The Question No One Asks Me

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Egg and cheese on a sesame bagel?! Yes, it is happening and by the time you read this, it will have happened. Why a sesame bagel? What happened to the everything? Well, my friends, here is a lesson for you. When you order a bagel from a deli and not a bagel shop, the everything bagels are lies. You know, like Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, “Dido sings like that live, too!” and  “It gets better”. They lack an essential and basic ingredient: salt. Without salt, it is not an everything bagel. That bagel is a “somethings” bagel, and it can go to hell with that guy’s “Uh, yeah, I’ll take a blueberry bagel toasted with jalapeño cream cheese.” 

I was asked to be a guest writer by Jason Almenas from Modern Horrors. He had been inspired by Where’s My Bagel? and gave me free rein to write any tale based on true-life experiences I have had as an actor, more specifically as an actor in horror movies. I said that of all the questions that have been posed in interviews, no one has ever asked what roles I have turned down. There have been a handful, so I decided to write about the very first pass. 

If you wait until after the credits, you can click on the link that takes you to Reddit where my post made an appearance and shockingly did not get torn to shreds by the intimidating  terrifying  interesting souls that frequent the site. 


I’ve been through a lot as a horror actress…

I’ve been pregnant with both my father and my brother’s babies (The Woman, Jug Face), been bear clawed by Sean Young and burned on the thigh with her cigarette while she checked to see if my hymen was intact (Jug Face). I’ve been strung up and whipped and shot in the head by Larry Fessenden (Jug Face, Pod), had my throat slit (Jug Face), my knee blown out and ran up hills in pussy-deep snow with nothing on but a turtleneck and a pair of stretchy jeans (The Mind’s Eye). I have dragged a 200 lb man across hard wood floors and into a porcelain bathtub where I squatted over him for hours as the fake blood fused our bodies together and tore our skin as we slowly separated after we wrapped (Darling). All of this being considered, you’d guess that I would be game for everything. But you would be wrong.

Jug Face

That’s going to leave a mark.

I have been in five horror films that I am incredibly proud of over the last 8 years living in New York City. These films have been to prominent film festivals, graced the New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, and various other magazines, newspapers, and blogs. I have participated in countless interviews answering questions ranging from the moronic to the brilliant. But one question I am never asked is,“What movies have you turned down?”

In the world of independent film, nothing is about the fortune and fame. At the SAG ultra-low budget rate of $125/day (12 hour days, 6 days a week, before taxes), The “offer” is for the chance to elevate yourself as a performer, work with a talented cast and crew, and hopefully make new friends in the process. So you can bet your ass I don’t take every role that comes my way just so I can claim, “Ughh, yah I’m a working actor!” when goober #5,603 at my local dive bar asks me. While I have met a couple of actors that accept every offer, a handful of them are moderately happy with this lifestyle, while a lot more are considering(  or already indulging in) heavy klonopin and lexapro cocktails while they try to make the shit shine.

Without naming names (because, after all, I do need to keep some things for my memoir), I will entertain you with one of my favorite tales of refusal.

This particular horror film was going to be shot in Germany, and most happily: in Berlin! I was going to nail this audition. Whatever the hell they wanted, I’d do it. Wear raw, bloody chicken on my body screaming down the streets in freezing temperatures? DONE. Put leeches in my panties with arms outstretched crying for my mommy? DONE. I got the call from my agent as I was out job hunting for sideline work. They needed me to get there in an hour, so they would send me the sides (the audition material) and the script. I didn’t have time to read the full script, but I memorized my sides and began reading what I could on the train ride to the casting office. It was about a sadistic and masochistic priest that ran a program for troubled kids. The children were promiscuous, disobedient, confused, and trouble makers. It was a horror version of Girl, Interrupted. It was fine.

I didn’t love it, didn’t hate it, and Berlin was going to make it all worth it.

I went in and slaughtered that audition. Was the director creepy as fuck? Absolutely. But I was going to go to mother-fucking Berlin, and I knew it! I planned a trip home to Ohio in all of my confident glory. It’s almost impossible for me to ever leave the city because of auditions that pop up last minute, and my sideline work (dog sitting). No sooner had I put down my bags, greeted our boxers, and raided my mom’s deli drawer in the fridge when my agent called.

I was right: I got the part!

“Hi, Lauren.”

LAC -”HEY!”

“So, we got an offer for the Berlin film.”

LAC -”THAT’S AWESOME!”

Silence.

“Yeah…did you get a chance to read the end of the script?”

LAC- ”Uhh…no.” I can’t believe it! What a fucking imbecile! Why didn’t I read the rest of the script?! I was too excited about the prospect of getting the hell out of New York, making a bit of money, and traveling, I didn’t even do my JOB.

“We hadn’t either until they made the offer. And when they were talking about signing a nudity rider, we decided to read it.”

Up to this point, I had never done nudity in a film. I wasn’t against it, but it had to make sense to me. Not a deal-breaker, for sure, but certainly something I needed to investigate further.

“We decided it was best to turn down the offer. There’s a very graphic anal sex scene at the end of the film. And we don’t know this production company or this director. We feel that it’s not safe to send you to a foreign country with no one you know and have a scene like this come up.”

The Mind's Eye

This won’t end well.

I should also explain that the casting directors had been involved in the controversial film Shortbus that gained some notoriety for it’s mostly real sex scenes (i.e. “real bonin’”). You can read a hilarious and honest blog post about it here written by an actor in the film. My agents obviously had a feeling that there was a deliberate reason the director sought out this casting agency, and it involved my butt hole. I’ll never know if my Marmite motorway would have been exploited for a trashy interpretation of The Magdalene Sisters. And to this day, I never did hear about the film being made.

Someday I’ll get to Berlin. I’ll visit the Reichstag, Brandengurg Gate, and the Potsdamer Platz. I’ll do it all, but with my back fanny intact.


Lauren Ashley Carter and the Role That Went Too Far from horror

Guest Editorial: Lauren Ashley Carter and the Role That Went Too Far

 

Bloody Transcripts

Sable’s on the upper east side in Manhattan has incredible EVERYTHING. The sable (duh), the lox, the salmon trimmings (WHOOOOA), salmon salad, and I’ve heard the lobster salad is their signature shit. I can’t eat it, and not because I’m a good Jew, but I’m allergic. So, incidentally, digestively speaking, I’m a little bit of a good Jew. 

