Fewer Credits, Stronger Résumé?

AngelaI was recently given some advice: eliminate weak résumé credits. Having fewer credits -- better credits --  makes your résumé seem stronger.

This seemed crazy at first. And it took me back to Jerry Maguire's unpopular suggestion of, "fewer clients, less money."

Aren't we taught to build up our résumés, and pack them full of credits? Isn't that why people say to do industrials when you're just starting out (even though I doubt an industrial is going to get you into an audition for anything other than another industrial)?

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Facebook is not as overwhelming as you think it is

Sarah wharton a.Love it or hate it, our online lives are getting larger and more important by the second.  5 years ago, Facebook was that thing that college kids did.  Then kids from the high school you went to got into it (eew), then your mom (horror!) and then every business you could possibly think of (how many pages can a person possibly "like"?)

I was always the person who didn't allow myself to give into the fascination of secretly browsing through people's photos, reading their walls, scrutinizing their friends, and updating my status with ever mood change.  I was that person who "hated" Facebook, even though I never went so far as to delete mine.  Then their interface changed drastically about a year ago and for the first time in my computer using years, I thought "I can't take this!  I don't want to change!  I won't learn it!"

I realized that at 23, that thought made my attitude automatically ancient.  I was about to make myself 90 years old in terms of technical know-how.  Yes, technology is changing very rapidly.  Yes, we have to keep up with it.

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Taking a Break

Secret Beach
It's important to take breaks from time to time.  I think anytime you start to get that frazzled, desperate, or hopeless feeling in this business, you owe it to yourself to take a step back.  It doesn't have to be a long period of time.  You could just give yourself the day off, or a mere couple of hours when you aren't submitting and auditioning, networking and marketing, dreaming and scheming.  People in other careers do that often. Some even give themselves two days.  It's called a "weekend".  And I hear it's wonderful.

But as actors we are so terrified to step back, even for a minute, for fear that all our hard work will come to a screaching halt, and we'll be forgotten.  But what's worse?  That you continue grinding away, even when your mood could use some improvement, and you come off as an overextended stressball?  Or would you rather take a moment to decompress and re-evaluate from a slightly removed perspective so that you can return refreshed?  

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Far, Far Off Broadway Breakthrough

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On the 26th of June, I will be performing at Beijing's National Theater. I only have one 20 minute scene in the 2nd half hour of the stage production, but it is rife with Mandarin banter, and therefore will be a new kind of challenge for this westerner who usually gets a 2nd or 3rd take if he fumbles a Chinese line in a movie or TV show. During the first week of June, I rehearsed every afternoon at Beijing's West Town Cultural Center. Then I caught a plane back to Dali to continue my tea trade drama. Under this tight schedule, I will arrive back in Beijing only 3 days before the actual performance. And, on the day I arrive back in the capital, an official from the propaganda department is reviewing our production for the green light. The pressure is on!

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Miannmi

IMG_2168Sometimes being an actor means saying no to everything else you want in life.

For me, one of the things I've often had to say no to is spontaneous recreational travel.

Oh, the price we pay for being available at a moments casting notice!

I once told my mother that if I wasn't an actor I'd probably, "...just sell most of my things, pack a bag and travel the world."

Her response, "You mean? You'd be a BUM...?!"

Oh, Mom...just look at that sunset!

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What A Difference A Year Makes

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A year ago, I packed up everything I could fit in my car and drove across the country to pursue my dream in LA. It was one of the scariest things I've done in my life, leaving a lucrative career as a lawyer to pursue acting full time. The transition has been hard, and like me, is still a work in progress.

After a few months of being here, I was really starting to hate LA…with a passion. On the east coast, no one cares if they’ve heard of you or not; if you’re good, you’ll get your shot. In LA, the only thing people care about is whether they’ve heard of you. If they haven’t, they treat you like a detritus of an unwanted pest.

Anyone who’s lived in LA and tried to “make it” in this business will tell you it’s hard. Very hard. But until you come and experience it for yourself, you won’t fully appreciate how excruciatingly soul-crushing Hollywood can be. It's not something you can convey in words.

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Can a Lottery Ticket Do This?

Lottery ticketI've heard a few agents say that going to an audition is a lot like "buying a lottery ticket", suggesting that booking a job is as likely as striking it rich. Obviously, I have a problem with this.  First of all, it suggests that booking work is a random occurrence that has nothing to do with talent, skill, preparation, or any of the other myriad elements that go into working your career.  This gives lazy actors the excuse to do nothing on their own behalf.  And it makes proactive actors seem foolish for thinking they can effect the outcome of their endeavors through deliberate preparation.

