Thursday, March 31, 2011

Post-Graduation Productivity: Let's Get It On(Line)

Doesn't my title just make you want to crack out your crash cymbal?

I recently ordered my graduation gear as I will be walking in my school's commencement ceremony in early June and I realized that I strangely have a step up on what to do in that interim between school and real life. So instead of hoarding it, I'm going to do a series of posts on what to do with those months where you're sleeping in your childhood room and eating your momma's cooking before you jet off on your next adventure. Because there's a ton you can do to get yourself on point that you didn't have time for in college.

Let's start with your online presence. On my way back from Atlanta (read about that adventure here), I met a guy on the train who was interested in doing extra work and I gotta say, I gave him some rather wise advice. And that was the more accessible you can be, the better off you are. (I'm going to try to let that be the last innuendo for this post.) Now, I am not a computer guru by ANY means, but I have managed to get it so that the first full page of a google search of my name is, in fact, me. (Not quite the same story with an image search, but there's seven good pictures on there. That's a start.) Everyone, get ready for shameless self-advertising.

I think everyone should have a:
  • Website: From what I gather, this is pretty much essential. You can make them with free templates. I briefly mentioned in my post titled Hurdles that I had done some research about those providers. I myself like Wix. The templates are not as generic, and you can upgrade to premium at anytime. Check out mine.
  • Professional Email Account: Keep everything seperate, yo. I think Gmail is the best choice.
  • LinkedIn: This is a professional networking site where you can create contacts and ask for recommendations, even search for jobs. Basically, it's a way to keep track of the "who you know" part of acting. Here's mine. Feel free to ask me to become a contact, just tell me you read my blog!
  • BuzzStage: Really easy to upload photos, add a resume, and keep it personal. While this site is unlikely to lead you to any professional work, I have gotten many a student filmmaker requesting that I come to auditions through BuzzStage. Check out mine.
Things that I'm still checking out to see how it can be used to service a professional actor:
  • Twitter: I'm new to this craziness, but I know it's got to hold some awesome networking power behind that cute bird and cloud motif. Already tweeting? Follow me @EliseSoeder. I told you. Shameless.
  • YouTube: I'm not sure how often actors are asked to upload their audition tape to YouTube, as the case was with Florida Studio Theatre audition. But what can be better than having your own TV channel when you're coping with the idea of never having homework again? I'm thinking of doing a seriously amateur cooking show. It will be awesome. Stay tuned.
Optional, but very exciting:
  • Start a blog! I know you guys have always wanted to be just like me, so get yourself a Blogger or Wordpress account! And if you need ideas, here's a link to mine... Oh. Wait.
And it's always a good time when you find out you have an IMDb page. Even if there's only one credit. If you've done any student films, make your directors submit them to festivals so you can have your own page with a gray silhouette for a picture!

For a slew of other gadgets, check out this post by Ben Whitehair over at Playbills vs. Paying Bills (a blog that us actor people should all be following.) His suggestions of tools for increasing productivity are especially handy for those of us who have just graduated and have a hard time imagining ever working hard again. I'm investigating Create New Habits and Mint first.

Have something to add? Comment!

    Wednesday, March 30, 2011

    Audition Journal #6: Florida Studio Theatre (and the joy of the hay loft)

    Date: March 29, 2011
    Auditioned For: James Ashford
    Pieces: Bess from Hunting and Gathering by Brooke Berman
    Vianne from the novel Chocolat by Joanne Harris
    Attire: Jeans, short-sleeved button-down, black vest

    After I emailed all of my application materials to Mr. Ashford, I received a reply that said my application would be complete when I sent him a YouTube link to my filmed audition, consisting of two contemporary monologues no longer than 90 seconds each. Of course, I seem to always feel short of contemporary pieces after I learned how weary Michael Legg at the Actor's Theatre of Louisville was of Neil LaBute. So I scrounged around for a monologue that I had pulled from the novel Chocolat for an assignment in my camera acting class, cut it down, and put it together while it snowed. Meanwhile, my friends in Savannah are posting updates about going to the beach.

    Anyway, I was shooting to film on Monday (the 28th) but the weather was poopy and cold. Why does the weather matter, you ask? Because I filmed in my barn loft. Listen, my house looks big on the outside, but actually doesn't have much room on the inside. Nevermind that it's also chock full of stuff. And what is cooler than a background of hay bales?! Okay, I kid. But you can't say it's not unique. On Tuesday, the temperature got all the way up to mid-50s, so I grabbed my mom and my barely used and kind of outdated Panasonic MiniDV and climbed the ladder to the hay loft.