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I haven’t written in a while, and I’m not sure if listening to Todd Rundgren is a great idea right now, nevertheless: it’s happening.

imgres A dream does go on forever, Todd. Damn it all.

I finally found myself a sideline job taking care of a diabetic dog, and I’ll be moving into a new sublet on July 4th, so that’s all incredibly exciting and time consuming. I also decided while researching for a script I’m writing, that I wanted to pursue higher education and get my master’s degree. Earning my bachelor’s was such an asset in securing a happy and healthy life, I thought another half-decade in school would be a sagacious investment!

images-1 Yes.

What I really need is a fucking hobby. I spend most days preparing to tape an audition by memorizing pages of dialogue that I’ll never utter again for a tape that probably will never be seen, and recording voice over auditions in various apartments for a number of commercial and industrial products. It becomes frustrating for an assortment of reasons that I can and do go on about into the wee hours of the night. I lament in my journal, or to any poor soul that happens to be close to me, including “Puddin'”, the emoji poop pillow.

I used to read for hours on end. Being sent to my room for not eating my peas was a delight because that was my favorite place to be. Even after receiving a 5 on my AP English test, I chose to take a handful of literature and poetry classes in addition to our conservatory’s demanding schedule.

But then I just stopped. After I graduated, I threw myself into auditioning and reading script after script. And for the most part, they’re unpalatable. I would rather eat oats in curdled milk than have these words thrust into my eyes and out of my mouth. Since I’m a silver lining kind of gal, it inspired me to write again. And writing led me to to research, which led to reading, and I realized that my brain had a lot of rust, mildew, and black mold in its fissures.

“I am going BACK to school!”

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I knew I wanted to go back for something that would help me be a better advocate for mental health: social work, psychology, analysis. And I would sign up for non-matriculated classes so I could make a well-informed decision based on what subjects interested me, and then apply for a specific program.

Okay, first thing’s first: I need a transcript. Let’s start there.

I Google “University of Cincinnati transcript”. The miraculous world wide web takes me right to the University’s website where it frankly states how to get my transcript. I just log in to my UC email, AND THERE’S A FRIGGIN’ BUTTON JUST FOR THAT! Easy as pie. Wel, it would have been if I remembered what the hell my username and password was 8 years ago. Luckily, these clever S.O.B’s were a step ahead of me. Since they know a thing or two about a thing or two, there was a number for me to call to set up a new password, log in, and get started on my PhD in Astrophysics.

I call the number, and in minutes I’m logged in. It’s as simple as they promised it would be!

I click on the link to request my transcript.

“We are unable to complete your request due to an outstanding library fee.”

Turning the color of the angry red font denying me entry into the glory of the tassels and sashes of knowledge, I sigh.

I know exactly what this about.

In November of 2007, I was walking across the street in the pouring rain to pick up two boys that I was babysitting when I slipped off the curb and into the street. As I stood up, I was hit by an SUV going 35 mph. I had a severe concussion, broke my pelvis in five places, shattered my coccyx, and cracked my ribs. My skin had been torn away from my shin and my ankle, but I survived. I couldn’t walk for 2 months, and when I finally could, I was using a cane for another month. I sat on an inflatable donut, and I watched a lot of movies and bad TV.

January 1st, I was using my cane. My mom bought it for me, my favorite colors: red and black. It was in a tiger print and it shimmered. It was pretty fucking rad, I have to say. Almost as rad as the DVD collection at the University of Cincinnati. That week, January 8 2008, I rented a handful of movies: as many as they would allow. Among them were Black Christmas (1974) and The Sea Inside (2004). I would never return those two DVDs.

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Until now.

I called the library and sheepishly asked what my fine was. “$350.”

I’m not fucking with you. Now, the most amusing part of the story is that I still had those DVDs. Not only did I have them in my hands during this phone call, I had moved with them over the last eight years. These are all of the residences that quadriplegic Javier Bardem and 1974 Olivia Hussey occupied:

  • Joselin Street, Cincinnati, Ohio.
  • Raintree, Uniontown, Ohio.
  • west 168th street, New York, New York
  • North Canton, Ohio
  • west 125th street, New York, New York
  • west 70th street, New York, New York
  • west 110th street, New York, New York
  • Polo Grounds Towers, New York, New York (yes, I accidentally lived in the projects for a month)
  • west 48th street, New York, New York
  • west 50th street, New York, New York
  • west 214th street, New York, New York
  • St. John’s Place, Brooklyn, New York
  • Brooklyn Heights, New York

I told the man on the other line, “I actually still have the movies. If I return them, will that help reduce my fee?”

He responded, “Oh, yeah! That’s what we want! We just want the movies back.”

It was pointless to explain to this man the outrageousness of a $350 charge on two DVDs that I could buy again for $20. But I was happy just to be done with it.

I mailed in my hostages, and waited for the confirmation from USPS that they had arrived safely to their childhood homes. No doubt they would recount their adventures to all of their friends in the “Award- Winning Foreign Language” and “Classic Thriller” sections.

The notification arrived in my inbox, and I called the library.

“Hi! I’m calling because I’ve been trying to get my transcripts, but I had an outstanding fee for some movies I rented eight years ago. I saw that you received them, and I wanted to know what my balance was.”

He asked for my “M” number and date of birth.

“Ok, Lauren, yeah we got them. Looks like you had a balance of $350, it’s now $191.”

Normally, I would have dug up some fightin’ mud and smeared it under my dark orbs, but this time, I let them win. Some things aren’t worth it, and I really wanted those transcripts. I handed over the money, and got my transcripts the next week.

Just as I was about to send in my application for Social Policy, my manager called: I booked a film that begins shooting this fall.

I’ll just have to wait for the spring semester.

The Career Center Orientation: The Blue Folder*

*it isn’t really blue

Bagel today is everything toasted with lox spread from Pick-A-Bagel! 

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Writing this post has put an unreasonable amount of stress on me. I have to cover so much information from the Actors’ Fund Career Center Orientation meeting, try to use my words like a big girl, and stare at these mutlicolored handouts that make my eyeballs tremble and my upper lip twitch.

For now, I will not post pictures of the handouts because there are so, so, so, so many. I took pictures of all of them, so if enough people actually want to see them, I will upload them in a separate post so your computer, tablet, phone, ENIAC does not break.

