Thursday, September 27, 2012

Writing Links Roundup

A few great articles about writing I found this week. Passing on for inspiration - happy writing!

The Journey to Publication
Author Laura Kilmartin blogs about how she wrote her novel three times before getting it published. So inspiring to hear someone talk so honestly about their journey. Reminds me of Kathryn Stockett's story of getting rejected by 60 agents before publishing The Help.

Zadie Smith's 10 Rules of Writing
Every time I look at this, I find a new rule that's my favorite. Yesterday, it was number 9 - "Don't confuse honours with achievement." Damn. After I post this blog, I'm following number 7 - "Work on a computer that is disconnected from the ­internet." So true!

30 Indispensable Writing Tips From Famous Authors
Take them into your heart or post them on Facebook, these quotes leave their mark. This is my favorite:

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Genius Video Distractions

There are video distractions that amuse or entertain. The ones that make you laugh or say, "That's so true!"

Then there are the video distractions I've been watching lately, which are inspiring pieces of pure genius from incredibly creative people that I hope to work with someday.

For example, I can't stop watching this timeless puppetry performance, recorded from The Muppet Show in the 80's, but originally created by Jim Henson when he was 20 years old. Pure genius!

Speaking of The Muppets, here's an incredible collaboration between Ben Folds Five and the characters of Fraggle Rock. Even better than The Muppets invading Weezer's video.

Then there's the latest extravaganza from the multi-talented Todrick Hall that blends a statement for marriage equality with classic Disney fairytales.

And speaking of gays I love, the second season of Husbands has hit the Web. OMG! IDEHTW! Every episode of this Web series from the brilliant Jane Espenson & Brad Bell makes my jaw drop. The writing is sharp, the performances are on point, and the cameos are hi-larious!

Color me inspired - I'm off to write. Zooooom!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tools of the Trade: Memorizing Lines

A major television casting director actually said it to me last week - "Your audition must be memorized."

He went on to explain that because so many roles are cast off tape, your energy needs to constantly be coming at the camera. And every time you dip your head to look at your sides, your energy dips. He stressed again and again - "Your energy has to come out of your head!"

A solid point, but I was still surprised by his vehemence. Most casting directors tell you to try to be off book, but always have your sides in your hand and use them when you need to. The wisdom I've lived by is this - don't focus on being off-book, focus on your acting.

So it was surprising to hear someone say, "Just memorize it." He's not the first - Homeland casting director Judy Henderson said the same to

Alright, fine. Time to up my game and work out my brain!

Acting teacher Doug Warhit always says your brain is a muscle - learning to memorize lines quickly and effectively is just about working that muscle. Here are a few techniques I've picked up --

  • Do it in front of a mirror. Pick up a script or a book - even a magazine article will do. Memorize the first line, then look up and say it. Then move on to the next line. Once you've mastered that, try two lines at a time. And so on and so on.

  • Practice with a friend - See how far you can get without looking at your script. I always find running lines with people helps me memorize much faster.

  • Write it out - When I was memorizing monologues in my theater days, I used to write them out word for word, over and over. I still do this if I have long speeches in my audition sides.
Try one or more of these every day, and you'll be memorizing pages a day in no time!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Why I Love Conventions

Trekked downtown to Stan Lee's Comikaze Expo last Saturday to experience my five favorite things about comic book/sci-fi/fan conventions --

#5 - Cosplay!

I love seeing fans dressed up as their favorite characters. I especially love the off-the-wall or unusual costumes - like this girl dressed like a box of Pocky - my favorite Asian snack!

An adorable father/son Stay Puft Marshmallow Man / Ghostbuster combo --

Actually, there were Ghostbusters everywhere --

Plus eye candy - like this hunky black Robin - yes, please --

#4 - Geek Stuff for Sale!

When I was a kid watching the Tom Baker Doctor Who, I forced my dad to pledge $100 to PBS so I could get an "I ♥ ♥ Doctor Who" t-shirt. Now, fans can buy nerdy tchotchke for every one of their passions, from shirts --

To posters --

To adorable stuffed Chewies --

#3 - Surprises!

You never know what you're going to see at a Con. I saw Quidditch being played by humans for the first time. (Not very well, I might add, but they were having fun...) --

And I saw Wall-E!A superb animatronic robot from Walt Disney Imagineering - complete with moving eye flaps and sound!

#2 - Discovering new artists!

Like Odin of Midwestern Cuban Comics! Yes, he's a Cuban artist from Wisconsin who was selling comic books he wrote and illustrated. Living the dream --

Was drawn in by Peter Emmerich's fantastic old-timey illustrations. That's Peter's friend in the picture below, but before Peter left, I chatted with him about his freelance work with Disney and snagged a Downton Abbey-inspired postcard.

Joey Chou also did work with Disney, including a fantastic children's book interpretation of It's A Small World.

