Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A Starving Artist on (Show)Business

Let's have a discussion:

Here you are, in college.  ...  ...You seeing it?  You in your Uggs and sweatpants, feeling weird after a Red Bull & vodka-induced sleep and a breakfast of Diet Coke and peanut butter & jelly?  Your lava lamp-lit dorm room smelling like a fancy potpourri of weed, incense, Lean Cuisines and deep deep regret?  And, aw man, did you just take a Victoria's Secret body spray-shower again?  You did, didn't you?

(Ahhhhhhhhh. Memories.)

So, here you are, in college.  And your one friend aspires to be a math teacher and so, correspondingly, she is taking courses in both education and mathematics (among other things).  Your other friend hopes to be a music therapist and so, correspondingly, he is taking courses in both music and psych (among other things).  You have another friend who hopes to be a political journalist and so, correspondingly, she has a crazy schedule full of a variety of media, English and political science courses (among other things).

And then, there's you.  And you want a career in ShowBusiness.  And you have alllllllllll of these courses that you have to take on the Show, among lots and lots of other things.


Not a one of those "other things" deals with that Business-part.  Which is, like, half the battle in this industry?  Arguably more than half the battle?  So.  ..Huh?  That make sense to you?  Because it makes exactly zero sense to me.

And so, you go out in the world with alllllllllll of these artsy skills that have all been, like, SUper honed, and you're a taaaaalented motherfucker and a cuuuuuute little package and you're really really ready to go and, like, take the world by storm with your acting chops but you have NO. IDEA. How to apply yourself when it comes to Business.  NONE. 

Guys?  Guys. I'm nodding at you right now in assertion that this, in fact, sucks and is a real big problem.

No shit, careers tank in this industry every.single.day because of this lack of knowledge.  Because there's this general sense from the rest of the industry that, when it comes to the Business-end of ShowBusiness, "Yeah yeah yeah, they'll figure it out."

But, sometimes?  We've "figured it out" after having made just one wrong move, and by then?  It's already too late.

And what's crazy is that there are honestly soooo many possible wrong moves, SO.MANY, I mean, a MYriad of them.  And that's because there are soooo many hurdles for us to jump and THAT'S because Business is, in fact, a complicated beast.  Albeit an absolutely integral part to this ShowBUSINESS (...I mean, guys...it's right there....) industry.

I don't think that I quite realized the gravity of this (..."that"..."all of this"... ...ugh, I quit) until I moved here, to LA, where EVeryone else is hyper-aware of the Biz-end of the Biz.

For real?  It's almost like every Los Angeleno grew up with CEOs as parents, parents who instead of taking them to swim lessons and on playdates every weekend were like "Hey, Kid, come into my office, let's talk marketing."

("But, Dad, I'm 8.")

("Doesn't matter.  Never too early to wrap your head around the importance of branding. ...Take your hands off of my paperweight, Son, that's not a toy.")

And so.  For those of you like me, those of you whose parents made their living, say, as a woodworker?  This can feel ever-so-slightly blindsiding.

Allow me, then, to tell you a few things (see: "an ass-load of things") that I have learned.  Specifically in the past series of months.

Specifically in regards to breaking up with representation.  Which is precisely what I just did for my very very first time.  (EEP.)

Let's crash course ourselves, yeah?  Yeahhhhh!!!


 It is early January.

Here I am feeling confounded by my new city and my anonymity within it and getting more anxious by the second for things to start actually moving forward career-wise, La-La-Laaaa, I'm real damn antsy.  And feeling kinda desperate.

Preliminary Point:  98.8% of moves made out of desperation are not good ones.

So then!  Out of nowhere!  I'm contacted by this manager (!), and this manager wants to meet with me (!!).

ME (!!!).


So I go and, admittedly, don't think that they're the awesomest, but they want to sign me which IS awesome.  (Awesome!)  So, I go home to mull it over, do some research on the interwebs, find some not-so-awesome tidbits about them that aren't directly damning but might be bad?  Ask lots of questions of lots of my friends, receive mixed feedback.  ...And then trepidatiously sign with them anyway, because I thought, I mean.  Some representation is better than none, right?

Point #1:  WRONG.  INcorrect.  (We'll delve into that more later.)

