Last Minute Blessing – Times Two

28 09 2014

Despite all the great Oscar buzz surrounding 99 HOMES, and the role I have in that film, about three weeks ago I was about to just quit acting. Not because I don’t love it – it is actually my first love, and always will be. But because I just couldn’t figure out, any longer, how to justify mortgaging (and second mortgaging) my family’s future to support my pursuing a dream.

“What is the point?” I kept asking. Or, as my beloved teacher Eric Hill always asked us about our characters, “Why are you HERE?” Why am I here? Why did I spend my life, (this is literal by now, because at 38, I have been acting and studying acting in some for for around 22 years – more than half my life) studying this, honing this, observing everyone – everything – to understand humanity on the level I desire to understand it – in all it’s facets, it’s nuance – not to mention the college and grad work… why? What is the point?

I had begun a rigorous pursuit of back to basics training, falling into my Suzuki Method of Actor Training work again – pushing myself to be physically disciplined. I hired a coach – couldn’t afford a coach – but I hired one anyway. And yet… nothing changed. The work still wasn’t coming. So, “Why am I here?”

Just after a rather embarrassing screaming fight with God, (we are on those terms – the Almighty and I – I think God appreciates my honesty ūüôā ), and an especially depressing search on Craigslist for a job, it all turned around. And in a big way.

And two things – one leading to the other – popped up together. As if to say, “THIS is why you are here.”

SO, what made the difference? I am convinced of a few things.
1. God’s timing. I know cynical folks make fun of me for this – but I truly believe that we are all in this for the long haul – and in the other life, we have these things planned out – so that we can come to this life, through it, and BACK to the other life with our souls refined. And then we do it again…. And I do not think this belief is in conflict with Christianity.
2. My letting go of two tiny inner voices that were holding me back:
a. “You’re not good enough.” Though tiny, this voice was quite powerful. I had this issue much less when I worked in theatre. I could come in, and own a room, connect with everyone I worked with…. someone once described working with me as being “hit by a hurricane”. Somehow, in the transfer between theatre and film I had lost a bit of that confidence in my ability to deliver – ANYTHING. So, I silenced that voice. And let me be clear, this wasn’t a “SHUT THE FUCK UP TINY CRITIC”, in which I knocked it dead. It was a consistent, moment-to-moment effort to wipe that fucker out.
b. “You will screw up your kids if you leave them to pursue your dream.” This voice? Maybe not so tiny. MAybe kind of huge. Because I have a strong sense of responsibility and loyalty. From the moment they were born, it became clear to me – this is no exaggeration – that I was perfectly capable of ripping someone’s head off with my bare hands if they tried to hurt my child or take them from me. I am not being funny, or ironic, or Mommy-blogger glib. I am dead. Fucking. Serious. So, this portion of myself – I knew I had to adjust. Not that I wouldn’t still commit grisly homicide on anyone who threatened my kids – not that part – but the part that believed that my absence for periods of time would HURT them. This was a similar moment-to-moment effort to squash that persistent worry.

Once I was able to continually live moment-to-moment with the belief that I AM READY for the work that I know I am capable of… the work came. And not a minute too soon… or too late for that matter.

At exactly the time I was ready for it.

And once I began that work, and saw the caliber and character of the people I am working with? It was clear that this was set up for me…. on PURPOSE. The timing… God’s timing… was perfect.





99 Homes – Oscar Buzz

9 09 2014

It was one of the most thrilling experiences I ever had on set.  Working with Ramin Bahrani Рthe mastermind behind films that really matter.  As we were called up to set, we passed by him, sitting in a rental car with the door open, his feet out of the door on the curb, brushing his teeth.  He used one small amount of water form his water bottle only.

As we walked by he stopped us and chatted, as he finished brushing his teeth. ¬†Asking me questions about the scene. ¬†Telling me about the rewrites. ¬†That I seemed like the “Take charge person” in the relationship, so he rewrote the scene to fit me. ¬†Extraordinary.

We shot our scenes in under 6 hours – all of them – and Andrew Garfield was a sublime acting partner. ¬†We didn’t talk to each other during lunch. ¬†We needed all that animosity saved up for the set.

Once we were there, after a first take – Ramin gave me some pacing direction and an idea of the overall scene emotional arch…. and then he let me go.

