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I wrote 1000 emails in 45 days and this is what I learned

1000 emails. In 45 days.

January. I had just come back from over a month of travelling to South Africa for a job, then California for Christmas. I had nothing on the horizon. London was cold and grey. I went to a casting workshop in which the casting director mentioned that an actor friend of hers had managed to write 500 emails to people in the industry, and out of that number, he had gotten 50 response, and 15 jobs. I had nothing to lose, my birthday was around the corner, and I figured: why not make it 1000 before then?
I planned it out: 20 emails a day, 50 days till my birthday. And I did it. In 45 days.

This is what I learned.

It's always going to be harder for women.
I knew that already. I think all actresses are painfully aware of how little space there is in this industry for us, even in 2016.

1- The actor who had written before me had written 500 emails, received 50 responses and landed 15 jobs. Now, I don’t know in what span of time all of that happened. I knew it would be harder for a woman, so that’s why I aimed for 1000. Surprisingly enough, I received 205 responses (so far) and landed 7 jobs. Now I know this is all very recent, and those emails were sent more as an investment in my career than in the hopes of getting some gigs immediately. But still, that’s 30% of what the other guy got, for twice the effort. It makes you think.

2- My emails were as professional as emails can be, however I’ve had men respond to me opening their message with: "Young lady" and "Young Miss Labrie" and even some winky faces and some "lol"s...

3- A director was kind enough to agree to meet me during his lunch break and have a chat with me. On the way to the café, he asked me to tell him about myself:

ME- Oh, well I’m very passionate about what I do, and I know it’s a hard business, so I know what I want and I’m not afraid to make it happen.
HIM- Oh, so you’re bossy?
ME- …

I calmly explained that I didn’t think that was quite the right way to describe it, and that you wouldn’t necessarily use that word for a man, and he did apologize.

4- Later however, as I was passionately telling him about an upcoming project, he interrupted me and said "you really have striking eyes".

What I thought: so even though I’m 27 and went to a great drama school, am well-spoken and experienced, not only are you still not listening to me, but you also think that what you have to say about my body is more important, so you’ve given yourself the right to cut me off.
What I said: Oh!...Hmm… Well thank you…

5- After a hard day, when I was feeling a bit discouraged, I got an answer back from a theatre company saying "We are now an all-male company and fully cast."

I thought: Really? An all-male company? In 2016? What was it, you thought: it’s never been done before? What a clever way to help the evolution of theatre? To now, only hire male actors? How about an all-white company then? How would that go down?

I’m a strong believer in equality, and I’m sure their company does great work. I was just having none of it that day.
I kindly thanked him and wished them the best.

Don't be afraid to go international.
I landed three voice gigs from US companies which I’ll be able to do from my home studio, and I’m now on another company's books as a voice-over artist.

I landed a meeting for a Danish English-speaking theatre company, and have been put on the audition list for some theatres in Austria.

Had I known that I’d have so many positive responses from the US, I would have pursued that from the beginning. I was coming to the end of my emailing marathon, and was getting a bit desperate to find some more people to write to, so I just said, the hell with it, let’s try the States.

Gmail will lock you out of your account.
I didn’t even know it was a thing. It is. I’ve been blocked 6 times. There is no algorithm to it either, once it was after 29 emails sent, once after 63, and once after 1...

However, the mail app on Apple devices will still work. And this is how I managed to write up the last 90 emails in one day.

Learn how to email people.
Ask how people are doing. Give praise. Personalize the email. Always mention the attachments before the signature. Be explicit about what you want from them. When they write back, regardless of what they’re saying, always write back and say thank you.

People are on your side.
Generally people are rooting for you. I’ve heard that a lot when talking about auditioning: they want you to do well. It’s the same when reaching out to them. I've had a lot of people saying they admired my pro-activity, my emailing skills, my reels, and many also gave their own advice: make your own work. I’ve also had a lot of people asking me to invite them to see my future work.

