When you’re an actor “Love is a Battlefield” Ain’t NO Joke

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Before I started acting on a professional level I heard the expression, “When you date an actor it is like dating a cheater.” I didn’t get it. I get it now.

Acting was always a part of my life, no it was more than that, it was the one true thing in my life. I can think back on my school play in 4th grade where I dressed up like a giant, tropical Toucan, or the Food Groups play in 6th grade where I played the mom to a boy that was literally 2ft taller than me, and my first junior high play where I played a blond bimbo…I loved that wig, right up to high school when I saw my name next to Ophelia‘s for the first time. Yes those could just be a random selection of memories grouped together by a common theme, but these memories are my essence. They are my happiness. They are moments in my youth where time stood still and I felt a deep peace and knew that everything was as it should be. A faithful sweetheart love.

At the end of high school I was convinced into auditioning at the Thespian Conference. I stood in the hall waiting to audition surrounded by dozens of others anxiously reciting their monologues – some strikingly stoic, some nearly in tears, other shaking with nerves and anticipation. I felt this calm come over me and I just said to myself “Screw it. I’m just going to go in their and talk. I’ll be as honest as I can be and I’m going to talk to them. That’s all I can do.” Mind you this was before I had clue what Meisner was, but it worked. I got the most responses at the conference which led to scholarships being offered to theater programs and one film school all across the country. I didn’t take any of them.

I know some of you are probably mentally screaming at me right now and are preparing a lecture on missed opportunities, trust me I already know. I have no legitimate reason other than that I’m human and I was young and afraid and engaged at the tender age of 19. I broke off that engagement the evening before my parents were supposed to book the church, started focusing on school and working and making money and it wasn’t but a few years later that I was engaged once more. This time I made it to the altar.

My husband was a good man. He loved me as I was and he was honest. When I mentioned during our dating period that I used to act, he said that he could never be with an actor and he meant it. In our third year of marriage I was in my final semester of college and required to take an elective course. I took “Acting for the Camera” The instructor of that class became a mentor to me and encouraged me to move forward with pursuing a career in film. He helped me get my first headshots, get my first agent, attend my first audition and introduced me to Chris Labadie and several other up-and-coming filmmakers that not only gave my first shot at being on screen but became life-long friends. There was always this caution, this hesitance that I sensed in my mentor though, something I couldn’t quite place, but I still remember exactly the way he looked. I didn’t fully understand it at the time. He would tell me stories about missing his grandmother’s funeral because he was committed to a shoot, or not being present to fully see and appreciate his children growing up because of his career and every time I took on another project or spent more time away from home or had to work alongside an attractive, eager male I sensed the sadness that would well up in his eyes. At one point he straight up told me to value those in my life that I loved and to remember the value they held, I being obstinate and stubborn almost took it as a challenge. I did not welcome his guidance in that area of my life.

After almost a year of not seeing his wife for weekends at a time, me coming home at mysterious hours of the night, getting phone calls and texts and message from men and taking on more and more roles that required me to do things that made him increasingly uncomfortable, I made the choice to move on and pursue my dream. Something he once told me was that when I get bored, I set the world on fire. I’ll never forget that and I never want to get bored again.

There were nights that I would crumple up into a corner of my room and cry and sob, tormenting myself if I had done the right thing. I lost a man who loved me, a home, my dogs, my life, my family and for what? A dream? After countless hidden evenings of this and acting like Diane Keaton in “Something’s Gotta Give” randomly bursting into tears at the grocery store or when driving, I decided that I had to accept the fact that I had indeed made that choice and because I made that choice, I needed to honor it and work my ass off to be the best actress I can be. To leave him and break both of our lives apart for anything less would be unacceptable.

When I did date again I dated an actor. I thought this would solve all of my problems that I faced previously in my marriage. Like so often in life, I was wrong. Some things were enormously better, but this time around instead of just one of us having a hellish, crazy-insane schedule, we both did. Instead of one of us talking, flirting “networking” with the opposite sex, we both did. Instead of one of us taking on sex scenes or intimacy with highly attractive counterparts, we both were. Instead of one of us being fully committed and focused on making the relationship our top priority, neither of us did. It was doubly challenging because as an actor we were supposed to be understanding of those things with one  another. If I didn’t allow him to do something or take a role, that meant that I would be obligated to do the same if presented with a similar opportunity and we couldn’t have that now could we. It truly exposed my deepest, ugliest parts including but not limited to hypocrisy, insecurity and competitiveness. Somehow we became oddly at war with each other. We both wanted to be the first and the best so when one would book a role or get offered an opportunity, instead of expressing support and joy and pride, the other would feel disadvantaged and this silly fear would creep in that they would blow up, get famous, move on and forget all about little old me, either that or I’d be eternally riding the coat-tails of his fame.

It was vicious. As an actor I didn’t want to be stopped by any force or held back in any way regarding my craft. I need to be given the freedom to fully commit. I would look at him and see how strikingly talented he was and beautiful and capable and there was this split in my heart that wanted to let him go fulfill his full potential and then there was this other part that never wanted to let him go. I tried so hard to keep a sense of regularity intact, but would fail every time because I refused to fail when it came to anything in the industry.

I started looking for a way to balance these two loves in my life. Can you even both? In an emotional frenzy I wrote something in my journal that may be considered slightly offensive, but it is what I felt and still pretty much feel “You can’t be with anyone when you’re an actor did you know that? Because you have to be in love with yourself. You have to be a slave unto yourself. You have to indulge in every pleasure, in every sacrifice and work yourself like a whore every day and every night. YOU are the business. YOU are the art. YOU are the passion. YOU are the product. You can’t possibly give yourself away when there’s a product to be sold to the highest bidder for fame and fortune and legend.”

It’s a little bit of a dirtier, grittier version of what Michael Caine used to say about how you have to be married to the craft. You have to be willing to go anywhere, say anything, do anything and be anyone. He goes more in-depth on this topic as well as gives some incredible technical advice to actors in his “Acting in Film” series.

I included links to the videos below because they are all worth the watch – try to get over how out-dated they feel. There is also a book available:

 

I immediately equated this to mean that if I’m married to my craft then clearly I can’t be married to someone else, or even dating someone else. It wouldn’t be fair to that person. I was always raised that when you are in a serious relationship you put that person above yourself and consider their needs and wants before making any decision no matter how big or small. If I did that, I wouldn’t have accomplished half of the things I’ve done thus far, especially if I did that in my marriage, I wouldn’t be here at all. Sooooo don’t have a someone  – maybe just a little something, something on the side? So not my style.

Later in life I stumbled on this quote from Michael CaineMy wife comes with me on all the movies, but she is not an appendage to a film star or anything like that. She is a completely intertwined partner. She is the other half of me. Also, we’re still very much in love with each other. We always have been, we always will be.”

It gave me hope that there is a possibility for true love to exist in the realms of working in the world of make-believe. Hope can be a deadly thing, but hope is also what keeps us going.

Everyone I know who is an actor in a relationship has this cavalier attitude about it. I consistently hear comments like “As long as he stays faithful to me then we’re fine. The minute he says he wants to go sleep with someone else, fine, tell me, be honest with me, be straight up with me, don’t make a fool out of me, and we are done.” Wow, really? Or I hear people so casually say “Just move to LA, make a solid income to support him and then he can come out” when the couple is newly married and one of the parties doesn’t want to relocate. I don’t know that I could do that. Isn’t the point of being married to work as unit and make decisions together? That seems to sort of defeat the entire purpose. I know one married couple where one is an actor and the other is not, but I swear to God this husband is one in a million. Every other time I’ve observed what I thought to be a healthy relationship, the dirt eventually rises to the surface.

One of things I truly struggled in understanding is how to keep a relationship sacred within this industry. When as an actor you can pretty much go as far with another person sexually except for actual intercourse (unless you do those kind of films) and you spend so much time building bonds and relationships and feelings with other people; what is it that you can share with one other person that you don’t share with anyone else? The obvious answer there is your heart, but that requires a great deal of trust and the promise and committment from your end that your heart won’t ever change or be compromised. In an industry so filled with excess and options, where it is so easy to find something or someone different at the turn of your head, that simple promise can be more difficult to keep than originally anticipated.

Even so, let’s say that I do fully give someone my heart. Is it enough? Will that be enough when I’m off shooting for 3 weeks with little communication and surrounded by temptation. Will it be enough when I miss anniversary dates or family reunions? Will it be enough when you see me intertwined with someone else in bed on-screen? Will it be enough that we may never have a regular life where you come home from work and I greet you at the door with a kiss and serve you a hot dinner and ask you how your day was? Will it be enough if I tell you I don’t think I want to have kids because I need to focus on my career?

