Today we chatted about yesterday’s Agents of Shield (S03E08 Many Heads, One Tale) and The Flash (S02E07 Gorilla Warfare) episodes.
I’m not sure that any mother is thrilled when you call home and tell her that you’re taking improv classes in LA. You come out to LA to act, but find yourself with nothing to do and no credits to show for. So, what do you do? You take acting classes and improv classes. Are the improv classes worth it? Here are six tings I wish I has known before I started my first class.
When you decide to move to Los Angeles from the Deep South, a lot of people get upset. They comment that you are “moving to the land of fruits and nuts,” mothers force you to watch documentaries about local gangs that will kill you the second your plane lands, and you may even receive a letter from someone in your church suggesting that you should move to Spain instead of Los Angeles because if you do move to L.A., you’ll be forced to provide sexual favors to casting directors for a role (please note, I did indeed receive this letter.)
Southern culture confuses people in Los Angeles. The differences between Southern California and the deep south are surprisingly many. Here are only six of the things that either bother people here, blow their minds, or make them utterly confused.
“To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time.” – Leonard Bernstein
“I don’t have time.” “Really?” I asked my brother, “You can’t carve out even a few minutes?” “Oh, I don’t know.” He responded. “I might.”
This is my challenge to you and slightly a back handed public challenge to my brother. Start creating content. Not tomorrow, or the day after, right now. There will always be excuses to why you won’t start. Notice that I didn’t say “can’t,” because you can and you should.
What’s the difference between someone successful and you? They didn’t need to get paid to do what they love. They did it for fun and they did it a lot.
Life is complicated. Most of us have either busy jobs or jobs that we dislike that drain us. It’s not often that you work 40 to 70 hours a week then decide that you want to make something. However, as an artist, you can’t grow if you don’t take the time to create something. Is your dream important to you? How bad do you want it? Do you keep telling yourself that you’re going to quit your job and then you’ll have time to do what you love?
You’re full of it and you know it. Stop making excuses. Whatever kind of artist you are needs to be cultivated. If you don’t practice you’ll never get good at what you love and you’ll never get to do what you love full time. That’s a promise.
You don’t have to start big. Decide that you’re going to wake up 30 minutes earlier in the morning and do what you love for just 15 minutes. Drink a cup off coffee then paint, write, practice monologues, etc.
Starting small will make doing what you love a habit and will give your life purpose. You’ll be surprised at how 15 minutes will turn into 2 hours and how inspiration and passion will fill your life. You’ll start to be you again.
There is never enough time. You’ll never find it no matter what job you have. Find your passion and pursue it or you’ll live in the land of “what ifs” forever.
In college, a professor once told me, “Saying yes to everything means that you’re saying no to something else because you don’t have the time to do it.”
A while back, I quit a job because it made no money. I worked as a barista to bring in some extra income. I didn’t want to take the job, but honestly I felt the pressure to survive and my photography business hadn’t taken off yet. So, I took it. It paid too little and I had to quit. It was a dumb move to take the job in the first place, but I needed something and I had high hopes that I’d get a raise.
Anyway, I quit right as my photography business was starting to take on some steam. Things were going great at first… Then work slowed down. So, I started trying to get creative to bring in some extra business. At a random chance meeting, a local business owner was telling me about his struggle to maintain a presence in social media as well as getting high quality photos of his clients. My ears immediately perked up. After asking a few questions I offered up some help. I told him that I was a bit of a social bug and a photographer and he was thrilled to set up a meeting with me.
I was excited. “Look at me,” I thought, “I’m so clever. I can make lemonade out of lemons. I’m a real Guerrilla marketer.”
When we finally met, I went over what we had talked about, but then suddenly I was asked if I had experience with web design. I told him that I had some but I wasn’t able to create anything. He insisted that I do some minor tweaks to his site. I didn’t want to, but I’m a giant push over with the inability to say no. So, I agreed. That turned into major tweaks, redesigning whole pages of the website, filling out spread sheets, making a video, working on creating logos and signs, and basically being completely in charge of the financial stability of his store.
What had started as a small offer to help out, turned into me running the show. Not only that, but I felt so much pressure to make everything perfect and have immediate results. We had agreed that I would be paid hourly and when I spent hours and hours getting everything running and presented him with an invoice, he was upset because he didn’t see a lot of results and he didn’t want to pay for something that wasn’t making him any business.
