Though not a categorical nerd, I tend to obsess on a selection of subjects not directly related to my acting work. I’m a health/fitness junkie, a sampler of many movement styles, and am researching all things motion capture. I both need a place to store my findings as well as a soapbox to publish my weekly workouts and other accomplishments. And this wordpress is not quite the place for it. Here, I want you to find my finished products, my involved and insightful commentaries, my professional face as a working actress. So here I announce my new side project: joiningtheserkis.tumblr.com
There you will find me a work in progress, aspiring from multiple angle to join the top ranking performer in the medium- Andy Serkis. I’m trying to combine my research in the technology, industry contacts, as well as performance training to be in fighting shape when the opportunity presents itself.
Nothing really more to say here. It’s all there.
As an actor, I get it. I’m on a career path that has no set path. But consciously pursuing work in Motion Capture? That has no set precedent.
In anticipation of my move to Los Angeles, I have attempted to do my market research on the local Motion Capture industry. Just as a commercially inclined actor will stock up on information regarding commercial casting directors, agents, companies and find social media solutions to begin networking with these potentail employers, I intend to arrive in country with an intelligence on my target list. Game directors, agents, mocap technicians, animation directors, MoCap & VFX houses- these are the people I need to know. The trouble I keep finding is that these people are not so easily approached on the internet. In the more traditional venues of entertainment industry, casting directors, agents, directors expect an influx of actors to professionally engage with them and have various methods of making themselves accessible. To receive, find, sell actors is part of their job. Yet this expectation is not put upon the employers of mocap performers, to my knowledge. This has overwhelmed my remote search.
And it’s not like I have any leads from following the by example of other mocap performers. In this post by the ManyMotion blog, Oliver Cooke delves into the different kinds of mocap performers and what to look for from a casting perspective. Aside for the athletes brought on for sports games, there are character actors and stunt performers. What Oliver doesn’t quite touch upon is how these actors get brought into the audition room in the first place. From the character actor perspective, none of these actors are developing their careers or specializing in the medium. Even Andy Serkis was name talent from the britisth stage and film before he even came to motion capture. To achieve character actor status on Motion Capture project seems to require an extensive resume in Film/TV or complete luck of the draw. In an interview with Heather Gordon of Bioshock: Infinite and Woody Schultz of Polar Express, both of them didn’t even know what they were auditioning for. But they had both received some phenomenal broadway and hollywood credits. As for the stunt work side, you are a stuntie applying a previous career of skills to the medium, not skills accrued for the medium. And getting onset as a stuntperson has its own separate channels of proving skills to coordinators and local crews.
So I currently conclude that I can’t directly pursue the performance format that I am so enthusiastic to engage in. I must become both an accredited actress and stuntwoman. I must be literally at the right place at the right time, which seems like a passivity on par with career suicide. But after a couple days of circuitous research and online deadends, I think my time might be better spent beefing up the typical skillset, honing the craft, than knocking on front or back doors well everyone is using the side entrance…
I’m going back to the gym.
So I guess I’m going to come clean about something. As suggested by Flight of the Concords, I’m a part time model. But at 24 years old, 5’7″, and 130 some odd pounds, it’s unlikely you’re ever going to see me on a billboard, on a runway, or in a magazine. But since 2010, I have been quietly making some odd paychecks working as a model… an art & figure model. This generally means sans clothes, which generally raises eyebrows for many, both inside and outside the entertainment industry. If my parents ever read my social media soapboxes, they’d probably faint and after they came to, shrug their shoulders at my contining circuitous path in performing arts. However, the question arises in various actor circles- does being caught in your birthday suit negatively affect your acting career?
I personally think it has everything to do with context and attitude.
In my freshman year at Playwrights Horizons Theatre School, our december design “midterm” was to draw two full human figures, preferably from life. This assignment had evolved through the school’s tradition as “the naked party”, in which each respective design class would reserve sometime together in which everyone who strip to the extent of their comfort level and draw each other. The assignment served many purposes. We got to draw figures from life, which beats out any sculptured likeness or photograph. We bonded as class- note that these people were my only classmates for the year in a discipline that demands intimacy. And we got over ourselves as these precious physical beings. I can’t which acting teacher blew my mind when they said, “In that moment, acting truthfully is both the most important thing in the world and no big deal”. When you get over the huge hurdle of being comfortable with your body in space– your objective self full of imperfections, inseamed into and yet bifurcated from your subjectivity– you can begin to use it artistically as a tool. This is something that seems ingrained in dancers, athletes, other movement specialists that sometimes lost on actors of a certain training. Point is this experience allowed me a second look at “those” kinds of roles for “those” kinds of girls. When a play called for an inexplicably naked woman to recreate Le Dejeuner sur L’herbe, I was game to use my instrument to serve the story.