Email everyone.
Don't just stick to casting directors. From what I gathered when I looked at my stats, they reply less often than anyone else. They are the ones who get the most emails from eager actors as well. Go for directors, writers, producing theatres, role-play companies, or any other person who might be helpful in getting you where you want to be. I’ve found that almost all role-play companies wrote back, same thing for playwrights. Over half of the producing theatres I wrote to have kept me on file.

Oh, and don’t forget actors. It might sound counter-intuitive, but they love to talk about themselves (proof right here), and I’ve had some wonderful meetings that have lead to work.

Give yourself a deadline.
I have 1 1/2 year left on my visa to get as many jobs as I can, as my application for the next visa will be based on my body of work here. And if I don't get it, I need to know I'll have done everything I could have possible done to try. My friend told me recently that Al Pacino, when asked in an interview, "Why is it that you made it, and not your schoolmates at the Actors Studio?" said, "Well they wanted to make it. I had to." I don't think I would have bothered to go through with this project-  if it were not for the constant clock ticking over my head.

Be thorough.
Be really careful not to mix up names, and companies. Rest. Maybe don't do 90 emails in one day like I did. It's a terrible idea. Also check the time you send them, and then if too late, maybe just save the drafts and press send the next morning. Why? No one wants to get an email at 11:23 PM.
... And your account might be unblocked by then.

So there you have it.

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Doing It

It's been a really long while since I've written anything. Upon leaving school, I had a very long list of things I would be filling my days with, and writing a blog post every month was one of them.
Of course, life happened.

So basically, I've been calling myself an actor since this past August when I graduated from BOVTS. The word still takes a lot of getting used to. When people ask me what I do, this is how it usually goes:
THEM- So what do you do?
ME- Hum, well... I, huh... moved here a year and a half ago and hum.. I did my grad studies in Bristol, and then moved to London.
THEM- Oh cool, what is it that you studied?
ME- Acting. Yeah... I am actor now... I guess. Yep.

I've managed to eliminate a few "hum"s and "I guess"s now, but for some reason I still find it hard to admit I'm an actor.

Maybe it's because actors spend more time looking for work than actually working.

A few months ago, after telling someone I was an actor, she answered with: "OK, but are you really an actor - like are you working right now - or you're one of those "actors".
Luckily I was able to say I was a working actor because I was in the middle of a gig, and I had another one coming up that week.
The key words here being that week.
That week I was allowed to call myself an actor.
But I didn't know what was going to happen to me the week after.
And the week before, I had been frantically submitting myself for auditions and emailing people who might be able to offer me a meeting in the future (meeting is the new word for audition now). I hadn't been "acting" that week, but I'd been doing all the other parts that the job required. Did that make me less of an actor that week?

Maybe another one of the reasons why I have trouble calling myself an actor is because almost every time, the person you're talking to will answer with: "Wow! Are you in anything at the minute?"
Bless their hearts, but this has to be the worst question to ask an actor.
Which is why most of the time actors will respond by reciting their CV, as a way to justify their title.

How do you do it?

Well, I'm just a newbie at this, but I'd say support from people who love you has to be the most important thing.

And then, there are two podcasts that have been a gold mine to me: The Honest Actor's Podcast and Inside Acting.

The first one is a series of 30 minute interviews with actors in the UK, lead by Jonathan Harden. It focuses on how actors get by, with the main message being "It's hard as ****, but we're all in this together" And they also have a fantastic blog and the best actor's hashtag on Twitter #actorsunscreen. Comfort.

The latter was created by Trevor Algatt and AJ Meijer, two working actors in NYC and LA who chat about their experience and also conduct lengthy interviews with other actors and people in the business. Their message is mostly "It's hard, but you can make it!" Hope.

So, there you have it.

Oh, and the photo is from South Africa, when I was lucky enough to call myself an actor for 10 days in December.
This is why I do it all.
 

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Beginnings

Show. Done.
Showcase. Done.
Marketing Report. Done.
Thesis. Done.
MA. (almost) Done.

