Training the Eyes

IMG_2354"There are two kinds of beauty Eastern and Western." This is the first sentence I hear out of a pair of perfectly glossed lips the day Thanksgiving.

A friend of mine from New York connected me with a professional make-up artist, Renee, who also works with a headshot photographer here in Los Angeles, in an attempt to enhance my own make-up skills for on camera auditioning. 

"You have more the Eastern look, which isn't necessarily about being Asian," Renee continues. "It just means your features are more round, soft and youthful; as opposed to Western features, which are harsh, sharp and angular."

Make-up. Some girls are born knowing how to play with it, how to highlight and change the natural contours of their own face with a little powder here and a lot of concealer there. Not me.

I'm more the 'slap it on in five minutes' and head out the door in a t-shirt and jeans kind of gal, and pray it doesn't shine. 

But when it comes to auditioning, particularly for film and television, the way a person's face looks on camera has a lot to do with how their performance is received by the eye of the audience. 

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I Don't Have Representation, And Yet. . .

DSCN6227_2I recently was contacted by FOX to audition for a pilot starring one of the funniest people ever. I don't wanna say his name, but he's on SNL (there!)

Anywho, I'm not in New York at the moment so I offered to put myself on tape (although I will admit, the idea of booking a quick flight did cross my mind.)

I got my friend to film for me, and I quickly edited the tape, and by quickly I mean I stayed up late to edit and woke up early to send it due to the time difference.

But that wasn't good enough for me. I called the Los Angeles office and asked if I could come in and read. I've done this before (when a New York casting office called me in for another pilot) and I got a big fat "no." But they said yes!

So the next day, I went in. I was very early, which is not my strong suit. Traffic was on my side, and I was dressed to a tee. I felt good. Lines were all memorized too!

I have not heard back yet, but the moral of the story is - fight for what you want. I was not content with that video tape and knew it would benefit me by being seen in person. Even if cold calling is scary, it is worth it!

-- Dominique | @domtoney 

(Photo is my own :)

The Spirit Awards


When I first moved to LA, I did requisite sign up for a catering company. I was 21, had just moved to the city, and hadn't figured out quite what I wanted to do to make rent in the meantime. It was actually kind of fun at first, you get to meet a lot of other people, and it's an easy way to make money on a flexible schedule. One of the first events I was asked to work was the Spirit Awards. I thought it was a cool opportunity to go to my first award show, even if I was only working it.

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MYTH BREAKER: You Do Not Need to Do Everything


The weekend after Hurricane Sandy my friend wrote a post on Facebook that he was upset he couldn't help out. He was single-handedly keeping our company together (a downtown gym that had become a haven for those without power) and he was also about to open a production of The King and I in a week. There was no time to do anything outside of work and rehearsal, like  volunteering on a far-off island.

On his Facebook post I replied, "We do what we can when we can." He didn't have time in the next two weeks to physically be on Staten Island where our colleague's neighborhood needed help. But that didn't mean he couldn't donate clothes or send money or spread the word about volunteer sites for others available to work. It also didn't mean that he was a horrible person who never did anything for anyone else or that he needed to beat himself up about it. Sabotaging your self worth over not being able to do everything every time is useless.

Then I suddenly realized: When it comes to my acting career, I should heed my own advice. I'm always beating myself up with the regular  - Why haven't you gotten new headshots yet? When are  you taking that class at UCB? How come a new agent hasn't signed you?

Unless you're born into showbiz or made of money, this acting thing is tough and hard and expensive. You can't use your hotelier dad as an entree to your an acting career, you might not be able to get into the Yale MFA program, or have the connections to do lunch with the right casting director, or get Judd Apatow to sign off on your hit HBO show by 22. You might. But telling yourself you have to do all those things right now will probably just make you crazy. So take your time. Do what you can when you can and know it will all add up eventually.

Watch my free interview show ACTOR'S NEXT LEVEL here!

How Playing "Mafia" Led To An Audition

Jesse_Dittmar_DomYou never know who you're in a room with, or who you're sitting next to, or whose dog your petting, or who you're playing "Mafia" with.

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That Time I Saw Myself on TV

I've shot a few commercials over the last few years. 3 that appeared online, 1 that appeared in the South, and one that would play in Southern California.