In any project, whether theatre, film, photograhy or other studio arts, I have the right as a collaborating artist to question, does the _______ (in this case nudity) serve the story and is that a story I want to partake in telling? I’ve heard this gamut of questioning apply to so many storytelling features, from singing to violence to special effects. But let’s stay in the buff for now. When at the encouragement of a friend who saw Le Dejeuner I began developing a portfolio, I was and continue to be extremely protective of my “story” (ie- brand) as a figure model. I want to lend my nudity towards the expression of beauty, of the female form, of light & color, not of smut or debased sexuality. There’s a keen difference between Kate Winslet stripping for Titanic or Hilary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry and the girls playing prostitutes in Smokin’ Aces.
As I continue down this sideline of work, I keep finding new & intriguing insights. Recently, I started more seriously pursuing the more steady gigs as an art model in studio drawing sessions at various art schools. I have never been so pleasantly Asexually objectified in my life. Holding a static pose for up to 20+ minutes, it’s not about me as a person or an actor or something with tits, ass, and a cunt. It’s about a living human body in space available to teach these artists to accurately depict the 3D form with 2D tools. And some of the images, stories, art they render from my body as a platform make me proud to be part of that collaboration. And it is a collaboration. I am providing a skilled service to hold unsual shapes for extended time frame, to know my body well enough to create interesting angles, to give the other artist what details they need to express their part of the story. Maybe I’ve been lucky or smartly selective, but I have only been treated with this kind of respect during these situations, caught on camera or sketchpad.
Now all this being said, you’re not going to easily find my naked self plastered over the internet. But if and when you do, it won’t be a sexual scandal. It’ll be like the above, interesting, classy, well done, and above all, a good story.
If you should run mad like a hot January and embark on a massive rerun campaign of both Inside Acting Podcast‘s 100 episodes and Emily Grace’s Build Your Own Buzz marketing for actors, you may sympathize with my plight. Inspired to such an overwhelming explosion of actions, I’m left singed in the sooty blast remains like an ACME cartoon with nothing actually achieved. Time and again the ubiquitous, omniscient, and alluring they advise to focus career aspirations towards one end and along that way, tailor your brand as a creative product to a specific and sellable description. “Who am I?” is less of concern than “What product/service as an actor/perform do I fulfill?”
It would be so easy if I only were obsessed with one niche of the entertainment industry. But the combination of classical acting with an emphasis on high levelin’ language, combat & aerial stunts aimed at action genre, and use of MotionCapture (which is its own pandora’s box) leaves me at an odd crossroads wanting to take all the roads less traveled by at once, layered like an accordion by parallel universes, slightly eschewed.
I may be able to connect these dots by simply owning up to the geek culture I have tripped and fallen in with. Always never quite nerdy, geeky, techie enough, I have tiptoed those “alternative” societies, now swiftly becoming mainstream. I always seem to come to that coolly uncool party late, brought as an uninvited guest but friend of a friend. But since September, I have been actually quite closely affiliated with Seattle’s Steampunk. Though it never got off the ground, I was the heroine of a Steampunk webseries pilot. I attended SteamCon IV & SteamPunk Ball. I shot off historic firearms in interbellum costume with the NW Gentlemen’s Adventure Society. I’m dating a future steampunk novelist and occasionally attending his Bartitsu classes. This is all rather involved for someone supposedly not of the genre. Breathing it all in, I’m encouraged by all that Steampunk encompasses as an aesthetic– basically everything I want to do as a performer. It has sex appeal, class, refined language, cut throat action, and gizmos to get the job done. Looking back to the future, I wonder, could I successfully brand myself as a Steampunk actor? What would that even look like?
For those later to this party than I, Steampunk is an aesthetic born out of literary scifi/fantasy subgenres in the early 1980′s. Drawing from Victorian Science Fiction, Steampunks imagine alternative histories and futures without the invention of the internal combustion engine and everything that proceeded. Looking for relevant examples, I fall into the geekgasm of Felicia Day of The Guild and Kato of SteamPunk Couture & SteamGirl. Hella late, I know. Both these women are doing it, connecting the disparate streams of artistic expression into something cohesive. While I’d not dare compete with Kato for the title of hottest steamgirl ever (worth the subscription fee btw), why can’t I shoot to be Lara Croft of steampunk?
Anyone got a spare corset and winchester in their closet?