And you know what I felt? ¬†That Ramin TRUSTED me. ¬†He TRUSTED my talent. ¬†What a gift. ¬†He BELIEVED in my ability to stay real and truthful to the circumstances. ¬†To capture one of the many stories of the people victimized by the subprime mortgage crisis. ¬†My “husband” JD Evermore and I put it all out there, in every nuanced, fully blown out, raw, emotional, terrifying, despair-ridden way we could. ¬†And Ramin let us go.¬†

He ordered cameras around us, including one camera man whose strength and steadiness amazed me as he whipped around up with a huge camera on his shoulder.

At the end of the day, we were spent РAndrew Garfield walked up to me and the kids, and thanked us, complimented us on the intensity and rawness and reality of the work.  He asked me if I was from LA.  I told him, yes, I am from Louisiana.  

I wrote to the director last week to congratulate him on the film festivals, and he wrote me back a wonderfully touching email about how touching my work was.  It came at a much needed time, when I was very much feeling down about where I am with my career Рwanting it to move forward in faster, bigger ways.  He spoke also about editing the movie, and how my scenes were so difficult to watch Рheart breaking Рboy, it was good to do good work about important topics.

And maybe this Oscar buzz the movie is getting is just what I need to get to the next level –

Telluride: Eviction Stunner ’99 Homes’ Electrifies Fest, Igniting Hot Distribution, Oscar Buzz

 





99 Homes – Oscar Buzz

9 09 2014

It was one of the most thrilling experiences I ever had on set.  Working with Ramin Bahrani Рthe mastermind behind films that really matter.  As we were called up to set, we passed by him, sitting in a rental car with the door open, his feet out of the door on the curb, brushing his teeth.  He used one small amount of water form his water bottle only.

As we walked by he stopped us and chatted, as he finished brushing his teeth. ¬†Asking me questions about the scene. ¬†Telling me about the rewrites. ¬†That I seemed like the “Take charge person” in the relationship, so he rewrote the scene to fit me. ¬†Extraordinary.

We shot our scenes in under 6 hours – all of them – and Andrew Garfield was a sublime acting partner. ¬†We didn’t talk to each other during lunch. ¬†We needed all that animosity saved up for the set.

Once we were there, after a first take – Ramin gave me some pacing direction and an idea of the overall scene emotional arch…. and then he let me go.

And you know what I felt? ¬†That Ramin TRUSTED me. ¬†He TRUSTED my talent. ¬†What a gift. ¬†He BELIEVED in my ability to stay real and truthful to the circumstances. ¬†To capture one of the many stories of the people victimized by the subprime mortgage crisis. ¬†My “husband” JD Evermore and I put it all out there, in every nuanced, fully blown out, raw, emotional, terrifying, despair-ridden way we could. ¬†And Ramin let us go.¬†

He ordered cameras around us, including one camera man whose strength and steadiness amazed me as he whipped around up with a huge camera on his shoulder.

At the end of the day, we were spent РAndrew Garfield walked up to me and the kids, and thanked us, complimented us on the intensity and rawness and reality of the work.  He asked me if I was from LA.  I told him, yes, I am from Louisiana.  

 





Fear

2 09 2014

Preface:  I am not judging anyone for BEING afraid throughout this blog post.  Just observing it, and discussing how it ultimately ends up creating a culture of fear in the film business.  And perhaps suggesting that this culture of fear does not help the creative process.

In the last year I have come to the realization that the film/tv business is run on fear, in a lot of ways.

I always had a sneaking suspicion that this was true, as I walked onto set to work, and could feel tension so thick you could cut it with a knife.

But in the last year, I have had an extra-special view of this business, and I see fear at every turn.

To go back in time a little Рin 2003 I was working on a play with some great local New Orleans actors.  I had moved back home after grad school in acting, a few years in NYC, and was so pleased to be back onstage.

One very talented actress in the show said to me, “You should do film/tv work.” ¬†I chuckled and answered, “I am really a theatre actress. ¬†I think I am too weird looking to be on tv.”

This same actress was generous enough to insist that I pursue a film/tv career, and she introduced me to her agent, Claudia Speicher Рof New Orleans Model and Talent Agency.  At the time, I had NO IDEA just how generous this actress had been to introduce me to Claudia, but I soon figured it out!  This actress had the BALLS to believe in HER OPINION of me as an actress, and introduced me to her agent.  And voila, here I am today.

