An Exciting Month

We’re secure! By that, I mean that there is a little lock icon beside the website url because I fixed the security issue and people should be able to find the blog again. Amanda 1, Technology 0, right?

This past month has been pretty consistent as far as working for the gym and doing Jiu-Jitsu classes, doing background as a high school student and living a multitude of lives as a standardized patient. There’s also some new/exciting things happening.

For starters, I turned 29 and celebrated and had a wonderful time. Then I realized I only have one year left to accomplish my 30 by 30, and slightly panicked. But I’m okay with hustling.

I filmed a little short with a friend of mine, where I got to be sassy and get yelled at. You can see the full clip here.

I took an acting class at Armstrong Acting Studios. It has been ages since I was in a consistent acting class and it makes me miss Suzanna‘s so much. I loved continuously having scripts to work on, characters to live and friends to see!

I competed in the Ontario Open. I fought hard and was proud of myself, but tapped out to an armbar I probably should have fought harder against. Still, I left with a Bronze medal, that makes me want to work harder to deserve it next time.

We had our monthly TAWC meeting, a meeting to prep for the Gala next week, and we had the Post-Production and Film Festival Strategy Content Development Session that I put together. There weren’t that many people this time, but everyone there was really interested and asked good questions. I definitely learnt a whole lot. Filmmaking is a million tiny pieces coming together, and although it sometimes seems so daunting and scary, it is also so exciting and I can’t wait to do more of it.

I celebrated Easter with my boyfriend’s family, which included egg fights. Not in the sense that you throw eggs at each other, like I misunderstood, but in a very civil manner, you have a one on one egg smashing competition. It’s nice to have that family vibe here in Toronto when mine is all in Montreal.

I did some Brand Ambassador work at the Blue Jay’s Games, though you wouldn’t recognize me if you saw me. I’ve been a giraffe and a turtle so far, with an amazing view of the games during my breaks.

I went to Montreal for less than 24 hours to celebrate my badass cousin, Rikki, getting her MBA. I also managed to hang out with my nieces and spend time with my family, so the visit was 100% worth it.

The two most exciting things on my docket right now are Touched and Shards of Glass. Touched is a short film I am co-producing and acting in, which we will be filming in late June. For now, there are all kinds of production meetings and research and paperwork and getting it all together so we can start preparing for the next one. It’s the kind of project I am so excited to be a part of that I keep thinking it can’t really be happening. But so far it is 🙂

Shards of Glass is a book that I started writing in 2003. Then I chose it for Camp Nanowrimo in July 2015. Since then I have been half-heartedly editing it, cutting my darlings, building up the courage to eventually share it with someone who isn’t my mother…and now it will be the first book that I will publish. August 15th if all goes well. I will definitely keep you all posted 🙂

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

-Nelson Mandela

Oh What A Year

I like to spend the last few days of December figuring out what I want to achieve in the next year, but I also like to take some time to go over everything that I have accomplished over the past 12 months. Every time I do this, I realize that even if I am not where I planned to be, I am still leagues further than I was. And especially this year, even if everything on the outside had stayed the same, I have not. I understand a lot more about myself, my comfort zone is huge compared to what it was, and I actually feel ready for all of the things I have been saying that I wanted. Which I did, but sometimes things happen for a reason, and I’m starting to feel like lately, everything that has been happening has been leading up to where I am now, as well as where I am heading.

I am going to start off with the numbers and work accomplishments, because they are more concrete than what comes after. I had 39 auditions this year, broken down into 22 self tapes, 15 in person and 1 callback. Which I booked 🙂 These gave me 66 days on various sets, of which 35 were background, but 30 were speaking days, where I had a part and got to live the life of someone who is not me. The last day was as a PA/ Dog wrangler, so probably doesn’t count, but I do always say that there is nowhere else I’d rather be than on set, in any capacity. And I mean it. Ca Arrivera Jamais Icitte, Over Easy, The Cohort, Talion’s Law, Augustine, Another 10 Minutes, Overexposed, D33P W3B, The House They Used To Live In, Dick, Follow, Girl on the Run, and so many others. I can’t wait until I spend more days on set than off!

I surpassed my goal for Networking, with more than 40 events, mixers, award shows, film fests, screenings, book signings, wrap suppers, brunches and coffee dates with other actors, or people somehow involved in the acting industry. The best part, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, is that networking has become less of a chore to get myself out there and more of an opportunity to hang out with friends I haven’t seen in a while, or to meet amazing people I admire (or will soon come to).

I got to be a reader for all kinds of really cool projects, with incredible actors, exploring a multitude of characters. I even directed a few sessions, which was really different and harder than it looks. One of these projects keeps bringing me back for table reads and stuff on set, which just blows my mind that I get to be a part of it. Another one I was actually cast in, then slightly heartbroken when my scene was cut, but I still absolutely love the story as well as everyone involved, and can’t wait to see how it all turns out. In addition to my job as a reader, I got to read for a project in pre-production that I am involved with, for a bunch of friends (and new acquaintances) as part of my self tape promise, and for my very own project.

