A Big Thank You!

So, I watched Casting By last week and absolutely loved it! Heres the trailer:

I hope you get a chance to see it. It’s such a lovely (and at some points heartbreaking) reminder of all the hard work casting directors do. I also found it interesting the frustration and struggle casting directors go through when finding the right person for the role. And if they do find the right person they sometimes have to fight for them to get the part because so many studios don’t want to take a risk on an unknown or someone they don’t “see” in the role because they have been doing something else for so long. Casting is an art and a craft.

Dear Casting Directors, I hope you start practicing your Oscar acceptance speeches in the bathroom mirror (welcome to the club). I hope we get to see you more publicly thanked for a job well done.

 

 

One last thing,

Sometimes I work as Craft Services (“Crafty”) on sets and it never ceases to amaze me at all the crazy hard work and loooonnngggg hours put in to make movie magic. To the crew on set, I thank you as well.

Here’s a great article to give you a little more insight into what goes on behind the scenes: CLICK HERE 

 

Have a wonderful week, my friends!

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All I Can Be is a “Julisa Zombie”

I woke up this morning super early and excited to start the day. I don’t know why, I don’t have anything out of the ordinary to excite me but I think I must have had some inspirational dream last night. I must have been thinking of teaching my first intro to laughter yoga at an acting class on Monday. I was also going over what I wanted to share and how I love that with laughter yoga I’ve taught myself to play again. Playfulness is so important when we are acting and creating. It’s great for any artist. I like to think that laughter yoga cheers up my inner critic. Normally I see my inner critic as a crotchety old man with one eyebrow raised. But after 10-15 minutes of laughter I feel a curl of a smile on his face. I also feel the confidence to say “come on old man, lets go live and create wonderful things!”.

I don’t know where this laughter yoga will take me, but I hope to share it with as many fellow artists as I can. Maybe someday I’ll teach a playful class that helps us tap into our childlike playful self. Just once a week, we meet and play and laugh and then face the world and our work with a smile on our face. Ya, that would be pretty neat.

I’ll write about how this first class went on next week’s blog.

So, last week! I didn’t have much time to write because on Wednesday I had an audition! I love getting called in to audition. But last week I felt like it was quite the challenge. This was my first audition since I took classes at the SAG-AFTRA Conservatory summer intensive. When I came home from that weekend I felt so jazzed and pumped for my next audition and ready to just walk into the room and have a blast. Shoot forward two and a half weeks and I get called for an audition. The role: zombie. Great. I don’t watch zombie movies. Zombies creep me out. I don’t even know how to ACT like a zombie!! How was I supposed to show off my awesome acting skills as a zombie!?!? After over thinking it all afternoon finally (with the help of a friendly reminder from a dear friend) I let go and realized all I can be is a Julisa zombie. It’s me. That’s what I have to work from. So then I just dug into the script. Learned the piece backwards and forwards. When my husband came home he helped me on my zombie walk (he likes zombie movies), we even played tennis like we were zombies and then we watched Zombieland for fun inspiration. Before we went to bed he read the other person’s lines for me and we “rehearsed” the scene. I have to say, it was way more nerve wracking auditioning for my husband than I thought. This was a first. But it was amazing! My instant first attempt is to do it “right”. Since he’s my husband and knows me so well he can see through my bullshit. After a few more attempts and him calling those attempts “safe” I was finally able to let go and just play with it. I let out my silly side and then the zombie came to life. I was a funny quirky zombie and it was fun! I went to sleep excited for the audition. This was my first time in at a casting office I had been hoping to get called into for a long time! Hurray! Success in itself.

Wednesday, audition day. When I got to the location I was a bit early. Thankfully there was a cute vintage store next door so I popped in and tried to breathe, get ahold of myself, and center in a bit, enjoy looking at vintage clothes. Amazing how you can get so light headed before an audition. This shop was a perfect thing to ground me a bit.

