…you were so encouraging about my decision to pursue my writing five years ago, and I wanted to let you know that I made good on all that. My memoir about getting kicked out of my Christian high school comes out from Little, Brown next month, and I’ll be reading and signing at The Grove Barnes & Noble. I just found out there’s a big banner with my picture in the atrium there, and it makes me laugh when I read what I wrote you at the bottom of this email back in 2006. I said:
“When I came to your class, I thought I was just going to get some good comedy technique. Instead, I got abundantly clear direction that is going to alter the course of my 30’s, and probably my life. Now THAT’S what I call value.”
I was exactly right about that. I just finished writing a miniseries that shoots in Canada this summer, and got to join the WGA. And I’ve still been acting, too. I did a play in New York not long ago, and am still doing a web soap that won the Emmy for best short form content in 2011. You were instrumental in helping me shift my focus to where it needed to be, and I just wanted to say “thank you.”
You changed my life.
During most of the rehearsal process I’ve been extremely present and listening and doing all the great things that feel good. The past two days, however, I started putting pressure on myself because we were supposed to be off book. I felt myself completely clam up and go into my left brain trying to make things right/be perfect. The director said she could see the scene getting ahead of me. I would rush ahead to try and keep up.
It’s amazing how quickly all of the work I’ve done can go out the window and I can become this non-listening robot, regurgitating lines, half the time not even the right lines, because of the insane pressure I put on myself. I have no idea how far along I’m supposed to be in this process since it is the first play I have ever done, so there’s a lot of fear boiling inside of me from that.
I’m so glad I’m doing this. It is scaring the fuck out of me right now, but I think it’s going to do something good for me as an actor and a person. Now I’m concentrating on breathing, being okay in the unknown, allowing myself to suck. You know, all the go-to LK genius moves. Now that I’m aware of what is happening, it is amazing to be in the middle of it — seeing it and feeling it all happen. My brain shifting from right to left, my breathing becoming shorter, my GATs turning into BATs, my free- flowing creativity/fun getting cut off by my need to be precise and perfect.
An agent wrote this to an actor after he interviewed for rep:
I wanted to let you know that we decided against offering you representation. We really liked you but ultimately thought we had too many on the roster in your category and weren’t confident that we could do a better job for you than your current agency. I would have liked for it to work out but I also know that if agents are on the fence you’re probably better off staying put. Anyway, keep in touch – I’d love to know of any success you have. I wish you all the best.
The actor then wrote me this:
I’m trying to tell myself that I didn’t care while trying not to cry. Even though it wasn’t something that I needed, per se, why do I still feel like complete shit and worthless? Why does the “close-call” rejection hurt so much worse?
First of all? Cry. Cry immediately. And loudly.
Then try to, as Abraham-Hicks (www.abraham-hicks.com) says, “Reach for a better-feeling thought.”
You can continue to think, i.e., “I suck. They don’t want me.” Or you can CHOOSE to thank, i.e., “Thank God I’m not moving from an agency I’m not wild about to an agency that can’t help me. This gives me the opportunity to find an agency that is FABULOUS for me and will get me lots of amazing auditions. THANK GOD!!!!”
I survive this town by working as a SAG-AFTRA background performer. Yep, an extra. It’s easy, flexible, and I can usually do some of my own work while I’m doing the ‘hurry up and wait’ game. Soooo, last week I found a background job on a pilot called TOGETHERNESS, created, produced and directed by Jay and Mark Duplass with Amanda Peet, Melanie Lynskey and Ken Marino, among others. I submitted myself for it on LA Casting. They called me and told me to report to set the next day at 7 pm. My reaction was, “Ugh…a night call. Gross. But, oh well. At least I’ll make some cash and get some work done.”
The next day I showed up on set and grabbed the shuttle to extras holding. There were about 50 of us. The 2nd AD took out a clipboard and hollered my name. “Present!” I called out. He told another girl and me to follow him to a nearby trailer, whereupon Mark and Jay Duplass came out, looked us over, and declared that I would play the part of Ken‘s Girlfriend.
It all happened so fast! The 2nd took me to the hair/makeup trailer and sat me down. Suddenly, a voice at the far end called out, “Hey, Keesha. I’m Amanda.” I looked over, and it was Amanda Peet! Sitting next to her, another voice said, “Hi Keesha. Melanie.” And it was Melanie Lynskey. First of all, I STILL had no clue what was happening or what Ken‘s Girlfriend even meant! And NOW I’m sitting in hair/make-up with AMANDA PETTE AND MELANIE LYNSKY! Yes, freaking out a little! I mean, how did I go from doing what I thought would be a lousy background job… to THIS?!
After hair/make-up, Amanda patted me on the back and said, “See ya out there!” And I was shuttled to another site. Once there, Jay Duplass found me and explained that Ken‘s girlfriend was an actual part, and what all of that entailed. At first, I was NERVOUS AS CRAP!! NOTHING LIKE THIS HAS EVER HAPPENED TO ME! But eventually, I settled into it. (I had to basically get screamed at by Amanda Peet’s character like a million times. She kept asking if I was okay. It was fun!)