I will start at the beginning…

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The Career Center Orientation is one of the hundred workshops that are offered by the Actors’ Fund. This occurs every single Monday from 12p-1:30p here: The Actors Fund 729 Seventh Avenue 10th Floor (between 48th and 49th Street). 

From the moment I walked through the door, everyone was a little too nice; a little too…merry. The security guard didn’t even ask me for my photo ID when there was a giant sign posted above his head.

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I said, “I’m going to the Actors’ Fund.” He smiled proudly and replied, “Why not?” and gestured to the elevator doors.

I did not like this. I had a feeling Rod Serling was lurking behind a desk somewhere, smirking and flicking his ashes as he slinked about, leaving behind a trail of carcinogenic breadcrumbs.

When I exited the elevator, there was a tiny room with Ikea furniture (or was it CB2?) disastrously placed in the center of it. Actors were crammed next to each other on the “couches” like a ship in a bottle that was put together by a three year old with large hands.

Just a little after 12pm, a woman- let’s call her “Sherbet”- opened the glass door and asked if we were all ready. As if I were in one of my own bad dreams, the rest of the actors gleefully responded, “Yes! Hi! So happy to be here!” I’m talking Cheshire Cat, Donny and Marie Osmond, Tom Cruise couch jumping smiles. I was wearing a t-shirt with a drowning skeleton on it with the equivalent expression on my face.

Sherbet was the last to join us as she made sure that everyone found their way, about five paces from the mystery sofa. Why Sherbet? Why, indeed, dear friends, why indeed. Sherbet wore a lemon-colored dress I can only assume was from the 1950s. It was so worn that I could see what appeared to be a girdle underneath.

50s-longline-girdle-tnYes, one of those. I am not fucking with you.

Sherbet also wore a matching lemonade-stained wig. I assume she found them in the same trunk, but only had time to steam the dress.

She looked like Tippi Hedren after the birds came for her.

Phyllis Diller would have told her to run a brush through that polyester refuge.

The wig was unkempt, to say the least.

Sherbet then passed around a paper for us to sign, asked us to take out our union membership cards, and handed out what she called the blue folder. This is what the blue folder looked like:

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To Sherbet’s defense, the inside of the folder was blue.

I did not realize until I came to this orientation that The Actors’ Fund was for literally every single union in the entertainment business. So, if you aren’t an actor, you most likely make a lot more money than we do, and you may actually be eligible for this incredible housing that they keep telling us about. Please apply for it and invite me over so I can cry in your shower.

She instructed us to take out the salmon- colored print out of the power point presentation that she was showing us. Yes, this made my head hurt, too. And the salmon color made me hungry. After the power point, she went through the rest of the colored handouts:

Mint Mucus Green was for Housing Workshops! Pulsing Blue Veins was for the Job Development Calendar (more workshops)! Sinus Infection Earwax Yellow was for Career Counseling at the Career Center (workshops)! And Epileptic Hot Pink was for 1 time a year workshops called Career Nights! 

I will be putting all of this information on separate pages so that you can peruse them at your convenience.

Basically, it’s a folder full of workshops that will lead you to more workshops. Sherbet informed us that the Actors’ Fund has a shit ton of money and the money goes into these workshops that are absolutely free. The problem with these workshops, is that they are only helpful if you lived in some sort of incredible bubble your entire life that was filled with S’more jelly beans, cotton candy culottes, and the best 90s playlist ever.

There were 13 people in my group. 10 of us were women, 8 of those women were African American and over 40. We know the basics of leases and rental agreements. We know how much we can afford to pay in rent. We know how to use LinkedIn, Craigslist, write a resume, and network. Yes, these are what many of the workshops are about. There is a 2 hour workshop on how to use LinkedIn and this workshop happens every week. Bless Sherbet and all the other delicious sounding counselors that are making a living teaching these workshops.

Sherbet shared her story with us. After years of touring as a trombonist- I’m gonna let that one sink in.

After years of touring as a trombonist on cruise ships, she came back to NYC with no job and no way to pay her rent. The Actors’ Fund helped her pay rent for the apartment she had until she booked another gig a couple months later. When she finally threw up her little lemon-colored flag, The Actors’ Fund gave her a job.

So, what can I gather from the workshops offered by The Actors’ Fund? Go to them if you want to work at The Actors’ Fund.

Regretfully, I cannot tell you what was on that #FF087F colored sheet at the moment because every time I look at it my pulse jumps up to 250 BPM. But I can tell you that they are only offered once a year. 

Here is an example of one: “Healing Careers: Drama, Dance, and Music Therapy, Massage Therapy, Personal Training, Social Work, Psychotherapy, and Speech Therapy are some of the healing occupations that build on the mind-body connections developed by entertainment professionals. Come hear from CAREER CENTER members who have pursued education and training to develop therapeutic sideline and second careers. May 19 2016 5:30-7:00pm/ Location AFM Local 802, 322 West 48th Street, (between 8th and 9th Avenues).”

When one of the women at the workshop said that she was so upset by this, because she actually did want to hear about what this workshop had to offer, but she booked a job on that very day, Sherbet said not to worry. Sherbet was sure she could get information to pass along to her.

Why isn’t there a place for this information to exist permanently? Are workshops the answer when so many of us have hectic schedules trying to audition, interview, work sideline jobs, raise children, go to school, and cry in our showers/kitchens/closets/fire escapes/lo mein?

When rent at one of the affordable housing complexes is $645-$675, but an entertainment professional is just below or above the cut off, can’t we figure out a way to judge eligibility on a case by case basis? Here are my tax returns, my W-2’s, my extra income from sideline work, my resume so you can see I’m not dressed up like a deranged “other mother” Elmo in Times Square and am actually performing.

Can SAG-AFTRA and AEA get their heads out of the sand and see that $125/day, before +41% is taken out for taxes/fees, and $300/week is not enough to live on out here? Artists have never been wealthy, they’ve also never been driven away so quickly because of hunger and homelessness as they are now.

Are we that disposable? I am loath to admit that I think the answer is “yes”. Then all I can ask is please, please, brush out your busted-ass wig, and stop wasting money on colored paper, especially if I have to take an anticonvulsant before looking at it.

Here is the link to the Actors’ Fund Workshop Calendar 

 

A Nosh

Toasted everything bagel with whitefish salad AND lox and scallion cream cheese (don’t worry, not together, I’m not a monster) from Montague Bagels today! 