I can't believe there are only two weeks left till I school is over and I can call myself a Master of Acting (...ha!). Time has flown this year like I had never experienced it before. I remember landing in Bristol and being amazed by every simple English thing I could cast my gaze upon, but mostly, I remember thinking: this is too beautiful and I am too happy. How will I ever be able to move on once this year is over? As Dylan Thomas once famously wrote, "do not go gentle into that good night - rage, rage against the dying of the light." I used to have such a hard time with goodbyes when I was younger. The last day of school was always a tear-fest for me, and leaving camp was torture that would lead into a long period of mourning. And because of that, I've always started feeling nostalgic at the beginning of the beautiful things that happened to me, because I was already thinking of them ending.

I started this year thinking of how hard the end of it would be, but I think a huge part of my training has been about letting go - of old thinking, of old habits, and most importantly, of time. Whenever I feel stressed, I have a tendency to go back to telling myself that maybe I am not enough, thinking: well, by the time they were my age, so many people had accomplished so much more than I have. This year has taught me to breathe, and to realize that everything is the way it's supposed to be. I am enough. Everyone is enough.

My sister told me, just as we were coming back from Ireland and saying our goodbyes to each other, that the reason she was able to not get too depressed when good things were coming to an end, was because she would instantly know that it would mean the beginning of other greater things.

I can't wait for all the new beginnings. I'm terrified. But I can't wait.

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Show Week

It's showtime!

I am finding it hard to believe that we are finally there. 36 weeks ago I was still jetlagged and had no idea what England would have in store for me. And now, this is it: our final production. I'll be performing on the Tobacco Factory stage in exactly four days.

So many thoughts have come to me during this process. It really has been the culmination of this year's challenges and reflections and the very deep understanding that everything is impermanent. Everything. And especially theatre.

We rehearse and it works. We rehearse again thinking it'll work and it doesn't. And suddenly, out of nowhere it starts working again. You get a laugh here, and then you do the same thing, but you don't anymore. There is no guarantee you won't forget your lines on the day of the show even if you've never forgotten them during rehearsals. There is also no way that you can control how people are going to feel about your work. There is no way to know if it'll turn out to be an incredible American movie-like type of final performance.

The only thing you can do is to be there in the present moment. I mean really be there. Listen to what your scene partner is telling you and go through everything your character is going through when he is going through it. Then, forget about it as soon as it's passed.

It's tricky. It's also a scary thing to shut down that voice in your head that says: "Oh here comes the line you loathe saying" and "Hey, look at that, some unexpected laughs! Things are going well!"

I guess that's part of why we go through acting school; to work hard at letting go. Letting go of all our old habits and old ways of thinking to better harness our fears. We learn to unlearn. We learn to listen. We learn about humanity and about time.

We go to acting school to really learn that nothing is permanent.

And that art is never finished, only abandoned, as Leonardo once said.

All we have is ourselves. And that precious and magical present moment we share with the audience. I cannot wait till Thursday. It's going to be grand.

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Happy Thank You More Please

A few years ago I came to watch this movie called Happy Thank You More Please. I don't remember exactly what it was about or if it was particularly good, but there was one scene in it where this female character was explaining to another character her way of seeing life.

Basically, this is what it was:

1 - Ask yourself: are you happy?
2 - If so, say thank you,
3 - And then ask for more please.

It's incredibly simple, and I think its simplicity is what has helped me integrate gratitude into my life on a regular basis. It has become a way for me to acknowledge the tiny things in my life that make me happy, instead of always searching for this great big mysterious thing that we call happiness.

Since watching that movie, I've yelled out "Happy Thank You More Please" from the top of my lungs as I was cycling downhill with the sun finally coming out, during an especially trying camping-biking trip, I've said it with my mouth full of mint-chocolate chip ice cream, as I was walking through the mesmerizing streets of Barcelona with a dear friend I hadn't seen in a long time, but mostly, I have been saying it every day since I've moved to England.