When I’ve expressed these fears and questions some have said that it is merely a matter of finding that right person that you’re not only compatible with but who you have a firm foundation of trust (there’s that word again) and who appreciates you, ALL of you.

Does such a person exist? If I listen to my mother, then no he does not. There is not a man in the world that could put up with my ambition, my vagabond lifestyle, my constant attention to social media, gadgets, devices, emails and other men (platonic or not) or the idea that my life is very much consumed by acting and it always will be. Unless of course he is another actor, but then in return, I’m not okay with all of that ish. Rather a conundrum them ain’t it?

This seed of doubt got planted in my head. Maybe I’m not meant to be an actor. Maybe I don’t have what it takes because I’m not willing to comprise normalcy and having a loving, nurturing relationship. Doubt is a cruel thing to do to yourself. Flip open a tabloid and you can observe that probably 98% of all entertainers must suffer with this same exact predicament. With an outlandish divorce rate, countless accounts of unfaithfulness and affairs and various addictions plaguing folks in relationships you can see just how common this pattern is and yet….  they still try; they still look for love, for the one that will stick.

Ok so what does this all mean? It’s ok to want a relationship while being an actor. It’s ok to be an actor while being in a relationship. How can do you make it work? Is there formula, a template I should be following or certain attributes I should be looking for in a partner or in myself to ensure success?

Sadly I don’t think such a thing exists. If it does, I beg of thee, please send me the link! I do think that I’m at a place in my life where I probably need to redefine what love is and means to me as well as what a “good” relationship is within the terms of the reality that I am, forevermore an actor. If I can break the cycle of societal and familial expectations placed on me of what relationships should be and remove those mental boundaries, I can open up a whole new world and way of experiencing love.

There are some truths that I know to be unshakable: 

1.) You gotta take the full enchilada –  It doesn’t pay to hide any part of yourself. The man who I am with has to love the hard-hitting, power-player, social-media slut, networking nut of a promoter, , overachiever, over-worked actor and personality just as much as he’s got to love the Melissa behind closed doors in over-sized pajama pants, with Minnie Mouse slippers, eating ramen noodles, watching The Munsters, while laughing at myself trying to learn how to play poker for the first time and failing miserably. I in turn must love all of him. I have had men be drawn to the image projected out into the world but then they expect me to “perform” all the time and be that perfect representation you see in modeling pictures or at film events. On the flip side of that I’ve had those that love the me that no one else sees, but despises the Melissa that steps out the door, calling her a fake. It is all me, one does not exist without the other. I love all of me and rightly so.

2.) Honesty & Transparency – Don’t lie. Just don’t do it. Don’t try to cover up your past or be selective about the information you share regarding where you stand on acting, the roles you take and what’s required of you. It always comes out eventually and when a lie is applied to mask the truth, I have to not only cope with what happened but the fact that you lied. No bueno and totally unnecessary. Trust can quickly erode and become more difficult to earn once a series of lies is discovered. A lot of people handle it similarly to children. They know mom will get mad if she finds out that the cherry popsicle fell on the white rug and they don’t want mommy to be mad so it is better to just not say anything. WRONG. Yes mom is going to be mad, but mom should also commend you for being direct and taking the initiative to handle the situation with prompt attention and truthfulness out of respect for her.

3.) Communication – Just talk to me. I am an Aries and I am only child aka I am a control freak. I’m working on that….The point is that I don’t have the intention of ever holding anyone back from something they love or that will be good for them as long as I feel included or at least informed. When you feel that the ship is sailing away without you it is a very sad experience and can cause feelings of abandonment and resentment. All of which could be totally avoided with a few minutes of convo. I am shocked at the power that kind words can accomplish. When you are able to offer someone words of assurance and love, you can gain a whole army of support, but when you leave them feeling threatened and left-behind, you’ll find that when you look to you right or look to your left, no one will stand by your side.

4.) Be secure in who you are – This is the little dagger in my side. If I can’t believe in my heart of hearts that no matter what you’re doing and who you’re doing it with, you love me and will only desire me when you step off that set, it won’t matter what you do or say to try to assure me of that. The issue is internal. This is why it is important to have a strong sense of self before you choose to be in a committed relationship whether in the industry or not. It’s not fair to repeatedly punish or crucify your significant other for your own insecurities. There is no faster way to kill a relationship, trust me, I know.

5.) Compromise – This is a vital part of every relationship. You are taking two lives and trying to mesh them into one partnership, clearly some level of compromise will be needed. But when does compromise turn into sacrificing who you are to make the other person happy and in turn relinquishing your own happiness? The answer that I have found that makes the most sense to me is again from Neal Donal Walsh. He talks about how most people mistake the feeling or desire to be needed for love. When somebody needs you that means they are dependent upon you for their happiness. This is not a good thing. True love, however, is open and giving not constricting. True love is freedom. True love is allowing the person to honor themselves and through honoring themselves, in return they honor you with love. I feel like this should be easy, but it hasn’t been for me. I’m like that little girl who loves her little dolly so much and so hard that she squeezes it so tight to her bosom until the head pops off. I have to stop decapitating and debilitating those that I love out of fear that I’ll lose them.

6.) Don’t accept the unacceptable – There are times when feelings of jealousy or anger are unfounded and bred from selfish or shallow intentions at our core. It is those times we must be honest with ourselves, acknowledge our own faults and work through them to grow and become better lovers. There are also things that you should never accept or try to talk yourself into accepting. We all have our own boundaries, but anytime a person does anything to make you feel you have no value, self-worth or is damaging to your spirit man, LOVE YOURSELF MORE and walk away. A broken heart is the cause of more deaths, diseases, failures, situations of abuse and depression than anything else in the world. Protect it.

7.) Don’t throw in the towel – If you love someone or something, as long as you honor yourself, don’t be afraid to put on the gloves, put in a mouthguard and step into the ring. Anything worth having, is worth fighting for and the better it is, the more you have to fight for it! Again this could be a whole other blog post but I believe a huge part so many young people are divorced today is because as soon as something gets hard they walk away. Love is not perfect, it is just love. You have to work at it every single day and make the choice to be all in. Love is not a feeling, it is a choice and a commitment.

My goal, as cheesy and Disney-Princessy as it sounds is to be so filled with abundant love and light that I don’t have to limit myself to choosing one or the other, but that my heart will be home to both one special man and another little man named Oscar one day.

An actor with a case of missing identity

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I’ve already “preached” about the whole “To thine own self be true” concept in a previous post, but last week I was presented with that age-old question “Who are you?” and I desperately wished that I had a rock to crawl under. I nearly almost slithered under the table when it was originally posed to me. In a moment all of these faces and recognitions of things and people that I am NOT flashed through my mind, but I couldn’t even formulate a complete sentence of who I was. Oh snap. Well what the heck does that mean?

Being annoyingly organized and slightly obsessive, some say compulsive, I decided to go back to my list of those that I am not in the hopes that it would become clear from the residue that was left over as to who I AM.

First of all, I am not, sadly, Leeann Dearing. I love Leeann Dearing. I was one of the first interns at the Dearing Acting Studio and spent a lot of time with the Dearings in a professional and personal environment and I don’t have a bad thing to say about the whole clan. Leeann was so beautiful that sometimes I would be rendered speechless and awkward like a prepubescent boy when she would walk into a room (I have so much more sympathy for teen boys now btw), she is witty and funny, sweet like a little honey cake, intelligent and every day I seemed to learn a new talent or skill that she possessed. I sat there in my black clothing with my black frizzy hair and my stubby little body in a big office chair with my feet barely touching the ground, oh who am I kidding, they didn’t touch the ground, wondering about what it would be like to be Leeann. Blonde, blue-eyed, charming and gorgeous and a God & people-loving soul. Well the blonde I couldn’t pull off, the blue eyes…meh, contacts are a pain in the butt, but I could try to take away from her zeal for life and love. She brightens any environment she graces and I wanted some of that, I wanted a cup of her sunshine.

One that I still haven’t stopped acting like an obsessed fan over is Ms. Annie Boon. I remember watching her in a short film called Vinyl and thinking. I want to be her. I want to do this. She gave the first performance where I said to myself, she’s not acting, she’s just being honest and there happens to be a camera in her face. It didn’t matter what I saw her in after that, role after role after role she was consistent in this truth. It seemed like an unreachable standard to an amateur like me. I saw her on set, the first professional set I had every been on actually, and I was mortified to even be near her. It didn’t matter to me that she wasn’t this huge famous name, respectable talent is respectable talent and I pushed myself to get over this irrational fear and tried to listen, watch, observe, learn from her that day on set as much as possible. Isn’t that a beautiful thing to want to take away – honesty. Pure, simple, come-as-you-are honesty. That’s what Annie gave me a desire for.

