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.
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?
For the past two weeks, I have been lost in the proverbial paladrome of KICK ASS at Dave Boushey’s International Stunt School. Most days have consisted of taking and faking hits as we learned various styles of fighting for film. Most nights have involved me dragging my broken body to the nearest bed or couch to fall asleep before I work up the energy to stretch my sore muscles. This is my excuse for not covering the action as it comes bu giving a substandard retrospective.
Attention: this is not a review. And there are spoilers. After having read some of the local reviews, I am concerned that some “critics” no longer know how to watch movies and write reviews, so I am purposefully straying far from that path.
I will not say that The Dark Knight Rises was flawless. My boyfriend attests that its prequel, The Dark Knight was for its comic book/superhero genre. The first act did drag, indulging each character with at least a 30 second pity party if not multiple witty banters over the same subjects. Though I adored Anne Hathway’s CatWoman (and am currently seeking a catsuit replica), her little oneliners got old and failed to fit the dark context. Maybe the beleaguered girl power references belong in something more campy, like Spiderman. We get it- CatWoman is a fucking BAD ASS & happens to be a WOMAN. And once the second act heated up with France’s Revolution, Occupy Wall Street, and Arab Spring all rolled into one, I was left to question some of the finer details. Why did no one think to lie down on the ice, thus spreading one’s surface area to safely disperse weight/ Is a classic stand off between rebels with tanks and unarmored police forces really the best strategy? How did Bruce Wayne make it back from that hole in Wherever, Middle East? And what was the purpose of the poorly choreographed fist-to-cuffs between our hero and villain? With the Batmen series, Nolan has created much more than a superhero movie and therefore will be held to a higher standard of logic, character development, and artistry, which he ultimately fell just short off. Sorry mate- you can never replace Heath Ledger and it wasn’t Inception.
All this being said, the film inspires me to some serious contemplation.
If Occupy Wall Street had evolved into a militarized movement, would we have faced a similar scene to France’s Storming of the Bastille? Is our government so hopelessly broken (and it is broken) that we should cut off the festering wound? In the movie, Bane’s “People’s Revolution” was purely a front, but would it be so far from the truth? I have fallen a bit behind the times in current events, but has any of the countries whose revolutions of 2011 swept us into Arab Spring successfully ended the old regime, the old tendencies of consolidating power and withholding communal needs & human rights? If you want to see a kleptocracy fall, what will rise in its place?
Bruce Wayne is not Batman without his significant resources. In Dark Knight Rises, Bane annihilates Wayne’s investments, a plot device that conveniently strips him of his “1%” status just before Gotham’s quarantine and brief Reign of Terror. Nolan’s plys the audience to accept Batman as one of Us, proving Bruce Wayne fights above and beyond his privilege and providing the symbolic Everyman hero that Americans love so much. But things are never that simple. Even when Bruce Wayne returns with no finances to speak of, all of Batman’s accoutrements, support team, and technologies that rival Iron Man are still available. Even when Bruce Wayne has none of these affects, he still has 7 years of intensive martial arts training over another opponent. And even before this, he probably had the best private education money could by, molding an intelligence which becomes unexpectedly useful when one sacrifices their cushy existence to live among thieves. And to cap things off, he has one ambition, one direction, one allegiance to answer to. True, he acquired it through his parents’ murder, a tragedy no one wants. But as exemplified in George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones, it is familial and romantic Love that keeps a man from upholding Honor to its extreme. Bruce Wayne has everything to push him forward and nothing to hold him back from becoming and executing Batman.
Could we, could I ever aspire to the same? I read a fun hypothesis- Becoming Batman by E Paul Zehr which questions the possibility of becoming a superhero. While it goes into a lot of fun biology, exercise science, comic book lore and martial arts technique, the one that remains is unfettered ambition. Could I drop everything, everyone, every other distraction and relentlessly pursue one target for the rest of my life?