The other day I received the call many actors both dream of and fear:  The last minute, zero advance notice "This is your moment, here is your break, go to this place right now for this amazing opportunity that could change your life, so go, go now, be amazing, and whatever you do, don't blow it!" kind of phone call that only comes around so often.

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Nine is the number of completion...

Before I set off on my travels in June I did one more stand up show at M-Bar in Hollywood. This was my ninth time being up on stage doing stand up...ever. I know, I know.

Why am I not dedicating more time to it? Why am I not hitting the clubs every night, working jokes every night, meeting new comics and trying to pack the houses every night?

Well...a few reasons, or excuses to be honest. First, last winter/spring was busy and great, and it's not like you can afford to make mistakes in acting auditions. EVER. I needed to commit the time to acting first.

Secondly, I don't like doing the same set over and over again. I like coming up with new material, so at least half my set is new each time; but, this means longer time in between shows...for now.

And the process of the open mic, where comics fine tune their set, feels like rehearsing in front of an audience; which, for someone who is trained as an actor, is weird and very vulnerable.

Thirdly, I have and have always had the HIGHEST respect for comics. I think they are the true seers of the world. And I don't have the guts to call myself one yet. But since nine is the number of completion, maybe my incubating stage is over...?

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The Next Forty Years...

Cutting into my pollo con mole, sipping a spicy margarita, and listening to the thunderstorm outside, my girlfriend and I catch up on the weeks past.  The conversation turns to work, and suddenly, the thunder seems much more ominous.

“I was just at brunch with someone, and they said ‘Can you believe that we’ll be working for the next forty years of our lives?’  Weird to put a number on it like that, right?” my girlfriend asked me.

“Yaaa.  Oh my god.  Forty years.  Can you imagine doing something that you weren’t totally passionate about for that amount of time?”

“Well, things do happen and get in the way.  You have to support yourself; you have to support a family if you want one.  I’m sure it happens a lot and you just have to make the best of it.”

After dinner, I start to have a freak out.  I can NOT spend the next forty plus years doing something that I don’t like.  Nightmare, absolute nightmare.  But what if I don’t have a choice?

I haven’t done a show in a couple of months, and that scares me.  What if I can’t make a living out of performing?  What if I can’t make a living out of doing something artistic at all?  Hyperventilation ensued, and a very depressing night followed.

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Turndown Service

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This week, for possibly the first time ever, I turned down a role. That's right. Turned. It. Down.

It wasn't because there was nudity involved or something morally or personally objectionable. It was because of the kind of role I was being offered, a role I've played dozens of times. 

The backstory. The film was a short and I initially read for the lead, a serial killer. I've played villains and killers before, but this particular serial killer had a certain maniacal quality that I thought would be endlessly fun to play. The director and producers liked my audition and asked me to come back for callbacks to read with some other actors.

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Do What Celebrities Do

Dom 3Things I've learned this week:

Lady Gaga warms her voice up 30 minutes every day

Dr. Oz wakes up and does 7 minutes of exercise everyday.

Oprah writes down things she’s grateful for in Gratitude Journal, everyday.

Discipline. It’s the reason why those people are so successful. Consistency, I tell you! 

Why is discipline so good? Well, it keeps you focused. Gives you a routine. Practice always makes perfect, right?

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The 4 P's

Will_3As a producer I get to see "behind the curtain" from time to time when I help with the casting process.

Recently, I had the chance to sit in on auditions for a hysterical commercial casting a young couple. Because the age range was wide and ethnicity and looks were really of little importance, the director was looking almost exclusively at comedic timing. And which actor and actress had the right type of chemistry. Oh, and "looked like a couple". The client was very insistent that the spot not fall into the typical "hot gal with a doofus guy" that is so prevalent in commercials. And I was so thrilled for that!

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Making the Most of Your Film Festival

Percival PosterThe feature that I shot last year, Percival's Big Night, has had the great fortune of being admitted to several festivals across the country and internationally.  Having been a highly collaborative process and the product of a close-knit team, our cast of four has been very involved in marketing and promoting the film.

Coming from a theatre background, I feel like the film world is a whole new playground.  Happy as I am to be here, the festival circuit has been a real crash course in the game.  And it truly is a game.  If you lose sight of that, you're doomed.  Don't forget that this is supposed to be fun.  Yes, it's work and requires your utmost attention and dedication.  But as I always say, this is art, not war.  No one dies.  Take your opportunities and throw a giant party for them.  Say yes to the challenge and remember to smile as you take it on.