Point #1B:  If you are about to make a move regarding representation (or, frankly, any number of things) in this business that you feel remotely trepidatious or uneasy about, mayyybe don't make that move?  ... ...Don't make that move.

Point #1C:  Know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, what you're signing up for.  (And THIS?  This, friends, will be a running theme.)


Here I am, signed by a manager.  And I'm a month into my contract and I've only had one audition (It's fine! I'm new in town! I don't know anyone yet! Patience, perseverance, resilience and ALL that jazz!).

And that one audition was for a British cruise line.  (Fine.)

And it was a self-tape.  (OK fine.)

And I had to sing both a Dusty Springfield-medley (Fun!) and "Bring Him Home".  From Les Mis.  Which is a dude's song. (...Huh.)

But, whatever!  I'm signed!!  I have rep!!! And it's not all happening yet but, by GUM, it's GONna!!!!

And then, I go in for my first "seasonal evaluation" with my rep: ... ... ...

"We have submitted you over 150 times."

(Oh wow.) Oh WOW! Really?! Already?!

"Yes.  And clearly, that's only gotten you in the door once so, clearly, something's not working."

Sure.  Sure.  (Sure.)

"So.  I'm thinking pictures.  New.  Pictures."

**Sidebar...  It is at this point that I have now been living in LA for just over 6 months, and have already had two different headshot sessions.  Both of which cost a decent chunk of change, and both of which in NO WAY worked for me, because I took them without being 100% aware of what was needed of me/of those shots.  Ergo:

Point #2:  Regarding headshots?  Know what is demanded of them.  Each city/their corresponding attack on the industry necessitates a different thing from your headshot(s).   Talk to your rep(s), ask your friends, find out if you need to just look like your best possible self on your best possible day, or if you need something super specific with character in it, do whatever you have to do, but FIND. OUT.  WHAT'S. NEEDED.  And do it BEFORE you sink hundreds and hundreds of dollars into a set (sets) of pictures that will never ever see the light of day.  Because gross.

(In short: don't be like me.) 

(In fact, if you take NOTHING ELSE AWAY FROM THIS LIL POST:  just.  Just don't be like me.)

Let's continue.

So, she says, "So.  I'm thinking pictures.  New.  Pictures,"  as if she's spreading the idea across a marquee or something, like some grand game changer of a concept.

Cool! says I.  Great!  The second that my tax return gets here, (because "TAX RETURNS", guys, amIright?!), the second that it gets here, I'm planning on getting some done.

"Great!  Let me get you the information for our guy."

Point #3:  Now.  Friends.  You hear that phrase?  You ever hear that phrase from your reps, a little alarm should be sounding off in your head, thereby signaling one of two (if not both) things:  The first, that it's their way of saying "It's my way or the highway on this one."  The second, that because it's "their guy", they're getting a cut of the profit, and that?


"Let me get you the information for our guy."

It is 100% within your right to say, Thanks!  But, you know, I was actually really hoping to go with this other photographer.  I really really like their stuff and I think that they would capture what we need picture-wise really well. 

I repeat:  It is absolutely 100% within your right to say this to your rep.

Just know that they might not hear you.

Just know that they might take a cue from my (former) manager and respond with something like "This photographer is really tried and true for us, and he shoots just down the hall, so we can come into the space and advise you as you shoot."

... ....Is that alarm in your brain still sounding?  Feelin a little weird?  Good.

So.  When you say, for the sake of placating them, that you'll entertain the idea?  And you go home, look at the pictures, and decide that they are among the absolute worst things that you've ever seen?

Point #4:  DO.  NOT.  DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES CHOOSE THAT PHOTOGRAPHER.   Yes, yes, yes, people will have differing opinions on this, but, at the end of the day, they're YOUR pictures, marketing YOUR product, which is YOU.


So.  Breathe a great big sigh of relief as you go with your gut on that one.  (Because I did.  I did real hard.)

Then!  Gingerly and diplomatically tell your rep who you want to shoot with (hope that they're ok with it)(and, if they're not... ...think you really wanna be with those guys, have them representing you?...), and then:

Point #5:  Figure out a game plan for your headshot session together.  They tell you that they want a "friendly business casual"-look?  "Hipster nerd"?  "Smarmy frat boy with an edge"?  Super!  Find out precisely what they mean by that, what kinda clothes, what kinda hair, etc.  Make sure that allllllllllll of the guess work has been taken out of your shoot.

