I'm an actress in Los Angeles, sharing my Lessons Learned along the way.

I Love LA but its Time to Go Home!

May 22, 2016

The publication Backstage produces an annual actor event called ActorFest, I attended my first Los Angeles event back in 2010. It’s a convention of everything actor. Performers get to learn about the business of acting, register for auditions with television and film casting directors, industry panels, workshops, and more. The industry panel discussion, I signed up for, was complied of powerful and notable casting directors from television and film. I was enthralled by this panel of experts, they were veterans of their industry, candid with their point of view and generous with information regarding actors, directors, how they get their jobs. Laray Mayfield, casting director for all of David Fincher’s films, was on the panel. I knew of Laray because she would sometimes cast commercials and had brough me in from time to time.

I am always in search for golden nuggets of guidance,  I still have the notes from that day, full of information, that I still rely on. The copper in the penny moment, was a simple one. Laray Mayfield said she has to go back home, to Tennessee, often. She needs to go home to soak up all the love from her family and friends, go back to her roots, it’s what she needs to recharge her battery to continue thriving in hollywood. That small nugget of insight caused me to pause and recognize why I chose to go home every year. I’ve made it my business to go home, to NY, at least two times a year or at least a mandatory once. Before this panel, I don’t think I realized the relevance of why I needed to go home annually. Home is where unconditional love is. Where no one cares if I’m booking or not. It is where I go to decompress, recalibrate, inhale different air and eat good food.

I chose to move to LA, away from my family and closest friends to pursue a career in entertainment, like 10,000, or so, other people do annually. My drive, work ethic and focus, to make my career a success, can be so intense I tend to burn out. During my early years of residing in Los Angeles, I couldn’t recognize my burn out. It would show up as different maladies. I’d feel lonely, like, I’m out here by myself, woe is me, even though I chose to move here, by myself. I’d lose focus, not knowing what my next step was, causing me to make decisions that didn’t serve the grand vision, or suffered analysis paralysis, resulting in wasting time, money or energy. I’d lack desire to do anything except, watch reality TV and eat food that didn’t nurture my body or I’d just hate people and isolate myself. Yes, I know hate is a strong word, its usually only temporary. I grew numb to these emotions and what they meant when they showed up. Hearing Laray Mayfield state, why she must go home often, was a revelatory moment.

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The Casting Director Intern

April 15, 2016

I once was a member of the now defunct, yet prestigious The Actors Network also known as TAN. Kevin E. West, actor and founder, created and ran the brick and mortar space for 20+ years. It was his way of paying forward resolute information about the entertainment industry, notably, Hollywood. He would tell us how he’d made every mistake a young actor could make, moving to Hollywood, and how he was conscious enough to recognize his mistakes, learn from them and put structures in place that would allow him to make better choices and strides as an actor. Thankfully, he was compassionate enough to share his vast knowledge with the members of The Actors Network.

Kevin would have, top-notch, industry heavy hitters, come to speak to us, almost nightly. They’d demystify all that happens behind the scenes, valuable and priceless information. I learned a great deal on how to navigate Hollywood, how not to squander my time and energy and how to focus on what served me best, as an actor and in my life. That place was a plethora of knowledge and insight, I must admit, I miss it, but I’m grateful to have spent 4 years soaking up the information that I still use to this day. His motto was “Help Me, Help You, Help All Of Us.” Tan was a tightly knit community of, camaraderie, focus, and passion. Kevin just released a book called “7 Deadly Sins – The Actor Overcomes” I’m purchasing my copy today.

One of the things, out of hundreds, that I learned at TAN was, asking agents or casting directors for an internship. Interning can the best on-the-job training for an actor or anyone really. Interning allows us to see just how much is out of our hands and it takes away the neurosis of the “I Shoulda, Coulda, Wouldas.” Most importantly, you build a rapport with the agent or casting director that allows you to forge a long lasting relationship and if you’re lucky enough to be a reader, you get to see the high percentages of people who are not well prepared or allow nerves to ruin their audition. It’s baffling. But, you also get to see the actors who are profound experts at their craft and auditioning.

