Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Self-Evaluation Game

Submitting yourself online is an exercise in self-evaluation. Or at least it is for me.

First, I read the character description:
FEMALE / 25 TO 45 Attractive Bookworm
Then comes the guessing game. I ask myself, "What are they looking for exactly? Is that me? Can I play that?" All as I attempt to decide if I want to submit myself or not.

Self-evaluating can be trickier when the character description is extra detailed:
Female, early 30's/late 20's. Confidant shell--attractive, intelligent--masks a confused insecurity. Her drive is to help the people she loves, but her opinionated nature, coupled with her stubbornness and one-sided way of looking at an issue, prevents her from accomplishing her sincere and compassionate goals. Artistic, blunt, snobbish, moody and loving. Sometimes hedonistic, sometimes vulnerable. She has a unique perspective and a whimsical (often dark) sense of humor. Her relationship with emotions is underdeveloped, as is her understanding of true happiness or true love.

So why play the guessing game? Why not just submit to everything I can?

There are two schools of thought. There's the spaghetti theory - throw a bunch against the wall and see what sticks.

Or the selective theory that I employ - self-evaluating and selectively deciding if I'm right for the role. Because being confident that I can play what I'm submitting for gives me confidence in the actual audition.

Ultimately, it's about finding the balance between being selective and taking a chance by putting yourself out there. I remember casting director Mark Sikes telling me that actors shouldn't take themselves out of the running by not submitting. He encouraged actors to submit, then let the casting director decide if they're right for the role or not.

Then again, I found these strong words on NOW Casting the other day:
[This casting director] uses the NOW CASTING filing cabinet system to remember actors. If you submit improperly, you will be placed in the "NEVER CALL IN" file. If we need someone with blonde hair, don't submit if you are brunette. If we need someone with earlobe discs and you need to ask what they are, then don't submit. If we need a little person, do not submit if you are just short or as one actor stated "willing to cut your legs off to get on this show". There are consequences when you behave unprofessionally. Don't ruin this opportunity for those that are using the system properly and professionally.
Wow. Find that balance, actors!

How do you self-evaluate when submitting online?

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Monday After the Eclipse

May is flying by. My trip to Ireland and birthday festivities are over --

As is the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival --

Though the memories will live on forever. Like this picture of my awkward smile --


For the rest of the month, my focus is on finishing my Parenthood spec for applying to all the writers fellowships.

Well, actually my script has been finished for a month, but it's a steaming pile of poo. Turning it into a readable script means hours of slogging through pages until they look like this --

"Ass in the chair, Huang!" is my mantra for the next two weeks.

Blogging shall continue - what do you want to hear me talk about? Let me know in the comments below!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

TV Trailers Galore

Video trailers for all the new television shows coming in Fall 2012!
Click to watch: ABCFOXNBCCBSCW
These are the shows that have me excited - first, the dramas --

Revolution on NBC - I love post-apocalyptic, dystopian future stories - and this one's got sword-fighting!

Nashville on ABC - I also love country music. I think this is secretly about Faith Hill and Taylor Swift, who got famous with a song about Faith Hill's husband - drama bomb!

666 Park Avenue on ABC - Creeptastic fun!

Elementary on CBS - It's Monk as a serious drama! Slick and well-written, and Jonny Lee Miller looks pitch perfect.

Arrow on CW - This clip doesn't do the script justice - it's going to be straight-up superhero drama - can't wait!

And now, the comedies --

The Mindy Project on FOX - Hilarious and awesome, part 1

Ben & Kate on FOX - hilarious and awesome, part 2

What are you excited to see this fall?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Yes, There Are Asian-American Showrunners...

"So you've read a writer and invited them in for a meeting," she began sweetly, leaning forward for emphasis. "Is there any quality a writer can display that makes them one hundred percent hireable?"

An innocent yet wildly pointed question from an audience member that drew good-natured laughs from the panel of Asian-American showrunners at the WGA last night. One panelist faux-whispered to another, "Don't tell her!" More laughs all around.