In April, after years of being too afraid to, we shot The Anniversary, a short that I wrote. It was a bit terrifying, yes, but nothing like I thought it would be. It was exhilarating and emotional and a lot of work, but something I can’t wait to do again and again. I learnt so much about scriptwriting, finding a crew, casting a project, shot lists…and I still have so much more to learn, which I will, a little more with every new project I start. Which will hopefully be often. I also want to learn more about post production, so that I can maybe do some of it on my own, and so I will have a better answer when people ask me what I want (most of the time, it was “I don’t know, what do you think?”) Every time I bring it up, I have to thank everyone who gave (or are still giving) their time and energy to help me make this dream a reality. I am eternally grateful.

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In addition to the amazing classes with Suzanna (where I used accents, attempted commercials, played drunk, comedy, cried, flirted and kissed people), I tried my hand at Meisner (which is scary for me, because you can’t learn your lines and hide behind your preparedness), took a Chi Energy Workshop, a singing lesson, the Centaur Chekhov scene study and audited classes in Toronto. I volunteered for Comic Con, which was a lot of fun, and since I was mostly manning the microphone in the large halls, I got to listen to all of the panels and basically got mini masterclasses from incredible actors. My roommate also tried to start an Actor’s Meet Up, where we get together and run scenes as a super cool way of networking, but since 3 of the 4 attendees now live in Toronto, it looks like someone else will have to take over? And it isn’t really an acting class, but I am definitely proud of the fact that I passed both my non-restricted and restricted firearm safety courses. In theory, this means I can buy and own certain guns, but I am more interested in what it can mean on sets.

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I participated in 3 table reads, one for the English translation of Antoine’s Cow, one for Montreal Girls, a movie in pre-production, and more recently an excerpt of a sci-fi film for Toronto Cold Reads, which I will definitely be returning to in the New Year. The stage has become a lot less scary for me, not just through my time at LAMDA and with these ventures, but from all the time I spent ‘stage managingLeave The Therapy Take The Cannoli. I still can’t really call myself a stage manager, but it was a pleasure helping them out and being a part of that famiglia.

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Over the summer, I got some insight into how a friend creates his shot lists by helping out for one. His method involves a lot more people than the sheets of paper I’ve seen others use, but it also gives you the opportunity to actually test out the lighting and angles and distances. Ideally, it would be how I would like to create the shot list on my next project. This was not my only time posing for a camera though, as I participated in prop photos for a friend’s short (they’re amazing, but I’m not allowed to share yet), had the privilege of being photographed by Owain Thomas, photographer and friend extraordinaire, and recently got more shots with a new production company.

I made a multitude of discoveries and worked on myself and my materials through Bonnie Gillespie’s Get in Gear for The Next Tier (and the free end of year one as well), and plan to revisit the wealth of knowledge after rereading her book, Self Management for Actors in the New Year.

On a personal level…I can’t even begin to explain the journey I took over the past year. As a writer and an actor, I often list a lack of life experiences as something that is holding me back, and while I probably only caught up on a fraction of what I have been missing out on, I have discovered so much about myself.

It started out with little things in class, like holding someone’s hands for an extended period of time, slow dancing with strangers, accepting compliments and not so pleasant truths in Meisner (over and over again).

Then everything came together when I spent a lot of days on a set this summer. I was doing background, but I went with the intention of meeting people and being…memorable? I’m used to going on set and remembering everyone’s name, but they mostly won’t remember mine. Which is sometimes because they have a bad memory, sometimes because I didn’t say much, and sometimes I literally just overheard someone else using their name and remembered it. This time, I was determined to actually talk to people, get to know them…be the me I am always too afraid of being, because I’m worried people won’t like me. When I say things happen for a reason, part of me is okay with not being ACTRA yet, because this was the kind of set that I probably wouldn’t have been on if I was a union member, and if I hadn’t been there…I can’t be certain, but I don’t think I would be living in Toronto right now, and my comfort zone would be substantially smaller. It was the little things, like people using my name, or coming over to greet me in the mornings, but it made me feel special and like people actually enjoyed talking to me, and my company, which isn’t always the case. I would show up at our call time, which would be incredibly early, with a smile, so excited to be there and to see what the day would bring. I went in knowing a lot of people, but I left knowing the name of almost every extra on set, a lot of the crew, stunt people…even some of the cast. I became a lot closer to people I had just known in passing before then, and also made some new friends, whose support and advice mean the world to me.

