"None of us suddenly becomes something overnight. The preparations have been in the making for a lifetime.- Gail Goodwin
July 17th marked my 2 year anniversary here in LA. In some ways it feels like I've been here much longer and in other ways I still feel very green. In the last 24 months, here's what I've learned...

*Warning- I haven't written a blog post outside of my daily activity entries in awhile so this is a long one.*

Training
Man if you have the money, do this from the outset! I wish I could've afforded to be in the class that I'm in a long time ago because it's making such a difference. To be able to hone the skills that you have as well as learn new ones on a consistent basis is necessary. Every other professional stays sharp in their skills by doing whatever it is they do on a daily basis. Lawyers, Doctors, Athletes, Musicians, they all work/practice/perform as much as they can to be at the top of their game. Yet Actors, especially those of us just starting out, don't usually get that opportunity to be working for the majority of the year so when you're not working you NEED to be in class if you want to compete with the girl or guy who will be auditioning for the same role as you. Don't fall into the trap of thinking your talent is so great that you can't use some polishing. Please. If you're not working {whether on film, TV or stage}, get in class.

Day Jobs
Of course, if you have no money you can't afford to be in class or to pay for other necessary actor expenses so getting a day job is vital. While I tried my hand at serving, it wasn't for me. I really like people and I want it to stay that way. If, however, you can overlook the incompetence that ignorant, uneducated, drunk, or just plain rude people exhibit from time to time while in a restaurant or bar, then by all means get yourself a serving or bartending job and make it work for you. There's a reason this is the most popular actor gig- it's flexible! There's also catering, temp work, substitute teaching, extra work {though this should be done sparingly if you really want to keep your days free for auditions}, babysitting, tutoring, security guard positions and production work if you can get on the night shift.

I work as a Night Logger/Transcriber for a production company because I happen to type pretty fast and accurately. It started off as a very unstable, on and off gig transcribing one show and has lead to a consistent job transcribing all the shows they produce so that now I only have a few weeks off throughout the year. It's not my dream day job by any stretch of the imagination. It's somewhat tedious. It keeps me away from my family at night when I'd rather be tucking the boys in and spending time with Stephen but it's a means to an end. It helps pay for acting expenses. Hell with the cost of living out here, it helps pay for household expenses! It keeps my days free for auditions. It has weekends off so I can get some family time. I can make-up any days I need to miss for a shoot. And best of all, I have autonomy. No one's looking over my shoulder micro-managing me which I CAN'T STAND! Even my supervisor is an actor, so he gets it. You gotta use the skill set you have to find the job or jobs that will allow you to do what you need to do to make this work.

Auditions
I've certainly learned what is worth my time and what isn't. When I'm notified that I have an audition I read the sides or the whole script if available, to see if it's something that I want to INVEST my time in. If so, full speed ahead. If not, I thank the CD for the opportunity and respectfully decline. This isn't foolproof. Sometimes the sides aren't available until you get there and you realize you wouldn't want to do the part even if they paid you. But other times, the audition experience is exhilarating and it's why we come out here- to have an opportunity to play these roles. At my stage in the game I'm mostly auditioning for student films, short films and ultra low-budget indie films, not to mention commercials. Of course TV is where I wanna be but getting in those audition rooms without representation, while not impossible, is no small feat.

Representation
Speaking of rep, I'm still on the hunt for a good manager and theatrical agent. I knew this would take some time so I'm not concerned at this point but I do know how important and truly helpful having good representation can be. I mean let's face it, there are PLENTY of TV casting offices that I can mail or drop-off my headshot to tons of times and they're still gonna call in the girl who was submitted by her agent or manager. That's just the way it goes. Certainly there are exceptions to the rule but who wants to rely on those odds? Not me. If I wanna play in that sandbox, I gotta get some theatrical rep on my team.

Support
While I have a lot of colleagues that are talented/nice/sweet/whatever, my actual circle of friends has gotten smaller and tighter. People who I thought were friends turned out to be colleagues only and those who I thought I'd never have a deep connection with because of our differences have turned out to be some of the people I love the most {Tara & Lex for instance}. Having friends I can call back in Houston is wonderful {and I wouldn't trade them for the world} but you really do need a tribe out here to survive. You need people who understand the daily grind that you've chosen to put yourself through because they're doing the same. They understand the anxiety and self-doubt you feel from time to time yet they also get that there's nothing else in the world you'd rather do. Their support is invaluable, especially if you're not getting it at home.

Which leads me to the toughest one...

The homefront
My husband loves me. He loves my drive. He loves my ambition. He loves my steadfast determination to pursue something I want until I get it.

