Acting in the time of Corona: CoVid-19 Surviving and Thriving Guide

Dear Reader,

This reaches us all in a very different time to that of our last post. Like you we have been socially isolating for months, and as many countries now begin to emerge from lockdown, our minds turn to what has kept us afloat, even thriving, in these uncertain times. 

We can't cover everything and obviously some states and countries coming out of quarantine conditions faster than others, but here's a glimpse into our lives from different corners of the globe over the past few months. Be sure to check back for more updates! We have not been essential workers and thus fortunate to see things through from remaining 'safe at home' - now as we re-emerge to our new world we get to roll up our sleeves and see where we are needed as artists, actors and activists. As always, we welcome your feedback and personal stories below.

Artistry under Lockdown 

(Michela Carattini, Sydney, Australia)


As throughout the world, all LIVE and screen production in Australia came to a sudden and complete halt 3 months ago. Those of us with arts careers not only lost our primary, but often our secondary sources of income, and we were more likely to be responsible for the care of children now home 24/7, which meant even less resources for work than BC (Before CoVid). Despite these and other compounding and intersecting circumstances, I have been surprised and truly inspired by my fellow artists and what they have been able to achieve during this time when, it has become apparent, we need each other and the arts more than ever.






From small online readings to big company live-streamed productions, music, comedy and other styles of artistry - I have been spoiled for choice well beyond my time allowance. One of my favourites is a single-person comedy skit where an actress has her April self explain to her January self what she doesn’t know yet. Another is an actor who plays with chiaroscuro in a surprisingly touching way. There additionally seemed limitless availability of online training and upskilling, now available from anywhere in the world. I, for one, can’t wait for the free Sing Like Adele class on June 21st! But perhaps most importantly, I learned from my colleagues who are refugees and knew how, and were driven to, create art even in the most dire and restricted circumstances, who gave and used it as healing, the way I might give flowers or a hug, and it birthed a renewed and passionate clarity in my calling.



Australia is now rapidly lifting restrictions, and productions are facing a whole new set of regulations to abide by in the new world of semi-permanent social-distancing. For those artists still in lockdown, here are some things I managed in complete lockdown:


  1. Update Marketing: At the beginning of lockdown, I attended an awesome webinar called “I Will Survive” by Creative + Business (still available), which encouraged me to use this time to update all my marketing: website, casting profiles, social media, and Linked In. My accountability partner came up with an awesome instagram marketing idea for my intimacy coordination business, and even a new showreel scene was possible (this, of course, depends on who you’re locked down with)!
  2. Self Tape Auditions: To my surprise, I still had audition requests coming through, and it was clear self-taping was going to be the only gateway for a while...Up until this point, I could get away with a daylight tape at home here and there, but I took this opportunity to find ways to get even better at my home tapes. I found the StageMilk and Kat Elizabeth lighting videos helpful, and ordered a cheap reflector and ring light to experiment with. I also experimented with camera angle, eyeline, voice and accent training, while throwing in an exercise or two from the latest acting book I’m reading (Susan Batson’s “Truth”). 
  3. DeClutter: I know it’s du-jour, but my goodness - everything from my office to my finances needed decluttering, and having the time to do it meant I could work more efficiently, and love the space I’m working in. Less clutter means more space, and markedly different atmospheres even to small corners (hello candles!), which became a particularly effective mental trick for my whole family during lockdown.
  4. Project Development & Pre-production: This was the perfect time to work on that feature script I had tucked away, casting & crewing that script that was ready to go, and apply for funding and grants. A colleague of mine started a “Quarantine Writer’s Group,” and although I couldn’t always attend, it made me feel connected to the industry and other artists in a low-pressure, social way. I was also able to make some tough ‘next level’ career decisions to incorporate my different arts business streams into one company, and complete all the time-consuming administrative, legal bit so I can be ready to go when things open back up. Creating a company meant getting really clear on what I want to achieve and why I’m in this business, which brings me to...
  5. Re-examine: why I’m doing this. As I watched my backyard and my world go up in many different kinds of flames, it occurred to me that the things that were happening were not suddenly just happening now. They had been happening recurrently, and the difference now was that more people seemed to care and demand change - which was a truly positive thing. I personally had fought on the front lines of social justice for many years, and it became clear that my heart had not really left that behind, and that any work I did as an artist would never be far from the work I did as an activist, a healer, and a warrior for justice and compassion.


