Today I am not going to talk about the struggles of balancing a schedule or quality time or support groups (which all have their much needed place and time). Today, I'm going to talk about something that's a little taboo in the working mom circle: What happens when you really love what you do?
Don't get me wrong, I miss my kids, and working full-time has required a significant change for my family, but...
Wait. If I said how much I hate working and how awful it is to be away from my kids and my home all day, no one would think twice. But I love my job, so I feel like it's necessary to qualify and explain and justify what I do.
On filming days, I cannot wait to get in the car and head to set. The night before a writing session, I can hardly sleep because ideas are rushing through my head constantly. It's an adrenaline rush to audition and incredibly fulfilling to perform, and I love what I do.
Why do I feel guilty about not feeling guilty? How messed up is that?
We condition ourselves to think that any kind of work has to be awful and miserable, that we should be counting the hours until we are released to go home, but what happens when you are counting the hours until you can go sit at your desk? What then?
Does it mean I love my children less? No. Fight me.
Does it mean I should never have had kids? No. Fight me.
I just really love what I do, and even if I didn't, I really love having things like a home and electricity. So for me, going to work is always, always a good thing. I'm exhausted by the pressure to feel bad.
Maybe I'll get to a place where I can approach being a working mom with the same attitude I approach character development. (Read Here).
I'd love to hear if any of you working parents have the same 'I should feel guilty' guilt. Leave a comment below.
Thanks for tuning in.
Best wishes and break legs in whatever field you happen to love.
When it rains, it pours seems to be true of both the good things and the bad things in my life. Whenever things are bad, they are really bad. Car-broken-down, job-on-the-fritz, arguing-with-the-gods bad.
Similarly, when things are good, they are excellent. Film-two-movies-in-one-week, write-with-abandon, earn-a-directors-credit good.
This week is a little strange because it has been both. At the same time. My brain really does not know what to do.
I'm trying to focus on the good. I'm trying to learn my lines and remember my blocking; keep my head down and do some excellent work for my father and just keep going.
It's working so far.
To be honest, I just want to be on set somewhere, on a stage where I can lose myself and heal. Saturday cannot come fast enough. My most selfish use of art and creativity is using it to center and heal myself. I don't do it intentionally most of the time, but it still happens. I still walk off stage better, happier, and more me. Every single time.
So, that's what I'll keep doing. I'm going to smile and work and act and heal. It will be my umbrella against all the negative things pouring down.
Break legs and find your umbrella.
I am a Type A personality. I operate well in traditional classroom settings and enjoy checklists and due dates. Structure is important to me, and I like knowing if I am doing things 'right'.
Honestly, it's a nightmare most of the time. My default setting is "achieve," which means I'm pretty great at setting a schedule and acing exams, but terrible at managing unexpected situations.
Odd that I'd choose a creative field, right?
Well, for me acting is one of the only times in my life when the unexpected doesn't cause me stress. Acting for me is meditative. I don't think about the lines that are supposed to be coming at me. I only think about what is. I am able to live in that moment and respond in that moment and it is a singular experience for me.
Still, I find it hard not to question my audition performances. Worry creeps in. Did I give them what they wanted? Could they see the research I put in? Could they tell that those pauses were intentional?
It isn't insecurity.
I choose every pause, every breath, every nervous twitch with care, and I walk in with an interpretation of a character based on a few pages. Still, I worry that it's 'wrong'.
Then one day a writer/director told me something I tend to live by in all my auditions now. He said something along the lines of: "I'm meeting with you again because I have it narrowed to you and one other girl. Her delivery is honestly what I pictured when I wrote this, but there is something you are bringing that is making it really hard to decide."
The choices I had made, the delivery I had practiced and run with was nothing like what the director had been looking for. In fact, he'd already found that girl, the one who met the picture in his head, but the character I had created appealed to him enough to consider changing his own mental image.
As an actor, I'd never felt more powerful.
I didn't walk away with that role (although I am in the movie), but I walked away with a completely new take on what my job truly is.