And then?  Whilst establishing said game plan?  If/when they tell you something like:

"I'm thinking you need something dark, a darrrrk look."

And you say, Awesome!  I would love that!  Something more Indie!  I have NOTHing like that in my arsenal!

And then, they say, "Yeah.  Because you look like you could kick a little ass."

... ... ...

. . .

And then?  After you stare at them all dumbfounded and bewildered-like and start involuntarily caressing your scrawny scrawny arms because Whaaaaaaat?!, they say, "Yeah, so. I'm thinking, like.  'Mean Mama', or, uh.  Um, 'Queen Witch'.  Or something."

When they say something like that to you?


Friends.  This is one of the reasons why it's soooooooo important for you to be absolutely 100% aware of your brand/type/who the shit you are in this industry.  So that when people make whackadoo suggestions like that to you, you can go, OK.  Um.  I guess for me, that would actually look like (xyz)(this kinda look/character).  Oh hey:

Point #5C/Point A+:  Dear god.  Dear GOD.  KNOW. YOUR BRAND.  Know the nucleus of that brand, and what else you got knocking around in that wheelhouse of yours.  Know this so that you know how to market yourself.  And know it beyond the shadow of a doubt. 

Point #5D:  Know yourself beyond the shadow of a doubt.

And then? Breathe a great big sigh of relief as you go with your gut on that one.  And go forth into your headshot session.

(I am going to be quirkiest best friend slash girl-next-door/hipsteriest nerd/friendliest approachable business woman/craziest screwloosiest bitch that ever was, HOLY CRAP, LET'S TAKE SOME PICTURES, Y'ALL!)

And then?

When you get your very specific very awesome pictures back, feel great.  And when you get great feedback from your friends on your very specific very awesome pictures, feel greater.  And when your commercial agent and a sundry of casting directors compliment your very specific very awesome pictures, feel like a million dollars.

And when you have exactly zero auditions rolling in from your manager after your show them your very specific very awesome pictures, pictures that your manager seems bizarrely nonplussed by, don't feel surprised.

Point #6:  Bitterness is real, and alive and well in our Biz.  On a million different fronts.

Point #6B:  Remain above it.

But then, when you go in for your second "seasonal evaluation", and you're asked:

"So.  Did you ever get new pictures?"

Then?  Then you can totally feel surprised.

Ummm, yeah.  Yes.  I did.

"Oh.  You did?  When?"

I mean, a month, month a half ago.

"Did we ever get them?"

I showed them to you.  Because YOU (I!!) SHOWED THEM TO HER.


And then, as said manager stares blankly at your Actors Access-page, and you point out the 7 new pictures that you've had uploaded for their usage for no more than 4 weeks?  When they respond with, "Oh yeah, these aren't really working for us"?  You might find yourself thinking:

Point #6 Reprise:  Bitterness is real, and alive and well in our Biz.  On a million different fronts.


Point #6B:  Remain above it.

"So."  And then, your manager will, once again, bust out her invisible marquee.  "I'm thinking:  Showcase."

(Ooooh!)  OooohCool! OK.

"Yeah.  I think it'll be the best way for you to get out and meet people, you're new in town, and I think that is the best way for you to get out there."  (Yeah yeahhh!!)  "We do this by invitation only, because there's going to be a lot of very important people there."  (Ooooh!! "Very important people"!)  "But.  I think this'll be great for you, I'll see about getting you in."

And, know what?  You're allowed to feel real damn excited about this prospect.  You should.  You TOtally should.

However.  I encourage you to also ask:
So.  What is this showcase? 

Ask this question, so that you know precisely what you're getting yourself into (see Point #1C:  "Know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, what you're signing up for").  So that, when they respond with:  "You can do any number of things:  perform a 45-second monologue of original material, sing, dance or, um, bathing suit."

(Bathing suit?!?!?!)

When they respond with that?  You can then ask yourself:  Wait...?  Wait.  Is this a pageant?!  What is HAPPening?!

And when you, correspondingly, keep yourself ever-so-slightly in check and remain potentially too calm and simply ask them,  So.  Who's going to be thereYou mentioned 'very important people'.