There is a lot we can do in lockdown, but there is no denying this has been a multi-layered emotional and difficult time. I remind myself, as I remind my loved ones, that this is not another excuse to feel pressured to achieve, or to compare and despair against others’ achievements. It is wholly important to spend a season resting, recuperating, repairing, healing, being quiet and gentle with oneself and strengthening the basics of sleeping, eating, walking and relationships. Self-compassion is perhaps the most important kind of compassion we can have at this moment. And out of this, I take with me the invaluable skills of adaptation and acceptance, with no other choice but to take each day as it comes. With love from Down Under.






Are there silver linings or even benefits to lockdown?

(Christina DeRosa, Los Angeles, USA)


Absolutely!  Although it has felt like one long “Mercury in Retrograde…”  You know how Mercury in Retrograde, is a time to reflect, refocus, review, redo, renew, all the Re’s.  Funny how all the Mercury in Retrograde blog tips suggest cleaning closets out and reorganizing them during this time.  I think we can all agree we have clean closets by now.




One of my favorite quotes that has reminded me to be the light is “No matter how deep the darkness, when the sun rises, everything is bathed in light.  That’s because the sun is always blazing brightly.  Please be like the sun, no matter what.”  Daisaku Ikeda.

It has been powerful to see communities, neighbors, cities, and friends come together, not physically, due to social distancing but in other ways.  I have personally found it beautiful to go for walks during this time and see others out walking, keeping their distance but waving and saying hello and smiling through the mask. 



Through zoom meetings and long conversations with friends, I have made more time during lockdown for intimate conversations and time with the ones most important to me.  Even uncomfortable conversations about racism and diversity and change.  I believe it is thanks to Covid 19 and people being forced to stay home more and listen more that  George Floyd’s traffic death has been a legacy that will forever change history and finally fix broken systems and evolve hearts and bond families together.

One of the ways, I have found my voice and let my creativity flow has been to jump on TIK TOK and create content daily on Tik Tok.  https://www.tiktok.com/

On Tik Tok, I can be anyone I want, a cat, a little six year old girl,  Mae West and Rita Hayworth and that’s all just on a Tuesday. Come join me?  https://www.tiktok.com/@actresschristinaderosa

Tik Tok forces me as an actress to not only be the actor, but also the director, the DP, the set designer, the costume designer, the hair and makeup artist and the producer and that is all for a 15 second video.  Some days I may do a 60 second video but let’s be honest, our attention spans have significantly adjusted now.  If you are an artist, you need to remember your voice matters and your work still matters, amidst everything going on in the world, so tell your story, share your voice, make people laugh or lip sing to your favorite song, but don’t stop creating, don’t stop sharing, because you are here to make a difference and the world needs you, now more than ever.

Stay Smiling no matter what and remember to be like the SUN!


  


Transformation in the 'New Normal'

(Edith Bukovics, London, England)


This post comes to you from England rather than NYC for a change. On Friday 13th March my husband and I decided to take our kids and hunker down here with family as we waited for what we expected to be a short-lived Covid 19 storm to pass. Our work had been postponed or gone virtual, preschools were closed indefinitely and life with our baby and 3 year old was able to find much needed support in the bosom of family over here.
And so for the past three months we've balanced and been part of the quarantine and WFH reality, mentally caught between our US home and that of our temporary base in England. It has been eye opening and character building for me - and I know no one is 'acing' this time. There are things we have all grieved - jobs, opportunities relationships, human lives - things we have been forced to accept and attempt to move on from, or with.  

Now that countries are slowly looking to re-open their societies, coupled with the gathering unrest and demonstrations against systemic racism around the globe, we are reminded that everything is indeed inextricably linked and who we choose to be during this time will determine how we can forge the path forward, with so many unknowns still on the table.  This is the a time where an actor must do the fundamental work: listen, investigate, process, and act. 



Most of us may be out of an official lockdown but we won't be back to the old normal anytime soon - perhaps ever. And there is plenty to learn from and pursue during this transitional period..