Last year, around May, I had a lot of time on my hands and I was using it to binge watch television, unapologetically, my favorite pastime. The month of May is typically an industry wide slow month, due to Upfronts. Upfronts are presentations where the major television networks preview their upcoming fall and midseason series for advertisers, the press, and the other networks. For TV development, they are the ceremonial end of pilot season, where the year’s works are displayed. When Upfronts take place, broadcast television and commercial auditions become sluggish until the Upfronts are complete and all the of the ad dollars have been spent. In a nutshell, studios spend millions of dollars wining, dining and entertaining the ad agency and corporate brands to have them return the favor by purchasing commercial time slots, up to billions of dollars. Continue reading

After reading an article on FastCompany.com about Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner, regarding the hidden trials and tribulations of successful creative artists arriving at their success, I knew I had to write about a recent victory. Look, great things happen to me all the time, but this is probably the most fortuitous occurrence of my entertainment career to date, and I know they will continue with grandeur, in fact I expect it.

One Monday afternoon, I was feeling at odds. I wasn’t down, just in a mental state of what to do next to move my career forward. I’m looking for a new theatrical agent, therefore, I was brainstorming interesting ways to follow up with the targeted agents I’ve reached out to thus far. I was thinking myself into a stupor and beginning to feel angst as nothing was surfacing. My intuition told me to stop everything and go to the beach to release the anxiety and get clarity. That is one of the joys of living in Los Angeles, I can drop everything, jump in my car and make a pilgrimage to Malibu. It took me all of 25 minutes. I pulled my stadium chair out of my trunk , which is there purposely for extemporaneous trips to the beach, grabbed my fleece, a scarf and a bottle of water. There is this small remote part off of PCH that is seldom inhabited. I sat there in the sun, oh how I love the sun, it gives me energy and warms my blood. I inhaled the ocean breeze, watched the fast paced movement of birds feet and said prayers of thanks and gratitude. I tend to ask questions of the sun when I’m there. I surrendered my anxiety along with the unclear thoughts that had caused it. After 90 minutes, I felt light, back to my joyful self, I threw everything back into the trunk and headed home.

Once home, I sat at the computer to catch up on emails, when my phone rang, it was Central Casting calling. I pondered whether or not to answer it because I’d rather hear the message prior deciding if I’d accept any work they were calling me for. I hadn’t worked background in 10 months and typically only do it when my finances are lean. I let it go to voicemail, once I retrieved it I learned that I had been picture picked for 2 days of featured background work and needed to go to Valencia the next day. Since I was free those days, I thought why not, I’ll make $300 and I get to be on set. I love being on set. I returned the casting director’s call and received the details for the next day.

Tuesday morning came and I was begrudging saying yes to the interview because now I had to drive 30 miles to Valencia, from LA, which sounded really far, especially early in the morning when I’d have to deal with possible traffic. I pushed through it dressed myself for the part and headed out. It took 30 minutes to get there with no traffic, a breeze. Upon arrival I noticed there were 2 other ladies there to interview for the featured background position. I was chosen to go first, was brought into a room and introduced to the executive producer of the show and the director of that episode. Their friendliness put me at ease. I put my things down, looked each of them in the eye as I shook their hands. The director invited me to sit down next to him. He stared at me for a few seconds and thought out loud, “let’s see, what should I have you do.” I was perplexed and awkwardly repeated what he said back to him. “Uh, what should you have me do? He asked me who my favorite musician was. Me having an undercurrent of nervousness began to stammer and said well, uh, I don’t know how to answer that, there are so many musicians that I like, uh. He said just chose one. I said, okay, well, I like a gentleman named Donny Hathaway, and just as I was about to name another artist the director interrupted me and said great stand up and sing something by him. Well, I’m an improvisor and I’ve sung many solos with the choir of my church, so I said okay, stood up and sang the first two verses of a “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know.” The director stopped me and said that’s fine. I sat down, and he asked me if I could act. I was flabbergasted, so offended at the is question, but of course he has to ask, he doesn’t know me. I simply said yes. He asked me what roles had I played. I told him my last TV credit was Terriers, opposite Donal Logue. His eyes widened while inquiring “that’s uh Ryan’s?” I said yes, Shawn Ryan wrote on it. He said okay, then he told me what the role was and what they were looking for. I said okay, I can do that. I suggested that he view my reel, and he said thank you but not right now and I was sent to the waiting area where the other 2 ladies were waiting. One of the ladies asked if that was me they heard singing, I said yes, he asked me to sing. She became nervous and said she hoped he didn’t ask her to sing. She was up next, and guess what, he asked her to sing. Now, she wasn’t a singer, but to her detriment, in my opinion, she didn’t commit to it. The final woman went in and she really didn’t commit to it, so much so the director asked her to sing it like James Brown with some conviction. If I had to speculate, I’d say the director was looking for commitment. I’ve witnessed a woman sing a song horribly, voice cracking, off key, but she was so affected by the words and the meaning of the song she brought the entire room to tears. Not being able to sing was not an excuse, in this scenario. The director and executive producer made their choice right then and there, I was the one hired. I was given my dates and told to visit wardrobe.