So I finally go in to the casting office. See the other girls seated waiting for their turn. They all seemed nice and we sat quietly together, waiting. Sometimes we could hear someone during their audition. We’d hear the casting director laugh and we would all hope we could do the same when it was our turn. When I went in I was told not to be too zombie like. Talk normal (I can only imagine what a day long of zombie auditions would be like….yeesh). So I did the scene. It went nothing like I had planned or hoped. I might have even bored myself. They didn’t ask to do it again a different way. Just said, that was perfect, thanks. Amazing how quickly you read into things.
I drove home bummed. I don’t know what I expected. Them to say “Thank Christ! We’ve found you! We can’t wait to call you back!”? I let myself beat myself up for a little bit but then said, “ok, that’s enough”. What if this was the audition that someone else was supposed to book? Do I really want my first film role to be a zombie? Did I forget that I’ve been trying to see this casting director for awhile now and that that was the success today? So many things! I was driving back to Big Bear to film a sketch that afternoon. Sheesh, I had an audition for one film and then was filming something else the same day! How quickly we rain on our own parades!

That day I still felt the shadow of the audition. That stupid inner critic was telling me I wasn’t funny and I couldn’t act. Bullshit. Thanks for your input old man, but I think 15 years of acting gives me something to give to others. And I’ll be acting for the rest of my life. I love it. Deal with it.

Auditions are just a part of the career. I’m not an actor only on the days that I audition or book something. I’m an actor everyday. I look forward to my next audition and next time I plan to play more. Celebrate that I get to do what I love everyday.

 

Today I’m planning on watching the new HBO documentary about casting directors, “Casting By”. I’m super excited to see this. Finally, FINALLY casting directors are getting recognized by the Academy (The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences)!! See here: http://www.oscars.org/press/pressreleases/2013/20130731.html

Being on the casting side of things is not easy! I’ve had a little experience in it and I have great regard for those who do it as their career. So more on that next week.

 

Have a great week, live the dream, see you soon.

 

 

 

 

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A non blog kind of blog –

So, obviously, I didn’t post on my usual Wednesday. You may notice that it is Thursday! And August 1st! What the what?!?! I might as well start on writing Christmas cards.

But I like to be consistent so even though I’m about to run out the door to work on a film for the next two days (working the ol’ crafty gig) I just wanted to get you excited for next week’s blog which will be about my audition yesterday. Here’s a hint: Zombie.

Also yesterday I was busy filming another installment of Happy Hour Sketch Comedy. Hint: Shakespeare.

And with that, I leave you with episode two of this season of Happy Hours Sketch Comedy:

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In Between Two Marvelous Worlds

The theatre company I’m helping start up had auditions for the musical “13” the other day. The show is made up of 13 teenagers and even the band can be just teenagers as well. I’m so excited that our first big musical production for our first official season focuses completely on “kids”. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I look forward to teaching.

I’ve found quite a joy in teaching my laughter yoga classes these last couple of months. It feels so good to pass on information that you’ve discovered and has helped you. So now I get this opportunity to mentor and teach middle and high school students about theatre. With this in mind, it has altered the way I read and watch lessons on acting. Now I wonder how I might relay this to students I’m working with. I’m excited to watch these young artists grow and discover new things about themselves and the art. To witness the breakthroughs and be there for them when things get tough or confusing.

Maybe I’m so passionate about this because this was the exact time I fell in love with acting and decided that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. It was on stage of the high school theatre. I was 14 and for the first time I felt at home with myself.

For 15 years I’ve been a student of acting and suddenly I have this lightbulb moment! I’m crossing into new territory, teacher territory! I think a venn diagram expresses how I feel more appropriately. 2 circles overlap each other. Student circle and Teacher circle, and in the middle is me, the Actor. I will always be a student of acting, I am a professional actor continually progressing in my career, and now, a teacher as well. I like being in this middle ground.

As an actor/artist I spend so much time thinking about myself that I find this amazingly refreshing to focus on helping other people.

I can’t wait for all the neat things I’ll learn from teaching others. Man, I love learning more about this craft.

To new territory!