Back to basics
Michela and Christina have reminded us how important taking care of ourselves is during a time like this. We all know how much we benefit from gently and consistently taking care of our bodies, our mental health and our creative lives; this is no easy task at the best of times, and can feel overwhelming in an environment where everything feels up for grabs! Yep, no one can predict how soon work practices will resume in full swing, and financially and creatively we may feel completely untethered. But that means it is more important than ever to ground ourselves, in whatever way works for us.  

I personally found that, what with the heady challenges of co-parenting whilst both WFH,  plus home schooling, looking after our baby's hourly needs etc we were in need of a robust schedule to myself up for all my non-negotiable health practices like meditation, work outs and creative free-flow time. I'm grateful that children make it a must to have structure in the home, they've eradicated any of my  unhelpful navel-gazing tendencies and we've benefitted from the many walks and cycle rides squeezed into our days - technically for their sake, but obviously of massive benefit to hubby and myself too! Looking for bugs or playing with pebbles in neighborhood streets and woodland paths meant significant time taken away from work but it's an uplifting and positive distraction to focus on their needs and explore storytelling on their level right now.




A shout out to the phenomenon that is PE With Joe  which gripped this nation throughout lockdown and beyond, and for good reason. Joe Wicks has brought a huge global audience together for his daily 09:00 workouts, getting young and old alike to build up their focus and energy levels at the top of the day. My son has loved doing this with us and it was certainly a great way to feel the family is off to a running start first thing! Never forget, Mental health is your wealth πŸ’ͺ


We are all equally fallible and human
Remember this? A foreign correspondent for BBC News was interrupted by his kids during a report - to much good natured ribbing and a few raised eyebrows. 


But as actors and improvisors well know, 'It's all in' - life is what happens when you're attempting to control the hell out of those other plans! And if zoom meetings and online working have taught us anything, it's that life in our new normal is fraught with tech issues, discomfort with how we can impact each other through screens and all round general messiness. 

One of the pandemic's silver linings is as a sort of leveler and I for one have taken comfort knowing that everyone from athletes to zoo keepers, politicians, photographers and agents to teachers have been navigating their work from home, and everyone I have engaged with online has had to compromise on some level, and acknowledges the imperfection of working and socializing in these new ways. I love that people are more readily able to admit their foibles and have a laugh about the impossibility of 'business as usual.' The mishaps and novelty of the situation leads to frustration yes, but also a hell of a lot of innovation and new opportunities. Here's a fun clip of James Cordon acknowledging the bizarre process of taping his Late Late Show alone in his garage, talking about the impact of a global pandemic and racial injustice in America.

What does all this mean? It's meant that a lot of us and the people we yearn to reach, may be on more of an equal playing field, and increasingly accessible. It's been a lonely business to self-isolate, no matter who you have been living with. People have also tended to have more time and interest in interacting with new collaborators in the online space. In our industry, as Michela specified that has created a new batch of general audition and 'meet and greet' opportunities with everyone from producers to casting directors. (See here for one such example) 

It's also a great time to strengthen your own tribe! One of my highlights has been creating a film club in which friends around the world come together every few weeks for a catch up and chatting about the nominated movie that week. 

Art and Social Reckoning
There is of course a larger scale reckoning happening too, which may be rooted in our quarantine times but is now being affected by so many other factors this spring - the developing impact on climate change, our increased global awareness of social and political systems such as systematic racism, and ever more awakened states of consciousness about our interconnectedness and fragile ecosystems. I encourage us all to take the time to investigate, do some upstream thinking as we move through the process. There are no quick fixes and as one of my mentors reminds me, 'there is no way around, but through.' Resisting discomfort in the moment only leads to greater suffering. 

As actors it is our job to tell stories and share human experiences. As humans, our job is also to remain compassionate with ourselves and one another. Again, no one is 'acing' this time and no one knows what the future holds for us in navigating Covid-19. There is inner work to be done, but also external engagement. For some historical perspective I highly rate this interview with Alain de Botton on Elizabeth Day's brilliant How to Fail podcast and this article from Cambridge University: Covid-19, The Long View.

It is striking to see how countries are bolstering the arts differently during this time, and how governments value cultural institutions and support out of work artists and freelancers. We may not need art and entertainment to live but let's not forget - it sure does make life worth living for.





Actors' Resources
There is an incredible and growing list of online resources to remain engaged with our fellow artists and actors around the world. Alongside your own acting school and unions may I recommend the following opportunities to enjoy what actors do best:


In conclusion I wish you continued health, inside & out -  may your transformed normal be full of opportunity, resilience and new adventure!