I encourage you to own your interpretation. Here's the truth, you might be absolutely wrong. You might not give them what they are looking for in that moment, but your responsibility is to the character you see in the work. That dedication will shine through and opportunities will come.
Be bold and break legs!
Since moving into acting full-time, I've taken more careful stock of the shows and movies that I love. I have spent the last year analyzing, trying to find a common thread between the shows and actors that captivate me. The most common theme comes from actors who convey more with their facial expressions than with their words.
I'm working my way through AMC's The Walking Dead again, and in re-watching the show, I feel strongly that Jon Bernthal's performance as Shane was severely overlooked. Granted, he's the "bad guy" riding the fence, losing love, betraying friends, etc. and that story got a lot of attention, but Bernthal himself pulled off some of the best non-verbal acting I have ever seen and no one talks about it.
Several times, during season two, I find myself reaching excitedly for the remote to skip back and watch a look or reaction like the one pictured above. By dipping his head, lowering his voice, changing his gaze, Bernthal clearly convey's that Shane is not just angry, he's dangerous. It's brilliant.
My favorite moment of the season, intensified by beautiful direction and framing is so underrated that I could not find an image on the internet at all. Check out Season Two "Pretty Much Dead Already". When Bernthal shoots the zombie being restrained by Hershel, every single person in the frame is acting with intensity that has nothing to do with words.
In fact, Bernthal's face isn't even in the frame that I watched three times in a row. It's just his body. But he delivers the headshot with such authority, his shoulders square, without breaking stance, that his presence is still the strongest on the screen. It's just so badass, and not a word is spoken.
This is the common theme and the level of acting I aspire to.
I want to take people's breath away without saying a word.
Charlie Hunnam is another actor who floors me with what he can say without words. Yes, he's beautiful, and Jackson Teller was well-scripted, but my favorite moments in Sons of Anarchy are the moments Hunnam is allowed time and space to react. "Balm" (an incredibly difficult episode to watch, fair warning) is one of my favorites because we watch Hunnam (as Jax) goes from shocked-to the broken son-to the outlaw. And he never says a word.
As actors, we focus so much on the words, and great words can get you pretty far. A dynamic monologue can do a lot of the work, but more than anything, this is the skill I work on in the mirror. Not just what I am saying, but what I am conveying.
Pay attention to the moments that make you want to hit rewind, and good luck out there.
*Note: I am not an affiliate for IMDb or Amazon Video. I just believe in crediting work and watching entertainment legally.*
I'm not going to lie, I never saw myself moving backstage or behind the camera. Being on stage, out front, in the lights was not only thrilling, it was easier. When you're talent, no one expects you to do anything but show up, know your stuff, deliver, and go home.
Crew is another universe.
I saw the directors, producers and behind-the-sceners around me working themselves ten times as hard without any of the acknowledgement, and decided it wasn't for me.
Producers have to fight with everything from scheduling to billing to neurotic creative people, and it just didn't feel the same as nailing a performance.
Or, that's what I assumed.
Come to find out, being on set is my real high. It's what I do and love best. No matter the role or responsibility I have. However that is accomplished, I am just as giddy and proud of what we create. Knowing I'm genuinely helping translate ideas, or that I make editing go more smoothly, carries the same pride and thrill for me as being applauded onstage.
So, I encourage you to try new things. Learn. Be a sponge on set. You never know what opportunities might come of it. You never know what you might become from it.
A quick thought for today: Do what inspires you.
I have always felt insecure about the pictures I take. I'm used to being in front of the camera, or writing away in some self-made cave, and photography always seemed to escape me. I'm no professional, but something clicked for me in the last few days and now I feel pretty confident in the direction I'm heading in with my visuals.
Somehow I thought that I needed to post what people expected to see instead of just posting what inspired me, what moved me. My daughter turned 4 and I realized how stupid that is.
My family inspires me. They are the reason I make it from day to day, the reason I take risks and work myself to exhaustion and reflecting that in pictures changed the game.
Even if you think social media doesn't matter or photo albums are outdated or a monologue isn't "trendy," do what inspires you. It will show.
Good luck, and do what inspires you.
