Monday, December 31, 2012

Looking Back on 2012

I've been pursuing acting in LA for 5 months now. That almost half a year. Crazy!

Here's what I've accomplished so far:

1. We got an apartment that we love in a really great area.

2. I took on-camera acting classes at David Kagen's Film School. This film training helped me transition my theatre training into something positive on screen.

3. I took Mark Atteberry's Type Class and discovered my specific type and how to market myself.

4. I auditioned for and booked a job from one of LA's top Casting Directors.

5. I acted in a pilot for A&E's BIO channel.

6. I booked and filmed a really fun role in a web series that totally fits my type.
www.ihmcwebseries.com

7. I lost 50lbs. It's a lot easier to be healthy in LA.

8. I took some pretty good headshots.

9. I did my first mailing to commercial agents.

10. I found a church that I like.

11. I averaged around 2 auditions a week.

12. I started this blog!

13. I've scoped out some new classes that I'm really interested in.

14. I'm feeling more comfortable and less overwhelmed in LA.

15. I got a demo reel put together and posted it on www.actorsaccess.com and
www.lacasting.com

Its been an awesome 5 months in Los Angeles! I've learned a lot and I can't wait to see what 2013 brings.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Church Search

I've always had issues with Church.

I believe in God and I love Jesus but I don't believe that everything in the Bible is a literal truth. I've always felt like the Bible's truth is in the message, not the facts. This has caused me some issues when searching for a church.

I want a church that challenges me and helps me grow as a Christian without beating me over the head in a pragmatic way. I want the freedom of interpretation when it comes to God's words. I want a church that's truly open to EVERYBODY regardless of sexual preference or identity.

I want a pastor who is a teacher and a guide, not an unquestionable "expert."

I want a church that makes me think as well as feel.

A couple of weeks ago, Kaylie and I began the search for a church in LA. It was daunting. After an hour or so of searching, we came across Toluca Lake United Methodist Church (LA's comedy church). We were intrigued. The concept was fascinating. They believe that God want us to spread joy and the best way to do that is through laughter.

We went to a church service the next day and it was amazing! The people there were genuinely friendly and welcoming. There were muppets, there was singing, there were funny skits, there was joy, there was creativity, and it moved me. It was the most fun I've had at church. I don't think you could leave a service there without smiling.

The next evening, we went to the Christmas Eve candlelight service where we sang carols and Pastor Jane did a sermon on the bumper sticker, "I found Jesus, he was behind the couch the whole time." She spoke about how Jesus is in the most unlikely places. She spoke about the manger where Christ was born and how it was like the area behind the couch. It was thought provoking, intelligent, interesting, funny, and moving.

On Wednesday nights, they have bible study and improv! You guys know how I feel about the power of creativity. I can't wait to try this out this Wednesday night!

I'm pretty pumped. I feel like we've found a nice fit for us here in LA.

Seems like each month a different thing falls into place.

If you want to check out the church's website it's www.tlumc.com

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Flakes (And I Don't mean Dandruff)

LA is a funny place.

When I moved here, I expected to be met with rudeness and judgmental attitudes.

I was wrong.

People here are really nice for the most part. Sometimes, they are too nice. This produces flakes (and I don't mean dandruff.) Actor's are especially vulnerable to flakiness.

As an actor, I hate to say no to opportunities. However, when I say, "Yes," I follow through.

Unfortunately, Los Angeles is the home of people telling you, "Yes," and then never following up with you again. I don't think this is because actors are selfish jerks. I think all those verbal commitments just add up. Actor friends just get caught in a cycle of overcommitment and are afraid to say, "no."

Everyone that I have met in the actor community has been so nice and helpful. I know that if they can they will help me and I'm the same way with them, but its hard to find someone that you can rely on. It's a strange thing.

Lately, I've been trying to wait and think on it before I commit and say, "Yes," because I don't want to be one of the flakes.

I want to be Dependable Donald.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Day Jobs

Perhaps the greatest difficulty for the average actor in LA is finding a day job.

What is a day job? It's what pays your bills when acting can't/won't.

What makes finding a day job tough? It needs to be flexible. Auditions can happen at a moment's notice and I never want to miss an opportunity to act.

The perfect option, in my opinion, is to be self-employed. Own your own business or businesses. Have the ability to freelance. In order to do this, you must possess a skill set.

My skill set is in education.

Right now, I'm tutoring in the evenings. This leaves my days open for auditions.

I'm also working with actors on dialect training. I really enjoy this and hope to grow in this area of my business. I teach actors how to reduce their accent and/or I coach them on how to use various dialects believably. It's flexible because I can coach in person or over the phone/Skype. (If you're interested in having me coach you, hit me up at donaldleegipson@yahoo.com ;)

I'm using my skills as an educator to help people and gain financial stability for myself.

It's a win/win!

Do you have questions about day jobs in LA? Ideas for other blog topics? Comment below!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Agency Hunt Continues


Be vewy quite, I'm hunting for wascally agents.

Lately, I've been feeling like Elmer Fudd. Searching for an agent is a frustrating process. Towards the beginning of this month, I mailed out 30 packages with my headshot, resume, and a cover letter with my pitch to the agencies that I thought would fit me best. I'm purposely seeking smaller to mid-sized boutique agencies. Mailing at the beginning of December was probably not the smartest time to do it because pilot season is starting up soon and client rosters are already filled but I figured I'd give it a good old college try.

Why do I want an agent? Right now I only have access to 25% of the auditions in LA. I want to submit for the other 75%. An agent can help me do that.