What he doesn't love is LA.

He doesn't love that his salary is the same or very close to what he'd make in the south, yet the cost of living is 2 to 3 times more. He doesn't love that $150,000 can buy us a nice house with space and a yard for our boys somewhere in TX while out here it can barely get you a decent condo. He doesn't love that he has to spend a fortune to fly out to visit his parents while he can just take a road trip if we lived closer. He doesn't love that I have very few Christian friends out here who can encourage me in my walk with Christ, while all my friends back in Houston believe that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and try to share his love with others. Most importantly, he doesn't love that he's been helping me pursue my dream for the last 2 years while neglecting his. In case you're wondering, he wants to be a Pastor.

All of these things I can understand, especially the last one. There's no way I could've come out here and do what I've done without him being by my side and I want nothing more than for him to feel the utter joy that I feel from pursuing what I love most. I just want him to feel it HERE. Because to ask me to leave LA, the one place I physically NEED to be if I'm going to pursue TV & film work when we just got here only 2 years ago... I can't do it. I just, can't.

So there's that.

A lot has happened in 2 years. Some good, some not so good but it's all a part of my "adventure" I guess. And I share it because I know some of you are going through the same things too so this blog is my way of saying you're not alone. Or maybe it's my way of reaching out and hoping that I'm not alone. Either way, hopefully I'll have more exciting stuff to share by Year 3.
Day 197: Had a writing session with Tara. We know exactly where we wanna go and what we wanna do with the first act. We also know how we want to end the story but we're totally stuck in the middle.

Later that day I went to TAN to listen to guest speaker Tony Sepulveda, the VP of casting for Warner Bros. Dude had a very funny sense of humor and the place was, as expected, packed to the brim. Most important takeaway: Do mailings/drop-offs to TV casting directors as much as possible. They need so many new faces that in his opinion, those are the CD's we should focus on. Plus he's cast people who've sent him their stuff so that's always good to hear.


Day 198: Internship. Cleaned out the files of old headshots of "name" actors who once auditioned and/or was cast on the show years ago. People who are constantly recurring guest stars, film stars and even series regulars with their own show now. Gave me a little hope to see that just a few years ago they were hustling themselves... I'm sure they're still hustling now, just at a much higher level.

Day 199: Today was on-set day at class and we had too much fun! Both scenes that were put up were hilarious and watching everyone put their own spin on it had us rolling. It was interesting to do a scene without  my sides {that means the scenes in my script mom, auntie & grandma} in hand. I naturally wanted to "cheat out" towards the class as if I were performing a play on stage so my teacher had to break me of quite a few theatre habits. Good stuff.
Day 195: Wrote a very loose outline for the the first act of our feature film. 

Day 196: Listened to the first draft of the score for episode 5 and sent in my notes. Rehearsed with Danette for class this week. Did I say rehearse? More like ran lines because a sister was not prepared. Weak, I know, but it was good to at least say it out loud a few times.
Day 190: Listened to the second draft of the score for episode 4. We should be good to go!

Day 191: Resumed internship with the casting office of a primetime TV show.  Now that their summer hiatus is over and they're beginning to cast for episodic season in the fall, I'm coming back once a week to help out and learn as much as I can. Later, I met with Tara for a writing session.

Day 192: Class at SKS: Today we did on-camera work and it's very easy to see I still have a lot of practicing to do to get to the point where I can be truly still and laser focused while on camera.

Day 193: Emailed manager to reschedule meeting... later found out her relationship with the colleague who referred me has hit a rather sour note so she might not be returning my calls. After getting some of the details of their sour experience I won't be following up with her any further.

Day 194: Reserved the screenwriting book "Save the Cat" from the library so that I can get my hands on it once it becomes available. Read some of the articles in the archives at Go Into the Story.
Day 188: Broke down my sides for this week's scene for class from Castle. Never seen this show before but I know it's a procedural so I'll have to check it out by Tuesday. Paid much closer attention to the punctuation this week as I broke down every single line and wrote the thoughts my character would have at that moment.

Day 189: Ran lines for class with a friend who's in a different class at the same studio. She's doing a couple of scenes from the hilarious sequel to Knocked Up so it's always fun to see what other people are working on. She's one of the few people who lives nearby, literally down the street, so we're going to try to rehearse together at least one time each week.
Day 186: Today I was supposed to go to TAN for my monthly power group meeting and sadly I had to miss it. On the bright side, I missed it because I got a part-time gig doing reality TV transcriptions from home for a production company. It's only 2 days a week and it may only be for this week alone but if I do a good job they could use me again in the future. So I was literally glued to my computer desk at home all day. Stephen took the car so I wouldn't have to stop to drop him off and pick him up and since the boys are back he took them to Stevie's daycare today. Once done {at 8:30 pm} I went straight to work at my night job. We were laid off for a week but now we're back and thankfully we've left downtown and moved to a cooler & closer spot in Hollywood. So acting or writing-related tasks today? No. But I do score big in the day job department, which will help continue to fund my {many} acting expenses. 