It was through this experience that I met someone who broke down walls I didn’t even know I had, completely overwhelmed my comfort zone and taught me so much. About life, relationships, love, heartbreak, but mostly, about myself. About the kind of person I am (how she’s pretty awesome and I shouldn’t be afraid to share her), how much I can handle (way more than I would have thought), how much I am willing to give (everything, so I should be careful), but also what I want, and the things I don’t want to compromise on. We are still friends, and even now, I don’t regret a single thing. Because of the lessons and the experiences, yes, but also for the way it made me feel. Confident. Desirable. Needed. Wanted. Enough.

After this, I was brave enough to post an entry about an experience I had in the past where I learnt to stand up for myself, that I was afraid of sharing, but felt I needed to. I was confident enough with myself to do background in a bikini, and a revealing bathing suit, which would have (and still) terrified me, but I did it. Then I went so far as to sign on for a shoot where I got held captive in my bra and underwear, which was so far out of my comfort zone, but now it’s done, so the comfort zone is bigger. And I’m not going to say there’s a link with what I lived this summer, but I am now able to cry. Which was holding me back acting-wise, but also in life. I felt so closed off when all the women in my family were crying, and I just sat there, dry-eyed, not really feeling it. I still probably can’t just cry on cue, but I have been able to cry in scenarios at McGill, in class, on set, in auditions, in rehearsals, and most importantly, in my life. My cousin recently said yes to the dress, and my aunt’s tears led to everyone else in the room crying as well. I was about to argue when my cousin pointed this out, because I was so used to being unaffected, but there I was, crying along with them. Happy tears. Silly tears. But I wasn’t closing myself off anymore.

Probably the biggest change was me moving to Toronto in November. Having never lived away from home for more than a few months at a time, this was pretty huge for me, and my family, but like I said in the beginning of this post…I was ready. Or at least I am now. Looking back, it wasn’t the year I joined the union, and my career didn’t explode, but I still think I was right when I said 2017 was my year. Because now that I know I’m enough, it’ll be a lot easier to convince the rest of the world.

I hope your year brought you more joy than sadness, more accomplishments than defeats, but most of all, I hope next year knocks this one out of the park. For all of us.

“Everything happens kind of the way it’s supposed to happen, and we just watch it unfold. And you can’t control it. Looking back, you can’t say ‘I should’ve…’ You didn’t, and had you, the outcome would have been different.”

-Rick Rubin

The Last Week

Some very interesting things have happened in the few weeks since I last posted. Chronologically, I will start with the last class of the month at Suzanna’s; audition class. We spent the first few minutes discussing how I went from being in class indefinitely, to “I’m moving to Toronto in December.” Suzanna wasn’t ready to lose me to Toronto, and to be honest it didn’t seem real to me yet either. I was apartment hunting and figuring out budgets and finding all kinds of potential roommates, but it still felt like something that wasn’t really going to happen.

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An old friend from class came in unexpectedly, which was really nice, then I did camera for the first scene. I hadn’t printed my scene, so my reader eventually had to go through my phone for his lines.  I chose the one from Narcos, which was good, because there were all kinds of different things to explore, like really flirting, just being relieved to see a familiar face, being worried about my husband vs not realizing it’s serious until he talks to me. I felt really bad that I was distracted during a lot of the other scenes, since there was a conversation going on to decide whether or not we wanted a certain apartment in Toronto. For the commercial part Tracy and I did a really weird one involving a hooked hand and a parrot.

The rest of the week was a blur, because although I left class thinking I would be back for the month of November and only moving December 10th, our first place fell through and we ended up finding a bigger place, with a new roommate, and a much closer move-in date. By Friday, we were leasing a house and moving the following week!

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My last weekend in Montreal, I filmed a short called The Girl on The Run. I don’t want to give too much away, even if its intended use is for film school admittance, but I definitely got to play some intense scenes with a whole lot of emotions. I was in awkward and uncomfortable situations, then running in heels in the cold and rain. But I loved it. Because I was on a set and I was acting 🙂

Sunday was a family day, for my niece’s and my brother’s birthdays. It was nice to see everyone before leaving, but it also convinced me that I will have to be coming back often. Probably not for every Sunday night dinner, but at least the birthdays and holidays.

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My last week should have been spent packing and getting things ready for the move, so I would have a job and agent meetings and stuff lined up once I got to Toronto, but instead, I was working. Apparently that’s how things go, that as soon as you’re leaving, everybody wants you. Well, not everyone, but I did spend one day as a reader, two days on set as background and one day at Mcgill as a standardized patient. It was a really emotional scenario where I cried every single time. Last time I had to cry for an audition, I was going through some stuff personally, so it was really easy to get the tears to come. This time, it was good to know that I could cry consistently even when I wasn’t going through stuff. Although I guess I was moving to a new city, away from my family and almost everyone I know. But that still didn’t seem real, so it wasn’t affecting my emotions.

