Saturday, February 19, 2011

My Life in Movies

In 2004 I moved to LA with the intention of getting into the entertainment business. I had fallen in love with the craft of screenwriting, fascinated with the process of creating characters, then figuring out what they would do, say and why. I just wanted to be involved in "the biz", somehow, someway. As the saying goes "Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it!" I ended up working two jobs for nine months, full-time retail management during the days and weekends, and a part-time job as a night casting assistant, just to get my foot in the door. In September 2005 I made the leap to extras casting full-time and have never looked back!

I feel incredibly blessed to really love what I do, to get up every morning looking forward to the day, not dreading it as many people do. I love the business of making movies and television shows for two reasons. One, it's a very creative process and two, it's a collaborative process. It literally takes a village to produce a 30 minute sitcom, and an even bigger village to create a two hour feature film! Everyone working has to step up and do their job to the best of their ability, because if they don't, the whole process breaks down costing thousands to possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost time. This creates a lot of pressure and sometimes stress, but I learned quickly (sometimes by making big mistakes!) how to make sure that "someone" causing problems wasn't me!

There are two layers of people in entertainment production. The crew members, tradesmen plying their craft, whether electricians, lighting, grips, sound techs, camera people, costume people, hair, make-up, assistant directors, or the production assistants running to get the producers' coffee, or to get the actor's shirt that somehow didn't make it onto the wardrobe truck. Also the hard-working teamsters, the people who drive those big trucks to set, or shuttle the cast and crew from parking to the location. They are on set before everyone else each morning, and there to take everything to the next location at wrap for the next day, long after everyone else has gone home. All of these people work very hard, for long hours, sometimes in the rain, snow, cold, or desert heat. They are paid very well, and usually fed well too, but that hardly matters when you are on day 5 of 12-14 hour days and your brain starts to malfunction. The irony is that if they do their job well you will never notice it! This is true of my job in extras casting. The extras or "background actors" as they are called, are essential to creating the fantasy of the movie or TV show. They bring realism to the scene, adding depth and intensity. If they weren't there you would definitely notice, but with them it helps the viewer feel they are watching something that is really happening. If I do my job correctly, casting people who look the part of "cop" or "hooker" (I love casting hookers!), or even a "restaurant patron", you won't even notice them. If you don't notice the people moving behind or in front of the main actors, then I have done my job.

The other group of people in my business are the actors, directors and producers. These are the big money makers, and sometimes they have the big egos to go along with it. I don't really blame them for that, as society has created this business where they are idolized and their every whim catered to. That's why it's so refreshing when I work with someone in this "above the line" group and find them to be humble, down-to-earth, genuinely nice people. A few who spring to mind are Josh Duhamel, from "Las Vegas", Nathan Fillion from "Castle", Jane Lynch from "Glee" (I worked on a movie with her), or Isabella Rossellini, who came to sit with me at lunch one day when she saw me sitting alone. It's wonderful that they have achieved a certain degree of fame, but haven't put themselves above the folks that work so hard to help them get there.

I've also encountered some really nice producers and directors, like Lawrence Kasdan, who is loved and adored by his crew. They work harder for him, because they genuinely like him, and they know that he genuinely likes and appreciates them, and everything they do. I recently had the opportunity to have lunch with a senior VP at Screen Gems, a super-nice man who wanted to talk about what could be done to make the background actors feel more like part of the creative process. This is especially notable because usually the extras are only on set for one day, and are often treated like human props or set dressing.

After 5 years of doing this job, it still hasn't gotten old. I still pinch myself as I walk around the Sony or the Warner Brothers lots, thinking of all the cinematic history there. And now I'm a part of it! It's not really that glamorous most of the time, just meetings and phone calls and deadlines, but the rewards, recognizing one of "my" people clearly in a scene, or better yet, hearing that they were upgraded on set to a principle cast member with lines, make it so worth it. The best part of my job is to be in a position to help other people's dreams come true!