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I was finally able to attend the Career Center orientation on Monday, and WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOEEEEEEEEEE! I have a lot to say about it. I needed to take the week to collect my thoughts because most of them were hurling through the air like Pop Pop snappers at a 10 year old’s roller skating birthday.

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While I’m trying to put myself, and these hilarious colored “information packets” together, please enjoy a project that I’ve been working on for a while now.

For those of you that do not know, I have been reading aloud Jackie Chan’s autobiography, I am Jackie Chan: My Life in Action. I read them and record them completely cold (that means I have never read any of the book before I began to read). It makes it quite the challenge because the names are Chinese for the most part, and not in what we now call pinyinwhich I actually do know. There are also dozens of characters, mostly male, that I have to attempt to differentiate from the other characters. If I sound flustered at any point, it’s because I am truly trying to hang on for dear life during some of these recordings.

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I started this project for my best friend because he buys books and then refuses to read them. Happily, now there is a little fan base surrounding it.

The zany thing about this book is that most of the chapters are about 3 pages on average. I’m on chapter 49 and that’s only the halfway mark.

Please enjoy, darlings: https://soundcloud.com/lacarter

Sideline Work for Actors AKA Jobby-Jobs

1 day until I can bathe in lox spread and exfoliate in tuna salad.

Well, I’ve been told by my blog mentor and best bitch that this isn’t my diary, so I need to keep my story-telling to a minimum and save it for my Benjamin Franklin-sized autobiography. 

My purpose for this blog is to help anyone reading that may find themselves in a similar position. I had a phone interview last night to talk about Darling http://screenmediafilms.net/productions/details/1645/Darling

images-17 There she is!

And I told the interviewer, sadly, that some of the best actors I’ve ever known have decided to abandon acting because it’s impossible to survive. When I was in my teens and early twenties, I couldn’t have cared less about survival. There’s something very romantic about struggling when you’re a young artist. But as time goes on, you start caring about things that never crossed your mind before. Maybe you want the freedom to travel, to live in a house with a yard, to have a family, or perhaps you simply want underwear that aren’t from Duane Reade.

I don’t want to watch any more talented actors walk away. There are too many crappy ones out there, and I won’t take it as a consumer! COME BACK YOU GUYS!

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I am re-hashing my experiences thus far, and documenting new ones, so that perhaps I can help some of you. And through the process, maybe I’ll help myself.

Temp Work

“A temporary work agency, temp agency or temporary staffing firm finds and retains workers. Other companies, in need of short-term workers, contract with the temporary work agency to send temporary workers, or temps, on assignments to work at the other companies.” – Wikipedia 

Temp agencies are hiring all the time in New York City. Beacon Hill Careers is the one that I am in touch with: https://www.beaconhillstaffing.com/About/Beacon-Hill-Careers

The duties range from reception (greeting people, answering phones, taking memos), expense reports (you’ll use excel a lot, if you don’t know how, there are many tutorials online. Lynda.com has courses for beginners, intermediate, and advanced http://bit.ly/1VVLJmY

David Rivers (Up and Running with Excel 2016), for instance, starts you from scratch, and he explains things thoroughly and slowly http://bit.ly/1qZNKAY

Or you can scroll away screaming now.

Making travel arrangements (plane, car, hotel reservations) may also be a part of the job. It’s very flexible. Have an audition next week? No sweat. Email the staffing company immediately and they’ll give the gig to someone else. You also have the opportunity to take a long- term commitment if you like: 3 months or more. You make your own schedule week to week. Gents and ladies will need a suit for some of the gigs. Ladies, you can also wear blazers if you don’t have a business lady suit.

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RISKS: You will be around lawyers and finance dudes and dudettes.

Dog walking, Babysitting, Nannying, and Odd Jobs

Care jobs in New York City are great for sanity and so that you don’t have to work the vampire shifts that bartenders and waiters do. In my last post, I shared links to some of these websites. Another great one is Thumbtack https://www.thumbtack.com/ This is an app you will install on your phone. You decide which odd jobs you can do. Some of them are care jobs, but others are house cleaning, organizing, and other interesting last minute opportunities. When you sign up, you will pick which jobs you are capable of executing, where you are comfortable working, and your contact info. When someone needs a job done that you are signed up for, you will receive an alert on the app and in an email. You can then send a quote to the person. A handful of people will also be sending quotes, so timing is essential. The faster you respond, the more likely you are to book the job. I know a few people who use this as their main source of income.

RISKS: Nannying and babysitting are a little more difficult. Nannying is a full-time job, and there’s no way to fit auditions into your schedule. Because of this, I don’t think that it’s conducive to this career.

Babysitting works if it’s in the evenings and on weekends. The one drawback is that WHEN you book a play or film, you’ll have to find a replacement.

RISKS: I have found that finding a great replacement for babysitting or dog sitting has been one of the biggest challenges of this sideline job.

Playbill also posts jobs for performers, teachers, and other careers in the “back of house” in the arts. There are opportunities to work in the arts as teachers in schools, summer camps, and other after-school programs. Want some discount theater tickets? There are box office positions available! Check out the website daily for new listings: http://www.playbill.com/job/listing

I recently interviewed with a temp agency. It was easy breezy, and they want to send me out right away once something is available. It will be quite the adventure because I’ve never done it before. The pay is typically around $12-$16/hr.

I also had interview with a doggy day care to be a pet handler at “D is for Doggy” http://disfordoggy.com/ The pay is significantly less at $10/hr. They suggested that I may prefer walking with their other company “Pooch Pals” http://www.poochpalspetcare.com/ since I have experience with dog walking and I enjoy being outdoors. We’ll see how it goes!

RISKS: Getting down and dirty (fecal dirty). The job requires cleaning up a variety of messes including poop, pee, and “other”.

Beggars can be choosers. I suggest looking into all of these things thoroughly, but also get your butt moving because it takes a long time to get into a groove and get the money flowing  trickling.

Next time, join me as I explain my alarmingly audacious decision to go to graduate school.*

*No, it’s not for:

  • acting
  • drama
  • musical theater
  • clowning
  • miming
  • puppetry
  • juggling
  • escort services
  • snuff film

The French Mute

Countdown to bagels in my face: 4 Days. 

Acting in a motion capture animated film feels akin to being in a dream. You feel like you might have to pee the entire time. When you’re fighting, you can’t use all of your force. If you are using a computer, the keys are unfamiliar and don’t have the same feeling beneath your fingertips. There is always some kind of unforeseen obstacle holding you back. In this case, it was our motion capture glasses that were not wireless. I called it being plugged into the Matrix.