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My brother and his girlfriend came over on Friday to help pack up my stuff, then on Saturday my parents and I drove to Toronto, like we had countless times before. Only this time, they drove back on Sunday without me. Because I was staying. Because I live here now.  (In Toronto. Not because it wasn’t clear, but because I sometimes need to remind myself.)

I’ll write another post to recap my first week here, which will hopefully have all kinds of new and exciting developments, but for now, thank you so much to everyone who encouraged me and believed in me and convinced me that this was something that I could do. To everyone who gave me advice or people to contact or reached out…I appreciate you all more than you could ever know.

And to everyone I know in Toronto, I’m here! So let’s hang out 🙂

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving.”

-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Moving on, is a simple thing, what it leaves behind is hard.”

-Dave Mustaine

Summer 2017

You might have noticed that I haven’t been updating this blog as regularly as I usually do, so I am going to tell you a bit about what I have been up to this Summer, then get back into a more weekly groove once you’re all caught up.

To start, I had the awesome opportunity of being on set a lot in June and July. I had one of my top background experiences, but I also spent weekends on set with speaking parts I can’t wait to share with you. From an aspiring actress in Overexposed, to a determined young woman in The House They Lived In, without forgetting my last days on Deep Web, and a reshoot for the short I wrote.

I continued working at McGill, being a reader for a casting director and even ‘directed’ a few sessions. I got to see a little behind the scenes on a tv show currently in production when I was hired to read for the actors that were out of town for rehearsals and table reads. So much fun! I also got to go around beautiful locations in Montreal and get photographed on 2 separate occasions, once for props in a short film (the pictures are beautiful, I can’t wait until it comes out so I can show them to you) and once for a slightly impromptu headshot session with the ultra-talented Owain Thomas. Seriously, you could not ask for a better photographer. The time flew by, he made me feel confident and comfortable (and super entertained) and the shots he got are amazing.

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If you’re wondering how the short I wrote is coming along, we have put the footage together, and are now working on synchronizing the sound and getting color correction. I’ll have to ask for some help with the music soon, but it is coming along really well, thanks to my awesome cast and crew, and talented editor. Not to mention, we now have a title. Instead of Really Short Short (or RSS) as I have been calling it, it will now be The Anniversary. There have also been some gut wrenching setbacks on this journey, but I am not letting that stop me or get me down.

In July, I attempted to win Camp Nanowrimo, the venture where you write a book in a month. The first few days were right on track, but then I spent 13 days on set, and started Get in Gear for the Next Tier, Bonnie Gillespie’s hundred day program to bring your career to the next level. These aren’t excuses, I know that I ‘failed’ Camp Nano, but it was a conscious decision. That might be worse, but I had the choice between writing, working on my career or working on me, and I chose me. Instead of sitting alone at a table and writing, I became somewhat of a social butterfly, getting to know everyone on set. It was completely out of my comfort zone, but the more I did it, the more comfortable I was going up to introduce myself and start a conversation with a stranger. By the time I finished those 13 days, there were very few strangers left on the set. And as far as my time off the set…I tried actually living my life, rather than living vicariously through the characters and the stories I write. It was more exciting, more painful, and a lot scarier than when I write, because I wasn’t in charge of the story, or the other people, but they always say “write what you know” and I know a lot more things now.

In class I have had the pleasure of stepping into characters from Kissing Jessica Stein, Scandal, Ozark, The Big C, Episodes, Prime, Ferris Bueller’s day off, Flight and Girls. Some called for kissing and accents, others for pain, anger or comedy. Every one was a wonderful learning experience.

I took a singing lesson with Caroline Gauthier, which wasn’t so much about the singing as figuring out how and why I try so hard to hide my voice instead of sharing it with everyone. She was absolutely lovely. As was Patricia Chica, who gave a Chi Energy workshop back in July, and hosted a Table Read for her script, Montreal Girls, just the other day. The workshop was definitely an exercise in sharing my vulnerability in front of an audience, which is something I would usually try so hard to keep hidden. Lots of discoveries and magical moments in that one day, so I can only imagine what will happen to everyone who signs up for her 3 day workshop in October. As for the Table Read, any opportunity to act and step into someone else’s shoes is a gift for me, so being able to meet new actors and work with a script that hasn’t been produced yet…it was a wonderful experience.

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In an attempt to convince the casting gods that I can be a kickass heroine someday, I took classes with my dad so that I can work with firearms. This isn’t necessary when it comes to film sets, but I am thinking it can’t hurt. And it was a lot of fun.