So when I received a message from a friend that she had seen the commercial on MTV Jams, I silently freaked out. It's airing! Why haven't I seen it?! Well, not two nights later as I was channel flipping did I see my bright pink shirt and curly hair. 

I jumped off the couch and did a dance and lifted my hands up in the air joyously. Then I sat down on the rug like a little girl watching "Rugrats" and savoured that minute and one second as if it might never come again. 

Please enjoy my CashNet USA commercial!


-- Dominique Toney| @domtoney

Playing in Pasadena

    In 2009, I co-starred in a short film about female Iraq war veterans. "Carla", directed by Henry G. Sanders, will be shown at the United Nations Association film festival at the Laemmle Playhouse 7, in Pasadena on Thursday October 25th.


    This short film, which I'm sure will be the first of many (possibly features), is about the controversial, tragic problem of United States female soldiers being physicall and sexually abused by their fellow American male soldiers.

Hope to see you there on the 25th! 

(photo courtesy of the United Nations Foundation)

Yours Truly -- Ann Hu



Induce Serendipity

Jewel Elizabeth Green Shirt

Last week I went in for a voice over audition with Carrie Faverty. I have a really good VO teacher, and his cues were in my head by the time the script was in my hand. His favorite line to encourage your audition confidence is, "I got this s**t."

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Don't Lead With Need

Mercedes Rose film HSOne of the most painful things to see is a desperate actor. They gather in audition waiting rooms across the world; huddled over their sides, mumbling their lines, faces contorted as they grasp for the air they are forgetting to inhale. They so intensely want to book that next gig they forget to enjoy acting. 

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The Director's Chair... and then a couple seats over.



Recently, I have been hired away from my "ESL with the stars" job into a much more demanding position: Assistant Director. I am now in charge of handling all extra, cameo, supporting and lead actors with western faces on a Chinese TV production with hundreds of foreign roles. 

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The Usual Fall Line Up

BirthdayhibiscusIt's been over a month since my last post. Silence equals busy. Did another staged reading of another great play.

Participated in another fundraiser for a theater company and was interviewed about it by a youth arts program underground radio station. (Click to hear)

Found another great acting coach. This one's a keeper. And met many other great people to introduce and keep in the inner circles of my life.

I even crossed off a few other things off the bucket list like attending the LA County Fair, quenched my curiosity for speed dating (it was a birthday present for a girlfriend of mine don't judge), and pulled an all nighter with some new friends, as if we were teenagers.

I guess I've got a really long, specific bucket list.

And I started taking a workshop/class about networking in the business. I'm on avail, still on avail, called back, called back again, pinned and pinned again. You know the limerick, the drill, the usual fall line up.

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Can I Vent For Just A Moment?

Saintjoan_206Not too long ago I ventured back into the world of “day jobs”, most specifically, RESTAURANTS.

Suddenly filled with fear that my bills wouldn’t be paid, and my creative projects wouldn’t be funded, I accepted – hesitantly – a job in a swanky Beverly Hills establishment.

I was reassured that over 60% of the staff were actors, and that the managers understood such a life. As long as I gave them enough notice for schedule changes, it wouldn’t be a problem if auditions came up, or I got cast in something. 

The restaurant was in the heart of Beverly Hills, situated across the street from a huge movie studio and talent agency. And the clientele who ate there? Well, they run Hollywood. Literally. Producers, CEOs’s, Managers, A list Celebrities.

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Electrick Children at Deauville American Film Festival


The highlight of my summer was the opportunity to travel to France for the Deauville American Film Festival. Previously, I blogged about Electrick Children screening at Berlin Film Festival and SXSW. I had always wanted to escape away to a film festival for a week. It felt like summer camp. Most of the actors, directors, and producers were all staying in the same hotel. Each day, there was a new film premiere. The day would begin with photo calls and press conferences. Afterwards, we would indulge in delicious French lunches that would go on for hours, catch a late afternoon movie, take a nap, rise for a dinner party, and then go to late night dance parties. It's pretty surreal to rap the Jay-Z/Kanye West lyrics, "Excuse my French but I'm in France" when you're actually in France for the first time. There's no better way to begin new friendships than a week in the countryside of France. These fellow peers are the ones I hope to know and continue to work with for years to come.

