I Want

So the other day, I was hanging out with some friends that I hadn’t seen for awhile.  They asked me what I was up to.  I told them about the whole acting thing and how I really want to pursue it.  How I’m planning to move to la this coming summer/fall.  Why not you know?  The more I talked about acting, the more I realized how much I wanted it.  I got really excited about it, trying to explain how the need to pursue it is affecting my psyche.

I’ve wanted this for a long time but I would do anything to prevent myself from following my dream.  Dude! Even the name of this blog is “the shy actress”.  Isn’t that a bit ironic? I want people to read this blog and I don’t mind sharing my experiences to strangers, in fact, it’s best for actors and actresses to get their name out right?  But I just don’t want people to know that it’s me writing this.  I dunno, I get super self conscious about acting.  After any project I do, I do want to see the final product, but I don’t want to see myself in it.  I cringe when I see my fat cheeks and weird nose.  Blegh.

Here’s the thing, I always knew I wanted to be an actor, but I never wanted to want to be one.  It’s a hard path, it’s not the safe and secure path that my parents wanted me to follow, and I just don’t look like any of the superstars in the media.  With my last entry, you realize how I thought acting was a joke, but yet I always kept taking acting classes.  Why?  I needed to feed the desire, to nurture the dream, even if I was in denial.

When did I finally realize that I had to go for the dream and not bullshit myself?  When I was in another country.  After college, after not finding anything to spark my interest more than acting, I ran away to Spain to teach English.  Why?  It’s a friggin SPAIN! But by the end of the year of yelling at Spanish elementary school kids, I couldn’t take it anymore.  My dream wasn’t this.  I resented the kids, I resented teaching, I resented Spain. It took so many years of denial, a BA in bs, and finally with me being in a foreign country to make me snap and think:  fuck, what the hell am I doing here?  I have to get back, I have to go for it.

And I have.  Alright, so I’m not in full throttle … yet.  I’m not in la obviously.  I came back from Spain to the bay area because I needed to ease my way in.  LA was too big, too harsh, I wasn’t ready.  I’m just gonna try it out for a little bit and just get it out of my system.  (First I was in denial, now I’m just a pussy).  ugh.  yea I got headshots, I got an agent.  I went on auditions, did student films.  But I still feel anxious.  Impatient. Held back.  Why is that?  Because I’m in SF, not la!

It’s kinda like you want this game, let’s say it’s the latest madden, and you do everything in your power to get it: you save up money and wait in line, you download it, you order it online, etc.  But with every effort, something prevents you from getting that game: it’s sold out, you downloaded a fake, etc.  So how do you feel?  Frustrated, anxiety over not getting it, planning/plotting your next move to get it because you’re determined to get it no matter what.

That’s how I feel now.  The thing that has been preventing me most from pursuing acting is me.  I know what I want and I have to go get it ASAP for my mental well being.  After years of preventing myself, I’m ready to burst out of the mental block I’ve put up for myself and just be.  I know I sound crazy, but wouldn’t it have been crazier if I had tolerated something I didn’t care for, for years and years and years??

The other day, my friend who picks on me a lot was telling me how he went to school with James Franco’s brother, Davey.  My friend told me how Davey would tell him when James was on the cusp of getting big.  How he was in Spiderman, winning a Golden Globe, etc.  How Davey said that James worked hard.  And then my friend asked me, “Are you willing to work your ass off for this?”  I replied without hesitation, “yes, duh.” Now my friend rarely says anything nice to me (he’s more the bullying older brother I never had), but he said this to me:

You sell yourself short too much.  I bet if people saw you on screen they’d think, ‘wow hot Asian girl’. I think you can make it.  If you’re willing to work hard, I really believe that you can make it.  It’d be cool if you did, cuz then I would tell people I know you.  You’ve got a good head on your shoulders.

That was the nicest thing he ever said to me.


Fake It Till You Make It

So today I had acting class.  I used to think acting class was BS.  Memorize some lines, put some tone and arcs wherever appropriate, throw in some facial expressions, wham bam shambam, you got acting.  Acting class was always an easy a: you participate, you watch others do their scenes, and make nice with the teacher.

I remember my first acting class freshman year in high school.  The classroom was a big-carpeted room with no tables and chairs, just a wide-open space.  The drama teacher, Ms. G., looked like a mix between Goldie Hawn and Olivia Newton john and she always had her shoes match the oversize sweatshirt she wore (red shoes with red sweatshirt).  Anyways, she would literally take ten minutes to take roll.  Then would follow a fifteen minute meditation where everyone would lie anywhere on the carpet, close their eyes, and listen to Enya as Ms. G. narrate us flying into the clouds and floating into the sunset.  I swear we did this everyday.  After that, we would just take turns doing scenes that we chose. This was all fun and games to me, and I guess part of the reason why I didn’t take acting seriously was because I saw it as a joke for so long.  I didn’t want to be associated with it, with the stereotypical “aspiring actress” because that was just a euphemism for unemployed.  Who wanted to aspire to be unemployed??