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And if you forgot that you were still plugged in, and tried to escape to warm up in front of the giant space heater, you would be reminded as your body moved forward and your head snapped backward. 

Training came in handy for this kind of work as there is no set. In a Brecht fashion, the “set” is tape on the ground, C- stands used for trees in Central Park,

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and very modest beds, chairs, and desks. It was an indelible test of imagination. Acting in film is already a huge challenge to one’s imagination because, especially in indie film, you have to imagine that there aren’t a gaggle of people around you talking about who blew up the porta-potty before breakfast. The director of photography, God bless him/her, will take a substantial amount of time lighting and framing you so you look beautiful (or terrifying, depending on which film). The director will be ignoring the assistant director asking him/her “Can we shoot the camera rehearsal?  Hm? Is that- can we shoot this? I would be really happy if we could shoot this.”  And you’re thinking…

CHARACTER THOUGHTS CHARACTER THOUGHTS CHARACTER THOUGHTS

Typically, a day on set for me on an indie film is 12 hours. That’s from the time I get called into hair and makeup. In the French production of The Prodigies, however, it was far less. Everything was frighteningly casual. Our lunch breaks were about 2 hours after all was said and done. About an hour and a half to eat, and then a half hour for a cigarette, and espresso, and perhaps a nap “as you like!”

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In Luxembourg, you had to budget in another 2 hours to be able to kiss every single person thrice on their cheeks at the beginning of the day, and at the end of the day.

I loved that everything smelled like sugar and cigarettes.  I was so lucky to be there! Overwhelmed by the beauty of the people, the language and the cities we were working in every day.

Ah, yes. The language.

I have a skill for memorization from years of performing plays and memorizing my favorite poems. I always said that it was why I was so bad at remembering everything else: I haven’t the capacity! I had great faith that I was going to get by just fine.

I discovered very quickly that Parisians are a particular people when it comes to the French accent. They can spot a foreigner right away. In lieu of saying “je veux un croissant s’il vous plaît!”, I could have walked right up and belted “Manamana!” in their faces and it wouldn’t have been any more offensive than actually trying to speak French.

I was denied directions, water, or even a smile. One incredibly frustrating day, I threw in the towel altogether. I went to the grocery store to pick up some items. With a huge lump in my throat, and tears in my eyes, I impatiently waited for the total to come up on the register. I tore money from my wallet and gave it to the cashier, sitting on her little French chair. She asked me if I wanted one bag or two, and I couldn’t even open my mouth. I showed her two fingers and shook my head apologetically. Startled, she began putting my groceries in the two bags while gabbing on rapidly in French.

She thought I was mute.

And for the rest of my time in France, unbeknownst to the cast and crew, when I went out in the evenings, or on my days off, I was.

When I returned from filming The Prodigies, I had no plan other than auditioning again and finding another sideline job. While acting work came in quickly, it was for far less than my big studio rate of $800/day. For my first off-broadway show, I was offered $300/week before taxes and that contract would last a little over a month. The first live action film I would accept, Rising Stars, was my introduction to SAG Ultra Low Budget contracts. At the time, it was $100/day before taxes (now it is $125, Production Assistants make $150), with a shooting schedule of approximately 4 weeks, working 6 out of 7 days, 12 hours a day. My rent and utilities were over $1,000/month. Wahoodle.

My money was diminishing faster and faster without a sideline job, and 4 months in between acting gigs. Without any experience or connections, no one would hire me to waitress or bartend. Things were looking bleak. And then I saw an ad for Care.com for dog walking. Care.com is a fantastic website that offers jobs in nannying, babysitting, tutoring, pet care, and senior care. Now there are even more sites like these to find sideline work https://www.sittercity.com/ https://smartsitting.com/nanny-jobs/ https://www.rover.com/ http://www.tutor.com/

I’ll warn you that you will make a heck of a lot more money waiting tables and bartending, but then you have to deal with hungry drunk people. And if you’re like me, you’d rather pull some long strands of grass out of a pit bull’s butt than do that.

Rates for dog walking typically look something like this:

  • $12 for a 3o minute walk/ $20 for an hour/ $60 for an overnight stay

Cuddles all day and a free workout? Sign me up! So what I’d have to deal with a couple of crazy pet people? I was going to be the best pooper-scooper in Manhattan. I was going to turn shit into lemonade!*

I was going to throw shit against the wall and it WOULD stick!*

Because, after all, shit floats to the top!*

 

*I’ll accept suggestions to alternate endings.

 

Popcorn and Snow Caps

5 more days until I can have a bagel! Sweet baby bagel buns. Today it’s a lonely tuna salad on matzo. I need new crackers. 

Auditioning has never been a nightmare for me, it’s also never been popcorn and Snow Caps.

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Before the ink on my contract was dry, I was sent out for auditions. There was nothing memorable about that first week of auditions, except the one that was going to change my life forever (or so she thought).

It was an audition for Avy Kaufman. Avy Kaufman is a big fucking deal. Don’t believe me? Check this out: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0442090/

Let’s be honest with ourselves: there was absolutely no reason I should have been there. Since that audition, I have never stepped foot in her office. And I booked the gig, too! If someone asked me what my goals are now, one of them would be “Getting back into Avy Kaufman’s office,” because that’s when you know you’re doing something right.

The reason my green feet were granted permission to enter was because of the French director Antoine Charryeron. He wanted the best casting director (in the world) to audition, get this: NOBODIES.

images-22 Yeah, you!

The audition was for Warner Brothers France. A motion capture animated feature called The Prodigies, based on a popular French novel La Nuit des enfants rois by Bernard Lenteric. The film itself received heinous reviews which you can read on the Wikipedia page

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Prodigies_(film)

But that all happened three thousand odd years after we finished filming.

The audition was one of the oddest experiences I had up to that point. Since then, I have had an assortment of auditions that range from euphoric, to embarrassing, to sepukku. And I intend to write the gruesome details of all of them.

I went into the room and the casting assistant was going to put me on tape. If they liked me, they would send the tape through to the director so that he could view the tape. As you see, if a casting director or assistant does not like you for any reason, let’s just, for whatevers and giggles, say your eyes are really big. “No, like, they’re huge,”  your tape will never see the light of day. In fact, she’s probably not even recording. There is an evil that lurks in a casting office in Manhattan that grows more powerful every time it feasts upon my resentment and frustration, and presently, I refuse to feed that nefarious rogue donned in diamond studs and designer jeans.

