HPAA friend from high-school passed away last week.  Though I hadn’t spoken to him since, I’ve thought about him because he made an impact in my life.  He made me feel like I belonged … in a strange new place, on an island, at a boarding school when I was 14.  I’m now wondering about his life … What was he doing?  What was he in the middle of?  Was he happy?  There are people who once had active roles in our lives, who are now, well, … strangers.

As Spring-cleaning is upon us I find myself sifting through old papers, letters, and journals, and remembering the people I once knew well.  I realize how connected we all are … always.  Our dreams and our struggles are all the same despite what shape they take during our day-to-day.

I stumbled on the KCRW podcast STRANGERS.  It reminds me of our connectiveness.  And … its also kind of a nice thing to have on in the background while your cleaning out your closet.

Rest in peace Michael.  Thank you for reminding me of my gratitude.  I’ll always remember you.

And happy Spring!

Gun GirlsGun DayOne day I called my Mom. I said, “Hey Mom! Whacha up to?” “Oh,” she said “just driving back from the range.” My sweet ultra-feminine Momma decided to go shoot some guns. I was inspired. When I walked in to my Manager’s office for the first time I couldn’t stop staring at the gun target hanging on the wall behind her desk with multiple shots to the heart and brow. Match-made-in-heaven. My Manager works with a company called Tactical Black which offers certifications in gun training and safety for actors. If you’ve been paying attention, there are more and more roles where this is being asked of us (women, I’m talking to you). I woke up at 6am, drove to the San Bernardino Mountains, met my Manager, some bad-ass gun-safety trainers, and two other actors, and shot-off some guns. Now … thinking you can look cool and in control while holding a firearm, is NOT the same thing as actually doing it. I learned all about proper safety and handling and now feel like I could walk on the set of any of the CSI’s NCI’s or anything else and be able to focus on the story … not the logistics of handling a weapon. It’s very empowering. Anyone who handles a gun (in life or on the screen) should be REQUIRED to take this kind of course (personal politics aside). And now I have a new skill on my resume that’s totally applicable. Check it out.

Tactical Black

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Are We ‘Policing’ Young Women’s Voices – Fresh Air: NPR

Listen to a recent debate on NPR about the perceptions of women’s voices in our culture.  Over the course of my career I’ve been told various things about my voice; You sound uneducated.  You sound unsure of yourself.  You sound like a Valley-girl … even though I am none of these things, and have never been.  I’ve been told to work on lowering my voice, to try to sound more authoritative, more direct.  Where is this advice coming from and why?  Could it be that our personal and cultural sensibilities of sound and voice are evolving … the way that everything else does within our culture?  I am now of the mind that as long as I can be heard and understood both vocally  and emotionally in performance, ALL IS WELL WITH MY VOICE.  A voice is a very personal thing, as are opinions and perceptions of others.

 

Robert HenriIts a total waste of time worrying about your career … about where you are and where you want to be.  Joel Osteen says, “It takes the same amount of energy to worry as it does to believe.”  Don’t worry about your acting career … redirect your energy back towards the work-of-the-actor.

“The best art the world has ever had is but the impress left by men who have thought less of making great art than of living full and completely with all their faculties in the enjoyment of full play.  FROM THESE THE RESULT IS INEVITABLE.”

Worried about money? … Redirect.

“What good does a man’s art do?  There are those in the community who regard the artist as a mere entertainer come with cap and bells to amuse and perform graces before a paying public.  The true artist regards his work as a means of talking with men, of saying his say to himself and others.  It is not a question of pay.  It is not a question of willing acceptance on the part of the public.  If he is welcomed and paid it is very good, but whether or no he must say his say.”

Worried about time? … Redirect.

“There are people who grow more beautiful as they grow older.  If age means to them an expansion and development of character this new mental and spiritual state will have its effect on the physical.  A face which in the early days was only pretty or even  dull, will be transformed.  The eyes will attain mysterious depths, there will be a gesture in the whole of greater sensibility and all will appear coordinate.  About the portrait Whistler painted of his mother I have always had a great feeling of beauty.  She is old.  But there is something in her face and gesture that tells of the the integrity of her life.”