The day before my work date, I was at my internship and had missed a call from an unrecognizable phone number. When my shift ended I listened to the voicemail. It was the casting office of the show I was to be a featured background on, they said since I had played this role on the show before, they wanted to know if I could audition for a part. I was confused by this message, I returned the call and explained to the assistant that I was hired to work featured background for the role and hadn’t worked the show previously. She was unaware of my status and said that she needed to check with production and that she’d call me back. Twenty minutes later she called me back to say, Yes, the producers want you to audition. She gave me 3 options. 1. Put myself on tape and email it to their office that night. 2. If I wrapped before 5:30 the next day to come to their office at Paramount Studios, in LA, to audition for their office. 3. Come early Thursday morning to audition for them. Since I had never been in to read for that office, I wanted to meet them and audition in person. The plan was set, I’d either audition for them on Wednesday before 5:30 or early Thursday morning.

Day one of my featured background work day. I arrived to set early. Had my wardrobe approved and sat around for a few hours while production completed a scene. I waited in the quiet sound stage used as a holding area for background. Next up was my scene. We blocked and rehearsed it, and then broke for lunch for 30 minutes. While at lunch I met a young girl who was working as a stand in. We had a great chat, she and her twin sister had just moved to LA from Chicago. We discussed theatre and LA culture. after about 20 minutes she began to head back to set. I checked my phone for emails to find the casting director of the show had sent me a message that I wouldn’t be wrapping until 5:30 and they needed to get my audition on tape that night. I texted 2 friends and asked if they’d be available to put me on tape that evening. One responded quickly with a yes. I wrote the casting director and told her I’d have the taped audition to her by the latest 8pm, to which she responded, they actually needed it asap. They understood that I was on set, and asked me to get someone to film me maybe using my iPhone. A mild sensation of panic crept up on me. And then I remembered, oh I just met someone, the girl. She would understand, we had just been discussing self-taped auditions. I went to set to ask her to film me, but she was already in position, the production was getting the lighting ready. That meant she could not leave her post and my scene was shooting next. I had to think fast. Fortunately, I had brought my iPad and I had the scene that I was auditioning for loaded on my phone App called Rehearsal. A colleague created the App  a few years ago I use it for all of my line memorization. I returned to the holding area, that sound stage was quiet, I was able to record my two scenes in the bathroom. I wish I had video recording of this ordeal, I’m sure it was funny. I propped my iPad on the toilet paper holder in the handicapped stall. used my iPhone with the Rehearsal App to play the lines of the other character. Shot 3-4 takes of each scene, then rushed back to set. They were looking for me because they were ready to shoot the scene. Thankfully, my character of the featured background scene was carrying a purse. I was able to put my iPad and iPhone in the purse to edit the clips in-between takes. First I had to use my iPhone as a hotspot for my iPad to email the clips from my iPad. Once I had the clips emailed I downloaded them to my iPhone, opened them in iMovie, edited the two clips together and added a fade from black transition with my name. My underarm pits were hot and itchy, my fingers were achy from moving so fast, and still this is all in between takes and I’m praying the a.d. doesn’t tell me to put my phone away. Most times phones aren’t allowed on set from fear of spoilers being leaked. Finally, I finished the editing and sent it to the casting director asking her to disregard the buzzing of the fluorescent bathroom light that was present in my self tape, and to let me know if she needed a cleaner version. For twenty  minutes I checked my phone, repeatedly, for her response every time the director yelled “Cut.” She replied she had received it and it was perfect. I breathed a sigh of relief, realized I needed to pay and was wrapped at 5:45p.

