Taking Advantage of a “Career Lull”: Using My Words

What do I have in common with Steve Martin, Tina Fey, James Franco, and Andrew McCarthy? We’re actors who are also writers. You read that correctly, Andrew McCarthy is, in fact, a writer. He’s an award-winning travel writer. Check out some of his stuff on National Geographic Traveler. Now, I’m not talking about actors who all of the sudden want to “write” their memoirs, and get a ghost writer to do it for them. I’m talking about people with actual skills, who do their own writing. As a matter of fact, Tina Fey and Steve Martin actually STARTED OUT as WRITERS. I’m guessing they did it while they were pursuing acting as well, due to the fact that they are in both realms of the industry. Granted, there are those actors who have also written screenplays or stage plays, and blogs,  but that’s a different type of article all together.

I started acting when I was around the age of 8, maybe 9.  But I started making up stories as soon as I could talk. I even had an imaginary friend when I was 5 who I would tell my stories to. Her name was Jinglelyn, and again, I was 5. When I actually learned to read and write, writing took a back seat to performing onstage. I had found my passion for storytelling on stage. And I loved it. It’s my first love. Telling stories, no matter what shape or form, is what I love.

What I find funny now, is the fact that my parents kept giving me journals on my birthdays or Christmas, and I never really used them. I wasn’t really a “dear diary” type of girl anyways. It seemed sort of silly to recount my day on paper. I started writing short stories and plays, and when I got to high school, I helped start up the creative writing club at my all-girls, Catholic high school. I wrote stories, parts of novels I was working on, and seriously wanted to become a writer and an actor when I grew up. I was involved in anything creative. I sang in choirs, acted in the school plays and wrote stories. My English teacher even gave me a writing award my junior year of high school.  When I got to college, I majored in English because I love the element of story-telling, plot and characters. I thought it would help in the acting realm because I was able to learn about the different things that make up a good story. It was sort of like four years of script-analysis. I acted throughout college, even directed. My senior year of college, I got my first headshots and auditioned at my first major theater convention, which led to moving to NYC to study at Circle in the Square Theater School.

Within these past six years, I have been acting and putting writing on the back burner. I got my union cards and even pursued stand-up.  The closest I came to writing, before starting this blog, was stand-up comedy, which I still love because you can create your own material.  I started this blog because I wanted to get back into writing, and I wanted to write something from the perspective of an actor who was going through the ups and downs in their career. Not someone who is washed-up and giving advice. I’m still in the trenches and being in a  career “lull,” I have been writing about what I love. Movies I love, movies I loathe, anything and everything that has to do with the industry, with a unique perspective. It seems like I’m in good company of those who came before me. If you use all of your talents, it can lead to something. What that is, I don’t know. But I am pursuing my writing and my acting. So I guess I can add a back-slash to my job description. I’m a writer/actor. And I’m so glad you are reading my blog. Thanks.

YouTube: Re-Defining the Documentary

The documentary has always been one of my favorite genre of film. If done properly, a good documentary can make people rethink how they see the world, and the people who inhabit it. YouTube has been a  great place to find films in terms of  utilizing it as an archive. You can also discover self-produced indie films, as well as shows from overseas. People have taken to the streets to create  documentaries of their everyday lives. In keeping with the “Food on Film” theme, I found a documentary that I can’t find anywhere BUT YouTube from a producer in the UK. The documentary itself even has its own channel of the same name, Health Food Junkies, which deals exclusively with the raw food diet. I found it fascinating because I couldn’t actually find it on Netflix; and, as far as my research goes, it has not been distributed and is independently produced. Is this the new wave of documentaries? As a filmmaker, you are able to reach a broader audience in the comfort of their own home. Therefore, it might be to your benefit  to publicize your film via YouTube. Remember Kony 2012? The campaign became a famous one due to the 26 minute documentary on YouTube.

Here, for your viewing is the documentary Health Food Junkies. I am including it because I think it is interesting that this film decided to upload it to YouTube. I really haven’t heard anything else about it other than what’s publicized on the popular site.