Tuesday night’s performance was going really well. The audience loved the Barroom Brawl, my pirate fight well off without a hitch, and everyone was in pretty good spirits. And then sometime during the Beowulf battle, Tara accidentally cut into Ryan’s hand with the God sword, a real nasty looking broadsword. I didn’t see the event or catch much of the contextual details. Needless to say, the fight was immediately stopped, actors brought offstage, and the everyone went into “battle stations” mode as I sometimes think of it. It’s these kinds of moments and their subsequent effects that bring out the professionalism in a company. Steve attended first aid on Ryan and swept him to the hospital. Stacy & Molly consoled Tara from hysterical tears. Spare hands rushed to prep John’s costume & props for the next scene. We didnt have anyway of communicating to the booth what was the next plan of action, so Tom had come down to the stage to announce that they were going straight to the final video. I interrupted him in character of Cinderella, swept him offstage and cleared the scattered props as part my general cleaning routine. During the rest of the live fights, everyone was choreographing changes to the final Melee to accomodate our lack of 3 performers, which was eventually cut from that night’s performance. But the show went on and we bowed to a standing ovation. The audience recognized what we had all just gone through.
These things happen. There are always inherent risks, in anything but especially combative related activities. We take every precaution we can against them, practicing safety standards and fight calls and being a focused responsive partner. But accidents happen. It’s these accidents that cause some members of my other show to cringe at my aspirations towards such antics. But in a weird way it reminds me of what Bryan does as a soldier. He’ll take every precaution. He’ll think on his feet and rely on the smarts and professionalism of his fellows. But ultimately, he volunteered himself into harm’s way for a paycheck, for being part of something larger than himself, and for the energy of living large in the moments between life and death. Not to aggrandize stage combat or belittle warfare, but they are supposed to be similar and should be approached with the same sense of responsibility and risk. Risk is inherent in anything exciting. We accept it and move forward. The show goes on.
Grace, good luck, and fortune generally has no sense of timing. It can skip whole months or years and suddenly spring forth with the fervor of a marching band behind its timing, tripping over its own syncopation.
All of a sudden, after a decade of adoration at least 4 good years of headshot submissions, Shakespeare Theatre of DC has invited me to audition for their apprenticeship company. The thought thrills to the point where I’m frankly terrified to think about it. Shakespeare Theatre is where I saw my first Shakespeare play, Richard III, falling forever in love with villains and manipulative mindfucks. It’s where I poured over the cast’s bios, searching for college options. It’s where I caught onto Daniel Breaker’s rising star, Kelly McGillis’s falling, Floyd King’s divine comedy and that ginger apprentice Caleb’s lusty appeal. I don’t remember your last name, but if you’re out there, call me. You played Poins in the 2004 Henry IV, part 1 and my virgin heart swooned. This is the theatre that is soon to accept their Tony award for best regional theatre. Yeah, to me, this is all too big of a deal.
And of course, the audition dates are June 6 & June 18-19; one option is smack dab in the middle of One Slight Hitch tech and the other spans into a Tuesday, in which I’ll have a 7:30 show. When I brought my predicament to the stage manager, he stared at me blankly and bluntly announced, “I got nothing for you.” So as it stands, one of my most prized auditions of my young career will take place on 2:35 on a Monday in June, after a red flight from my Sunday show, and before my red eye, to catch my Tuesday call time. They will have to see everything they want of me in that window because even if so privileged, I can’t attend the callbacks because of the conflict- a conflict I am so lucky to have because it’s a honest-to-god professional show. Too much grace in too little time, right?
And to the odd someone who might question, “That’s alot of money & time to spend on a potentially 10 minute. And you can’t even attend a callback. Why bother?” I say, why yes, yes it is totally economically unsound and professionally futile. It’s called love and adolescent ambitions. Don’t even try to logic with me on this point.
There is not enough arnica to save me from looking like a rape victim at this moment. “Rape survivor” as Nik my kettlebell trainer joked, “like you beat the guy up and got away.” Kidding aside, I’ve got an interesting bruise from a double hang clean workout FROM LAST WEEK, a brown-red blemish on my right shoulder from rolling in the pirate fight, remnants of kickboxing bag work littering my shins, and inexplicable watercolors pockmarking my outer thighs. Really I have no idea where they came from. I realize that I have a sensitive epidermal that takes a shining to shiners, but this is getting ridiculous. I want to keep my activity level high but don’t want to start worrying people. I can’t be a stunt woman looking constantly like a bruising blushing flower. There’s no intervention to stage, no abusive relationship to run. Indeed if it were just the one activity or other, it could be more easily explained away. As an actor, my body is my instrument and until further notice, increasingly becoming a canvas as well.
Up next I will be flaunting my fake fighting skills with Performer’s Forge at the Erikson Theatre. Expected to encounter the evil Pirate Bloody Rebecca, a bitchy Cinderella, Circe and other violent characters. Come on down!