The next morning I was off from shooting. I was up early and pondering if I should call one of the agents I had been targeting for the past 4 months to negotiate my deal in the event I booked the role. I concluded that I would not, since they hadn’t already taken a chance on me, I wouldn’t bribe my way to a consideration. I decided instead to ask my commercial agent if they’d assist me. Ive been represented by them for 6 years and have a great relationship with them, why not give 10% to the people who already believe in my ability. I began making breakfast, while my chicken sausage cooked, I checked my emails. The casting director wrote me to congratulate me on booking the role and inquired if I had an agent to close the deal or if I wanted to close the deal myself. I was so elated. I emailed my commercial agent and when she didn’t respond back two me in the whole two minutes I waited, I called her directly. She was happy for me and they were able to close the deal. It turned out to be a multi-day co-star role. I had unconventionally booked a co-star role on the season finale of a national network show. In total I worked 5 days, including the 2 days of featured background, playing opposite the star and executive producer of the show. Because the show has been on for 10 seasons, it was a well oiled machine of veteran cast and crew. Everyone on the set treated me like family. At the top of the table read, each cast mate, the director, the writer and executive producer walked around the table and shook the hands of the guests and introduced themselves. It’s the warmest reception I’ve ever experienced, but I’m still new to this. This kind gesture alleviated any fear or intimidation a guest of the show may have had.  This is the ideal show that I’d like to be a series regular on.

The first day of my co-star shoot, I was beyond ready. I was fearless. These people said “Yes” to me and I wasn’t going to make them sorry for upgrading a featured extra. The “Luck equals Opportunity plus Preparation” was in full effect here. I’ve been training since 1996. I was more than prepared.

I had a phenomenal time. So much so I sent thank you cards to everyone I had a personal interaction  with.

This is one of those golden moments where I couldn’t have known to wish for an easier way to gain access. All because I said Yes to each obstacle. There were so many opportunities for me to say NO. I could have said No to the voicemail or not returned the call. I could’ve said No I don’t want to drive to Valencia. I could have said No I can’t put myself on tape while I’m on set. My thinking was I have nothing to lose and everything to gain. There was no time to complain, forward motion needed to happen immediately. I gained a fresh television credit from a well known syndicated network show and the experience was rich. I learned that I’m ready for anything and I am more prepared than I give myself credit for. The definition of Luck is, success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions. This experience could be defined as luck, but only partially, my constant actions played a tremendous role in making it happen. One thing I know about myself is, I can make anything work.

IMG_3279Fortunately, I’m in a position where I have a lot of time on my hands. Therefore, it is very easy for me to misuse my time, by say, binge watching several seasons of a television show and justifying it under the guise of “I’m an Actor, I must watch everything.” There are far too many tasks for me to tend to in running my acting business successfully. Yeah, it’s a business where I’ll always be the President, COO, CFO and the minion who fills in all the gaps in between. Aside from auditioning, submitting myself for acting jobs, taking classes, being a financial manager, networking, keeping a log of all things acting, and marketing, it’s imperative that I stay current with what is happening in the industry outside of me, the actor. I can get an idea of what this industry entails by simply reading a bio, or trade paper, or listening to commentary, but nothing beats hands on experience. You know, those stories only insiders are privy to. So, I decided to intern for a casting office. Well, my intuition told me, via meditation, that I should send an email to a casting director that I have grown familiar with, and offer my services, whatever they may be, since I don’t have a ton of office experience.

I composed the email, as it came to me in meditation, and sent it to the casting director. It stated how many hours I was willing to work a week and the length of time, earlier companies that I had interned for and my old survival job resume, then pressed send with no expectation. I wasn’t asking for a salary, therefore I had no reason to be nervous. The worse she could say was no, right? A week had passed, and then she responded that her assistant would contact me. Well, that sounded like possibility to me. Shortly afterwards, I received the email from the assistant inviting me to meet with her. This was exciting news, now that this idea was becoming actualized, my stomach got a little queasy. I began wondering what the meeting was going to be like, what were they’re expectations of me. Would they be okay with me leaving to audition in the middle of my time with them? Was I going to have to deal with cantankerous personalities? I caught myself spiraling into the vast pit of what-ifs, teetering on the brink of neurosis, and about to decline the meeting. Being able to step outside of myself, see my crazy and shake myself back to sanity, is a gift that I posses. So, I did that, and said yes to the meeting.

If you read last week’s post, Operation Agent Termination 1.0, you’ll recall me saying that the office atmosphere plays a big role in my decision to work with the people who inhabit it. The meeting was in a lovely, bright and airy bungalow on the westside. When I entered I was greeted by the friendly face of the assistant. She interviewed me, because it would her that I’d be helping mostly. We discussed my extemporaneous audition schedule, the operations of the office, then decided on a regular day for me to intern. She invited me to shadow the intern that was coming in for that afternoon, and I accepted. When the woman, whom I’d be shadowing, arrived she was given a list of very specific things to do. I was listening intently, but I wasn’t comprehending the list, and that gave me the belly nerves. I started thinking, uhhh, am I going to be able to do this job? Was I in too deep? And yet again, I had to step outside myself and say stop it, pay attention, you’re missing the particulars.