Yesterday, I got a call from an agency the was interested in meeting with me about representation. Hallelujah! I hung up the phone and used my imdb pro account to find out more about them. It said that the agency is stationed in Chicago. i wanted to double check the info, so I emailed back and my appointment was cancelled because, well, I don't live in Chicago.

The life of an actor: highs and lows. At least I'm living a life where everything isn't the same all the time :)

The agency hunt continues!

P.S If you know of an agency that is looking for someone like me, hook a brother up!


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The 10 Year Investment

How long does it take someone to become an overnight success? 10 years.

If you go to www.imdb.com and search for your favorite actor, I can almost guarantee you that the space of time between his first acting credit and his first recognizable acting credit will be 10 years.

What does that mean?

It means that the acting business is an investment. It. Takes. Time.

This is tough for us as actors. Friends and family ask ,"What have you been up to? What have you done?" The answer is usually not one that they can understand and/or appreciate.

My answers are:

I'm learning about the business.

I'm hunting for an agent.

I'm taking classes.

I'm auditioning.

I'm planting seeds.

I'm investing in my career because the more growing that I do now, the stronger I will be later. I will be ready when opportunity comes.

In other professions, you intern, then climb the ladder until you reach the top.

I'm considering my first two years in LA my internship. I'm here to learn. I'm here to progress. I'm here to figure out how the hell to make things happen. At the 10 year mark, ill reevaluate and decide if my progress is indicative of greater things. It's a marathon, not a sprint.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

We Were Made to Create

God made us in His image.

The Creator made us to create.

Show me an unhappy person and I'll show you someone who is not creating. Creating can take all kinds of different forms.

Some people create a family. Some people create stories. Some people create model trains. Some people create friendships. Some people create laughter. The point is this:

WE WERE MADE TO CREATE.

The sad news is that we live in a world that is trying to suppress creativity. Schools are trying to cut out Fine Arts programs across the nation. It's frowned upon to take on creative endeavors. Why?

The lowest points in my life have been when I wasn't creating something. I was stuck in a rut. I'd work mindlessly, come home, and veg out. It's so easy to fall into this pattern. Our society values hard work and ambiguity. We don't call God the Great Ambiguous Hard Worker, do we?

He is The Creator.

When was the last time that you created something?

When was the last time that you made something from nothing?

When was the last time that you took an idea and made it into reality?

It's Christmas. God created something very special for us around this time many years ago.

What will you create?

Merry Christmas Everybody!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Donald's Epic Scientology Story: The Conclusion.

With the promise of L. Ron Hubbard's resurrection, all of my warning flags were officially going off.

I finally understood that this was no normal job that I was interviewing for. Just as I was about to peace out on The Ponytailed One, I heard the familiar ringing of a bicycle bell. I turned and saw a guy riding his bike towards me inside the building. He was sweating profusely as he braked 2 feet in front of me.

"That was a great ride! Woohoo!" He high fived my ponytailed companion. Little did I know that the high five was a transfer of positions and the dude in bicycle shorts was now handling me.

"Paperwork time!" He said as he peddled slowly so that I could follow. I went into his office and started looking over paperwork. On page two, I saw this:

Will you become a member of the Church of Scientology for 2 years or 4 years?

"I can't commit to this."

"Just circle one. It doesn't matter." He coaxed.

"Wait a minute. How much am I going to get paid here?" Dumb Donald hadn't thought to ask until then.

"Donald, I'm so glad that you asked. You would be volunteering for the Church of Scientology. We would audit you for free and you would make a percentage of commission foreach book sold. Our volunteers typically make between $3 - $5 a week."

I was pissed.

"Look here you so-and-so, this is really effed up. I'm sick of this feces!"

"Donald, please calm down." He reached underneath his desk.

"What the Hades are you doing?!?"

He pulled out a chart.

"Donald, these are your anger management issues. Don't let them control you!"

"I'm outta here!"

"No, wait. Let us give you a ride, Donald." He approached me.

I pushed him away. "I'm warning you. Leave me the h-e- double hockey sticks alone!"

I exited the building.

I started running. I'm a big guy, so that didn't last long.

I walked briskly. Very briskly. I just KNEW they were following me. I stopped in every store that I could and scoped the streets looking for a man on a bicycle.

I walked forever.

I walked by every bum. Every prostitute.

I walked through the worst parts of town. I had no idea where I was.

I was lost.

Finally, in the distance, I saw a familiar building. I headed towards it.

I left for the interview that morning at 9 am.

At 8:00pm my friend heard a rapping at his door. He opened it to find me wide-eyed and completely drenched in sweat. I had sweated through all of my clothes. I smelled of body odor and craziness.

I didn't say a word. I went into the shower and stood there for 2 hours until I could figure out what the hell had just happened to me.

The moral of the story:

Don't be dumb. People in LA will take advantage of you if you let them.

Happy Christmas Eve, y'all!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Donald's Epic Scientology Story Part 6

When Mr.Ponytail said that I'd have a theater to myself, he wasn't kidding.

I walked into a completely dark movie theater and sat, alone, right in the middle of the house.

I felt like people were watching me.

My creep-o-meter was pulsating at a steady Creep Com 8. It was pretty damn creepy in the cavern of darkness that was my Orientation Chamber.

It was a fully functional theatre with at least 500 seats and only one of them was filled. Dumb Donald's.

The Orientation Video began.

There was an older gentleman who was narrating the film. He strolled through a garden and told me about the secret to happiness.

