Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Appreciating Our Day Jobs While Pursuing Acting

Oh where to begin.... I felt inspired to write a post about things I actually enjoy about my day job the other morning when taking pics of my lipstick choice of the day to post to Instagram. Posting these pics reminds of how much I love makeup. Makeup I would probably not have (errr..couldn't afford) if I didn't work at a cosmetics counter. Taking pics of all my different color choices also reminds of how much fun makeup is and that I am lucky I get to spend 20 hours a week playing with it while getting paid.

Often when I write about my job, I am writing because I'm frustrated that I still have to work a survival job when all I want to do is act. And although I am so thankful to God for my job, I definitely have days in which it is extremely hard to feel that way. So I thought I would do a post pointing out the good things and the benefits I've earned. Maybe it will inspire you to do the same.

To start, there is nothing as fulfilling and fun to me as acting. That is the only thing I will pursue as a career and I will always refer to my survival job as a survival job, or day job, because it will never be something I plan on falling back on. I don't have anything to fall back on. Acting is it for me. So many days, it is a pain to get up and get ready work. Especially if the day before I was on set all day. I have days when I feel very down being at work; wondering when I am going to be able to leave because I am finally pulling in some decent money acting. Some days, it takes a lot to push through, even if I'm only there for a few hours.

But, not all days are bad. And there are definite bright spots. Some days are actually fun. And the other day, as the store opened, I remembered there was actually a time where getting a job at a cosmetics counter in a department store was a dream of mine. Not a grand dream like acting as always been, but I always dreamed that being a cosmetics girl would be my job while I pursue acting. I forgot all about that dream. It was nice to reflect upon it this morning and realize that it has come true. You see, I have always worked in retail, mostly at department stores. Since I was in high school actually. I would always look at the cosmetics girls as if they were the cheerleaders of those stores. You know, the coolest and most popular ones there, which during my school years I was far from. Also, I had started playing with makeup as a kid, as well as studied art all through school. I was quite good actually at painting and drawing (sometimes I feel the urge to pick it up again), so working in cosmetics seemed liked a natural fit for me. I worked in retail for about 7-8 years before I got a job in cosmetics. (The first brand I ever worked was Clinique, if anyone is curious).  Wow I feel old thinking about how long ago that was!! I won't even mention how long I've been doing makeup now but it's been awhile.

The point is sometimes I forget the reasons that brought me to work at my particular survival job in the first place. There are also many reasons I choose to stay.

Here is the list of the things I truly appreciate about my job:

1) I get to play with makeup while being paid for it and it's for a brand that I absolutely love YSL. In fact, there is only one other line I love as much and that's NARS.

2) Working where I do enables me to easily keep up with trends. To me, being an actress goes hand-in-hand with fashion.

3) I get to make people feel beautiful.

4) Pretty flexible scheduling. Usually there is someone able to switch shifts with me if need be. Also, I am sure to do scheduling favors for my manager when I can so she will be more understanding if I have something come up. That's a great tip actually. Always have a good attitude and do your best to do what the job requires and those in authority will be more apt to give you what you want.

5) Being in NYC, I work with the most diverse clientele possible. Meaning, I never know who I may meet. Perhaps a movie producer, a casting director, an agent? That I know of it hasn't happened yet, but that hope and possibility (daydream) is always with me.

6) Free makeup, free skincare, and discounts in other departments. One of my best purchases ever was a leather (err...pleather) dress that I bought for $4.00 using special employee coupons that can be used like cash within that particular store.

7) I've been there so long that I know how things work. I know when I can and can't afford to call out or be late. I know how to do my job well, or at least, on some days, well enough to get by without getting in trouble.

8) I rationalize that since acting is the only thing I want to do, I wouldn't be any happier working any other survival job than the one I work now.


9) This is the NUMBER ONE reason that I appreciate my survival job right now and do not plan on going anywhere else whilst I pursue acting (this also is because of how long I've been here): I have many many paid vacation days and personal days. For someone pursuing acting, that is priceless.
Loyalty to a company does pay off. Believe me, if I wanted to pursue a career in makeup, I would not stay at this location. I would want to be at a cute little boutique in Soho. But I want to be an actress. Therefore I stay and take advantage of these free days I get. I always have to think of the big picture.

I know more than anyone how depressing it can be to do any other work besides what you truly love and want to be known for and be successful at. I am not telling you to stay at a job where you are miserable; not at all. You must always follow your heart. I am just telling you to weigh your options as it pertains to being able to fully pursue acting. I heard someone at my job recently say "this job is a means to get what you want." It's so true and to hear it put in those exact words really lifted me up that day and made me want to keep pushing. There must some things you like about your survival job; whatever job that may be. Like some of things in my list, it may not be about the job itself, or your position, or it's location. It may be more about what the job provides you in regards to pursuing your acting: flexibility, benefits, sick days, and, uh, hello, money for all those actor things. And if you are so completely miserable every single day, and can't find any moments of joy here and there, AND it's so bad that you can't stay focused on your dreams, then maybe look for something else. If you feel you have no other day job options at the moment, then turn that despair into determination to become a more successful actor. I have to do that at times and it absolutely makes me work doubly hard towards getting that next acting job.

BTW, this isn't a recommendation to work in retail. A lot of the advantages I have at this job are only because I have stuck with it for so long. Just starting out things wouldn't be that flexible. What this post IS is a recommendation to keep in mind the good things--however menial and hard to see they may be--that you get out of your survival job and to work them to your advantage in every way possible when it comes to pursuing your acting career.

