Friends, fellow filmmakers and big fat fakers

paparazzi 1Photo by Christopher Labadie Photography

There is something really sensational about the human spirit – how we live in a constant state of renewal and restoration. Think about all the times you have been screwed over, hurt, betrayed, taken advantage of, lied to, left behind, heartbroken, cheated … by friends, colleagues, family members, trusted elders …  but have you stopped trying? Have you stopped your heart from loving or from exploring the possibilities of what other love exists? I don’t know a single person that could answer yes to these questions in truthfulness.

We are chemically wired to seek out connection and fellowship with other souls. Our body physically responds to touch and emotional encounters in ways that science nor logic can deny that we are literally constructed to share our lives with one another in unity. This is where the pitfall of organized religion comes in and acts as a trap to mankind. Any person, power or organization that teaches you that you are somehow incomplete or lacking if you do not depend on them is an inhibitor and damaging to your soul. Because we are constantly in this state of seeking, so many people falsely claim to have or be what it is that you seek and out of desperation or hope, you grasp onto it, wanting to believe you have finally found your home, your church, your life partner, you dream job, or whatever it may be.

The issues is in the source – if that thing or person is lost, destroyed, does not live up to expectation (which is the most common reason for depression clinically is unmet expectations) … then what becomes of you? You who have aligned yourself to this force to be fed some sort of spiritual, mental or emotional nourishment to sustain your own life-source? You die and wither like a flower starved of water.

If you’re like most of us, you barricade yourself in a room for a bit, pig out on Ben & Jerry’s, a few bottles of wine or maybe some vodka depending on how serious, cry, rip some shit up, throw away anything that causes recollection of said person, place or thing and then emerge from your cave claiming to feel like a new person; rejuvenated, reignited and ready to go.

You’re not new though, you are a collective of everything you have ever experienced and everyone you choose to encounter and allow into your life path. It is how you let these pieces shape or impact who you are. I’ve never believed in forgetting or not acknowledging your past because of this reason – your past is your foundation, the building blocks of the pillar that is you. Given everything that gets thrown at you in life, the fact that your pillar is still standing (it may have a few gouges or scratches here and there and some missing paint or cracks) but the simple fact that it is indeed still standing, is quite phenomenal.

I love very deeply. I love my parents very deeply. I love my God very deeply. I love my acting very deeply. I love a man very deeply. I have to be extremely careful of those whom I trust and whom I allow into my life on a deep level because when I love you, you have so much power to effect my world. That’s just not a risk I’m willing to take lightly anymore the older I get.

I’ve had a few circumstances that arose in my life over the last year or so ( health scares, love woes, etc.) where I get in my car and I drive around and say “I have no one. Everyone I know is a business contact; an acquaintance.” It’s a very hallowing realization to understand that if I want to call someone at 3a.m. to talk about the audition at Good Faith or that film set we were both on two weeks, ago I’d have my of the litter, but if I need to talk to someone about how I may have a hole in my heart and that’s what’s been causing my migraines this whole time, then who the heck can I call?

I made a devout promise that I would begin working on developing healthy, viable relationships. I am blessed to say that I have a few ladies in my life that I’ve known since Kindergarten, one even from preschool. I don’t come to her nearly as often as I should, but every time I do I feel welcomed home (usually with wine) and warm and comfortable – like putting on a cozy sweater. It doesn’t matter how much time has passed or what guilt my conscious has racked up with sins, I know I can be myself with her.

My best friend lives in Texas. She was one of those people that you meet and your energies just collided and mesh. We connected immediately and although I’ve never had a sister of my own, I would say that I love her as my own flesh and blood and would protect her at any cost. We have this unspoken anger with one another because both of us are entirely too stubborn for our own good and don’t like initiating or asking for help or love so we constantly await the other one to make a move – it’s a lot like a long distance chess match done through the mail actually. I wish every day she would move back and that I could have her near to laugh with. The relationship, the distance, the life circumstance may change, but the love never does.

God has also brought other people into my life in the most unexpected ways. I stayed with Mary Lynn Kelly when I first moved out of my home when separating from my ex husband. Mary Lynn is a glowing spirit, always looking for expressive ways to create and enhance the world of those around her and took me in graciously under her maternal wing. Wendy Killeen is probably the most selfless single mother of 2 that I know as well as an unsung hero. She gives so much and asks nothing in return. Wendy is the kind of person who inspires me. I read in my book series which I often make reference to, that whenever you meet someone new, the question you should ask  yourself is “How can I be a gift unto this person?” Most people operate on the opposite basis, asking “What can I get out of this other person? How does this benefit me to befriend or spend time socializing with this individual?” Wrong. So wrong.

That’s where my fellow-kind comes in. I have over 2,000 “friends” on Facebook. I talk to dozens of different people on any given day whether it be on a film set, IM, at an audition, mixer, screening, rehearsal, work or what have you. I constantly have people coming and going from my life. I made a mistake very early on when first starting out in this career path, believing that all of these new people I was meeting were  now my new friends. I am a very open person and a very trusting person  so I shared bits and pieces of myself with these people. Bits and pieces that these people doused in gasoline, shoved into a cannon and then proceeded to fire at will as ammo at me when it benefited them to do so.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve opened up to someone honestly, thinking that I was in a safe place to do so when I hear the next day that this same person turned around and said I was a diva or a bitch and used my words (which they originally agreed with) to turn a director or manipulate some other like party against me. Ouch. Seriously, don’t do that! Let me cry, let me be a loner a set, think I’m a bitch, fine – but don’t fake -friend me. That’s just mean. I recently got the advice never to trust another female in LA. Don’t let another female ever take you to an audition, pick you up from an audition, look at a script or side you are working on, or know anything about who you’re dating or your personal life. I don’t think that rule only applies to the ladies la la land … just sayin …

Granted I still believe in my gut that most people are genuinely good and are also looking for a deeper connection. I think that most believe because you may share a mutual interest in film and acting that those seeds should be enough to bloom into a beautiful, fruitful tree if watered and cared for. Ideally, this should be so and fresh , full gardens of shared passion should be cultivated, but that requires both parties to operate on the same level.

I do think that there are some people though, that are nothing but big fat fakers. If all you want from me is for me to work in your film for free, or for me to write up a press release for you or perform some other business-related task, here’s a novel idea – JUST ASK ME. You don’t have to go through this entire bs process of befriending me. It’s a waste of your time and mine, we are both adults and understand the nature of our industry and how cross-promotion works, so why not be forthcoming about it?

I’ve seen it all before, where people fake an interest in who you are because they feel if they don’t, you won’t grant them certain favors that they are in need of. I know the process and I’ve seen it all. There are guides available even, on how to do this  like a skill set – when you meet someone don’t start off by directly asking for a need or a favor or a contact or referral, instead introduce yourself, compliment the other person, let them know qualities you admire about them and if anything, ask them how you can be more like them. These individuals will feel so appreciated that eventually they will volunteer information and services without you even having to ask. That’s the beauty of the system. Even with people I know, they write to me and start with a compliment or some sort of formality so I scan to get to to the part where they are asking me for what it is they actually need. So silly.

I’m feeling bitter at this precise moment because a new business connection decided to drop me like a fly after it escaped my mind that we were scheduled to hang out. He sent a cold text saying “Best to you in your endeavors.” Wow, alright dude, if you choose to operate in those closed off terms and with a policy of unforgiveness and lacking of understanding, then perhaps I’m not interested in fostering a relationship, professional or personal, with you anyway. Dan Dice once said, and I think it is true, your friends will be your friends no matter what. Those true beacons of light will guide you home no matter how much you have messed up, how far off the path you strayed, how lost you got in the wilderness; they will just always be there. That is a friend.

You see, something interesting happened to me while at the Jerome Indie Film and Music festival which taught me an invaluable lesson and exposed a dark, dirty area of myself to … well, myself. I had a very close encounter with my ego and I didn’t like it. I’m ashamed to admit to this, but I feel most may have experienced similar things. I’m dating an actor, a very multi-talented, dynamic, handsome actor who happened to have multiple features screening in Jerome. I prepared myself in advance that this would be his event and I would be support to him, his date and company. I didn’t realize how deeply it would impact my confidence and sense of worth. I felt like a nobody, after all, in this industry you are only as good as your last film. I’d see everyone going around talking about their work, proud of their shorts and their roles, smiling and beaming but I just couldn’t shake my feeling of uselessness. I suddenly desired the invisibility cloak from Harry Potter, more than anything several times throughout that weekend. In fact for the very first time in years, when people started asking me what I do while I was out there I denied the fact that I was even an actor.. I kept saying that I was a writer. I felt to lowly, too non-existent to own the title of actor. I remember feeling that same way when I first started out 2 years ago or so, and I remember my mentor pulling me aside and saying “Melissa, no one will believe you’re an actor until you do.” Since then whenever someone asked me “Oh what do you do?,” I would reply with forced confidence and a smile “I am an actor” until I did start to believe and it felt comfortable on me. Fake it till you make it, right? Until now at least …

When we went back to the room for a wardrobe change in between events and my sweet man started to express his love for me and I didn’t feel worthy of it. Who was I? A nobody, and this fantastic creature in front of me is trying to give me his love. Why? I don’t deserve it. Suddenly flashes of this cycle rippled across the back of my mind and I realized with extreme clarity that this is what we do. We allow others to dictate how good we feel about ourselves. What a terrible, ugly thing. Because these others don’t know us, they don’t know our hearts or our true value, these others know our characters, know the roles we play, know the public personas we exude at events, know shadows of us and yet they are the ones that determine our good days and our bad days? I looked him in the eye and expressed what I just came to terms with and he agreed that this was something that we both were indeed guilty of and needed immediate action to rectify. It became so clear to me why professional actors keep their real, authentic lives locked behind closed doors – because it is precious to them. It became clear to me why the emphasized needing family and people in your life for a support system, because it does not matter how many fans or awards or Facebook likes you have – the world is a fickle and unfair force. If you place your life in their hands you can be God one day and the sacrifice for the upcoming God the next. But to give your heart to those that find you always worthy, no matter how long it has been since you were cast in a lead role or how big of a success of big of a flop your last film was, or how many people recognize you; that is where you will find the core of love and it is only from there can you receive it’s true blessing and healing powers. It is only there can you share your life with someone without fear of falling too deep.

The Lovelost – Ready to Hear You – Music Video by Running Wild Films

Jerome Indie Film & Music Festival the next Sundance? Founder says “One day, Sundance will want to be like us”

Jerome end finalFounders Toni Ross & Jason Ryan with Actor Michael Alvarez and I

Full full photo gallery please visit:

Someone in our community set out to accomplish something amazing, and through this one woman’s selfless efforts and vision, we have all benefited and shared in great celebration of that which we all love and that which unites us. Toni Ross suffered an unimaginable loss with the passing of her son, but from her loss, she was able to create something truly beautiful. It is always scary to embark on rebuilding something from the ashes, but like a Phoenix and so fittingly, from the heart of the Phoenix and Arizona Film Industry, the Jerome Indie Film and Music Festival was born. There were many a time I observed people, on more than one occasion, stop  to take in the scene around them – the energy, the camaraderie, the spirit, the passion of the artists spilling into every crevice, corner, theater, fire station, shop, restaurant, bar and hill top of that quirky little town of Jerome, and these people were moved to tears. The festival is already being compared to Sundance, and I am honored to be a part and in attendance of the start of something so significant, not necessarily because of just what the festival has the potential of growing to become, but because it was an endeavor done from the heart and with the purest of intentions.

I cannot praise the staff and volunteers enough for their tireless dedication and commitment from sunrise to sunrise of each passing day of the festival. Despite heat, massive crowds, unexpected dilemmas and any other force of nature or human; these souls devoted time, sweat and a genius level of coordination, organization, planning and an artistic touch to keep the festival running smoothly. The staff often missed the social events and functions (often due to exhaustion most likely or prepping for the next day) which I took to be a huge testament to their level of professionalism.

Part of the grand appeal of this particular festival had to do with the environment, I almost certainly believe as well as the approach of executing a complete festival immersion with not only just multiple venues for film screenings, but also by including panels, interactive screenings, meet & greets, mixers, gala events such as the one put on by Rangelo Productions and more, all in a town that is rich with history, natural beauty and is in itself a true testament to pioneering a path of independence and artistry. While some slammed the festival for being another typical, over-hyped local fest, I think it is a huge accolade to our film community that so much of the work included in this festival was done extremely well. I was not aware that so much solid, impressive work was created and birthed at our local level and it was encouraging and igniting as an artist to witness such excellence originate here. In fact I was extremely inspired after seeing one event in particular, Bill Pierce’s forbidden films of Arizona as well as some of the featured highlights such as Cathedral Canyon.