He said,"Sure, you don't have to believe in the Church of Scientology," he paused as the camera zoomed in on his face, "but that would be stupid!"

"WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH PERSONALITY TEST FLYERS?!?!" My mind screamed.

The old man continued walking through his garden and began explaining the finer points of Scientology to me. He explained that the man who created Scientology (L. Ron Hubbard) was the greatest man that ever walked the face of the earth.

I rocking back and forth in my seat, hugging my knees, and repeating to my self,"What about Jesus?"

Dear reader, I've mentioned before that I'm really into hypnosis and other phenomena of the mind. I was seeing crazy subliminal images throughout the video. Flashes of colors and flashes of words in between frames. They were trying to brainwash me!

The video continued with interviews from famous Scientologists like Kirstie Alley explaining that without Scientology, she'd be dead. The video finally ended and the lights came up on Dumb Donald all alone in the theater.

After about 10 minutes of sitting alone and devising a plan, I exited the theater and was greeted by The Ponytailed One.

"What did you think, Donald?"

My heart was beating like crazy. I gathered up my courage and asked what needed to be asked.

" I don't have to become a scientologist to pass out flyers, right?"

"No, no, no. We just want you know what Scientology is all about. Let's fill out some paperwork!" He winked.

I followed him.

As we walked, I began to try to memorize exit routes. We walked past one doorway which caused me to pause.

It was a doorway to an office but it was closed off with a fancy velvet rope. The desk was huge and fancy as well. The chair was plush and velvety. The entire room was accented with gold plated things. On the desk, was a golden name plate that read: L. Ron Hubbard.

"Isn't he dead?" I asked.

My ponytailed companion looked at me like I was a complete and total imbecile.

"Donald, he's coming back."

Tune in tomorrow for the epic conclusion to my Scientology story.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Donald's Epic Scientology Story Part 5

As the elevator took us up, what seemed like, countless floors for he "big interview," I began to worry. I finally had time to begin to digest what was happening to me and it was pretty flipping weird. There was one certainty: I couldn't go back to that apartment empty handed.

I needed a job.

So, I withstood Captain Ponytail's strange questions and odd smells until the elevator came to a stop and the doors opened.

"Follow me, Donald."

I followed the bouncing ponytail to an even smaller room than I had been in before. Again, it had a table and two chairs. Sitting on the table was "the incredible mind reading machine."

"Have a seat. I'm going to ask you a series of questions while you hold the auditing machine. If you are lying the machine will let me know. Ready?"

Dumb Donald shrugged ,"Sure."

The questions started off harmless enough.

"Are you Donald?"

"Have you ever been in the military?"

Then the questions became really damn weird.

"Are you a Communist?"

"Are you a pervert?"

"Would you ever purposely try to harm the Church of Scientology?"

And finally, " Could you ever be blackmailed?"

"Uh, couldn't anyone be blackmailed?" I fired back.

"That's true. Good point, Donald! Now, it's time for you to watch the orientation video."

FINALLY! Something that made sense. I knew about orientation videos.

When I was 17, I worked at McDonald's for 3 days. During the hiring process, they rolled out a TV on a cart. I watched it and learned that if I put my hand in the hot grease, I would burn my hand. I leaned back and took a break while The Ponytailed One went to roll the TV in. I was ready to learn all of the safety precautions that I would need to take as a flyer hand-er out-er.

"Donald, what are you doing?"

"I'm waiting for you to roll the TV in for orientation."

He laughed a crazy laugh.

"No ,Donald! We're going down to the orientation floor. You'll have an entire theatre to yourself!"

I followed him down to the theatre to watch what I can only describe as the craziest and creepiest orientation video that I have ever seen.

Find out what I saw tomorrow in Part 6 of my Scientology Story.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Donald's Epic Scientology Story Part 4

As I entered the Church of Scientology, I realized that I was officially a stranger in a strange land.

The building was humongous. Men, women, and children all walked past me with creepy smiles and steely eyes. They didn't speak when they passed me. They acknowledged me by enlarging their smiles to shark-sized proportions. The building was absolutely silent. No one spoke. My driver turned to me.

"I'd like to show you something."

"OK."

The driver brought me into a room with a table and two chairs.

"Please, sit."

I stared an electronic device that was sitting in the middle of the table. It was a metallic box with, what looked like, a speedometer on the front of it. On each side of the box, two wires coiled out and connected to metal cylinders.

"Donald, this machine will read your mind."

I laughed.

He was serious.

"Grab the metal cylinders and think one thought."

I thought of a blue balloon. The speedometer blipped.

"Did you see that?!?! This machine KNEW that you were thinking!"

"Oh yeah?" I said.

"I think you're ready for the big interview. Let's go to the fourth floor."

Tune in tomorrow for Part 5 of my Scientology story.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Donald's Epic Scientology Story Part 3

The Steven Seagal looking guy drove the car while I stared out the window trying to remember notable landmarks just in case I had to barrel roll out of the moving vehicle and find my way back to the apartment.

I had no idea where the hell I was.

After about 10 minutes of driving, my pony tailed driver said, "Donald, don't you want to know more about the purification process?"

"Sure."

He continued, "I took off my clothes and went into the purification chamber. It's like a big hot tub. Once my body was in the water, all of the poisons started seeping out of my skin. Toxins were seeping out of every pore, Donald!" He lowered his voice as if telling a secret. "When I was six years old, I used to press ink stamps on my hand . . . I could see those stamps leaving my body. It was . . . incredible. The purification process changed me."