Another thing that can’t hurt is the bimonthly actor’s meet-up a brilliant friend of mine initiated. If you happen to be in Montreal, every 1st and 15th of the month, we will host a meet-up for actors to get together and act. Every actor will bring 2 sets of sides, then we will pair off and run the scenes. Cold reads at first, but we can get familiar with them,  switch roles…it’ll be a chance to network, of course, but the main goal is to work that muscle so when auditions come along, we are so used to working through scenes that it is fun rather than new or stressful. It’s an awesome addition to classes, an opportunity to learn from fellow actors, and something to keep your tools sharp when you can’t make it to class.

Finally, I sent in a few self tapes, booked 2 of them, and went on 3 auditions. One I didn’t get, one I haven’t heard back from, and the other one I booked. Well, I booked a part, not the one I auditioned for, but it will definitely challenge me a lot more as an actress than the ones I auditioned for would. I am more used to challenging myself in class than on the set of a really beautiful feature film I am honored to be a part of…but I tend to react well under pressure, and I have complete faith in the director/writer/producer who gave me the part.

As far as personal developments, I think I have grown a lot this summer. Not literally, but I have learnt a lot and experienced all kinds of new things. Some of these were amazing, some made me stronger and some simply broke my heart. But that’s okay, because I put myself out there, I was vulnerable and I gave it my all. Which is the point of all this, right?

To be more specific, I spent a bunch of time with my family, I went out for brunches, coffees and ice creams with friends, I volunteered at Comic Con (which let me see so many amazing panels), I had what I would best describe as a summer fling, found my confidence only to put it through multiple tests, spent 3 days at the same hospital for 3 different people (we’re all okay), finally got called Auntie Manda and started to believe that maybe, I AM ENOUGH.

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“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Masking, Sets and Reboots

Since last week was the last in June, we had our audition classes with Suzanna. On Monday, I chose the Rabbit Hole scene, because I figured it was the one I had the most to work on. I volunteered to go first, and my first take was definitely my best take. Not to say I shouldn’t have done the others, because they were very useful, but the first time is where I connected the most emotionally. There is a part where I talk for a paragraph, so my reader looked up at me, and at first it felt off, but then I just felt it and connected.

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Suzanna asked me about my moment before, because she felt I was coming in already expecting what was about to happen in the scene. Having done my homework, I explained that I wasn’t reacting to what I knew was coming, but to what I had been doing in the scene before this one. Which is true, I got the core right, but I needed to cover more, at least in the beginning, because the thing upsetting me is something I don’t want to share with my husband.

For the last take, Suzanna had me try it angry with my husband, so I try to leave and get offended with his accusations rather than just hurt. There are some moments that felt so much stronger with the anger rather than the pain, but a lot of moments truly benefit from the raw vulnerability I usually play it with.

I recently had an audition where we had to send in 2 different takes of each scene, and I think it’s a good thing to try while prepping all scenes. If I do the whole thing angry, then the whole thing sad, there are obviously moments that won’t work, but hopefully a combination of the two will bring a richer, more moving performance. And I always have to remember to mask my core.

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For our actor roles and auditions, we were all paired up, so I was the bubbly and overexcited wife with Nick and Sean, then a receptionist who is going on a cruise for the second one with everyone. Often when we do commercials I wish I could have done an Actor role instead, but these were sooo much fun, and I can only imagine how hilarious it would have been to actually get to film them.

On Tuesday I did a bit of background with some awesome people, discovering that someone I admire is even more of a class act than I already assumed them to be.

Wednesday I was all over the place, starting by helping a friend with a Self Tape. She thought my original offer was for a limited time only, some kind of resolution I was trying out, but no, I am actually committing to help out with readers and self-tapes and running lines and what not for however long people need me, as long as I am available. Why would I say no to the chance to act and help out a friend, all in one?

Next I went to meet Carolyne so we could catch up and talk about the industry and our lives. As always, she offered insightful advice, reminded me why I need to stand up for myself more, and we left emphasizing our Compass Feelings. If you didn’t listen to Dallas Travers’ 5 Day Acting Reboot, you probably don’t know what that is, and neither did she. At least not with that terminology. Basically, Day 1 of the reboot was about finding a feeling that we want to drive our careers and our lives. Instead of what goals we want to accomplish with our acting, we should be asking “How do I want acting to make me feel? How do I want to feel every day?” I chose Confidence as my Compass Feeling, because it has more to do with how I feel about myself, rather than how I think others feel about me. The whole reboot was pretty awesome, if ever you do want to check her out and find out more secrets. I was lucky enough to be featured in one of the Live Q & A sessions:

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In class that evening, I chose to do the Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind scene, because drunk is still an issue. Unfortunately, I was pretty off. The first take felt like I was just running lines, and the second like I was playing anger more than feeling it (she told me to try being angry rather than a giggly drunk). The third take I sat on the chair rather than just standing, but like the wall from last week, I think I was using it as a crutch to drive the performance. And I focused again on the being drunk rather than the heart of the scene, which I did work on, but did not internalize.

