Friday, August 11, 2017

Working Girl

Recently, I've been picking up work as a background extra on various projects. In the past month or so I've worked on 3 different movies, 1 commercial, 2 corporate videos, 1 TV show, and 1 educational video. (And I have more work booked in the coming weeks on another movie.)

I have no ambitions to be an actress. Zero ambition. I'm just doing it because it's easy work to get (if you know what you're doing), and it often pays cash the day of. (Which is a huge perk when you are otherwise unemployed.) (Although the company that said it would pay me the most, hasn't paid me in 6 weeks and counting.)

Which is why the encounter this past week was so funny-
I got called in very last second to work on a corporate video/ad type project. I went in expecting to do the usual standing around in the background. Turns out it was more of a featured spot. No question about it, I will definitely be seen in this short film. The director asked me if I could try and cry on camera. So I made up this crazy story about my dog having cancer and dying, and told it to the other extra in the room. (There will be music and a voiceover in the spot, so while I'm seen talking, you won't hear what I say.)

The traditional filming technique is "wide wide, middle middle, tight tight." Which basically means you take at least one wide, distant shot (picture of the whole room or scene), 2 shots at a closer distance (5-10 feet away), 1 shot from each point of view (in front of the actors, and from behind the actors), and 2 tight shots (looking over the shoulder of character 1 at character 2, and vice versa). I had to do my crying bit through 1 wide shot, 1 middle, and 2 tights. And then the director pulled the camera off the track, and got it right in my face to really "catch the emotion."

The story was sad enough that it got me to cry. But more than that I got the assistant director to cry. And the best boy/gaffer/all around helper guy came up after my little speech and patted me on the back and told me he knew I how I felt because his dog had died that way. I started to laugh because everyone felt so sorry for me. I explained that I had made it all up and I was just acting. The director even gave me a hug!

After I explained it was all fake, the director asked me who my agent is. I told him I don't have an agent because I just do background work, and have no ambitions in this regard. He gave me the names of some agents he likes, and suggested I get signed with someone, because he'd like to work with me again.

This whole situation is hilarious to me. Some people have huge ambitions and work their whole lives to get an agent. I have zero ambitions and have agents coming to me now. And I have more than enough work. Some people work for years to get a commercial placement, and I literally had a featured role in a commercial fall into my lap.

My theory is that it has little to do with me. And a lot to do with the Utah market, and my flexibility and ability to show up. Trust me, before this shoot, I had no idea I could cry on camera. (I guess this makes me a Method actor?) Turns out, I cry pretty good. And I have serious respect for actors who do much bigger emotions with a camera right in their faces. It's not easy!

Now for the next funny part in all of this-
Did I mention the commercial is for a mental health agency? And I was playing the part of a patient talking to a therapist? And they show me walking into the therapist's office, filling out papers, meeting a therapist, and then after the fact, smiling all nice and happy because I'm cured.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I am the face of mental health therapy now.
But it gets better than that. At the shoot I had to sign something saying I didn't work for the therapist, nor would I ever. It's actually 2 agencies merging together. The next day I had a job interview. When I went to prepare for the interview, I saw that it was for one of the 2 agencies. I had to cancel the interview and explain why. They said it was one of the more unique reasons they've ever heard for canceling. (I can only imagine!)

This definitely falls into the "life is funnier than fiction" category. You couldn't make this stuff up if you tried. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

dear diary

Dear Diary, 

Life continues to move at a crazy fast pace. In the last few days I have registered for college classes (prerequisites for my masters degree), picked up 2.5 freelance part-time jobs, which includes promoting another movie (which is a ton of fun to do, and a ton of work), gone on real job interviews,  applied for more jobs, worked as an extra on 2 different projects (1 movie, 1 commercial), written (and got it published) a letter to the editor, prepared for the trip to Greece, and recorded my audition pieces for a choir. 

Oh the things I am capable of when not saddled with a 9-5 job. Speaking of jobs, as crazy as it sounds, if I can keep working as an extra 5 or so times a month, plus do these 2 freelance part-time jobs, and then also work a 10 hr/wk part-time job in social work, I may be able to actually support myself, and not get a "real" job. It's not as bad as it sounds. And it would give me a lot of flexibility as I start taking classes again. 

Who would have ever imagined I'd finally bite the bullet and go back for my masters at age 42? I won't finish until I'm 45, which seems absolutely crazy. But I'm glad I'm doing it. It's relieving and exciting to finally pursue a dream I've always had. I will no longer just be a volunteer doing humanitarian work. But I will be able to eventually do humanitarian work full-time for a cause I greatly care about (fighting sex trafficking). 

I think this year I will also break my personal record for number of countries visited and trips abroad. Technically a few years ago I went to Russia, Romania, Serbia, and Mexico all in a 1 yr period. That was my previous record to beat. If all goes according to plan, I will have visited England, Germany, Holland, Greece, and Canada within this year. (Still working out a possible layover where I might get to add a 6th country to that list.)

The world just keeps spinning faster and faster on me. I've never been more grateful for my diverse set of skills that allows me to do so many things. I just never would have guessed that I'd be drawing on my marketing, creative/music, and medical skills all at the same time. 

Be gentle with me, Universe. Sooner or later I'm going to spin off my axis. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

Making a Difference With the Life You Are Given

Sometimes it can feel like life can move at an overwhelming pace. But it only feels like that when I'm not in control of the events around me that are changing. And that pretty much describes the last 6 weeks of my life.
In a nutshell, I am mostly unemployed, but very actively pursuing 2 unrelated fields, preparing to move (again, but permanently this time), applying to graduate schools, and gearing up for a major humanitarian trip.
It's the humanitarian trip I want to talk about today.