Another  lady I knew that I was not is Nicole Randall. This hot little number came out of virtually nowhere and started booking roles with directors that I was too timid to even approach. She is a real-life Jessica Rabbit with fiery red hair, a body to die for and a smile that men melt for. I wouldn’t know how to be that bold and fearlessly sexy if my life depended on it. To add to the cool-factor, this girl can handle a gun, a bow and arrow and probably can ride a Harley when I can’t even hold one up. There was that secret hope that she would be mean or stuck up but no such luck, Nicole is an absolute sweetheart and I can see why people enjoy working with her – she’s that flawless balance of fearlessness and feminine, a blend of sugar & spice. I want a little bit of her kick, a little bit of her bravery, a bit of her bad-assness, if you will.

Lately my obsession has been Jing Song. This girl is EVERYWHERE and plays everything from victims to ancient goddesses. Plus she’s got a body to kill for, I’m not gonna lie, I saved one of her photos to my desktop as motivation…plus I just like to look at it. Naughty, I know. But in all seriousness, her versatility and vivacious attack on film in this industry did not escape my attention. She is never prideful nor too big for anything but instead is incredibly humble, grounded and excited about any opportunity or role, no matter the size and her sense of humor is delightfully refreshing. Clearly, I will never be Asian – there’s jus not enough plastic surgery in the world and I will never have that banging body, again I repeat, there’s not enough plastic surgery in the world, but I could use a dose of her humbleness and realness.

I had a director that once said “If you must steal, only steal from the best.” I dig it. So now I had this list of fabulous people I am not, but I also had a list of honorable attributes that I try to apply to my own life and professional approach. I think I see a framework starting to be constructed…

The second part of the conversation rang in me around this time “Who are you like? Who have people said you reminded them of; either acting or look like?” Here we go…

My look is usually evolving. I have people that don’t even recognize me from one set to another, but I’ve been told I look like that Star Trek girl, Sarah Brightman, Rachel Weis and and (I am so ashamed to admit that this is the most popular) Snooki.

Acting, I don’t feel worthy to compare myself to anyone but I learn from Kate Winslet, Jennifer Connelly and Hilary Swank. I read about them, watch their work, follow their careers. I’ve had one experience where I was brushing my teeth in the bathroom and I’d walk in and out of the bedroom while getting ready and some silly Rom-Com with Sarah Michelle Geller and Alec Baldwin was on and I literally did a double-take when I saw her make a particular expression. It was like looking in a mirror. Next thing I knew 40 minutes had passed by with a toothbrush hanging out of my mouth as I sat in horror, half hell-bent on hunting down Geller’s PR Rep and accusing them of having someone follow me around since birth to feed her material. That was me up there, I swear to the heavens. You think I’d follow her career, but I don’t. It’s weird watching yourself, or your clone.

Then the third part of the questions came in “What are your strengths? What is your niche? What roles do you excel in naturally and what do you want to do?” Pfffff, I market myself as the girl who can cry on screen. It’s almost like being an emotional drug dealer “What can I do you for today? You need tears for a breakup, tears for a suicide scene, tears for a dying boyfriend, tears of a struggling addict? Step right up we’ve got em’ all right here at a price you can’t beat…usually free” I feel very comfortable doing that. I also feel very comfortable being that dominant, sorta sassy girlfriend on screen that tells it like it is. She’s sort of bitchy but you like her anyway. I’ve only been offered that twice, but it fit like a glove. A lot of people see me and from my look try to push me toward sexual roles or comedy. And that was when the light bulb went off.

When you go out to LA, it is all about the look. Gino Calabro recently made a post with this statement on Arizona Actors and it was reconfirmed by someone later in the week. That when you first start out, you get cast for being you. It’s not until you’re established that some director looks at you and says “I wonder what she could be…?”

That is why everyone tells you to know your look. Know WHO YOU ARE. Suddenly, I was going back through my notes feeling helpless call over again. Ok so I’m not the blonde bombshell and I’m not a Jessica Rabbit and I’m not the next Lucy Lu and I’m not Kate Winslet, so who am I?

Can you tell I still don’t know? Maybe that is because I never answered one of the questions – what roles do you want to do. All of them. That is the honest answer. I want to transform into anything and everything that I want to be. I want to do dark and gritty performances, I want to be a Bond Girl, I want to be like Leslie Mann and do fun comedies, I want to be sexy like Olivia Wilde, I want to be smart like Jodie Foster! Why shouldn’t I? The only person limiting myself here is me.

I’m frustrated that I don’t feel that I fit into a “type” I’m not a soccer mom or a sorority girl, I’m not a business type or a stripper, I’m just me. Weird, quirky, little me. I worry this will hurt me in a professional market and have been considering making some changes. If the drama is my niche then I have to cut the ish out with the low-cut shirts and the eyelashes and the lip gloss. No casting director is going to look at Snooki and see Charlize Theron. As I was pondering this self-image reinvention, I started thinking about Hilary Swank whom I mentioned earlier and how she goes all in, even for an audition, she goes all in. She showed up to audition for a role with her head already shaved to play a boy. She booked it. She lived in her car, made calls to agents and managers from a pay phone and got ready at local parks and YMCA’s because she knew who she was. She is an actor.

I am an actor.

I can be anything that I want to be, I can look however I want to look, talk in whatever accent I want, but that core always comes from me and I know who I am. I am an actor. I am ever-changing and ever-growing as I continue to absorb new knowledge and learn from those greater than I. As Winnie the Pooh would say, “I’m short, fat and proud of that,” I am stubborn and insecure, I am passionate and intelligent, I am fierce and loving, I am a warrior for truth, but the coolest thing about who I am, is that I am my creator. Just think about the power in that statement. You are your creator. There is no other artist, no other designer, no other director or person that can make you who you are.

That is why it is my core belief that acting is not about becoming someone else or pretending, it is about looking inside of yourself to find those pieces, those memories, those unexplored places to become a full, complete version of yourself. You come to know yourself and define yourself through experience. What a great gift we have been given as actors, to freely be able to journey into our inner realms, our souls, our past lives, our forgotten childhood, to discover and remember who we are as humans. I don’t intend to waste that gift. It is like being you’re own Superhero, master of your own universe, savior of your own soul. Be unapologetically you and don’t ever be afraid to live in a world of endless imagination, limitless versions of you, alternate endings and a place where there are no mistakes, just the journey.

It’s all just an act of faith…

Photo by friend and talented photographer Sean Kapera

Photo by friend and talented photographer Sean Kapera

Let’s get the worst part over with in the beginning – I am a Christian. I am not a Christian actor, but I am a Christian who acts. God is a huge part of my life and I feel, sadly, that most people don’t know that and for a very specific, pathetic reason. It is better to the masses that I do not speak of God at all, rather than speak of God and then post a controversial photo, clip or comment within the same 24 hour period. Most people tend to operate based on a strict standard determined by our society and organized religion, but I don’t. And now is the time for the warriors to rise.

I was raised in a Christian home and grew up in church. Those who know me on a more intimate level know that I was a victim of a cult experience run by a family member during my youth. They successfully robbed me of my identity, influenced me to separate and isolate myself from my parents and friends, and instilled in me an unbreakable sense of unworthiness. This has filtered into every component of my life, but where it has caused the most destruction is in the two areas I love the most – my relationships and my acting.

I never truly believe I am worthy to be loved or wanted. I with every fiber of my being, believe that if my significant other is presented with another opportunity or temptation he would and should choose that option because I am the lesser. Always less. In acting it is the same. I feel flawed or at a disadvantage because of this. A lot of professionals tell me that it is imperative that you believe in your ability and talent when no one else does. That you have to hold true to it in your core or you can be cut down just like little weed in a field, never to grow or blossom again. As I have become more open about my feelings of inadequacy I have also encountered others who tell me I have the tortured spirit of an artist and to embrace it; to use it. It is a gift. I do.

I have made grand improvements over the years, but it is a constant and continuous battle.

When I was forced to exit the cult by my father I had a hatred for him for making me leave. I felt he was trying to keep me away from my home. As time passed I began to understand the hard truth of the events and lost my foundation of trust in God and in people. I also grew resentful towards my father, not for removing me now, but because he took so long to do so. I felt he had failed at protecting me, from shielding me.