I never know what to do or say in light of tragedy. Is it self-serving to say anything at all? Especially when something happens abroad, should I remain silent and let people grieve and be grateful it didn't hit closer to home? I'm still not sure, but I am a writer, and writing is how I process. The following poem is what came to me.
More than anything
That our hearts will become numb to atrocity
Will see the world
Through eyes blackened by blood and rubble
And we will not blink
No religion or agenda
No creed or credo is honored when life is taken
Become our religion
So that we may first, and above all else
And be safe.
And be kind.
More than anything
That our hearts are numb and in numbness we lose
One of the greatest compliments a director can give is saying you 'take notes' well. Basically, as an actor, it means you are able to listen to what a director is asking and deliver a new interpretation. Sometimes directors do this because they are looking for something specific and want to know if you can nail it. Sometimes, they are not sure what they are looking for until they hear it, but most of the time, directors are just wanting to see if you will listen without throwing attitude.
Taking notes is something I have always done well. I am a student at heart. Besides, half of what I love about my job is the challenge of learning something new all the time, and I know if it was my script, I would want someone to listen to me.
I learned something about myself and the creative process through the years, though. When I take on a character, I take on their story. I become responsible for their voice, their presence and I become their advocate. Most of the time, I agree with the growth and evolution of a character, but twice I have had to stand up for the person I am portraying.
Ignoring my natural tendency to just give the director/producer what they are asking for, I decided to take a stand in these situations. In both cases, I only stood my ground because additions to the script fundamentally changed who my character was or what her purpose was in the greater scope of the project.
I truly believe this passionate belief is central to what makes me a positive person to work with. Not only do I care about my performance, I care about the story and the person I am portraying.
Now, let's be clear, I didn't argue with anyone in either situation. I never raised my voice. Instead, I stated my opinion including why I disagreed with the addition and what it changed in my character. These simple statements, presented to the writer/director showed my dedication to the character and the storyline and in both cases, my approach allowed the bosses to give my point-of-view some consideration.
I left the final decision where it should be--in the director's hands, and I moved forward in both cases with as much passion as I had the day before even though only one director sided with me.
When you take on a character and spend time developing a performance, it's okay to stand up for the art you have created (an important lesson I learned from the incredible theater director Brittanie Gunn with Tesseract Theatre Company).
So I say: Treat people with respect, take notes, and act not just with passion, but also with thoughtful care for the story you've been handed.
Good luck out there!
Today is my birthday and instead of my normal routine, which basically involves acting like a fat, lazy cat all day, I am heading off to rehearsal.
I LOVE my birthday. In high school, I drove my friends crazy with a birthday countdown that started January 21st every. single. year. I cannot remember a single year where my birthday wasn't about me, and becoming a mom made the experience even more rare and special. My life, my career goals, my self-care routines, all of it is centered on my children, my family. So, honestly, I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about giving up the one day a year where everyone is okay doing what I want.
However, the last year has changed almost everything in my life, and it looks like birthday traditions are now on that list. Fortunately, everything has changed in completely amazing ways that I never could have imagined. One short film lead to another. Signing with one agency lead to commercial gigs and signing with a management company. One amazing, challenging, time-consuming, exhausting, exhilarating thing lead to the next.
So today, instead of feeling angst-y about giving up a long-standing tradition and several hours away from my kiddos on a weekend, I am able to just be excited. This film is the first time I've gotten to play a detective. It's the first time I'm getting to use one of my bullet-point resume skills in a film. (Yay!) I'll earn my second IMDb credit, and even better, I'll stretch myself to my physical limits with an extended foot-chase scene.
Keeping in mind that every good, creative thing has lead to good, creative things and that the last year has brought more inner peace and financial stability than ever before, I'm ready to throw myself into this production, give a killer performance and come home all set-jazzed and ready for the next challenge.
Now it's time to run lines.
Thanks for tuning in.
Update: The amazing writer/director and Executive Producer of the film I was rehearsing for got me a cake! I didn't know they even knew it was my birthday. It was an incredibly sweet gesture that made for a wonderful end to a very fulfilling, productive rehearsal. Prop guns, blocking, and chocolate!