Thursday, August 9, 2012

You Gotta Do What You Gotta Do, And Love Every Second of It

The Sunday night before last was a great example of what I experience on a regular basis as an actor. First, let me give a quick background of where I am currently in my acting career.  As of right now, I am non-union.  For all you non actors or younger actors that don't know yet, that means that I am not a member of SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actor's Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (the two have merged)) or AEA (Actors Equity Association (which is for stage actors).  I hope to be there one day obviously but I believe it will happen at the right time, with the right role. Although I have always wanted to be an actress, I admit that I didn't really start pushing it until about a year and a half ago.  Sure, I would do a production here and there maybe audition if I was in the mood, but I wasn't PUSHING it.  Okay, I would do a little more than that but I still wasn't doing everything I  should have been doing.  It's all in timing and things just didn't click for me until the beginning of 2011.  I still have alot of experience to gain so joining the union is something I am not stressed over or worried about quite yet.  Notice I said quite.

Alright, on to the story.  The point of talking about my union status was to lead into the fact that all the films I currently do fall into the category of low budget or ultra low budget independent films. There is even a category called micro budget now. (Maybe there has always been one but I have not noticed this description in casting notices until recently).  This way when an actor submits for a role in one of these films we know that we probably won't be getting paid and we know why we won't be getting paid:).

And I LOVE doing these films. Why?  The experience, the connections,  the EXPOSURE (one film I was in  opened in 23 theaters around the country and will be on DVD in September 2012).  And of course just  being able to do what I love. These things are priceless. Especially so early in a career. To be quite honest, if a film is low budget I would much rather the producer put all his/ her money into the film's quality and promotion rather than paying me the small amount I would get anyways.

NOW the real story.  Promise.  Sunday of last week, I had the awesome opportunity to act in Jim Terriaca's "Apex Rising." This is a feature length zombie horror film being shot in Long Island, NY and let me tell you, I think it's gonna be great.  I am not normally into zombie films but when you are actually IN one it's cool to see the makeup (fake blood!!!) and the location we shot at was super creepy (more about the location in a bit).  From what I know, Jim is putting his heart, soul, and money completely into this film.  When a person does that, he is going to do everything he can to make sure the film is a success.  So of course I wanted to be in his film, no question.   In the scene we shot last week, my car breaks down and zombies start chasing me everywhere.  I got to run, scream, be the center of the scene (hey I'm an actor. I'd  be lying if I said I didn't enjoy that aspect of it. But be clear, I am NOT a diva) and it was so much fun.

The actual shoot itself was the easy part.  I mentioned that this film is being shot in Long Island.  I live in New Jersey.  The location for this scene was no where near a Long Island Railroad train station.  Since the film is low budget I needed my own transportation to the set.  I don't have a car. What is the solution?  (I didn't know anyone I could get a ride from and most of the cast and crew are from Long Island to begin with).  A car rental.  These days it is not cheap to rent a car.  The rental itself, plus gas, plus tolls, plus insurance equals a lot of money. A lot. For me anyways.  And it was only for about 7.5 hrs.  And let me tell you, God is good because if the scene ended up being filmed on its original date, which was a Saturday,  I would have payed double.  Thank you Lord for making it rain that night!! But even so, I still would have been happy to do it.

And now to the location.  Some of the shots were filmed inside Pilgrim State, this huge abandoned psychiatric ward.  I looked up some of the history behind this facility and it is chilling.  Doctors in this hospital were known for using shock therapy on patients and for conducting lobotomies without even having full knowledge of how to do them. Really, this has to be (or had, I heard it was going demolished the day after the shoot ) one of the creepiest places in the US. Or at least in NY. This place is something you would see in one of those ghost hunting shows.  We had to walk through an over grown field full of mosquitoes to get to the building.  Mind you we had minimal light and could only see a couple steps ahead. Once inside, we had to watch out for broken glass and random leftover mechanical parts.  I couldn't help but wonder if this were a big budget film, would the set have been more prepared for the actors and crew? Would there be big lights everywhere?  Would there be a path cut for us to the building?  Would the place have been thoroughly inspected before hand to ensure safety?  But I put everything out of my mind-the darkness, the mosquitoes biting me (West Nile Virus) the overgrown weeds brushing against my bare legs, the fear of ticks (Lyme Disease)- and chose to enjoy every second of it.  And I genuinely did.  When else would I go to a place like that in the middle of the night?  It was an adventure. Also, getting the shots was the most important thing at that moment.