A huge congratulations goes out to the filmmakers and the winners of the first Jerome film award ceremony for your mastery and your ability to tell cinematic stories in a powerful and sincere way. There are so many individuals and specific experiences I could dwell on for hours expressing thanks to or for, but I will part with this, I am proud and in love with the heart of our Arizona artists and filmmakers and I think we have finally found the perfect, ideal expression of what we have to offer in the Jerome Indie Film and Music Festival. Thank to you everyone who was willing to do what others never dreamt of, who gave their money, their time, their work, their expertise, their bravery and their ingenuity to create something so entirely unique and break out into a new frontier for all filmmakers. This is a legacy left behind for a loved son, by a mother whose love won’t ever quite, and it is the future for generations of filmmakers, artists, musicians and film-lovers for a lifetime to come.


The Rising Spirit AwardSPEED OF ORANGE – The third film from acclaimed storyteller Justin Hunt, The Speed of Orange tells the story of an ordinary family living in an extraordinary world.  The horse racing team of GHL, which rose to domination in the 70s and early 80s, is a true journey of humble beginnings, unparalleled success, and the unavoidable confrontation with mortality. Told by the people who lived it, The Speed of Orange, and the story of GHL, will make you cry both tears of laughter and of pain, all the while showcasing the elements of fear, ambition, family, friendship, loss and redemption. The Speed of Orange will undoubtedly take you on the ride of a lifetime, right out of the gate, all the way across the wire.

Best  Documentary Feature: Music City USA – Nashville is an area rich in culture, inspiration and pride. Resilience unlike many have seen, yet it is known primarily for its music. Did the people inspire the area, did the music inspire the people, or did this special place on the globe inspire them both?

Best  Documentary Short: The Ghost of the Cuban Queen Bordello  – Reaching beyond the historical and ghostly walls of a famed southwestern bordello in the 1920′s, a turbulent love affair unfolds, revealing the story of a cunning harlot and her selfish lover. Together their tale of fame, fortune and murderous deeds spans decades from Story Ville, New Orleans to the speakeasy’s of San Francisco and comes to rest in a small mining town in the wild west of Jerome, Arizona.

Best Music VideoBohemian Rhapsody”- Puscifer  

Best Arizona Film:  Cathedral CanyonA story set in both sprawling modern Phoenix and the fringe, rural polygamist communities of Northern Arizona, this film presents a hidden connection between these two very different worlds that permits the shocking acts of these cults to continue.

 Best Narrative Short: A Day on Bleaker Street  – A Day on Bleaker Street juxtaposes the lives of two neighbors and their assumptions about one another. Each man desires something the other possesses, but is it all that it appears to be from across the street? Is the grass really greener on the other side? Come spend A Day on Bleaker Street and decide for yourself.

Best Drama FeatureShouting Secrets –  SHOUTING SECRETS is a hopeful and heartwarming universal story taking place in a Native American family. Yet, it is everybody¹s story and does not belong to a single race, religion or class. It is a human story of choices and regrets. Funny and heartbreaking, SHOUTING SECRETS tells a story that is at once about the constancy and the fragility of love, as well as the importance of family. SHOUTING SECRETS has won over 20 Awards for best film and audience choice at film festivals across the US and features an all-star cast of Indigenous Peoples including Chaske Spencer (TWILIGHT SERIES), Q¹orianka Kilcher (NEW WORLD, PRINCESS KAIULANI), Tyler Christopher (GENERAL HOSPITAL, THE LYING GAME), Gil Birmingham (TWILIGHT SERIES) and Tonantzin Carmelo (INTO THE WEST). Tantoo Cardinal and Rodney A. Grant from DANCES WITH WOLVES also play supporting roles.

Best Comedy Feature: GHOST TEAM ONEIn early 2012, filmmaker Billy Chen answered a Craigslist ad looking for someone to document possible paranormal behavior. What he found were two sexually retarded friends scheming to impress a beautiful woman who believed their house was haunted.  They were willing to face their darkest fears to get in her pants. She was determined to speak with the dead. No one was prepared for the demon whore they found instead.

Best  Horror ShortIncident on Hwy
Five years ago, newly engaged couple, Jeff Bedict and Kelly Moga, took a trip through the desert from San Diego to New Mexico and mysteriously disappeared never to been seen or heard from again. “Incident on Highway 73” explores the beloved couples final harrowing hours.

Best Horror Feature:  Speak No Evil – Speak No Evil is the story of Anna, a single mother fighting to protect her daughter from demonically possessed children and a town gone mad.

Totally Tubular Dude! The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles make a comeback – oozing coolness & pizza

ninja turtlesPhoto courtesy of Devin Berko – For full photo gallery visit:

Ok it’s time to come clean and have a neighborhood confessional – how many of you were obsessed with The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when they first came out? Everyone right! Well now it is time to re-live all those days of green childhood fantasy and spark that same fire in your kids or grandchildren as the Turtles make a comeback!

Families and fanboys alike are invited to hit the green carpet for a throwback Hollywood-style premiere event to see “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze” take on the big screen in full glory once again! Guests are encouraged to dress up as their fave turtle and participate in costume contests for a chance to win prizes (watch a YouTube tutorial on how to make your own TMNT costume quick & cheap with reused/recyclable materials here & take a look at these DIY costume ideas to get inspired), catch killer martial arts demos and engage in a Q & A session with the turtle man himself and original creator/writer Kevin Eastman along with the Pizza Boy from the film and martial arts master, Ernie Reyes, Jr. and the executive producer of the brand new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie set to take over theaters in 2014, Napoleon Smith. The little ones will especially get a kick out of the Turtled-out pizza party at the Dave & Busters Tempe Marketplace after the flick. There will be photo ops available with all of the cool cats in attendance as well as memorabilia from the franchise.

Also, you get a chance to be a star too!!!! LIKE the FB Page Ninja Turtles on the Green Carpet and send them over a pic of your TMNT drawing, costume, collectables or original creation for a shot at having at appear on the big screen at the theater!

So I know you’re all dying to know the deets:

This Turtle-tastic event goes down on Tuesday,  June 25 at Harkins Tempe Marketplace. There are 3 different viewing options: 4:30 p.m. 6:30 p.m. & 8:30 p.m.

Also if you happen to wander over to the west side of the world, you have a second chance to catch the awesomeness at Harkins Gateway Pavillion 18 on Wednesday, June 26 at 8:30 p.m.

To purchase tickets click here. For a special online discount, type in the code “turtlepower” and $2 will be removed from your total amount. You can also get a FREE ticket to Ninja Turtles on the Green Carpet if you go to another free lesson from the Lees ATA Martial Arts – Tempe or any of their other 10 locations in Arizona?

For more information click here or follow event details on Facebook.

Watch the teaser here

And just for fun – the top ten Ninja Turtle Quotes & Clips

A universal truth for all actors, on set and off – Just keep it real, man.

Keep it real postPhoto by Chris Labadie Photography

It’s been pushed in my face over and over again … the same question. I can hear it echoing in my head like a broken record or that horrible song “Does that make you crazy” to which I always yell “Yes it does make me flipping crazy!” before turning the radio off and mumbling to myself like a disgruntled old fool. So what is this haunting question, this bane of my existence? “Melissa, when are you going to learn to say no?”

I don’t know. I had convinced myself that our culture is one that encourages you to always say yes. Say yes to spending money that you don’t have, in fact, we’ll even help you by offering you credit cards so you can at least feel like you have money that you don’t actually have to spend it on stuff you don’t actually need. Just say yes.

What’s that, you don’t actually believe in marriage and know that you’ve never been faithful in any relationship … not a big deal, just say yes when you see the ring and “I do” at the alter and if it doesn’t work it out we’ve got this nifty little thing called a divorce to get you right of it in a pinch, in fact we’ll make it so easy you can do it online in 15 clicks or less! Just say yes.

You don’t like drinking or partying or sleeping with randos or saying yes to every role or doing stupid things? Well then you are unexciting, uninteresting and unsocial henceforth you will be unappealing to society as a whole, unless you learn to JUST SAY YES.

Yes Man” with Jim Carrey is an ideal example of my idol for the last year. I thought that the more I said, the more I agree to do and try and be, the more happy I would become. Then I remember how at the end the speaker pretty much calls him an idiot and tells him you can’t just say yes to everything, that’s asinine. The purpose of saying yes is to be open to the experience of life. I’ll just hold up my idiot sign now…

I’m ranting a bit. Probably to make myself feel better and beat around the bush at the fact that I’m a people-pleaser; always have been. I’ve said yes to so many things and it’s not necessarily that they’ve done anything to ruin my life or put me in detrimental situations, but it is so much lost time. So many things that I did for the fulfillment of another while leaving my own heart empty and hollow.

I’ve got to thinking, in case you couldn’t tell, because I am in a place of transition. I’ve been offered an “opportunity” and I hate to be secretive or hide anything here, but I must at least until mid June. Don’t get all TMZ on me, it’s nothing acting related directly, it just heavily affects my future and my career. It’s got me thinking about all these things that determine and make up the infrastructure of my life.

I stopped and looked at how I spend my days … it’s complicated. Half the things I love so very much and I don’t mind the insanity that it brings me with the unstable hours and adding monstrous miles to my car and having to always have multiple changes of clothing on me at all times and a purse big enough to be carry on luggage for a week-long trip; but the other things … the others I do out of obligation. I do because I thought they would get me somewhere. I do them because I didn’t want to miss out. I do them because so many others are doing it that I should probably do it too. I do them because if I say no, they may not offer me something else in the future. I do it because I don’t like to not be liked.

I enjoy being the girl that’s everywhere, in-demand, doing a billion different things. It makes me feel good, but there are these moments when I stop as I hear a baby laugh at the cafe table next to me and I ask myself “Will I ever have THAT moment?” Or when I call my mom and I can hear in her voice the hope that I’ll say I am free to go shopping with her that afternoon. I’m never free. I want to go shopping with her, I really do, but I’m never free, because when I am free, it gets filled. Someone finds out I’m free and suddenly there’s an audition available, or a party invite or a short film in need of an actor or just a friend I haven’t seen in a while who wants to take advantage of my freeness and grab a beer. What if I just want to be alone? What if I want to go shopping with my mom? What if I say no?

I keep reading these article from famous actors and people in the industry about how you have to find and maintain that ever delicate balance between your personal life (reality) and your acting career. You work your butt off on set or in the hustle and grind to end up on a set, and then you go home and BE home and invest your time and attention into giving yourself fully to family  and friends and loved ones. In flashes of bitterness I ask if they were able to do that when just starting out or if now that they are established and hold their place in Hollywood hierarchy, can they only now offer those words of wisdom?  I wonder if they, like me, felt stretched thin and bare down to the last fiber. If they jumped at every piece of bait dangled in front of their face at the chance of catching their big break but usually you just end up flopping around a deck somewhere? But still, you never know …

Maybe they didn’t. Maybe that was their secret. Maybe they lived in balance the whole way through and exercised discipline and choice of freewill to have Sunday family dinners and pick and choose which auditions to accept. Something I’ve never been all that good at.

I read somewhere recently that it is all a state of mind. Those that are at peace and full of joy, never feel pressed for time or overwhelmed because they have chosen to be joyous and peaceful in every situation as it is happening. I think this is the approach that I need to take. So often I am waiting to get through something, waiting for the day to be over, waiting for my shift to be done, waiting to hear about the callback, waiting, waiting, waiting … that I don’t appreciate the right now. This realization occurred to me last week when a horrifically, remarkable thing happened to me.

I was on the I-17 stuck in rush hour traffic, but it was moving along quite reasonably and I was pleased that I would be able to remain in my 5-7 minute grace period that I allow myself each morning to get to work on time, taking into consideration traffic, parking anywhere between floor number 4 and floor number 8 in my parking garage and taking the elevator in my office building up to the 9th floor. I’ve gotten pretty accurate in that crucial calculation of time. I was mentally checking off a list of things that I needed to get done – emails to send, resumes to submit, events to RSVP to etc and thinking that I couldn’t wait until this day was over and I could be back in my pink fuzzy slippers and Hello Kitty PJ’s in  my wittle bed. Then my mind flashed to Brad, the young actor that passed away, because I had just testified in my journal the night prior that I would wait no more. I was reflecting on his death and why it impacted me so strongly when I barely knew this young man when BAM!!!! This car flipped up in the air and landed on top of the car in front of me and they both slid over to the left and landed in the carpool lane. Life stopped for a moment, everything went quiet and everything seemed to slow down. I remember talking to the 911 operator and seeing the people climb out of their cars grasping their chests, thankful to be breathing, to be walking. When I pulled away my legs wouldn’t stop shaking and I called my dad to calm me down as the adrenaline rushed through me. I was off that whole day. I couldn’t stop thinking about the accident, about Brad, about how I feel I’ve been living my life on hold. The soundtrack to my life would be elevator music.

Why couldn’t I appreciate it? In fact not only do I not appreciate it, I try to fill it – every single waking moment of it. Waiting means there is a gap and a gap means that there is emptiness and emptiness means that there is space to fill, and space to fill means that I can be doing more, always more, always seeking out worth. My name means “seeking one” in some cultures. I used to love that idea when I was a kid. I pictured myself this devoted scholar, perhaps a bit more Indiana Jones-esque as I spent my life seeking out truths of the universe. Now it seems a bit more bleak … Like I’m a lost soul, aimlessly wandering, trying to find a truth, any truth to hold on to.