It's really easy, I think, to get caught up in the small annoyances of day-to-day life; "Oh man, I don't feel like doing the morning limbers at school today" - "I wish it stopped raining, I'm freezing and soaked" - "Why do these people get this and I don't?". But this philosophy has really helped me come back to the big picture: I am safe. I am healthy. I have a roof over my head and people who love me. And the even bigger picture: I get to live in England and study what I am the most passionate about with some of the best.

I had a professor during my undergrad that said something I'll always remember: you have to know that being an artist is a privilege, and remember to be grateful for all the other people who are allowing you to be able to pursue your craft: the person who makes your shoes, the man who works hard in the fields to bring you your bread so you don't have to. Therefore, as an artist, you need to make sure you infuse that gratefulness into your work and always push further, harder, and have the discipline to be the best you can be and make art that matters, because you owe it to those people.

Ok, that's enough Deepak Chopra for today.

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Fight Test and Self-Awareness

This week has been challenging for me - mentally and physically - with some classes at school in the morning, rehearsals all day and back to school for some late night fight rehearsals for our test on Saturday afternoon.
Throughout the week I had a great deal of fun; creative outlets and intense work always seem to be a great vessel for letting out some steam (and endless giggles). But I was also feeling my body seriously needing some rest. I guess the adrenaline was keeping me going but I could feel there wasn't much else underneath.

So Saturday morning came and I was not feeling fantastic, however I tried staying focused and giving it my all for the dress rehearsal - we came out with some pretty good stuff although my hands were quite shaky from the nerves.

The test came and I was not feeling any less nervous. I stayed focused on the intention and the storytelling (we were doing the proposal scene from Pride and Prejudice which we ended with Darcy breaking Elizabeth's arm and she breaking his neck - Ha!). However as we moved through the choreography, from rapier and dagger to single sword, I could feel myself worry about slowly losing control of the weapons and missing parries.
The thing I forgot to mention was that I was fighting with my left hand - and I am a right-hander - because my right arm is permently dislocated so my lunges would have never been perfectly straight. This was a big challenge for me; I had never used my left hand so intensively before.

Anyhow, when we got to the unarmed part, I was feeling a lot more confident because I new where my punched and moves were coming from and going to. I was infinitely more in control. And we also had that sweet move at the end where Marc "broke" my right arm, and the effect was pretty freaky.

The examinator had us back in for the sword section - much to our surprise. I tried my best but my body couldn't take it anymore, so it turned out to be very similar to the first time we did it.

I didn't feel great about myself - why had I decided to train with my non-dominant hand in the first place? It would be such a humiliation to fail after all that work.

We all came back in to receive our grades. It turned out I passed with Merit! I had forgotten - with all this pressure to be perfect - that the whole point of the fight test was to make sure we as actors could be trusted with weapons on stage. There had never been a moment in our fight where any of us had been in danger. Marc and I had kept each other safe at all points during the fight, and on top of that, we were able to tell the story.

I was relieved; I am really proud of myself for still passing with Merit, in spite of my nerves and also being the only one fighting with my non-dominant hand. I also learned a really good lesson this week about advocating for myself and listening to my body. After all, it is going to be my sole working tool.
Now, I think that deserves banana pancakes.

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London Cuckolds - Design Presentation and Read Through

So here we go, the first real week of rehearsals of The London Cuckolds in our new rehearsal space has officially begun! We had the entire design team with us in the morning to show off the incredible work they had done with the set and costumes. I am always so impressed with how meticulous and hard-working the design and technical team is. Every single detail is researched, thought through, and carefully created. After seeing design presentations I always feel a bit silly, sitting there and being an "actress". I think the cast felt that we needed to step up our game for the read through we would be doing for them.

And it showed. Everyone was energized, inspired, and the play came to life in a different way than it had ever had so far. We laughed and found some new comedic moments. I think we still have a great deal of work to do, and we're only at the beginning of the process, but we'll get there in time. Till then, onto some more line-learning.

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