As if there were some secret, some instant way to get hired into TV. I felt mildly embarrassed for the woman who asked, and yet that's why we were all there. To learn from people who have climbed the ladder to the top job in television - showrunner.

Last night's panel featured three kings from the one-hour drama world - Steve Maeda, who ran Pan Am and Lie to Me, Naren Shankar, who ran CSI for several years, and Veena Sud, who created The Killing and ran Cold Case.

Sponsored by the WGA Asian-American Writers Committee, the panel discussion was robust and informative. What a joy to see people of color in leadership positions that they earned by being kick ass, talented writers and collaborators. They gave their perspective about the business of television writing, the place of diversity in hiring and casting, working with directors and agents, and more.

I asked a question - I always do - about times when they decided not to pick up a writer's option and what those writers did that we could avoid doing when we're on the job. All three panelists agreed the worst traits are underpitching / not contributing enough in the room or being a "sniper" - the guy who shoots everyone's idea down without offering ideas of their own. Got it - no sniping activity in my future.

The panel was followed by a reception, as WGA events always are --

With a fantastic spread of food, including sushi from Sansai Japanese Grill and delicious pies from simplethings sandwich & pie shop (I love how the boxes say "you make good decisions") --

And of course, wine...

Thanks WGA for another great night!

Added 6/5/12 - video!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sunday Friend Day at LAAPFF

First of all, Happy Belated Mother's Day to all the moms!

"I smiled last time..."

I spent the happy day at LAAPFF - again - to support more friends in their amazing films. First up was Knots, produced by, written by, and starring my wing woman Kimberly-Rose Wolter --

SO exciting to finally see this film! Adorable and thoroughly enjoyable. Kimberly's performance was pitch perfect - funny and free - and Sung Kang was fantastic in yet another romantic comedy lead. (Yesterday's Sunset Stories was the other.)

Turned on the step and repeat with Kimberly and director Michael Kang --

Then headed across to the street to The Counter to build burgers and eat fries covered in cheese. Captured this fantastic picture of Michael and Kimberly!

Then headed over to Koreatown to catch my friend Lynn in Daylight Savings, the sequel to Surrogate Valentine.

(That's not Lynn in the picture.)

Again, a terrific film and a wonderful evolution of Goh Nakamura's meta story. If you don't know these films, go to and watch the first one online. It's moody and truthful and filled with heart.

In my opinion, not enough Lynn Chen in this sequel. Said so afterward with the beautiful Tamlyn Tomita --

And picked up all my favorite Dave Boyle films on DVD --

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Saturday at LAAPFF

Went to two more film screenings at LAAPFF last night!

Ensemble film Sunset Stories, a character-driven caper through Los Angeles that reminded me of Barbara Streisand's What's Up, Doc? --

And a comedy about open relationships called Yes, We're Open --

Followed by two more Q&A sessions --

Snuck into the filmmaker reception in between to stuff my face with dim sum & chocolate dipped fortune cookies. Don't tell anyone.

Both films were terrific, though by the last sex scene in Yes, We're Open, I was completely exhausted. Rushed home to get a good night's sleep before today's double feature. Half way through the festival - phew!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Model Minority Myth Officially Shattered!

There are movies that make us laugh, cry, and leave all our worries behind.

Then there are movies that punch you in the gut. In a good way. Movies that bare the truth of the human experience in a way that wakes us up, challenges our beliefs, and transforms the fundamental way we see the world.

Model Minority is one of those movies. Holy cow, this film left its mark on my soul, it was so incredible. I won't soon forget it.

It screened last night at LAAPFF. I bought tickets to support writer/director Lily Mariye, best known as a TV actor - she played nurse Lily Jarvik on ER for 15 seasons. We met judging a pitch competition together last year.

A little background - here's the model minority myth in a nutshell - Asian-Americans are stereotyped as highly educated, financially successful, and hard-working. And although that is true for some, it's not true for all.