From a practical standpoint, it really doesn’t make sense to not live a balanced life. Acting, art as a whole even, in and of itself in essence is a representation of life. So how can you represent it accurately, truthfully if you’re not living it? How can you be a lover when you can’t remember the last time you’ve had sex, how can you play a best friend when you don’t know how to be a friend to anyone, how can you express joy, sadness, loss, excitement, fear, anticipation if you don’t allow yourself to experience them because you’re always locked away behind office doors and audition lines and workshops and closed sets or the limitations of your own mind?

I keep waiting for someone to ask me after reading my blogs why I keep acting when I seem to have so many problems and that answer I know without a quiver of doubt or hesitation.

I love it.

It destroyed a marriage. I still love it. It consumes my thoughts. I love it. It frightens my parents. I love it. It eats up time. I love it. it causes me to feel insecure and inferior. I love it. It is competitive with no guarantees of a pay-off. I love it. It steals the hearts of those I love. I LOVE IT.

Last week I was talking to a man who has a passion for innovation in the digital world. His career is often just as unstable as my acting career because with innovation it is  new and highly disruptive to the natural order of things. It is often disliked because people are afraid of that which they are unfamiliar with and people are tentative to invest. He’s had more jobs, more moves and more position titles in his life than I can ever imagine. Why? He loves it. When talking about it he directly said that most aren’t willing to take the risk to do what he does because of everything I mentioned just above, but HE DOES, every single time he is willing to take that risk because it is worth it to him.

Sometimes, at my core, I wonder if that is what my real problem is. That I keep saying yes to all of these safe, straight-path routes to try to get to a desired outcome, when I should be saying NO to all of that bullshit and say yes to the risk? I don’t know what that means for me anymore. Everyone keeps telling me that film is leaving Hollywood and that I need to go South. I used to think my big risk was moving to LA, now I’m not so sure anymore. I just know that I feel a shift on the horizon. I said that to God as I drove home the other night.  I can feel it and sense it in my bones. Something new is coming and a change is on the way to deliver me.

I am always so afraid that I’ll miss it or that I’ll do the wrong thing and mess it up, but I came to understand something as I get older. Each decision is not the end all or be all of my life. I can make wrong choices and go the wrong direction and fall in love with the wrong people but that does not mean that my life is wrong, it means that I get the opportunity to make another choice, to go a different direction, to fall in love all over again and live life until I feel that peace inside of me that I am where I’m meant to be … Like Hercules. Sorry, that song totes just popped into my head after I wrote that sentence. I’m such a Disney nerd. Anyway, moving along.

This post could go on forever because I’m searching my soul for what it is that I’m supposed to be saying no to; what it is that I’m supposed to be doing and I feel like if I keep typing that means that I have more time to figure it out. I think back on things I feel I should have said no to because supposed limitations will arise from it but life seems to challenge me every time I try to place that limitation on myself.

A role where I showed my breasts … folks words vibrate in me a fear that I’ll never work for Disney or have a role as a young mom in a sitcom or be taken seriously. This morning alone I can pull up at least 7 different actress’s IMDB accounts that I know of to show those theories incorrect. My radio show because it is crude, sexual, liberal and outlandish. Good God look at Howard Stern, he made a lifetime career out of such audacities. Not that I am trying to be Howard Stern, but all it really does is show that I have an edge or that I can be dynamic. Right? Can you tell I’m not my usual self and that I am in a place of self doubt. I feel so lost. Anyone have a map out there they want to lend me?

Ok Melissa, focus – so what is it? Stop wasting these people’s time! What is is that you should say no to? Say no to anything that doesn’t move you. Say no to anything that doesn’t make your heart flutter. Say no to anything you feel instantly weighed down by or confined to. Say no to anything that you said yes to because of a fear of ANYTHING – whether that be missing out or not getting noticed or whatever the fear may be, because where there is fear, love cannot exist and all root decisions must come from love. Say no to anything that is a waste of your time, energy and resources and simply say no to anything you don’t want to do.

I think so often I say no to all of the wrong things that prohibit me from living fully and greatly. A post by Christopher Sheffield on Facebook the other day literally mirrored an article I read about how as artists we must be fearless when it comes to diving into the extremes and depth of our emotions.

“If you want to wear the mantle of an artist, you must accept the responsibilities the title will bring. It will be your duty to pioneer emotion, to experience everything the average mind fears, to abandon yourself completely to true love, to feel the deepest pains of loss and failure, to traverse the waters of morose depression, and climb the hills of ambition, to push your perspectives in every available direction to the absolute extremes, and even for some, to die. All of this is your responsibility as an artist, so that you may take these experiences and represent them to the world in your art. We must give faces and forms to life’s unknowns, so mankind will never truly be alone.” – Sheffield

When someone says “No, I will not allow my heart to feel that because it might make me weak or vulnerable or fall crazily, irrationally in love;” We must say yes! When we experience the loss of a loved one or are mourning the end of a treasured relationship, when most people would dismiss their pain and distract themselves with booze, drugs, people or sex, we must revel in that pain – feel it, remember it. We must say yes. When we are feeling alone and unwanted, instead of seeking out the next available companionship or easy quick-fix, we must be honest with ourselves and exist in that room with our suffocating loneliness. We must say yes. Ninety percent of the population does anything possible to stifle, repress, hide and fake their way through what they are honestly feeling. It is in those pure, raw emotions that true art is born and created. It is our greatest tool as an actor. To deny what and who you actually are is to rob yourself of your highest power and the greatest gift you possess. My sensitivity is my strength. My weakness is my courage. My pain is my love. My inability to say no is my exploration and my flaws are my characters.

Perhaps it is not learning to say no, it is learning to be real. Well look at that obvious coincidence – that is what acting is all about too. Be real in the moment on set and off, and that is where you will find your happiness and your truth.

Jerome Indie Film and Music Festival

my films in jeromeFor full photo gallery, film trailers, festival commercial and more please click HERE

Arizona’s “wickedest town in the west” makes a comeback this summer as the historic town of Jerome makes a whole new mark in history by hosting the inaugural “Jerome Indie Film and Music Festival” June 13-16. Once a thriving mining town and the place all the cool cats went for copper; it took a hit in the 30’s with the Great Depression and has since been going through a series of evolutions to redefine itself.

Now a home to about 450 people, it is a hub of quirky art galleries, mom and pop restaurants, antique shops and boasts an impressive amount of unique stores and restored historical buildings and architecture. While being a popular tourist destination as it sits comfortably between Prescott and Flagstaff, the town is about to get a little Hollywood treatment as actors, filmmakers, artists and fans flock to Jerome for this celebration of all things indie!

The whole town got in on the action literally transforming into a hot spot of artistic expression. The Jerome Fire Station for example will become The Light House Theatre, Spook Hall becomes Trey Brayden Cinemahouse and one cannot not mention the Starlit Mine Theatre, a whimsical outdoor venue nestled near the Old Jerome Copper Mine creating a magical cinematic escape under the stars and away from it all.

There are dozens of short films, music videos, documentaries, panels, workshops and live musical performances by Threefold Fate, Kevin Daly, The Sugar Thieves, Fallen Riviera, 2 in the Chest and more to wet your whistle and satisfy any entertainment craving you may have. Several also add to the glitz and glam of the glorious makeover of Jerome with an opening night meet & greet wine and mine mixer, a Friday night party by Rangelo Productions and a masquerade ball.

You also can’t ignore the fact that you are in a ghost town! Haunted hotels, ghost-hunting tours and adventures and possible spooky sightings await you wherever you may wander … but don’t worry, I hear they are mostly friendly spirits, just looking for a good time and I’m sure this weekend lineup will be sure to please ghouls and boys of this world and beyond!

Some of the highlights of the festival include the world premiere of feature film Cathedral Canyon presented in the Starlit Mine Theatre Friday night at 8p.m. The film features Bold and the Beautiful star Winsor Harmon, seasoned actor Jose Rosete and a whole slew of local Arizona talent. The story takes a closer look at the City of Phoenix in 2005 and its unexpected ties to a secret polygamist community up north exposing a dirty little secret. It is a struggle between crooked politics, human rights and the lack of moral consciousness to do what is right to end the cycle of abuse and mistreatment by those that hold the power, all set off by one man’s encounter with a young girl played by Noelle Wheeler.

Watch the trailer for Cathedral Canyon  HERE-trailer

A second film making a big splash is horror flick Speak No Evil filmed locally in Apache Junction, Arizona by Scottsdale SCC film professor Roze of Gas Mask Films.  The film stars scream queen legend Dee Wallace’s daughter Gabrielle Stone playing a young, single mom in a rural town where all the children mysteriously vanish but just as suddenly as they disappeared, they all return but something is not quite right. Only she and her daughter can eradicate the evil that has taken this town hostage, but her past dirtied with poor life decisions and fruitless love encounters may make that difficult and continue to haunt her as she battles her own demons within.

Watch the trailer for Speak No Evil  HERE-trailer

A third film which captures the memory of the local music scene in Tempe during the 90’s just before the Seattle grunge scene officially exploded is Stuck Outside of Phoenix based on a novel of the same name by Art Edwards. It follows the story of musician Hote who is faced with the choice of chasing his dreams in Seattle just as the scene is bubbling and ripe to erupt, or to stay and redefine the music scene at home but possibly never going anywhere other than the local circuit. You’ll find yourself reliving fond drunken moments of your youth and singing along to hits filled with teen angst in this comical, coming-of-age tale.

Watch the trailer for Stuck Outside of Phoenix  HERE-trailer

Also there is a series of “AZ Forbidden Films” being shown hosted by film critic and reviewer Bill Pierce as he explores taboo topics and work that has been shunned because of its “uncomfortable” or “undesirable” content. This section will most likely be for adult audiences as the selections may contain sex, violence and mature language.

To see a full schedule for the festival, purchase tickets or get general information visit the website, LIKE the Facebook page for updates and RSVP to event page. I do have 3 films showing in the festival including “ICE,” “Home Front” and the music video for Born of Fire’sIn the End” Hope to see you all there!

Watch the video for the festival:

An actor’s growing pains: It hurts so good

melissa farley 57Photo by G Rockett Phillips


I don’t know why I’m writing this now … I’ve been staring at a computer screen for about 14 hours and I haven’t eaten today. Everything feels fuzzy and raw, but I couldn’t seem to not write.

I just got back from L.A. and for the first time I am feeling a bit discouraged. It’s not for any particular reason except for perhaps I’m realizing how daunting of a commitment it is that I’ve chosen to willingly accept upon myself. Sort of like marriage except I don’t get a big shiny diamond ring out of it.

On Saturday I was scheduled to attend a workshop and open audition for Dan Ireland who directed “Jolene” and I was nervous. No I mean like really nervous. That kind of nervous where my stomach hurts and I get a knot in my neck and I don’t talk to anyone or am on like a 10 second time delay on responding because I’m so in my head about everything. I felt awful about this particularly because it consumed the whole rest of our trip. Michael Alvarez and I were actually on a studio tour of Warner Bros. Studios because that’s what we do in LA – cheesy touristy stuff because well, why the hell not? It’s fun and we might as well now because when I live out there I know I will not be spending money on anything other than Chef Boyardee products and toilet paper and a thousand dollar rent. So we were sitting there, waiting to enter this theater and see 90 years of film and television and live sets and all I could think was “Here I am desperately trying to get in these doors, not as a cheeseball fan but as my day job and what if it NEVER happens?”  You see, I’m guilty of being a “what-if-er” Imagine how exhausting that can be to those close to me. I sit there and ponder each and every possibility from the best to the worst and usually I dwell on the worst.

This is a bad habit of mine. I spoke to a friend yesterday who does the same and this whole last week she’s been working on exiling negative thoughts from her mind on entry, flipping it to a positive outcome and verbalizing that immediately to give power and validity to the thought. She said her whole outlook has changed, her attitude is improved, her burden feels lightened and her energy levels are even higher. Could be a whole sammich of bologna but I’m willing to take a bite … I don’t mind bologna every now and again.

So as I sat there and stewed in my pensiveness I thought, “Maybe this is a good thing that I’m nervous.” (I just broke thought and started thinking about beef stew because I wrote stewed… and hot dogs, and fried bologna sandwiches. Mmmm I think it’s time for a quick Ramen break. Oh the life of an actor) Ok I’m back, belly-filled and ready to go. Where was I? Oh yes, good to be nervous – It’s been some time since I have been really good and nervous and had my feathers all ruffled for an audition in Arizona. My first audition that I did a hardcore prep for was for the role of Anne Boleyn. I worked with a private coach for months on Boleyn’s actual speech or more so prayer, she delivered before her execution. Michael Cortez was the coach and I would refer anyone to him in heartbeat but he has since relocated to New York City. I remember sitting for hours with him sometimes just working on one sentence. I would repeat a word over and over again until it was no longer repeating a word written on a page, but it was my own and it would organically originate from within. Often I’d leave our sessions exhausted and frustrated because I felt I could never fully let go to the level that was needed. Talk about a mental and emotional workout.

