less traffic, cleaner air, and my family close by.

  2. Beer or Wine? Both! In moderation, of course. I enjoy lagers, but also look forward to my first trip to Napa.

  3. What is your favorite quote? “Be the change you want to see in the world.” – Gandhi

  4. One thing you always have in your purse? My Lactaid pills – so I can eat cheese!

  5. The best concert you’ve ever been to? Barry Manilow at the Hollywood Bowl, baby!

  6. What would be your last meal? This is a morbid question and I cancel/deflect any energy created by answering it, but I suppose it would be a lobster clambake from Legal Sea Foods.

  7. What is one word that makes you cringe? The F word that refers to gay people in a derogatory manner.

  8. If you could live one day as the opposite sex, what is the first thing you would do? Make a proper machine gun sound effect with my mouth – it’s the one thing I will admit ALL men do better than women.

  9. Do you believe in soul mates? Sure, why not?

  10. Gossip Girl or Glee? Glee! Because try as I might, I can’t relate to rich white society girls in NYC.

  11. What would be your ideal job? I have it! Though it would be more ideal if I had more hours in the day. Still, I’m happy.
Phew, that was fun!

Do you have a blog? Share your URL below!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Passing the Blame

Earlier this week, an Asian-American actor email list I’m on was abuzz over this ad, which ran locally in Michigan during the Super Bowl.

Attack-the-other-candidate commercials are common in an election year, but this ad seemed to have an additional “Let’s blame China!” message that felt inappropriate. Opinions were tossed back and forth – "That actress should have known better." "No, she was just someone taking an acting job." "Who’s this icky politician who approved this message?"

Upon further research, I realized it wasn’t just people in the Asian-American acting community who were talking about the ad, but the entire news media and blogosphere. Gawker, The Washington Post, and Politico, and more condemned the ad as racist and chastised the candidate for perpetuating stereotypes.

I prefer to focus on the poor actress in the middle of this bad publicity storm. I side with the people who support her, saying she’s not to blame for the ad. After all, she didn’t write it! She’s probably just a local non-union actress in Michigan who was excited about getting a paid commercial gig. It’s likely the job only made her a few hundred bucks.

I’ve blogged before about being willing to do stereotypical accents for a job and I still would. Because ultimately, I’m an actor and I work for hire.

Of course, there’s a line of appropriateness and taste that I won’t cross, but I’m guessing this actress didn’t think in a million years that those six lines would plaster her face would end up all over the Internet. I'm sure if she could go back in time, she'd refuse the job. But if she had done that, someone else would have done it instead. You can't blame actors for wanting to work.

Lawrence O’Donnell pretty much told the actress she should have been ashamed of herself, but I say back down off her. Don’t shoot the messenger.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

AFI Audition Report

With the sun shining brightly this morning, I drove across town to audition for an AFI film. Every year, I pay $25 to join the SAG Conservatory so I can be in the AFI casting database that film students use to cast their projects. I’ve only been called once or twice over the past eight years, but this was my second AFI audition since the new year. I’m on a roll!

Parking at AFI is tough – I drove all the way to the top of the hill before I found a spot. Then walked down the giant outdoor staircase to the middle of campus. Today’s audition was in the basement of the Warner Building, where I discovered something amazing.

Multiple bulletin boards featuring actor headshots! Probably from actors who came for an audition and decided to leave behind a souvenir in hopes a passing filmmaker will take interest.

Every student had a mailbox along the wall, and there were also boxes for specific projects. Several actors had distributed postcards or business cards to every box.

That kind of mass self-promotion can be a waste of money if you’re a specific type like me, but the bulletin board was intriguing. I even saw flyers and resumes from a few below-the-line talent like PAs and composers.

So even though it felt a little cheesy, I tacked one of my headshots up before leaving, along with some business cards for friends’ businesses I always try to promote, including Bubba’s Chop Shop and Castle’s Catering.

You never know, right?