They say that most of us will live long enough to have 3 major careers in our lifetime. I feel so lucky to have already had one that I loved, and now to be in the middle of the second. Can't wait to see what happens next!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

My Valentine to the World

Tomorrow is Valentine's day, a holiday created by Hallmark for sure. Don't misunderstand, I'm a Libra, the sign of partnership and I am about as romantic and dreamy a girl as they come. But for me Valentines day is right up there with New Year's Eve for feeling forced and un-natural. Are we really that far gone that we need to be reminded, once a year to say I love you? What about the other 364 days? This strikes me as particularly ironic, because I truly believe that LOVE is the whole reason for our existence, the meaning of life I guess you could say. I think that when we leave this physical plane what will ultimately matter is not how much money we made, how famous we were, or how many fancy cars we owned. I think the true measure of our success as a human being will be "What was the quality of your love?" Because I believe this, the idea that we should "celebrate" love only one measly day a year seems really out of whack!

As I wrote in my last post, recent events have made me stop and realize how important it is to be fully present in each moment, for we never know when it will be our last. This goes for our relationships too. Life is short, no matter how long you live. You could be gone tomorrow, and even more importantly those you love could be gone tomorrow too. Even more reason to express your love, your appreciation, how wonderful, beautiful and precious your lover, friend, child, sister, brother, father, mother is to you, as often and as fully as you can. If you have love un-expressed in your heart, what are you waiting for?

As I'm thinking about tomorrow, and what it means, I am feeling incredibly blessed to have SO much love in my life, every day, not just on February 14th. So many friends; girl-friends, guy-friends, work-friends, old friends, new friends, soul-friends, family-of-the-heart-friends. My beloved related-by-blood-family. And last but certainly not least, the one who loves me the most and unconditionally, my sweet Gallup. I truly have an embarrassment of riches in the love department!

This year is the best Valentine's day yet, because I am learning what a never-ending well-spring of love I have in my own heart. When I am able to remove my fears that block it, love just keeps bubbling up. I am learning that at our core we are all beings of pure love and light, wrapped in these frail human bodies for the blink of an eye. We are all divine sparks of Spirit, temporarily wearing suits of flesh in order to experience the physical world. Our egos trick us into seeing ourselves as separate and individual, but actually this is an illusion. We are like spokes of the same wheel, all connected to the Source of the Light. "You are not a human being having a spiritual experience. You are a spiritual being having a human experience." By loving you, I am loving myself, and vice-versa. I am learning that I am loveable. I am loving. I AM love!!

This Valentine's day I am having a love affair with life, with the Universe, with Spirit. And by doing so I'm having a love affair with the whole world, because we are really all One. I hope wherever you are, whatever you are doing, you are feeling the LOVE!!!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Vanessa's Legacy

A beautiful soul was taken from us this past weekend, way too soon. It's such a shock when someone young passes unexpectedly, like someone turned off a light and those left behind are suddenly plunged into darkness. She was young, beautiful, sweet, happy, and extremely talented. She radiated goodness. Why does it truly seem that only the good die young? We are left to wonder.

I feel like her final gift to us is the realization of how fragile and very precious life is. We take it so for granted, that we will always have a tomorrow. But losing her has made it so clear; we can be here one minute, going about our everyday life, and gone the next. Even more reason to be here, now, fully present. You may not have a tomorrow, or even this afternoon. Even more reason to laugh, to relax and not worry, to say a kind word to everyone you meet, for it might be the last word you speak, your legacy. Even more reason to love, every day, all day, in every way. To give as much as you can, and like Vanessa to share your passion and your light with the world while you still can. Nothing in life is guaranteed, more time certainly isn't. Live every moment to the fullest. Live large. Don't hold back, go for anything you want, take a risk, give your heart. Before the chance is gone.

I believe we cannot be taken from here until we have finished what we came to do, and usually this brings me comfort in a situation like this. But when someone so young, so full of life and promise is taken, it's hard to understand. I can only trust that she had completed her mission, as hard to accept as that is for those left behind to miss and mourn her.

Love is energy and as such, doesn't ever dissipate. Vanessa is pure love, a spark of divine energy and as such goes on. It's as if we are all walking down a path and she's just gone ahead of us around a bend in the road. Just because we can't see her any longer doesn't mean she no longer exists. She's still here, just out of our view, for now. And she carries our love, our energy, with her as she goes.

My image of Vanessa is of her always smiling. I think that wherever she is now she is smiling. She feels how much we love her, and she knows now what we do not, that she is alright, she's happy, she's free. And I know she's still with us and always will be.

Sending you love and light Nessa, to warm you on your way. You are forever in our hearts, and in our hearts you are forever young and beautiful.