I sat in silence trying to find something to say. 19 year old Donald used his go-to response.

"Cool."

"We're here!" My driver said.

We pulled up to a huge complex. It was like a mix between a mall and a hospital. In very large letters, a huge sign read

THE CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY

Dumb Donald tried to reason why the sign said this.

"This personality test company must be renting out an office. That's it! No big deal, " Dumb Donald thought.

I entered the Church of Scientology.

Tune in tomorrow for part 4 where things really get bizarre.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Donald's Epic Scientology Story Part 2

I went into the building that had the NOW HIRING sign.

I was met by a glassy eyed girl that wouldn't stop smiling.

"Are you guys really hiring?"

"We are!" She chirped.

"What are the hours like?"

"You would be passing out flyers from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm. It's really fun!"

Finally, a job that would leave my days open to audition.

"You think I have a shot at being hired?"

"I think you would be perfect for the job. Come by tomorrow at 10:00 am."

I woke up the next morning, said goodbye to my compadres, and let them know that I should be back in 2 hrs. Oh, how wrong I was.

I entered the building for my job interview. A glassy eyed man with a creepy smile shook my hand.

"Since you're gonna be handing out personality test flyers, we would like for you to take a personality test."

Weird, I thought. I started the test. It took me an hour.

They gave me another test. It took me 45 minutes.

They gave me the last test. It was an IQ test. This one took me another hour.

It seemed like an in depth process for a gig passing out flyers but I needed a job pretty bad so what the hell?

The man told me that it would take awhile for my test to be processed. He wanted me to watch a short video to help pass the time.

It was a video on dianetics. This was my first red flag that something fishy was afoot. Dumb Donald didn't care. He just wanted a job.

All I remember about the video was that there was a volcano, a car accident, and an angry man playing baseball. It was strange.

The man called me back to his desk to go over my results.

He seemed disturbed.

"Donald, we have a problem. Your tests show that you have anger management issues . . ."

"What?!?!"

"But you have a high IQ, so we're going to let it slide."

I breathed a sigh of relief. He smiled.

"You're ready for the big interview. We have a car coming to pick you up. Please, wait outside in the alley for your ride."

Now, my mom had always told me not too get in cars with strangers but I I figured I'd go check this out and bolt if I needed to. Dumb Donald REALLY wanted a job.

When I walked out to the alley, the car was already waiting for me. A man walked out of the car and greeted me.

He wore all black and was a Steven Seagal look-alike. He had his hair pulled back in a tight and tiny ponytail. He, too, was glassy eyed.

"How do you feel, Donald?" He asked.

"I'm good."

"No, REALLY, how do you feel?"

"I'm good. Really."

"Well, I feel great! Since i started the purification process, I've been a new man!" He winked. "Let's go for a ride."

Dumb Donald ignored every red flag that was popping up in his head.

I got in the car.

Tune in tomorrow for Donald's Epic Scientology Story Part 3.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Donald's Epic Scientology Story Part 1

About 10 years ago, Dumb Donald spent a summer in LA. Dumb Donald believed that he would probably make it in 3 months time. If he didn't, he'd go back to college.

I now hold a bachelors degree in theatre and education.

I went through a lot of craziness during my 3 month stint in Hollyweird

19 year old Donald learned 3 things:

1. You need a job.

2. You are not going to make it as an actor in three months.

3. Be very careful of people who may be trying to take advantage of you.

And so begins my epic Scientology story . . .

I came to LA with $200 to last me three months. Not very smart. I'd recommend having $5,000 - $10,000 before making the move to Los Angeles. I quickly ran out of money after 2 weeks and was desperate for a job. One of the friends I knew worked at an Armenian restaurant in Hollywood. He promised me he could get me a job.

The next day I began work as a chicken cleaner and dishwasher.

I'm only good at two things in this world: acting and teaching. As I've said before, I'm fairly awkward and I was definitely the worlds most awkward chicken cleaner/ dishwasher.

I was fired after working for 3 hours.

I got soap on the chicken.

The owner of the restaurant placed his hand on my shoulder and said, "My customers, they don't like soapy chicken. Don't worry. I can never be a mechanic and you were never meant to clean chickens."

Sadly, I agreed.

"You're fired." He said. "I'll buy you a chicken."

I ate the chicken. The parts without soap on them were delicious.

I took the walk of shame back to the apartment. When I got there, the guys decided that we should go hang out near Hollywood and Vine to get my mind off of my epic failure.

As we were walking, I saw some people handing out flyers for free personality tests. I'm really into psychology and hypnosis so in I went.

A sign on the door read NOW HIRING.

My prayers had been answered . . . or so it seemed.

Tune in tomorrow for part 2 of  Donald's Epic Scientology Story.


Monday, December 17, 2012

It's A Numbers Game

I spent yesterday and this morning in Vegas with my in-laws and some very close friends of the family. It was great seeing my wife so happy. She's been missing them really badly. I missed 'em too and being around them made me miss my family even more.

I had a great time! Vegas is only four hours away from LA. It's awesome

This was my first time going to Vegas without a lot of money. I focused on visiting with family. I watched my wife laughing and catching up with her folks. It made me very happy.

Last night, I found myself at the craps table. I bought in for $15 and watched the dice roll.

Each roller has a special way of releasing and setting up the dice. It's hard to tell if it's superstition or effective manipulation but it makes the shooter feel like they are in control. It's just like the business of acting. Who knows what will work? Try everything and hope for the best.

Craps is a numbers game. You set the number (your goal) and then roll until you hit it.