I don’t often write about such topics as morosely overdone as rejection. I mean, the idling entries of an actress in her mid-20′s bemoaning a lost part– who honestly gives a shit? Maybe it alludes to my more self centered nature or a grander frame of reference, but to hear some sweet little somebody cry over not getting what she wanted… Come on! Get over yourself! There are wider concerns than your precious little ego. “Why don’t they like me?” This is generally the question that shrouds the corpses of many an actor, dead by self harm or given up. It’s not about you! They didn’t like the product you were selling. Go back and either fix the product (which you’ll never been quite sure is what they were after) or go selling to a different buyer. So when I get down on any particular rejection from a part, it’s less about my ego, as my ego would like to think.
What hurts this time around is the general uncertainty that has been released. In the past couple weeks, I auditioned for some biggies. An MFA program at the Old Globe in San Diego, the ingenue character at Portland’s Artists Repertory, an ensemble character in a great play going up at ACT Seattle at the end of the summer, and a featured character on Grimm. While I still await San Diego’s and a previous audition for the National Players’ verdict, Grimm, ART, & ACT made their choices. This translates into a blank slate beyond my anticipated yoga teacher training in San Francisco in May and friend’s wedding in early June. Seattle will assuredly no longer be my home. As broadly schemed, I will simply head south along the coast until I hit that infamous city and spend the rest of the summer in “scout mission” mode. If something clicks, then I’ll be sticking around. If my gut says go, I’ll follow instinct back to NYC. This time around my crosscountry will be entirely dependent on my whims rather than wills of others or basic economic needs. It’s a tad unsettling and the underlying fear hurts.
Back from Portland having indulged in a weekend of champagne cocktails, Powell’s bookstore, bathing suit shopping, and shows. We saw Jeeves in Bloom @ Taproot Theatre before the rendezvous south and The Lost Boy on Saturday, which was deemed lackluster and its second act abandoned for other nightly revels. But the chief destination of our pilgrimage was to witness Portland Center Stage’s regional premiere of Venus in Fur by David Ives. I came across this Tony award winning play last summer and it has climbed high in my esteem since- perhaps one of the few plays read 4-5 times that I haven’t auditioned/performed. While the play itself is no literary sensation- I’m not sure if Ives himself has entirely unraveled the comedic mystery he’s spun- the role of Vanda is gold. Nina Arianda’s broadway inception of the character won her the 2012 Tony Award for Best Actress. It is my biased belief in the mastery of this role onstage will prove to be a break out for many young women in the next couple of years as Venus disseminates through the regional theatre circuit.
And it does take mastery. The shifts between Vanda the beleaguered yet brassy actress and Vanda the refined and sensual madame are instantaneous and require a level of classical grace and uncanny comedic timing. She moves her director, her lover, her captor to artistic, sexual, and personal frustrations at a moment’s notice, holding the audience in sway. While Ginny Myers Lee charmed as the elevated Vanda Duyanev, she didn’t exactly inspire the scrappy hustler of a NY actress that I so connected to in the script. The build towards the helenic ending felt more like an old staircase rather than a smooth ascendance as Vanda exacts her revenge.
But revenge of what? At the fault of either playwright, director, or actors, Thomas Novachek as the antagonist remains a little muddy. At the top of page 1, he really is a sweet guy, though exasperated at the current crop of insufficient actresses. “Our Vanda has to be out there.” And his described relationship to his fiancee, he’s a doormat. Is this man truly our villan, our masochistic slave, our pentheus from which the Bacchae must inflict their wrath?
But is the ship sailing yet? January is when everyone says they are going to change their life. End of August/September is the time when it actually happens. Within the course of two weeks, I finished stunt school, moved to Seattle, broke up with my boyfriend of 4+ years, and have been job hunting ever since. It was one of those mornings, waking up in a new setting and wondering what the hell happens next? The desire to go back to NYC seems logical enough. There is no longer an emotional reason for me to stay in this city. But it is a city and I am finding a kinda of peace here that I haven’t experienced for the better part of a year. I practically laughed when I heard a carhorn go off. I’m not done with this place, or perhaps it’s not done with me.
I realize that September marks a new school year and I have alot of learning to do. I need to learn how to stand financially independent, treat my friends with the support and respect friends deserve, and relearn to enjoy the company I keep with myself. More tangibly, I intend to attain that which I came out to this city for- create a voice over demo, earn a personal training certificate, and train to a physically competitive condition. I am a physical performer and need to practice what I preach. Once these three landmarks are attained, I will look ahead to the next city, new or old, new adventures, and rekindling old visions for my life.
