Saturday, August 30, 2014

Open Up.

As an actor, everyday I'm fighting for the roles, and the moments that challenge me emotionally. Even though this is what I am fighting for, and what I love, there are moments where I feel like I'm not ready. I fall into the feeling of "I would be so much better at calling on this emotion if I had more life experience; a better reserve to draw from..." this would then fuel my character choices and help make my delivery that much more precise and deep. This brings me to a quote from Charleton Heston, "The minute you feel you have given a flawless performance is the time to get out." And it also reminds me of children, and how present their emotions are. There is no preemptive, they simply feel. I have to stop trying to jump through hoops and open myself up.

In my second year at the National Theatre School of Canada, my class worked with the critically acclaimed director, László Marton. One day, I was struggling with the emotion of a character in a scene and upon expressing my issues to László he said that it wasn't about "crying on cue" but rather living the moment honestly. And in order to have ones emotions so present one has to work on it like any other skill. It takes discipline to break down ones barriers and let the emotions bubble up on a regular basis. It's something we suffocate as we grow into adults. Actors have to work very hard at shattering those emotional walls for these intimate moments, then building them back up in order to deal with realty.

It's not easy, and as much as I talk about it, it's still extremely difficult. There are people who have such emotional depth that they can pop in and out like taking off a hat, and then there are people who are simply great at faking it, so much that it looks like the real thing but actually comes from fear of letting their guard down. I'm working to break down my walls, get to that raw and unabashed emotion so that not only is it real for me, but that the audience can see I am being real with them.

Being half way through this contract, I'm continuing to learning a lot about my habits in this medium, and how to best bring the "goods". Being on this journey, from theatre school graduate to professional actor, is challenging but I am getting more comfortable with Lykos, finding the best ways to deal with the situations that befall him. He's a very complex young man, and his trajectory is incredible. This requires me to be diligent and unabashed with my approach to scenes.

This week has had big moments in it. I've been feeling very homesick lately, and that has started to slump me down into a rather pessimistic and negative mood. I have been relatively quiet and non engaging, but I'm human and I'm allowed to have moments like this. The issue is that when I get into these "slumps" I slip into the mind frame of jealousy, negativity and a need for constant approval. This is a dangerous place, because when I cannot separate myself from these emotions before it comes time to act, I end up completely cutting myself off from my scene partner(s) and ultimately the viewer; a dangerous place.

I'm an idealist and also set very high standards for myself. Sometimes this is a great combination; it allows me to approach each new project with fervour and excitement, it allows me to sympathize with people and makes me work at achieving the life that I want. The downside is, I expect people to be like me and want the same things, which comes off as me trying to impose my ideals on people. This leads into my struggle with the fact that this is a job, and like every other job there are going to be favourites, and gossip and bad attitudes, and great attitudes and lovely people and people who will never even know I was here, even if I made an inukshuk and left it in the middle of the set.

I'm a strong advocate for equality. I think if we could all be given the same treatment, rather than building up certain individuals, there would be a lot more happiness, as there would be less room for comparison. Growing up and being around more people is teaching me that the only way to rise above mediocrity, ego stroking, the superficial love and gratuitous encouragement, for essentially being alive, is to rise above it. To not give it the time, to not let it burrow into my mind and to prize my mind as a place of serenity, harmony and happiness.

Being part of this project is truly something out of a fairy tale; I could not have asked for a better project to start with. I am learning so much about myself, I'm learning about people, actors and artists as well as all the technical aspects of film and how to execute my instincts in the best, most honest way, with immediacy. It's teaching me to deeply listen to myself and truly be a vessel for my character.

Something else I am re-learning, is how to trust my talent and myself. In moments of doubt I have to remember that I came from a great program, with a wonderful education behind me. I booked this job, and have yet to be fired. I'm doing great work, despite how I may feel about it. I'm doing my homework and am always prepared for my scenes. I constantly work on being authentic in my performances as well as incorporating the precision and nuance that defines a human being. I'm learning to accept that I'm not your average actor, visually, stylistically, and artistically. I'm an individual and will forge my own path rather than follow in someone else's, it's easy to get distracted and resent someone for achieving "success" but if I can stay focused on my journey then I will etch out quite the life for myself.