I was on book for the actor who came after me, and was truly inspired by the fact that he brought a monologue rather than doing one of his scenes over. Although sometimes I think I really benefit from an extra chance to work on a scene, I think it would be incredibly beneficial to start bringing in scenes from my target shows, or monologues I want to work on. At least when I feel like I already did my class scene justice.

I had to leave class early for an interview, to see if I could attend an acting class in Los Angeles. This is definitely progress, because almost all of the really cool classes I have taken were chosen, not entirely, but very much because there was no audition process. I have often taken an entry level class, when I know an intermediate class would have been so much more useful for me, because trying for the intermediate class would have meant auditioning. And the possibility of being turned down. This time, I had to pull out an old monologue, and answer all kinds of questions no one has ever asked me before. It was a very interesting process.

On Thursday, I was back in Quebec to film some scenes for Deep Web, which were incredibly reminiscent of the Dark Shack. There were less ropes and someone different was wielding the knife, but it almost felt too close for comfort.

 

“Your future depends on many things, but mostly on you.”

-Frank Tyger

Eternal Sunshine

Last Wednesday’s class presented a whole new challenge; that of being drunk. I was tipsy in a comedic scene over a year ago, and worked on being drunk in my first ever Tom Todoroff intensive, but it isn’t quite something I have mastered yet. Which was largely due to the fact that I am usually too shy to really go for it, but this time it was more about not really having the life experiences to back it up. Which is a frequent problem of mine, and the reason I am trying to get me some life experiences now. Not necessarily getting drunk, because I don’t generally drink, but I am trying to do all of the things that scare me. And live more in the real world, rather than mostly vicariously through books and writing.

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Our scene is from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, where I play Clementine. We ran it a few times before class, where playing drunk got me nervous so I was shaky on my lines the first time, but I fixed that. He had trouble with one so he changed it, and I told him it was okay as long as he said something mean to get me upset.

I was on camera for the first scene, and then it was our turn. Suzanna had returned a hat she borrowed from me, so I used it as a bit of business at the top of the scene. I would walk in wearing the hat, throw it across the room while taking off my shoes, then lean against the wall, which was the biggest proponent of my drunkenness.

Our first take, Suzanna congratulated me for going there, but she wanted me to be less of a cute and giggly drunk. I tried to get offended more, to be more defensive. When she told me to try and get a rise out of him, we talked about my goal and I realized (what I should have much earlier) that I wasn’t just coming home drunk and unaware of what I was saying, I was purposely trying to start a fight so he could break up with me now rather than when it would destroy me. That definitely helped. And although I thought it didn’t matter what he said to me as long as it was mean, when Suzanna had him say the actual line, I wasn’t just sort of upset and leaving because I was supposed to, it actually hurt. The improv before our last take was also kind of weird, and veered sort of off topic, but it was informative and fun.

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In addition to class, I had an audition for a webseries, with the same team from Talion’s Law, which was awesome, because they’re a great group of people. And I found out this weekend that I actually booked one of the parts I auditioned for. Was it because of my incredible acting, or was it predestined that I should play Amanda? The world will never know…

 

“I’ve always been spontaneous and outgoing…I’ve tried lots of things so I’ve got some good life experiences, which is great ‘cause it means I’ve got lots of material to work with as an actor.”

-Leonardo DiCaprio

Playing House

On Monday, Michelle and I had planned to meet early and rehearse, but unfortunately, life got in the way. Luckily, I knew my lines and had worked on the text on my own this time. So, when we got to class and went to run our lines before going up, I should not have been completely thrown when she asked me, “What is Bruce doing here?” Someone once told me that a great acting exercise is to go out in public and run your lines, then see if people can tell you’re rehearsing, or if they think you’re genuinely having that conversation/argument/falling in love or whatnot. Michelle was super natural and awesome, as always, but I was not confused because I didn’t think she was acting. I was confused because her line in my script was “Why don’t you tell me what happened down there.”

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We quickly figured out that Suzanna had been debating which of two scenes from the same show (Playing House) she wanted to give us, so although she did choose one, she ended up giving us each different scenes. She solved it by saying I would learn Michelle’s scene and do the other one as an audition, because I am good at learning lines and so that it wouldn’t be wasted (I had researched angry raccoon noises). However, once I learnt Michelle’s scene, we still had a bit of time, so I suggested Michelle try learning mine, if she wanted, so that we could do both scenes and neither of us would miss out on doing our scene with the connection of a scene partner. Obviously, she nailed it.

We did my scene first, since it came earlier chronologically. We opted to sit Indian style rather than overlapping each other scissor-style, and got Atena to do additional raccoon noises. The first take was mostly to get the lines out, but our connection was really good. My note was to go deeper, which made sense, not just because timeline wise, I had just found out I had been betrayed, but because I was trying to play it more straight and comedy than with heart and how I would actually react if this was happening to me. I believe my second note was to go even deeper again, and for Atena to make more raccoon noises for us. And to push the diamonds and the craziness. It was a cute scene and a lot of fun.

