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Dance-tress Acting Up: Want to get paid?

What up, Peeps!


You're an artist, therefore, you work for free, right? That is obviously not true, but that is what the common belief is and that is why you are not getting paid what you DESERVE. Why does this happen? Why do so many companies/people think they can ask artists to volunteer time on their projects, while they reap all the benefits? You'll get a copy of the finished project (if you're lucky) and credit, and maybe, just maybe you'll be on their mind when a paid project comes along.

Let me explain why this happens. Say for example there is a job available for $100/day. A person who is trained, skilled, over qualified, and fully capable declines the job because the rate is incredibly too low for the amount of work you will be asked to do. Break it down by the hour, the job ends up being $8/hour because we all know a day on set can easily be 12 hours, sometimes more. The rate is a bit of a joke when you calculate the years you have invested perfecting your skill. You can make more money in less amount of time waiting tables on a Friday night.

Then, Joe Schmo comes along and accepts the job because he is desperate for work. Now, the company thinks it's an "OK" thing to think that $100 is an acceptable pay rate, therefore they will never pay you for what you deserve because someone else will do it for less. 

Well, way to go Joe Schmo. You have officially lowered the standards for an entire industry. This happens everyday in all areas of entertainment in front and behind the camera. But, how much can you blame Joe Schmo? He wanted to make some money working in his industry that isn't opening any doors for him. And hey, $100 is better than no pay right? What a catch 22. And if you're new and still building up your resume, this is a great opportunity for you. How else are you supposed to grow and network?

On the flip side, super talented Tim McGee, who has invested THOUSANDS of dollars, loads of sweat equity, and time spent away from his family, has to settle for either no work, or stoop down to $8/hr. This is not ok and guess what actors, if the crew isn't making money, there is absolutely no way you're going to get paid.  Unfortunately, as important as you are, you are at the bottom of the totem pole and if you chose not to work for these rates, someone else is lined up right outside ready to take your spot. Ouch.

How can we fix this? Can we all stick together and demand more? Know your worth. I'm not saying that you should be getting rich off student projects, but some of the bigger productions may be able to offer some compensation if we (you, me, her, him, all of us) demand it. All I'm trying to say is, I like my current job, but I love my art. Power of the people, yo.

Have a good suggestion? Let me know and I'll write about it.

Dance-tress Acting Up: Dreams DO come true

Entertain yourself and follow me here :)


You guys, I have some amazing news! Well, it's not quite about me, but a friend of mine. And yes, his good new is my good news. If he can do it, I can do it! He is one of the few people I feel 150% deserves every ounce of good fortune that comes his way. He may call it luck, but I know it's persistence and a boat load of hard work.

I am talking about my friend, Carlos Pratts. If you haven't heard of him yet, you will soon. He stars opposite Kevin Costner in the feature film, "McFarland", which opens THIS Friday. How exciting! Carlos isn't someone I see often, but he is someone I have known for a little while now and I know for a fact, that his journey has not always been smooth sailing. 

Trust me, this business is not easy and there are no answers to why Joe Schmo books and Sally Sue does not (well maybe because Sally Sue is female, but thats a whole other blog). Some people are just luckier than others and I don't call Carlos' years of pounding the pavement an "effortless" over night success.

Times haven't always been easy. Like mine, his family does not live close by. Saving up for a plane ticket to fly home while spending money on acting classes, new head shots, workshops, etc, may mean that there will be some sacrifices that will have to be made. I mean, who doesn't like sitting around at home during the holidays while the rest of the country spends time with their family. And who doesn't like eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner from the 99 cent only store? Actually, I really do enjoy this. Not always the best stuff, but if you're hungry and low on cash, this is survival. 


That's why a success story like this means so much, to everyone. It was worth it and I am so excited to hear about the opportunities that may arise after the film hits theaters. Regardless if it does well or not in the box office, the fact that he has such a prominent role in the film, is a HUGE success in itself.

So, how does this pertain to me and my blog? Well for starters, we should all support one another. And, as Carlos said to me the other day when asking permission to talk about him in this blog, "we are here to inspire", but most importantly, this is just proof that dreams DO come true. If that silver platter isn't dangling on your doorstep, you just have to work really, really stinking hard. If you think you're working hard, work harder because if you're not, someone else is. It may not happen over night or even in 5 years, but it will happen. Be prepared for a marathon.

Steven McQueen

And if you were ever wondering what I consider a "silver platter", it is booking a co-starring or guest starring role on a TV show within 1.5 years of moving to your film hub of choice (unless you have extensive credits from your hometown). It is finding representation within 6 months of moving here. It is having direct connections to "important people". It is going on a leisure vacation and only self submitting to jobs every three days and still auditioning every week because "my agent just submits me to stuff" (ugh, that ones annoying).

"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity"- Roman philospher Seneca

In conclusion of this awesome blog, hard work never disappears so bring the family and support Carlos in Disney's "McFarland", Feb. 20 at a theater near you! Holla

Dance-tress Acting Up: Karōshi

“They're  Dying at their Desks in China as Epidemic of Stress Proves Fatal” was the title of an article I read the other day. It says that approximately 1,600 people die every DAY from over work and stress. That’s about 600k a year! Japan actually has the word, “karōshi”, which literally translates to “death from overwork”. Whoa. I’ve heard the phrase before, but I didn’t actually believe you could die. And here I am in the midst of exhaustion from what I called my “marathon of work”. 