Acting is a numbers game. The more auditions you go on, the better your chances of getting a role.

The longer you're out here, the more likely you are to get opportunities.

I used to enjoy gambling because it was the only risky thing that I did with my life.

Now, every audition is a gamble. Every person I meet is a new shooter getting ready to help me win big!

Living my dream is the adventure that I was looking for all along.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Be The Dumb Actor

I've talked before about how acting is not an intellectual pursuit.

Being smart and being a good actor are not the same thing.

My biggest obstacle when acting is over-thinking. I second guess and question first. I take action last.

This is backasswards.

"Acting is doing"  not thinking about doing.

Why do dumb actors succeed? Because they have no doubts. It doesn't even enter their minds that they can fail. They take action and think about it later (if at all). They go into and leave auditions with the confidence that only comes with having no doubts. They are so confident that it takes all doubt away from the Casting Directors. You know what happens next? Callback City.

The most effective actors that I have met are open books. They aren't hiding anything. They are genuine.

Try this the next time you go into an audition.

Be a dumb actor.

 Don't think. Just act.

Let me know how it goes.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Embracing Awkwardness


I'm an awkward person.

It's taken me 29 years to come to grips with this. It is part of who I am.

When I was younger, I would get so mad when someone called me, 'weird.' I couldn't understand it. How the hell am I weird? !? I'm just Donald.

News flash: I am weird. I am awkward. But I'm a lot of other things too.

My awkwardness makes me unique. I like to think it's a charming awkwardness . . .

What makes me awkward?  I spent years trying to answer that. To pinpoint and correct it. The truth is, it doesn't matter. I just am.

That's like asking someone why they are nice. It's just a part of our character.

I'm done compensating for awkwardness. I'm done apologizing for it.

I'm owning it and using it.

Yeah, I'm a little awkward and if anyone has a problem with it, then they are a little bit of a douche.

When it comes to acting, any character that I play will have a touch of awkwardness.

That's a good thing!

It's my trademark, baby.

Awkwardly yours,

Donald

Friday, December 14, 2012

How I Choose My Projects



Three months ago,  I was like the Cookie Monster.

If you dangled a potential project in front of my face, I was all over it.

Mmmmm Projects. Yum! Yum!

I auditioned for everything! A lot of it was a waste of my time.

I've come up with some questions that I use to decide which  projects I choose to submit to. These questions can and will change as I grow as an actor.

Here they are in order of importance:

1. Does this role fit my type?

   Right now, my goal is to establish my type. If a part doesn't fit this, it isn't for me.

2. Will I be able to use this for my reel?

     Your reel is a way to show your range and what you can play believably. If a project is going to have   crappy quality or crappy writing, it isn't for me.

3. Am I interested in the project?

    If I love the writing and the character, then screw all the other questions. I'm submitting for it.

4. Does it pay at least $100/day?

    This is the magic number that I've come up with. I'm an actor and I deserve to be paid, dammit! If this is the only issue and the rest of my questions are answered with a 'yes', I'll still still submit my headshot.

5.  Will I be able to work with great people?

     By great, I mean professional.
     By professional, I mean people who will work hard and care about the project.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Have A Conversation

In October, I went to an audition on the Disney lot for an A&E pilot. The Disney Lot!

 I was stoked.

I pulled in to see the guard, get my badge, and park in the Disney parking garage. I sat in my car and remembered what my buddy Leandro told me. "Remember your first time doing everything out here. It'll only be your first time once." I got goosebumps.

I could feel the magic of Disney.

I found my way to the casting office, signed in, and was greeted by the casting director. As we entered the audition space, I began to get the vibe that this casting director was the real deal.. This was no student film. "

I sat down and the casting director said, "Let's have a conversation. Just me and you."

I read the copy. I decided to make a choice and whisper one of the lines. She called me out on it.

"Why are you whispering if I'm the only other person in the room?" She asked.

"Good point," I smiled and continued.

"That felt better didn't it?"

It did.

I got a callback the next day. I went in and read for the director, producer, and casting director and nailed it.

"Thank you. Good work." she said.

As I was leaving the waiting area, she came up to me, put her hand on my back, and said, "That was really, really good work."

Moments like that are what make all the auditioning worth it. Oh, another cool thing, I booked the role. Funny how things happen when you relax.

Her audition advice is spot on.

Don't have an audition. Have a conversation.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Why I'm Here.

When I was teaching, I had a life of comfort. I wasn't wealthy, but I wasn't lacking any material things. I had a steady and reliable income. I saw that this was the way most people lived. I couldn't understand why I wasn't satisfied. Why wasn't I happy?!?

This scene kept creeping into my mind:

One day, I'll open my eyes and be 65 and wonder where the time went. I'll look at my life and realize that I never did what I wanted to. What I was meant to do. I'll chase other people dreams instead of my own. I'll be the bitter old man who scoffs at others who have dreams.

This scared the feces out of me.

I was teaching kids to follow their dreams without actually pursuing mine. I felt like a chump.

God was pulling on me. I could feel it. It could no longer be ignored.

I quit my job, loaded up my beautiful wife, left a life of comfort and reliability and entered a life of uncertainty and risk. With that risk, came possibility and opportunity. So much flipping opportunity that I wake up excited every morning. 

I'm here in LA. I'm living the actor's life and I'm happier than I've ever been.

I have small victories everyday. I go to auditions, I take classes, I meet people, I learn things, I'm given opportunities, but my greatest victory is that I won't live a life of regret.