That has happened to me several times in my career thus far. ¬†Many of those gutsy introductions were made by Claudia Speicher herself – when she insisted that a casting director see me again, even after he/she had formulated a less-than-stellar opinion of me as an actress. ¬†Claudia put me up for roles that were out of my “type”, age, range, look (let’s be real: ¬†roles that they wanted a skinny girl for), and I always gave it my best – and often booked the things that were totally out of my “type.”

But in the last year, I have had glimpses of what life is like on the TOP of this business, in many different areas, and the conclusion I have drawn is that SO MANY FOLKS ARE SO SO SO SO AFRAID TO LOSE WHAT THEY HAVE GOT. ¬†Like maybe even some folks you saw holding Emmys last week, or folks you saw with Oscars not too long ago. ¬†They. ¬†Are. ¬†Terrified. ¬†That the ride is going to end. ¬†That IF they refer someone to their agent, director, publicist, manager, and it doesn’t work out, that it will somehow come back to bite them in the ass.

So many are holding SO TIGHTLY to their little corner of real estate. ¬†And they can’t let themselves share. ¬†They are too afraid. ¬†They cannot do what that actress did for me 11 years ago, and BELIEVE in their OPINION of an actor, a writer, a designer, and give that person a hand up. ¬†They can’t. ¬†They are too afraid of how they will look if it doesn’t work out. ¬†Or they are too afraid of spreading their good fortune around, lest it get spread too thin, and disappear.

To be honest, I kind of understand. ¬†Not that I have ever been in a high enough place to truly experience it – but boy am I working to get myself to be a steadily working actress. ¬†So I can see how, if you reach some measure of success, you might want to hold on for dear life! ¬†Especially if, like me, you have a family who is depending on your success to thrive. ¬†Especially if, like me, you have been at this for ohhhhhhh…… over 25 years.

But it makes for a miserly world. ¬†And it feeds into a culture of fear. ¬†And I have to tell you, I have never been a part of anything creatively that really WORKS when it is driven by fear. ¬†I have been a part of projects that were full of difficult subject matter, were dark and disturbing, BUT the atmosphere of the WORK was one of generosity…. great work came from that every time.

My acting teacher, who I love for being so brutally honest sometimes, suggested that the people who have spoken highly of my writing or acting were not lying, per se, but were doing a very American-style blowing of sunshine up my ass. ¬†AND that, for my writing in particular, if the folks who read it were so blown away by it – then they would have DONE SOMETHING to at least point the project in the right direction – or point me as a writer to a literary agent. ¬†This broke my heart a little bit, as this was kind of my secret fear… there’s that word again. ¬†“They didn’t mean it, it’s not that good, I am not that good. ¬†If it was so good, why hasn’t there been more help in getting me or it somewhere?” ¬†HOWEVER, although I can’t get into the details, this is more than likely another aspect of the ‘FEAR’ at work in the industry, instead of actually sunshine blowing up the asssssss….

Moving on…

Because I represent kids/ young adults as an agent, I find myself having to explain the following phenomenon to those I represent who are having moderate success. ¬†It is quite a wake-up call for many young actors that the acting world doesn’t work like you “think” it should.

I have had actors of mine wonder why, if their work was so amazing on a movie or tv show, and everyone TOLD them how wonderful their work was, then WHY those people wouldn’t refer them to a Los Angeles manager, or that director doesn’t THINK of them on future projects, or that producer doesn’t go after them for their next show. ¬† WHY WOULDN’T that star actor I worked with, who told me those amazing things, try to help me further my career? ¬†Especially if we are totally different types, and I am not a threat to their acting work? ¬† WHY WOULDN’T THEY?

It just doesn’t work that way. ¬† It can be so hard to keep trying and trying in this business – to be given compliments, to watch shows get picked up that you are major parts of, to watch films that get great reviews – where you are in pivotal scenes….. and then to have it come to nothing new.

This endless pursuit of waiting for somebody to believe in you enough to NOT be afraid to say, ‘You need to look at this actor, he/she is extraordinary.’ ¬†“LOOK at this script, this writer has some important stuff to say.” ¬†It can eat away at you after a while. ¬†When you see that everyone is too afraid of losing their little piece of paradise to share.

THIS, and so many other similar reasons, is WHY I am going back to doing Suzuki, teaching it Рdigging back in to a time when I felt a little more control.  I can control continuing my training, continuing to put my energy into the area in my life that I want to flourish. I write nearly every day, now I am taking lessons with an acting teacher and teaching myself.

All of this because I want to LET GO of FEAR.  And remember that maybe I will be the only person to believe in me.  And maybe that will have to be enough.

living-without-fear