I constantly need to remind myself that I am 23 and haven't experienced much life yet, there is still a lot ahead of me. I have to focus on my mental stability and living life for me: trusting my instincts and putting positive energy into the universe rather than trying to figure everything out, comparing and missing the opportunities being presented to me by giving into fears and insecurities.

This week ended on a high note, as Amanda Tapping, who has been directing me all week, hugged me and told me that I had done superstar work. Images of Molly Shannon sniffing her sweaty armpits surged into my mind and a smile spread across my face.

 I'm doing something right.


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Honeymoon Period

I've heard, the best way to learn how to swim is to be thrown into the deep end. I'm actually a great swimmer, so this idiom doesn't really apply to me in liquid environments, but it does apply to my first day on set.

In the last few weeks, as with any new job, I have found myself learning how to negotiate my needs for each situation while working to bring the writer/director/producers ideas to life. It's requiring me to put a lot of trust in the powers that be, which is good for me. 

As you may be aware, I have a tendency (I use that word lightly) to over analyze things. So the less time I have to think about the situation or ask questions the better. I'm known for wasting all kinds of time talking rather than doing the task that is required of me. 

Cut to: Me in karate class when I was 13, all I did was distract my classmates with ramblings of Digimon and going on Parisian tours. Eventually, it came time to show what we had learned and I was put into the ring. It went something like this: Karate with Wayne.

A similar situation happened when I tried to play the clarinet in junior band. 

When one is only allowed 2 or 3 takes, max, for a scene, one learns very quickly that there is not a lot of room for failure. Lessons need to be learned quickly and without much discussion. This is very different from theatre school where we would all go around, share our feelings about the scene, discoveries we had made and what worried us. Then we would all lie on the ground and breathe deeply for about an hour while an unlucky classmate massaged the tension out of our sweaty backs. 

Ahh, the good ol' days. 

This particular show is shooting an immense amount of footage a day, moments lost worrying about trivial things is money out the window. This lack of time has forced me to start filtering out the most dire and important questions for the director, and figuring the rest out myself. In hindsight, this is a valuable lesson to learn for me not only an actor, but also a person.

Another one of my character flaws is that I, again, have a tendency, to take things personally. Mainly because I open myself up to people, more than I need to, and expect them to respect my "honesty and openness", but unfortunately, society views this as a weakness and people end up using me for their personal gain. As I get older, I am learning how to protect my heart and only expose it when it's truly safe. I think a huge lesson I'm learning here is that although I feel like Lizzie MaGuire in her movie, working on this project, it's still a job in the real world and I can't let peoples' insecurities and judgments affect my work. 

The rose-tinted glasses have been broken; the honeymoon period is over. 

Although the aforementioned may sound jaded, I want to state that I feel very taken care of on this show. The cast and crew are wonderful people, I feel honoured to be surrounded by some extremely talented, albeit not well known (yet), actors who are wonderful resources for me. Through them, and listening to their stories I'm learning how to protect my work and releasing my need for constant approval.

This quote has been motivating me lately:

"When you become confident, your opinions start to matter and your ability to work with people grows exponentially." -Kiefer Sutherland.

In case you missed my last post: I have launched, while trying to avoid pretension, my official website and Facebook page. The idea behind the launch is to streamline all of my social media pages into one access point. If you are interested in following me and my journey, I encourage you to take a gander! 


Monday, August 18, 2014

Divine Intervention - Part Two

Continued from Part One...

I told myself that, just being shortlisted didn't guarantee me the role and so I needed to just stay positive and keep going with my plans for the day; I had to babysit that night. 

I left to go to my babysitting job, and when I arrived at the school around 4pm I received another call from my agent saying that I had been, "Shorty-McShort-listed"(her words not mine), and that I should stay by my phone as the director might call me. 

I cannot describe the amount of emotions that were coursing through my body in these moments; nothing seemed real. I was afraid to touch anything and kept thinking that I was going to wake up from this extremely stressful but exciting dream. 

Then, while in the grocery store buying ingredients for strawberry and chocolate cupcakes with the adorable 7-year-old I was babysitting, I got the call. The director introduced himself and gave me the entire trajectory of the character I had auditioned for. The conversation was dominated by him telling me what he expected and me squeaking out responses to his questions, while managing a ravenous (for cupcakes, not blood) little girl. As the conversation came to an end the director told me that "they" would be flying me out Friday and he was excited to meet me. I hung up the phone with my mouth agape, unable to process what had been dropped into my lap.