I'm a dreamer, but  I'm also a  doer

and it feels pretty damn good.





Tuesday, December 11, 2012

What do you say?

Before I moved to LA, I read every blog that I could get my hands on.
I loved reading about life out here and learning how the business works. I'm still learning and loving it.

I want to share this blog with you. I want to collaborate.

You can always feel free to comment on any post I make. I love hearing from you guys. Whether you agree, disagree, want to voice your opinion or have a question, I want to hear from you.

This is my vow to you:

I will reply to every comment made.

I will write a post to answer any question or use any idea that you throw my way.

What do you say?

Monday, December 10, 2012

5 Things Teaching Taught Me About Casting in LA.

I taught Theatre for five years in Texas.

I say taught, but the majority of my time was spent directing and producing plays at the school. I'm thankful for the time that I spent with the kids there and the lessons that I learned by teaching and directing them.  What has floored me is how similar casting a high school play is to the casting process in LA.

Here are my realizations:

  1. Casting Directors want you to do well.
            When I was holding auditions at the high school level, I prayed that each and every student would be incredible. I wanted to see everyone do the best that they could so that I could make the best choice the I could when it came to casting.

   2.   Casting Directors want to see something unique and different.

            I witnessed an incredible phenomena when I was casting for high school. Everyone copied everyone else. It was strange. I don't think that people are trying to copy each other, maybe it's subconscious. I see the same thing when I'm auditioning in LA. Actor's are nonchalantly watching each other to steal or borrow different expressions. I've also heard an actor before me make a choice to scream and come out of the room smiling proudly. Every actor after him would scream as well. Don't be a copycat. Show casting directors your interpretation of the role.

   3Casting Directors want to see pleasant, happy, and well-adjusted actors.

          So many actors go into auditions nervous, angry, bitter, or defensive. Casting Directors want to see actors that they want to be around. Remember, Casting Directors will be putting their name on the line for you if they choose to cast you. That's a risk. Put their mind at ease and show them that you are a friendly and normal human being.

  4.   Casting Directors don't want to see actors who are desperate for a role.

          CD's are like bloodhounds that can track even the smallest amount of desperation seeping from an actor's pores. DON'T BE DESPERATE. There will be other roles. Just go into the audition, show them what you're interpretation is, have fun, then leave. Don't beg. Don't apologize. Don't cry. Don't force it.

  5.  Casting Directors don't know what they want.

         When I was teaching, I never knew how I was going to cast a play. I just hoped that the perfect person would show up and make me realize how the role should be played. This is true in LA. Get in there and show CD's how the part should be played!
_________________________________________________________________________________

Actor Friends,

We have a lot more power than we realize.
Let's stop fearing casting director's and begin collaborating with them.

Love,

Donald

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Importance of Having a Partner

I'm a lucky guy.

I met my wife in November of our Freshman year in college. We're made for each other. Everyday I'm thankful to have a wife who is willing to pack up and start life over from scratch so that we can pursue our dreams. She's awesome.

She has been my constant.

It's important to have someone on your side in LA. It doesn't have to be a romantic partner.

A best friend or family member can be a great partner.

You need someone that:
  •  is on your side.
  • wants you to win. 
  •  you can be honest with about yourself and what you're going through.
  • can give you their opinion without being a jerk.
  • will hold you accountable.
You need a partner.

 As an actor, you are the owner of your own unique business. You are the president, advertising head, accountant, and product. It's a strange business that requires discipline and focus (like most successful businesses do) but, you have no one to answer to.

Sound awesome, right? The idea of nobody holding you accountable may be enticing, but it has ruined many an acting career before it even had time to get started.

Nobody is going to ask you:
  • what are your goals?
  • how are you measuring your goals?
  • are you trying new approaches to building your business?
  • what business connections have you made this day/week/month?
  • what lessons have you learned?
This is where your partner comes in. They can do this for you.

Another option is to get with a group of actor friends once a week/month and review goals.

The point is, you shouldn't do this alone.

I know I couldn't.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Web Series (How I Used My Type)




About two weeks after I started Mark Atteberry's Type Class I got an audition for a web series. The role I was reading for was the goofy boss. I started slipping into my old way of thinking.

"What kind of funny stuff can I come up with?" Dumb Donald asked.

"How can I really play 'goofy'? Maybe I'll make some faces or do something with my voice."

I thumped Dumb Donald on the nose. "Dammit Donald, you are goofy. You don't have to play anything. You were a goofy boss when you were teaching without even trying. Just be yourself. Stop over thinking. Just go in and show them who you are."

I got the part.

The web series is called "I Hate My Coworker." You can check it out at www.ihmcwebseries.com.
I'm in episodes 2, 3, 7, 10, & 12. It's pretty funny. Check it out and let me know what you think.

It was a blast working with the folks at Vintage City Entertainment. It's refreshing to be around people who work hard, care, and do it what takes to make things happen. They are good people.

An interesting thing has been happening with my auditions. No matter what part I'm reading for, I play my type. The other day I was auditioning for a part that I didn't think I was right for so I just Donalded it up. I played myself. I finished the scene and they asked me to read for another part that was perfect for me. This is what happens when you show them who you are. They find parts for you that work.

I think that acting in LA is about stumbling forward. Don't let yourself fall, just weave forward and keep advancing and learning as you go.

Let's stumble through this thing together.
_________________________________________________________________________________

A reader from my last post asked me to post my resume. You'll now find a link to my headshots, resume, and performance clips on the right side of the blog under my "Hey There" message.

Thanks for the comments. Keep 'em coming!