I had a copy signed for a friend and snagged a free tote bag!

And my favorite thing about going to Cons --

#1 - Seeing artists I already know and love!

I saw Mike Yamada & Victoria Ying's work for years before learning their names. They're a married couple of talented artists behind Curiosities: An Illustrated History of Ancestral Oddity - a book super funded on Kickstarter!

Was able to tell Mike how much my friend loved the Zoom Zoo Alphabet Cards I bought for his son. A perfect gift for any awesome kid!

And was super-psyched to see Nidhi Chanani again! I fell in love with her work last March at WonderCon and have loved getting her gorgeous illustrations via Twitter.

She has a beautiful heart and creative spirit which is reflected in her thoughtful, sweet artistic work. This woman knows love. She even brought her hubby to the show - adorable!

That's a wrap on another geekfest! Until the next one, stay nerdy everyone!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Money Monday: Clean Green

Admit it - you have a household cleaner graveyard under your kitchen sink. Sprays and solutions you bought to tackle all your dirty jobs around the house that are just sitting there.

Well, not only are those cleaners expensive, they're gunking up our planet with chemicals. Do your wallet and the planet a favor and consider making your own household cleaners the next time you have a problem.

Like I did --

Last week, I noticed my bathtub was draining slower and slower. The commercial machine has brainwashed most of us to think that a clogged drain is solved with Liquid Plumr or Drano. Ick - I don't even want to think of the chemicals in those things. Plus, each bottle costs about $6-$10.

So instead, I found a DIY solution online. I started by dumping a half cup of baking soda down the drain. Then I poured down a half bottle of white vinegar in small spurts, letting the two react and fizz. After about 10 minutes, I boiled a large pot of water and flushed that down the drain.

Voila! Unclogged drain!

Cost? Pennies - both the baking soda and vinegar came from the 99 Cent Only store and the water was free.

Impact on the earth? Minimal. My eco-conscience is clear.

I've also made my own daily shower spray from water, white vinegar, and tea tree oil and regularly use baking soda to scrub my stainless steel kitchen sink to a brilliant finish.

A simple Web search will find you a million homemade cleaner recipes or DIY green solutions . Alicia Silverstone has great homemade household cleaner recipes on her blog The Kind Life. I love this one about making your own laundry detergent!

Bottom line - there's always a more affordable and environmentally-friendly solution to your household cleaning problems. Try it - you'll save money and the earth. Happy green cleaning!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

From Hipsters to Assassins

You know Christopher Tillman from his many guest blogs. I know him from working at the Disneyland Resort - we're bonded by survival.

We produced an award-winning short film together - Misusing Irony. He wrote and starred in it, I helped make the shoot happen with the help of Craigslist --

He went on to produce another short film - The Distance Between - that just premiered at LA Shorts Fest. I'm listed as an Executive Producer because I was a big Kickstarter donor.

Here's me looking very serious at the premiere --

And now we're reteaming for an epic new project - Early Retirement. Logline: A female assassin who long ago abandoned the idea of a normal life confronts her male counterpart who is still naive enough to think that there can be life after the job.

And guess who gets to play the female assassin?


That's right, I'm playing a hit man...hit woman...hit man woman...

The film will be directed by the kick-ass, award-winning Rajeev Dassani. I knew him as the visual effects king from Knight Rider - he and his company Master Key made this happen every week --

"You're nothing without your car!" No, we were nothing without the Dassani Brothers.

Currently he's directing features and trekking the globe directing second unit for Covert Affairs --

And now he's going to be directing Early Retirement!

The project is still in the early stages - we still need to fundraise, I still need to lose 10 pounds - but you can track all our progress by liking the Early Retirement Facebook page.

And watch for the Kickstarter campaign coming soon!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Hump Day Update: Summer's End Edition

Summer is over (boo) and the fall is already in full swing. My week has been wonderfully and stressfully full!

First, because I'm planning to once again donate my hair to Locks of Love, I decided to get a trim to give my hair some shape as it grows for the next year.

What I got was the WORST haircut I've ever gotten in my LIFE. Here's my lovely, thick hair before --

And my poor hair after, post hack job --

My face says it all. First of all, the whole cut took 10 minutes - never a good sign. And you can't really tell from the pic, but my hair is completely uneven - it's a disaster. I should have read the Yelp! reviews before buying the Groupon deal. Ah well, I'll fix it later...

On the upside, I did indulge in some great lunch meetings, including one at Beverly Soon Tofu in Koreatown. Stone plate bibimbap - yum!

Plus several auditions - hooray! A particularly fun one at the Warner Bros. Studios --

In one of the houses along the fake street --

I love auditions on studio lots because I love taking in the details of fake streets like this one. Anytown USA - except for the giant mountain range behind the houses --

And the highlight of my week? Slaving away on my futuristic robot cop drama pilot...then hearing that both Josh Friedman and JJ Abrams sold their futuristic robot cop drama pilots. Sigh...maybe I should keep going. Or maybe I should take these buys as a sign from the universe and move on to something new. I haven't decided yet...