While I was there, a directive came through from the producers of a show, that they had changed their mind on an actor that they were going to make an offer to, and now needed to audition new actors. The assistant gave me the job of creating a list of hot, 30 something, “IT” guys, who could pair well with the lead of the show. What seemed to me like a fun task, required more brain power than I had expected. I didn’t have a list of hot guys in my head, or filed away somewhere, so I turned to the TV shows that I watch religiously. IMDb Pro was my tool of choice. It was where I would find the names of the actors, a picture and their agents information. I was able to compose a list of about 12 hot, 30 something, “IT” guys, who could pair well with the lead of the show. It would have been 16, but some of the male actors I searched for didn’t have a profile picture listed, and one guy had a picture, but it was profile only, and I couldn’t get a feel from a profile. It reinforced how imperative it is to have at least 2-3 pictures of myself showcasing different personas.

I don’t know what I am about to learn interning at this office, but I’m very excited to get behind the scenes experience first hand. I have a feeling some of my learnings will make it here for you to read.

PicShells
My first Los Angeles commercial agent came by way of a targeted mailing. In December 2006 I had purchased the latest issue of Ross Reports, now called Call Sheet, and I highlighted commercial agents that took on new non-union clients, then sent them a headshot, resume and cover letter.

By January of 2006, I opted to give 3 months notice to terminate my full-time job at the optical company, and was fortuitous to be offered a weekend only position. Well, that meant I needed to get the ball rolling on my acting career, which was the reason I had moved to LA. The same day that I gave notice to my boss I had received a call from a model agency to schedule a meeting. They said they had received my picture in December. Wha??? I hadn’t sent my pictures to a modeling agency. I didn’t want to be a model, ergo, I graciously informed them that I was not looking for a modeling agent and was declining the meeting. Well, it turned out they had just developed a commercial department and was building their roster.  I accepted the meeting but my emotions were conflicted, I was excited and panicked at the same time. Excited for obvious reasons, but panicked because now I had to begin my acting journey, and I was a terrified.

The week leading up to the meeting I had researched the modeling agency as much as I could. The owner was female, yay, she had been featured on The Tyra Banks show for exposing fraudulent modeling agency practices.  Watching that interview gave me a feel of her essence, she struck me as kindhearted and compassionate.  The office was next door to The Ivy, a restaurant acclaimed for its celebrity patrons, where big Hollywood deals were negotiated over lunch. It is considered prime real estate in Beverly Hills, and therefore I deduced the agency must have been doing well.

When I walk into an office, that I could possibly be represented by, I take in every element. The office was pristine, and had a luxury boutique feel. Dark wood floors, beautiful orchids, scented candles, airy and bright. While I waited, a young guy walked in to drop off his unsolicited pictures, the agents in the office took care to speak to him with respect while they imparted that he would not be a fit for them, instead of shunning him they shared a list of other agencies he’d most likely be best suited for. The atmosphere of the office is important to me because it speaks volumes to the character of the establishment and how they treat people.

The commercial agent met me in the common area, she was dressed casually, had a kind smile on her face and was easy-going. She was not the owner that I’d watched on the Tyra Banks show, but she possessed the same demeanor. We talked for about 30 minutes that ended with an invite for me to come aboard. They didn’t operate under contract because the philosophy of their office was, if either party didn’t want to continue the relationship, it didn’t make sense to wait out a contract. I let her know that I would take the weekend to make a decision, and departed feeling good about the meeting.  Or so I thought.

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Free Your Mind

 

After 4 years of living alone in LA,  I got it into my head to try a roommate situation. The thing about that was, I hadn’t experienced living with roommates ever, in my entire life. I have no idea why I thought it would be a fun idea to live with two other NYC chicks, I barely knew, who were actors on the rise, in a great apartment, while cutting living expenses? What was I thinking? Well, I did it for a year, in the beginning it was fun, but the fun turned sour by our fourth month, cue ominous music. It wasn’t a horrific experience, but it definitely wasn’t the best of times. At the end of our lease we all decided to part ways and move out. By that time, I was energetically depleted and exhausted, not only from the roommates, but a combination of the constant barrage of “What Actors Should and Shouldn’t Do” philosophies, the unsolicited opinions from my peers of how they thought I should approach my career, and from monotonously pursuing acting 24-7-365. My entire being was in a dense fog. My head was so noisy, it felt like my thoughts were in an infamous rave party with deep throbbing bass rattling my brain, flashing lights and lasers triggering all the wrong impulses while sirens distracted me from making decisions. I had so many opinions in my head I was struck with analysis paralysis.