This week my main focus has been the Brooklyn Film Festival where Percival is screening.  This will be our third festival, and although my advice may be meager at the moment, I feel it is important to share for anyone who may be presently embarking on a similar journey.

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So IMDb Rankings Actually Matter...

DoveAngelaI got my first listing on my IMDb page back in October, and I have been trying to figure out how the STARmeter rankings on the site work ever since. How do they rise and fall? Is there any rhyme or reason to it? And do they even matter?

Earlier this month I went to LA, and I found out that yes, indeed, they matter. Roles have been won and lost simply by IMDb ranking. Allow me to share with you what I have learned about their significance, and what you can do to get your STARmeter ranking higher.

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This Job is Not Your Job

121911_ErinBrese_0447webI recently found myself in one of those audition situations where I truly felt I had no business being there.  It was for a medium in which I'm still training and gaining experience. My agent had given me a slight breakdown the night before, and while most of the details were strangely hush-hush, I could tell that I wasn't really right for the part. 

"Oh well", I thought. "I'm not gonna type myself out of a role.  There's plenty of people there that will do it for me.  My job is to show up."  

Who knows?  Perhaps they were bringing me in for variety.  Perhaps they weren't sure what they wanted and had offered the initial breakdown as a template, but were open to more liberal interpretations of the part.  I confirmed the audition.

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Staying Dressed

IMG_0172Recently, I was offered a role on a television show. A staffer called to tell me that the producers had loved my audition for a different role that a Casting Director had taped, and they thought that I'd be perfect for a new role. They were offering it to me, no further auditioning needed! I was thrilled! Then they told me that the new role would involve a simulated sex scene in which I would have to be topless and wearing pasties during filming...

I turned down the role. It would've been good money, good (if indecent) exposure, and a good credit for my résumé. But I know where I stand on that issue. I told them that I would love to be considered for a future role on the show. I haven't heard back from them, and I doubt that I will. That's a risk I was willing to take.

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Tea War Shoot Continues in Yunnan

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I just arrived back in Beijing last night at 11pm, after a transfer flight from San Francisco via Seattle. Dead tired, but unable to sleep, I rose from my linens at 4am and started composing this blog.

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Help Wanted

Walking
Asking for help from anyone for anything has never come easy for me. I am a pretty self-reliant person and I generally avoid asking for help if at all possible. To some, this might sound like a good thing and to a certain extent it is, but it also can be isolating. Getting help from others is a great way to connect (and I don't mean networking but simple, essential human connection).

Hollywood is paradoxically the one place where I need help more than anywhere else but also the place I am most loath to ask for it. People in Hollywood don’t seem to share the rest of the country’s reluctance to impose on others (often complete strangers) for assistance. It’s almost the opposite here. There are so many people here throwing themselves at anyone they think can help them get ahead.

It’s like a town full of Johnny Dramas.

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Casting Conundrums and other updates

Since last you heard from me, I've started that acting group I mentioned in a previous post.  It's made up of fellow grad school alumni, and it's been going well.  Granted, without an official teacher to please, the motivation to put in the work has to come completely from inside ourselves, but we're managing.  For the most part we're doing scenes for one another and giving feedback, but if anyone has an audition coming up it's a great place to make sure you know what you're doing before you get in the room.

Also, my latest project, the supernatural web series Shadow Free, finished its first season run.  I was extremely happy with how everything turned out, and the rest of the episodes lived up to and surpassed the pilot.  We're about to start work on some interim material while the writers and director get ready for season two.  They've told us what to expect, and they're really stepping it up.  It's nice to know that's waiting for me up ahead.

Otherwise, things have been slow.  Slooooow.  I had a meeting with an agency that got me pretty pumped, but didn't lead to anything bigger.  They want me to keep them informed of any other casting directors I get to know.  And that brings me to yet another catch-22 that can slowly erode an actor's sanity.

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5 Years Ago Today...

I moved out of the childhood home I grew up in and moved to New York. I didn't realize what a monumental moment it was at the time. I didn't exactly believe that I would really be able to pull off supporting myself. There was a lingering fear that I would have to give up and move back home. I was like one of those contestants on a reality show that keeps complaining, "I don't want to go back home yet."

Cassidy_gard_interviewWhen I reflect back on the last 5 years, I get incredibly nostalgic for those times in my life. I will never again see New York from the same perspective as when I first moved there. When I go back now, every block has a memory. I remember trekking up to Times Square for my very first audition and thinking, "This is it. I'm here." I had such a distinct plan and vision for how my career would unfold. I was so completely innocent and trusting of the people I encountered. When I imagined my life 5 years away, I didn't picture myself being where I am now.

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