This was a disaster. Not only had I wasted my time, was not getting paid, but I was also doing a ton of work that I wasn’t qualified to do nor did I want to! I didn’t even take one picture which was my entire goal in the first place! I hadn’t set up any guidelines and when I was asked in the beginning if I could do something that I wasn’t good at, I didn’t say no.
The worst part of all of this? It was all my fault. I had to pay a stupid tax. If I had been clear from the beginning about what I was willing to do and what I could do well this would have never happened. And why did I do this? Because I needed to survive. The problem was, I needed money and when you need money you tend to take jobs that you would never take.
If I could go back, I would have just been honest. I would have been tough. I would have said no in the beginning and saved myself tons of stress.
Say no. It means saying yes to what you actually want to do.
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/ucumari/5980792927/”>ucumari</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>
When you decide that you want to become an actor, you always imagine that you’re the next big thing. You imagine that you’re Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, or Gerard Butler. You see yourself as the leading man. The Hero. The guy who rides in on a white horse and saves the damsel in distress while making a funny joke that shows how cool you are under pressure while an explosion goes off behind you that you don’t notice.
You never imagine yourself as Gomer Pile or Ernest P. Worrell. You never see youself as the goofy screw up, or the gay best friend, or the annoying older sister and you certainly didn’t become an actor to portray such demeaning roles.
On Monday, I posted How to be an Extra. Right after I did so, I got a message asking me how to become a principal actor. They wanted to know how to get a leading role. The problem with that question? There are a million answers. There’s no one way to break into the industry today. Granted, there are things to do that will increase your chances of being successful.
The first I’d say, is to be a character actor.
I used to work in casting. When we started casting the film, the director didn’t even want one leading man. The project had dozens of actors in it and every character in the film was either old, ugly, stupid, or evil. Everyone was a character actor.
That’s the thing with LA and NY especially. There are thousands of extremely attractive men and women that have more talent in their pinky than you have in your whole family and those people aren’t even getting booked!
In an interview at the Sunscreen Film Festival, Alexa Vega from Spy Kids said that she hated pilot season. She said that every audition that she went to had hundreds of girls that looked just like her, but were even more attractive. This confounded me. This was a very pretty girl with tons of experience and all the connections in the world. How could she not get a role?
What would I do? Find someone honest around you. Get someone who won’t lie to you and tell them that you won’t be angry, but they need to answer this question honestly:
“What roles can I play?”
They’ll answer one of two ways.
- You’re a leading man
- You’re a great garbage truck driver
OK, so there may be more roles than garbage truck driver, but you get the idea. Are you a dad? Are you a nerd? Are you the school bully?
If you’re the leading man, then fine. GO TO THE GYM. You need to get an edge on every other handsome devil in town.
However, if you’re a character, then you just have to fit that role better. If you can figure out what kind of character actor you are, you immediately have a jump on so many people. You’ll know what makes you different. You’ll know what characters you can play and you’ll know how to talk, dress, and act like those characters.
A friend of mine with long black hair told me, the other day, that he was going to cut all his hair off and then try to get an agent. I almost slapped him in the face. Why cut off the thing that that differentiates you from everyone else? Instead of going against 3,000 other actors with short spiked hair, he’ll be competing with 300 other actors with long black hair. Personally, I like those odds much better.
Find your look. Make yourself different. If you’re a funny fat guy, then don’t lose weight! You can always change your look once you’ve established yourself. This is just a way to jump start your career…
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/ncaranti/5323819392/”>Niccolò Caranti</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a>
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/urbanwoodswalker/4029336310/”>Urban Woodswalker</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>
Ok, so to recap…
Preston and I are in Los Angeles, we have a trailer on the back of Preston’s almost broken trailer attached to his almost broken truck, that has to be returned in a day. We have one last night in a hotel that has one full size bed that Preston and I are sharing (please no jokes. I’m married, she’s not my beard, and I hate sleeping on the floor.) We only have enough money to pay a security deposit on an apartment and for one month’s rent, so if we don’t get one by tomorrow, we have no where to sleep, we lose the trailer, which we can’t afford to rent for longer, which means that we must keep everything we own on the ground at some random park and finally die alone and homeless.
Oh and we just found out that it’s Memorial Day weekend and every place we have visited so far, won’t let us move in until Tuesday, two days late.
So, after considerably freaking out. We walked away not sure what to do. Until we looked next door. Another apartment complex… Eh, let’s just give it a look.
It was called, “The Reef Apartments.” The lady showed us around. It was a carbon copy of the complex next door. So, of course we loved it.