To clarify, in a matter of hours I went from living in Toronto, washing dishes 6 nights a week to playing a series lead on a network television show. There was no call back, no network panel meet and greet, no Skype call, just a self-tape, positive reinforcement and the divine hands of the universe.

The evening was spent making my final night with this generous, patient and delightful little girl, a memorable one. We played soccer, while I negotiated flight and contract details with my agent, who was flabbergasted at what I had accomplished in only being with her since March. Followed by an emotional and celebratory phone call with my mom, which was similar to this: 

When her and I got home, we made massive chocolate cupcakes filled with sprinkles and strawberries, and ate until our bellies and hearts were content. It was when her parents, my pseudo-parents, came home that reverted back to the situation at hand and asked for their advice: How to pack up my life? How to approach this opportunity with humility and grace? How to make the most of the next 4 months of my life? 

Richard was over the moon excited for me, while Nina played it cool and provided me with some sound advice, as she does: "This is simply a wave, you have to ride it gracefully and do great work. Then return home and keep living your life, the next wave will come when it's meant to. Do not put everything into this; despite it being a great opportunity, it is not the end of your worries." The two of them then helped me to figure out how to get my life in order over the next few days, and prepare for my biggest adventure since going to school in Montreal. 

A few days later, after dropping my cats off to be shipped back to Nova Scotia for a little vacation, I got onto the biggest plane I had ever seen and it finally started to become real. This wasn't an episode of Kenny vs Spenny; this was my reality. I was going to make my home (for the next 4 months) in a place I had never been to before, working on a project that I was passionate about and surrounded by people who respected me for what I could bring to it. 

It's a dream come true. 

My blog has almost reached 12, 000 views (*thank you) and to commemorate such an achievement, I am launching, while trying to avoid pretension, my official website and Facebook page. The idea behind the launch is to streamline all of my social media into one access point, that way readers have the ability to follow "Business Wayne" (LinkedIn, IMDB, etc.) or "Pleasure Wayne" (Twitter, Instagram, Bloggy, etc.).

As Ursula would say, "Make your choice."

(I could't find a clip of Ursula saying it to I found the complete opposite, but I feel as though my original severity remains intact.)

A reader reached out to me this week, and upon researching her (as I do), I found her blog and wanted to mention it here. Not only is she chronicling her journey as an actor, she also provides a dang awesome ginger soup recipe, which is more than I can say I have ever done for you.

Ginger Soup for the Actor's Soul


Divine Intervention - Part One.

I cannot contain my excitement anymore: a month ago, in a matter of hours, my life was turned upside down.

It was a Friday evening and I had received an email from my agent for a new network television show that was filming in Vancouver. She said they needed a self-tape by Monday afternoon, at the latest. I was working a dishwashing shift at the time and I started to recruits someone who may be able to help me get a decent self tape done before the aforementioned deadline.

My good friend, Daniel, came to my rescue by saying he could help me film it Sunday night, after my shift, as he had a friend that was also submitting for the role. When I got home and finally started to read over the scene something electric happened: I knew it was mine. Perhaps it was all the self-help books and audio tapes I had been listening to, or divine intervention, but I had never felt so confident about, one: a project and two: me booking a role.

The next two days, I thought of nothing else, those sides became woven into every fibre of my being. I spoke the lines to myself every waking moment; perfecting how I was going to perform them Sunday night. I confessed to my co-workers how bad I would feel for up and leaving the restaurant to go do this role, in the event that I booked it. I did the whole Robert De Niro mirror routine umpteen times. I treated my cats like the characters opposite me in the scene, their udder disinterest only feeding the energy of the scene.

All this prep was for a self-tape...

*For those of you who may not know what a self-tape is: basically they are a way for actors to submit for roles that they would normally not be able to submit for because they live/are working outside of the casting location. You may be thinking, "Oh that sounds great! And also SUPER convenient.” This is a great way of looking at it, as it is both of those things. The downside to submitting to a project via self-tape is that anyone who had access to the breakdown also submitted to said project; making the competition grow indefinitely, and usually moving ones submission to the bottom of an ever growing pile of tapes.