                  Me in Work Mode

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Reasons Why I Haven't Joined SAG Yet Even Though I'm Eligble

There are many reasons why I haven't taken the step to join SAG-AFTRA yet, even though I have been eligible for about 10 months now. Oh, I'd say about 3,000 plus 1 reasons to be exact. You actors know exactly what I mean by that.

Firstly, I'm still booking a lot of great non-union jobs. Some are paid, some aren't. I have a few in the works for the next few months and I would like to focus and keep my commitment to those. If during that time, I happen to book an amazing union job and have to join, then I will. Since all of my upcoming films are with people whom I have worked with before, I'm hoping they would be willing to get SAG waivers in order for me to still be in their projects; not expecting, just hoping. Of course, that is a huge if and I will cross that bridge when I get to it. 

I'm sure you understand the main reason why I haven't joined yet is because of the money. I mean, who has $3,000 lying around? If I did not have the sizable balance that I currently have on my credit card, I would put the joining fee on there. Unfortunately, that is not an option right now. (Unless of course I end up booking something and having to join right away. Then I would do it no questions asked.)

Alas, I guess it is not yet time for me make that milestone happen in my acting career. I want it so bad I can taste it though. I'm working on devising a savings plan for the money. Wish me luck. Well, good thing I am pretty happy where I am anyways!!! 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Exhausted but Happy; Prep and Shooting for Venial

I am just feeling so incredibly blessed after my shoot yesterday for director Joe Ciminera's newest film, Venial. We shot the trailer as well as some of the film itself. I am also feeling incredibly exhausted, as the night before the shoot I worked a full (7.5hr) shift at my survival job--a closing shift no less--and had to be up at 6am to travel to Long Island for the shoot. I was so excited and anxious that I got about 5 min of sleep. The fact that I had foam curlers in my hair didn't help. After filming, I got home and to bed pretty late and had to be at work early today. But of course it was worth it. What an amazing shoot it was. This is one of those actor moments in which I feel on top of the world and so grateful. 

I found out only a week and a day before the first shooting day that I would actually be taking on the leading role in this film. I couldn't have been more thrilled. And so the preparation began. And one of things I mean by that is I had to learn how to do a British accent. (Or more accurate, an English accent, but here I will continue to use the term "British" as that is the typical word used to describe an English accent.) I've always kinda of played around with the accent (quite a lot actually) but I've never had to use it for a role, although I have been waiting for an opportunity. American actors are often criticized for their British accents not sounding authentic and I wanted to do whatever possible to prevent that from happening. The dialogue in Joe Ciminera's film are improvised (with a few exceptions), so with no lines in particular to practice, I especially had to learn how to speak the accent accurately. In short, the steps I took to learn were: first, reading general how-to's and tips, followed by watching instructional videos, then watching interviews with British actresses, and of course watching movies. Anna Karenina with Kiera Knightley was on a lot so watched that one a few times. I also recorded myself than listened to see what was good and what needed work. When I see the footage from Venial, if my accent comes out decent, I may do a more detailed post about it. Let's see though!!

So that has taken a lot of my focus for the past week. I also was responsible for my own wardrobe. After all, this is an indie film. But Joe's films have been decent exposure for me so far and I genuinely enjoy working with him, so I really didn't mind. The time period for the film is 1917. My character is a devout Christian woman whose husband dies in WW1 which drives her to the dark side. I try to never rent from a costume store. I haven't played a character yet where I haven't been able to come up with something myself from researching and shopping at thrift stores. Although this character has been the most difficult to dress. At least it seemed that way at first. Once I found inspiration (Downtown Abbey), that helped me a lot. Around this time, women were beginning to dress more modern. So I wanted to incorporate some signs of the time but also keep it conservative as my character is a hard-core Catholic who probably is not super trendy for that time. The big trends from that time which I incorporated were a hemline about mid-calf showing white wool stockings and shoes with a small curved heel. I have to say, I had so much fun perusing thrift stores in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Jersey. I think I did pretty well. I also had to figure out how to do my hair and makeup. 
     (Just a few of the wardrobe options.
         Minus the glasses of course!)

Even though the dialogue is being improvised and I was unsure of which scenes we would be filming the first day, I knew enough about my character to mentally prepare. Basically, I came up with lines beforehand which would hopefully work for each situation. Then, I practiced them over and over and over with the British accent. I was very happy that I got to use almost every line I came up with during the shoot on Thursday. I also mentally prepared myself to deal with all the heavy emotions I would have to show. It's hard to explain how I do this. I just let myself feel each emotion deeply and, well, practice. 

So, yeah, all that prep work combined with my survival job has made me a wee bit fatigued. If my punctuation is off in this post even more than usual that's why. But I'm feeling so satisfied about how well the shoot went. I'm so grateful to work continuously with Joe, his crew members, and this amazing group of actors that he has put together. It's a bonus to be on set and work with people who you have come to know and like. I can't wait to finish the film. As of right now, I'm feeling blissful. Hopefully I will still feel this way after I see my performance in the film on the big screen.  Because sometimes, your work doesn't translate to screen like you expected (to put it gently). Like I said earlier, let's see!!! ;-)

                  (Hair and makeup)

    (Saint Josaphat's Monastery in Long
                Island where we shot.)