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SAG-AFTRA Conservatory’s Summer Intensive Recap

Last weekend I went to the SAG-AFTRA Conservatory’s Summer Intensive. It felt just like camp! I loved it. So much great information. Wonderful people to meet and hear from. Running from class to class. Lunch on the quad….And all the conversations I overheard while walking around. The happy, the hopeful, the determined voice of the actors there. Such a wide range of people too. Those new to the union, vets of the union, “young”, “old”, different types, looks, quirks, etc. All here because we want to learn (well… there were those few who we just looking to get something) but I loved the energy. I didn’t want to go in jaded or cynical like I knew everything. I just wanted to learn more about the business that I want to have a continuing career in.

I think the most important information (or reminders) I took away was
1) Own the role and the room when you walk into an audition.
2) Casting Directors have a tough job! Also, they are human.

I think I’ll start with the second thing first: Casting Directors are people and they work hard. I met with and listened to quite a few panels with casting directors who cast for a wide range of projects. Here are a few of my notes from this weekend on it:
– If you do good work, we’ll find you. Keep doing good work!
– Good work rises to the top.
– You have more power when you are having fun with your audition.
– Your mailings are seen.
– In your reel, show what they might not see in the audition.
– Reel- showcase you doing something great.
– Your picture needs to be on everything. Name and face. Always linked together.
– Show up at callbacks as you did for the first audition.
– Always have your sides with you.
– Do theatre. Casting directors see theatre!

There was quite a bit of notes I took at the panels. Some contradicted each other – which is why it’s important to do your homework. It feel so much easier once you put a face with the name. It was also great to hear that they have pressure to do well also…well not “great” to hear but it helps to know we are all human and we are doing what we love, even when it is tough. It is also important to be aware of the etiquette for staying in touch with casting directors. It’s great to keep it business-like. Good to stay in touch sharing about the latest project you are working on but refrain from sending things “just to say ‘hi'”. I think it’s important to trust in time and letting your career unfold organically. It’s like being in a relationship. You know that forcing things does not end well. I like the idea of sending a postcard or flyer or something announcing your latest work is great to do once a month. It may take a few months for your name and face to start to be recognizable and that’s ok. Keep doing your own projects and getting out there. You’re time will come.

When I went to the SAG-AFTRA new member orientation I heard one speaker say “We’re all in line for the concert, don’t worry you’ll get in as long as you stay in line”. I like that. Trust in the timing to be right.

Ok, so Owning the Role and the Room:
I love that you can do this simply by doing your homework. Read the script or as much as you are given. Read beyond the crossed out part on your sides. Soak in everything. Research the show and find out what style, tone, and timing it has. Make it personal to you. Have a point of view and commit to it. Enjoy the fact that you got called in! That alone is something amazing when you think of the sheer number of submissions casting directors get. This is your time to act. You are doing what you love! All this was reiterated by the casting directors as well as the teachers teaching about auditions.

Another great reminder was to BREATHE! Get connected to yourself, the room, and the people in the room. Your nerves may be nagging so just acknowledge and embrace them. Yes they are there and they are there because you care so much.

There was so much great information and inspiration I walked away with from the summer intensive. I am excited to be involved with the conservatory for Fall/Spring terms as well. Thank you SAG-AFTRA for all your wonderful benefits your provide. I look forward to fully taking advantage of many of your benefits. There is so much there that you provide to help us along our career.

I can’t say enough how great it was to be around all these people. And then starting today I got to talk to my two accountability partners for the Dallas Travers class I’m taking. How wonderful to check in with two really great girls who are also on their way to making this a life long career.

I’m so inspired to not rush to the finish line but take it slow and steady and for the long haul.

Have a lovely week everyone!

 

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Branding: Another Way of Storytelling

Happy Wednesday! I skipped last week since I was out of town pretty much all week and also because of the holiday. 4th of July is one of my favorites, the other being Thanksgiving. Who doesn’t love to hang out with friends and family and eat tons of good food?!

Ok, so this week’s topic: Branding, finding your type, your style, your character.