I showed up at Daniel's around 12:30 am on Monday morning after my shift ended. To my surprise he had a stellar and very professional set up for me, I am used to filming my tapes on my iPhone. Buddy had lights, I background and a high-quality camera. (You are a king, Daniel.) We talked for a bit about what I wanted it to look like and got to work.

My heart had never been in something so much before, I was so concerned about it being the best I could make it. Here I was in a comfortable situation with someone who I trusted and who supported me, if I couldn't bring the good then, there was no way I could ever bring it. The last two days had been building to this moment and now I was in it, after doing about 3 usable takes from each side I chose which ones to use. I have this feeling that if I do too many takes I start to over analyze my performance. The best takes, for me, are usually the first or second, as those are the most instinctual. Daniel edited them there for me, provided me with some much needed advice and encouragement, and we sent them off.

It was done.

I walked home in the middle of a rainstorm with no umbrella, despite Daniel insisting me to take his. It felt good to have the stress washed away from me, so to speak. I talked to myself the whole way back and settled that the only way for me to be truly successful was to relinquish control and concern over what happened with that tape from there on out. It was out of my hands, and into the casting directors. It was up to the universe.

On Tuesday, amid cleaning my apartment, I got a call from my agents’ secretary saying that I had been shortlisted for the role. My whole body started shaking, I was one of potentially 2-20 people from across the country that were being considered. She told me to just keep my phone close as they would keep me posted about progress. I was dying. I thought to myself that even if I didn't get further than this I was still happy. Someone had watched my tape and thought I was good enough to be shortlisted. It was an incredible feeling.

Continued in Part Two...

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Salt Water.

I have spent the last 5 days relaxing and reflecting. 

A much needed activity. 

I was on the bus yesterday and the only other passenger was an elderly woman. I had put my money in the fare counter and asked if she would corroborate my story (that I paid) if the driver came back and was suspicious. She said she would and I asked her about her day. In a matter of 10 minutes she had told me about her childhood travelling the coast of Oregon and how much her friends had became her family in recent years after her parents died. She embodied happiness for me. Here she was simply riding the bus to see where it would take her. She had her book, time and was ready for an adventure. It made me step back and think about the experiences I'm missing out on by rushing around not being present. 

I have had this wonderful opportunity presented to me, and although I am having the time of my life and meeting remarkable people, I find myself thinking about what needs to happen when this dream sequence ends: What is the next phase of my career? Where is my next paycheque coming from? Who do I need to meet next? Granted, these are all important questions for an actor to ask, but not as important as focusing on what is in front of me. 

When my class was working with Joe Ziegler, on A Midsummer Night's Dream, I had booked a short film, Bone Deep, back in Halifax while playing Theseus in the show. Joe generously said I could leave to shoot the film that weekend, but then the next day when we were working my scenes I was completely unprepared due to my preoccupation with the film. My work in the show suffered and Joe felt taken advantage of. After all was said and done he said this to me, "Do your best with what you have right now. Then when that is over, you can move onto the next thing." As it was before, it now has to become my mantra again. 

A few days ago I went to the beach and as soon as my feet hit the water my worries just slid off of me. I forget how soul cleansing it is. Perhaps it is the maritimer in me, but nothing eases my tensions more than the ocean. While I was treading water I thought about how simple my life could be if I just let go of all these trivial agendas. Being in that water, not only showed me how out of shape I am, but also how glorious it is to just be here, now. 

The people that I've caught up with are all at similar points in their life; feeling bogged down about their career paths or the need to keep up with the Jones'. If I'm learning anything lately it's that everyone has to forge their own paths. Trying to compare oneself with someone else is useless and ultimately thieving the joy from ones life. 

"Gratitude is the antidote to misery." - Robin Sharma

I have been working on incorporating this quote into all facets of my life and it has only brought positive experiences to me. Every person I have met and conversed with over the last few weeks has been nothing short of generous and insightful. The amount of people who have met me with generosity simply because I have taken the time to be real with them, listen to them speak about their lives and offer my advice, is huge. There is so much more to generosity than monetary gain, and my soul feels warmer because of it. 

If life is a series of experiences rather than number of years on the Earth, I really want to give every person and opportunity the time they deserve. I watched a wonderful Ted Talk the other night that spoke about how we need to focus more on our relationships and the legacy we are leaving behind rather than all of the superficial things that pollute our day-to-day lives. 

I couldn't agree more.