The second audition I prepped heavily for was a short film called “Micah” The character was of a young, extremely intelligent woman who had been dealt a cruel hand in life, losing almost everything except her younger brother who she battled to have custody for, but her addiction to drugs hindered the process. I walked in a hot-mess; hair all disheveled, black eyeliner smeared around my eyes, dirty clothes and I smoked as many cigs as I could in the 15 minutes I waited for my audition and listened to “Mad World” on my earphones. All the other girls walked in looking so beautiful … it didn’t matter, at least not this time.

In all fairness if I took myself seriously and you as a filmmaker took yourself seriously, I would handle each and every audition with such attention, care and time but alas things are pretty casual in the good old AZ. Most often I get a phone call or FB IM asking me if I want to be a part of a project. Don’t get me wrong, as an actor this is an honor and a privilege. When first starting out it is always a hope that one day you’ll get to the point where you no longer are required to audition, but people will just know your name and your work and want you. I do find it quite odd though when I am contacted by folks I’ve never worked for that operate this way, who say that they received a suggestion from a friend as a testament to my abilities. That’s always a HUGE compliment to be referred, however, and not to liken actors to take-out food or anything, how many times have you been to dinner with a friend and they ordered a dish and raved about how amazing it was when they had it before so you order the same thing. The waiter sets the plate down in front of you as you stare at the culinary masterpiece, utensils clamped in tight fists ready to pounce, your mouth salivating in eager anticipation at the promised food orgy that awaits your taste buds from your friend over yonder across the table. You take the first bite and … It’s … Ok. Definitely not the best thing you’ve ever had in your mouth. Just ok. Well, what if you think that about me???!!!! I hate that situation because then I’m walking on set with this little twinge in my side thinking “Ok Melissa, you have to deliver. This guy has heard of you and you have to live up to the standards that were set..” No pressure. I have to find  a way to let go of those nerves or find a way to channel and use that nervousness into energy for the performance, that’s my responsibility as an actor. Now that I have a demo reel, I usually insist someone watch it before they work with me just to insure that they at least get to sample the goods before they buy it.

So as I’m sitting there, waiting for my audition, feeling like I swallowed sour milk, I began to appreciate how bitter-sweet this moment is. Here I felt I had just arrived at a place in my professional career where this whole nerves nonsense was behind me and I go and throw myself right back into the rodeo. But, like growing pains, that means that my little wings are expanding and I am moving into a new realm that will challenge me, push me, make me uncomfortable and force me to be brave, do more, go further, take risks and be bigger, badder and better than I have ever been.

Am I ready for this? Gulp.

Well no, but is anyone ever really ready? I forge on anyway and return to my method – allow myself 1 minute to explore the fears and doubts and insecurities and then once that minute is up, I release them to the universe and plunge in. While I’m still navigating back and forth, I hope to apply what I learn in other markets, here locally. It is often when professionals from outside markets come in and introduce new practices, that people perk up their ears and jump in on the conga line. I feel like a sponge out there. My heart is open, my soul is willing, my mind is free and I want to absorb all that I can. I feel there is so much I don’t know. So many skills I don’t have, so many people I haven’t met, so many methods I haven’t studied, so many business practices I am not familiar with, so many industry standards that I simply don’t do for whatever reason. Now is the time and here is the place to merge that gap between LA and PHX.

Despite how much I want to believe that there must be some similarities, I came to also realize from talking to a friend that recently moved to LA, that it doesn’t matter how much money you have, the job you have, any of it … it is inevitably different and it is a huge lifestyle change. Forget adapting to altering factors of the industry, life itself is just different there. I knew of a student who for his senior thesis project was going to write and compile a manual for actors planning on moving to LA about everything you’d need to know – places to live, banks to use, casting agents to see, a priority listings of what to, everything. I don’t know what ever came of that as it was years ago. He either probably got defeated himself or he managed to survive and then like so many became territorial and opted not to share his insights with others to keep his advantage. That’s pretty common out there it seems; everyone seems to hold their cards pretty close.

I have learned that Craigslist is your best friend out there for casting and for finding amazing places to live whereas out here I’d only use Craigslist if I had a death wish. Also I learned that I better get used to the whole “Pay-to-Play” mentality, or actually allow me to correct myself, as my friend Kevin put it better “Pay-to-ask-permission-to-play” mentality. It’s like paying to put in a lineup to be chosen to play volleyball. I can see where that would get extremely frustrating when you’re already struggling for basic survival and things like food or I don’t know maybe gas at $4 plus a gallon to get to the auditions if you actually get one. A positive is that you’d get really good at knowing your type! Unless you’ve got money to burn or access to Mummy and Daddy’s bank account, you’re not going to submit yourself to just anything and everything. Instead you’ll become aware of what you actually have a shot at landing. It can be a cruel reality check perhaps when you may have to downgrade yourself from 90210 hotness level to like the awkward best friend of the leading man that sticks cheetohs up his nose for entertainment, but hey, at least you know you stand a chance at booking something!

A lot of actors don’t seem to have an issue finding representation right away as there are so many talent agents out there, but usually the first agent you sign with is more like a stepping stone and a way in. It should be accepted and appreciated as such. I heard several times on this most recent trip some news that us transplants might actually have one advantage over native LA actors and that is our ability to freely and regularly work out here. The owner of a studio and my friend who edits demo reels for a talent manager both said that most of the demo reels they see come through are absolute ish. In fact, the studio owner said he would rather tell most to just say they don’t have a demo reel instead of showing what they do have. This is encouraging! For actors just starting out it seems that we have a higher quality of level of demo reel material with better production value and stronger performances. This may be because most actors out there can only do student films for non-union work or book extra work which really isn’t applicable for a demo. I received multiple compliments from LA contacts including above-mentioned studio owner and this is just my first go at it, but it is a HUGE relief to know I’m moving in the right direction in regards to my footage.

Demo Reel:

Also, not to go too mom or conservative nun on anyone, but oh man is the threat of ending up in porn real for attractive women! I was just talking to Nicole Randall about how legit agents and managers out there actually take issue with you or even won’t sign you if you’re not willing to do full nudity. And the opportunities are ample if not virtually everywhere – like every third person you meet shoots porn. They are always extending offers, the money is usually decent and the promises usually sound really, well promising. Just say no to being a ho. This is a career shift that you can’t easily retract or redirect off of that path and if you have a sensitive moral conscious, it may not be one that is easy to let go of either. It can seem hard to decipher at first because again, like I said, a lot of legit film and filmmakers out there feature nudity or explicit sexual content which is very different than our local scene where this is a rarity, so all I can suggest is to trust your intuition and listen to that all-knowing inner voice. If you don’t feel a peace about the project or the people involved don’t do it.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that just because you’re in LA that every opportunity is legit. There are still scams out there; places that have no deeper invested interest in you than to empty your pockets, fraud agents and directors or filmmakers that aren’t nearly as big as they claim they are. Lucky for us in the age of technology it is usually just one quick Google search away from discovering the truth. Don’t also make the mistake of assuming that just because an actor is from LA they are a good actor or that by moving to LA you will suddenly be a better actor. They are just an actor that happens to live in LA and so now do you. LA does not have an magical powers to instantly convert you from sucky to award-worthy, it is just a land filled with vast opportunity. It is still up to the individual to take advantage of what is available and work on their craft. Once I understood that, the environment became a lot less intimidating. Truth is, there are a lot of bad actors out in LA. So I figure I have to be better than at least half of them, right?

Here’s another little golden nugget that got exposed, with all that bad floating around out there, you will be considered a hero if you walk into an audition and you are actually good! The casting agents will probably feel like giving you a crown and a cape and a bouquet of fresh daffodils and daisies. Why? Because they want you to be good, in fact their job depends on it. They have to go to the production team and show that they have secured quality talent, if they can’t do that then it is their butt out the door. As soon as their current film ends, they are scrambling for their next project just as we are and the more they consistently prove their worth and ability and finding good talent, the more they work and trust me, they want to work. So change up your perception a little bit and don’t see these guys as judges with sourpuss expressions and powdered wigs waiting to condemn you, look at them as fans cheering you on in the stadium hoping that you’re going to knock it out of the park! Again, a lot less intimidating. 

Well, I feel like this post was thoroughly weird, but I have to admit, I don’t feel as defeated after writing it so I’ll consider it a form of self-therapy. Anybody want to take up that idea of writing a “Newbie Moves to LA” book because I would love to have that available. Any takers? Anyone? Come on … Until then, I’ll continue to stretch my legs a little bit, dip my toes in the water and refuse to stop growing as an actor and as a human being. Through pain comes healing, through fear bravery is born, through adversity character is built and through exploration of unknown territory comes discovery of untold treasures.



Will the real critic please stand up? Oh wait that’s me!

big redPhoto by G Rockett Phillips

“You cannot discredit truth. Truth is truth, and it can neither be proven or disproven. It simply is. The wonder and beauty of my message cannot and will not be affected by what people think of you. Indeed, you are one of the best ambassadors, because you have lived your life in a way that you call less than perfect. People can relate to you – even as they judge you. And if they see that you are truly sincere, they can even forgive you your ‘sordid past.’ Yet I tell you this: So long as you are still worried about what others think of you, you are owned by them. Only when you require no approval from outside yourself can you own yourself” – An uncommon dialogue – Conversations with God Book Three by Neale Donald Walsch

This was God’s answer to Neale when he beseeched God to pass the torch to someone else to deliver the message of what God wanted to communicate through him in the form of the written word, because he felt too unworthy, too imperfect and that his history would taint how the message would be received. I related to this, in fact my gut flipped over and my innards cried out in glorious symphony that they knew this internalized self-torture all too well.

There is a song and a prayer I listen to and murmur regularly throughout the day “Break every chain.” Spoken words of others, condemnations, bad energy, darkness – all very really things that can create a virtual prison or holding tank for our souls. We cannot create when we answer to others, we are not free when we answer to others and we are not who we are fully intended to be when we answer to to others.

I kept seeing this quote float around the internet by Johnny Depp over the last several weeks:

“Just keep moving forward and don’t give a shit about what anybody thinks. Do what you have to do, for you.”

At first I thought “Shit yes!” and then I thought “Well how easy is it for HIM to say that? He’s Johnny freaking Depp?” It wasn’t always easy for him though. Like so many of us, he had to make the difficult journey to stardom, struggling with poverty, raising a family, taking risks that most would probably consider unwise or irrational considering his worldly responsibilities … but he did what he said, he kept moving forward and gave not a single shit about what anyone said or thought. Ok, perhaps he gave one shit, I mean the man is human after all,  but not a big enough one to let him stop moving.

Nearly everything I do in life, I do it with the expectations and possible judgements of others in mind. Should I post that picture, people might think it’s too sexy? Should I take that role, people might think less of me? When someone is mad at me or things are in turmoil, it may as well be the end of the world to me. Not being liked or wanted is probably one of the worst things to me – it consumes me. It does not matter if it’s my mother being disappointed in me for spending the night at a boy’s house even though I’m a 27-year-old woman or if it’s a complete stranger who just looked at me oddly for a passing second in an elevator. My moods, my self-worth are completely dependent and determined on outside circumstances and I suffer for this. There lingers a disturbance in the force that disrupts my workflow, my thought-pattern, my emotional responses and my focus.

Most people don’t perceive me this way. Why? Well because of the billion pictures I post of myself on FB and all the talking up I do of my own work, so clearly I must be a confident if not self-righteous diva? Rubbish. The only reason I started an Instagram account was to deal with looking at my own face. True story … when I joined pretty much everyone was posting pictures of their faces or food, not really a whole lot has changed, but I mean that was literally all you’d see. So I thought to myself one day that I would force myself to take a picture every day, post it and look at it. Sure enough it got easier and easier to accept seeing myself. Now I don’t cringe every time there’s not a photoshopped, professional photo of me flying about the highways of the inter webs. One small step toward victory of self-acceptance. But did anyone else perceive it that way? Probably not. Should it matter how they perceived or received it? No, it shouldn’t.

I fear that if people knew just how little self-confidence I had they would be shocked. I took a new age approach the other day and I said that every morning and every night I would stand in front of the mirror and stare into my own reflection and say the words “You are beautiful. You are worthy. You are deserving of love.” I got through that just fine but as soon as I attempted to switch the word ‘you’ to ‘I’, I couldn’t do it. The water works started and I wept as I forced myself to say those words, lips quivering, chin all crumpled up like a tossed love note wadded in an unwanted ball in the trash, eyebrows pinched together with tension … and as soon I did finally finish stumbling through the mantra (it felt like it took 10 minutes to say 11 words) I let my head drop into my hands and I cried for the lie that I told. I just lied to myself. The only thing that brought me out of this Soap Opera drama moment was the fact that I immediately thought of the youngest son on “The Middle” who after he tells a lie he puts his head down in shame and says aloud in a whisper the lie. Ha … oh sweet comedic relief. Brilliant.