It was the first time I had ever seen my father cry. He wept for the sins of his family, for not wanting to forsake his mother and sister but by doing so, hurting his daughter. I forgave him within about a year as I was able to place myself in his position and understand his torment. He is my hero. During this same year I went on spiritual quest yearning to find peace and a new way to experience God. I studied everything from Buddhism and Sufism to Scientology to Catholicism to Judasim to Aethism. While I truly value this time of exploration and learning, I felt hollow inside.

I remember the day perfectly I asked God back into my heart. I shut myself in my room, sat on my little bed and told him that I wanted him back in my life, not because I had been raised or forced to do so, but because it was only in him that I felt that true peace. I asked him to give me discernment and to guide me on this spiritual journey, holding my hand every step of the way. He hasn’t left my side since.

This is where I am now. I pray to God constantly, I talk to him all throughout the day, I read a daily devotional, I take a spiritual healing class, am currently reading a three-part series of books called “Conversations With God” which has restructured a lot of my belief system and believe it or not, I have the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues.

So why do I hide this part of myself? Well let me tell you the whole grisly tale: I recently did a faith-based feature film. It began as a short film with high ambitions. When originally hired I was told that they did not want to hire only Christians, they wanted professional actors and they wanted the film to have mass appeal. Great, I thought, fabulous! This will finally be a platform for people to be introduced to God in a non-threatening way. The short was completed pretty seamlessly, but then it got picked up for distribution and they decided to extend it into a feature. I was going to be spending a lot more time with the director and producer which was a husband and wife pastor team. I was resolved not to get involved with them personally and leave the religion out of it so I tried very hard to show up on set, do my job and leave. It became challenging for me when it was clear that they had other intentions.

My Facebook and social media were being monitored regularly, they made several “conversion” attempts and the icing on the cake was when I received a phone call one day informing me that I was no longer welcome or invited to any press-related events, television interviews, radio shows or national screenings because my image was not “Christian” enough. Totally and completely hypocritical is the fact that they were totally willing to have my costar who is a devout Atheist, represent and work with them on future films, only because her image is more cleanly represented to the public. Makes sense, right? At first I was hurt, and I also felt at a loss because I had hoped that this film would have been my big break, but I quickly recovered and thought, “Who are you to tell me what my relationship with God is?” I told them this much and really haven’t had much interaction with them since. With my ego and spirit wounded I had fears of what would become of the film. They had already highlighted someone else on the poster, snubbed me for top billing in the credits despite the fact that I was the lead and when I had seen the rough cut, I was so tortured, I felt I had let my pain during the journey impact my performance. I kept feeling God saying to me over and over again, even as I wept for 3 solid days before the first public screening “Trust Me.” So I did.

The film was a body of work I was proud of. This was the first film my parents were able to invite the whole family too and share with their circle of friends, and I was able to appreciate it for what it was and then let go…

This whole experience did get me thinking about all of the other people out there who love God, but don’t say or do anything about it for fear of being condemned, judged or persecuted. In this industry especially, being identified as Christian is almost as bad if not worse as being a Republican. It has become associated with narrow-mindedness. Living in God is about living in love, for God is ultimate love and that love supersedes any and all races, sexual preferences, religious boundaries and sin.

I realize that this is a liberal concept and I for one know that I am a liberal, but how incredible would it be if we all operated with intentions of  love and openness? I had a conversation with my dad the other day about this and he proposed a very traditional viewpoint – That with approximately 2,000 Facebook friends and a following on other circuits, I am an example to others, so what does it mean when one day I post a Bible verse and the next day I post a half-naked photo of myself? I answered him quite confidently with a similar response I gave to the religious directors, “I talk to God about every role and project I take. I am at peace with the work that I do and though I do not expect everyone to support or even understand my choices, I do ask that they not judge them, for I will not judge theirs.” Here were my thoughts related to this and other common stigmas tied to religion or God in acting:

1.) God is in everyone and everything. He created it all. There is nothing you can say, do or be that could shock him. If you don’t believe that, you are placing limitations on God, the creator of the universe. God did not create and then expect us to not experience. What sort of cruel God would he be if he placed all of these things in front of you and then punished you when you reached out to try it? It is all about honoring your inner self. It does not matter what the neighbor to right or your neighbor to your left is doing, only take stock in what your heart, your soul man is telling YOU is right or wrong and make decisions based on that. You are responsible for each choice you make. A lot of folks ask about the 10 Commandments and what I am about to say is radical, but I believe God does not have commandments. This would defeat the purpose of having free-will to either live in God or live in love or not. When you are living in love, you simply will not have the desire to lie, the desire to cheat, the desire to steal and so on.

2.) The literal translation of “sin” means “to miss the mark” that is all. In other words, you tried to hit the target, but you didn’t quite make it. It does not mean that you committed some unforgivable act making you worthy of an eternity in Hell and purgatory. Also, a sin is a sin. There is no one sin, greater than another. God can forgive a person for telling a white lie just as easily as he can forgive a serial killer. It is us who have the issues forgiving and accepting.

3.) We give language weight. God did not write Webster’s dictionary nor did he ever say “You cannot say these words” It is our constructions and values we give to words that give them power. So when I accept a role that says “fuck” or “bitch” I have no shame in that. In fact, I actually curse when I pray to God especially in moments of anger or despair. They are just words. Usually I try not to cuss for fear of offending other people, not for the sake of offending my God. I do try to avoid taking the Lord’s name in vain. Rather you are a traditional Christian or modernist, I have found this is a common-held belief because there is power in the name of the creator. When you speak something you are releasing an energy into the shared matrix and when you speak it in the name of the creator it has a power that we cannot fully grasp nor comprehend. I’d rather just leave that one alone, thank you very much.

4.) I have never been ashamed of the naked body. I walk around completely nude all the time and don’t put on clothes until the last second before walking out the door. In some cultures, nudity is absolutely acceptable and even welcome and encouraged amongst family and members of the community. When it comes to film I am not a big advocate of sexualization or gratuitous nudity or sex. In Europeans films for example, if there is scene where the girl is getting undressed to hop into the shower while in mid-conversation she’ll remove her clothes before stepping into the bathroom or a scene where a mother is breast-feeding.  There is nothing sexy about it, just a natural act involving the human body. I have taken a role where I have done partial nudity and I felt personally convicted about it because I could not justify the value, so I will not be taking a role like that again, but through that experience I was able to identify my true feelings regarding this situation. I am thankful for that. As far as modeling goes, I take joy in seeing a beautiful person and hope others take joy in it as well. Science has proven that certain chemicals are released in the human brain when looking at particularly the female form that stimulate pleasure. As long as both parties are consenting, aware and comfortable with the viewing and reception of these images, there is no reason to feel guilt over such things. Taste, class, appropriateness…all a subject to personal opinion. I do not take pleasure in looking at pornographic images or again over-sexualized images, but that is determined by my inner-spirit. I have my comfort-zone, you have yours. Honor it.

5.) Just because I take a role does not mean I advocate the behaviors of that character or the actions in the story. My parents have a difficult time with this one. If I play the role of a drug addict for example, to them I might as well be a walking advertisement for narcotics. This has always been a war at home for me. My ex husband was a rave DJ and I would attend the raves with him almost every weekend. This infuriated them as they felt that I was condoning their choices to partake in drugs or other acts. For me, I would go and look around at all of these young, lost souls so desperately seeking someone to love them and if I could be that one person that showed them love; that accepted them as they were, wouldn’t that be just a huge testament to how great God’s love can be? My ex also was straight-edge, and his fans and followers were aware of that. We never condemned any of them, but we did lead by example. I am fully cognizant of the fact that this industry is inundated with drugs, sex, alcohol and living in excess but I am fully capable of playing a chain-smoking, alcoholic, heroin-addict for 10 hours on a set, walking off it and never, ever having the urge to partake in that lifestyle or making it my reality. My job as an actor is to tell a story, and what’s more, if it can positivity affect and change someone’s reality then that is what it’s all about. I’d gladly play a whore, a drug-addict, a killer, a sinner of any kind if it prevents one soul from actually being one. Plus, I cannot tell a lie, those roles are extremely rewarding and juicy as an actor to sink your teeth into.

