Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Joys of Editing

If getting your butt in the chair to write is a challenge, moving through the editing process can be damn near impossible.

Your first battle with your inner critic was bad enough. Editing means revisiting your work and doing battle again before your initial wounds have even healed.

I know because my inner critic has been kicking me in the gut lately. Luckily, I volunteered last weekend at the first-ever WriteGirl Editing Workshop.

I love this organization so very much. Not only did they fill the day with bright, fun activities to introduce their amazing teen girls to the editing process, the girls themselves provided me with endless inspiration.

As soon as we sat down, the editing began. These girls were fearless, tackling their original words with gusto, finding ways to make it better. No self doubt - just forward movement.

There were stations all around the room with activities to get the editing process rolling --

Loved this first question in particular --

I definitely know which of my pieces I'd like to date...

The walls were filled with plenty of great editing tips and ideas too --

And best of all, donated deliciousness from Porto's --

Inspired and invigorated, I went home and breezed through a page one edit of my latest TV pilot. Incredible! Huge thanks to WriteGirl for showing me how effortless editing can be. A lesson I sorely needed!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

My Hollywood Day

Acting in my 10th episode of Grey's Anatomy today (blessed!), then writing writing writing before heading to my old Hollywood & Highland stomping grounds to see Cirque du Soleil's IRIS.

The last (and only) Cirque show I experienced was Allegria back in college, during an epic blind date with a sad, awkward ending. But that's a story for another day...

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Hump Day Update: Back in the Swing Edition

January is half over! What have I done so far?
  • Written every day, of course.

  • Spent a day at Universal Studios Hollywood after taking advantage of their Buy a Day, Get 2013 Free annual pass promotion. Finally rode Transformers™: The Ride-3D - pretty great.

    While there, my friend spotted La Bamba from Conan. And yes, he was wearing his hat!

  • Caught a 3D screening of Life of Pi at the WGA. Stunning! Thrilled to finally see it after falling in love with Yann Martel's bookso many years ago.

    In the Q&A that followed the screening, I was surprised to hear screenwriter David Magee say that the studio mostly left him alone as he and Ang Lee developed the script together. Studio execs trusting a writer? Must have been because he was working with trusted commodity Ang Lee. Otherwise I'm sure they would have noted the hell out of him...

  • Volunteered at the book launch for WriteGirl's latest anthology No Character Limit: Truth & Fiction from WriteGirl. Our fearless WriteGirl leaders introducing the event --

    Several girls, including my mentee, read their beautiful, insightful, and now published writing from the book. Inspiration galore!

  • Read a friend's pilot outline, three episodes of a friend's web series, attended a reading of a friend's play, and did a few roles in a friend's script reading. So much finished writing to inspire me to finish my own writing!
My first acting audition for 2013 is today too - woo hoo! 2013 is shaping up nicely, I must say...

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Nerdiest Awards Show Ever

Awards season is teeming with red carpet sightings, but none can be as exciting to me as seeing Bill Nye the Science Guy in his signature bow tie.

The setting was the S.E.T. Awards, produced by the Entertainment Industries Council, presented to film, TV, and other media for "accurate and impactful entertainment portraying and promoting the fields of science, engineering, technology and mathematics."

That's right, awards for best nerdiness. I was there.

I brought my friend Manish, a fellow MIT grad turned actor/writer/producer. (You can watch his awesome feature Kissing Cousins on Netflix!)

We snagged a quick picture on the red carpet ourselves --

Better than our first attempt - this is me demonstrating how to use my point-and-shoot to someone who's apparently never used a camera before - just push the button!

Then we settled back to watch the stream of random celebrities attending the event. Mostly strangers, like this guy (who will reappear later in this blog post) --

To surprising appearances, like Sarah Brightman from the original Phantom of the Opera! Turns out she sponsors a STEM Scholarship for high school girls interested in math and science. Go Sarah!

The ballroom was dressed to the nines --

The awards ceremony was filled with delightful nerdiness - Star Trek transporter sound transitions, a flying robot host, and appearances by a NASA astronaut, a legendary Disney Imagineer, and the founder of Atari.

The best moment - the random guy from the red carpet pic above, a producer for Through the Wormhole on Science Channel, ending his acceptance speech by yelling, "Science! F#%K YEAH!"

The worst moment - Michael Bay getting an award for Armageddon, a movie in which scientists fail and a bunch of miners led by Bruce Willis save the day. How is that an accurate and impactful portrayal of science? Boo.

More highlights from the awards --

During the awards, we learned that Dolph Lundgren received a Fulbright Scholarship to get his PhD in Chemical Engineering at MIT, but decided to become an actor instead. How's that for nerd cred? Manish kept saying, "It's Ivan Drago!" We had to get a picture --

Managed to catch Michael Bay and Bill Nye on the red carpet on the way out. Talk about an unusual juxtaposition --

Thanks to the Entertainment Industries Council for a great afternoon! Can't wait to win one of these awards myself!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Video Distractions: Insomnia Gag Reels

When I can't sleep at night, I'll inevitably turn to YouTube to pass the painful waking hours. Specifically, I watch blooper reels. I don't know why they're my insomniac activity of choice, but they are.

Here's a small sampling of what I've been watching for the past hour - or hours - sigh...

I've had the privilege of appearing in a blooper reel myself! Check out my dorky face around 3:03 --

Okay, back to trying to fall asleep...