Even when I took acting classes in college, I remember rolling my eyes when my teacher first made me write a whole background about my character, even when the background was never mentioned in the entire story.  (I was stupid back then, background story is soooo important in developing a character).  He told me to just make it up and was so broad and vague about it, that I just thought, “what the fuck is the point? I should just raise my voice at line 2 and soften my voice at line 12.” (I don’t do this now, I promise).

Finally, I took this one class in college, acting for the camera.  My teacher, Ms. T was kinda kooky, but she made excellent points.  She made developing a character less broad and just told us to ask questions.  What is my character’s objective?  What is his/her want? What are his/her weaknesses, strengths?  How does his/her weaknesses prevent him/her from obtaining his/her objective.  She taught us how to audition, to take a moment when asked to make an adjustment, to mark up the script and make specific decisions, to not look at the script when your reader is speaking, but instead to react to when the reader is speaking.  Acting is reacting.

Now, I take acting classes from a studio with Mr. A. he’s great because he assesses my weaknesses and forces me to face them through improvisation.  He’ll make up a scene with 2-3 characters. Each actor in the scene is the character and he’ll set up the situation.  He’ll tell us the back story and our relations to each other.  And then he’ll give us the present scene and let us go wild with the motivations and back story in mind.  It’s a good workout for the mind and psyche.   I’m a very positive, perky, and optimistic person.  So comedy and lighthearted stuff, I rock at.  In any given improvisational scene, I would comfortably choose the choice that would bring me to the happy ending.  Let’s say the scene is a breakup scene.  My boyfriend says, “I’m breaking up with you”.  Automatically, I would try to work it out, “we can work it out.  I can change.  We’ll be happy together!” <— the happy ending choice.  What I’m not good at is sadness, making the decision that would make me feel helpless, vulnerable, in desperation and hopelessness.  So in this case, I would have to say things like, “my life is over! It’s over; I’m going to die.  I’m nothing w/o you.  It’s her isn’t it?”  Through the improvisation, I can train myself to explore and delve into the extremities and develop a range.  I need to be able to access and control, not only the lighthearted but the dark side and sensitive stuff as well.

With the last couple of classes, it’s been a struggle, but there’s been progress.  Just two classes ago, I used to think that I had to be sad, to portray sadness.  To get into the mood first and then do the scene.  I couldn’t do that very well anyways because I never felt sad in front of class.  And to do a sad scene when I wasn’t sad never felt true to me.  Besides that was the wrong way to approach the scene.  Mr. A. said I should be motivated enough by the scene and the character to evoke the emotions.  Emotions are the byproduct of the motivations.  Not the other way around.  And it makes sense.  When you’re watching a movie, and you see the character go through a really sad situation, all of a sudden you start to cry.  Doode, I hella cried at the first few scenes of Up.  It’s not that I was sad before watching the movie, I was just sad for the character, for his plight.  And listen, this was an animated movie.  These characters aren’t even tangible! Those tears and frowns are CGI!  I swear the sobs crept up so unexpectedly.  Which reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite actors, Harrison Ford.  On IMDB, when speaking about emotions he said:

If real emotion is available, use it, otherwise I follow what I think is an AA rule: “Fake it ‘til you make it”. Emotions are an interesting language. Sometime they sneak up on you when you’re not expecting, when you are available to it.

All right so today, with all that in mind, I faked it ‘til I made it.  I came into the scene with all the set up and motivations in mind, I believed and imagined myself in the situation given to me and the tears came out.  I was sad.  The problem was that my body and mind weren’t used to this kind of situation.  There was a struggle between keeping it together and allowing myself to just break down and cry.  My body started to vibrate; it didn’t know what to do.  I could feel sobs wanting to roll out of me, but I could also feel them being suppressed automatically.  To cry or not cry?  In any case, Mr. A. stopped the scene from going further and told me to aim and go to the full extremity next class, to break down and just let it out.

I know I’m capable of breaking down and crying.  I’ve done it before.  I can do it! Hah, it’s ironic how I’m enthusiastic to be sad.  Wah wah wah.


Part Time Waitress, Part Time Aspiring Superstar

It’s a chill Saturday morning in sf.  My first Saturday off in a long time.  I’m calling up everyone to hang out, friends, roommates, even family to just give me some company because I reasonably think that they’d be available.  It’s SATURDAY! Jeez louise! Wrong.  It’s finals week, so my sister has school stuff.  My roommate has deadlines, my cousin’s at a wedding, and my friends are seeing their family or families of their lovers.  -_- Super lame.