6.) You kissed a girl on screen? You’re going to Hell because God says that all homosexuals go straight to Hell. Ummm what? Let’s talk real for a moment, homosexuality has existed since the beginning of time. It has been a part of great empires and worlds, an integral part of militant operations in the times of the Roman and Greek Empires when quite often young soldiers  were not only trained by a mentor but were also lovers with their young prodigies providing them nurturing and intimacy while away from home for long periods of time. The Bible has been re-written, re-organized, re-interpreted and re-invented by people. People. People with political agendas, personal agendas and the ability to misunderstand or misuse information at the very least, time and time again. Do not listen to what the preacher at the pulpit says, do not listen to what your parents say, listen to what your heart says. The very insanity of the idea that God would hate and automatically dispose of homosexuals is astounding to me. It shocks me that people blindly follow and accept such things. God did create male and female anatomy to reproduce and it is our responsibility to do that, but he also created our bodies for pleasure. Who are you to say that just because the body of the same sex doesn’t give you pleasure that it shouldn’t give someone else pleasure? What harm does that cause  you to see two women in love or enjoying one another? What harm does it cause either of them if they both enter into it willingly? None. So where is the sin? The sin is not being in a union to reproduce? Then a man shouldn’t marry an infertile woman if that’s true. The sin is that God created one man for one woman? Nope again – In the Bible in the old testament men had many wives, and often slept with their wive’s servants even. We have used marriage as ways to create alliances between countries, to transfer or merge property, to accelerate political or societal positions but it has very rarely ever taken root in love or spiritual matters.

Michael Alvarez showed me this video of members of the Westboro Baptist Church appearing on Russell Brand‘s show Brand X. I did a little digging and as it turns out, Brand is extremely intelligent, spiritually enlightened and extremely candid in his struggle with various addictions. I read his blog regularly now. Watch the clip and you tell me, who is acting and living in love:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=OBA6qlHW8po

It is on the rare occasion that you will hear an actor thanking God for winning their academy award, but other than that it is radio silence. I am not proposing that we all start a new Hollywood church or start blasting the Facebook newsfeed with daily Bible verses, but I do have a hope that we can move to create a more open environment for people not only to express a love for God, but just to feel free to express and be who they really are.

This is an excerpt from Book II of Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch. It sums up a shift of collective consciousness:

“Seek only Godliness.

Speak only in truthfulness. Act only in love. Live the Law of Love now and forevermore.

Give everything, require nothing.

Avoid the mundane.

Do not accept the unacceptable.

Teach all who seek to learn of Me.

Make very moment of your life an outpouring of love.

Use every moment to think the highest thought, say the highest word, do the highest deed. In this, glorify your Holy Self, and thus, too, glorify Me.

Bring peace to the Earth by bringing peace to all those whose lives you touch. Be peace. Feel and express in every moment your Divine Connection with the All, and with every person, place and thing.

Embrace every circumstance, own every fault, share every joy, contemplate every mystery, walk in every man’s shoes, forgive every offense (including your own), heal every heart, honor every person’s truth, adore every person’s God, protect every person’s dignity, promote every person’s interests, provide every person’s needs, presume every person’s holiness, present every person’s greatest gifts, produce every person’s blessing and pronounce every person’s future secure in the assured love of God.

Be a living, breathing example of the Highest Truth that resides within you.

Speak humbly of yourself, lest someone mistake your Highest  Truth for a boast. Speak softly, lest someone think you are merely calling for attention. Speak gently, that all might know Love. Speak openly, lest someone think you have something to hide. Speak candidly, so you cannot be mistaken. Speak often, so that your word my truly go forth. Speak respectfully, that no one be dishonored. Speak lovingly, that every syllable may heal. Speak of Me with every utterance.

Make of your life a gift. Remember always, you are the gift. Be a gift to everyone who enters your life, and to everyone whose life you enter. Be careful not to enter another’s life if you cannot be a gift. (You can always be a gift, because you always are a gift – yet sometimes you don’t let yourself know that.) When someone enters you life unexpectedly, look for the gift that person has come to receive from you. Why else do you think a person has come to you? I tell you this: every person who has ever come to you has come to receive a gift from you. In so doing, he gives a gift to you – the gift of your experiencing and fulfilling Who You Are. When you see this simple truth, when you understand it, you see the greatest truth of all:

I HAVE SENT YOU NOTHING BUT ANGELS.”

This film is AMAZING !!! Well of course you think so, it’s your film.

Time to take the trash out…

Melissa Ann Marie Farley Full Body

This theme has been shoved in my face the last few days as the Arizona Film Community is all abuzz with festival season. Just this morning I read a post on Facebook about one of the huge issues within our local film industry is the fact that everyone is blowing smoke up each other’s butts and saying everything is great when it is really just okay. It’s like we are all willing to bow down to the Gods of mediocrity. Also directors or writers are calling their own films “inspiring” or “brilliant” Of course you think that, it’s like your baby. Every parent thinks their child is the most beautiful, intelligent, talented, earth-shattering thing that exists. Right?

 

Honestly I’m not sure. I tend to fall on the opposite end of the spectrum, which in all fairness isn’t quite healthy either. I’ll compliment the poop out of someone else and in addition to that,  working in my particular field of business, you are trained to be extremely aware and apt at choosing your words carefully. Often you won’t hear me say general compliments like “You’re a great actor” or “that film was incredible” but instead I focus on the details.

I find what that person is actually proficient at i.e. “Wow, when you cried in that scene it was extremely touching. I truly felt for you.” – it’s a specific compliment. Oh drat, Now that I’ve given my method away I feel everyone is going to start asking me “Okay yea, awesome you found a good moment but what did you think of the film as a whole?” eeeep I don’t know if I’m ready for that. Oh well, I was told by a fellow forger of truth that once you take the first step of this journey, there is no return. I feel as if I’m about to embark on an epic Lord of the Rings Journey, but I swear my post won’t feel as long.

Anyway back to what I was saying, this concept of loving your own work is a little foreign to me. Normally I beat myself up. I can pick out every single little thing I did wrong, could have done better, why did I wear that, look there, say it that way, and on and on and on. I’ve actually believed on multiple occasions that I’ve ruined films. I rarely invite friends and family to see my work at screenings because of this reason and creating a demo reel was a brutal experience for me. So no, I personally am not the kind of person that says “I am the best actress in AZ and my performance will blow your freaking mind.” HA, I even giggled when I wrote that just now. Tehehe

But the more I look around the more I realize there do seem to be some super-inflated egos here. The only reason I feel justified in saying this is because of a conversation I had with someone I greatly respect just before the A3F screening and he said it in a way that I could not deny it. I asked him, “So what have you done here that you feel is good work.” To which he looked me straight in the eye and said, “Nothing.” but it was the following statement that turned on the light bulb for me. He said that when he compares anything he’s done or seen here to films in theater, there is nothing here locally that even comes close to being good enough to be shown alongside them and there is definitely not a local film or for heaven’s sake one he’s even been in himself that he’d ever choose to watch over one that he sees in a theater or on TV.

The reason this was an eye-opening moment for me is because I never even compare work out here to what is being produced on TV or in theaters. Without even knowing it, I was subconsciously lowering the standards of quality  to justify the level of low-quality work that gets created in this market.

This is a very disturbing realization. How can we expect other markets to take us seriously when we don’t even take ourselves seriously? With the digital technology and tools we have today there is no reason a film can’t at least look pretty or sound audible and clear. Takes a bit of money and time invested into the proper equipment and software, but there is no excuse for it.

Also, the CORE of a good film starts with the writing. How dare you write something and not have it looked at by another set of eyes or two or three or four even, for editing purposes and for creative input. You limit yourself greatly if you think that just because you took one script writing class and made a 3 minute short that 200 people on YouTube watched that you can’t benefit from an outside perspective. There are teams of people that work on scripts or people who ONLY write scripts in Hollywood as a full time job and were trained to understand things like marketability and story structure and innovation. I realize there can be the rare burst of inspiration and genius, but if you whip up a feature script in 4 days and say you’re ready to shoot next week, that is not impressive to me. That is sloppy and that is someone who is willing to take something that should be a draft and make it a final product.

A weak excuse I often hear is that we don’t have any reputable resources out here capable of taking on such tasks, or if we do they are not willing. LIES I TELL YOU. Two people come to my mind immediately, Josh Mathieson and Steve Briscoe, but I know there are many more. It takes a bit of research, again, not something a lot of filmmakers are willing to do, but they are here and eager to offer you a higher level of expertise.

As an actor I’ve always been insulted when directors cast friends in their films or are more concerned about the “look” of a character than anything else. Why? Again I ask Why? Why? Why do you cast a girl in a drama who can’t cry so she has to hide her head in her hands during an emotional peak of a scene, why do you hire a man who isn’t a trained martial arts expert or not offer him training to be a lead in an action film, why do you cast a kid who looks 14 to be a CEO of a company…? Explain it to me? I’ve seen it happen where someone will book something, they post it on Facebook and then people start to see it everywhere, the name of the person, not even the project itself, just their name floating out there in virtual world, and all of the sudden this person is a booking machine. People are followers. If they see that “everyone else” is working with said person, clearly they have to as well! Yes, clearly.

