I can still remember the last scenes we worked on before the March 14th/15th weekend shut down in Los Angeles. The recently filmed pilot B Positive was so funny and a handful of students in my Friday-day class at John Rosenfeld Studios planned a get-together to work and also just touch base on our crazy lives. I was weirdly the first one there (off brand) and my friend Rachel arrived after me. I remember we hugged outside the room for no reason other than the world felt like it was slowly tilting on its side and hugging a friend felt like a life raft. Shortly after 4-5 of us were gathered, I got an email that my UCB Improv 301 class (two weeks from our finale show) was being temporarily cancelled. I got on the phone to Caleb and asked him to order more groceries because I was getting really scared. We finagled our way through some semblance of a rehearsal and then parted ways, planning to see each other the next day for class. My adrenaline of being around people was getting more and more amped and I never showed for class the next day. I was too scared and my mind was anywhere but in a script.
That was the last class that was held on site at my studio. And I am aware that was a super fucking dramatic opening to a blog post about acting class, but that sticks in my mind so intensely, I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. The closeness you can find with humans you act with is nearly untouchable outside the safe space you create together. Not to get too woo-woo for you non-theatre kids, but that creative sharing and trust creates a bond no matter if you see each other only four hours a week or not. Which brings me to today’s topic…why am I still in acting class.
Since April my typical class now meets on Zoom. Instead of walking the mile to the studio on Fairfax and Santa Monica (one of my favorite parts of a Friday) I now login to my computer at 1:30pm instead. I also joined Brian Patacca’s Actor Operating System group (you heard me talk about it here) where I am accountable to my goals and plans. I am so grateful for both of these for so many reasons, I am very glad I stayed in class.
If you have gotten an audition in the last few months that wasn’t a self-tape or had a callback that was on Zoom, you know it’s complicated. Navigating this in a high pressure situation is even harder. Simple things like eye-lines or having the copy with you become incredibly complicated, let alone actually connecting to the scene/other actors/your environment. We have all become self tape ninjas in the last few years (and if you don’t feel like you have, there’s a bonus ep in the works for you so hold please!) but Zoom or whatever platform you are meeting is a whole other animal. The aspects of a self tape are there but your framing can be limited and your gallery screen may be confusing if you don’t “Hide Non-Video Participants”. Not to mention internet capabilities are high priority and tech glitches can absolutely fuck you.
All the being said, having spent 4+ hours on this platform working and watching others work material at a prearranged time every single week for almost seven months now has changed this completely. Knowing the angles that work for intimate scenes or how to “Pin your partner” take away all the etcetera nonsense that makes this new medium hard to navigate. Remember the first time you walked into an audition room in a legit office and felt so overwhelmed from even parking that you have zero idea what you did in your audition? I’m going to take a really practical leap here and assume you never want to feel like that again. Getting your reps in consistently makes this platform really workable. And I kinda think we’ll be here for…a while.
Nothing feels more alone than a creative person in isolation with no one to relate to. Even if you’ve been lucky enough to have someone you love by your side this year, it doesn’t mean they understand what you’re going through. We already signed up for a roller coaster career but right now it kinda feels like we are in the tunnel part where it’s pitch black and you don’t know if you’re going to see the light soon or hit the next drop (this metaphor just made my stomach drop out of my ass btw, not a heights person). Touching base with other actors, even in a Facebook Group or virtual meeting, who may also be struggling with their complete lack of auditions or relationships with reps (hint: it’s getting complicated) or zero motivation to work on anything is actually helpful. 99% of the time, you’re not all having a collective “worst day ever”. And just talking openly about losing out on a project because someone’s covid test came back negative can lighten the load. Immensely.
Ok, this week I am going to read three scripts, study one new HBO series, write my next reel piece, and attend 5 IG Lives with casting directors! In fact I can check this off every week! What else am I doing?! Let me stop you right here. I have been this person. Hell, I AM this person. I give myself endless work to check my actor box because we have been told time and time again about the importance of our hustle.. Sure. Great. But without an end goal in mind or any kind of accountability system we’re a bit lost at sea. Being given 1-2 current scripts per week and an assigned date to have 1-2 scenes prepared is my jam. I am also held to a standard of meeting times in my AOS admin group. I feel up to date on the inner workings of the actor-world and I keep my tools from getting rusty. I also know that whats scheduled on my calendar is my true “To Do” list.
Businesses around us are closing left and right. I don’t want to see that happen to the place I have started to call home. Most places right now have a “pay what you can” model in place and that has been immensely helpful. If you are concerned about the financial impact of joining a class right now, I recommend reaching out and asking if they have a sliding payment scale or something equivalent.
Whatever you need in your life right now to solidify that you are indeed a working actor, do it. But staying in class and working (some weeks harder than others) has kept me on target and held my lil creative hand through some pretty tough weeks.