From Vanity Fair...ahead of the game, circa 2009!




Marketing #TheSeoulBrotha to the Southeast

by Kahlid Elijah Tapia


When I was planning to leave Korea a friend asked me, “What happens to #TheSeoulBrotha when you’re gone?”  I proudly responded that my moniker doesn’t change just because I’ll be living in the states. What does change is how I use the moniker with my brand. 
#TheSeoulBrotha was created because I understood that marketing plays a huge role in the survival of an actor. While in Korea I blogged with the moniker as a salutation and as a hopeful “beacon”, I use that term very loosely, to encourage expat actors to see that overseas work has value for our host and home markets.   #TheSeoulBrotha was a title while living in Asia. A symbol that represented hard work, networking, training and the ever-growing desire to push oneself out of comfort zones.
I’m happy to say that things have changed drastically since being in America.  Because of my dedication overseas I’ve built a solid portfolio for the American market to see and #TheSeoulBrotha has become the greatest ice breaker and talking point to directors, producers and casting directors.  It exemplifies my YOU-nique, sets me apart from every other 5’9’, African American man, with a winning smile, that weighs 260lbs. I never have to worry about those “dead-air-awkward” moments because my story is interesting. It grabs the attention of the listener and keeps both parties engaged.
But guess what?  All my networking, all my training, all my success came to a grinding halt when I had to come face to face with one film industry aspect that wasn’t a big issue in Korea.   AUDITIONING. That’s right, #TheSeoulBrotha got the biggest slap in the face when he had to start auditioning because I networked my way into 99% of my roles that are on my IMDb.
You see I didn’t know that I was a subpar auditioner.  (I may be giving myself more credit with the term subpar.) I had no clue until I went to my first audition, but I didn’t go to my first audition until I had set up some foundation for myself in the Southeast.  Foundations in the industry that my experience in Korea had taught me to do.   
One of the things I learned overseas was to do a management session and get an outside perspective on everything I was doing.  So, I scheduled a session with the artistic director of ClassAct Studios of Orlando. That session taught me about the do’s and don’ts of the Southeast market, gave me access to workshops, taught about headshots and talent agencies in the city. This connected me to Lock Talent Agency and being signed after only 6 months in America.  WOW! Some actors wait way longer than that for an agent, so #TheSeoulBrotha portfolio was strong enough and the brand was being maximized.
Another lesson learned was networking groups.  I then connected with the Director of Orlando Film Commission
who in turn informed me of Women In Film & Television, an organization that “strives to provide members and the Florida film community at large with advanced opportunities through networking, educational programs, and events held.” It’s not just for women. They meet every month and it’s a great place to talk to people in the business, once again, brand maximized. 
I started updating Casting Networks, Actors Access, IMDb, social media and my website.  I knew, because of experience, to use my online presence to market my brand and use #TheSeoulBrotha as the foot in the door.  Overseas experience and training helped me to see the importance of marketing; colors, verbiage, timing etc. #TheSeoulBrotha was strong!  Infallible? Not by any means but a strong foundation in the industry. 
Then I went on my first audition.  There was the sign in sheet for Casting Networks, the waiting room, actors that looked like me in the waiting room for the first time ever, the line to wait and see the casting director and client, the mark on the floor, the reality of not shaking hands and not saying ma’am or sir, and the one-eyed monster, the audience of one….THE CAMERA.  


Had a I auditioned in Korea before? Sure, a few times. And I mean A FEW.   Was there a camera? Yep. Did anyone ever talk to me about what to wear to an audition? No.  Did anyone ever teach me about “working the box?” No. (If you don’t know what “working the box” means, stop reading, go take an audition class. NOW!) Did anyone ever teach me about walking into the scene or out of one? No.  Did anyone ever teach me about why the breakdown is important? No. About how I’m supposed to enter and leave the room? No. Did anyone ever teach me about why breaking down an audition side is totally different from breaking down 2 pages of a script? @#%#@ NO!   There I was with supporting roles in major Korean blockbusters, co-star roles on popular Korean tv shows and my auditioning technique was @$&#@!  
HOW DO YOU MARKET YOUR BRAND IF YOU CAN’T MAXIMIZE THE ROOM?!  The audition gives you the opportunity to maximize the room. I was pissed. Frustrated.  Saying things to myself like, “Why didn’t I audition more?” Why did I think being handed a role was the greatest thing ever?  Why? Because that’s where my skill level was for that moment in time. But I’ve grown. So, what was the solution? What is always the solution to auditioning?  Train, audition. Train, audition. Train, audition and when you think you’ve trained and auditioned enough, then you do them some more. I didn’t focus on the weak link.  Did my best to not beat myself up about it. Started concentrating on my strengths in the business of acting and read a great book, Self-Management for Actors by Bonnie Gillespie.  I maximize #TheSeoulBrotha with the strategies of SMFA. That book makes it so much easier. 