Good god man, open your eyes. Just because they are in 4o student films and every film festival or student film showcase across the valley and willing to take on every free project listed does not mean they are good at what they do. It means that they do a lot of stuff.  Numbers do not equal value. Quantity does not equal quality. Your actors are your tools for telling your story. They are what the audience relates to, lives the experience through, understands, feels, mourns for, roots for, loathes entirely or wants to see thrive or die. This should not be an after-thought to you.

Great actors though cannot save a poor script and a great script cannot save terrible actors. It is a beautiful co-dependent relationship. Regard them with equal respect and importance and be deliberate, almost to a fault and proceed with extreme caution when casting. I challenge you to be bold with your choices and TAKE TIME – watch demo reels, find their links to work, talk to folks who have worked with them and if you really want to hire someone solid, take a month, eat less fast food or stop paying money to see other peoples’ bad films out here and keep it in your own pocket so you can offer to pay the poor actor a few hundred dollars for their hundreds of hours they will pour their life into birthing  your baby.

I was on set yesterday having a conversation with an actor and filmmaker that I most respect and he said something that I wish I had a trumpet nearby to pull out and blow a victory song. Getting paid does not make you a professional. I repeat, it is not about the money. It is about the mindset. It is when someone who is backed by a paycheck or not, stands up and says “I refuse to operate on an amateur level anymore. I will run this set as a professional and I will expect the same level of commitment from each and every cast and crew member that is on my set.” Some of the most professional sets I have ever had the honor and privilege of being on had no monetary compensation, but their sets are operated like well-oiled machines, everyone is treated with respect, the work is treated with respect, the art is treated with respect and in the end it produced a respectable film.

Everybody is afraid to say these things though. I’ve learned nobody wants to say they don’t like anything for fear of burning bridges, myself included. Well gosh, if I say I didn’t really like that film or that person’s work then clearly I’ll never get to work with that person and they are friends with this other director so I probably will never get cast in any of their films either, so I better just shut up, smile and join the choir of the masses with false praise and adulation. – insert Stepford wives smile here –

What purpose does that serve our community as a whole? When we do that, we allow filmmakers to keep functioning at a level that is unacceptable professionally because they are operating under false pretenses fed to them by us that their work is good. It is a catch 22.

Here is my big BUT moment though. I don’t condone angry rants or ripping others to shreds. Everything must be done and said and critiqued with a spirit of love and growth. You must come from the intention of improvement, not of making others feel inferior or incapable. Encourage new methods, give honest feedback on films, talk to the directors about their visions to try to understand what they want to communicate, look to the elders of the community who should in my humble opinion offer guidance and mentorship to those just starting out. Work as a community to help one another. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told directors about other females because I felt they would be great for a role. Gasp, yes I know, but this is a competition. That’s all fine and dandy, but if I can help make this film better by not being in it and passing the torch to someone else then cheers! All the better if they remember it and return the favor one day, but if not then at least we in AZ made something GOOD!

The other thing I would encourage is take the time to develop and devote yourself to a craft fully. Yes Barbara StreisandWoody Allen and Clint Eastwood were able to write, direct, produce and act in their own films but my God, they are legends. It’s not always better to be doing a million different things and I implore you to ask yourself why you feel compelled to do it? If you are honest, I have  a funny little feeling in the bottom of my tum-tum that it comes down to ego.

When it is really about the art you will be desperate to do whatever it takes, to work with those better and more skilled than you, to bring in any resources you can to make it the best that it can be. Stepping aside to welcome a brilliant force to propel the film forward would be an ultimate honor for you, not a threat. I think about Walt Disney who was extremely candid about the fact that he didn’t have the strongest abilities for animation or drawing or business, but he was phenomenal at finding and surrounding himself with people who could bring his visions out of his brain and onto a piece of paper, or film reel or even into an entire world-wide industry. He wasn’t afraid to dream, he wasn’t afraid to let people into his world to make it bigger and he wasn’t afraid to face challenges head on with resourcefulness, resilience and persistence.

Don’t expect the idea of a big Hollywood studio coming in to AZ to save our industry here either. Yes it will provide more grand exposure and it will supply people with employment opportunities, but it will not do what people think. They will still bring in LA actors to play the major roles and people from LA to fill all crucial crew positions. Us lowly AZ filmmakers will be featured extras or extra helping hands. It is the reality. It would be silly for you to assume otherwise. I would welcome a studio here with open arms because I know that it would provide regular work for some people, more opportunities to audition, network and expand your contacts. But never forget this is a business. They are in the business of making movies that will sell and they have a formula to do just that. They will most likely partner with local universities and schools to create some sort of educational program or internship. This will be absolutely ideal for film students here as it will give them the opportunity to learn practical experience on a set and have some major titles under the belt on a resume. It will also be ideal for the studio because it is cheap-to-free labor. They will most likely work with Good FaithTime  or some of the other casting agents her locally to facilitate casting needs for extras, featured extras, maybe even a minor role here or there, but the beef of the burrito will still be gobbled up by their own talent.

They have no reason to come here and expect to be able to pull from our pool of talent because we haven’t shown them that we can swim in the adult pool yet. Let’s take off our floaties AZ Film Community! Stop just dipping your toe in the water or playing around in the shallow end; let’s all dive in head first. Besides, everything is more fun, when you’re wet…

Let’s give them something to Bite into!

The School of Rock – inspriring kids to rock on & off the stage. I wish I had something like this when I was a kid!

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For Full photo gallery & article click here

Steven’s mom emailed me a few weeks ago and at first she just sent in some photos of Steven at The School of Rock, which I absolutely loved, but then she extended an invite to attend one of Steven’s sessions. I accepted immediately, partly because I thought this looked like a really interesting story idea and partly because in some weird way it appealed to my deep, dark hidden secret of wanting to be a rockstar since the days of watching Shirley Temple sing and dance with mom on “sick days” home from school. Granted she’s not a rock star, but still it was the seedling that was planted to perform.

As soon as I arrived I was greeted by a super cool, super laid back staff and felt like I was walking into a world-class recording studio. The school is quite large boasting several different full band practice rooms, a drum room, an autograph wall and more! They have approximately 70 students right now with a staff of over a dozen, all of them are gigging musicians and have an educational background.

What was really impressive is the fact that their passion for the purpose of the school is so obvious! As soon as the lesson began it became instantly clear this wasn’t your typical music lesson. Let me retrace my steps a little bit… Steven has a learning disability and his mom was even worried that they wouldn’t be willing to work with Steven. Not only did they agree, but it is a beautiful partnership.

I was impressed to see their proficiency in working with students with autism, Asperger’s and other learning disabilities functioning at a high level.

The teachers don’t just sit behind a desk or push a bunch of music sheets at him and watch or critique, they get up and jam all together (here’s the beautiful part) like a band. Steven had a keyboard player, drummer a vocalist and back-up dancers with him on stage at all times whether he was dancing to the Beatles, busting out a mad rap that he wrote called the Binary Rap or laying down a good old rock & roll classic.

The love for music and the love to share it with these kids is what makes this place literally rock. I could see how Steven opened up and explored his creativity, was confident and comfortable and taking in new content effortlessly with the help of the experienced and compassionate educators.

Students have opportunities to record music, attend concerts, do a live performance with a band and participate in a school showcase. This school is not just about learning the scales or how to tune a guitar, but finding your own groove, your passion and your place as a musician.

Check out the website to explore lessons, camps, meet the staff and more! It doesn’t matter if you’re brand new to the world of music or already a master, there is something for everyone!

Also stay tuned, I’ll be posting killer videos of Steven performing his legendary Binary Rap plus shaking his groove thang! 

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School of Rock Scottsdale

13610 N. Scottsdale Rd #33
Scottsdale, Arizona  85254
480-483-7625

How to become a celebrity – The answer might surprise you – All you have to be is you.

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I have interviewed quite a few celebrities in the past year as part of my journalism background and I keep searching for some common thread. It is about as scientific as I’ll ever get, hunting for some pattern or secret formula that I’ll be able to piece together based on their responses, backgrounds and professional paths. It’s a good thing I didn’t have a hypothesis and even better that I didn’t place money on it because in the world of entertainment it seems that all bets are off! 