So many of my issues go back to the way that I was raised. There have been scientific studies done that our brain is trained to interpret love, the acceptance and receiving of it, as well as self-worth and self-image in our first through sixth year of life. We don’t even have to maintain the exact memory of what caused these associations, but your brain literally takes an imprint of the chemical reaction that was released when you originally processed the situation and it stores that away into a file so that every time you are faced with those feelings of love, acceptance, etc; the same chemicals and hormones are released. This creates a pattern, which determines our behaviors and views on love.

What is interesting is that it is often in our areas of weakness that we are able to bring the most strength and healing to others. Many people who suffer from extreme physical and medical conditions are some of the most powerful prayers and healers of illness that I have ever witnessed. The women in my spiritual healing class are an ideal example of this. Karen, our fearless leader, suffers from chronic pain, has had several bouts with cancer, almost died from believe it or not allergies, and the list goes on, but she has had one of the most incredible ministries working with terminally ill cancer and HIV/AIDS patients and has seen countless miraculous healings. Dr. Souki, a former prostitute, drug-addict, alcoholic, criminal; travels the world-changing the lives and hearts of victims of sexual abuse, victims that may have died without her testimony or known worse fates, but I just learned that she herself still deals with depression, health complications and suicidal tendencies.

So why are they chosen to give such messages of strength to the masses? Because they are open. Because they have love and compassion despite what they were exposed to. Because they are and represent the masses. They are no better, no more perfect, they are just empty vessels asking God to replace all of the damaged, broken places with his love so that they may share that love with others.

I worry, always that my past mistakes will come back to haunt me. That one day I’ll awaken to the mob of accusers at my front door and be thrown into a public interrogation of who do you think you are questions before an even more public execution. I worry one day someone will say how crooked my nose is or how short I am and how I have no right to model. I worry one day people will expose my history of adultery and use it against me to say I am not good person. I worry that people will figure out that I’m not really a good actor at all, just somebody totally in love with doing it …

Love – love makes things possible that otherwise wouldn’t be. I’ve been working on a feature lately and I will say this quite honestly. My worst work is when I go in my head and begin to question if I’m doing it right, if I’m remembering my techniques, if I’m acting as good as so-and-so, if people will like it, if I’m being too dramatic or theatrical. It is when I let go and follow my initial gut impulses and act from the heart, that it is pure. It is then that I trust my own work. It is very similar to getting in touch with your inner or lost child. Children have no per-conditions or hesitations about responding. If they are scared they scream, if they are tired they yawn, if they think something is silly they laugh, if they are afraid the cry … It is not until they are told by the world that these actions, these natural responses are not acceptable or appropriate so they learn masking techniques to cover those responses and behave as a mature, cultured adult should.  Such a shame. Acting is in most all cases, responding honestly, so how can we make that delivery if we are not honest with what we feel in that moment and our brain is bombarded with worries or concerns about how we will be perceived?

There have only been 1-2 roles where I felt I was able to be honest 99% of the time and I have to say,  when I heard negative criticisms or not the best of reviews, it did not affect or phase me in the slightest. I was sure of what I did and I understood the core of where it originated from. Mr. Critic doesn’t have to like it, I do. It’s me and it’s honest.

Critics, everyone is a critic. Here is the definition of critic:

Definition of CRITIC

a : one who expresses a reasoned opinion on any matter especially involving a judgment of its value, truth, righteousness, beauty, or technique

b : one who engages often professionally in the analysis, evaluation, or appreciation of works of art or artistic performances

: one given to harsh or captious judgment

Origin of CRITIC

Latin criticus, from Greek kritikos, from kritikos able to discern or judge, from krinein

First Known Use: 1588

I had an interesting conversation with a fellow actor last week about how nobody prepares you for receiving comments regarding your work, good or bad, it can be an awkward or uncomfortable thing.

When people praise you, you always wonder if they are just saying that because they don’t want to offend you or hurt your feelings or maybe they weren’t even really paying attention. Or even if they do come to you with sincerity, how excited should you be about it? If you go too far you could be labeled full of yourself or proud or cocky, but if you are too modest you can be labeled insecure or unsure of yourself.

When people do come to you, or you hear of negative comments said behind your back or perhaps it is public review, again, how do you respond? How much stock do you take in their criticisms? Usually there are constructive bits and pieces that you can take away and use to better yourself, but there have been reviews that have totally wrecked actors’ careers. A lot of sensitive souls can’t stand all of the backstabbing that takes place because they take everything for face value – clearly if they said it, they meant it. We often don’t take time to consider their possible perspectives or angles coming from jealousy, envy, pettiness, competitiveness or any other such lowly places. How easily and freely too we allow people to act as critics and assign value that they do not possess to our attributes.

It doesn’t get easier, at least not for me. I cringe and get butterflies, no that’s too pretty of a term, I get downright sick to my stomach when reading reviews of my films or when I invite people to come see my work but I have tried to get into the habit of keeping several key pieces in mind.

1.) You cannot please everyone. I used to think that if you are good, I mean really stinking good and phenomenal at what you do, no one can dispute the fact that you’re good. Sort of like the quote about the truth from above. Not true when it comes to acting. I for example can very much respect Mr. Leonardo DiCaprio and acknowledge the fact that he is a talented actor, but I personally am not his biggest fan. There is something about his style that doesn’t quite appeal to me. Clearly that does not mean that he is a bad actor nor that I even think he’s a bad actor, just given the choice between him or Javier Bardem, I’d pick Bardem every time. His acting style appeals to me. This is my opinion which will clearly differ from yours or his or hers.

2.) You are you and no one else acts like you do. So often I’ve had someone come up to me and make comments like “You are a really good actor but I thought you were crazy emotional in that one scene.” or “Why didn’t you cry in that scene?” It used to really bother me because it felt like I did something wrong, but there was this day that I was working on accents with Michael Alvarez and listening to a practice CD and he gave me a really cool word. He said that when he first started practicing accents it used to really bug him because he didn’t sound like the guy on the CD no matter what he did, and then one day he realized he never would because that is just his voice. Nobody else has his voice and nobody else will sound like him. You take the technique and you make it your own. This same philosophy applies to full performances. Just because my friend Sarah would have broken down in full tears on a scene doesn’t mean that I would. I acted honestly for me and that is all I can do. Often times you look at the greats and it is those slices of them that are so uniquely them that shine through in their work and set them apart from all others. I’ve watched so many actors give safe performances and I find myself using the word “generic” to describe their choices or “average”. They weren’t bad, but there was nothing special about what they did. Don’t be afraid to let your you-ness come out in all of its glory. Be bold, be strong, be unapologetic with your work.

3.) Very rarely do people write bad reviews without being specific about what it is they don’t like. I read them a dozen times sometimes looking for things I can use to improve, but the truth is, you have to be honest with yourself about well … yourself. I am my own worst critic, even more precise and exact than the toughest of critics. Nobody knows me better or is closer to my work than me. I can watch a scene and in a matter of seconds pick out 10 things I could have done differently to make it stronger that most people wouldn’t give a second glance to, but it blasts out at me like a rocket catapulting into my brain. This used to torment me because I felt like I failed, but now I am just grateful for these opportunities and I am extremely open to watching my own work, because I can take those things and apply them to future work. For example on indie sets out here we often don’t have a person dedicated to continuity, so that is something I have become particularly aware of now because I’ll watch myself and notice my nails were long there and short there, or I had my hair one way in this shot and slightly different in another, or even my boobs will look bigger depending on what bra I wore under wardrobe that day … little nitpick things that can make subtle but firm difference in the character. Physical acting has never been a strength of mine so when I did a short recently I really dissected it and the choices I made of why it didn’t fully translate the way I had hoped. Most of them were really simple fixes, small movements, but I just wasn’t aware of them until I had to work through them

4.) Which brings me to this point – learn by doing. Never be afraid to take a role and never apologize for your work. Put in the time, the research, the training, the effort to be as good as you want the role to be. After you see the finished product, it is a very useful tool to reflect on what worked, what didn’t, what to prep better next time and so on, but as long as you gave it everything you knew to give, there’s no reason to feel ashamed of your work and you simply have more tools to show up with the next time around. Einstein as well as so many of the other great minds understood that you learn from failures. Even if you fail one hundred times, you just learned 100 ways how not to do something … but DO IT. Classes, training, coaching, that is all really crucial to growth and development, but there is nothing like being thrown into the trenches and fighting for your survival as an actor.

5.) Trust yourself. One thing Kevin Phipps told me once when I was nervous about delivering a desirable performance, is that he cast me because he trusts me completely. You already have the role, someone gave you that gift of trust, so honor it. They didn’t hire you to act like someone else or give a performance similar to another actor, they hired you to do what is that you do.

6.) Be gracious. Be awkward. Be whatever it is you feel, just be sincere. I hate it when people pretend like they are bashful when receiving compliments when you can tell they are just eating it up inside, but I LOVE it when you compliment someone and they are genuine in their response. I have a few friends that are not what I would say “business-oriented” so when you talk to them about their work it’s not all cookie-cutter bullshit – if they are surprised you like their work you see the light in their eyes start to glimmer and they start to bumble up their words out of excitement or if they truly felt like they did bad, they’ll say it “Wow thanks, I didn’t feel too confident about that one, but I’m glad you enjoyed it.” It’s refreshing. Think too about meeting celebrities, how much of a turn-off is it when they act like they know how awesome they are and are dismissive of your adoration? But then you talk to someone like Guillermo del Toro whose heart is probably as big as his tummy, and you are overwhelmed with appreciation for how much he appreciates you – little, nobody you, for no reason at all other than the fact that you took the time to tell him how much you love his work because he understands that if it weren’t for you loving his work, he wouldn’t have any work at all.

7.) Not everybody is a critic. They may think they are. They may act like they are, but they are not. Critics are meant to be a people of fair and equal judgement for a purpose of assigning worth and evaluating; not a furnace of a personality waiting to fire up the BBQ and pick your bones dry. There are such critic, yes, but they do not work toward improvement or the common good, so their assessment is simply not needed. Do not give people that power over you. Trust, listen, reflect and make changes based on only those whose opinions you value.

The more I put these blogs out here, the more I promote myself, the more work I do, the more critics I get. Just last week I found out that some folks apparently had some not very great things to tell a local, well-respected director and it has been parading around in my noggin every since. Who are these mystery murderers of my career? Why would they say those things? What did I do wrong or what did I do to them? Then I started thinking, how am I supposed to survive out in a big, competitive, cut-throat market like L.A. when I let someone in a local scene so easily pull on a thread and unravel my sweater?

I won’t. A shift and a change is needed. I need to stop putting others thoughts, opinions, words and feelings above my own. This goes against so much of what we are taught because it is seen as selfish, but if we always choose our highest self – the self that is in fact selfless, honest, kind, brave, and truthful, then in walking such a path, we will in turn be a positive force of light and love to those around us as well as ourselves because in our highest truth there is no desire to hurt another or ourselves, there is no desire to lie or deceive, there is no desire to cheat or to steal from another, there is no desire to degrade or devalue – it is not a commandment, it is just self-evident.

I want nothing more than to like myself, more than I want you to like me. Because if I can’t like myself, why would I believe for a moment that you would like me? It all starts from within. My acting is always about birthing a character from internalizing and evolving it from the inside out. If I put the same amount of effort of creating a film character into developing my own personal character, it would be an ultimate mastery of the self. No more using social media for validation, no more comparing myself to the beautiful people, no more ripping myself to shreds when a negative word is spoken or glare thrown in my direction, no more underestimating my own abilities or passions. Again, with love, with God, all things are possible. It’s like I have all of these holes in me from where I’ve let people penetrate my spirit with their cruelness, intentional or not, and instead of trying to cover them up with band aids or pretending they don’t exist at all, I want to fill them up with love of self. Let’s let go of our transgressions, let us release the negativity, let us loose ourselves from the bonds of the expectations of the world and let us take a walk on the water.

What is the difference between most actors and a street professional? We don’t usually get paid for acts of passions


The Angel – Bot Photo by Kevin R. Phipps

We do a really weird thing in our culture. There have been studies done and observations made by far more insightful and intelligent beings than myself that we as an American culture specifically, intentionally deprive ourselves of healthy pleasure or correspond them typically to sin or that which is forbidden and undeserving.

I use sex for examples quite a bit I’ve noticed, Aries are naturally sexual beings, but I also think it is applicable because at our carnal nature, we are created to be sexual beings. But look at how we handle our young when they start to discover their own bodies and feelings of pleasure. Most parents discourage their children from masturbation or verbally communicate messages to them that associate the behaviors with shame or something that is socially unacceptable. This is highly contradictory because these feelings of pleasure are completely natural and organically generated, but we are taught to stifle, suppress and not explore these sexual urges. This in turn often creates so many issues ranging from unhealthy fetishes, fear of sex, taboos, etc. There are so many alternative ways to handle the situation in showing our children to celebrate the wonderful gifts and joy our body provides us, while doing it in a safe and appropriate way.