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

2012: The Numbers

# of blog posts written: 164

# of blog comments: 226 (Many, many after this post...)

# of blog followers: 41 (You want to follow me, right?)

# of followers on Twitter: 419 (Come on! Follow away!)

# of scripts written: 1 (Pathetic!!)

# of acting auditions: 37 (An excellent year - thank you life!)

# of acting auditions rescinded: 1 (Boo.)

# of acting jobs booked: 10 (Yay!)

# of industry events attended: 35

# of shows/storytelling events attended: 39 (So, so many tickets bought...)

# of agents who dropped me: 1

# of new agents who believe in me: 3

2012 had big ups and big downs - relieved to be leaving it behind. Bring on the new year!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Empathizing with Writer Problems

Whenever I hit a wall in my writing or the inevitable wave of self-doubt washes over me, I have to remember that I'm not alone. Writers have been suffering for their art for centuries, staring at blank pages in despair and/or staring at written pages with loathing.

Friends and acquaintances who aren't writers, though wonderfully supportive and well-meaning, don't always understand the struggle. "If you have the story, just write it down," they offer. Whenever someone says that, I think of this joke from Louis CK --

Oh, if only the writer's journey was as logical and simple as 'Have an idea, write it down.' Creating story can be a frustratingly inconsistent process. For me, there are days when ideas spill forth and the words flow like wine, but plenty of others when every single character typed on a keyboard makes me want to stab myself in the eye.

So it's always comforting to hear other writers talk about their ups and downs. It teaches me to have empathy for myself and move past my blocks.

One of my favorite stories that gives me faith is Kathryn Stockett's story of getting rejected by 60 agents before finding one who helped her sell The Help. One of those rejecting agents told her, "There is no market for this kind of tiring writing." Boy, did she prove that person wrong.

I recently found this article that interviewed screenwriters who adapted works into this year's Oscar hopefuls - "Rethinking Those Words for Screen." Writing an original screenplay is difficult enough - these writers had to figure out how to create a compelling film script while staying true to source material. Reading about them pulling out their hair and wanting to quit was refreshing and relieving for me.

So whether you're a writer or not, you should read this article and tap into that empathy. Writing is hard. Yes, we do it by choice and ultimately we love it, but it is hard.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Tools of the Trade: Postcards

Postcards are a great self-marketing tool for keeping in touch with industry folk. You're literally putting your face in front of theirs in a tangible way.

Some casting directors tell actors to save their money because they don't have time to look at them, but most love them because they're a fast, easy way to get an update on what you're doing.

I send a round to casting directors every six months - more frequently if I have something exciting to announce. There are marketing companies that will design and send postcards for you, but I prefer to do them myself.

Usually I use postcards that have my headshots on the front, but for the holiday I sent out these --

Fancy, right? I snagged them from Vistaprint - 250 glossy, full-color postcards for only $15. Total steal.

Next step? Designing a label for the back, because I'm too lazy to handwrite a message on every postcard. I create a template in Microsoft Word to be printed on 3.33" x 4" mailing labels. Here's the last label I sent --

Next comes finding casting director addresses. Back in the day, I inputted addresses from Backstage into a Microsoft Excel database to make labels, but now I just splurge for the updated address listings at Casting About. You can also buy a package of current labels from Samuel French.

Finally, slap everything together along with a postcard stamp, and you're good to go! It's not a cheap marketing project for me - the postcards, labels, stamps, and Casting About service all cost money - but it's worth it for me to keep my face out there.

Do you send postcards to casting directors?
What are some things that have worked for you?

Friday, January 4, 2013

Must Have Photo Booth

For kids, it's not a birthday party unless there's a bouncy house. For grownups, you need a photo booth.

And I have the perfect photo booth for you - Lucky Laughter, started by my friend Jaclyn, is a must have for your next shindig. And I'm not just saying that because she's my friend - this company is seriously awesome.

First awesome thing - she and her cinematographer husband built the photo booth from scratch! It's open air, features a preview window so you can see what your photos look like, and a professional lighting setup.

They invited me over recently to pose for test shots for their new Web site. They had several backdrops and a wide variety of props to play with --

Once we got going, I couldn't stop posing. Too much fun! Here are some of my favorites --

(Yeah, that's me with Josh Sussman who plays Jacob Ben Israel on Glee.)

Once each set of shots were done, they printed out double photo strips --

That's right, TWO copies on the spot. So much better than all of those "share one copy" or "go online and sign up for an account" photo booth companies. Hooray for instant satisfaction!

So the next time you're organizing a party or event, you should definitely consider hiring Lucky Laughter. They're super-professional and friendly...and good-looking to boot!

Click here to visit the Lucky Laughter Photo Booth Web site!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Student Films Step It Up

In my early days of acting, doing a student film was a crap shoot. You might get a call with directions to the location, you might not. Acting direction? Cracker, please. You were usually flying blind, hoping for the best, knowing that at least the film would get completed because they were students who needed to graduate.

Most of my recent post "An Open Letter to Student Filmmakers" is based on these experiences. I've never blamed students for their lack of professionalism - they're just inexperienced. And I've always compensated by lowering my expectations.

So imagine my surprise when the last three student films I did featured the most professional, capable student crews I've ever seen.

Most recently, I had a supporting lead role in a Chapman University student film called "Retreat."

Check out this detailed call sheet --

Badass. Chapman has a brand new, state of the art film school facility --

It is seriously souped up. AVID editing suites, motion capture studios - you name it, they're learning it. They even have a foley stage!

Day 1 started in makeup. She brought a ton of stuff to do up two women --

Then head into one of two soundstages they have on their campus. That's right, full soundstages.

You guys, they built their set. For reals. This is my mark --

Day 2 was on location in Ontario. They shot the film on an incredibly high-end HD camera. Better than the Red. Yeah.

Don't worry, my stripey socks were not in the shot --

Final day was in the middle of nowhere in Brea. It was a film about a meditation retreat, you see. And where better to meditate than the middle of nowhere --

Director on the left, lead actress on the right. Thanks for a great shoot, Chapman students!

Can't wait for you to see it - it's going to look great!