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I began 2014 with a few hundred dollars in the bank and no idea of where my next source of earnings would come from. In November of 2013, the one day a week job, that I’d worked for 8 years, ended in an amicable termination. A month thereafter, in December, the unemployment benefits I had been receiving, also ended abruptly.  I’ll admit a little anxiety and fear had set in.  My savings account had a little over half the funds needed for the following month’s living expenses, but I still had twenty days to figure something out.  I refused to fall down the dark hole of despair or go into a frenzy because I had been here before, and despair didn’t fare well for me.  I had experienced streams of income dry up in a moments notice, in the past.  The difference about this time was, I knew that worrying and panic didn’t serve me.  If I was going to figure this out I needed to be determined, clear minded and focused.

Flashback to 2007, when I booked my first SAG national commercial.  It was for Proctor & Gamble’s GoodNites.  It was the first time that I would ever receive residuals, as opposed to a non-union buy-out.  I didn’t know what it meant at the time, to book a spot that was Class A, Cable & Wildspot.    What that meant, in a nut shell, is this commercial would be viewed in all TV regions; earning me any where from several hundred to a several thousand dollars in residuals, every week, for close to a year, like a regular paying job, for only a mere 8 hour work day.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t smart about money, I hadn’t saved or invested any of that income.  I was working my one day a week job and resting on my residual laurels, so to speak.  After 8 months, the residuals began to taper off, until finally, the commercial was released.  Released means the commercial will no longer run. It was finished, and so were my lofty residual checks.  I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me that there would be a day when this great income, for this particular job would cease.  I was completely caught up in it’s  regularity.  At this point, it was 2008, not only had my residuals ended, the writer’s strike went into effect, then the SAG stalemate, and the economy went bust. Needless to say, that was an extremely stressful time for me.  I was a pessimistic worry wart in those days. I was still operating in the mindset of, just get a survival job.  I knew I had to do that immediately.  So, I asked my one day a week job for more hours, to which they obliged. The caveat was I had to commute to Orange County, which was easily a 45 minute to 2 hour drive during peak traffic hours.  I grew tired of that quickly.  As providence would have it, I had filed out an online application to work at an Apple store, three months before my financial crash.  Apple called me in for a group interview and I was hired to work in a LA store close to my home.  I thought working at Apple would be a fun experience, and thus I was excited.

At Apple, the highlight of my work day was working with the customers, meeting interesting people who, if I asked, would tell me fascinating stories about their livelihoods.  Being at the epicenter of technology was captivating; I was blown away by the tech intelligence of my peers.  But, I abhorred working for Apple the corporation. To me, it felt like a Gestapo.  There was constant micro-managing,  the environment did not encourage independence, it was as if we were herded to be of one group mind.   The only creativity allowed was within the confines of the guidelines.  I felt a need to rage against the machine, I can admit I was a bit difficult and contentious towards my managers.  I would push back just enough staying within the confines of the rules as to not get fired.  I always wondered if that was how all of the stores operated or was it just this particular store?

After a year at Apple, I quit.  I still had my one day a week job in Orange County and the industry was re-emerging from its 3 punch devastating blows. During that time, I noticed that a select few of my peers still found work in the industry via other outlets.  Not to say they didn’t have their own set of challenges, I’m sure they did. But, they had achieved staying financially afloat in the entertainment industry.  I was struck curious at how they managed to overcome getting a survival job.  What was different about this select group of people.  What did they do that I didn’t.  I surmised that I didn’t take the time to strategize, to plan, to have foresight.  I didn’t consider what was possible. During those days I had a fear based mindset.  The Los Angeles news broadcasts fed my fear, reporting the crisis of the entertainment industry, every moment of every day.  Like we were in a state of emergency.  So, I panicked, gave up with out a fight and got any old job.  Besides, I didn’t truly believe that I could have made a living as an actor anyway.  It was still a far-fetched notion for me.  As the industry stridently returned to it’s resiliency,  I was beginning all over again, I had lost so much momentum. It took me nearly 4 years to get back on track; I made a pact with myself, that in the event things in my industry should appear bleak again, because it would, that I’d refuse to forfeit.  I vowed to work harder, more exacting, make bolder choices and change my mindset to believe that I can be like the select group of people who I had admired so much. Continue Reading

