Latest Entries »

Being an actor is as thrilling as it is hard work. The characters – if they are great – tap into the deepest parts of yourself and bring forth something as haunting as it is emotionally beautiful. Writing, by extension, is the sole control and crafting of characters and emotions until their story pours from the page. I don’t know how to be just an actor or just a writer, and I’m very lucky my talent reaches across these two worlds.

But there’s a hard slog in both these careers. There’s the struggle over the perfect word or the right sentence structure that can make even one paragraph a painful day’s labor. And there’s a struggle, too, over trying to forge a career as an actor in an industry where every single person is comparing themselves to every single other person. And not necessarily liking the results.

I’m tall. It’s a fact. I’m not abnormally tall in a sense that I reach over 9 feet and you can see me walking towards you from a mile away. I’m simply 5 foot 8″ (or 5 foot 7.9999999″ if you want to get into specifics). Where I come from, this is a reasonably common height to be and is not really all that shocking. In fact, to say that you are 5 foot 8″ in Scotland warrants you funny looks only in the sense that it’s not really that big a deal. So are a lot of people. There’s probably four other people in the conversation who are also that height, or even a bit taller.

But in Hollywood it’s a really big deal. Leading men such as Jeremy Renner are only 5 foot 9″. Mark Wahlberg is 5 foot 8″ and Antonio Banderas is 5 foot 8 and a half. Tom Cruise is 5 foot 7″, as is James McAvoy, and Sylvester Stallone. Josh Hutchinson is 5 foot 6″ and the adorable Daniel Radcliffe is 5 foot 5″. Not being 5 foot 4″ or shorter when you want to work alongside some of these great actors is suddenly a really big deal. [Note: not that any of them have asked me to, but there’s no harm in letting my imagination wander around the idea].

When I was growing up in middle of nothingville*, Scotland (*not it’s real name), there was an urban legend that the reason leading men and women in Hollywood were so short was because it cost a lot of money to build the sets, so shorter actors meant shorter walls and less money going towards production expenses. Now that’s not to say it wasn’t true at some point or other – though I googled it and it does seem completely made up – but when every star you would read about was shorter than you and your cousins, it seemed to add fuel to the myth. Add to that living in a village many thousands of miles away from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, and there’s no shame in admitting that I would have believed the streets were paved with gold if you’d told me. Because Hollywood was a magical place where movies were made and dreams came true, and everything was all gloriously wonderful like unicorns and marshmallows and soft, squishy bunnies.

It’s not quite the same when you live there.

So I have the being tall thing to contend with. And I also have the being quirky thing going for me, which is not much of a selling point when many of the casting notices want blond, pretty, twenty-something, size zero cuties. No amount of suspending belief will ever convince you I’m any of those things. I also have years of children’s theater experience under my belt, and gained my UK Equity card (think SAG) just before I moved stateside, and have been transitioning my talents into TV and Film since I moved here. It’s incredibly intimate by comparison, and being vulnerable up close and personal with your fellow actors – with a camera close enough to count the tears lining your lashes – is a thrilling and terrifying experience. There really is nothing like it.

Unfortunately, there comes a time in your pursuit of these acting opportunities and that One Big Break which will get you an acting reel and maybe an agent, and at least one more credit on IMDB, when you ask yourself if it’s worth it. It’s so easy to define our success in any other industry by the promotions we gain, or the financial security we have doing something that garners a steady paycheck so that you and your family aren’t living moment to moment just waiting in case there isn’t enough money to pay the rent. In any other industry your employer doesn’t suddenly lay you all off, as happens in the entertainment industry all the time when pilots don’t get picked up, or shows are cancelled. I don’t know of any other industry where people work a few weeks here and there, and then don’t work again for months at a stretch, even though they have an over-abundance of skills and experiences (and pages of credits filling their resume).

I heard a statistic that only 3% of SAG-AFTRA people make enough in the industry to call it a sustainable career.

So how do you define success in an industry where fame and fortune are the very definitions of having made it? It’s a hard one to answer and it’s something I pondered with my friends last night. Our success isn’t defined by our IMDB credits or whether our latest film short won an award, but it surely lets other people know that our sacrifice and unending pursuit of employment in an industry that is a harsh and unfeeling critic was indeed worth it. We are all beautiful and creative souls with talents and skills bestowed upon us regardless of whether the world sees us as shining lights. We are not the sum of our acting credits. We are not only worth knowing because we were in a film for a moment with an actor you admire. We are not even the sum of who we know or what we can bring to a role.