I had to pick myself up, dust myself off, realize the problem, execute a solution and keep moving forward.   #TheSeoulBrotha can be easily used in the USA because it represents more than just building my foundation in one of Asia’s more profitable film industries.  It also represents how I think when it comes to the industry. I went outside the box to get the job done. But here’s the truth about thinking outside the box.  It’s a great ability to have but if you can’t maneuver your abstract thinking into the box, then all that great unique thinking is for nothing. 

2019 was a great year.  Workshops, films, commercials etc.  2020 will be greater, not only because I’m speaking it but also because I’ve given myself the opportunity to fail and rise again.  I am the product. My marketing tools represent me. I played the odds when I went overseas, and every actor knows that when you get an audition it’s like winning the lottery.  So why would I drop #TheSeoulBrotha. I want every inch of every edge that I can get. I want that strategic angle that will set me apart. #TheSeoulBrotha provides that for me.  I’m playing the odds and I won’t play small. 
###
For more on Kahlid, visit http://kahlidelijahtapia.com/

Act Like a Mother! Parenting Hacks for Actors and Creatives



Six months ago I gave birth to a healthy baby daughter (in an Uber en route to hospital no less -more on that little twist later) and thus I suddenly had Children -plural! It felt wonderful to round out our family, but even during pregnancy I wondered how much of my life I would still be able to devote to my acting and creative careers, whilst doubling down on duties at home and being present for my growing kids.

The reality is, a year on after telling people I was pregnant with baby no. 2 I can honestly consider myself more successful and at ease in the flow of my acting career - having made more money in the past 12 months than at any other time, enjoying a better relationship with my agents and manager, and feeling more prepared than ever to jump into a self-tape, meeting or a job at a moment's notice. All of which have proven to be pressure points for me in the past.

But why is this? And could I have prepared my non-mama self for what lay ahead - proven to her that yes, there would be chaos and boundless love at home, but also plenty of upsides from a business perspective?

Back when I was still hanging out and contemplating life...waiting for the little lady to show up!


I’ve found remarkably few articles or blogs about raising children and co-parenting whilst navigating an acting career. Our fine co-founder Michela Carattini wrote one such piece as our very first post on AGG and I'd like to add to her conversation with some of my own findings and recommendations.

Side note: This post is intended not just for actors who have kids or are considering becoming parents, but anyone with an interest in finding new hacks for their own career path. Hope it's useful food for thought..

IDENTITY KIT

"But who the hell am I anymore??” I've blearily cried to my husband more than once. On becoming a mama it's easy to feel torn in several directions in a way no one can prepare you for. (And that fatigue doesn't help..) My identity began shifting when I had my son Amory three years ago and I stumbled through some necessary steps to navigate it all. My passion for acting and a fear of losing traction in the industry probably led me to say yes to a couple of projects postpartum a little too quickly. I was still getting the hang of my survival jobs in NY and the hustle and flow of building my acting career, and worried that people might forget me if I stayed out of action and out of class too long. So there was a strong urge to stay relevant as the 'Me' I'd carefully cultivated on my website, headshots and on social.

But during the first year I recognized that having children in my mid 30s meant that the notion of 'who I ought to be by now' and whether I had reached milestones I’d previously expected of myself – was completely unhelpful and simply went out the window. I was no longer the most important person in my life, and the work I took on would have significant ripple effects around me, so the old ways just weren't relevant anymore. Pulling back the lens on my creative journey, I found a delicious letting go of the ability to control as much as I thought was necessary, and suddenly a certain low grade anxiety melted away. I started to evolve in ways that would have surprised my 25 year old self. 