Day 187: Today was much like yesterday except I did take a moment to organize my inbox. This was monumental. I have so many people to follow up with about so many different things and I get crap in my email all day long, some relevant, some not. So I created a few extra filters and organized my labels even better than they were before. I can already feel the level of anxiety I have when checking my email go down because my brain now has some peace when I look at it. 
Day 184: Studied sides for class. I'm doing 2 scenes from In Plain Sight. Never seen this show before and actually liked it after watching an episode. It's not gonna go in my weekly rotation but if I ever get a DVR again I'd probably record it to watch on the weekends.

Day 185: Class at Stan Kirsch Studios. This is my first week in their ongoing class so most of my classmates are new to me. No matter. It was a safe environment with no one there judging me... I was also introduced to what I thought was the swear jar. It's actually a "sorry" jar and I since I used that word once after being given a note, I owe it a dollar. No apologizing here because we're all here to learn, to grow and ultimately to book!


Day 182: Finished writing my untitled Natural Hair short film. Been placed on the backburner for so long that I finally made myself focus to finish it. Will still have to do some re-writing but at least the first draft is done.

Day 183: Brainstormed story ideas for the feature film I'll be writing with Tara. Brainstorming's fun. It can take you in so many different directions. I'll be able to use some of these ideas for future scripts if we don't use them for this one.

Day 181: Watched two documentaries in ESPN's 30 for 30 series.

One was the story of Len Bias, the young basketball player who died one night after trying cocaine while celebrating being drafted into the NBA. Such a tragic story that holds so many lessons for today's youth, really for all of us, the main one being that you don't always get a second chance when you make a bad decision. On a side note, I remember my grandma warning me about him when I was younger and she's soooo not into basketball- that's how much of an impact his story had when he died.

The other documentary, The Two Escobars, was absolutely fascinating! As someone who has always been drawn to the incredible rise and inevitable fall of mobsters, this film held my complete attention from beginning to end. It tells the tale of both Pablo Escobar, the richest gangster ever and Andres Escobar, the compassionate soccer player, both from Columbia and how their lives intertwined. I love the fact that it showed both sides of Pablo, the humanitarian who helped the impoverished people of Columbia, as well as the inhumane crime boss who's responsible for thousands of deaths. I'm not a soccer fan so I'd never heard of Andres but I won't ever forget his story now that I've seen this film. If you have cable you can check it out on On Demand for free right now, otherwise it may be on Netflix.
Day 180: Attended a 4th of July potluck at Tara's apartment and had an hilariously good time! Spent most of the night talking about TV shows we love {Currently Game of Thrones and The Killing. Previously and one of my ALL-TIME favorites The Wire}, awesome documentaries {Food Inc, Sicko and Waiting for Superman}, and swapped stories about missing out on authentic Mexican churros- don't ask. It was so nice to get together with other actors, mostly anyway, and talk about other things besides our acting careers. Stephen actually enjoyed himself, which doesn't always happen when I take him out to meet my actor friends so it made the night so much more fun.
Day 179: Met with Tara T. for tea at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and had a lively discussion about Brit Marling. If you've never heard of her {I hadn't until a few days earlier} she's basically the latest posterchild for DIY filmmaking. She wrote 2 movies with her roommates, both of which were accepted into Sundance and will very likely be distributed. She's now repped by CAA {one of the biggest agencies around} and is getting offers for roles in films that she wasn't able to even get in the room to audition for in the past.

Inspiring? Yes.

Do-able? Why not?

The moral of her story is that if you've been blessed with the talent to make something happen, why wait for someone else to do it for you?

So we ended our tea date determined to collaborate on a feature film. I've been asked multiple times to collaborate with others but this is the first time I've agreed to do it because it's the first time I've felt like it could actually work. Our sensibilities and the way we set about doing things are very similar so now it's just a matter of actually DOING it. Sitting down and writing the damn thing. Guess it's time to go ahead and purchase that "Save the Cat" screenwriting book I've been hearing so much about.
"Don't hate the actor, hate the scene." - Stephen's words to me as I grumbled loudly when he tried to watch Honey starring Jessica Alba. I've yet to watch the entire film and doubt I ever will.