    Just as background information, the hay loft is a magical, wonderful place. When I was five, my very first duty on hay day (when we stored the hay that we would use until the next summer) was to count bales as they came up the hay elevator. Also around that age, there was an intense hurricane-induced flood in which the New River (just across the road from our house) had swelled to the road. My brother Charlie and I were up in the loft, hanging out, making plans of what to do if we had to spend the night up there, and otherwise letting our imaginations run wild. Meanwhile, my mother is totally panicked and looking for any signs of us, expecting tiny barn boots to wash up miles downstream. It is where cats tuck away their kittens, where I stashed snacks pilfered from the kitchen, where climbing around is totally acceptable. It is the ultimate club house. As the location of many to most of my childhood imaginings, it seemed like a good place to audition.

    It took me about three or four takes to make my slate acceptable, never mind that I had practiced just that a billion times. In a separate take, I did my monologues back-to-back, just as I would in an in-person audition. And that was it. Done and done.

    Well, sort of. It's always fun to find out you can't--for whatever reason--get your audition from your camera to your computer when it is due in a couple days. After much researching, asking my friend Amanda, and nail-biting, I found out I was simply missing a firewire cable. $43 later, (yeah, going to return that and buy one for $7 off of Amazon) I have imported my video, cut out the crappy takes of my slate, and uploaded it to YouTube. As a suggestion from a friend, I set it as "unlisted" so only the people who have the link can find it. Because if your soul isn't damaged from the agony of watching yourself act, the jerks on YouTube will do it for you. (Poor Rebecca Black...)

    Speaking of which, I did endure the whole audition a few times and there's definitely some things that I want to adjust next time:
    • I placed my focus somewhere besides just off the camera. Not sure where I got that wild hair.
    • I have a habit of a strange eyelid flutter that I think is particularly active under pressure. Time to get that baby under control. 
    • Work on Bess. I was more content with Vianne, even though she was new for me. Bess just looked a little pushed. I'd also like Vianne to become just a touch more grounded and centered.
    Each time I watched it, I realized a little more that it was not as rough as I thought. The pieces are definitely a great contrast and I think it shows that I am capable of handling both maturities, styles, and languages. There's definitely plenty to work on before I use these two pieces again on Saturday, but hey, it's done and it's decent. And it's in the barn loft.

    Tuesday, March 22, 2011

    Audition Journal #5: Disney Parks and Cruises

    Before I get into the craziness that was auditioning for Disney, I figured I would give a brief update in bullet points.
    • First off, my website is live! Please check it out and feel free to make suggestions or comments via this blog or the contact form on the site. It's still a work in progress, but I would appreciate your thoughts!
    • I ordered 100 prints of my headshot from Reproductions and I am very pleased with them. The print quality is great and their online order form allows you to format your prints the way you like (with your name in any corner, in either black or white, or not at all, borders or no borders, etc.) For an extra fee, they also have an option for a type of paper that allows you to print your resume on the back on your personal printer. Awesome? I think so.
    • UPTA sent me a list of all of the theatres that registered to attend with all the contact information and season line-ups. I picked through and found ten that I thought would be a good match for me. They have all been sent a cover letter, resume, and a lovely new headshot. Do I think it will amount to a whole lot? Probably not. But I take every opportunity to put my face in front of people.
    • I have applied for the Acting Internship at Florida Studio Theatre, who I auditioned for at KCACTF Region IV. They have asked me to do a filmed audition and upload it to YouTube by April 1st. This will be my first audition tape, so we'll see how it goes!
    • I just got an email from the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington DC saying they had received my application materials and would contact me if they wanted me to audition. I sent those materials in November and figured they'd been tossed out. Just goes to show that you never know what's going on on the other end of things.
    Now, for Disney!

    Date: March 20, 2011, 11:00 am
    Where: Gotta Dance Studio, Atlanta GA
    Auditioned For: Perky friendly Disney ladies!
    Attire: Black yoga capris, close-fitting red tee-shirt and black dance shoes.

    I traveled to Atlanta by train and stayed with my lovely friend Corinna as well as her cat, Kitty Charlie. Motion designer Nathan joined later. There was also a surprise visit from Darwin (check him out over at Me and Darwin Hull)and I got to catch up with my best combat buddy Jo and my brother, Human Charlie (there had to be a way to distinguish him from Kitty Charlie). It was a weekend full of burgers and zoo adventures and Yuengling and laughs. Much of the laughing was over the Disney audition that Corinna and I attended together on Sunday.