And when they instead respond with, "So, it'll be $1200."  ... ... ... ... ... ...

Deep in the recesses of your exasperated brain, Beyonce will be dancing around all sexy-like and being the Queen that she is whilst ringing the alarm.  Ringing one very large, very resounding alarm because:

Point #3B Reprise:  THAT'S SHADY, GUYS.

If they are asking you for money?  In any way AT all (whether roundabout or directly)?  You do not give them that money.

And you get the hell out.

If they offer you a showcase and cannot even tell you what it realllllllly is and who the "important people" are who will be attending it?!   I mean, ask them again, one more time.  And.  If they still don't have an answer to your question?  You can go ahead and determine that that showcase is NOT. REAL.

And you get the hell out.

If after three weeks of nagging them with something along the lines of Guys.  Please tell me who's going to be at this showcase.

And if that is followed by an exchange of something along the lines of "Are you doing it?!  We'll give you an $1100 advance!"

No no.  (Because NO, guys!)  But, I'd like to know who's going to be there, because I want to create a target list for workshops.  I want to start cultivating some intelligent relationships in an intelligent way.

"Through workshops?"

Of course!  Because OF COURSE!!

Point 7:  TAKE.  ALL.  THE WORKSHOPS.  You want to be auditioning like a boss?  Booking like a boss?   Then you want a casting director to get to know you first.  But, if you wait for them to come to you?  They won't.  They just won't, guys.  So, you gotta take that workshop, kick some ass, and then correspond with them intelligently for months (MONTHS!) afterward...and then, sign up for a class to see them again 6 months later.  Rinse, wash, repeat.  It's on you to cultivate that relationship, Kid.  Do what you can to make that happen.  OR ELSE!!!! (... ...Right?  ...I don't know.)

Point 7B:  Stop listening to your friends who say workshops don't work.  They do.  (Hold that thought.)



Of course!  Because OF COURSE!!

 If, to that, your manager then says to you, "Oh.  We don't believe in workshops."

You have my full permission to ask them Wait.  WHAT the fuck did you just say to me?!?!  Because:

Point 7C:  Your reps should be ENCOURAGING you to cultivate these relationships!  No rep in their right mind is going to be able to open alllllll of those doors for you (frankly, there's too many doors), so they should be looking to you to do some of that work for yourself. They should want you to do what it takes to get in these offices (shy of sleeping around...guys, Point 8:  Don't bang your way to a gig...)!  Don't they want you to book all the things?!?!  Don't they want to see you get rich and famous and ride down to OscarTown and EmmyVille on your coattails?!  Point being, if they're not encouraging you/begging you to make friends with casting directors, if they're not encouraging you/begging you to take an assload of workshops every opportunity that you get, something should feel huuuuugely amiss.

I wasn't quite so crass when I questioned this response from my (now former) manager and instead, I think, said something more along the lines of:

Wait.  ...What?  I don't get it.  

To which they responded with, "Workshops are generally a waste of time.  We find that these casting directors are just there for your money."


Point 7D:  If a rep blatantly discourages you from taking workshops/cultivating relationships of your own accord,  THEY'RE INSANE AND YOU SHOULD GET THE FUCK OUT.

Point 7E:  If that same rep quickly points a finger at someone and screams "Money hungry!" when they had just asked you for a highly questionable $1200 weeks before, THEY'RE INSANE AND YOU SHOULD GET THE FUCK OUT.

I, however, did not.

I did not.  Largely because I'm a trepidatious jerk when it comes to making moves in the Biz.  ...Evidently, I'm a trepidatious jerk about a lot of things.

Point 9:  By and large, it's smart to listen to your trepidation.  But, if you know in your gut that something is right, act on it.  Just rip off the damn band-aid.

And I didn't.  Right away.

I, instead, waited until I booked a recurring role on a primetime show for myself.

"Whaaaa?!  How?!"  you ask.  Oh.  You know.

Through a workshop that I took. 

Through a workshop that I had taken with a casting director that I had researched and targeted and, correspondingly, fell in love with (because she's amazing and smart and one of the nicest human beings in the world).  I picked smart material to ensure that I would kill it in the room, and then, when everything was all said and done, I began to cultivate a relationship with her (because she's amazing and smart and one of the nicest human beings in the world)(and because, after that workshop, I genuinely wanted to).