This belief system is carried over into so many other realms of our practiced standards. For example, if you love something, you daren’t ask money in return for doing what it is that you love because that would be blasphemous. It would no longer be a labor of love, but a shallow attempt to make a buck off of something you should be willing to do freely and openly while asking nothing in return. Money itself is associated to evil or belonging to the ways of the world. We look at pastors who make profits and other wealthy individuals often as being selfish, shallow and self-consumed or at the very least, not following a genuine path.

I started to question why we automatically associate those negative classifications to folks with a big bank roll and a lot of it is quite simply, I feel, that most experience these feelings out of envy. But I dove in just a bit deeper…. Don’t I usually…

I have just as much freedom, just as much opportunity, just as much skill set and drive to make the same amount of money as any A-lister, athlete, politician or high-paid professional out there, so why am I blaming them or having bitterness toward them for accomplishing what I have not? Why does it feel like it is somehow their fault that I am lacking while they are just smothered in wealth?  Quite frankly, because the idea of making money doing what I love seems outlandish to me, if not nearly impossible. Acting is unpredictable, the jobs are sporadic, the payment is often low when first starting out and the odds are stacked against me for making this a full-time career unless I opt for the whole breast -implants and hope I run into the right person at a LA club on a late night kind of route.

If you believe that Neale Donald Walcsch actually did have a divine encounter with God or if you even just look at billionaires or millionaires who were self-made you will see that the same trend is evident – You have to make the choice to just do what you love and not worry about the money. As Nike says, “Just do it.” When you do what your love, follow the true purpose of your soul and trust that you are doing everything in your power to fulfill that purpose, the money will come. Often this requires you to take a great risk because you literally may be starting off with nothing and that feels so opposite from what we have been conditioned to do. I can’t help but think about computers that were originally built in someone’s garage and now are one of the top companies in the world that people can’t imagine living their lives with out or animation and newspapers that started as modest printing presses with one or two people busting their asses to do everything for 20 people to read it that are now international publications and household brands. What made them think they could do it?

Whenever you embark on anything we are taught to be prepared, be educated, be in a good financial situation – all good advice, but when you let those things, those material, conditional things become hindrances to you instead of enablers, that is when it is better to step out into the void and make something out of the nothing because like greats like Charlie Chaplin know, you might as well give all you’ve got because when you’ve got nothing, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

I had a professor from Whales talk about various artistic revolutions and liberation movements take place across Europe during the avant garde period, and that was the one common thread. These brilliant, bold men and women had their rights, liberties, homes, money, everything stripped from them a lot of times so they had nothing left to do but create. This is our purpose after all, to create and remember who we really are. It is when we deny that of ourselves, that there is suffering.

Even in the Bible there is a famous story where one man asks God what he needs to do to get into heaven and God tells him to let go of all his worldly possessions and come follow him and it says the man was very sad and went away because he had a great many things. I don’t think this was meant to say that rich people are less deserving to get into heaven or less capable, but I do think it means that when you align yourself to the path of making money and not align yourself with the path of your heart or passion, you will always be chasing the next dollar sign instead of filling your soul’s bank with satisfaction.

I mean think about if you didn’t have a job or maybe even a car or a place to live for a time being. Think of how hard you would work to be the best actor you could be, yes because you need that roof over your head and a next meal, but also because it is your livlihood, it is your only way, your only source to getting both what fills your soul and your pockets. You’d spend every waking moment working on your craft, finding opportunities, developing your skill instead of standing behind a podium asking “How many in your party today?” It requires a lot of letting go.

As the film “Life of Pi” says, all life is a journey of letting go.

I was praying about that the other night along with a few other things in my life and I so strongly felt God say “Melissa, you are so afraid to let go because you don’t know what will happen in that void, what will exist in that distance and in that space away from what you hold in your controlled grasp, but don’t you understand that I am the space between? I am in the void.”

This sort of feeds into two opposing universal truths that work symbiotically together in our benefit.

1.) The universe takes care of you without you even having to try. Yes, I’ve read Voltaire’s Candid and know that their are some unfortunate souls out there that do no wrong and still can’t seem to catch a break and randomly get struck by lighting or some other horrible freak occurrence, but for the most part in my experience, I have found that it is in those times that I don’t try, that I surrender my will to the ways of the creator that he has this funny little plan devised to make it all work. I don’t feel and I don’t recognize it in the moment, sometimes it’s not until years later that I reflect back and think how funny it is the way life works out while other times the gratification is more instant. None the less, there seems to always be this underlying road map, unawares to me, that no matter how hard I try to tug my mental wheel this way or that, their is this spiritual compass keeping me right on course. During those times of nothingness and emptiness and despair, God is in that space, filling it with abundance yet for me discover.

2.) Where there is a will, there is a way. When I said surrender earlier I did not in any way mean give up. Surrender to the human language is such a weak term, but we are built to surrender our limited understanding and scope to the great visions and powers of the universe. By surrender, I simply mean that I allow myself to follow that little inner voice no matter how irrational, unpredictable or unreasonable the situation may seem. The whole world may be advising me to do something different or move in another direction, but every time I deny that little voice, I just get blown a little off coarse and it takes me more time to return to my divine path, but every time I honor that voice, something incredible usually happens. The more I pour myself into surrendering to that cause, the greater the reward. This takes a lot of discipline, a lot of self-realization and a lot of faith.

So how does one go from living a normal life to living one fulfilled?

I don’t know, I was hoping you would tell me… Ha! It just takes a little bit of conviction and making some choices.

In the local Arizona market it is almost unheard of for an actor to have a contract, but this is something I highly suggest especially if you are not represented and under the protection of an agent or a union. This is also is an effective way to avoid any unnecessary awkwardness when negotiating terms for future projects. When you are approached by someone to do a film I always ask to see a full copy of the script with willingness to sign a non-disclosure agreement of course, and if I am not familiar with the party or have not worked with them previously and I am still interested in working on the film after seeing the script I simply say, I have sent you my contract with my terms please let me know if you have any questions. Usually this includes a flat rate for payment, that a copy and/or footage must be provided and other basics.

If they are not able to fulfill those terms or request perhaps a lower rate to hire or something like that, that is totally fine, but at that point then it is my choice to accept it or not based on varying factors, but at least they are made aware immediately that I am a professional, that I expect them to treat me as, and that I expect that to act as professionals as well and follow-up accordingly. I think it is simple shifts in regular practices like these that can more quickly evolve the Arizona industry from a hobbyist state to a more professional environment. A least it would be perceived that way, and oh is there power in perception.

I will be the first to admit that I’m not a big fan of some of the casting pages on Facebook for Arizona because it is irritating to me. Young filmmakers, first-time directors, people in a pinch, etc make a post on A SOCIAL WEBSITE looking for actors or crew and suddenly they’re publicly slammed with questions like “Is this paid?” or they get hit by nazi page monitors asking for specific details in order to just keep the post active. This may sound contradictory to moving toward making things run more like a business, but my personal belief is simple. Facebook is not a business nor is it a business page, nor is it a place to conduct business – it is a social platform to get the word out. This is not a paid casting service and those participating should not be expected or required to act as such when be handled by internal members of the community.

Good Faith Casting, for example just switched to a system where they are no longer sending out email notifications but asking their base to follow them on twitter or Facebook to continue to receive information. Why does this work – because they are a trusted, established source that deals directly with the clients, has full access to that information and already has the flow and rhythm of what is required to make the page run like a well-oiled machine. She has someone who runs the page for her, similar to running any other website, not some rando with a God-complex calling shots or laying down he law on fellow peers. Come on, handle the business in private through direct email correspondence with appropriate contacts. I realize that the general public might be wondering some of the same questions, but the truth is, the director may be willing to pay so and so a small amount of compensation to get him/her on board because their work is solid and may increase value of the performance but maybe he isn’t so willing to offer compensation to the other dozen people who respond to the post. Ever think of that?

We do have, in addition to GFC as well other professional services where certain information and criteria are and should be required, but other than that, I say let there be freedom! Seriously, it all just looks silly.

The other component is that it is hard to break the cycle of working for free when you’ve done X number of projects without pay. In fact, I don’t know if I’m airing a dirty little secret or if this is a well-known fact already, but most production companies here locally have a list of people to contact because they know they will be able to hire them for free. This is not a good thing. To me that’s like saying why would I go pay for a good quality cup of coffee when I can sneak into the hotel lobby across the street and steal a cup for free? Definitely a sure-fire way to get your reputation burned. Don’t you know you are worth more than that! You are not only giving these people your time, but you are giving them your most prized-possession – your heart and your craft. Only you can do what YOU CAN DO. You are a rare and precious commodity, don’t let anyone sell you short on that. You would never not pay a heart surgeon or a plumber for providing one of their services, would you? Acting is yours, own it.

A lot of actors have a fear about not working regularly if they start refusing free work because let’s be candid, there isn’t a whole hell of a lot of paid film work out here. They also worry that they will not be perceived in a good or favorable light, but I have this point to express, using judgement call and devising a business plan to make your passion profitable is not ungrateful or rude, it is smart.

Use your discretion and be selective on which projects you are willing to do for free – will it enhance your demo reel, will it put you in contact with someone you have been wanting to work with, will it provide you with the chance to develop a character role that you had been wanting to sink your teeth into, will it provide you good exposure? If there is a benefit to it, then by all means do a free project here and there, but don’t make that your standard going rate. You know what they say, you get what you pay for.

That is one of the core issues about our local industry, there is no way to sustain a long term career here as an actor. Months can pass in between projects or auditions you are interested in taking and often times even when roles do become available so many people jump at the chance to do the work because they are desperate to get their fix, that often they allow themselves to work with people of questionable moral, ethical and professional standing and get taken advantage of because they are just so hungry for it. Once it ends, it ends and more months pass by until another opportunity presents itself and you are left with nothing to show for it, not a paycheck, not a completed film, not anything except usually a youtube link and if you’re lucky an IMDB credit which at some point you may debate removing from your profile because of it’s questionable nature, but for now, it’s an old notch on the belt. How’s it feel to sell yourself so cheap? I can answer that because I’m guilty of doing it countless times, it feels lousy.

I was talking to a local director who said that what became extremely obvious and evident to him when directing a set with both LA talent and local AZ talent on board – was that it wasn’t necessarily that the LA actors were more gifted or better than local actors, but they were immensely more easily direct-able. Why? Because they do it every day, they work every day or audition every day or take classes and train every day.

He suggested, oddly enough within the same week of meeting a background actor on the set of Grief that had the same idea, that instead of charging people obscene prices to join an acting class or receive training from mentors, that we form a group and practice working together on monologues, scripts, improv, etc. While I do think this to be a wise idea, especially in theory, I do think that you will need some level of expertise or at least honesty involved in order for that level of rehearsing to be effective. If we are lacking that all-knowing figure then it will be like FB goes real-life in falsely claiming that everyone is so wonderful when they aren’t really so wonderful. And then will come the questions, well who are you to tell me I’m not wonderful? I just filmed with you last week and I though you stunk up the joint.

I can see the egos flaring even now. It has to be more of a consortium. There were times when artists, actors, writers, musicians would all live in the same quarters sharing meals and lives together in close proximity. It was like a collective consortium of creativity. It would have to be like this – all ego removed, all art, all good energy, all constructive. Are we capable of such a thing? I would like to think so and I’m interested in trying to coordinate such a thing if anyone else is game.

Perhaps this would all be good concept for a class – The Business of Being an Actor.. We could find someone who is willing to share tips and expertise in how to handle things from a business perspective to ensure that we are doing everything we can to reach our financial goals, reach our potential as professional actors and not settle for anything less. It could start with basics of resumes and networking to what services to pay for and what to forgo, to how to draft a contract, and explore why here in AZ we don’t have managers or PR Reps and do we need them?

The one thing that I do know is that as an actor, I will no longer be lurking in the shadows, hanging out on street corners and giving myself away for a payoff that never comes. I can think about each and every person I have shared a stage or set with and look you dead in the eye and tell you the same thing, you have value. You have worth. You are a gift. I can’t take responsiblity for anyone else or their future nor can I force any other individual to change how they conduct themselves or their business, but I can be the change that I want to see.

Confessions of an Actor-holic

guitar pic

Photo by Sean Kapera Photography

Committing to a new film is a little like committing to a new relationship. Some last for a few short days, some last for months. but each leave a lasting impression on who you are and shape the choices you make for future selections. Through these commitments we learn a lot about ourselves, what we want, what we don’t want, what we find acceptable or unacceptable, who we work well with together or who just doesn’t understand us and based on those experiences we start to build a structure of who we are as actors, not just a representative body of work, but a framework for what we will and won’t do.

I often spend a lot of time conversing with actors about there on-set horror stories. I am blessed to say that in my career I have now had the opportunity to work with a wide range of directs and on varying degrees of levels of professional film sets from very controlled environments to what felt like a f@#$^&* free for all. I’m torn on this idea of the “abused-actor” and hope you will let me venture and explore it more in-depth here.