Happy fall everyone!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Searching for Auditions

"So as a newcomer in LA as of this upcoming Monday, where would one find out about worthwhile open call auditions?" - @ActorAdamRay

First of all, welcome to Los Angeles! May your days be fruitful and traffic-free!

"Worthwhile open call" can be a bit of an oxymoron in Hollywood, so I'll just focus on finding worthwhile auditions in general.

For on-camera auditions - indie film, student film, commercials, industrials, etc. - create online resume profiles on Actors Access and LA Casting and start submitting yourself online. NOW Casting and CAZT are up and coming online submission services that are worth checking out too.

And after you sign up, make sure people can find your online resume link!

If you're more interested in stage work, definitely sign up at You can subscribe to their print edition or save a tree and get an online account to view a wealth of casting notices. They've just redesigned their site and it looks amazing!

Some theater open calls are definitely worthwhile, though know that dues paying membership theater is a thing in LA, meaning sometimes you have to pay the company to be in their shows.

And if you're interested in background work, sign up at Central Casting. Extra work can be a fun way to meet actors, learn about set etiquette, and get paid to stand around. There are call-in services you can use to get even more extra work too - Joey's List is one that a friend uses.

Finally, I always suggest actors create an action plan for their career to hone their focus and keep from feeling overwhelmed. Remember, it's a marathon, not a sprint. There's a ton of opportunity in Hollywood, so go for it! Break a leg!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Discovering Skylight Books

I have officially completed six short fiction stories!

(Well, I've actually written many more, but these six are the only ones I'm willing to unleash into the wild.)

Next step - submit them to literary journals to get published. There are hundreds of journals in print, so I need to do some research on which ones might be a good fit for my stories.

Upon my Relax & Write teacher's recommendation, I stopped by Skylight Books after brunch to look through their selection of literary journals.

The shop was easy to find among the coolness on Vermont Ave in Los Feliz --

A fantastic independent book store, carefully curated and organized --

With special sections that I'm sure you won't see at Barnes & Noble --

And a beautiful, thriving tree right in the center!

I spent a leisurely hour flipping through all the literary journals they had before getting drawn to their wall of blank journals --

I do all my writing longhand in journals, so I love fancy blank notebooks, especially those made with recycled materials. My theory - the prettier the book, the more inspired the writing!

Fell in love with this one immediately --

I *loved* this store! Like the Skylight Books Twitter description says, it's what a neighborhood book store should be.

If only it were in my neighborhood on the Westside! Ah well, I'll be back.

Continuing my research on literary journals this week - hoping to have all my submissions done by Friday!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Writing Mission: Impossible

And then there are days like today where nothing works.

After lunch, I had a brilliant idea - spend the rest of the day writing at The Getty! "It will be sunny and beautiful," I reasoned. "I'll lounge in the shade and let the creativity flow." I've tried writing at The Getty on a Friday night before with some success - surely an entire afternoon would be fruitful.

Apparently I wasn't the only one with this idea --

I sat in this endless line of cars waiting to turn into The Getty parking structure until I remembered there was an overflow lot across the street. I drove out of line and headed there, only to be blocked by cones and an angry traffic cop who pointed at me and yelled, "GO!"

An Italian Job-worthy U-turn later, I entered the overflow lot. I was handed a ticket and told to pay at the automated machine before returning to my car. Fine. My creative adventure awaited!

I loaded onto the tram --

And was welcomed at the top of the hill by a beautiful tableau --

First blow to my creative flow - being surrounded by couples. Everywhere - both gay and straight couples, all beautiful and thin, straight from the pages of a fashion magazine, holding hands and taking in the scenery.

Feeling seriously underdressed for my own picnic, I skirted around the fashionistas until I found a shady spot for my blanket --

Second blow - screaming kids everywhere enjoying the nice day too. I did one important piece of writing as I attempted to block out the games of freeze tag and races to the tree next to me. So much for serenity...

Eventually, the families started to clear out and I hunkered down, getting into a groove --

Only to be told by a nasty security guard that The Getty was now closed - I had to leave. 5:30 pm closing time on Sundays - should have checked that before coming!

As I rolled up my blanket, a Korean couple strolled past me. The security guard screamed, "We're closed! Get off the grass!" The couple looked so shocked, they literally ran away. Aren't museum staff supposed to be calm and personable? Sheesh.

I rode the tram back down the hill, paid for my parking at the machine, and walked to my car. As I drove out, I noticed the parking attendant was already gone - I didn't have to pay for my parking at all!

Guess who gave The Getty $15 dollars for no reason today? This chump --

So much for my writing day in the sun.