Avy Kaufman’s assistants, however, are absolutely delightful.

The casting assistant asked me to go through a range of emotions: casual smile, to laughter, to sad, to crying, to anger, to a primal scream.

So just walk you through a typical morning?

I got the part. Not then and there, however. There is a certain protocol to these auditions, as some of you may know. Typically, there is a call back for the actors that the director liked from the tapes. During the call back you may be asked to do exactly the same material and no more, or you may be asked to read more scenes, sing a song while crying, draw a sad room with your hands, and improvise a scene from a World War I hospital.

This call back was with Antoine, and it was to go through the same drill that we had on tape. Turns out, the only people Antoine called back were the ones that he was going to cast. I got the part, and we would be flying to Paris, Luxembourg, and Belgium.

Holy. Fucking. Shit.

It was happening! I had made it! Since I was five years old, I was writing stories and plays and forcing children to abandon their games of Connect Four, Guess Who, and States to perform my work. I carpooled to every playhouse and community theater in North Eastern Ohio, and prayed to all the stars and gods and goddesses to get me out of there! I wallowed, for four years in the conservatory, in a state of depression and grief for the career that would never materialize. But it was finally happening. I was going to go to motherfucking PARIS and earn $800/day in a legitimate SAG contract. And I was going to do it immediately!

They were flying us to Paris in two weeks to have a fitting and have plaster casts made of our heads, and then we would rehearse in Paris, and then fly to Luxembourg for the actual shoot.

There was only one thing that I needed to say goodbye to: Urban Outfitters.

If you think finding an acting job in New York City is tough business, finding a jobby-job is much more arduous. I came prepared with resumes in hand. I would walk door to door asking for applications. The problem was that every store hires online. This means that your application goes through several hands before it gets to the person in charge. Just like the casting director, if that server doesn’t think you’re qualified, the person in charge will never know that you are

  • detail-oriented
  • outgoing and courteous
  • attentive and patient (shhhhhh)
  • athletic and enthusiastic (I play skee-ball!)

I had hoped to work in a day care facility like I did in college. I love caring for children, animals, and the elderly. This was never going to happen because in New York City, you must have or be pursuing a degree in early childhood education. I had a BFA in dramatic performance.

I was turned down by Whole Foods, Sephora, AMC, Subway, and a long list of other chain food stores that smell like amputated body parts. I was eating Cup Noodles, potatoes, and one day I was so starved that I started eating coconut oil. I weighed 93 lbs. My growling stomach and the lack of air conditioning kept me awake all night. I filled up a mop bucket with icy water and put a t-shirt in it that I would drape across my naked skeleton until it heated up two hours later, waking me up in a panic, then I would dunk and drape again. What I learned from that awful period in my life is that I could have asked for help, and I should have.

Pride is a bitch.

Just when I thought I was going to have to throw in the towel and confess to the world that I was a failure, everyone’s hippest friend, Hipster Mchipsterson (or it’s Christian name, “Urban Outfitters”) asked me to come in for a group interview! And they hired me!

That same week, I found out I was going to motherfucking PARIS, so I had to tell them I no longer needed a job. I also didn’t need to extend my sublet since I would be away for a few months.

So, you’ll see why I was shit out of luck when after the costume fitting in Paris, the film was pushed back two months. No apartment to go back to, no job to pay for invisible apartment: I was a boomerang baby.

I flew to Akron, Ohio and lived with my mother until it was time to go back to Paris.

All of the celebrating I enjoyed with friends seemed like an incredible joke. I was doing chores, watching day time TV, and drinking a lot of Great Lakes beer.

But the day finally came, and I was off! I can’t explain the happiness that swelled inside of me during that flight. I finally had a purpose and someone thought that I was talented. I was worth a plane ticket and a weekly salary. Wahoodle, indeed!

That happiness would wane over the following months as I realized that it takes a lot more than one job to tame the destructive beast that is depression.

The Battle of the Actors’ Fund: The Woman Whose Mind Was Racing

COUNTDOWN TO MY FIRST POST-PESACH BAGEL: 6 DAYS! More matzo and egg salad today. 

Hello, friends! Thank you for coming back for the riveting follow-up to The Battle of the Actors’ Fund.

The next day I joyously discovered my hands that I had wrung off next to a package of chewable Gas-X (mint flavored), and I paced around my friends’ apartment awaiting the call. It finally came. I’ll refrain from writing out the transcript of the call, save for one notable quote, because it was abominably useless.

The one thing that I will commend the Actors’ Fund on is that they hire a great crew of women with sympathetic voices. Although I’m sure that this is not a coincidence, and most of them were or are actors themselves.

Our new Kind Lady informs me that she read my email, but perhaps I could tell her now over the phone. I wanted to say that, “No. The email really gives it the emphasis and color that I intended, so, let’s move on!” But I was too downtrodden, so I just summed up my email once more. She then began to stammer, and mention a list of things that I was scribbling onto a piece of my friend’s stationary, trying to organize her incoherent thoughts for the both of us.

New Kind Lady: “I- I’m sorry. My mind is just racing right now, I’m thinking of so many things.” 

Translation: “Hey, Miss Sad Pants! And her friend Serious Sally. How ’bout a nice cool mint to turn those frowns upside down?” 

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What I ended up with was a list of everything that I could have found on the website. There was no meeting to set up at that time. If I wished to talk to someone for further assistance, I would need to attend the orientation that they hold every Monday at 12pm. At the conclusion of the orientation, I would then speak to the lecturer and again explain my situation with the paltry chance of then being tossed into another Kind Lady’s inbox.

Here is a list of helpful things from the Woman Whose Mind Was Racing:

  • Online housing bulletin (y’know, once I can get a job that will afford me said housing).
  • Career Center orientation on Monday at 12pm to assist in finding sideline work, new careers, and any other depressing issue that might be wiggling around inside of your pounding brain.
  • Entertainer’s Assistance April 29th at 10am (another orientation that is supposed to help actors be more effective Craigslist perusers).
  • Episcopal Actors’ Guild Pantry http://www.actorsguild.org/actors-pantry.html (Free food for the actual starving. This one definitely hit me like a ton of tuna cans). The address is 1 East 29th Street (between Madison and 5th ave) 212-685-2927. Interesting thing about the Actors’ Guild is that they also have a financial aid program. But you can only apply for assistance once you have exhausted the other union based assistance programs and have proof of this exhaustion. We may be knocking on their door soon…
  • Financial Management workshop to help artists manage and maintain a budget. I think I’ll manage my stock in Great Value products in solitary, thank you very much.