ABC and NETFLIX's 'The Let Down' - AACTA winning show about new parents adjusting to their new identities.. Highly recommended viewing for new parents!

Whenever I’ve compartmentalized my new life too much – rigid boundaries between ‘parent me’ and ‘actor me’ (down to dividing my wardrobe) it’s bitten me on the ass. The adult woman who makes decisions about the day to day aspects of my kids’ lives, and co-parents with my (also freelance, entrepreneurial) husband - is now the same the woman who faces the industry and engages as such. As my old Meisner coach used to say, "It's All In." There are countless ways in which the parenting lessons I've learned in parenting have enhanced my acting Chutzpah - flexibility being the key component.

Another upside of this new fluctuating identity? Increased confidence, which results from being responsible for the physical and emotional wellbeing of two little humans, day after day after day after day, whilst (hopefully, mostly) staying on the right side of patience. This is character building stuff and allows me to acknowledge my self-worth and positive impact on others, even when my creative output has lulled. As a result I’m now often more grounded in moments that seem beyond my control.


One way this showed up for me just the other day: setting up and completing a self tape within 40 minutes, after a nursery run and while my infant daughter napped. I didn’t know if I’d be capable of it (the former me would have luxuriated in a couple hours’ taping time) but it needed to get done in 40 minutes and so it got done. I took the note, "Don’t let 'perfect' be the enemy of 'good'; don’t let ‘good’ be the enemy of ‘good enough' or plain 'done'!" Of course it’s not just parenthood which keeps people busy juggling but personally it’s been the best leveler to get the hell out of my own way..

Another occasion, on set: after a series of overrunning shoot days another actor found it hard to keep his cool with the directing team, and lashed out a number of times. He afterwards quietly shared that he found it impressive I was able to stay so diplomatic and patient with proceedings. Don’t get me wrong – the day’s work was a nebulous grind with its fair share of ego clashes, but somehow it rolled off me in ways it never would have done earlier. I stayed focused on keeping my side of the street clean, showed up as the best actor I could and then left work life alone when I got home. (See end of the post for some resources I use to say detached like this!)

And so I’ve kept collecting those experiences and my confidence has grown. Many parents I've spoken with agree that having kids makes you tougher and resilient than you could have known was possible. And believe me, this hardiness stands you in good set on challenging sets, night shoots and late running techs..

ONLY CONNECT – your enhanced community!

When we had our son Amory, it took me awhile to find role models in the industry from whom I could learn the ropes, e.g. get practical tips on staying connected during the pregnancy and postpartum, etiquette on auditioning with a baby on the scene, and so on. In the intervening years I’ve met other actor mums and numerous friends and colleagues have started families, and that has been a game changer for feeling engaged and more supported this time round.

I won’t lie – it’s incredibly tough sometimes, and when you're on mama duty it can feel disheartening and quiet on the career front, like the industry is somewhere 'over there' doing its thing and passing you by. But Rule no. 1 in parenthood has always been to build that supportive village around you. And creatives can organize like no one else...

Moms in Film - Mathilde Dratwa and Christy Lamb set up this group to provide parents in the film and television industry with community, funding and advocacy. Alongside organizing regular meet ups for parents and carers, they created The Wee Wagon - a mobile childcare unit designed for use on film sets. There are chapters in NYC, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Chicago, San Fransisco and Vancouver. Get in touch if you're interested in starting a new chapter in your town.


NYWIFT - New York Women in Film & TV have a Moms Network for its members. This group hosts regular meetings with the aim of helping members on their current projects, holding panels about motherhood in this industry, and alongside screenings, and they always welcome children! 


Mindr.com – Mindr creates development opportunities for working parents, and works with companies across a range of industries to attract, engage and retain women and parents. For example they partnered with the United Nations to host the first baby-friendly event in UN history, bringing 600 new parents and their babies to United Nations Headquarters on International Women's Day. They also host numerous smaller relaxed events and I've met more than one friend at one of their get togethers in a NYC Bluestone cafe..