    We arrived shortly after 10:00, which is when registration was supposed to begin. They had not finished setting up and we mingled with other auditionees until they called us into the studio. We filled out audition cards, received a number, and had a picture and our height taken (it's a sad day when I find out that I'm even shorter than I thought I was). There was more stretching and mingling. I started to notice the dancer types who can lift their leg over their head in a standing stretch and I began to wonder what exactly I was in for.

    Oh, if I only knew then. They started the whole group (of about 50) doing what they call "animation exercises"-- short situations that we had to mime out in a way that was "Disney big." For example, we had to plant a tree. For this, it seemed like it was best to go all out and engage the face as much as possible struggling with said tree. Corinna and I were the only people making noise while most everyone else were being incredibly dancer-like, but man did we plant those trees. Then we all moved on to what they described as "movement." 'Tis not movement. 'Tis dancing. Lots of dancing. I stopped dancing when I was twelve and I wasn't even good at it then. Remembering dance choreography is just not something I do very well because it has no motivation or objective behind it (I'm such an actor) whereas combat is quite the opposite. They were constantly telling us that if we were not dancers or we messed up, that we should just keep going and have fun and that they were looking for personality too. But we all know that when they tell you in an audition that it's ok if you can't do something or it doesn't mean anything if you don't get a callback, they're lying 99% of the time.

    But I digress. In spite of not remembering how all the choreography went together, I was having a great time with what little I could do. Then they had us put our animation exercise with the dance. There was much movement and much sweating. Bring extra de-o for the B.O. to the Disney audition, my friends. Once we had run through it with all the pieces together, they sent everyone into the lobby and called us in four at a time in numerical order to do the choreography all together. At this point, I was no longer looking like a princess. I was looking like a sweaty northern European who gets bright red in the face in the event of any exertion.

    Unfortunately, it's not a miracle story in which I remembered all the dancing perfectly when it was my time to shine. Instead, I accidentally stepped on some guy's foot. But the good news was that my group of four did not contain a single dancer. We all looked silly and had a great time doing it, fully expecting it when we were not asked to stay for callbacks. Instead of worrying about it, we had fun in Atlanta, including a jaunt to the zoo:

    There are certain limitations on how often you can audition for Disney parks and cruises. I believe your audition is good for a year and you can audition for the cruises again at anytime, but you have to wait six months to audition again for the parks. I think that's it. Don't take my word for it.

    So should you audition for Disney even if you're like me and can't dance? Yes. It's fun, everyone there was incredibly nice, you get your face out there a little bit more, and it's free cardio training. Bring a friend for extra fun. Interested? Here's the link to the calendar of auditions.

    Sunday, March 13, 2011


    If you've been reading this blog, you know I keep things pretty light-hearted and I've only gotten on a soapbox once. However, in light of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan this week, I think it is important to draw as much attention as possible to it.

    This is not a disaster that just affects Japan. Or one that just affects Asia or just the eastern hemisphere. Or any separate group of people. For those of us in the United States, it's hard to feel like this is going to make a serious impact on our lives, but two different Japanese nuclear plants (and possibly a third) are threatening meltdown. The global community has had brushes with nuclear disasters such as Chernobyl, which had radiation blowing all over the place, but we have never been faced with multiple meltdowns.

    But lets keep our fingers crossed and hope they can prevent meltdowns. Even so, we should all put things in perspective. I suggest watching this (you must be signed in to facebook). This video is six minutes and twenty-one seconds long. In that span of time, we see the tsunami's first arrival to it stripping away people's belongings and homes. In just over six minutes.

    Or think of it this way--we're actors, right? Six minutes would be a god-awfully long monologue. In unified auditions when you get a number slapped on your chest, you get about 90 seconds. Hardly long enough, I'd say. Multiply that by four and you've got the length of this video. I'd say I've spent anywhere from five to ten minutes in the more laid-back audition rooms. In the time that I've spent in any of the four auditions I've gone to so far this year, people's lives were devastated.

    In light of this, I hope that you will all take some time to help those in need. You can text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 to tsunami relief via the Red Cross or if you have more that you can spare, follow the steps here. Yeah, Adele's new album is really good. But you can spend that $10 elsewhere. Or if you're that desperate, I'll burn you a copy. In times like these we remember what a privilege it is to have somewhere dry to sleep, clean running water, and the comfort of knowing that your friends and family are safe. And if you can't spare $10, nobody's judgin'. Just stay informed, make others informed, and keep Japan in your thoughts, prayers, meditations, or whatever it is that you do. It can never hurt.