Towards the end of the phone call, the Woman Whose Mind Was Racing asked me if I had any specific debts that I needed money for. This was the most disconcerting part of the conversation. I do not have pressing debts, but a pressing need for a job and a home. While financial aid is available for people that make a pathetic income when they need to pay rent for an existing apartment, utilities, education, it is not available otherwise.

She also asked me if I had thought about applying for food stamps. I actually have applied for food stamps, but because I was ignorant about the process, my week long window to submit letters and identity information expired and I was no longer eligible for the year.

I do not qualify for any of the affordable housing or housing lotteries through the Actors’ Fund. Here is the eligibility information regarding the housing on the Actors’ Fund website:

  • The Lillian Booth Actors Home 

    Eligibility: The Actors Fund Homes is an assisted living and skilled nursing home for the entertainment community. To qualify for admission, the resident must disclose his or her professional eligibility, which is based upon work history in the entertainment industry. In general, an applicant over 60 years of age should have a minimum of 20 years of work within the industry with annual earnings of at least $2,000 for ten out of those 20 years. Exceptions to the 20 year minimum eligibility criterion include dancers, who had to retire or transition out of the industry due to age, as well as any entertainment professional forced to transition out of the industry due to a disability or to other circumstances. Spouses, domestic partners, parents, children and siblings are eligible for admission based on the employment history of an eligible family member. Based on bed availability, the skilled nursing home or assisted living facility, is available to Bergen County residents outside the industry.

  • The Dorothy Ross Friedman Residence

    Eligibility: Based on federal guidelines under the Internal Revenue Service Federal Tax Credit Program. To be eligible, you must have an income of 60% or less of the area’s median income. To apply to The Dorothy Ross Friedman Residence, your annual income may not exceed $36,300 and should not be less than $17,000. We do accept most forms of rental subsidies. A limited number of one-bedroom units are available for individuals with specialized needs who meet the medical criteria. Households of two will be considered for a one bedroom only if both members are persons with AIDS, or senior citizens with joint incomes not exceeding income guidelines of $41,460 annually and a minimum income of no less than $18,000.

  •  The Schermerhorn

    Eligibility: Eligibility for The Schermerhorn is based on federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Guidelines. Applicant’s gross income from all sources (employment, benefits, asset interest) cannot exceed $36,300 and not be less than $21,770. Monthly rents start at $635.

 

  • Palm View 

Eligibility: Eligibility requirements for housing in The Palm View are based on occupancy and annual income criteria, and residents must be diagnosed with HIV or AIDS. Household size for a one-bedroom apartment is one to two people, and occupancy for a two-bedroom apartment is two to four people. The annual income to qualify as a Palm View resident must be between the ranges of $17,400-$29,000 for one person, and $29,890-$33,150 for two people.

 

I do not make enough money to be eligible for any of the housing. I have applied for Section 8 housing through the site, but the last time I lived in the projects of New York City, I was almost mugged for my coffee in the elevator and I got bed bugs.

So, I suppose you could say that I’m mildly skeptical about this city’s Section 8 housing.

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This Monday, I have a job interview for a temp agency. I have never been a temp in my life, so I’ll let you know how that goes. I can only assume that petty cash is involved.

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That means that I will have to wait for the following week to visit the Career Center orientation.

Tomorrow we will travel back in time to the summer of 2008! I will tell you the story about how I almost worked at Urban Outfitters, flew to Paris instead, pretended to be mute, and froze my ass off in Luxembourg for months wearing a motion capture suit.

Wahoodle.

The Battle of the Actors’ Fund: The Intake Attack

It’s Passover, so today’s breakfast is matzo and egg salad. The havoc that will befall my stomach is something I won’t force upon your eyes with a collection of sentences strung together. 

 

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^ A screen shot of The Actors’ Fund website ^

I was ready to start foraging for resources, “So please, give all you can. Now, we appreciate the kind that jingles, but we’d rather get the kind that folds.”

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When you go to the Actors’ Fund website to receive financial assistance, you’ll find yourself here http://www.actorsfund.org/services-and-programs/social-services-and-financial-assistance Then you will see an email address, should you meet the qualifications to receive assistance which are:

  • A minimum of five years of industry employment with earnings of at least $6,500 for three out of the last five years
  • Financial need

To apply for financial assistance, an application with supporting documentation and an interview is required. 

I wrote the following email to the address listed for New York City.

To whom it may concern:

My name is Lauren Ashley Carter. I am a member of AEA and SAG-AFTRA and would like to set up a meeting to speak with someone about financial aid, housing, and sideline work. I have made between $8k -$12k from my acting for the last 8 years and have my tax statements for proof.
I have found myself out of sideline work, without an apartment as my employers have moved (I am a dog sitter on the side). I am interested in temp work and I am also applying to colleges as higher education is increasingly important to me.
I am couch hopping on my 30th birthday although my face is plastered on bus shelters, subways,  and the New York Times (indie low budget films don’t pay any bills, it turns out).  I would like to remedy this issue once and for all. I don’t wish to find myself homeless for a third time.  I have never asked for help from the Actors’ Fund in my life, but I feel I have no place else to turn.

Best regards,

Lauren Ashley Carter

Okay, I don’t have the best tone, or attitude, but I had a point to make! And I guess I no longer have the koyech to put on my commercial audition face. images-1

Yes, that’s the more accurate reaction.

This was the email I received in response:

Hello Lauren,

Thank you for contacting The Actors Fund.  So we can help you more efficiently please call the intake line at 917-281-5919

Please know in advance that eligibility for The Actors Fund emergency assistance program is 5 years minimum in the performing arts/entertainment industry, with 3 of the last 5 years having industry earnings of at least $6,500 for each of those 3 years.  A second level of eligibility is 20 years in the industry with 10 of those years having earnings of at least $5000 a year.  Although earning proof is only needed for the 10 years, there needs to be documentation of industry involvement for all 20 years.

Thank you,

Intake Department – Eastern Region

And because I take direction so well, I called the number!