This can be quite a daunting part of learning the biz of acting. I know it’s not something I was taught in college acting classes. In college you believe and are challenged to play EVERY part. I remember in high school I played a grandma, I’ve been Pinocchio, a princess, a curmudgeonly middle aged man, a 6 year old (when I was 21), a pirate, and many other fun things through my theatre career.

But here I am in Tinsel Town and there is a different mindset to get used to.

Branding is nothing new to Hollywood. If you think of Cary Grant, Dorris Day, Rock Hudson, Charlie Chaplin, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Shirley Temple, Gary Cooper, Jimmy Stewart, and so very many more, those names evoke an image in your mind. I can hear their voice and see their face and character’s spirit with each person I think of. I remember reading in both a Cary Grant biography and also a Dorris Day biography that they would only agree to roles that fit their character or the image they were building.

The other day my friend posted a tweet about how branding is just storytelling. I thought that was such a great way to think of it. Here we are in this world of storytelling and loving the art of it and the moment we have to go into “business mode” a lot of us just want to shut down. But what if you look at yourself as a wonderfully amazing product that can help people (that’s what you do for casting directors – help them put the pieces of the story together). Part of my homework for Dallas Travers‘ class is to do a castability survey. I gave a few surveys out to my friends and when I got them back it was really interesting to see what commonalities they saw and what different sides of me they saw as well.

I know it can feel like you are being boxed in when someone asks what your “type” is but I like to think of this this way:

What is the first impression I give off? What roles/characters do I feel like I have in my back pocket? What do I relate to? This is my starting point. I also know that consistency is a great thing in presentation. How can you recognize Coke, Pepsi, Target, Disney, etc from a far off distance? They have a very specific look and feel and have kept it up for a very long time. So that’s what I work on next for all my mailings and marketing things.

Things that I like: Bright colors (blue and green most of all), polka dots, “vintage” things (circa 1920s-1960s), and a bright happy feeling to my surroundings – so I infuse all my marketing with that. It makes it so fun. I don’t feel like I need fit a mold of someone else’s when it’s all my favorite things. And I think that also backs up my character and style. I’m upbeat, quirky, have an old-soul, and remind people of old Hollywood. When I walk into the audition room I know that I bubble over with energy (mostly excitement and nerves for the meeting) so I know that I can come off as spunky and funny and also say really awkward things on accident…

So, for now, lets just say my “type” is the quirky, brainy, sometimes naive, girl next door. Great. I know I am capable of a wider range but for now that depth and knowing who I am is what makes my living those “quirky” characters so different from everyone else’s. No one else can be a Julisa. Just me.

Trust in that. When you feel you must only box yourself into one character type right now, know that you bring so much more to the table when you walk in that audition room. You have a wealth of stories and life in you. Be you, and that’s interesting! The “packaging” just helps you get in the door a bit faster.

 

These are just my thoughts as I explore this crazy business. I’m sure in time I’ll have much more insight, but this is what I have right now and I just wanted to share my thoughts with you.

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Wonderfully Working Every Day As An Actor

I think it is a common misconception that the only days you “work” as an actor are the days you go to an audition or book something. I know I used to think that.

A couple months ago I got a wonderfully unique opportunity: I was able to quit my crappy part-time job. It was quite a leap of faith (for myself and also my husband) for me to drop pretty much everything and put all my focus on my career.

Since that wonderful last day I have made sure that every day is my work day. I start at 8am and “clock out” at 5:30. In between those hours I check in to see if can submit for any roles posted on the actor’s sites like LA Casting, Actors Access, Casting Frontier, and Backstage. I submit voice over auditions on Voice 123. I also work on my craft – practicing my voice lessons, reading another play, working on sides or a monologue.  I submit my own creative ideas and make a daily effort to post something funny and/or creative on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Vine. Vine is a new favorite of mine. I get to make a story in 9 seconds! I love the constraints of 140 characters, 9 second videos, or even the new 15 second videos on Instagram. It’s easy to scoff at it as more social media noise, more pictures of cats, food, and shoes, but by choosing to use it as another medium for your art makes it seem so much more fun, not to mention you get to do your craft even more often. Storytelling!