When I jump on board a project I usually have a fairly good idea of what it is I am getting myself into. I talk to the director, ask questions, talk to people who have worked with them previously, do a little trolling, watch their work, etc. I’ve worked on the 2nd floor of a warehouse in August in Arizona with no air-conditioning while wearing full Victorian era costuming, I’ve laid in a bucket of ice water, then gotten out of it and stayed in wet clothes, then gotten back in to said tub of ice then back out, then in and so on without having a heated blanket or probably a medic on site would have been appropriate for that one, I’ve filmed while deathly ill, I’ve filmed after blacking out and throwing up, I’ve filmed on sets that had no food or water but I can trace those circumstances 99% of the time back to my own stubbornness, lack of resources, lack of experience (which I was aware of) or some other reasonable source. It is those times when it is a blatant lack of care, respect and professionalism on behalf of the director that one needs to worry about entering into the realms of being abused.

There are directors, famous directors, notorious for using torturous and unethical methods to draw out a particular response or desired performance from actors. I was sent this article by a friend who bravely confronted a director who she felt had exposed her to unsafe conditions and as I was reading about Alfred Hitchcock tying birds to Tippi Hedren and Kubrick driving Shelley Duvall nearly to the point of insanity and baldness and early directors before SAG literally getting away with murder or beastly antics to achieve realism I kept asking myself, why would these actors continue to subject themselves to this?

Then the second thought came into play, “Oh come on, like you wouldn’t?” I swear sometimes I genuinely am crazy and just hide it really, freakishly well. I can see the split sides of anything at one given moment and there is so often this internal battle between my two selves. I do know that actors often feel proud of their harrowing tales and will talk about the time they actually got kicked in the face during a fight scene or the time the candle actually caught their hair on fire or the time they had to film an emotional scene but there was delay after delay so they lay sobbing on the floor in a puddle in character for i6 hours, like they are showing off proud battle scars.

As actors we all strive for realism. What better way to achieve realism than to just make it be real. This actually feeds into a conversation I had last night with local director Roze about the future of cinema being highly sexual and how some filmmakers have already crossed over into asking their actors to have real sex. It is not a porn, most of the time the angels are actually kept on the face or at a wide, but the physical movement, the facial expressions, the genuine guttural impulses and responses are undeniably different when having real sex as opposed to faking it.

Even on a G-rated path, ok maybe PG, I can think of countless examples where risks were taken to enhance a film or achieve a sense of realism, from the water being dropped on what’s her face in Flashdance (apparently that was enough to snap her neck possibly) to documentary-style type dramas where actors are asked to go into unsafe locations or deal with “real-people” on film such as prostitutes, drug-dealers and other questionable characters.

So there in lies the question – Do you buy a bunch of fake props, dirty and grunge them up, build a set that looks like a crack-house and have a safe, clean environment for your actors to work in or do you hit the streets and get down to the raw, grittiness of reality? I guess that depends on your personal comfort zone and what you are willing to do, but either way those terms should be communicated prior to filming so those expectations are not a surprise to either party and to ensure that you are working with the right people who have the same mission and the same purpose as you do.

There are some things that should never, ever be done by directors especially if you can’t introduce yourself as Mr. Coppola who if you read the article above filmed in a literal war zone in the Philippines. Those things come down to basic trust and respect.

Please have water and some form of nourishment on set. We are working hard for you. We give tremendous amounts of energy, time and physical dedication to our craft to make your vision come to life and we deserve to be hydrated and kept functioning if nothing else.You would bring food and water for a dog if you were taking one on outing with you, are we not even deserving of this?

Take into consideration the environment – if it is hot then get together a collection of fans, coolers, ice chests or even just extra water on hand or if it is freezing then have blankets available, heaters, jackets, etc. I know we all don’t have budgets to rent equipment but I could rummage through my closets and find at least 10 blankets, if I ask friends to contribute or even go to the dollar store for additional blankets, we’d be golden. It’s a simple gesture of courtesy to keep your actors comfortable.

Give actors a full 12-hour turn-around. Let me correct myself, not just actors but the entire crew, including yourself. Acting can be physically straining as well as mentally and emotionally exhausting. I often experience what I like to call “emotional-hangover” after very intense days of filming. Plus there is planning and character prep for transitioning to different scenes, transportation time to and from locations, etc. Why would you think you can get the same level of quality, coherent, fresh material from me if you only allowed me to sleep for four hours before expecting me to set foot back on set? I’m all about 10, 12, even 14 hours days… as long as you stick in there, I’ll stick in there right with you, but for goodness sake, give me time to wind down, decompress, rest and refresh so I can come back on set roaring and ready to go with renewed spirits and ferociousness.

If there is something in the contract HONOR IT. If you promise a copy, credit, pay, whatever then do it. It is very rare that someone actually will go as far as to take legal action against someone here if they don’t fulfill the terms of a contract but I can tell you this, it is a testament to your character and reliability and I remember that. Don’t bate me in with false promises – if you can’t deliver IMDB credit or you won’t ever get me my footage, then don’t tell me that. Let me make my decisions to work with you  you based on truthful circumstances. This is one of the reasons why so much is gotten away with here. Most work is not Union and not under contract so there is no one to protect the rights of actors. Heaven forbid an actor speak out and say they’ve been misled, abused or not given what’s owed to them because often times that actor is ignored and cut off or … well that’s pretty much it, just neglected like an unwanted stepchild that once served a purpose but no longer does.

Don’t misrepresent your film or lie to actors. A lot and I do mean a lot of actors disagree with me. They couldn’t care less what the film actually turns out to be, who’s in it, how they got to film at a certain location, just as long as they walk away with a paycheck and a credit under their name. I am not one of them. I want to know if you’re getting funded by a an adult film company because that impacts my image, I want to know who the cast is in the film before I sign the contract, and I certainly do not condone lying to investors or third parties to secure shoot locations or any other amenities for a film. I will not align myself with a dishonest production company because if you choose to do it on a grand scale, then you are certainly capable of doing it on a smaller scale. If you are lying to a corporation about what you are using their facilities for then why wouldn’t you lie to me about what you’re going to attach my name to. No thanks, I wash my hands with that, I’m done. I need to trust my director. I may be nervous about certain things or feel insecure or emotional, but as long as I know I have a director and I team that I can fully feel safe with then normally I’m game for just about anything.

Show a little loyalty.. I observe who works with who, who hurts who, who screwed over who and so on. There was a film that I was supposed to work on that originally I was cast as a minor role but at some point the guy contacted his lead and pretty much said “You’re out, Melissa is in.” Everyone kept telling me how exciting that was and how lucky I am but I kept thinking, if he’s willing to turn his back on her and cut her off like that, why wouldn’t I think he’d be willing to do the same to me? In a few short months I’ll be damned if that exact situation didn’t come into fruition. I hear stories all the time about directors who cast somebody in a film when they had no budget and suddenly the Gods smiled upon them and the heavens opened up and an outpour of money rained down which meant they had the option of enlisting A-listers and replacing the original cast but because these individuals exhibited loyalty, they stayed true to their word. Nobodies become somebodies from opportunities like that.

Listen to your actors. Your actors will tell you what they are comfortable doing and not doing. It is your choice as a director at that point to help them grow comfortable to fulfill your request, to make adjustments or changes to accommodate their feelings or to push right on through because you might genuinely believe and have faith that your actor is more capable  than what he or she sees in themselves. This is one of the secrets to being a great director. If I can feel like I can come up to you and say I’m scared to do X Y or Z or I have reservations about this or that but we have the type of working relationship where we can talk about how to tackle these things together, then I’ll be a trooper about getting you what you want. I want to feel like you’re in the trenches with me, ready and willing to get your hands bloody, not just hiding behind the safety of your monitor and calling out random directions occasionally. NO!!!! Come play with me, come work with me, come listen to me . . .

Treasure the process. One of the most rewarding things about being a part of a film family, no matter how temporary, is creating those bonds, completing something extraordinary and artistic and human together that took massive amounts of effort and time from everybody involved that poured in their love and lives into this. Why not celebrate it?! Host events to mark release dates and screenings and awards won, it is worthy of being recognized and the cast wants to feel important and remembered for their work, not just abandoned out into the wild.

I’m not trying to tell anyone how to do their job, but I feel like there should seriously be an ethics class for filmmakers or at least a class where actors and directors can collaborate together to better understand each other’s needs on a professional and personal level. I hear the same stories and accounts of regret and complaints over and over again, yet no one will actually go to the source and confront the directors or filmmakers to directly express their needs save for a rare few like Jane Fendelman who is now working with Kevin R. Phipps to talk about these kind of working relationships in a book called “Kiss the Rat” based off of her own personal experiences on set.

It truly is the same as many things in life – to get good you must first give good. You catch more bees with honey. And all of those other cliché’ remarks about how much more efficient and effective actors would be if only treated well. After this last weekend I was almost tempted to created an actors anonymous group where we could stand up and confess the different ways we have been victimized, but there comes a time when each victim has to stand up and take responsibility for themselves and choose to be a victim no more; choose not to work with that director again, choose not to remain on set if presented with unsafe or unreasonable working conditions, seek out protocols and measures you can take to receive payment or other contractual obligations and do everything you can to raise the standards of what is acceptable.

Don’t get me wrong, if I feel like being trapped in a box for two hours to reach a suffocating, schizophrenic state of mind for a character development process, then I will, but you can bet your bottom dollar that it will be my choice to do so, not the result of someone else telling me what should or shouldn’t inspire me. We must always protect ourselves, but never be afraid of expanding our frontiers of learning even though others approaches may seem drastic, bombastic or absurd. Sometimes it is in those moments of insanity that a true pure second of reality is captured.

Here is the link to the article I made reference to. It is a really disturbing and incredible read, if these accounts are all indeed true:




Photo inspired by beautiful actress and friend Hemina Kapadia

I’m a planner. I have a complete list of topics and themes that I want to write about and explore in this blog that are categorized, dated and pre-titled. However, I cannot ignore inspiration when it strikes. All of my posts thus far have been bolts of reverent passion that deviated from my pre-determined subject matter causing me to abandon it temporarily, unfinished, lonely, and aching to be whole, but I always return to it like a faithful lover eventually. They usually tend to occur at late hours of the evening when I’m exhausted from a full day of work and play and my mental filter is nearly entirely obliterated. It happens when patterns occur.; when my mind is fixated on something and the need for a release, an understanding, a reason… is far greater than any basic need for sleep or a regularly scheduled routine like normal folk.

A few weeks ago I was in a spiritual healing class and the leader told a story about a pastor who felt he had lost his connection with God. He would pray and read the Bible and do service but no matter what he did he could not bring back that fire he once shared with God. God told him to take a walk every day and be quiet in his presence. So the pastor did this for a little more than a month and finally he received a word from God “If you stay in my good, you will miss my best.”

Those words vibrated in my brain for days after that, over and over again. I knew they meant something to me. I knew they somehow were applicable to me, but I didn’t quite know what to do with them. A few weeks later I was reading a post by Backstage called the 10 Commandments of Acting. I’m a fan of the author because although he dishes out some pretty thick servings of crucial advice, he sprinkles it with an unapologetic dash of humor that I so appreciate. (I included the full post on the bottom of the page) He proceeded to talk about the 10 things actors should focus on to achieve success and guess what the first one was???

If you guessed that it was my theme for the day then you sir or mam have been elevated to genius status! Right there in print, plain before my eyes,

” I. Thou Shalt Not Settle
Too many actors settle for being good when they have the potential to be great.”

Hmmmm …. alright universe, you have my attention.

To continue and complete the divine trinity, I came home to finish the second book of a 3-part series and one of the threading messages was “You could know my ecstasy every moment, instantly, with the turn of a head, but that requires you to be ever-present of greatness and step outside the norm of conscious boundaries” In plain speak – you could live like a God if only you’d start believing you are a God and stop believing you are less.

This seems highly potent to me right now because I have set a goal to make LA my permanent home by the end of May. I set that date quite arbitrarily as something to work toward with the intentions of paying off certain debts, having a decent amount of money saved up, time to send out resumes and find a safe yet affordable place to live. So far I’ve accomplished none of those. Zip. Zero. Nada. Not a one, thank you very much, that is wrap so let’s call it a day.

With a divorce and a short sale taking place within the last 2 years it feels like America is brilliant at making up ways to cause you to spend your money that slave away for day after day. What’s even more cruel is that you’re already going through a hardship and then they come in with a wooden staff and nearly beat your financial reputation to a bloody pulp. “Yes mam, we are so sorry to hear your husband walked on your home that he said he’d take responsibility for and hasn’t made payments for three months, but unfortunately we do have to charge these late fees, and service fees, and if you chose to get an attorney, obviously attorney fees and countless hours of your life spent in gut-wrenching stress and of course each month that you are not able to make a payment or take action your credit will take a stealthy blow further spiraling you downward, but we are happy to assist you in all of your home needs today.” Gee thanks.