-All quotes from The Art Spirit, By Robert Henri

Apps for ActionThe new year is all about action, especially as pilot season is upon us. Time is of the essence and somehow, although part of us resolves to simplify, we end up juggling a million things at once … once again, as all artists do. I have found 7 apps for your MAC, PC, Ipad, Android, Iphone, what have you, that have helped me with my juggling act. And coming from a girl who used to hate technology (seriously did)… this is really saying something. The rundown is this:

1.) Luminosity
The Human Cognition Project is a brain training program
developed by neuro-scientists. In daily 10 minute workouts it helps strengthen your memory, attention, and problem solving skills … all really important for the actor. And after all … the brain is a muscle. Its a subscription based app but its totally worth it. I try to do it first thing in the morning with a cup-of- joe. Weirdly, I’ve actually found that its made me more attentive; a better listener.

2.) Any.do
This is an award winning task/to-do list app. I know there are a lot out there, but this one is the best. Their slogan is “Make Things Happen.” Its clean, easy to use, and its free. In the morning it will automatically prompt you to plan your day, and when you cross out a task after completing it, it tells you “you’re awesome.” I find this really helpful because its easy to let small mundane one-time tasks take over your entire day. Then a whole day goes by and you didn’t stick to an important routine of submitting to new projects, sending out updates, and working on the work…the stories:which you should do everyday. When a task comes up you enter it, get it out of your head, and are able to focus on the task-at-hand. The task lists are broken down into TODAY, TOMORROW, UPCOMING, and SOMEDAY … super helpful!

3.) Rehearsal 2
This app is pretty amazing. Its created by a working actor, “battle-tested” in Hollywood, and used on shows like Castle, CSI, and Dexter. It organizes scripts for your auditions and for when you are working on set. You can upload scripts or open them directly from a mail message. It will break the script down into scenes for you, and allow you to highlight and record lines. You can also create notes to yourself in the margins … A pretty invaluable tool for the working actor. Download it for a one-time fee of $19.99.

4.) Coffitivity
This app is pretty fun. Its free and it streams ambient sounds found in coffee shops. Great for working at home and especially when you are experiencing, writer’s block, or lack of motivation. Science research shows that these kinds of sounds are proven to boost creativity and productivity. And its especially great for hermits like myself who would much rather work from home then drive to an actual coffee shop.

5.) Penultimate
This is one of the best digital handwriting apps. You can use it to take class notes, outline your next screenplay idea, write a character journal and all in your own handwriting. You can even doodle … if that’s what you are in to. I’ve used it to email handwritten notes to people; like a thank-you note to my agent … who doesn’t like getting a hand-written note?! It syncs with Evernote, (which is great if you use that) plus its free.

6.) Insite Timer
This app keeps me sane and balanced on those days when there are not enough hours. Its free to sign up and once you do, you can set up reminders throughout your day to meditate; stop and breath. I’ve set mine for the middle of the day. I’m not much of a mediator but it reminds me to stop and refocus on the things that are really important. Its a great tool for stress management. You can title your reminder … right now mine says, “What are you grateful for?” Also a cool feature … you can view a world map to see how many people are meditating at any given moment around the globe.

7.) The Skimm
Its important for actors to keep up-to-date on current events. If we are going to help tell the stories of the world we have to know what those stories are, but its hard … between casting submissions, casting opportunities, booked jobs, day jobs and everything else to keep up with it all. The Skimm makes it easier. Its an email subscription that once you subscribe to it emails you a daily newsletter. They read the headlines from many news sources and give you a blurb about happenings. This gives you a quick rundown with the links to fuller articles if you read something that interests you … quick and easy knowledge.

Hope these are helpful to you. Go to it!