I’ve been working especially hard the last few weeks. I’ve signed up for The Actors’ Business Breakthrough with Dallas Travers – starting next month and I can’t be more excited. My goal is to have acting be my full time profession – consistently. This isn’t about becoming famous or a 15 minute flame. I want to set myself up for a lifetime of the work that I love. Sure there will be crazy ups and downs, busy times and slow, but there is nothing I would rather be doing. Trust me, I’ve tried (e.g. I’m a HORRIBLE bank teller).

I also find new information about the biz daily. There is so much information out there! I’ve come across great and amazing podcasts (like Bonnie Gillespie’s and Leslie Kahn’s). Danielle Eskinazi has a great site and also an app!

However, with all of this great information, things to do, classes you MUST take, and the feeling like you’re juggling a million plates in the air it can get a bit overwhelming. I’m still in the process of learning how to effectively manage my time and attention. Too much on the computer looking up new things or posting or discovering yet ANOTHER THING I MUST DO AS AN ACTOR gets me crossed eyed.

The pendulum swings mighty far both ways. You get so entranced in all the things you should do and you start working on them. You get up and then check your e-mail and Facebook. You might take a break long enough to make a cup of tea or coffee and then you get locked into reading another acting site or article. You update your own site, Facebook page, twitter, play the ukulele, etc and suddenly its past lunch time and you haven’t eaten anything yet. Now you’re just grumpy but something keeps itching at you to work just a little longer. “Just 5 more minutes!” You do this for a few weeks, maybe longer, and then you feel yourself burning out. So you give yourself a little time off, you deserve it! and suddenly you’re getting sucked in to Newsroom or all of Doctor Who or Modern Family. You tell yourself this is “research”. Before you know it, you’ve been “researching” for a week straight…

So I’m working on giving myself time limits. I even make a to-do list for the week and separate it to 5 sticky notes stuck to the side of my computer. One for each day. I only put what fits on there and so far this has helped me not overwhelm myself. I also get to see every day I’m a working professional. I love it. Also, its a lovely excuse to visit Staples or Office Max. I love office supplies!

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It’s about creating a habit. A habit of coming to work everyday. Somedays are hard, some rewarding, some boring, but you show up everyday. Whenever I feel myself lacking inspiration I go back and read The War of Art. Such a great book to get your rear in gear.

Before I sign off, I’d like to add that I hope to write regularly here. I’m aiming for every Wednesday – now that I’ve put it out there I can’t flake out! I hope you find what I write inspiring, informative, or at least slightly entertaining.

Lately I’ve been working on figuring out my “type”/”brand”/”style”/”personality” in context of Hollywood. I think that will be next week’s post.

Have Fun, Play, Live the dream!

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So many new things to update you on!

Back to reality after surviving (and having a total blast) with the wedding!

The new Nickelodeon show I booked a few weeks ago just announced their big premier day! Sam & Cat premieres June 8th. I’ll be sure to post when my episode airs!

Happy Hour Sketch Comedy will be kicking off it’s Indiegogo fundraiser in just a couple weeks and the premier of Season 3 will begin in July!

Big Bear Theatre Project will be having a New Season Launch and Fundraiser Party in about month’s time. Currently we’re reading more plays and whittling down our choices for next season’s shows. So many good plays to choose from!

More sketches are being filmed for Big Bear Sketch and will be out soon.

I just began working with a new improv group that will be having our first show in June. Planning on a show a month in LA comedy venues. Details to come on that soon!

Working more on getting things ready for The Big Bear Lake International Film Festival

And, last but not least, I’ll be teaching a workshop on Laughter Yoga at the Big Bear Yoga Festival at the end of the summer.

Jumping right back in to all the work I love! But, of course, just as I’m getting into the swing of things – my husband and I are taking a trip up to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland for little honeymooning and some artistic inspiration.

Great things are happening!

 

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Chaplin, Hollywood, and 5 Years.