We then proceeded to shoot the scene 80 ba-jillion times, into the wee hours of the morning. It was the most fun I’ve ever had in my life!!!
I guess the moral of this story is…even if you’re doing a ‘lousy’ background job (hey, we all gotta do what we gotta do, right?), don’t ever think that it’s just that! Because even if you think it’s a long shot…you never know….you COULD just get an actual part from it.
Just a note of gratitude.
Life has been more than challenging these past few years. I battled anorexia/bulimia and a serious drug addiction for more than half my life. I will celebrate two years of recovery at the end of this month (God willing). Life is different now. I have a new way of thinking and dealing…I am no longer trapped in victimhood. I no longer self sabotage. I no longer pity myself. I no longer manipulate and try to be something that I am not. I know you are a friend of Bill W too and that has inspired me.
Ten years ago I wanted to study with you, but my disease kept me stuck and disillusioned about the fantasy of this business. I didn’t know the reality and had expectations that when not met, spun me into a continuous dark lonely and extremely dangerous web. But now I enjoy a freedom from that.
I finally have the courage to pursue my dream. And I get to do it this time on solid ground and in a sound mind and BODY. This time from a different place. A place of self love.
Everyone that I have met at your studio has been a direct reflection of the person you must be. We have only met a few times, but it is clear that you are the real deal…not only as a teacher in this craft, but as a person.
Ok, maybe that was a bit mushy…but I felt the desire to express the impact and power of a small little choice like picking up the 500 pound phone and registering for a triage.
Thanks for having a place for peeps like me.
I just wanted to let you know that we’ve cast ‘Nigel’ and guess who we cast…? Drum roll please….
David L. Murphy!!! [aka Murph]
I want to thank you for sending him our way and for personally sending out invites to all of your actors. We truly appreciate your support.
Also, it was very interesting being behind the table at casting. Our monthly “auditions” in class definitely helped me look for things while we searched for ‘Nigel’. Several factors included looking for buttons & improv, looking out for moments before and after, having activities, etc. You know, a human being living, NOT an actor acting.
I will also say David was pinned and then cast due to his preparation. He was the only one, right from the start, who was off book. From this action alone, he allowed us to relax, trust and enjoy his performances. He appeared professional. It also gave all of us the opportunity to play more and allowed him the freedom to say “fuck it” and to roll with the punches. The other actors were too locked-in with how they thought it should look. So while they would give a good first read, when it came to taking notes few of them could listen and adjust. It was fascinating to watch.
We’re very excited to have him on board. We start shooting in June, so we’re all getting pumped.
In Monday night class, we were all freaking out about last nite’s episode of THE GOOD WIFE. Somebody said, “Cary Agos can’t leave the firm!” And then another girl said click here.
Naturally, I sent it to Matt. He wrote back in part as follows.
This is so beautiful and I am grateful you sent this to me. Please give my love to your class for their amazing compliment. It really means a lot to me (I saved the MP3 on my computer).
I work tirelessly from breaking down the script, to countless hours on set, to watching dailies, to evaluating the final episode… all in an effort to grow, learn, and improve. These words from your class mean that my work and dedication on the craft has an impact on other’s enjoyment. And that is what we all strive for, impacting and affecting others through our work.
. . .
Much love to you and your class.
I wrote a talent manager I really like [which resulted in the following] great email chain. I feel extremely compelled to share and he was happy to let me share his advice:
Me: … I appreciate the fact that you wouldn’t pit your own clients against each other by keeping your roster fair and diverse. . .
Talent Manager: Sure thing. Rosters change and you never know what happens over time. But when you do check back in, always do it with fresh tape so I know what you’re up to and there is a point to the reconsideration. This is just a good rule of thumb with the industry in general. Always try to come back with a new piece of business when trying to entice a rep. (Winning an award was a good reason, but new tape is even better.) I’ve had actors with bad tape, just show up every six months with the same bad tape. That approach, not so surprisingly, gets them nowhere. But I know it’s hard getting good representation and people have to try something.
Me: Thanks for the advice . . . I can’t imagine what it would be like to have hopeful actors always knocking down my door in this town and it’s very kind of you to give feedback…
Talent Manager: Hey, remember that just as actors are knocking down my door and getting rejected, I spend my days trying to knock down casting, network, and producer doors and often get rejected. I live for the YES, but I hear a lot of NO in order to get a YES. And those casting directors lose jobs to their often less-talented peers. And America is telling those networks that they don’t like a lot of the shows that cost millions to make. And those producers work years to make a movie that no one goes to see. Everyone struggles. That’s why it’s important to stay in the game and be resilient.
AH!!! How awesome is that? I figured this was share-worthy.
[emphasis added by LK]
Producing, acting and my life are collectively falling into alignment. Your studio has been more than an acting studio, but a place of healing and self-awareness. When you do the work and have the thoughts you are also then forced to be honest with yourself. I knew when I was reading your blog over Christmas there was something bigger than acting that I would learn from you. I’ve been desperately searching for balance. . . . before . . . it was a toss up between traveling and becoming a certified yoga teacher. All my subconscious wanted was to find this.
“Today’s triage was the first time I received acting instruction where I didn’t feel as though I wanted to dive into traffic. You seem to give your actors careful attention.”