These are examples of established New York groups and new communities are bubbling up all the time. Hands down the best resource to start with will always be your new parent friends. Through the births of both my children I’ve met wonderful folks who are getting to grips with parenthood whilst supporting their freelance careers. I now have a small but vital list of reliable, trustworthy friends with whom I can navigate anything from feeding questions, networking tips to last minute babysitting needs. It’s also a great way to join forces with like-minded people on your own projects; chances are you’ll all be singing off the same song sheet when it comes to working efficiently and flexibly.

IF IT'S NOT A HELL YES, IT'S A HELL NO

This phrase has been attributed to many and gets bandied about so much its impact has almost worn off. But it's worth reconnecting to its essence when you're feeling overloaded and fatigued– because yes, it's tough to navigate career opportunities alongside familial duties – and pleasures! - at home.

‘Hell yes’ doesn't require a loud shouty voice - it's about connecting with what your values are, and what opportunities and challenges would create growth. What turns you on? And how can you remain empowered in the face of overwhelm? I'm still figuring out my way with this but when I’m stretched and an idea, favor or invitation comes my way I'll check in with my newly honed BS detector. I want to keep the drama for the actual work and I’ve lost tolerance for ego trips, lackluster blather or endless navel-gazing. Oh, and hour long conference calls. If an opportunity is unlikely to add real value to my life, I’m content to pass and play Lego Batman with my son instead. Certainly I've found saying ‘No’ more liberating than I’d dared hope, and it’s paved the way for more focus and enjoyment in my life.


   
This also means – when I do commit, I need to make it count! I rarely get to half-ass things anymore, and honestly the knowledge that it’s taken quite a bit of organization and possibly child care to allow me free reign in work mode, I'm not going to wile away those hours like I once did. Outside of auditions I prioritize which screenings, classes, and networking events I can attend. And then I give myself permission to show up fully and when I'm there.

OPEN COMMUNICATON

As with many mothers, I've developed a leonine roar since having kids that has made me a more powerful advocate, and possessed of a clearer voice.

I’ll do what I need to support and protect my loved ones and my 'tribe' and by extension I now use my voice more frequently to stand up for myself as well. The BS meter comes into play here – when it calls for it I’m far more likely to wade in to the thick of things and have a challenging conversation. This is something I’d previously shied away from – what with the people pleaser in me and a ‘never complain, never explain’ motto. But life really feels more visceral and simultaneously less precious now - I have to be clear about my goals for me and my family, and to ask for them. This goes hand in hand with apologizing a lot less than I used to.

#sorrynotsorry
And all of that has led to much better communication team with peers and my team. I’m not sorry to ask for better pay (for example asking for a higher pay scale in order to cover additional childcare) or more prep support, or to book out designated family time. I have created firmer relationships with my agents because it’s more vital than ever that I’m honest with people about expectations, boundaries and navigating what we all bring to the table. There’s nothing like having a hands-on family routine to expect effective time management from myself and the people I work with.

"MOMENT BY MOMENT"

A cliche that bears repeating! Actors spend oodles of time in class honing their natural skill to be present staying in the here and now. In lieu of getting to class as regularly as I'd like these days, it's safe to say I regularly stretch my acting muscles by getting down on that play mat and staying with what the little guy has planned, which for a three year old can change in a heartbeat. It's quite a ride to go along with the experience - and 100% commitment to every emotion, 100% of the time…

If you don't have a toddler in your own home - go find someone who does and give them a break whilst letting your playful freak flag fly!

Ready to play πŸ˜›πŸ˜

STAYING PRAGMATIC

In most conversations I hear about 'Wellness' these days, what’s getting a lot of airtime is the idea that just doing something, even for a few minutes daily is powerful. Previously we've been inundated with grand scale concepts around detoxing, healthy sleeping, clean eating and exercising habits. If you don’t personally have a child or haven’t guessed this yet let me break it to you: little people who need you desperately for most hours of the day (I don't know when this need does or even should stop?!) make it very hard to have anything like the daily routine you may have enjoyed previously. I once prided myself on getting up fresh from 8 hours sleep, enjoying a 30 min journaling session followed by a hard core spin or barre class and fulfilling beauty routine etc. Those days are O-VAH (for now), and in their place I've found massive benefits from realizing that five minutes here and there really do add up and make a difference.