As soon as my job became a thing of the past, I became depressed. It's common and normal to get depressed after losing your livelihood, and having no control over the situation. (It's depressing even when you do have control over the situation.)
But I didn't want to stay depressed. I have a good life. Not having a steady paycheck isn't actually the worst thing ever. I have a good support system. And I have ideas about what I want in the future.
And I also very firmly believe that God is in control of the details. The situation around losing my job was so unexpected and strange that I have to believe it was divinely guided.

Losing my job was God's Will?

Yes. Trust me, it isn't always easy to believe or think that. But I believe that it was. He led me right to this place in life. His Hand was in everything that brought me to Utah and to that job. I have to trust that His hand is in everything that has happened since.
It doesn't mean that everything has been perfect and easy since that day. It's been anything but.
I did have the wonderful and surprising blessing of a great side gig landing in my lap exactly 2 hours after the job ended. I took it. It has been a great situation for me. I've been working as an extra on TV shows and movies. How's that for unexpected and random? Very few people in my life these days were around 20+ years ago when I did that sort of thing before. It was more of a hobby or source of amusement back then. And now somehow it's paying me decent money.
I've been blessed. I've been very fortunate that I haven't hit rock bottom.

The day after I lost my job I started thinking about what it is I really want to do with my life. (I loved my job, and it paid well, and was a good professional experience. But it wasn't fulfilling.) If I had the freedom to do and be anything I want, what would it be?
And the answer came to me very quickly- humanitarian work. Get your hands dirty, make a difference, work to exhaustion, save the world, humanitarian work.
If you know me, you know I've always been deeply involved in different aspects of humanitarian work. But I haven't done something tough or in-depth in several years. I do plenty of volunteer work, but nothing like the work I miss doing. The kind of work I did back in Haiti and Cambodia.
And that's when it hit me. I know where I am needed, I know who I want to serve, and I know how to make it happen.

My dear friend Katie runs a group called Humanitize Expeditions that takes medical teams to various places to do good. Usually it's either Guatemala or Haiti, but this year, for the first time, she's taking people to Greece to serve in a refugee camp.
And she's invited me to go with them.
Specifically I'm going with the team to do some unusual things. First, I do have a medical service background. Many moons ago I was an EMT. I can still take a BP, pulse, and do a quick triage assessment. (Those are skills you don't forget or lose. In fact, when I go to the doctor now, I almost always try and take my BP myself, or at least guess what it is if they won't let me touch the sphygnometer.) So I will be able to support and assist the real medical staff. But I'll also get to put my writing skills to work. I will be interviewing the refugees, taking video, and pictures of them, and sharing them with the world. I want to share the plight of the refugee in an unbiased and true way.
It is so important that we all understand what the refugees are really going through. We don't learn the unbiased truth from the media. They are telling a different story about the situation. They aren't telling the stories of the individuals. And I want to share the personal stories.

Preserving the truth and their stories is so important for all of us to learn from. In the future do we want the next generations to know what CNN or Fox said about the aid or bombs regarding the refugees? Or do we want them to know what led the people to leave their homes and risk their lives just to end up in a tent city thousands of miles away? I believe it's the personal stories that matter. Those are the ones we can learn from.
One special thing I will be doing on this trip is taking a camera that prints instant photos to share with the refugees. If there is one thing I have learned from humanitarian work, and traveling around the world, it is that small children love to take pictures with you. But usually that pictures ends up on your phone, and the child gets nothing. So I'm bringing my instant camera and film so that the children can take a picture home with them.
Earlier in July I was in Germany with Clog America. The group performed for refugee families that have resettled in Germany. I took my camera with me and went through 60 pictures in less than 20 minutes.

When I would first take the picture and hand it over the children didn't understand what was happening. (It was just a white picture.) But once it developed, the kids loved it and would run to show their parents. And nearly every single parent would come up to me with their whole family and ask, "family photographia?" These families that have lost everything as they traversed the world, don't have old family photos with them. The tiny little Polaroid picture I could hand them made them so happy.
The pictures interspersed here are the refugee children from that experience. They were so darling. And they became our instant friends for life. Any time they would see us in town after that they were so happy. I got many spontaneous hugs from small children for several days, all because I took their picture.
Doesn't this little girl's story deserve to be heard and preserved?

I can't do this trip alone. If there is one downside to unemployment it's the limited funds. If I am to make this trip a reality, I must raise more money in order to go. The funds will go to travel expenses for the medical and support teams, and more importantly to medical supplies.
I'm already taking a full suitcase of clothing and towel donations. (My clothes for the trip will have to fit in my backpack.) I have easily 5 more suitcases worth of clothing and supplies I could take with me. But I have to raise the money to pay for the baggage fees. I'm working with the airline to work something out, and I'm working with Best Buy to see if I can get more film donated. But even after their help, I still need to raise more money to make it all happen.

The money raised really and truly goes right to a refugee family. And in return you get to see the pictures of the families they go to. You'll get to see video and hear their stories first hand. What other charitable donation can do that for you? Your donation no matter how big or small will make a difference, and you will get to see the person it benefited.

You can donate through my GoFundMe account here. Or if you prefer, you can send it via to me directly. Donations large or small are welcome. If you want to make a specific donation, the film for the camera is $16 a packet. And I want to take 20 packets or more if possible.
At the risk of sounding like a Sally Struthers commercial, for just $16 you can make a huge difference in the life of a refugee.
(forgive the shakiness of the video- I was also holding a kid on my hip as I filmed it)

Working Girl

Recently, I've been picking up work as a background extra on various projects. In the past month or so I've worked on 3 different m...

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