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For Michelle’s scene, we had to fight more (I had to get more defensive), and then I had to go slower and remove all the okays that I was slipping in. When I got rid of the okays and went slower though, I also lost all of the energy. So we did it one last time so I could get the pace, remove the okays and keep the energy. One okay still slipped in, but it was a petty good take, and Michelle really looked hurt and affected by what I said, so she meant it when she wished me butt rabies. Well, not Michelle to me, but Emma to Maggie. You know what I mean.

I ran camera for the next scene, so kind of sad I didn’t get to see both sides of what sounded like an incredible performance (and was from the side I could see), but then I was on book for the last two. We went more than a half hour past when class was supposed to be over, but this time I was able to stay until the end. Which is good because Atena, whose scene it was, had to leave, even though Suzanna was still working on something with her scene partner. Always ready with solutions, Suzanna had me go up and be a therapist from 50/50. We did it 3 more times and although we didn’t record it on my SD card, I will definitely be asking for them tonight, just to see. After the 3rd take, when Suzanna asked him how it went, he said “I feel like I have to say good so everyone can go home.” Which we all thought was pretty funny.

 

“I’d rather have the hard road into excellence than the easy road into mediocrity. So I’m not complaining. And it’s important that I say this: If we have any Latinos or any immigrants listening to this, this is an invitation for us to wake up and be excellent at anything that we do.”

-Salma Hayek

Rabbits and Trolls

On Wednesday I had a scene from Love, where I was Mickey’s roommate, Bertie, who was described to me as weird and eccentric. With this (and my recent Seeking White Female scene) in mind, I forgot that even if you are playing the crazy character, you usually shouldn’t think of yourself as crazy. The trick to nailing those characters is to play them like you’re the most sane person in the room and everyone else is crazy. In this case, Tracy and I ran the scene in the back to figure out the blocking and make sure we had our lines, and then we did it 4 times. I would say it took me until the last take, after we did the subtext improv, to truly embrace that I am not crazy, I am just a little weird because I am trying too hard to get her to like me. I obviously have some sociopathic tendencies, but I’m sure it’s pretty common for children (…or adults?…) to play with already dead animals and not turn into serial killers.

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For a breakdown of the takes, the first one I was playing weird on purpose, and it was kind of superficial. The second I was trying to be her friend, but still as a weird roommate. The third take I started to get the beginning and the end, but there was a really weird transition. Finally, the last take I got the nervousness and the “Like me” plea that had me trying too hard. Also, every take I completely threw away my ‘virile’ line, because how do you say that word in English?

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That would have been it, except someone cancelled, so I was asked to do a second scene, with Jerome. It was from Man Seeking Woman, and I had done it before, so it wasn’t too hard to pick it back up when we ran the lines a few times in the back. Other than not blocking his camera when I point in this scene, I can’t remember any notes. Which is possibly because it wasn’t really my scene, and I also may have gotten a bunch that I am just not remembering, but I prefer to think that I did a pretty good job with this one. Although I did notice a lot of ‘okay’s slipping in when I rewatched it, so I will have to be careful again.

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We ran incredibly late because we really spent time working on each scene, so I had to leave before it was done, but like always, I love this class, both acting in it, and watching other people act.

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“A question that sometimes drives me hazy: am I, or are the others crazy?”

-Albert Einstein

Rabbit Hole

This week I tried something different. Johnny, who teaches me Meisner, was telling me about the amazing opportunity we have in this class, to rehearse scenes with each other before filming it in class, being able to watch it afterwards…I realized that I wasn’t taking advantage of the rehearsing with scene partners between classes, so I did something about it.

My scene is from Rabbit Hole, which is some pretty heavy, emotional stuff. Last week, we all teared up, but for me it was because it’s a sad scene, not because I was internalizing any of it.

Usually, I am nearly off book from the first class where we cold read the scene, so during the week I will maybe think about who I am and what I want, answer some questions I have come up with over the years, then I learn it on the day of. I don’t want to be late or driving in rush hour traffic, so I leave home hours before class, park my car, then I walk around or sit in the car and do vocal exercises with my lines, making sure I have them. This system gets me off book and doesn’t take too long, but it also leaves a lot out.

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I had wonderful intentions for this week, and I won’t make excuses, because I really don’t have any, other than I didn’t put in the time. I read the scene a few times over the week, and tried to imagine what it would be like to go through the loss of a child, but I couldn’t really bring myself to go there. I also got busy and sidetracked and did not make the scene a priority. I knew I had asked my scene partner to meet me and rehearse together a couple of hours before class, but it didn’t register with me that I hadn’t learnt my lines. The scene was longer than our usual scenes, and a few of the lines repeat themselves, but had I put in the time (even the minimum amount of time) I would have nailed them.