One day I sat there and started thinking about how I don’t think there’s much further down that I could possibly spiral, a thought occurred to me – life just keeps coming. It doesn’t stop. It doesn’t care how tired you are or how hurt you are or how sorry you are or if there’s death and illness, it just keeps coming. I was virtually devastated because being the perfectionist that I am I had always maintained perfect credit, never a late bill, goodness I felt a wave of guilt when a library book was overdue, always paid my taxes, gave 10% to my church and all of a sudden with one phone call everything I had worked so hard to accumulate was just gone. The life that I built, this so-called “security” wiped out.

I would say it would feel like starting all over again, but when I first started out I just had to build up credit, now I was fighting bad credit and trying everything to remove myself from my husband’s continued delinquent activity.

Husband…someone I thought I’d spend my life with. That’s the other bugger. When I got married I was so sure that he would be the one I would spend the rest of my life with. I never, ever doubted that for a second. He was my best friend, my safety, my home. It ended. I can’t seem to explain to people who haven’t been divorced how it changes your entire perspective. How it makes you question the validity of everything. How when something you thought could never be broken, breaks. Again, I had planned everything so perfectly – we had built a beautiful home together from ground up, picked out every piece of furniture and appliance together, had two dogs together, a lifetime of memories, traveled the world and now it was all gone. Some of it locked up in a storage shed, some of it at his new apartment with his new girlfriend, some of it with me, some of it at The Goodwill. All I had left was a depleted bank account to reflect the life that was once so full.

The good news is, like everybody said, it got better. With time and distance the pain and the emptiness stopped. The anger and the fear of being alone dissolved. The debts, both emotional and monetarily were paid off and I found myself working at a really good job with good pay. I started to make some really good friends. I started booking some really good roles and getting some good opportunities in the local industry. I started dating this really good guy and before I knew it, I found myself to be in this really good place.

So why would I want to give that up? Are you crazy?! That’s when I felt that little voice inside of me tweak his mustache and say “Why yes señorita. Perhaps I am a little loco.” Then the internal questions started – Didn’t you say you wanted to do something great with your life? Didn’t you say you wanted to be the greatest actress you can be? Didn’t you say you always dreamed of living in LA, close to the ocean and your beloved Disneyland and how great that would be?

I couldn’t lie to myself, well I could but I’m already dealing with crazy voices, I didn’t find it wise to throw a heaping helping of denial into the mix. I wanted all of that. The only thing stopping me now is not a husband or a home to take care of or over-protective parents, but fear.

I can literally see myself standing at this precipice in my life, looking out over a vast land and I think to myself, well here you are, with all your planning and stubborn relentlessness, this is where you ended up. It’s not bad, it’s just not at all what you had expected. You did good, but don’t you want just a taste of something great?

I do.

A new vow. I never thought I’d utter those words again, but with this new freedom to be fully committed to my passion I say yes to living my dream. I say yes to moving to LA. I say yes to figuring it out as I go (but proceeding with caution and care) because life is meant to be lived and experienced. If you try to put it into this finely confined, gift-wrapped box it will explode in your face because it needs to breath and move and change.

I’m not being naive. I fully expect to struggle and to eat Ramen every day (I’m actually a little excited about that) and to live in a space the size of my closet and to go through new emotional traumas. I was told by someone who knows a coach who works as a private instructor to A-list actors and also trains some of the world’s top up-and-coming actors in LA, that most people give up after that first year. They give into the defeat and pack up their bags and move back home to Oklahoma or wherever greener pasture they came from, but it’s the ones that stick through the adversity, that survive the grueling adaption period, that refuse to be beaten down by the city, that work hard, train hard, live hard – those are the ones that make it. Again, I am not naive. I know what I am capable of and I know that I can survive.

For a lot of actors it is not about the basic elements – there where am I going to live, what will I do to make money, what if I get hit by a car and don’t have any health insurance kind of questions that plague them, but  it is a different set of fears. The fear that for the first time in their life, they could fail. The fear that with this transition, they won’t just be talking about it anymore or planning it with the safety, yes in this case I use the word safety, of the unknown to protect them. They don’t know if they’re failures if they never actually try.

I sort of imagine it to be like the first time I was at Disneyland, a place I truly believed to be a place of magic and fantasy, until I saw a peek behind the curtain of one of the stages. They were just people, not princes and princesses and mythical creatures. The fairytale became an altered reality. It is a reality for any actor who wants to be a professional actor that they have to face the hard, cold fact that it is possible acting for them is nothing more than a dream. Sure they can handle it when they’re a big fish in a small pond or they can handle it when it is a hobby but not their life-source, but what about when it is their everything? What about when they are competing against people who are at the top of their game. There are actors that can cry at the snap of a finger, that can memorize multiple page scripts in a matter of minutes and be off book, that have a skill set comprising everything from sword fighting and martial arts to 10 different languages, stunt-car driving and ballet, that have trained with the best coaches and instructors in the world, the spend every moment of every day living, working, breathing their craft. Suddenly starring in 27 college shorts doesn’t feel so impressive anymore does it? Who wouldn’t want to give up after walking into an environment like that? Survival of the fittest baby – game on.

I’m not entirely certain who would determine your surrender other than yourself. No one can tell you to stop doing what you love. No one can force you back into a 9-5 job. People can tell you that you’re not good, not ready, not attractive enough, not talented enough …. but no one can tell you to sop. You have to make that choice to pull the plug on your own dream, so if you choose to never be willing to do that, then how is failure even an option?

I found this great list of actors, celebrities, authors, artists and athletes that were told they would never make it in their desired fields who are now some of the most prolific names in their industry. I thought it might be a little dose of encouragement.

I guess at some point though, we have to define success. I’ve talked to actors who have all sorts of different terms for this.  Some of them just want to act – it doesn’t matter if it is on a stage, in a commercial, in a PSA, a film; as long as they are working on something and able to survive off of the paychecks they receive for that work, to them that is success. There are others that want to be famous to fulfill some sort of life-long journey for validation. Then there are those like me that want the greatness. I want to win an Oscar. I want to work alongside someone like Daniel Day-Lewis. I want to travel the world and discover new things through film and not because I feel like I’m good enough or deserving, but because I want to work that flipping hard and be so in love with my craft that it oozes out of me like a disease. I want my passion and dedication to be so obvious, so undeniable, so ridiculously present that not only am I exuding that energy into the universe but that the universe is sending me that energy right back like one giant force field.

I can’t do that here. Simple, true fact. There are films here and individuals that are phenomenal at what they do and that make money or even a career doing film, I’m not taking that away from those individuals. But let’s put this bluntly – let’s say acting is my addiction, just like for some, gambling is an addiction. If I was a gambling man, would I want to stay in Arizona where there is a total of like 5 casinos or would I want to go to Vegas where not only is the livelihood of Vegas gambling, but you can even hit a slot machine at a gas station or a grocery store.

That’s the essence of being in L.A. If you’ve never done it before, I  encourage you to just get out one day and walk the streets of L.A. Listen to the people, sit in coffee shops and watch who comes in, hit Hollywood Blvd. at night and see it come alive, go to the museums, the galleries, the studios, take it all in. When you live out there, you live in the craft. My energy feels different, my artistic spirit is awakened and the opportunities seem endless.

Instead of here where I’m constantly seeking out something new, something quality, something challenging, out in L.A. it is overwhelming in the opposite end of the spectrum. There are so many people to meet, classes and workshops to take, networking opportunities to take advantage of, casting agents, managers, studios, indie circuits, producers, artists, filmmakers, visionaries and people with money to burn out there your head wants to pull a Linda Blair and spin around like a top, just considering all of the possibilities.

For me, and this is just for me, I plan to go out to L.A. and still work to support myself and for the first year take classes, meet people and get used to living in the city. I’m not going to hit the ground running. I know me and thinking long-term is the best tactic. If I go out there and can’t find my stability, I will not be able to fully focus on the job needing done. One thing I know to be true, take care of the needs of the heart first and the rest will fall into place.

So what am I waiting on? Well… You got me there. I think it must be a little bit like my first time skydiving. The absolute worst part for me was waiting in the airport, getting my gear strapped on, sitting in that little plain and not knowing what the Hell I just got myself into. I had no idea what it would feel like. Would I freak out, would I vomit, would I pass out from shock, would I get an anxiety attack which eventually would lead to heart attack, would I be liberated and overcome with joy, would I experience such a high that I become a thrill junkie? I had no freaking idea!!???  It was awful. I can’t find words for it, I just wish I could have swapped tummies with you that day so you could physically feel my apprehension and nervousness.

When we were up in that plane and the door opened and the roar of the noise flooded my ears and the burst of cold air hit my face you can literally hear me say “Oh my God” in the skydiving video. I can admit that if I wasn’t strapped to someone else there is no way I would have consciously made that jump myself. I don’t think my body would have let me, my legs felt paralyzed and jello-ized.

Luckily, my instructor was fearless ( I would hope so) and hopped right out with me hanging on for dear life. During the free fall my nose and lungs were rushed with so much air I felt like I couldn’t breath out and for one second I thought I was going to die from too much oxygen. Ain’t that a kicker, but then the most amazing thing happened, he pulled the parachute and all of a sudden there was this stillness. It was calm and quiet and the most peaceful, incredible thing I have ever experienced. Miles above the earth I was just floating.

Now every time I get scared to do something or intimidated, I take a second and stop to think to myself “Hey, you jumped out of a freaking airplane! You got this!” It is the most brave thing I have ever done and one of the few things I am so proud of myself for doing especially being the massive chicken that I am.

Making the big move to L.A. is sort of like that. The worst part is not knowing what will happen, when it will happen or if it will ever happen out there for you, but you just have to take the jump. I don’t have someone who I’m strapped to this time that will make the choice for me. Maybe that is the true act of bravery. I will get to take full responsibility for taking that next leap in my future. First year, will be like the free fall – many moments of feeling like I can’t catch my breath, but it will be that sweet, sweet pay off that will make everything worth it. It’s time to gear up!

As promised…

The 10 Commandments of Being a Good Actor

Last week, my doctor ordered me to lose 20 pounds. I offered to drop 10 and not a pound more. He smirked and told me to bend over.

What can I say? This kid loves Christmas and all the sugar that comes with it. But as we all know, there’s a price to pay when we indulge our addictions. So the time has come for me to address all the extra fat that’s hanging over my belt.

I started yesterday by hiking up to the Hollywood sign. A steep climb at a steady pace is a great way to burn calories. It sure beats running on a treadmill like a hamster in a cage. But a funny thing happened on my way up the mountain.

I had a religious experience.

As I was approaching the sign, the sun vanished behind unexpected clouds. I suddenly found myself surrounded by rain and lightning. And then the ground started to shake. I fell to my knees. I prayed. And that’s when I heard the Voice.

If you search online, you’ll find cell phone footage of me taken by other hikers. The clips show yours truly coming down from Mount Lee, my hair a frosty white, holding two stone tablets.

I believe the Gods of Hollywood chose me to deliver their lesson because of my weekly pulpit right here in Backstage. They knew I had the power to reach thousands of actors. So to honor their wishes, I now present you with the Ten Commandments of Being a Good Actor:

I. Thou Shalt Not Settle
Too many actors settle for being good when they have the potential to be great.

II. Thou Shalt Not Lose Track of the Big Picture
Actors tend to fixate on short-term details, like finding a good agent and getting the perfect headshot. That’s fine, but the career path you choose will be determined by your long-term goals.

III. Thou Shalt Learn How to Network
Knowing how to meet and interact with industry professionals is an essential skill.

IV. Thou Shalt Be Realistic
When you’re just starting out and you don’t have many credits, don’t ask your agent to get you an audition for the lead in a network pilot. There’s nothing wrong with aiming high, but you can’t lose yourself in the clouds.

V. Thou Shalt Learn to Shut Up
Actors spend way too much time listening to the sound of their own voice. Try keeping quiet every now and then, especially when you’re talking to people in the industry. Who knows? You might actually learn something.

VI. Thou Shalt Question the Source
Don’t believe everything you hear. You know the actor in class who’s half as talented as you but claims he booked a pilot? He’s lying. The guy’s actually doing a Web series that his girlfriend is financing with the money she made dancing at Crazy Horse.

VII. Thou Shalt Learn to Say No
You don’t have to jump on every opportunity that comes your way. I’m talking about the manager who lives out of his car and wants to sign you. I’m also talking about that nonunion film that expects you to perform full frontal nudity.

VIII. Thou Shalt Take Chances
You took a huge risk when you decided to become an actor. So why not keep that daredevil spirit alive as you pursue your career?

IX. Thou Shalt Be Mentally Healthy
Rejections aren’t personal. Your ego doesn’t control your life. And strangers do not have the power to crush your dreams. (Only you can do that.)

X. Thou Shalt Get a Life
Never put life on hold for your career. If acting is based on life experience, how can you be a great actor when you have no life?