I am the queen of staying in my comfort zone.
Sure, that probably sounds funny coming from an actor. But it is true. My entire career is one huge UN-comfort zone so why add any pressure? Or, that is my theory anyway. With so many years of show biz under my belt, I am very, very rarely scared of anything acting-related anymore. (Maybe that gives a little hope to those of you just starting out that still have knobby knees walking into the casting room!)
All that lack of fear is out the door these days...
If you have been following this blog, you may remember that I have a hit webseries called The Haunting of Sunshine Girl. There have been a few times it has been mentioned here. But if you are just tuning in to the saga that is Haunted Sunshine, this blog for Showfax might help catch you up: http://more.showfax.com/plus/pov/2011/09/actors_are_liars.html
So, now for the fear part...
Haunted Sunshine has grown rapidly and is must-see YouTube for thousands of fans. We have gotten into a comfortable rhythm with content and the timing of posting and such. Must be time to shake it up then, right? And, oh how we are shaking it up...
One of the keys elements of Sunshine's success has been the interactivity with her growing fan base. She loves to ask the fan's opinions on all kinds of things. And they love to give her advice. So with that in mind, we will be taking it to the next level. We will be giving even more "power" to the viewers. And THAT scares me! Most of our fans are about 13 years old and write everything like it was a text! "OMG!!! i freakn <3 u 2 peaces!" is a recent (and very common) email! The thought of trusting a girl raging with BeiberFever with my baby (literally since the star of the show is my kid) terrifies me. But it also intrigues me... doing something that has never been done before, changing the face of the game, stepping out on a creative ledge...all that excites me.
Because the actual episodes explaining HOW the audience will be aiding in the Sunshine adventure won't release for another few days, I can't go into too many details. But all this fear has to be channeled somewhere...so writing a blog is a good option! Lets just say...exciting things are coming.
And I am being brave.
photo courtesy of Levy Moroshan, official photographer of The Haunting of Sunshine Girl
Having just visited his son who lives in Hong Kong, he felt he could help me clear the air on my own lineage.
I could feel him looking at me as if I were a glass figurine sitting on a shelf in an Oriental antique shop.
And I could feel myself fighting the feelings that come when I know I am being objectified.
I am actually a mix of Korean, possibly Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese, etc. Most of us are, but in short, my family is dominantly Northern Chinese.
"No you're not. You don't have northern features. You're southern," the man persisted, even though he didn't know anything about me. True story.
The waiting room is almost as important as the audition room. You must do what is necessary for you to stay calm and focused:
Don’t be swayed by the girl in 4 inch shoes and a short dress!
Don’t be swayed by the tall guy doing yoga in the corner!
Don’t be swayed by the pretty girl putting on lipstick!
Don’t be swayed by the guy giving you googly eyes and trying to flirt with you!
Being the oldest of eighteen immediate cousins, it takes a lot for us to get together; cousins, parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, siblings and all.
That's about 50 people on my mother's side alone.
And of all the cousins there, I am the only one not pulling in a six figure salary.
I am the only one who isn't a software engineer, or a chemical engineer, or a financial engineer (if there is such a title, oh hell! why not!), or working in the medical field somehow.
I am the only one whose lifestyle is an enigma to everyone else. I am also the only one who has the freedom to take three weeks off in June.
And yet my aunts can't help but ask, "Ann, when are you going to turn that television family into a real one?" Ugh.
However, if there is anything that garners the center of attention at a Chinese wedding, besides the beautiful bride and groom, it is the food.
This week I finally edited and posted my latest theatrical reel. I finally got the new clips I was waiting for last Thursday evening and began the excruciating process of selecting which scenes to use. Then, I spent several days agonizing on what order to put the clips in. Finally, I settled on what I thought was the best mix while still landing in that 2-3 minute sweet spot for a reel.
Sounds pretty easy, right? Well, it wasn't. Here's why.
