Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Dustin and a veteran warning

I really like those dreams when you feel real important because you attend a BBQ with Brad & Angelina, advise Cher on her next career step, have a steamy affair with Ryan Gosling - all that good stuff that makes the car ticket you got last week magically disappear.

It's even better when your dream feels like reality- which is the only way to describe what happened four years ago. In that dream, I actually got to meet one of my idols, had a word (which I don't remember any more, naturally), and felt like the country girl had met one of the creative Gods of our time.

His name? Dustin Hoffman.

The Dustin Hoffman I got to experience was amusing, inspiring, had a strong character, a breathtaking charm and a childlike fascination. It was one of these days, backstage at the Tonight Show, when Jay Leno rushed by me. Dustin told me I had a great smile and cheekily warned me never to get involved with someone in the industry. So I didn't (of course). When it comes out of Dustin's mouth, it's a law.

Ah, that LA dream years ago. It felt so real!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Demo Reels: how to make Casting Directors happy!

So last week a good friend of mine hit what we're all hoping to avoid: Frustration. After numerous workshops, following every acting advice he ever got, and continuous marketing, the poor guy is left with the ultimate question 'Am I a bad actor or did I just fail to master the machine?' Well, usually it's a combination of things. But the good news is: Every time we get stuck, we simply have to figure out what's holding us back and grow from it.

The situation, without knowing all the details, reminded me of other talks I had with actors lately. There seems to be an ongoing trend of knowing it all but having no real clue - to be frank. ;) Especially when it comes to Demo Reels!! Actors, being overwhelmed by anything beyond acting, unfortunately have a tendency of latching onto the next best marketing advice they get just to get it over with... Mostly with disastrous results and disappointing reviews. 

The industry has rules - and if you obey them you will be happy you did. Your Demo Reel is no exception. The best way to get into the door or having a "run" as we call it is your body of work of course. But don't underestimate the package! Bored or (even worse) angry casting directors aren't a pretty sight. It makes their job difficult and you don't want them to feel disrespected. I edited my reel myself this year, so here are few things I learned and would like to pass on to you:

Casting people and directors don't have time, so come to the point - fast please. A reel should not be longer than 90 seconds for TV or 3 minutes for film. Just show us your best and most emotional scenes that give us a sense of what you look like on camera, your types, and what you can do. Inspire us. Open with an emotionally loaded scene, make us laugh, or impress us with playing Julia Robert's brother.

Start every scene with YOU, so we know whose reel it is. Cut down your scene partner's screen time so we don't have to watch both of you act. You want us to focus on you without any distractions. It has even happened before that the scene partner booked the project, because he had just as much screen time and was better than the actor submitting for the part. ;)

Don't make this a short film. That's not what a demo reel is. Don't focus on the entertainment value as this is an evaluation of you. Therefore stay away from snippets, montages, an overall arc, etc. We want to see if you can carry a scene and how versatile you are. Long scenes are perfect to see if you can stay in character and create an arc. Gimmick-y reels with tiny snippets show me the performer cut around performance flaws, shows off with the quantity of his projects or tries to distract with flashy editing.

Don't jump the gun if you don't have enough presentable footage yet. Sometimes it's better not to show anything instead of projects that look cheap, are poorly written or don't feature you enough. Wait for better things. It's crucial at times, but you might even have to stay away from using scenes if they're not adding anything new or are clearly lacking quality (which essentially distracts from your performance.) Which brings me to my next point:

Stay away from being repetitive, PLEASE! I have seen reels with seven scenes which all seemed to have the exact same character or dialog without any noticeable stakes. Zzzz... There's a huge difference between playing your type and just playing the same movie over and over again. Play as many emotional notes as possible and show us at least three different types. Versatility is more important than ever! Explore yourself, find variations of your own personality - even if there're small - to show us. If you can play a mobster, I'm sure you have potential to play a cop or business man as well.

Show your work proudly when you're READY and everyone agrees. I can not stress that enough. It won't do you any good sharing your 'process' publicly (even bothering professionals with it), because we'll remember that you thought what you presented to us was good. Learn to reflect and stay in reality- although talking our progress up seems to help our confidence for the moment. It's important to be ready to perform but even more to be consistent with it — so we know we'll get a solid performance.

Use your bonus if you have one. Put a scene with a major star first so we know someone trusted you with acting next to him without falling apart. It shows confidence and boosts your value - it IS still Hollywood after all. This could also mean you won an award for your performance or were part of a successful project. Write us a note about that or put it on the DVD. It never hurts to tell us someone thought you did a fantastic job because it makes you stand out right away.

Please keep in mind that even with a great demo reel we still want to meet you and see the same excellency in the audition. It doesn't mean we want to check up on you... We simply want to make sure your talent and charisma are still up to par. You wouldn't believe how many actors shine in their demo reel performances but suck in the room because they got lazy. Being an actor isn't about achievements. It's about the spirit. The only way for us to see that is to meet you in person.

The reel is the first impression — the audition your opportunity to make the character we're casting your own!

