Monday, February 23, 2009

Rick Allen lost his arm yet found a new way to Rock.

tick. tick. tick.

Can you hear it? That's the sound of my severance clock beating down.

Three months ago I was given a monetary allowance which shielded me from going into a state of hysteria. My severance pay enabled me to get my head straight without stressing over how I was going to pay my rent. Up till three days ago though, my thoughts were more scattered than ever and my problem remained the same: I needed to find a new job in the midst of a worldwide economic crisis.

As my days of "paid vacation" became numbered, I was forced to seriously consider what I was going to do with my life. I was entertaining numerous, unrealistic possibilities but needed to decide on one of two: A. Find a long term job B. Freelance until December, giving me freedom to go on a Latin American adventure. My choice would decide my job hunt approach.

Last week while picking up a paycheck from one of my day jobs, I ran into the one contact I forgot to notify about the layoff. I have no idea how she slipped through the cracks of my extensive job hunt, but I found her at the right time. She had one casting producer position still available - a week long gig casting Realtors and Home buyers for TLC/BBC Worldwide.

On day one of work my head became clear. I want to surf. I want to cast. I can do both. There is no guarentee that any job is permanent, especially these days. So there is no sense in throwing a dream away for a a steady job that can vanish in a second.

I still like the idea of a permanent job though and can try to get a new one when I get back. If I want to go the scripted route - a smooth CelebReality transition would allow me to get the agent/actor contacts that CSA's desire.

This plan will take long hours, business cards, networking, learning new skills and even making trips to New Jersey (thanks Chuck!) to adapt to a new style of casting that pays even more. I lost my old job but now will be a better casting rock star because of it.

To the unemployed who are reading this, here is my advice on getting back to doing what you love; think back to every job you have ever had and contact those you worked with. Think beyond who was in your department though and get in contact with them too. Directors I used to run into at the 770 office pantry, had the same bathroom schedule as, or even sneezed on in the elevator are all suddenly coming out of the woodwork with projects I could potentially work on, giving me hope that my dreams (of being a bilingual casting director who surfs) won't come to an end when my severance clock ticks down to zero.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Interview

"Say you've got a big job interview. Throw back a couple of shots of Hennigans and you'll be as loose as a goose and ready to roll in no time! And because it's odorless, why it'll be our little secret."

Nobody likes going on job interviews. But unless a position falls into your lap, it's a necessary step to getting employed. So you do it. And like a bad breakup, this last one kicked the shit out of me.

The negative way it turned out was mostly my fault. Even though I fought hard to convince “Art Vandalay” to meet with me about the paid casting position, I spent more time deciding what to what to wear (tricky for production peeps) than researching the company and recalling my biggest strengths/weaknesses.

My lack of readiness showed and my credibility was attacked. All the redeeming things I had to say about myself seemed to fall upon apathetic ears. At one point during the ill prepared interview I thought I was going to throw up. My head got fuzzy and my throat felt ominous (maybe it was the Hennigans). But I persevered and choked the feeling back, trying to remember why I thought I was qualified for any job let alone the one I was there for.

I left feeling lowly and miserable. Thoughts swirling in my muddled brain included that I was capable of nothing and should give up on my dreams. When I got back to Queens I bought some baklava and beer to ease the pain, wrote my thank you (for nothing) note and passed out.

Then I woke up at the crack of dawn to spend the day helping to manage a crowd of teenage girls for a Jonas Brothers concert in the Rainbow Room. It was my first day of work in over two months and it felt great. I did great. Somewhere in that nonstop day I realized that nobody ever taught me how to organize large groups of people. Huge screaming crowds of teens and their protective mothers do not come with a training manual, I just hit the ground running.

Since I was in 30 Rock, I decided to stop by the new(ish) offices of my old internship at Late night with Conan O'brien- which I loved and happily worked at for free weekdays while working weekends for minimum wage/drinking money at the NBC Store. If I could go back to those eight months of my life I would. But six years of learning have passed since then and it would be ridiculous to think that they didn't amount to anything. If I really want a career in the entertainment industry I need to take a step forward rather taking a leap back.

So here are the new mantras I'm repeating. "Remember what you want and aim for it. Keep applying to challenging roles. Don't turn down an interview. Prepare for that interview. Don't let someone who barely knows you make you feel like you are less than what you are. You are never too old to try something new, but you can be too experienced to work for free."

Cue Barney's get psyched mix.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Bigger Problems

You lost your job and suddenly think the world is coming to an end. Well, it's not... yet. According to the ancient Mayans you have at least three more years before that happens. So live it up!

One of the (totally not nerdy at all) things I've been doing with my borrowed time is researching the grim 2012 theories and getting psyched for the predictable disaster movie about 12.11.12. Since first learning about Judgment Day while watching Ghostbusters as a child, I've been morbidly fascinated by any event which could instantly eradicate all my problems along with everything else in the world.

Don't judge. It's easy to become obsessed with something out of your hands when you are living proof of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Many New Yorkers are spending fruitless hours searching for jobs and salaries that match their old ones. It is a total bummer but it could be worse. For example, a landslide in the Canary Islands could cause an 80 foot tsunami that would wipe out everything on the Eastern American seaboard. Short of seeing Zuul in your ice box, no matter what your problems were, that 80 ft. one would be worse.