Afterwards, she asked us if we wanted to apply. We asked when we could move in and she said…
If we were approved…
I then filled the application out (It was under my name since, I was paying for it to prepare a place for La Nita when she moved here) then left and PRAYED.
We then spent all day waiting.
We went to bed that night, and had the most nervous sleep ever. The next day, we checked out of our hotel and went to a Starbucks. Then waited more. At this point a logical person would have looked at other apartments, and applied to another place.
If you find that person, please tell me. I could use advice in those instances.
So, we sat there until 4pm until we finally got the call. We were approved!!!
We then , frantically moved all out crap into the room, which was a pain and returned the trailer that night.
Suddenly, we had an apartment, and a VERY tiny room with enough stuff in it to fill a Goodwill.
Then La Nita sent some money to help out. That was nice. She was a HUGE help. (Again, tell her nothing.)
OK! So, then I lived in LA. I was getting married in a month and a half, I was paying a reasonable $750 a month for a studio apartment (Which is a great deal here) that I had to pay for a year, and wait… I had no job.
So, the next blog will truly be about surviving as an artist. When you get to LA with no job, I have some ideas about what you should do. Everyone moves out here with huge anticipation that as soon as you get here you should dive into your dreams and be a actor, writer, director, etc. What no one tells you is that most people who move here, blow their wad quickly, then go home. What you have to do is establish yourself and learn how to live here. There are affordable places, to shop, live, hang out etc…
Alright, so there I was. Staying in a hotel on Sunset Blvd, sharing an uncomfortable bed with Preston, and really hoping that I wouldn’t get shot among the sounds of gun shots followed by screams of terror. Mine of course.
That first night was NO FUN. The room didn’t even have cable.
Oh, I forgot to mention, our first meal that first night in LA was “El Polo Loco,” or in English, “The Crazy Chicken.”
Which is actually quite good for fast food.
The next day we ventured out to find other apartments to view. We ended up going to all of the places that we had found online and none of them were what they advertised. Either they were WAY more expensive than they advertised, or they were nothing like the pictures.
So, there we were… One more night at a hotel, no place to live, no money to rent a hotel any longer. I had enough money to pay a security deposit on an apartment and not a cent more. Preston had nothing. It cost hundreds more in gas to pull the trailer than he had planned. Also, it was Friday and we had to return the trailer holding all of our earthly possessions on Sunday.
So, if we didn’t find a place to live, like that day, we were done.
I wasn’t sure what we would do if this didn’t work out. Neither Preston’s parents or mine were rich, so literally they couldn’t afford to float us money to survive until we found a place. If this didn’t work out, I’d have to use our rent money to get back to Alabama and even that wouldn’t be enough, so we have to sleep in the car each night and we couldn’t afford to bring our things home because the trailer cost too much. Not to mention that Preston’s truck could no longer handle the stress of luging around the trailer and was smoking.
Panic slightly hit me at that point.
So, Preston and I sat down at a Quiznos. Ate a sandwich, spoke to La Nita a ton on the phone, and looked up places in an apartment book we found at a newspaper stand.
La Nita that day did one good thing and one bad thing. Don’t tell her that I told you this, but if it weren’t for her, I would have sucked it up and moved into the apartment that the HKG (Hello Kitty Girl) showed me and risked both my, Preston, and La Nita’s lives for the next year. She really pushed me to go look at other places and because of her we ended up in a nice place that was much safer.
The bad thing? She was more stressed than I was and she started fights with me over the phone. I almost killed her over the phone about a million times.
That’t how you know that you’re in love kids. One moment, you want to hug someone because you miss them and love them so much and the next you want to stab them in the face with a fork.
Ahhh true love.
Anyway, the book of apartments that we found didn’t help at all, so Preston and I ended up going to a few apartments we found using an app on his iPhone.
That’s when we finally found “The Montego Apartments.”
This was the first place that we went to that looked nice, was in a nice location, and I didn’t feel like I’d be killed in my sleep for a cup of sugar. We got a tour of the place from the guy. He walked us around, it had a pool and a balcony. It actually resembled an old remodeled hotel.
So, he handed us an application and we smiled like idiots because we knew that we had found our new place. Once, he handed us the forms, we asked if we could go sit down and fill them out immediately, so as to get the process going faster. He said that was fine and if we filled them out right now, we’d know if we were approved on Tuesday.
Was of course our response. That’s when he gave us news that we hadn’t counted on. It was May 28th, Memorial Day weekend. Virtually no place would take us in until Tuesday. Which is about three days AFTER we needed to move in to survive.
*Commence the weeping*