Friday, December 7, 2012

Finding My Type

Coming from a theatre background, typecasting was the worst fate to befall an actor.

"Why would I want to play the same type of characters?" Dumb Donald would ask.

 "I can play anything!" Dumb Donald would shout.

I was wrong.

I'm smarter now.

In film and television, you want to be typecast. Your type is your brand. It's what you advertise that you can do well. It's how you get business.

Color me crazy but I don't like to waste my time and/or money. I want each decision that I make to be productive for my career. So when I got here, I signed up for on camera acting classes at David Kagen's Film Acting School. I knew I needed to take a supplemental specialty class that could really put things in motion. I had heard Mark Atteberry speak about finding your type on my favorite podcast of all time "Inside Acting" (see Useful Resources). He talked about the need to market yourself and how knowing your type prevents wasted time and energy. It sounded like exactly what I was looking for!

I signed up for his 6 week course on www.beaworkingactor.com and it blew my mind.

Through different exercises in and out of class, I found out what my marketable types were.
When I talk about my type, I mean how I am perceived before I've said a word (or after just a few words). Your type is the kind of first impression you leave.

I am:

The Tender-hearted Regular Guy

The Loyal Best Friend 

The Quirky Tech Guy

The Awkward Character

The beauty of these types is that I never have to try to play them. I am them.

Auditions have become a chance for me to show casting directors who I am, not what I can play.

Knowing my type has led to a super focused way of marketing and submitting for auditions.
I only submit for parts that need my type. It saves me time, money, and energy.

I now have unique branding phrases that fit me perfectly and I know how to pitch myself to agents and other entertainment peeps.

How do actor's know their type (without Mark's class)?

Through years of auditioning and seeing what your called in for the most.

I feel like I've got a head start because I'm starting my career with this knowledge in place. It focuses my efforts and takes away my nerves in the audition room.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Student Films and Douche Nozzles


You move to LA.

You seek an agent.

You need a reel.

You do student films.

The great thing about student films is that you get footage from them which you can then put on your reel. Holler!

I was a part of a student film today. The Director had a professional attitude and was great to be around. The other actor was a douche nozzle (more on that later).

A summary of student films:

Some really suck, some are great, and you never know which it'll be until you see the footage.

This one was pretty good. That's a picture of the set from it up there. Pretty impressive work for a college kid, right?

Most student films pay very little, if anything at all. This one paid me decently, which I think was a reflection of the director's professionalism.

Student films allow you to perform in a low pressure situation and experiment with what works for you.

Don't make a career of doing student films. Do them long enough to gain street cred and build your reel, then move up to the next level.























Normally, I'd end the post right there but I'm feeling froggy tonight.

Let me tell you about my douche nozzle of a scene partner from today shoot.

If you're unaware, here's a golden rule to live by:

Actor's don't give actor's notes.

Why?

Because its not our damn job. That's what the director does.

Makes sense, right?

I'm a pretty easy going guy.

The first time my fellow actor gave me a note, I calmly looked him in the eyes and said, "If the director gives me a note, I'll change it."

This was a tragic mistake.

Ol' douchey decided his new game would be to bypass talking to me and just tell the director the notes that he had for me.

I dealt with this for two days of rehearsal. On our shoot day, the douchemeister was 2 hours late. 2 hours! It's pretty tough to enjoy spending time around someone like this.
_______________________________________________________________________________

Actor Friends,

Please don't be a douche nozzle.
Keep your notes to yourself.

Love,

Donald






Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Auditioning

I flipping love auditioning.

It's always been one of my favorite parts of acting.

Most actor's that I know like to get auditions but they hate actually auditioning. It's a vicious cycle.

I think that learning to love auditioning is one of the biggest things that an actor can do to improve their success.

Why do I love auditioning?

  •  It's the only time that you get to come in and do whatever you want to in front of the decision makers. Think about it. That first read is all you. There's a lot of freedom in that. A lot of power. You do your thing then they give you a note (if you're lucky). Baddabing baddaboom!

  • It's a huge rush. Oh, man. It's like speed dating (or what I imagine speed dating to be.) It's unpredictable. Especially if you're really reading your partner. I never have any idea what my partner or reader will be like.

Why do people hate auditioning?

  • They get nervous.
This was a tough lesson for me to learn. Nervousness is excitement disguised. This thought is such an integral part of my acting and life that I would almost get it tattooed on my back prison style if it weren't for the mixed messages I think it would send. The next time you feel, 'nervous', stop and realize that it's just excitement, then channel that excitement into a focused and alive performance. It has led to some amazing moments for me.

  • There's no feedback
This one is rough. Normally,the only feedback you get from an audition is if you book it. Most of the time, you will not book it. This means that actor's go through auditions without ever really knowing what wrong. It feels like a lot of rejection and it is if you give the decision makers all the power. You have to develop a way to measure the success of your auditions that doesn't include booking the job. Acting classes can help a lot with this. Focus on one thing to master with each audition and then do it! A phrase that helps me is, "book the office, not the job." Go into auditions in order to develop relationships with the casting directors. Show them that you are a professional that is capable of consistently good work. They'll call you in for another part and another until finally they find a part that is perfect for you.

  •  There's too much competition.
Yep. There are a lot of actors in Los Angeles. This is not news. You signed up for this job and this reality. Here's the great thing though; There's only one you. Go in there and be yourself.  Know your type. As long as you show them an authentic person, you can't go wrong.

I can't wait until I get to the point where I am auditioning 5 days a week. This would be my dream.