And while this industry is a harsh critic of our accomplishments and our achievements, we have be kind to ourselves because we are more than our talents.

Today I vow not to take it personally when I don’t get the part after a great (or terrible) audition. I vow to love myself and my talents in spite of the huge gaps in my acting resume. I am more than my credits. I am more than my characters, I’m lovely, kind, funny, quirky me and I embrace all of it and choose to define myself by the character of my soul.

So this is me saying, “I love you Hollywood, but your inability to see my wonderful talent and gangly frame as something to make your movie great will no longer bother me. For I am fearfully and wonderfully made. And I’m here to embrace all your wonderful eccentricity even if I never manage to get a role that would give my mom bragging rights over her friends. I’m an actor. And I’m a writer. And, by golly, I am great.”

Alrighty. With that said, let’s see if Cap 3 has any openings………

 

 

Adventures with Dell

Sometimes you feel like you’re having a bad day. And then you realize someone else is having less fun than you are, which puts it all into perspective. Here’s how hubs spent his morning:

Yup. He’d been on the phone a while and was getting a little frustrated. Did you know Dell’s call center is in the Philippines? And that the staff at the call center will hang up on you rather than talk to you, especially if it looks like your call isn’t going to be an easy one? Well, neither did I.

So I started eavesdropping his conversation, and live-tweeting his adventures, hoping maybe that someone at Dell might step in and offer to help. And here’s how it went:

I checked out the Dell twitter page to see who else I might be able to contact to speed this along for him, and sent this tweet:

No reply right away (because tweeting is like yelling into a storm and hoping someone can hear you), so I posted a bit more about how the call was going.

Yes, the girl wanted hubs to go through the whole help ticket as though it was the first time she’d heard it, and then put him on hold to go see if there were any solutions she could offer. Not quite the support he was looking for, but at least she’s looking for answers.

That’s right. She gave hubs her own customer service section’s number to have in case he ever needs tech support. Now we’re onto a new person who wants him to start over.

My favorite zinger:

And once more on hold.

Once more with feeling:

A tweet from Dell:

I’m so excited I almost break the 140 characters trying to reply:

Then the lovely people at Dell Cares Pro step in:

Meanwhile I’m updating the conversation over at #AdventuresWithDell:

We’re getting somewhere:

lol

Now I know how things are going on the phone with help person number 4, I tweet Dell Cares Pro back:

We got it sorted:

Which makes Dell Cares Pro very happy:

They like our high praise :)

Hubs, finally off the phone after more than an hour with Dell tweets his thoughts:

Bless

The headline to this blog post might not make much of a statement to you, but to me it’s been something that has nagged at me for a while now. So what better way to process it than to pour it all into a blog and throw it into cyber space to see what the internet thinks.

IMG_7616A while ago I was given a beautiful cross pendant, one that sparkles when the sun hits it and looks far nicer and more feminine than my usual jewelry choices. I wore it for months with pride, not just because it was beautiful, and not just because it was a gift from a dear friend, but because it was also a symbol of a part of myself I didn’t tend to share very much. My faith. Of course I live my faith every day, and try to be a good person, and of course I have accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. And yes, I go to bible study, and all that. But for a while now I’ve really grimaced at the thought of admitting out loud that I am a Christian. Not because I’m ashamed of my faith, goodness no. Rather I’m reluctant to call myself a Christian because I see what some people who profess to be of the same faith as me do to those who disagree with them.IMG_7613

So a while ago I switched out this beautiful cross pendant for a different one, a heart with the American Flag engraved across it. It’s a symbol of something else I believe strongly in – this country – and it’s something I wear proudly every day, whether people know what it means or not.