Mental and physical health is a game of inches. We don’t need to feel we’ve failed if we’re not getting to a yoga class for the whole hour, or making plant-based meals from scratch every other day. Little nudges in the right direction every day pays off dividends and feels good. Be that some simple yoga stretches, a simple veggie pasta, a short walk, 5 minutes meditation if I can't make the full 20, some simple gratitude journaling or simply making smarter decisions after taking a calming box breath

And this is so useful for us actors to put into practice because as we know, it’s almost impossible to predict your schedule during a given week.  By regularly pursuing positive practice, no matter how small the baby step, this serves to keep you engaged, open and flexible. In an unreliable business you'll be more likely to keep your wits about you and your sanity in check!

As parents and actors, with the best will in the world you're not going to get it all done or done 'right' - instead you can focus on doing the right things, bit by bit. The perfectionist in me hates to admit it but the mama-me appreciates it does all add up. We're also building reserves of patience and empathy, flexing on a dime if need be and getting incredibly efficient in very short amounts of time. And who doesn't want an actor like that on set?

How many minutes, you say?

Staying pragmatic doesn't have to be a sombre affair. In fact quite the opposite, as was brought home to me in a casting office the other day. Before doing the slate I unzipped my jacket and exposed my breast to the CD, assistant and camera, thanks to my bra having gotten stuck after nursing my daughter in the waiting room moments earlier. All good - the casting director could relate and offered a similar story of her own! We shrugged and laughed and yes I'm guessing they'll probably remember me in there for a little while πŸ˜Œ

Trying for a baby, pregnancy and having a child can all prove challenging. And then as a parent you’re suddenly in a whole new mode of nurturing and navigating and endless stream of twists and turns - often without external direction or approval. As actors we can learn from this. Do the work, trust your gut and take action. Then leave it alone and move on.  


TIPS & TRICKS

Here are some things I love!

My line learning game have become crazy strong. I now regularly stroll wearing the baby carrier and learn as I go. Hands down the best way to get blood cells pumping, and awaken the memory cells, whilst getting the little one fresh air!

I repeat, Self-tapes can be done whilst a child naps in the next room.

Whether you had a baby last week or twenty years ago, emotions often come much more easily. Enjoy what you get for free!

Build a stable of back-up support and babysitters. Love the idea of a WhatsApp group connecting with other actor parents and sitters so we can all draw from each other in a pinch!

Shout out to Ziva meditation and their daily routine of mindfulness, meditation and manifesting.

Remember that You don't have to do it all perfectly. It's not possible for anyone. Be kind to yourself. There are times when you'll want to enjoy child-free time doing absolutely nothing, and other times when you’ll intend to effectively power through those hours.

One recommendation for the latter: I've enjoyed mindful goal setting and learning to manage my precious time like a pro with The HandelGroup last year. There is no doubt in my mind that the rigorous work I did with my HG coach led me to get crystal clear on my desires, and oh yeah, earning more income whilst pregnant (e.g. fulfilling Voiceover and commercial goals) than I had in the previous five years.

Happy relaxed parents make for happy relaxed children. The little ones are as resilient as their parents and those core loving ties to my family really do go both ways. I bring that love to my work and I know that kiddos thrive on seeing contented parents in their element!

IN CONCLUSION

I’ve written this post more ‘on the fly’ than any previous article. During an unexpectedly intense month I’ve had to snatch moments on planes, in waiting rooms or whilst juggling a teething baby on my lap to pen this blog. I’ve certainly had to take my own advice when it comes to being kind to myself, tapping into reserves of patience and using time wisely. 

As we know, this life thing, this parenting thing and this acting thing is a work in progress. When I was starting out I thought I had to get myself into the right kind of package so that when I was ‘discovered’ I’d be ready. Well there’s nothing like parenthood to blow that notion out of the water – Ready or not, your kids have discovered YOU and they probably prefer you all in.

A basic case in point for us mamas: we don’t choose when labor starts and very often a birth doesn’t go to plan. My daughter was in such a hurry and her parents perhaps a tad naΓ―ve, that she ended up being born on Route 24, driven by a kind Uber driver whose main job is being a New Jersey pastor!

This segue aside, for many parents there’s an instantaneous realization that you might as well expect the unexpected and you’ll never be ‘done.’ This is a good thing folks. So savor the moments you can, enjoy getting out of your own way and don’t forget to breathe..

One MF uncomfortable Uber ride later... 

...and then there were Four!