Work comes from auditioning. If you hate auditioning, how can you expect the casting directors to enjoy watching you audition?

 Change your mindset.

"The actor's job is finding work. The fringe benefit of our job is that we get to act." - Samuel L. Jackson

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

What did I expect? The Reality of Living in L.A.


I love being in LA.

It's badass.

Everyday I am flabbergasted by how much oppurtunity is here. There's more possibility than you can imagine.If you want to seriously pursue film and television, this is the place to do it.

I'm happier than I've been in years.

Before I made the move, I researched a lot. planned a ton, and read every book and website I could get my hands (and mouse) on. However, no amount of research could prepare me for being thrown in the middle of it.

Here's the reality of what it like to be in L.A:

Everything is Competitive.

Literally, everything,

Expectation 1: Finding an apartment will be easy.

There are so many people in Los Angeles. Everytime I scheduled an apartment viewing, I was there with at least five other potential tenants. Landlords can afford to get picky with who they choose. The good news is there are a lot of apartments out here as well. Keep trying and eventually you'll find one.

Expectation 2: Finding a day job won't be too tough.

With so many people in L.A., finding even the most basic job is crazy competitive. "Ill just be a waiter," you say? I said the same. Everyone is a waiter. Restaurants have potential hires on a waiting list for when an opening comes up. It's crazy sauce. It's hard enough to find a job, but add to it the fact you, as an actor, need a job with flexibility and decent pay and it the crazy sauce goes up a level. It's best to have a special skill and find a job in that area. What would be the greatest thing ever?  To work for yourself. We'll talk more about day jobs (and night jobs) in a future post.

Expectation 3: The money I saved up will last a pretty long time.

LA is expensive. Because I didn't get a job immediatly (see Expectation 2) my saving went by quickly. My suggestion: have a lot in savings or get a job quickly.

Expectation 4: I probably won't use my car much.

I was very wrong. There is a transportation system in Los Angeles but it ain't worth writing home about. I've had days where I've had four auditions that were 30 miles apart. I'd have never made it on the bus. My advice? Get a car.

Expectation 5: There are so many people in LA that I'll never get lonely.

The actor's life is a strange one. I'm either auditioning or I'm at home. You have to find a way to socialize with others. I hate the term "networking" but that's what it is. I'm an extroverted (when I have to be) introvert and I'm still trying to figure this one out.

Whether you think you're ready or not, there's no better place to figure it out than right in the middle of it.

If it's what you want, if it's what you're being pulled towards, move to LA.

Screw Expectations.








Monday, December 3, 2012

The Shift

I learned about theatre for five years in college.

I taught theatre for five years in Texas.

I thought I had the acting thing figured out.

I analyzed the character. I found similiarities between the character and myself. I took a piece of myself and used it as the clay with which I created the character. It was poetic. Basically, the character had pieces of myself in it and then I filled the rest in with what I had researched or the choices I had made. This worked great for theatre but it never felt complete. I found that my on camera work was lacking believability. It seemed like I was holding back.

Then the shift happened.

"Acting is not intellectual. It is animalistic. It's from the gut"

This quote slapped me in the face. It's the answer. It's what I was missing from my on camera work.
I needed to stop thinking and start reacting.

It's so easy to hide behind the analytics of it all and justify each "decision" you've made with text BUT acting is all about the other person and the chemistry that is going on between the two of you. Not the text. Not your choices. Just the way you make each other feel.

The Revelation:

It's not my job to find pieces of myself in the character. If I do that, then there will only be pieces of realism in my performance.

I am the character. The only truth that I can play is myself.

You know what part I was born to play?

Donald.

and I'm pretty damn good at it when I let myself.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Useful Resources

Confession: I'm a little obsessive when it comes to researching things.

This sometime leads me down a slippery slope.

 I'll begin surfing the web for a new chicken breast recipe and before I know it, it's five o'clock in the morning and I'm looking into how the ancient ancestor of the rhinoceros may have been the unicorn we know and love today. It's a problem.

However, it is awesome when it comes to acting! I've got quite a list of resources from my hours of frenzied internet research.

Without further ado, I present to you my working list of actor resources (in order of importance)

1. http://www.insideactingpodcast.com/ This podcast is awesome! Two actors interview different people  in the industry each week. They are on episode 80 and the episodes are jam packed with actory goodness! Seriously, can't recommend this enought.

2. http://insidetheactorsstudioapartment.blogspot.com/ This is the blog that inspired me to start a blog. He updates daily (which I hope to do as well). He's funny, inspiring, and gets to the point. Definately check out his "Get Your Butt to LA" posts.

3. http://bbs.backstage.com/eve/forums The Backstage Messageboard is filled with people with opinions. This can be a good thing and a bad thing. Overall, it is very helpful. Search the forum for lists of top agencies, advice on headshots, etc.

4. http://www.ratemyheadshot.com/ Headshots are so flipping important. This site allows actors to submit their headshots and get rated on how effective they are. Be sure to check out the highest rated list and lowest rated list to get an idea of what's great and what's, well, terrible.

5. http://backstage.blogs.com/unscripted/  A cornicopeia of blogs from different actors.

6. www.immovingtola.com  Are you moving to LA? Thinking about it? Check this site out.

More resources to come . . .

Donald Does The Introduction

Hey.

I'm Donald.

Four months ago, I moved to Los Angeles from Texas with my wife and two dogs.

I'm an actor.

Follow my misadventures, milestones, and lessons learned about the entertainment industry on Donald Does LA.