DISCLAIMER: I am only including it to highlight people’s ability to make readily-available documentaries. My views and opinions about diet are not necessarily reflected within this film.  It is in 3 parts and uploaded to one channel:

Whether it is a documentary, archive footage, or an entire rare film, YouTube has become a valuable resource for filmmakers and actors alike.

Food on Film: The Joys & Challenges of Acting and Eating at the Same Time

Amara Miller and George Clooney in "The Descendants" (2011)
Amara Miller and George Clooney in “The Descendants” (2011)

There are cookbooks dedicated to sharing recipes from various films and television shows such as Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, and Harry Potter (just to name a few.) It’s probably one of the most basic and necessary human needs other than breathing. Food, and the act of consuming it, is probably one of the most prevalent and consistent things seen in nearly every film, television show and even play. Yet, it’s one of the most difficult things to do while acting. I just did  a play this past December where my character ate for nearly the entire time that they were onstage. The challenge for me as an actor, was to time it out just right so that I was able to say my lines at the right moments, and eat at the same time. Believe me, in everyday life, the last thing you’re thinking about is whether or not you’re going to be the next one to say something, but having too much food stuffed in your face at the wrong moment on stage or film can be awkward . In dinner scenes, especially on film, you may notice that no one actually eats. And if they do, it’s little nibbles and tiny bites. Why? Because they have a scene to do and lines to say. They also have to do take after take, which means eating…and eating. Or does it?

There are several tricks that we as actors implore to make sure that we don’t gain a massive amount of weight or get massively ill during the course of filming. Often, there might be a cup or a napkin you can spit into in between each take. But sometimes, you really might be eating continuously. This can be a challenge for any actor, especially the kid actor. Kids love to eat. And as children, their eyes might be too big for their stomachs or they might not realize one crucial factor. They’ll have more than one take. They might have five, six or heck, even ten takes to do. This is where the tricks of the trade come into play.

George Clooney tells a great anecdote during his Inside the Actors Studio interview about filming a scene with Amara Miller, who played his youngest daughter Scottie, in The Descendants. It was Amara’s film debut, and as such, she was probably not thinking about the fact that she would have to do more than one take of a scene where she is having lunch with George Clooney and eating ice cream. And, George didn’t actually warn her that eating all that ice cream, take after take, would make her sick. So, at the beginning, she was scarfing down bowls of ice cream. One take, two takes, three takes…and by take five or six, she began to feel ill. Poor  kid. She should have paced herself. Maybe taken a few spoonfuls during each take. But that wouldn’t have been realistic. Kids love ice cream.
The story that George Clooney reveals is all too common with actors and food. Oftentimes, even as adults, we might get ahead of ourselves and make ourselves sick of whatever we’re eating. I did a film once where I was eating pizza, and I would just take little bites throughout the scene. One slice lasted me three takes. By the end of the work day though, I didn’t want to eat pizza for at least a month.

Yet, on film, and as an audience member, we might just crave what the actor is having to eat onscreen. And, audience members are the first to notice continuity flaws in film and television as well. A lot of the time, those flaws deal with food. In Pretty Woman, for example, during the breakfast scene, Julia Roberts is eating a pancake. Then, that pancake turns to a croissant in the next shot we see of her. Maybe they did the scene two different days, but whoever was in charge of continuity got the food wrong. It’s minor, and now part of film history. But, as an actor, I always try to make sure that I remember what I’m eating, what hand I have things in, and even how I’m wearing something. Someone out there will notice if it’s wrong, and they’ll blog about it.

There are countless scenes that incorporate food and to make the most of the different sub-categories of Food On Film, I’ll be talking about everything from dinner scenes to food fights and everything in between.

As a side note, one of my favorite local hangouts in my neighborhood is a local coffee shop called Darling Coffee. It’s run by two of the nicest people you could ever meet, and the coffee, along with the baked goods, rival any place in Manhattan. You’re getting top quality food and beverage in an atmosphere that’s friendly and creative. It’s my favorite place to go in my area. It’s my version of Central Perk from Friends I guess. If you’re ever in Inwood, at the tip of Manhattan, go there. It’s fantastic. And I’m addicted to their Campfire Cookies.