And I’m not alone in my thinking. I’ve read many blog posts and opinion pieces from other Christians who go to great pains to point out they’re not like ‘those’ people, the angry Christians. The ones who want to pass legislation to say that being gay is a sin and that marriage equality is an abomination. The ones who think that discrimination isn’t discrimination if it’s wrapped up in some belief system that is protected by the constitution. Well, I hate to say it, but hate is hate. And from the Messiah himself who said:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. (John 13:34, New American Standard Bible)

it makes me wonder what these angry Christians are thinking. Because the love and grace and kindness Jesus spoke of was not conditional to whether you are gay or not. His message was one of hope and salvation, not tearing down another person whether they are good or not just because you personally don’t believe in their ‘lifestyle choices’. Which, for the record, is no more a choice than me ‘choosing’ to have green eyes. But we can argue that until we are blue in the face and the angry Christians will still choose to tell me I’m wrong. Whatever. To them I say this: I would rather be wrong, and live my life treating other people with love and respect, seeing them as the beautiful people God made them to be, and be wrong, than seeing them the way you do and spending my life hating them, condemning them, judging them, or whatever else I am expected to do as a follower of Christ. My judgement will come, and you will not be there with me to hold my hand, or vouch for me. Only I will be standing before the Lord being accountable for my actions and my words.

A long time ago I was a part of a church that believed the only way to heaven was with hard work. And boy did I work hard. I bent over backwards to share my faith and its message, and I took part in every aspect of the church environment it was possible to, until my whole social calendar was chock full of everything church, and nothing of anything else. It was exhausting because I never felt as though I was accomplishing anything. The harder I struggled and worked towards all these goals, the more I fell short, and the more I believed my salvation was at stake. I asked questions, and wrestled with the answers because they were all based on this false doctrine that said the only way to get the rewards in heaven were through hard work and many layers of atonement to gain worthiness.

I left, but not before their twisted doctrine had chewed up my insides and distorted everything I thought I knew about God and Jesus and salvation. They also believed the cross pendants I owned were representative of the death, not the resurrection, so confiscated them. In essence, they took everything they could of the faith I brought in with me, and flipped it on its head till what I had left was barely recognizable. They would say “the bible is accurate only as far as it’s translated” but I chose to hang onto this one verse in spite of all that, the one about faith as small as a mustard seed being enough to move mountains. And truly I clung to it. When I left the church I had no friends (because I was now a ‘corruptive influence’), and no social calendar because my whole time with them was living and breathing everything to do with their church. I was adrift, so to speak, in an ocean that was as dark as it was foreign, with nothing on the horizon but more darkness. It was the hardest part of my faith walk because I was truly alone. There were no church friends to lean on because I was now isolated from them, and their doctrine was flawed anyway so what would it have gained me to reach out? Only this mustard seed faith, this tiny grain of hope that Jesus loved me, and that I was worth loving, pushed me on.

IMG_7615When I was in an antique shop in England one day, I saw a beautiful gold pendant. It was a cross, not very big, nor very expensive. But it was beautiful. And I could afford it. In spite of the confused state of my faith, this tiny morsel of a mustard seed gave me the confidence to buy it, and I had it inscribed with “no matter what”, to remind myself every day that, no matter what, Jesus loved me. I wore it for quite a few years, and every time I touched it, my mustard seed of faith was reminded that Jesus did indeed love me. It was a symbol of hope to me, something to draw courage from, and something that symbolized the promise Jesus made to me that – in spite of their best efforts – this church had failed to destroy. It is perhaps the only time as an adult I’ve worn something so symbolic because I’ve needed to, because my brokenness wasn’t brave enough on it’s own, and the gold shaped cross around my neck somehow made everything all right.

Of course, the journey to undoing indoctrination is a long and complicated one, and it is a journey that is still ongoing even today, oh so many years later. But I guess that’s what happens when you invest three years of yourself inside a lie. You’re vulnerable and at risk of falling far more times than you care to count as you work your way back to being strong. I joined another church eventually and enjoyed it for a while. But I’m an opinionated soul, for those who didn’t get the memo, and I never seemed to feel truly comfortable in this new Christian gathering. Perhaps because it’s hard to find people who believe 100% what you do (unless you’re all in a cult – not recommended). Perhaps it’s because hypocrisy drives me crazy and I have this compulsion to call it out when I see it. Or perhaps it’s simply that I don’t trust people who don’t seem to want to trust me.