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My first acting teacher was a dictator.  My experience of her was that she could be combative, cruel and controlling.  I studied with her exclusively for almost 2 years because I thought that’s just how it is, acting teachers are mean; like the nuns at parochial schools who’d hit your knuckles with a ruler.  I never questioned whether there could be a more nurturing approach.  I was in my 20’s and easily influenceable by authority figures.  While I felt abused, psychologically, I also felt she was a powerful acting teacher and that she was teaching me to be a strong actor.  She’d sometimes bully people to tears, and then tell them to act from that space.  I recall 2 different women not agreeing with her teachings and were met with her verbal wrath and then put out of the school.  There was one girl, that I witnessed, stand up for herself, before leaving for good.  I thought, wow, she’s bold.

By the time this teacher was done with me, I knew how to be a very controlled actor, a performer who would do exactly what was expected to make it appear as if I could act.  There was no organic play in my work, it was always a planned performance; I feared the repercussions of her disappointed grimace or words.  Like the film Mommie Dearest “NO MORE WIRE HANGERS!” It was a futile experience, like nothing I did was worthy of her compliment.  I didn’t believe I’d ever be a good enough actor to make a living at it.

Our relationship ended after, what I thought was me paying her compliment, she perceived as an unsolicited opinion, to which she wrote me a scathing email to let me know that I had no right.  That was my final straw with her, and I moved on to another teacher.  But, it was not all for naught.  By the time I left that school, I had a strong foundation, I learned about the craft of acting, the importance of breathing, body work, commitment to character and how to engage a strong emotional life.  Best of all, I met my first career coach there, who was instrumental in my understanding the business of show business for years to come. Continue Reading

Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 10.20.14 PMWhile talking to my best friend Kym on the phone last night, we began discussing how I never tell people what jobs I’ve booked.  How I just let people get surprised when I pop up on their TV screen.  Many people ask me why I don’t inform them where to look for me.  Well, there are several reasons.

I got my start in the entertainment business by being a Hip-Hop dancer in music videos, in the early to mid 90’s.  I had booked Madonna’s Secret music video, as a club patron.  The video was shot in Harlem at the legendary Lenox Lounge.  I was ecstatic to have booked the job.  It was Madonna in her heyday and she was right there in this little lounge performing this song for about 10 of us.  I was seated with a small group of dancers, just a few tables from the love interest.  The cameraman filmed me and the small group, jamming to this song.  No, let me break this down, the camera didn’t just film us, the camera was all up in our face, recording, for several minutes.  We were subtle, but live, in our movements, having a great time.  When the shoot wrapped, I couldn’t wait to get home to tell my mother and all of my friends around the way.  Yo, I’m Gonna Be In A Madonna Video!!!

Now let me tell you.  This job was not about the money, because music videos paid chump change back then.  No, this job was about being archived in a Madonna video, and street cred I would gain from it.  It had an intangible value.  I waited, excitedly,  for that video to come out.  I watched MTV like crazy.  And finally, it aired. Yay!!!  I sat with a few of my friends and we watched the entire video, on the edge of our seats, eyes big, and there was no Tiwana in it, at all.  What?!? But, the camera was all in my face.  But, I told all of my friends.  I was heated and I was mad at Madonna for a long while after that.  Like we were friends and she lied to me.  I was not feeling her anymore, I got over it, but if I saw her today, I made give her a little shade.  After that, I vowed not to tell people where to look out for me, because it wasn’t guaranteed that I would make the final cut.

Fast forward almost 20 years later.  In 2012, I booked 5 national commercials.  It was the most I’d booked in one year.  I thought I was going to hit 6 figures, for the first time from acting.  Now, I didn’t make any drastic purchases, but I was planning a lifestyle change for the better, in my head.  Slowly, I received outgrade letters, one by one, back to back for 3 of the spots.  An outgrade letter is a mandatory letter informing talent that they did not make the final cut for whatever reason, and therefore, will not receive any residuals or holding fees.  Poof, there went my 6 figures.

Because I had learned not to divulge my bookings, many years ago, I had not told anyone about the 5 commercials that I’d booked.  And, I learned a new lesson.  Don’t Count The Money Until It’s In the Bank.