Your DemoNista.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Scriptwriting for Runaways

I finally have the time to sit down with my scripts again and I must say: It's MY pleasure! It's actually quite difficult to put into words how ecstatic I am, but I am. For those of you who haven't fallen in love with writing yet: I have no clue as to how this could've happened. Creating an idea from scratch, brainstorming the hell out of it and puzzling it together is pretty much one of my favorite things in the world. It's like solving a complicated case while bungee jumping - nothing gets my brain cells going or satisfies me as much as THIS!

I would even go as far as stating 'writing has the ability to keep you sane' because it challenges your logic and helps you understand the human condition (which we can all use on a daily basis). It took me a while to discover the written word yet now I can't imagine living without it. Especially after realizing how many times I read a script as an actress and knew exactly what could've made it even better. It drove me crazy - so I needed to give it a try... My first attempts weren't good that's for sure. But everything needs time so I studied patiently. No script writing book was safe- neither were any of my writer friends.

Scripts on a plane
First successes with my short films followed. I was hooked! The beauty about it is that whether it's a recreation of a magical moment you experienced, sharing your most traumatic event or coming up with an inspiring dialog- it's a blessing. The beautiful interactions, challenges and highlights of our relationships in writing; hopefully to be seen by an audience one day! It's therapeutic and a service at the same time.

What's even more important is the empowerment that comes with your original project; your own vision. Something that, being a performer with much time in between projects, is vital to our confidence. My creations are my anker in a rough sea (which - suprise! - happens a lot in the entertainment industry). Whenever difficulties occur or someone struggles to make his vision a reality: My own projects are always waiting for me.

Not all the projects will or can even go somewhere, but every single one of the ones I've been involved in taught me something new. So I never felt like it was a waste of time. Therefore it's adviced to work on as many as your time allows. It can get a little confusing of course, but it certainly takes the pressure off of having to make the current script a hit. Stories have to breathe, grow in their own time. I've been writing a few of my scripts for years now - knowing it's not their turn yet!

One of the projects that instantly caught my attention is now called "Crosscuts". Claus Völker, my writing partner, approached me with a lose idea of a catchy story and fascinating characters in 2009 which grew to an epic wonderful action-thriller. Taking a long time finding the right structure, it is now ready for a final draft. The writing became more and more complex to a point when we had to stop the process to get funding for further rewrites (which we're trying to get as we speak).

So we decided to team up with the amazing Nancy Quan who helped us building a website for this purpose. The page has a first synopsis of the story, a brief rundown of our main characters as well as the cities we'll shoot in, and first insights in our research (mood shots). I'm very excited to here within launch it and hope to get you all excited about it!

The page is:

Your ThrillerNista

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Why meditation works - an attempt to blow your mind

Hey everyone! Sorry it has been so long since my last blog but I was literally on a different consciousness for a view weeks and now feel like sharing what I've been experiencing. Interestingly enough, a meditation group with a wonderful leader has entered my life and my prayers for finding a cure for my "somewhat feeling off beat" have been heard. I've always been spiritual, talk to the one upstairs on a daily basis and have been practising to tune into my intuition for almost seven years now. Yet I've never come across other spiritualists I could jam with.

I met Laurie (the guru) through friends and she's been of incredible help with things I've been struggling with for years now- yet was never able to entirely understand by myself. As many of you know I've had a hard time dealing with my father's passing four years ago. Though I now had come to a point where I felt like I was ready to ask for help dealing with it. It might sound like vodoo to some people, but meditation and energy work really works. It allowed me to shed my unwanted emotions, taught me valuable lessons about how to deal with circumstances and continues to educate me ever since.

Since I've been going to the group twice a week, I've had unbelievable results with my blocks. I feel connected, stronger, am empowered in my everyday life. I'm humbled in trying to control anything. It makes me want to strive being a generous as well as guided person to do what I was born to do in this lifetime - trying to diminish any remaining confusion as to what should be done by truly accepting a higher force as the only true knowledge.

Many of my dear friends or loved ones have already joined the group as well and have experienced the same changes in their lives. The possibilities that lie in tuning into a worldy energy, asking questions about our current situations and learning from books of the wisest gurus of all time, are endless. I can highly recommend joining us every monday and thursday. It's free. The mission is to achieve the highest you, build a force of healing energy and help the universe. Very simple.

Since my healing process I finally feel at peace with my father's passing. I have also been working on allowing the best actress possible in me to come forth (which was harder than I thought) and have currently five (!) new feature film scripts on my table - gifts from the one upstairs to express his support in this mission. I then decided to try getting together a marketing related editorial photoshoot (which has always been one of my dreams) that went so smooth and created results that exceeded my expectations, I forgot I was in LA for a moment. Unbelievable! Meant to be and simply right.

If you do the work, grow, study and ask for what you really want, the universe will provide! If you're new to what I've been talking about here and are contemplating of getting me locked up, I recommend reading "The Power of consciousness" by Neville first. Enjoy the selection of my favorite photos from the amazing shooting!
make-up_Taylor Tanaka
hair_Melanie McCoy

Your GuruNista