I’ve grown a lot since those days. I’ve also moved countries and built a life here surrounded by people who want to build me up instead of tear me down. It took a lot to get there, but I made it. And my faith is stronger than it has been in a long time. It’s not where it should be, I know that. But it is bigger than a mustard seed, and for that I’m happy. Of course, that doesn’t mean I can quote bible verses at the drop of a hat because it requires me to know them, but I have no patience or inclination in putting in the effort to do so. Call it a residual of indoctrination. Call it laziness. I just consider it a flaw that google can fix at the drop of a phrase into a search engine. There is also the horror of praying out loud, something I have never liked doing but am more phobic of now because there are so many rules and I don’t remember which ones are the good rules and which ones are the ‘earn your way into heaven’ rules. I also get tongue tied when I’m put on the spot. And I tend to swear. Who am I kidding, I swear even when I’m not put on the spot. But if I’m saying something special to God and a room full of people are listening, it’s most definitely not acceptable to drop an f-bomb or a cuss word into the mix.

Which brings me right back around to my pendant debate.

I look at the entertainment industry I’ve chosen to build my career in, and I see a lot of roles that are not suitable for a Christian to accept. And not just the ones that post ‘contains nudity’ in the breakdown. Now I’m not a prude. Well, yes, I am. But other people are not prudish, and when things are tastefully done, it’s all good. I’m also more than happy if it’s not my character that has to be the nude one, because it’s not something I’m comfortable with. And not just because I don’t look like a Victoria Secret swimwear model. But if it’s important to the story – and I’ve gone on auditions where it is, and have been very excited by the projects – I am supportive. But if I wear a cross, am I already giving more information than I need to the casting directors? I know that you don’t have to be a bully to play one on tv, and I certainly believe that you don’t have to be gay to take on the role of a gay character. But if I wear a cross to an audition, or in my profile pictures online am I revealing more than is true of myself to each of the people making decisions about my career? It does come down to being ‘not like them’, in a sense (thinking of the angry Christians I spoke of earlier), but more than that it’s because I don’t really consider myself a regular Christian either. I support marriage equality. I am pro choice because I can never advocate for something that removes a woman’s autonomy over her own body, no matter how it makes me feel. I don’t quote the bible (I’m prone to paraphrasing with hilarious results), and while I do go to bible study, I don’t go to church. I loathe the church environment, and I am not a fan of the mentality that you are a better Christian than someone else because you DO go to church, especially when it’s only to tick the box marked ‘church’ off on your 101 Ways To Look Like A Good Christian list.

When it comes down to it, I’m the bare bones Christian. I’m the ‘Jesus Loves Me’ Christian, the one who might well still have just a mustard seed of faith when it comes down to it. I read the scripture about being a light unto the world, and loving your neighbor as yourself, but when it comes to most of the other stuff, it’s all about the interpretation. And the person doing the interpreting makes the rules. This is what I mean when I say the residuals of indoctrination linger long after the church has been purged from your system.

But then I look at the world we live in, and I start to question this choice. It may only be a symbol, and it was my anchor for a while when I needed it most, but is wearing a cross not something more important today? Now more than ever?

You don’t need to go too far into the news to read about Christians being kidnapped in the middle east, or the terrible things done to them. You don’t even need to leave the USA to see stories of religious persecution, be it a Jewish student being judged for her faith right here in Los Angeles, or the Anti-Israel sentiment sweeping our universities here and here for example. And that’s a drop in the bucket compared to what’s happening in Europe and the rest of the world.

So is wearing a cross pendant the way to go? Is it more fitting for me to declare my faith and stand up for what I believe in, in the face of opposition or persecution? I’m very lucky to live in a country where we have the freedom to practice (or to not practice) religion, and thus the judgements I am likely to face will be from other Christians. Being ‘not like them’ has served me well because it has opened me up to friendships and conversations I would have been too narrow to consider it I was made any other way. But will it burn more bridges to say I am a follower of Jesus, but not a ‘Christian’ like you read about in the news? Or is this all just a symbolic gesture that means nothing in the grand scheme of things, and rather it is the character of the person we should judge, not the piece of jewelry around their throat?

I await the comments with interest, for I genuinely want to know what people think.

Take care and much love,

AnnieB

I posted this on my FB page but feel I should share it here too.