Over the course of an hour and a half I received offers for 3 auditions. Big ones.
One for a commercial in New York, an audition at ABC, and an audition for a Tony Award winning National Tour.
As the afternoon progressed, I received more emails -
I was being requested to audition for a pilot shooting next month.
I was being requested to sing at a charity event.
And another audition, this time for a sitcom.
This all happened in ONE AFTERNOON.
The epic battle over tea has ended. We shot the last week of the Tea War TV show in good ol' Hengdian, "the Chinese Hollywood". After the wrap party, I returned to Beijing to find a strange little gig waiting for me in nearby Tianjin. A famous Hong Kong director was shooting a film with mainland Chinese stars and felt that they needed some help with their English lines. Therefore they decided to seek out an English dialogue coach, namely: me. I slept a night in Beijing and road the half-hour train to Tianjin the next day. I stayed in a room that night with a less famous Chines actor and watched The Pianist on TV, (which made we wonder when that Chinese-made Adrien Brody movie is going to come out!) The next day, I helped a Chinese model translate excerpts from Dream of the Red Mansion (one of the four major Chinese classics) into English, and stood by with earphones to listen to her pronunciation and (perhaps more importantly) inflection.
I am currently working on three different webseries (two lead roles and a series regular role), the most recent of which is Shut Yo' Mouth, "a fistful of funktified, take no prisoners, 70s-style ass-kickin'. Comin' atchya." The idea was the brain child of my friend Andrew Parkhurst and I'm helping write and produce it with him and my roommate Will Wallace.
The main character in the series, Detective Dick Grizzle (played by yours truly), is a 70s-style cop fighting crime in a modern city. Clinging to the ethos of 1970s law enforcement, Grizzle is a man out of his time. He's 90% Dirty Harry, 10% Ron Burgundy. He tries to be an enforcer, but in the end bungles every case he's on.
Come on! I can't not go there if I'm on the East Coast, right?
The city looked ominous to me on the drive from the airport.
Those skyscrapers looked like monstrous shadows of all the reasons why everyone who is anyone, is hard pressed to leave the city in the first place.
My voice teacher, MaryJo Duprey, a native of New York, who is currently a professor of voice at UCLA, put it perfeclty when she said,
"New York is like a hot young lover who knocks you around and messes with your head, who you just can't get enough of; while Los Angeles is like a husband, warm, cozy, easy to live with, but maybe sometimes just a little bit boring in comparison to the lover."
If anything this time around, I was determined to see a Broadway show, while visiting my old 'lover'.
I haven't yet. Not really, anyway. There was a scene in a play I did in college where my character was constantly changing her outfit, so naturally I ended up with just my underwear on more than once, but that was college, and all art students get naked in college, right?
I do not have a problem with artistic nudity. At all. I've always been all for the human body and the admiration of it, and even though I do not consider myself an exhibitionist in the least, I have never taken personal issue with anyone (myself included) sans clothes on the stage or in front of a camera, as long as it doesn't feel arbitrary, gratuitous or any of those other words that generally define something that doesn't deserve that kind of vulnerability from an artist.
There are lots of things I love about being in this neighborhood in LA (awesome roommates, the pool, ample parking, fewer egos, etc.), but the one thing I haven’t found near me yet is a good coffee shop. And as any artist knows, a good coffee shop is indispensable to fostering productive creativity (as opposed to unproductive creativity). There are some truly amazing coffee shops in LA, just none really close to home apparently. This of course begs the question, “What makes for a good coffee shop?”
Glad you asked.
1. Half Home/Half Office. The beauty of a good coffee shop is that it’s not home, but not work. It’s that perfect happy medium that let’s you get shit done, but doesn’t look over your shoulder and make sure you’re doing it right. It’s not home, so there are less distractions and you can’t watch TV or roam over to the fridge every 5 minutes, but it’s not work where you feel the need to look busy constantly and have to be subversive in your internet surfing. It has familiar faces, but not familiar enough that you spend your entire time talking instead of doing work.