In the afternoon of our first day, we started in on unarmed combat. Basic western style boxing and barroom brawling, though of course with variations for film. Contrary to the instincts of what little training I’ve had, Dave instructed that we keep our fighting fists farther from our face, more in line with the neck and shoulders. Now that I’m learning the nuts & bolts of film fighting, I’m understanding why real fighters heckle action movies or fight sequences. Choreographed fights have a duty to tell the story and needs to be slowed down and told big for the audience to follow. Real fights end in moments, often without a sure consensus of what actually happened, except if one has the advantage of ring side replay. Aside from adjustments of angles & distance, most of the punches are the same as I learned in unarmed for stage combat. Add some fun kicks, contact knees, and hair pulls on the following day, it was all in all a fun and easy going review.
And then we paired up for a little choreography. While fair play and even acceptance on everyone’s talents might be a nice sentiment, I quickly realized that it should have no place in an environment like stunt school. I made the unfortunate mistake of pairing with a girl who despite her fit figure, had never engaged herself physically in this context in her life. As a swimsuit and lingerie model, she thought stunt school would be a fun thing to do, before going on to become an actress. Because of course it was just that easy. Her diffident approach to the career I have been slaving over insults and angers me right off the bat. Here is the walking example of looks outplaying work, boob job winning over talent. The woman couldn’t fight, could act for shit, and couldn’t continue to work right up to the end of our allotted rehearsal time. And she couldn’t see her faults. After our dismal fight, she remarked, “Do you want me to email you footage? It looks pretty good.” I knew otherwise and had my suspicions confirmed during our review. Mr. Boushey laid into her for low energy, missed targets, dismal acting, etc. To me, he said “nice reactions. Let’s see what happens when you get with someone you can really kick the crap out of.” A day and half wasted babysitting a model through her choreography and no chance to actually challenge myself with valid feedback. Now obviously I won’t always have the pleasure of fighting with compitent people, but hopefully those situations I will be paid to make them look tough, not paying someone else to feel in some ways held back by the class.
I went home angry to the point of tears that night, prepared to be a ruthless and partner chosy bitch the next day.
On Tuesday, I was set on fire. Anything can happen on a Tuesday right? I knew that an intro to pyrotechnic stunts was one of the highlights of the school and I had been eagerly anticipating my participation. I mean, come on, who hasn’t been slightly curious what it would be like to be lit on fire? It’s right up there with those fleeting moments as a train or car crosses my line of vision and I wonder, what if I just stepped out in front and collided? It’s not a suicidal tendency but a severely fucked up curiosity. But I digress…
An entire half of the class had be lit the day before, some more successfully than others. Will and Catherine got a little scorched on their ears. Well more than a little- Will went to the hospital for second degree burns. And Spencer had some boils on the back of his neck. So the prep, safety team, and stunties were especially on our guard for the second day’s run.
I buddied up with Anthony Hoang, talented actor, martial artist, and circus clown. I assisted the prep team, dealing with his clothes & costume, and coating his exposed skin with ZelGel. His burn was pretty bad ass- he might’ve looked like a yakuza mob boss but for the ridiculous bandana the teacher insisted he wear on his head for safety sake.
My turn. The NoMex suit worn under my fire costume was freezing. It had been marinating in a bucket of ZelGel on ice overnight, in order to provide as much negative charge to the expected fire. I was immediately plunged into recollections of swimming off the coast of Maine. The ZelGel was also globbed down the center of my back, neck, hands, and entire face. Standing out on the tarped, fully dressed in oversized cotton clothes, I had the feeling of being underwater, trying to take direction from people far away above the surface. Eric talked me through the protocols, to take a deep breath before I gave the ok, and hold it throughout the burn to prevent inhalling poisonous and hot gases. And then Ish painted my back with accelerant, a mixture of diesel and rubber cement. And within a few short calls, he announced, “you’re on fire”. But for the smoke and the faint crackle, I couldn’t shake the underwater feeling. But I waved my arms and made surprised and painful face as I was told. Eventually the oxygen ran low and I dropped to the ground to be put out by the safeties and let sopping wet to an outdoor shower, where I gave into the numbing cold of hose.
All in all- I was nonplussed. Though I can suck it up and deal like an proper scots-born girl, I generally say I’d rather be too hot than too cold. And to go through all the safet procedures and cool just for the momentary fire dance didn’t excite me as I anticipated. Of course if given the opportunity to be lit on fire for a paycheck, I’ll take it. Same as the stunt driving. But I don’t think I will be seeking it out or continue training for it the way I might for other disciplines. So Mom can breathe a sigh of relief- your baby girl wont be setting herself on fire again for awhile.