So far I’ve interviewed a 20 yr. old actress that started acting at the tender age of 2, has a mother that owned a theater and only does family-friendly material but still manages to have more credits to her name than most 40 yr. old actors and I’ve interviewed those that lucked into it by randomly winning nation-wide talent contests or stumbling into the right place at the right time with the right people. Some of them have had the best training, private coaching, formal education and an immaculate track record for flawless progression from agent to commercials to featured extras to featured cast to starring titles wile others simply sky-rocketed after landing an Indie role or catching the attention of a prolific director. 

At first I was frustrated by this observation of chaos, and then I started to think, how cool is that? I get to pave my own way in! So many times I’ve stopped myself from going to LA because people have told me that you have to have a YouTube following of X number and an X number of Twitter followers and you have to have your own website of course and work with these agents and at least have these many credits and a star meter of a billion on IMDB and blah blah blah blah blah… Really? I mean let’s be honest, do I really? 

I’m not showing skepticism toward the concept of working hard and showing commitment. I understand the reasoning behind it – agents & managers want to see that you will make them money. This is a business after all. If you already come to them with a strong brand and large audience, that means less work for them and it means that you know how to market yourself and will be willing to do what it takes to get work. When you book, they get paid and we all like to get paid. I do follow the standard in that I continue to add diligently to my body of work, I do indeed have my own website (this here blog) I have a decent amount of Twitter folk and my IMDB page is expanding nicely, but here’s my thing, and maybe I’m a purist, to me TALENT is TALENT. 

You can’t argue long enough or show me any evidence to convince me otherwise. You can place a beautiful girl in front of me all day long with thousands of fans and a portfolio as thick as the yellow pages, but if I don’t feel that fire in my soul when she performs but a nobody from Kansas walks in and knocks my socks off, who would I cast? If I were a true artist, if I had a passion for creation and quality, if I had integrity and pride in my work, I would cast little nobody Dorothy and trust that the right audience will be drawn to her. 

Those are the kind of people that I want to work with and the type of career that I strive to have. I have deleted some of the most popular “directors” out here because I cannot stand the joke that they try to pass on as art. If you want to make a soft porn or a T&A action flick, fine! Go for it! Rock on! But don’t try to sit there and try to call a weed a rose, it is what it is. You got a fat check for it and nobody blames you for it, so don’t try to validate why your film showing in Asian markets starring a porn star is a legitimate piece of art. And more than that, do NOT make me feel like I will miss out on opportunities to develop or further my career because I won’t work with those types of directors, or because I won’t take on any and every project that gets posted on a casting website or because I won’t do free work over and over again just to have 37 films completed in 1 year. Who is seeing them? 

This is a business, but as an artist, this is also my life. This is my passion. This is my heart. I wear it openly and freely for all to see which has kicked me in the booty a few times, but I’ve learned this year that saying no, is not the end of my career. That signing with a boutique agency instead of a massive heavy-hitter because I had a peace in my gut about, is not the end of my career or limiting to me in any way. That not having thousands of Twitter followers real or purchased, will not be a doorstop to my career. That having personal standards as to the kind of work and the people that I work with will most definitely not hurt my career but instead mold it into one that I am proud of. 

I realize that perhaps my original intent my have gotten lost in the heated rambling, but my point is (I shall shamelessly steal from Shakespeare) Actors, “To thine own self be true.” Trust your instincts, follow your heart, live and act in love and you can’t fail. When you read suggestions on how to succeed in this business, talk to other actors or mentors and even now as you read my blog – be open but understand that these are all learning points. You can choose to use them or not based on what works for you. Their path is NOT your path, and what worked for them may not work for you. Just because they worked with so&so director or got their headshots done at a particular studio does not mean you must follow in their footsteps. Pave your own path. Being an inspiration to all those people out there who inside are saying “I want to act but this just doesn’t feel right to me.” When you honor yourself and your spirit, success, beauty and true worth always shine through. 

I am a testament to that. Almost ever opportunity that has come to me has been something that the universe presented to me based on my choices of a collective lifetime, but any time I have tried to manipulate or pre-determine a certain outcome, it usually is never as fulfilling as I had hoped. And that is what we are all really after isn’t it – to be fulfilled? 

So cheers to you on your brave new adventure! I will tell you that some of the resources I do love and regularly learn from are use as resources are:

Durantcom.com – Casting notices

Arizona Actors Page on Facebook – Casting notices and stay current w/ what other AZ actors do

Backstage.com – Great articles

Castingnetworks.com – Awesome monthly newsletter filled with tips from industry experts 

The Examiner – Their film reviewers, particularly Bill Pierce are poignant and honest 

 

Hello World!

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It is true, I am just another countless soul filling the web with my most personal, unguarded feeling and thoughts. I have no way of knowing who will read this, if anyone at all. I have no purpose for this blog – no grand schemes to sway you politically, or educate you on the value of education or push some useless product in your face. Alas, no, my intentions are derived from mere selfishness and ego. I have a need to express myself and since the written journal has become virtually obsolete with the advancement of our virtual world, I decided to take the plunge and go high-tech.Plus lets not kid anybody here, we all hope that some brilliant, notable person will stumble upon our lowly blog and I’ll personally live out a Rags-to-Riches story, that I truly never thought could happen to me in a million years which is what I’ll tell Oprah when I make my first appearance after my once-in-a-lifetime, chance discovery!

What name can you identify to this countless soul, you ask? Melissa. I am Melissa Ann Marie Farley. I prefer to go by Mel. I’ve always liked the ambiguity behind it, the mystery. Is Mel a boy or a girl, a tomboy or someone fascinated with Mel Gibson? Who is this mysterious Mel, you now ask? I am the kind of person that stresses over anything and everything a human can stress over. For example, my heart beat faster and I grew inexplicably annoyed with myself that I could not come up with some brilliant, ultimately unique and clever title for my blog. I loathed the generic “Hello World!” beaming in my face from the computer screen. It was like I was being challenged, taunted with it by my little LapMonster (my laptop) but I couldn’t think of anything better. In fact, I still can’t, hence the reason the grotesquely annoying title still remains. Then I began to stress about what to write about in my first blog entry. It should be socially poignant yet relatable. I should use impressive vocabulary as I will be submitting this as part of a portfolio to my Master’s Program and I can’t be caught using words like “cool”. Even my design was carefully chosen after reviewing hundreds of themes. I really wanted the adorable little owl with bright Lisa Frank like colors. Does anybody even remember Lisa Frank? But I just kept envisioning the Dean’s face wrinkle into this terrifying look of shock as she encountered it in my already pathetic excuse for a portfolio, so I convinced myself that this was a theme I really wanted. It’s called Papyrus and ever since I was a little girl I wanted to be an Egyptologist and Egyptians used Papyrus, you see, so of course I loved this theme. (That was the logic I used on myself) Anyway, back to the first entry. So after about a day of really, truly wanting to write but was too paralyzed with fear to actual do it, I remembered a tip given to me by a Mr. Charles St Clair. . .

Which brings me to point number 2 about myself. I am an actor. Charles St Clair is my mentor and former professor from ASU. He once told me in a film class that even if a piece was written as a speech to thousands of spectators, or if there is a room filled with cranky crew and cameras at every glance, I need to direct my message intimately to only one person. One very special person. I figure the same principal can apply here. So who am I talking to, you wonder. Well to God, I guess. When you think about it, I just did you a huge favor. See, while you are reading this, you can honestly call yourself God for the 10 minutes it takes you to get through all my rambling. That’s a pretty darn good reason to read my blog, I think. It seems like a fair trade-off: You get the temporary yet still awe-inspiring title of God and I get to feel like one of the popular kids in high school for once!

Ok so I know what you’re dying to really know. What is this all going to be about? What is the story, right? The truth is, I don’t honestly know. I’m hoping to see how it all plays out I guess. I know I’ll probably be talking about my divorce. Yes, I’m 26 and divorced. Want to make something of it? I will be talking about the impossible dream aka being an actor in Arizona and struggles with my unusual image. There will be splashes of professional embarrassments, stolen jokes from friends, hopefully I’ll take time every now and then to google a few good quotes because I mean really it doesn’t take all that much time and effort, and some inspiring stories from a genuine daughter, divorcee, and a clueless 20 something female’s journey through the madness of life.