This meant that the rehearsal I had asked for, which would have been a lot of fun to use some of the new Meisner techniques I am learning, or just play off a scene partner rather than running lines on my own, was instead spent learning lines. This would have been really helpful if we had done it a few days before, then met up again for the actual rehearsing, because it is so much easier to learn lines when running the scene instead of on your own. It still was a lot of fun; running lines and catching up, but even at the end, I didn’t have time to go over the trouble parts and make sure I had them, we just went to class, where we were first.

Our first take was okay, in that we both got the emotions, but we weren’t connected. We were two people mourning, but not together, which is also what’s going on in the scene, but not what we want as actors. And there was a little hesitation on the lines, but I luckily remembered what I was supposed to have said and added it in so he could say his line.

The second take, I said a line wrong, which completely threw my scene partner, so we had to restart. The third one was better, although I was not in synch. My eyes would well while my voice would be normal, then I would sort of force it to sound sad and…we got the lines and there was a lot of emotion, but there were also a lot of pauses (from me, it was all my bad for not working on the scene and leaving it to the last minute, when I should have known I couldn’t) and I was a bit all over the place emotionally.

The fourth take is probably my favorite. There was less hesitation with the lines, and then somewhere near the end of the scene, at the place where I usually go out of synch, something happened where my voice dropped and I was connected. I didn’t just try to have the sadness on the surface, I felt it in my chest, and the tears started falling. I broke down and it felt awesome.

The last take, he broke down and I didn’t, but I am told it was the most connected of all of our takes. I have a theory that we couldn’t both break down at the same time.

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Unfortunately, I learnt two things from watching the different takes. First is that Johnny is right about my weird facial expressions and neck movements, that I definitely need to get under control. Second is that even when I broke down and had tears and everything….I still look like I’m smiling. Basically if my mouth is open and you see my teeth, I look like I am smiling. So I will have to work on keeping my mouth shut.

I am proud of what I achieved in this class, but also ashamed of my lack of preparation, when I know that I need it. I set out to do more work this week, and ended up doing even less, which I am really not happy with myself about, but I am going to do things differently from now on. I will still go over the scenes when I get to class abnormally early, but I am going to make it a priority to do all the work of my process and getting off book within the first couple of days that I get the scene. And I’ll try again for the scene partner rehearsals. But this way, even if I procrastinate and plan other things before class, all I will need is a quick review because I will already have done all the work.

 

“Success isn’t always about greatness. It’s about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come.”

-Dwayne Johnson

Time over shallow

Last Monday’s acting class was the kind where I know I can do so much better, but I just didn’t put the time and effort into it. The first time I was supposed to do the scene, I got booked to be on set and couldn’t make it. Then the week after was a holiday, so when last Monday came around, I had sort of forgotten about it, especially since I had something else I was supposed to be going to. Ultimately, I decided to go to class and then be late for the other thing, but it meant I only put a quarter of the time I should have. Which for me, usually entails learning all the lines and not doing much else. I sometimes get lured into a false sense of having done something when it is a show or a movie I have seen, because instead of building the relationships and creating the other characters for myself, I just remember the ones I have seen on screen. I would say that all things considered, I was good, but good in reference to bad is not what I am looking for in class. I want to not be afraid to fail, and to fail badly, but in the way where I am prepared and did the work, but take chances and go out of my comfort zone to try things. Not fail because I didn’t try.

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My scene partner wasn’t expecting to do our scene, because he had done it a previous class with someone else. Luckily, we went and ran it out back a few times and he easily got back into it. Lucky for me, because otherwise I was going to have to do it audition style, which is still something I like working on, but it is a lot more fun to play off of someone else.

Our first take was…shallow. That was my word to describe it. We had our lines, it wasn’t entirely flat, but I wasn’t internalizing anything. The second take was better, although I am not so sure about my decision to be super cool-headed rather than to get upset.

The third take Suzanna had us try a new exercise before we started. I love the subtext improv, or just improvising in character, but this was different. We both shared our goals in the scene, then Suzanna had us think of someone, or a situation where we have the same goal. So, the improv was me as Amanda talking to someone that I wanted to grow up, through Sean. He, in turn, was Sean, talking to someone through me and trying to get their support. I didn’t like the exercise, because it made me feel like a horrible person. We were using real circumstances, which made me feel like there would be real emotions as well. I much prefer the subtext improv in character, but at the same time, I probably needed to feel bad for crushing him in the scene as well. So I can see its use, I am told it was our best take, but I didn’t feel good afterwards.

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As for the commercial, it was fun, but I was doing it way too low energy, and needed to be much more excited.

“Sometimes, things may not go your way, but the effort should be there every single night.”

-Michael Jordan