Melissa LeoThis year I don’t have New Years resolutions except to say that I AM and plan to continue being all of the following things:

RENEGADE / FEARLESS / UNEXPECTED / BOLD / TRUE / SPONTANEOUS / CURIOUS/ INTRIGUED / UNWAVERING / RARE / BRASH / PROVOCATIVE / INTUITIVE / GENUINE / DARING / UNCOMMON / IRREVERENT / BRAZEN / ABSOLUTE / UNUSUAL / VISIONARY / PROUD / WILD / UNDAUNTED / RESOLUTE / POETIC / DYNAMIC / SOULFUL / UNCONVENTIONAL / STRONG / ROMANTIC / AUTHENTIC / BRAVE / RADICAL / DREAMER / COMPASSIONATE / PASSIONATE / LOVING / EMPHATHETIC / UNAPOLOGETIC

 

AlohaI recently found this article I had saved from my high-school alumni newsletter, written by my drama teacher. In it, she talks about retiring from my high-school. Its a comforting reminder of how all artists are inherently part of an extraordinary tradition; a legacy much larger than themselves.

The costumes are hanging there, but what I see is a student in character in nearly every one of them, and several people in many of them. They hang and wait to be re-peopled and to come to life again (and again and again). You can’t consider them ghosts, and they are more than memories. They are the spirits of youthful creativity, dreams and hopes, disappointments, laughter, camaraderie, past and future.”

Ms. Moore

 

 

 

 

Death of a Boy ShootIt’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

The phrase originally started as a war slogan of Delaware River shipyard workers during World War I. By World War II the slogan was widely used, usually referring to the United States’ relationship with the Allies. The phrase also became relevant in Hollywood during this time as an emphasis on networking became (and remains) an important part of career-building for actors. I’m one of the many artists who would argue that its both. It’s not only what you know, but it’s not only who you know either. It’s like the adage “Luck is when opportunity meets preparation”; you have to create opportunities, but when those opportunities come, be ready. This is why you find a class that you treat like a gym; you workout every week or even every day to prepare. I’ve always been of the mindset that when you put all your energy into your work, opportunities will come.

What I mean is, when you are focused on your craft … people will notice. Sometimes the work literally is the means to the end. When you are in a class you are surrounded by other like-minded, dedicated professionals. Recently, an actress I know from a class in New York several years ago asked me to audition for her film project. This is not the first time I’ve gotten auditions in this way. I’ve gotten jobs, asked to be a part of readings, and invited to events, all by other actors I’m in or have been in class with. I believe these opportunities came because, in class I showed up with dedication and work ethic. I think sometimes we are so focused on meeting the right casting director or the right producer, or having the right agent to get us work, that we forget the resources we already have by simply being a part of a community of other actors. These actors work too. They meet people. They write. They create their own projects. Treat everyone you meet in class as a professional, as “someone you should know.” Treat your class as your job. When you do, the people “to know” will take notice.

Norma JeanI’ll keep this short because its simple. Like in any other profession, as actors, we strive to be the very best at what we do. We train so that we know how to breath, listen, react, speak, behave. This kind of rigorous dedication to craft can also breed a need to get it right. We leave an opportunity and think, That didn’t go right. It didn’t go the way I planned, and then we chide ourselves for not being the best, and let this preoccupation with perfection override our compassion for ourselves as humans. We aren’t perfect. We make mistakes. I do my best, should be the way of thinking not, I am the best. Especially when we reach a certain level in our careers … we have booked some pretty great gigs, we’ve trained at some of the best schools, we are riding high. After that, when we make a mistake, we think … That shouldn’t happen … I’m a professional. I’m on the level. Well … that level doesn’t exist. News flash! Even an actor who works everyday, as a lead on a TV show, f—ks up sometimes. What we have lost sight of is our beginner minds. Remember when you are first learning to do something, when you have no experience doing that thing before? You are a true beginner. Like when you first tried to learn a language, or ride a bike. If you are ever around any babies who are learning to walk, watch them. They are focused and fearless. Beginners have no preoccupation with getting it right. They simply want to learn it, to get it. And they have an intuitive understanding that mistakes are inevitable. How are you expected to do a back-flip on your very first attempt?? Try to approach things with a beginner mind. Get back to it. Because in that state, the hunger for learning is more important than the need to already know it; You actually listen better, learn more, and give yourself the freedom to get it wrong … which for an actor … is vital.

My illusions didn’t have anything to do with being a fine actress. I knew how third rate I was. I could actually feel my lack of talent, as if it were cheap clothes I was wearing inside. But, my God, how I wanted to learn, to change, to improve!

-Marilyn Monroe