And it worked.

... ...Oh right:

Point 7B Reprise:  Stop listening to your friends who say workshops don't work.  They do.

Was my manager pissed that I had gotten such a large audition without her?  Absolutely.  Did she try to make me feel like an asshole and question its legitimacy when I told her about my audition appointment (the information of which had in no way gone through her)?  Absolutely.  Did she try to counter that with just straight up shaming me?

("I just don't understand why people don't like you!")

(... ... ...WHAT?!)

("Yeah!  Yeah.  I mean.  We've submitted you over, um, 570 times now, and I just don't understand how many times people can say 'No' to you, how many times people can look at pictures of your face and say 'No', I don't understand why no one else is seeing what we see in you!!!")

(... ... ...Well.  I have this audition tomorrow.  So. ....)

Did that happen?  Absolutely.

Point #6 Reprise:  Bitterness is real, and alive and well in our Biz.  On a million different fronts.

Point #6B Reprise:  Remain above it.

Point #6C:  If your rep shames you.  Ever.  EVer, but most especially after you've achieved something awesome, that is unacceptable and should not be tolerated and THEY'RE INSANE AND YOU SHOULD GET. THE FUCK. OUT.

Which is precisely what I did.  After I had gotten paid and had to, begrudgingly, write them their commission check.

Point #10:  No matter what.  No matter how you feel about someone, don't be a dick & don't burn bridges.  You want to stay in everyone's good graces & take exactly zero chances of anything being held over your head later.  If you had to use their name on a contact sheet once you got in the audition room, you write that goddamn check.  Even if that means that you're writing a commission check for a rep who didn't actually have anything to do with your booking an audition appointment/a job, you write. That god.damn.check.

Now.  I had never been in this position in my life.  Rarely do I ever opt of ANYthing (aw, hey, holler,  Captain YesGirrrrrrrrl!!!), but I had certainly never broken a contract with a rep before.  So, I wanted to be thorough.  I wanted to know exactly what the stipulations of my contract were so that I could know exactly how to break it.  Which brings me to:     

Point #1C Reprise:  Know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, what you're signing up for.

When I had originally signed this contract, I just had friends look at it.  Friends, as in fellow actors in the Biz whom I had presumed had seen things like this before and would, therefore, be able to decipher the fine print for me.  I have really smart friends.  They know a lot about a lot of things. However.

Point #11:  If you're signing something that's even sort-of written in a foreign language (ie:  a contract), have an expert look at it first.  An expert.   That means someone who deals with terminology like this on a daily basis.  In this particular case, that means, like, another manager.  Or a lawyer.  Or both.  It might sound like a lot to you, like overkill, or something, and you might be thinking "That's real dumb,"  but no shit, no, Ma'am, no.it.is.not.  You do this, you're gonna save yourself from a lot of unnecessary freak-outs ("Power of attorney?! I've never had to sign one of those ever!", "You're getting double-dipped!", "Can you even break this?!?! Are you stuck?! I think you're stuck!!").  An expert will explain every detail of this foreign language to you in plain English. And you will, therefore:

Point #1C Reprise:  Know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, what you're signing up for.

Rather, what you had signed up for.  And what you are now happily, trepidatiously, and THANKfully getting the hell out of.  

... ...

...My.  God.  My godddd that was a lot.

OK, so listen, my point.  My very long very roundabout point is that I'm out.

But.  Before I got out?  These were all of the things that I was in for.  And I got myself into it, allllll of it because I simply didn't know any better.

And no shit?  Too many of us don't.  And I clearly have a lot more that I need to wrap my head around.

So.  I guess my real actual point is that it will behoove you to make yourself as much of an expert about this Business-end of the Biz as you can.  Like.  While you can.  You do that?  You make yourself a master of the Biz when you're already, clearly (duh) a master of the Show-part, the Art?  Shit, Friend, you're gonna slayyyyyyyy.

You do that?  I mean.  You might be a Starving Artist right this second right now?  But, you might find yourself all of a sudden making these highly informed Business-choices that make you not all that Starving for not all that long.

You do that?  You won't find yourself stuck with a rep who isn't worthy of your Awesome.  Because here's the thing:

We all, at some point think that "Some representation is better than none".  We do.