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Solve All The World's Problems By Just Asking


So, I make this TV show. It's interview-style, geared for actors, and called "Actor's Next Level." My team and I have about 14 episodes in the bag now and I've been pretty lucky about getting some high-profile guests. Producing this show has taught me a lot about casting, directing, producing and appeasing "stars." But mostly I learned you can solve pretty much anything just by asking.

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Full Circle Moment (Thanks Oprah!)

IMG_3428Recently, I was contacted by a blogger who had read my Unscripted Blog Post awhile back about my hair. She wanted to interview me for her blog about natural hair in the media. How serendipitious and ironic and full circle-ish. . .

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Fueling My Soul As An Artist

IMG_8928-21There are so many things that we can do as actors, musicians, dancers, writers- any type of artist to improve ourselves and our craft.  Take classes, practice, audition, read books.  All of this is extremely helpful and important.  Without classes, how can we improve, without auditioning, how do we get the exposure we need to work?  Recently though, the biggest thing I have found that helps me grow as an artist and gives me the most inspiration is going to see other shows and performances, both on Broadway and from my peers. 

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Lucky Me

Erin and the Wind

I'm lucky.  

Not because I occasionally book acting jobs or have an agent that believes in me, though that is how I would have categorized luck before.  

My valuation of luck was skewed though, and I was doing nothing to improve it.  I scoffed at gratitude journals.  Why bother?  All I need is to look in my son's sparkling eyes to feel blessed.  But I was missing the full expression of gratitude.

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What Casting Directors Aren't Telling You

Blackterror20Secrets, secrets, secrets!!

Ok, so I dedicated this summer to attending alot of Casting Director workshops. It was important to me to build great relationships with key industry players this year so that by the time Pilot Season rolls around, I am an actor they are familiar with.

I've learned a lot things that have blown my mind about what goes on in the casting room and what goes on inside the head of a casting director. 

I'm excited to be sharing these simply because I am relatively new to the TV/Film world (went to school in NY, have done theatre since high school) and I figured that if I didn't know about alot of these *secrets*, than many people perhaps didn't. 

Ok, here goes!

- Don't ever give casting directors a reason to say no to you. If you give them any doubt or show them you're needy, they will not call you back. This includes:

a) Talking too much. The quicker you can start working, the better. 

b) Asking too many questions. If you have a question about a relationship  between 2 characters, go ahead and ask. But you should have all the information you need in those sides. And you know those areas that are crossed off? Read those too!

c) Taking too long to "center" yourself. To the actor who asks, "Can I just take a moment to center myself?" - you're already in hot water! Again, the quicker you can start working, the better.

Continue reading "What Casting Directors Aren't Telling You" »

Why I Act

Commercial (Smaller)
There are a thousand things I could have done with my life - engineer, doctor, hedge fundie, politico. Hell, I was already a lawyer. Tried that for 3 years actually (which doesn't count the 36 months of Vietcong-style torture that is law school). I was rich by any measure outside of Wall Street, Hollywood, and Martha's Vineyard. I'd have been a millionaire in 10 years if not sooner.

I could've travelled the world or been an astronaut or at least an astronomer. I could've written books or poems or occupied my time with enlightening the minds of America's youth. But I chose to act.


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Stories Impacting Life

photo property of Joel R. Putnam, all rights reserved

I want to talk about the influence of stories.  All actors are storytellers. Remember that, particularly for the end of this post.

Now, see this kid on a horse? He eats stories for breakfast. I should know. That's a decade-and-a-half-old picture of me.

I inhaled stories. I absorbed them through my pores. I didn't even know it half the time. I don't just mean books. Sure, I read stories like a sponge soaking up spilled water, but I would watch TV, movies, listen to my parents and grandparents, NPR, friends, teachers, whatever came within range. I'd play videogames on a game boy with the volume off while re-listening to audiobooks of Sherlock Holmes tracking down impossible criminals, James Herriot getting kicked in the shins by large animals he was trying to take care of, or Patrick McManus hilariously getting chewed out by his wife/best friend/parents/inanimate objects when all he wanted to do was go fishing. 

These had an effect.

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