The attraction to cataclysmic scenarios has proven profitable for Hollywood (with the exception of movies like Waterworld, which was way ahead of it's time). Humans have evolved in part because they are genetically programed to be mindful of danger - seeking information on things posing a threat to them. They also enjoy a good thrill ride.

But are there actually valid lessons to be learned by watching faulty-science filled blockbusters? Y2K scammers now feeding off the growing 2012 frenzy say yes. I say don't waste your money on their $900 dust masks just yet. Obama wants you to be frugal with your money for a reason. If a mega disaster happens, you will have between a millisecond to a few miserable months to live no matter what is in your bomb shelter. So take that money and spend it on something else like cancer research or paying down your debt.

Whether the apocalypse comes in the form of a supermassive black hole, 4 horsemen, pandemic or apoxic event, seriously, you'll be f*cked. The Nat Geo channel has made that very clear. There is no harm in studying religious myths and scientific facts on the subject though. I'm partial to documentaries on tsunamis, mega volcanoes and the medieval predictions of Merlin. Just remember that if the End of Days does come, and someone asks if you are a god - you say yes.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Serenity Now!

Times are tough. People are desperate. Thanks to my quest for a new job, I'm learning just how employers are taking advantage of that desperation.

The Film and Television industry is a tricky beast my friends. You can get called at 9pm for a job that starts at 5am the next day. Positive word of mouth and perseverance will get you everything. Obscureness and passivity will get you nothing.

When all your contacts run dry, so begins the tri-daily job site dance. Everyone plays favorites with certain sites, but mine goes a little something like this:,,,,,

Craigslist/gig/crew stalkers such as myself are familiar with the helpful posts about who NOT to work for. There are companies out there that will try to use you for free in return for a bad lunch and a reel. At least those guys are honest. Many companies will make you work consecutive 16 hour days and then not pay you at all.

I prefer when companies are upfront about their compensation before you sign on to work for them. This week I discovered something new... the employment bait and switch.

It works like so - You see a posting for something you are slightly unqualified for. You apply to it anyway, noting in your cover letter that you can rise to the occasion and are a quick learner. Sensing your eagerness to try something new, they write back that... well, for a better effect I'll let you read the exchange for yourself. Names and companies have been changed for privacy sake (curious? E-mail me and I'll tell you on the low).

Hey girl!

We received your resume for the casting assistant position at Art Vandelay Casting and Art would love to meet with you for an interview as a possible intern instead, if that's okay with you. If you are available on Tuesday, please e-mail us back as soon as possible...

I wrote back:

Hi Mulva,

Thank you very much for your reply. I am a fan of Art Vandelay's work from Rochelle, Rochelle to Sack Lunch. However, due to my experience ranging from interning on a national talk show to coordinating two global casting efforts, I can only accept paying positions at this time.

As I said in my resume, I'm a quick learner and a very hard worker. I'm eager to break into scripted casting and would still appreciate the opportunity to meet with him to discuss the casting assistant position. Please let me know if he has time in his schedule to speak with me as I hope to benefit the company in the future....

Times may be tough but I'm no longer the cow that gives it's milk away for free. I've cast the world and won't sell myself short when I know what I am capable of. I'm still hoping to meet with 'Art' though, because as a very wise woman (Jen Kovel) once said (like, 4 minutes ago) “it never hurts to meet with someone.” Let's hope this time isn't the exception.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

¿Cómo se dice...?

Ever met a person who looked back on their life and thought, "I'm so regretful of the time I spent becoming bilingual..." I did. She was an ignorant tool. Her name was cara haley weissman.

I took four years of Spanish in high school, had a tutor, took a semester of it in college and can still barely string a sentence together. My mind was more primed for learning back then, but I was too busy watching Saved by the Bell reruns and fighting urges to shoplift white eyeliner to care. The government paid for my blue ribbon high school education and I threw it away by cramming before tests or.... gasp... cheating.

I know I wasn't the only person "looking for a new pen" in their crib sheet lined backpack, or rolling up their sleeves to "scratch an itch" that reminded them what the difference was between por que and porque? If I was, then most high school educated people would be walking around speaking at least two languages. I actually know more high school drop outs with dual tongues than ivy educated ones. To be fair though, I really don't know that many ivy league educated individuals.

This past fall, pre-layoff and before the Costa Rica trip even crossed my radar, I took Spanish lessons at the 92nd street Y for fun. Just like high school and the free Hebrew class I took last winter, I didn't study between lessons and crammed 15 minutes before each session. But now, financed by my severance pay, I'm seriously buckling down and attempting to become bilingual (in between job hunting/soul searching of course).

Now I have a new reason to put my (non black yoga) pants on everyday. My Hebrew lessons were doomed because I couldn't actively practice with anyone, but there is no shortage of Spanish speaking inhabitants in New York. They key is to go out there and just start talking without fear of sounding stupid. Who knows who I'll meet any given day.

I’ve popped into a Mexican bodega to buy something I just learned how to say to see if they understand me. I have walked a mile to get coffee from an Ecuadorian named Pepe because he's good at explaining tenses. If I see a poster on the subway in Espanol and I hear people speaking in Spanish, I will go up to them and ask if I'm translating the text correctly. I have no regrets. I have no shame. I'm a casting producer for god sakes. Or at least, I'm still trying to be.