And that’s why I find myself starting this blog.  Being part time waiter and part time aspiring superstar, I find a lot of free time. I work mostly weeknights in a corporate restaurant to leave time for auditions in the daytime.  Weekends I devote to working in the restaurant for making up for the bad auditions I’ve had.  Which are many :/ and a no bueno.  Auditions are hard to come by in SF, and if I fuck one over, it only forces me to work more hours in the restaurant to make up the money that I woulda coulda shoulda from a gig.  In any case, I tried to pick up a shift today, but none were available. Thus I went looking for friends, but none were available, and so it leads me back to this blog.

Well let’s make the best of it. So I’m reading this book called “waiter rant” by Steve Dublanica.  It’s about this guy’s personal experience of being a waiter.  He never saw himself as a waiter but somehow he ended up doing it for hella years.  Anyways, in one part of the book, he describes the kind of people that have become waiters.  There are many kinds of people but the no surprise category and the one that mostly speaks to me is the “endless procession of models, painters, writers, and actors – who struggle to make ends meet as they chase their American Idol dreams.” <—— that’s me! OMG! The author makes a better point when he says this:

All this talk about waiters and acting reminds me of that old joke.
“My son’s an actor in New York.”
“Really?  What restaurant?”
That underscores the bitter reality many artists who wait tables struggle with on a daily basis.  When asked what they “do,” they usually reply, “I’m an actor,” or “I’m a writer.”  For the first couple of years that’s okay, but after several years working in the restaurant biz, if the bulk of your income still comes from waiting tables, you’re a waiter (123).

So with the bulk of my income coming from waiting tables, I’m a waiter.  And the thing is, it’s true.  As much as I aspire to be an actor, as much as it is my dream to be a superstar, my present now is that I’m a waiter.  When people ask me what do I do, I tell them I wait at this restaurant and that they should all come and visit me! Actually, I went to this social gathering for people in the media and film business in the bay area a couple of months ago. Everyone was either a producer, director, writer, actor, etc.  So when people came up to me asking me what I was and expecting one of the above answers, I said I’m a waitress.  I wasn’t comfortable saying I was an actress.  I had never gotten paid for a gig, I’m not union, and I’m barely starting out.  But I guess what makes me kind of proud to be a waiter is that it reminds me that I’m in the position to go for my dream.  I’m making it possible to go on auditions, to meet new people, to help out on low pay/no pay projects.  When I’m actually doing something that I care about, not making money on those projects doesn’t really matter.  And I guess it reminds me of that quote from Whoopi Goldberg’s character in sister act 2 to Lauryn Hill’s character,

“If you wake up in the mornin’ and you can’t think of anything but singin’ first .. then you’re supposed to be a singer. girl.”

I wake up in the morning thinking about acting, about movies, emotions, characters.  I go to sleep reading IMDB, Wikipedia on actors, Rottentomatoes, etc. I’m supposed to be an actor, and I know it too.  I’ve actually known for a while since I was in middle school.  But for the last year, I’ve finally conjured enough courage to pursue it.  Why not you know?  For so many years, I was in denial.  Protecting myself under the safe zone of school, I did the college route.  I chose a major I didn’t care about.  Actually I chose a major that was the most eclectic so that I could find a class that sparked my interest more than acting.  Ironically the classes I loved most were my acting classes and I only did those as a hobby.  I never could shake the nagging feeling.  After graduation, realizing I didn’t want a job with the major I didn’t care about, I moved to Spain.  Hahah what the hell am I doing in Spain?? DOODE! IT’S SPAIN! I taught English to grade school Spanish kids and got paid for it, whilst getting a BS major in Spanish (that’s a whole different adventure/blog).  Anyways, did that for a year and realized that I was holding myself back.  I wasn’t happy, I wasn’t satisfied, I was restless.  Anxious, to get my ass out of Spain and do something about my dream.

And then lo and behold, the universe spoke to me via Facebook (FB’s everywhere).  A friend of mine had posted a quote on her status and it said, “it’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.” maybe I only see what I want to see, but damn, it beat all the friggin Farmville updates on the feed.  That quote sparked my want to live to pursue the dream.  (It also sparked me to read the book that that quote came from: the alchemist by Paolo Coelho, it’s a must read, changed my life). I came back to the U.S., got headshots, sent them out to nearby agencies (I’m from the bay area so I sent them all out to SF), and got rejected from all of them, well except one.  One of them was a one-woman show.  She never responded to my cover letter and headshot, so I called her up.  She apologized for not getting back to me, she was busy, but she was interested.  We met at a cafe in SF where she fed me delicious almond croissants and we hit it off.  She said Asians were in (I’m Asian) and I fist pumped to myself.  That was 10 months ago.  She sent me on auditions for print ads all over SF for the last 10 months, and I finally booked a gig, my first one through her last week.  It took 10 months, but what a way to finish off 2010 huh 😀