The last part of the scene was shot inside my car.  My rental car.  There were going to be "blood" covered zombies inside my rental car.  Immediately I was nervous about the prospect of  fake blood and "gore" getting all over the seats.  I kept imagining the cleaning bill I would get from Avis.  But I decided to get over it, take it a step at a time and put the film first.  I figured it wouldn't be that bad.  Well, by the time the we were done shooting the inside of the car looked like that scene from "Pulp Fiction."  Okay it wasn't that bad but it did look like there was real blood all over.  Yeah, it's kinda funny.  Luckily, the audio guy was kinda enough to call his wife to ask her what would get out the stain.  He then helped me find an open 7/11 in the area where we bought Shout Out wipes and then we both scrubbed the inside of the car for maybe 45min.  I can't say it came out perfect but at least it was clean enough so that no one at Avis would notice and ask me stay at the garage while they called  the police.

It was all worth it.  I can't wait to go back for my next scene.

And that's it.  Oh yeah, also I got home at 2:00 AM then had to be at work at 8:45 the next day.  When you are 20yrs old this is no big deal. But I am 26 <wink> and can't function at my day job without 7hrs of sleep.

Thus is the life of a low budget indie film actress.  I've rented cars several times now to travel for films without being reimbursed for the costs.  I use my own clothes for wardrobe and often have to lug a heavy duffel bag around town full of different options.  I still have to go to my regular job.  I run the risk that the film will never get seen or that I will never even get the footage for my reel.  I also run the risk that I may never see a financial return on the sacrifices I make. Acting is a business and just like any business you have to take risks to be successful.   What choice do I have?  I am meant to be an actress.  It's the only career I want to ever pursue.  I have to do it.  I make all these sacrifices with the hopes that one day I will be able to make a living acting unless God suddenly leads me in another direction.  And I'm getting there.  The hard work is starting to pay off.  All of my upcoming auditions are for paid roles.  I feel blessed.  I hope to book at least one.  Even if it's the lowest paying one.

So until it happens I will keep doing what I have to do to make it happen.  (Aside from sacrificing my moral beliefs, compromising my marriage, and alienating my family.)  And once it does happen I will do what I have to do to KEEP  it happening.  I can only hope and pray that God continues to bless my efforts.  And by the way, I doubt that the mosquitoes would have known the difference between a low budget film and big budget one.
(Just a few zombies hanging around)

 Check out "Apex Rising"-


  1. Welcome to show biz or the phrase its
    "you wanted to be in showbiz"?
    It s all worth it because you will never forget living those moments and they are more real then any thing we experience in our day jobs, wink wink nod nod!!!!

    There is nothing glamorous about show biz. Many long hours ,many locations you would ever believe you would be standing in I.E. me in a garbage dump in Modesto California @110 degrees?I will never forget the sweet smell of decaying garbage and the breakfast truck.
    I have never forgotten the experiences and those who were there with me.
    Thank you for this story had brought back that magic. THAT'S SHOW BIZ!!!!!!

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting Babs! I love what you wrote "That's Showbiz!!" Exactly why I wrote this entry. Because it does take hard work. It's not all about making easy cash and being glam. There may be moments of those things, but it takes a lot of hard work to make that kind of "luck" happen.

  2. EXCElLENT blog can follow mine too

    1. Thanks!!!And thanks for reading. I have read a few of yours:) Very funny. I especially like the one about the bike riding. I will add you to my blog list:)

  3. That's awesome about the movie, even if it is low (micro) budget. Putting yourself out there as an actor is what counts. I feel the same way with the shorter stories I publish, even giveaway for free at times. It's a step in the right direction to a career.

    1. Thanks Cherie!!You are right. As an actor or writer, the most important thing we can do is keep putting ourselves out there. And be very, very thankful for the times we are recognized or paid for our work:)