It is often said, "Dress for the job you want, not the job you have." While this is true in most careers, it can be crucial for the auditioning actor. What you wear (or don't wear) to an audition is a huge part of the first impression, and can have a lot to do with how casting directors perceive you and how far you'll go in the casting process for a particular job.
Even so, how specific do you prefer a CD to get in prescribing the audition wardrobe?
I've had two auditions lately that made me utter an audible, "Really???" when I received the audition wardrobe instructions.
I have long been a fan of Hemingway's literary works and a romancer of what he must have been like as a person, in person.
I rushed around the block to the ticket booth just fifteen minutes before they were giving their last tour.
Hemingway was a man's man, who left behind a legacy of literary pearls followed by a trail of heartbroken ladies, each marking a new period in his life.
As an actor, I've often heard this question from other non-actors, "Why is it so hard for actors to keep a relationship together?"
And I've also heard this one, "You know what they say, once your personal life goes to sh--t, your career takes off!"
Tonight I'm performing at the Manhattan Monologue Slam, and I'd love for you to come!
The Manhattan Monologue Slam provides an opportunity for actors to perform in front of a panel of agents and casting directors (and sometimes stars -- Jenna Fischer, Sarah Silverman, and Andy Dick have all been panelists).
There is a competition, and the audience scores the monologues from their cell phones. So if you come, vote for me. ;)
If you want to participate, you can too! Just prepare a 2-minute monologue and show up at the Bowery Poetry Club tonight at 9:30pm to meet with the producers for the 10:00pm show. Admission is $10, but only $5 for performers (and either way, you get a free beer).
Hope to see you there!
Since embarking on a career as a musical theater actor, I've been holding myself back because of my fear of dancing. When I go into dance class, I feel self-conscious not knowing the technique, not being able to retain the choreography, and feeling a bit like a dancing elephant from Fantasia.
I've written about repairing my relationship to dance before, and I'm still working on it. I came to a realization the other day -
Dancing is fun.
For years I've treated classes as medicine for my lack of skill. I signed up for a dance work study only to find that the classes left me feeling humiliated, and I couldn't keep up with my self-imposed four-class-a-week schedule. While in class, I'd intensely focus on retaining as much as possible so that I would "learn to dance" faster and be more proficient at dance calls.
I’ve been on a rash of Inside the Actors Studio viewings lately and I feel like I owe James Lipton a debt of gratitude. I’ve been filming all week and each night when I get home, I've been watching old episodes as a way to relax and find inspiration. I've looked up some of my favorite actors and directors who I hadn't seen on the show before - Mickey Rooney, Steven Spielberg, Ian McKellen, Michael Caine, and James Cameron.
In an industry with so much negativity, it’s great to watch these titans of cinema talk about the days before they were famous, about their craft, and about their non-film lives. Agents, managers, casting directors, other actors, and even the public seem to slant towards the negative when it comes to unknown actors (“you’re wasting your time;” “it’s so hard;” “you’ll never make it;” “you're not [fill in the blank] enough;” etc.). It's nice to know that whenever you need a pick-me-up from all that abuse, James will be waiting like a warm cup of tea on a cold night with a new, inspiring story.
I don't have an agent.
I want an agent.
How else will I get to audition for products (birth control, razors, tampons, and yogurt) that I should so perfectly be selling on TV?
Three years ago I did mailings to several agencies and heard nothing. I did a showcase at NYU a few months later and heard nothing. I got a few referrals to agencies. Still, NOTHING.
So here I am, July 2012, doing another mailing, but this time I'm for real about it.
In a series of very calculated moves over the course of a month, I presented myself to a handful of agencies. On this particular day, I was to do "the dropoff."
For the non-actors out there, it means I would drop off a packet to the office. As in drive around town, park, go up the elevator, and actually speak to someone. In person.