Acting and Working: Having it All Really Means Having Only a Little Bit of Everything

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It is true that I am one of the biggest advocates of feminism, including a woman’s right to have a family AND work, however, as of late I have come to realization. One of the biggest classifications of my generation is our inability to make a choice. The majority of those part of my generation swing this to the positive by claiming that it is not that we are not able to make a choice, it is that with all the modern conveniences of the world along with progressive thinking, we are not obligated or confined to having to make a single choice. We are able to accept, pursue, believe multiple viewpoints, religious beliefs, moral codes, etc all at once. Our elders would swing it to the negative saying that our indecisiveness is reflective of our current political, moral and economical state of decline. A common used example is that back in the day of my father, a soldier showed absolute loyalty not only to the president but the cause of war at all costs. It was their right and duty as a soldier and citizen. Now select soldiers show complete and utter distrust or even disgust with our President and denounce their call to war but still continue to fight. Christianity along with religious alignments in general are declining, marriage is becoming non existent, full time, long term employment is decreasing, pretty much every form of committed alliance to something, someone, or an organization is drastically dwindling. So why do I bring this up? Merely to question the health of it as a whole. Am I better off because I do more? Should I listen to my old mum and drop this acting thing even though it is my passion?

I work three jobs, which may sound impressive but its really not. Collectively I work 60 hrs a week, get paid approximately the same as I would if I held down one position at 40 hrs per week probably but who’s not in that sinking boat right now, and instead of dealing with one manager or challenging work environment, I work with three separate professional areas of stress. All of this I do because I believe it allows me more flexibility to pursue acting and be activitely involved with my dad who has terminal health issues. On top of working, at any given moment I’m also managing an events schedule, planning a bridal shower or a birthday party, updating my website or other social media sites, scheduling and submitting for auditions and wishing desperately that I could turn into some form of Octopus/hot woman/superhero creature to master it all effortlessly and still have perfect hair!

So how do I still manage to act? BEING PREPARED.

– All of my jobs are flexible and given up front notice that if an audition comes in then I’m out!

– I keep a spare change of clothes in my trunk to change into just in case I’m coming from the gym or somewhere not requiring the most attractive attire or one of the kids spills something on me. In addition in my emergency kit is a hairbrush, mouthwash/floss, perfume, lotion and powder to take away shine

– Also in my car I keep at least three copies of headshots and resumes at all times.

– A mobile device with Internet access/data package is crucial! This industry is a business. The more prompt you respond to notices the better your odds are at scoring an audition, giving off a sense of professionalism and commitment and being memorable

– Have all agents, casting directors, websites, forums, etc. added to your contacts and seperated in folders in email so it is easy to to contact the right people quickly

– Create a template in your email with a headshot attached, resume and in the body your basic casting information with a general “To Whom it May Concern” heading and a “Thank you” with a signature. When you need to submit simply use the proper email/contact address, make any minor adjustments needed for the audition and send away!

– Have a second template created to thank people you work with after a shoot. This is not always appropriate to do so use your best judgement.

– Submit CONSTANTLY, Talk to people, add peeps on FB, Twitter, Forums. NETWORK! NETWORK! NETWORK! You never know who or where a job my came from!

– Get some business cards printed out with basic contact info and a pic. When you are at a seminar or out and about with no headshots you can always hand out one of those little beauties

– Make sure you have a GPS, google maps or some way to locate the audition site without bugging them multiple times

– Expect the unexpected. Plan for traffic or to get lost or to have to wait for an hour or that it may have been cancelled or moved. Just go with the flow and always stay positive and thankful.

Remember these are all just helpful tips. If anyone has any more suggestions or tips to add to the list please feel free to share!

REJECTION. It never get’s any easier, but you can learn from it!

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I’ve read all of those acting and audition workbooks, manuals and how-to guides. I’ve talked to countless professors, mentors, professional actors. I’ve recited it over an over and over again as a personal mantra. “Don’t take rejection personally.” But when it really comes down to it, I so DO!!!! Each and every time I have an audition and I don’t get a callback I often dwell on every little detail, option, vibe, misplaced hair, etc. that could have caused them to not like me. This process was recently intensified when my best friend and I both auditioned for the same film project. He got the blessed callback and I did not. Needless to say I was bitter, jealous, wounded and completely thrilled for him of course, but I couldn’t help but wandering, “What the heck was wrong with ME? Why didn’t they like ME?” When discussing this with literally anyone who would listen to me, a few plants, inanimate objects and my pugs; everyone kept throwing out the classic cliché of “You probably didn’t have the right look for the part.” or “It has nothing to do with talent! I’m sure they just hired someone’s second cousin twice removed or something.” Riiigggghhhttt . . . . Here’s the thing, as ridiculous as it sounds they may be right. You could remind the director of his cheating ex-wife so he crosses you off the list as soon as you walk in the door for all you know. It wouldn’t matter if you gave a performance that Kate Winslet would be envious of, you still wouldn’t get the part. So this is what I suggest to my fellow “approval-seekers” aka actors:

 

1.) Be as prepared as you can possibly be. Respond to all emails even if it is just with a “Thank you for confirming the details, time, location, etc.”

2.) Read the script and have it memorized. Even if they sent it to you earlier that day, do your best to memorize it. Still bring a copy of the script with you.

3.) Follow ALL directions. If it said they want you to say your name before you begin then state your name. It will show them you are attentive to detail and follow instruction.

4.) Have a few different styles or approaches picked to try reading it different ways. This will either show that you have range or reflect that you can take direction.

5.) Be prepared to change it up! If they ask you to put your hair up, deliver lines while walking, stand on your head, whatever DO IT!!!! As long as it is appropriate though.

6.) Stay relaxed. Just walk through those doors and have a good time. Often times they will cast you based on how easy they think it will be to work with you. Plus making a good impression is NEVER a bad thing. So what if you bombe that particular audition. If they love your personality they may just ask you back for a different project!

7.) This is the hardest for me: DON’T DWELL. Walk out of that audition with confidence. Take a quick inventory of what went well, what could have gone better and what surprised you so you can learn and know what to change for next time then release it into the universe.

8.) No grudges. Keep an audition log to remember who you have met and what company/organization they are associated with. Always be gracious and positive to all staff involved with the audition process. They may remember you, good or bad.

9.) If you don’t book a lead but are offered a background artist role and it will be a good networking opportunity, take it! Learn on set, develop contacts and relationships with people and work hard. Who knows where it may lead.

10.) Remember you are doing this out of love. Yes, the money, financial gain, worldwide fame and perks are a close second, but acting should always be with purpose and passion. Don’t lose that.

An Oscar here, a Grammy there…But what makes you a real winner?

While I realize the Oscars have come and gone last night, as well as the Grammy’s, I do want to go back in time, not too far, just to the evening of the Grammys to share a thought that occured to me last night.

The host of the Oscars Seth McFarlane began the evening softly mocking the value of even receiving these awards by referencing last year’s Best Actor Jean Dujardin from “The Artist” It is presumed that when you win, all of life’s limitations will be removed from you and all the doors of Hollywood will open wide, but that doesn’t always necessarily happen.

So what does it mean to win an award? It means that you did work that is worthy of recognition. That you created something that affected people in a profound way. That you told a story either through song or film or art that needed to be told and you gave voice to someone who normally wouldn’t or were able to have vision yet to be conceived.

During the evening of the Grammys I attend my very first Grammy Party in Queen Creek. A dear friend of mine, Andre Dre Ducati Payton was nominated in a category for writing and I cannot tell you how proud I was of him. I know the passion and time he pours into everything and to be nominated is such an honor. When you really sit down and think about how many millions of people out in the world are making music, to even be noticed, much less selected as one of the top in the world, is quite astounding. Image

Though Dre didn’t win this one, I looked around that room at all of the people, family and friends that gathered together that evening to support this man’s accomplishment and as his wife stood by his side and thanked every one for coming she said the exact words that already filled my heart. “He is still in a winner in all of our hearts.”

While I’m sure it would be some mean bragging rights to have  case full of Grammy Awards on display, this man had all the winnings any one person could dream of – a loving home filled with happy souls that would forever support him through anything and everything , the wins and the losses, the ups and the downs.

I could tell he was disappointed, who would blame him, but he immediately had a smile on his face and expressed that attitude that got him to this point in the first place. He’s a Grammy-nominated artist and that can never be taken away from him. Plus he’s been getting request after request to work on A-lister’s albums now.

I wish all of the recent winners this year the utmost success and happiness, but I do so hope that they do not lose sight of who and what is really important, not just the little gold man they’ll be locking in their closet. One thing I thought was super cool was that Dre actually had the opportunity to go to the Grammy’s but because he could only take one guest, he chose to stay home to share the experience with all of his loved ones. How awesome is that?

I have no doubt that one day I’ll be seeing Dre up on that stage accepting his award, but I also know that won’t change him a bit and that is what I love most about him!

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