The number went directly to an automated recording that informed me to leave and spell my name, say my phone number twice, explain my reason for calling, and bang my head against a concrete surface while exclaiming my favorite curse word. And again- I do as I am told.

While walking through the tranquil streets of New York City, my phone began to ring in my purse. A New York number! This is it!

I missed the call.

Rats. 

No voicemail.

Nuts. 

I’m going to call, but wait! WHAT LUCK! They were calling back! I answer.

::Click::

 

Shit. I call the number, 212-221-7300, and a very kind voice answers.

Kind Lady Voice: “This is the Actors’ Fund.” 

LAC: “Hi! Sorry, I just missed a call from you.” 

KLV: “With whom were you speaking?” 

LAC: “No, I didn’t actually speak to anyone. I missed the call, so I’m calling back.” 

KLV: “Do you know who called you?” 

LAC: “Um, someone from intake? They didn’t leave a voicemail.” 

KLV: “Oh, I’m sorry. I need to know who called you in order to put you in touch.”

LAC: “Could you, maybe, connect me with intake? Anyone in intake? I left a message with my information, so I’m sure I can talk with anyone.” 

KLV: “Well, oh, gosh. There are so many people there, I couldn’t- I wouldn’t even know, really. I need to have a name.”

LAC: “Right, but they didn’t leave a voicemail. Is that usual? Do they not leave a voicemail?”

KLV: “Oh, no. That’s not usual at all. They’re supposed to leave a voicemail! I don’t know…maybe…maybe it’s for privacy? reasons? or? something? Do they have your contact information?”

LAC stares into the bakery squinting at the display of black and white cookies, the loaves of spelt bread, and the old woman hunched over a tray of chocolate covered rugelach.

LAC: “Yes. They do. I imagine that’s how they contacted me.” 

KLV: “Well then! I’m sure they’ll call you back.” 

I call the original number again, 917-281-5919. Hit the asterisk, because I already know what to say, and wait for the beep.

::beeeeeeeep::

LAC: Hello. My name is Lauren Ashley Carter. L-A-U-R-E-N-A-S-H-L-E-Y-C-A-R-T-E-R. I missed your call and did not receive a voicemail so I was unable to contact anyone to make an appointment for financial aid, housing, and sideline work. Could you please call me back at 917-BANGINGMYHEADAGAINSTCONCRETE. Again, that’s 917-BANGBANGBANGBANG. Thank you. 

Will Lauren Ashley Carter finally make contact with Intake? Or will she have to consult her congressmen, Occupy Wall Street, and a völva to finally achieve the upper hand? Find out the riveting conclusion of the Intake Attack tomorrow!

Wahoodle.

 

About Me

I am approaching my thirtieth birthday and homelessness.
How did this happen you might ask? Well, let’s start at the beginning.

But who’s got the time? It’s my life, and haven’t got the time. It’s hard enough keeping up with recent events.

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Eight years ago, I moved to New York City from the prestigious conservatory, CCM!

Hm? You’ve never heard of it? I know you’ve heard of Cincinnati. Skyline chili? You know Skyline chili: It’s runny and brown, and not unlike a classic flare up of IBS.

348s Now you’re with me.

 

At CCM (the College-Conservatory of Music), we weren’t prepared for success, we were prepared for failure. Now, to many actors, this was a challenge. So many came with hopes and dreams of starting theater companies, being in film and television, having their name on marquees, magazines, THE NEW YORK TIMES! But for a girl with no hopes or dreams, only a fleeting desire to wake up and leave the house simply out of curiosity: this was a death sentence. I thought that someone would finally hold my hand, tell me to persevere, and that I could be anything and go anywhere that my indefatigable imagination took me! The contrary occurred, and I thought, “Fantastic. Things really are as ill-fated as I had suspected.”

You can imagine my surprise when, during our final performance senior year in front of New York City casting directors, agents, and managers, I received an overwhelming volume of meetings.

But, but– I was ready for poverty and despair! I carried with me a copy of The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton, for crying out loud-

“Watch out for intellect,
because it knows so much it knows nothing
and leaves you hanging upside down,
mouthing knowledge as your heart
falls out of your mouth” (Admonitions to a Special Person, Sexton)

I was not ready for meetings. “What’s special about me? Beats me! You’re the one that wanted to talk.”

“Whose career do I want? (swallows vomit) Mine?”

I didn’t know how to answer any of the questions, and yet, I was signed! In this blog, I will regale you with tales from the unimaginable delights of studio films, the eccentric energy of indie film, and the jarring reality of off-Broadway.

But that’s not all this blog is about.

When I learned I would have to have surgery for a monster that was eating my ovary (her name was Debbie: a dermoid cyst), all of the fears that accompany a surgery were flooding my thoughts “day und night”

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I decided that if everything went well, I was going to make a change. I would find something I loved that involved helping people. When I began writing and performing, the goal was to be a filmmaker that made movies like the ones that influenced me so tremendously. What I’ve found is that even when one is able to find the perfect team, script, and distribution, one still starves, and quite literally. I have never intended on dying for my art, and perhaps that makes me a lousy artist. I have intended on impacting lives, educating people, and being the voice for the voiceless.

I will access and navigate the mysterious Actors’ Fund in New York city to find out how to:

  • get a sideline job that isn’t bartending or waitressing
  • receive financial aid
  • enter higher education after being out of college for eight years or more
  • get off this bloody couch( that isn’t mine), and is the only room in this apartment that gets direct street and sunlight at all hours of the God-foresaken day!

I am doing all of this so that you don’t have to. One day at a time; one bagel at a time.

Why a bagel you ask? Bagels have always made me happy. WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM WITH BAGELS?! Oh. Gluten. Right. I keep forgetting. Probably because I eat too much gluten. Even before I converted to Judaism (we’ll get to that later), my mom made me a bagel every morning before she went to work. Then, I and several girlfriends would walk to our elementary school where we would put our Disney themed lunch boxes in our miniature lockers, and gossip about our teachers in the miniature bathroom stalls.

I will eat one bagel every day and traverse the slopes of Slieve Gullion, eating the Salmon of Knowledge (on an everything bagel with scallion cream cheese)! I will conquer my big white whale (and eat smoked white fish) so that you may conquer yours.

Or, perhaps, I can simply make you laugh in callous delight at my onerous journey.

Let us begin, or rather continue, this unceasing expedition to contentment.

Wahoodle.