Buried behind this myth are hard truths about the Asian-American experience - untreated mental illness, high unemployment rates, startlingly frequent domestic violence, etc. - countless statistics and stories that are unseen and ignored. Just take a look at this infogram from the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) --

Model Minority, Lily's feature writing & directing debut, tells one of these unseen stories. Kayla (Nichole Bloom) is an underprivileged Japanese American 16 year old who endangers her promising future as an aspiring artist when she becomes involved with a drug dealer. We watch in horror and sympathy as she faces peer pressure, drug dealers, and bad parenting, making all the wrong choices along the way.

It's wonderfully painful to watch, mostly because Nichole Bloom's performance is aching with truth and authenticity. Opportunities are squandered, help is denied, and life seems to travel along an inevitable path for Kayla and her sister. It's really sad. And really compelling.

I couldn't wait to meet Nichole after the film and tell her how amazing she was. Any agent in town would be stupid not to sign her immediately. Here me and my friend Sharline with Nichole --

A huge congratulations to Lily for such an incredible achievement! Her first feature - stunning. Like I said, I won't soon forget it.

Model Minority is screening at LAAPFF again on Tuesday, May 15 at 9:15 pm. Don't miss it!

Friday, May 11, 2012

My Birthday Opening Night at LAAPFF

I spent my birthday with the Asians.

Specifically, at opening night of the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. LAAPFF, for those in the know. I wore my new Tahari dress and my only pair of red carpet-worthy shoes and headed into the VIP Pre-Reception to soak up the birthday greetings.

Crickets. Didn't know anyone. I sighed and tried to make small talk with strangers while attempting to gather $100-worth of crudites and chicken skewers on my tiny plate. (The Actor's Diet has a much better run down of the food.) Near the end of the reception I saw a few colleagues, including the producer on my pilot, so that was good.

Then, into the theater! Comedian Steve Byrne, star of the upcoming TBS comedy Sullivan and Son, brought down the house with his acerbic comedy stylings and two hilarious songs - a song about wanting an Asian baby and a love song to Shanghai Calling star Daniel Henney titled "F*#& You, Daniel Henney!" I really hope someone captured these on video - too funny!

Then the opening night film - Shanghai Calling, written and directed by Daniel Hsia, produced by Janet Yang. An amazing film! Charming, romantic, and moving - the performances were great, but the real star of the film was the city of Shanghai, portrayed as a sparkling, modern playground for personal transformation. Loved it.

A Q&A with the cast and crew followed --

Followed by a reception in the lobby --

I ran into a ton of friends here, including director Henry Chan and actress Jodi Long, who also stars in Sullivan and Son --

Though mostly I hung with my wing woman Kim, whose feature Knots is screening at the festival on Sunday --

My bright yellow wrist band is so cool, isn't it?

Happy birthday to me!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Returning to La LA Land

Ireland is creativity central, having produced some of the most brilliant writers in poetry, prose, and drama – James Joyce, Bram Stoker, George Bernard Shaw, William Butler Yeats, Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett – the list goes on and on.

Have I read the works of these writers? Nope. Well, I did see the Importance of Being Earnest film adaptation because Colin Firth was in it. Pathetic.

Hearing constantly about Ireland’s literary accomplishments on my recent vacation, I had the distinct feeling of being a writing poser. How can I call myself a writer when I haven’t studied the greats? Dubliners by James Joyce is going right on my library queue.

I did kiss the Blarney Stone, which supposedly inspires eloquence. Hopefully you’ll see it working in the coming weeks –

Other than my inner existential artistic crisis, my trip to Ireland was relaxing and rejuvenating. Just what I needed!

Now, I’m back to my regular life – writing, trying not to stress about writing, and stressing about writing. Fighting hard to not become a writer who “had some success once.” Facing more deadlines for writing programs, continuing my agent search, and trying to figure out what to do next.

And my birthday is this Thursday! I’m old. Or feeling it, at least. I’ll be spending it at opening night of the LAAPFF with a wonderful community of entertainment friends. Hopefully my dress still fits after vacation eating!