Happy Birthday Charlie Chaplin!!

He’s been my inspiration in so many ways. I still get giddy by the sight of his old studio on La Brea.

It’s also the 5th anniversary of moving from my Pacific Northwestern hometown to Hollywood.

No idea what was ahead of me then. I still have no idea what is ahead of me now, but I do know that I feel fulfilled and happy as can be.

5 years ago I picked up and moved to LA planning on being there for only a year. Just to take improv classes at the iO West and then I was going to be off to New York City to pursue my career in the Theatahhh!

A year went by, I moved to 3 different apartments, found a circle of friends that instantly felt like family. I finished up my training (although, do you ever finish learning improv? heck no!) at the iO West, auditioned and was put onto a regularly performing improv team on Friday nights. I started picking up little jobs here and there. Dabbled in background/extra work. 3 months was all I could handle of it. And when things were starting to look really dark – I was completely broke, I gave my roommate a month’s notice. I couldn’t pay rent, my bags were packed, and I was going to head back home. Right after calling to notify my parents to air out my old room I got a call from the AFTRA-SAG credit union offering me a job (I had applied weeks earlier but had given up). Called the parents back. Told them “nevermind”, LA wasn’t done with me yet.

The credit union helped me pay rent and make some really great connections with other artists in the industry. Suffice it to say, I was much better at networking than being a bank teller…. I was let go 9 months later. I honestly couldn’t have been happier. I knew it wasn’t the job for me, but who was I to turn down a steady income offered to me? A couple weeks of unemployment and I was back to figuring out what roof I would stay under. Fly home? Crash on a friend’s couch? Stick it out a little longer? Thankfully I was rescued by dear friends who had an extra room. I made a promise to them. 2 months. That’s as long as I would stay… whether I found a job or not.

Thanks to my friends – who I like to call my “heart family” I was able to find work on commercial and film sets as a craft service girl. In those two months I made enough to get back on my feet and secure a studio apartment all to myself. Finally! After moving 5 times in about 3 years and having crazy roommates (at one point I lived in a house with 10 other girls), I finally had a place to call my own. A little over 2 years in LA and I was starting to feel settled. I had a theatre company I was part of and taking scene study classes there. I filmed my first silent film. Was regularly taking voice lessons, working on sets, and exploring more of LA. I even got to work at the Oscars! The fear of not being able to pay next month’s rent was always there but I kept on. Trusting things would come up. And they did.

When crafty gigs slowed down I managed to find a job with one of my castmates I was in a play with at the time. I started working with him and another friend who was in the play. Not only did I get a job out of that play, but I also met my future husband. Not the castmate, his brother. One of my best girlfriends is marrying the castmate now as well.

See!? How little I knew back then! One of the girls I became best friends with right at the beginning of my Hollywood adventures would turn out to be my future sis in-law. We always seemed to date the same guys all those years, no surprise we would marry brothers.

This time last year I had been dating Eric for about 9 months and were talking about moving in together. He lived in Big Bear, CA (about 100 miles east of LA). I wasn’t getting many auditions and I was tired of the shooting happening outside my apartment on a regular basis so I thought, why not? The transition wasn’t easy. I still miss my LA family very very much. But I made new friends…

Since moving to Big Bear I have had more auditions and more creative projects going than in my first 4 years. I still go down to LA regularly. Booked my first TV show a couple weeks ago and booked my first commercial a couple months ago! Now a proud member of the SAG-AFTRA union too!

Busy writing/filming/ and acting in a sketch comedy show (Happy Hour Sketch Comedy) here in Big Bear and I am also in the early stages of creating a non-profit theatre company – Big Bear Theatre Project.

5 years. I heard before I moved that for a lot of people in LA it takes about 3-5 years for things to feel like they are falling into place and for you to figure out just where in the heck you’re going.

I’m getting married next month. Now there’s a new adventure!

I’m happy. And I’m super happy that every time I was on the verge of giving up, for some odd reason I didn’t or couldn’t.

So, my dear friend, keep going. It truly is about the journey.

 

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