    This was taken from LearnVest Daily:

    Your donation helps those in dire need, supports a global effort, and has the positive side effect of playing a small part in helping boost the global and national economy. Of course, you should always make sure that you donate to reputable organizations. Our favorites are:
    Donating to the relief effort is easier now than in any generation past. If you’re busy and on the go, so here are some new ways to donate:
    • Text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 to the Red Cross. Although the tech company behind it takes 25 cents from every transaction, the Red Cross raised over $20 million for Haiti relief this way last year, because it’s convenient for most people. If you have the time and can give more than $10, head to the Red Cross website.
    • Donate via Facebook: While you’re on checking your feed, take a few seconds out to donate. As with text services, about 5% of this donation goes to administrative costs, so if that bothers you, donate directly through your charity’s website.
    • Donate through iTunes: If you’re plugged in to iTunes anyway, just visit the link to donate straight to the Red Cross through your iTunes account.
    • FarmVille: No joke. FarmVille, FrontierVille and CityVille will donate 100% of the proceeds from certain virtual crops to Save the Children in Japan. So, go for the radishes in FarmVille, sweet potatoes in CityVille, and Kobe cows in FrontierVille.

    Friday, March 11, 2011

    Audition Journal #4: Williamstown Theatre Festival

    Date: March 7, 2011, 5:15 pm
    Auditioned For: A beardy man*. He was not introduced at any point.
    Pieces: Bess from Hunting and Gathering by Brooke Berman
    Joan la Pucelle from Henry VI Part I
    Attire: Green empire dress
    Brown leggings
    Blowfish canvas wedges
    Floral scarf

    This audition was announced on Tuesday for the following Monday, which sent me scrambling to find a way to get to Savannah. Just by chance, a high school friend of mine was traveling to Savannah for his birthday, so I was on the road on Thursday. I will admit that I was not the most responsible of actors over the weekend as the attention I paid to my new monologue from Hunting and Gathering was minimal. I was swept up in a crazy weekend of sight-seeing and ghost hunting in Savannah that I had missed during my time as a student. (Probably a good call, as now I'm a bit obsessed with ghosties.) When I was at the house, it was hard to work with people around and with bull riding on TV, but work did happen and Bess found some shape.

    In spite of my detour from my normal drilling of monologues to death, I was surprisingly calm when it came time to audition. I checked in with the stage manager and said hi to a few people before finding a spot to warm up next to the elevator. This was a point of some interest to younger students, one of whom asked me in a very concerned voice if I was okay as I was warming up my tweeter on the floor. While it may have made others feel awkward, the warm up left me feeling open, prepared, and otherwise awesome.

    When I entered the room, beardy man* said "How are you?" so quietly that even now I'm not sure he said it. I sure hope he did. Otherwise, my "Good! How are you?" came out of absolutely nowhere. He took a moment to sort through some application materials and headshots before I began. For some reason, my slate didn't include my name. Sometimes, I just wonder what my brain is doing as it enjoys a totally different location from the rest of my body. Basically, I pretended that it was normal and carried on. Bess thankfully did not show signs of my late-night ghost hunting and my bull riding obsession. As I was moving on to Joan la Pucelle, I noticed that beardy man* was a bit restless, looking at my headshot and resume, jiggling his feet, but still giving me more attention than the guys from Utah Shakes. It caused me to insist on taking up as much of his time as possible, so Joan may have gotten a little dragged out. That being said, this is the first time I remember being totally comfortable with taking as much time as I need or want. I think I can still work on the same concept for space, but I think that improved this time around as well.

    Once I finished, he said thank you and I left, halting slightly as most people I've encountered like to chat for a bit after they audition someone. Not this guy. Turns out most of my peers had a similar experience, so I'm certainly not discouraged. Overall, I think it was a pretty solid performance. Not stellar, but nothing went wrong either (aside from not saying my name). So now my application for Williamstown is totally complete and it's time for the waiting game. Or time to busy myself with other things and forget about Williamstown until they send me their decision.

    Meanwhile, Lady Gaga is releasing the most bizarre and terrifying video yet, Melissa Leo says "fuck" in her Oscar speech and there's been a new drug released called Charlie Sheen. What a crazy world.

    *But seriously, does anyone know who this guy is? I've looked and asked all over. If anyone knows, give me a holler so this guy can go down in the books as something other than "beardy man" and I don't look like a jerk.