What happened was, I received an email from work saying that they would close fourth of July Weekend (Fri-Sun are my usual scheduled work days). I work at a place that pretty much never closes. We are open all weekend, Easter, Christmas Eve, New Years day, etc, so when I got that email from my boss, I looked into picking up some extra shifts as a way to make up for future lost time. Also, as a way to pay for a new headshot session, a plane ticket to go home, and maybe some decent groceries. In-between writing, filming, editing, dance rehearsals an hour away, and taking my weekly acting class I managed to work 11 of the past 13 days. Very doable for most people, but I don't have a cushy, sit on my butt in a nice air conditioned office kind of job. So for me, it was bit more than I could chew. *NOTE- Not complaining,*

I have a tendency of overloading myself with work and projects. If I’m not writing, I’m filming. If I’m not filming, I’m plotting. I am ALWAYS working on something to be productive. There is that quote that says something along the lines of “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”. Well, I’m trying to get to the point where I could make a living doing all of this, but this isn’t the easiest business for that. I feel like I wasted a lot of my early 20s playing around, and convincing myself that I was doing enough. What a real waste of time. Maybe it wasn’t wasted because I learned from it? Or maybe I needed those years to develop a stronger work habit?

Now, I am at the complete end of the productivity spectrum. I don't stop. I’m making up for lost time. I don't want to stop. I love what I do and if I didn’t, I would most likely be on facebook staring at peoples vacation and wedding photos. Watching them live their dreams while not creating mine.

So, I find myself with 9 whole days off work. Its been fun. A lot of pool time and I started working out again, but to be honest, I’m bored. In fact, its 11pm Sunday night and I’m writing this blog while talking to my friend about what we are going to film next. At least I have some pretty cool hobbies that involve my career. I think I’ll know when it’s really time to take a real break. No karōshi here. Something tells me that when I finally get the chance to travel somewhere cool, I’m going to want to make a mini documentary of it. Hopefully my work will take me cool places.

*Also, if you’re wondering how my experiment went in the “It takes a Village” blog, I got 6 “likes”. Better than none :)

Silencing the Critical Mind of the Spelunkers

How do I deal with an actor who believes they are giving a bad performance?  When negative, self-critical thoughts assault the mind, we all know nothing good can emerge.  I cannot tell you how many times I have watched brilliant actors ace 98% of a scene and then struggle through the same line each time, which can be a real problem if it gets them down and prevents them from being able to focus on their performance.


 How does anybody deal with the act of underperforming?  Many, many people suffer from a frozen rigidity when called upon to perform, either from overthinking the situation, or because they are afraid to try for fear of failure, that dreaded beast.  In either case, anxiety flows like a deep river of blood through the veins.  It courses, ever present, in the depths of the heart and soul.  It presses upon our fragile egos with the weight of Heaven and Hell, narrowing our minds and scattering our focus.

If such a moment afflicts me, must I then surmise that I'm unqualified to do whatever it is I'm frozen from being able to do?   If it affects my actors, must I surmise that I miscast the role?

Not necessarily. 

Any kind of creativity requires extensive patience and faith in our own abilities.  We are all magical creatures with a divine life force inside of us, the power of which exceeds the outer limits of our numerical comprehension.  I have seen time and again how a young, tepid soul can burst out from underneath his/her own negativity simply by gaining a little confidence, and in so doing shine the brightest light upon the world with the profound energy of a caged eagle spreading its wings for the first time.  Such a moment of breaking free is always possible for any actor.  The question is whether or not a camera will be rolling when they finally have their moment.

Which brings me to how a director can silence a critical mind.  It starts with trust, both of myself and of my talent. 

Actors are not props, nor cattle.  They are adventurers, explorers, expert and brave and intellectually nimble in their self-awareness.  They are great spelunkers of the mind and body, catching the currents of swirling emotions and myriad possible moments to seize and follow.  Actors are at their finest when they are caught up in the excitement of this current, trusting themselves to follow their instinct and enter the darkness that is the unknown future, enter the arena of the scene at hand which holds an unspecified path to success, enter a dreamland where fear is held at bay and the conception of success flows from every possible choice.  It is on this plane I need to guide and direct the actor, so that the performance becomes the realm of discovery, rather than construction.

If an actor is flubbing a line, I must trust that some part of them is resisting it for a reason.  I can insist, I can be stern, and I can try explaining it to them.  All are necessary tools for a director.  But if I exhaust myself trying to get them to read the line the right way, I must look inward.  Am I meeting the actor in that strange field of dreams wherein we can discover the performance together?  Could I perhaps rewrite the line, the blocking, or the pacing of the scene?  In the past I have told them to whisper, to pause between each line and say the line again nonverbally, or to improv a new line.  It is sometimes helpful to introduce a new prop, or even a moment of interactivity with an existing prop.  Anything that adds texture, dynamism, and possibility gives me a chance to direct the actor into a different emotional state and focus.  Almost always, it not only resolves the issue, but improves the scene as well.

Of course, I also bring hard-headed discernment that allows me to gauge realistically how their performance is coming across.  I am the kind of director that knows exactly what I want, but I build good performances only because my actors trust me.  I build that trust by trusting them first.  I see potential in every decision they make.  Through trust, we find the path the other is following, and that path involves a mutual respect for the discerning eye of self-critical judgment.  It is not the reasoning that is important - it is the way we react that is important.  There is always a solution that works around the negativity, but only if I believe fully in my actor and in myself.