My final reason for not telling people is, quite contrary to how people appear, not everyone is happy for me, or you.  I’ve learned discernment over the course of my life.  This is not to say all people are out to malign against me, you.  We all have moments of envy in this industry, in general life.  Sometimes someone hasn’t booked a job in a year or so, and as much as they want to be happy for me, you, it’s hard.  And sometimes people want to be in your mix because of what you stand for, not because they like me, you.  Discernment is another topic that I’m sure will make it’s way on this blog.

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I’ve been represented, commercially by the Osbrink Agency for 6 years now.  My relationship with Scott, Angela, Maureen and Lindsay has been, collaborative, communicative, and candid.  We have a mutual affinity towards each other.  I’d like to think they view me as a professional, and an artist, who will make them money, but also as someone who has morals and a long vision for success. I regard them as an agency that will assist me in excelling to high levels.  We share an expansive vision and an extraordinary mindset.  I like them as people, and that’s important to me.

Every successful person has a powerful team around them, and that is what I’m looking to build around me.  I envision my team to be forward thinkers, people with a finger on the pulse of present day entertainment business, charismatically assertive, visionary, relational astute salespeople who are highly respected for always doing smart business.  I guess I can call this a Team Tiwana Floyd mission statement.

After spending the past 7 years focusing on commercials, that plate is spinning seamlessly, I know how to balance that area of my career.  The time has now come to focus on television, the reason I moved to Los Angeles.  That means time to find the ideal theatrical agent. This task gives me a bit of angst because, how do I find someone as great as Osbrink, right away? Well, I don’t.  It’s all trial and error and time well spent.  Afterall, Osbrink wasn’t my first commercial agency in Los Angeles.  Add to that angst that I’m what’s called, a developmental talent, which means I have very few TV credits, therefore an agent would need to want to take on the heavy weight of lifting my presence and ability to the powers who can bring me in to audition.  Let’s face it, not many people want to work that hard, in any industry.  But, I’m not discouraged.  I know I have to prove myself, just like I did in the commercial arena, steadily, consistently and wisely.

So how does one go about finding a theatrical agent?  Well, there is no one answer for anything in the entertainment business.  All I know, is to do is what works for me, and my comfort level while inserting some bold action moves here and there.  I devised a list of 13 theatrical agents, lets call them Top 13,  that I would like to meet with, agents who I think, I’d like to be represented by.  Researching agents can be a bit of a challenge, there usually isn’t much information about them anywhere.  Occasionally, they’ll speak somewhere, or have been interviewed by Backstage or some other industry trade.  Some of my peers will ask their colleagues whether a certain agent should be considered.  I don’t really subscribe to that tactic, I have the gift of seeing two sides of things.  I view people and situations differently and tend to not be sensitive to what many of my peers may find offensive.  Besides, I prefer to make my own judgements first hand, instead of based on speculation.

I Googled all of the names of the Top 13 agents, some of them had LinkedIn pages, there, I was able to at least see a picture of them and get a minute sense of their essence. Finally, I composed a strong pitch letter of who I am and what I bring as a professional and as an actor.  I didn’t want to send an 8×10 headshot and resume.  I always have this picture in my head of seeing a stack of unopened envelopes with head shots in a corner of some agents office, their intention being they’ll look through them all at some point, but then the pile gets so high that they just tell their intern to throw them away.  It’s really me projecting my relationship to my pile of magazines, I know.  So instead, I decided to use MailChimp, I found all of the Top 13 agents business emails on IMDbPro.  Because my email was going to be unsolicited, it was important for me to have the headline inform them that this would be the only time I would send them an unsolicited email.  And, I will honor that promise.

Out of the Top 13, only one agent unsubscribed.  Another agent wrote me back and said, not now.  Which is not a no. In total, 7 were opened.  It’s my understanding, that Mailchimp can’t report an email as viewed if it occurs on a mobile device.  I’m not 100% if that’s true, but I was happy with my odds.  No one said ABSOLUTELY NOT, NEVER!  I have a sales background, and therefore until I hear a resounding no, I’ll keep pitching.  This first batch of emails did not incur a meeting, but they have not heard the last of me.  I will continue to follow up with them, monthly, with my progress via postcards and one sheets.  I will post any updates here as they happen.  In the meantime, I have to make my own way into the audition rooms of TV casting directors, w hich is part of my 2015 first quarter plan. Look for that post in early January.