If they cannot open the right doors for you (eff, if they cannot open ANY doors for you), if they make you feel worthless, if they make you feel remotely like you're in the throes of a scam as opposed to the throes of the industry, if they're not recognizing your talent, dust yourself off and pull yourself up by your Ugg-straps because they are not, I repeat, they are not worthy of you.

And I promise.  I promise I promise I promise that someone is.

(And if y'all have any leads on that for me, a girl with big hair and big eyes and a big ol' brand spankin new SAG-card--who just so happens to be masterful at twerking and with multiple dialects--aw man, I'd be the most grateful.  WOOOOOOO!!!!)


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Starving Artist Reflects On a Doozy of a Year (In Music)

I'm a storyteller, yeah?  That's, like, the core of Me, it's what I do.  I am always looking for a better way to tell a story and, certainly, am looking to be inspired by new stories every where all the time.

Sometimes yeahhhhhYes of course, that just means sitting back and observing the life and the wacky little individual lives all around you.  And you have to.  


Sometimes, guys, it's just all about listening to music.  It's the music.  You know?

My parents did an extraordinary job of turning me into a music junkie, and they started me young.

I remember being three years-old, distinctly.  My Mom's house meant WHAM!, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Madonna & Heart.  And our ritualistic MTV-dance party in the living room.  And we danced feverishly.

My Dad's house meant Phil Collins, The Pointer Sisters, Prince, Peter Gabriel (all the P's!), Tina Turner, Sade & Whitney.  All day every day.  

Even then, even being really really young, I understood that I had a very specific and very eclectic soundtrack to my life.  And it was thrilling.  And I became obsessed with the diversity of it.

And, throughout my childhood, I made a point to listen to absolutely everything.  If my mom and I were cleaning the house listening to Erykah Badu and Barenaked Ladies (which we frequently did), I would run upstairs to my room and turn up Lauryn Hill as loud as I could, followed by an 80s anthology, followed by Dave Matthews, followed by a hip hop anthology, followed by Smashing Pumpkins, followed by "Magical Mystery Tour", followed by this collection of orchestral Gershwin arrangements that would lull me to sleep.  Then, I would wake up, and get ready for cheerleading practice listening to our local indie rock radio station. 

My taste was all over the place, but I couldn't help it.  There were too many different stories to be told and too many different ways to tell them, and I needed to inundate myself with all of it all at once.  I guess I still do.

(Sidebar:  I'm 32 now--ugh--and, to this day, the single very best thing that you could do for me as a friend is make me a mix-tape.  Honestly.  I will love you forever and always.  I would also love you forever and always if you invited me over for homemade risotto.  If, however, you invited me over for homemade risotto AND handed me a mix-tape...I mean, prepare for me to move in, I guess.)   

I guess my point is that music has always been, to me, the best most immediate form of escapism.  I want to jump into another story altogether, another life, some grand fantasy, music lets me do that.  But then, if I want a clearer understanding of what the fuck is happening in my life, incidentally, music all too frequently does that, too.  I have found that, throughout my life, every single pivotal moment and every single pivotal relationship that I've had has a song or entire soundtrack linked to it.  Frankly, I'm sure that most people do, whether they realize it or not.   

And some times, many times (most times), it's simply been because of the storytelling.  That's what got me all music-obsessed in the first place and that is, again, the core of Me.  It has to be.

But each time (every time, all the times), it has 150% been about how that song just instinctively makes me feel.  And I'm sure that sounds dumb, and obvious, but it's in earnest and, truly, listening to music is, very potentially, the most in-tune with myself that I ever ever get.

... ...Huh.

And so, in a year where sooooooooooo much crazy and excitement and upheaval has happened, music has played a particularly big role in both my staying sane and getting real with myself.

It's December 31st, 2014.  This year is ending in a matter of hours (!!!!!!!!).  Wanna talk about it? :)

**Angela's Top 25 Songs of 2014**

(Also: you're welcome in advance)

(Also:  I apologize to my dear sweet friend Mike in advance for pretty blatantly ripping off his review format.  It just makes an awful lot of sense and IMITATION IS THE SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY SO THANKS, MIIIIIIIIKE!!!!)

Now...OK, real quick, about this list:

Sometimes, the Best songs are super super difficult to listen to, they're so large and emotional that you can only handle their weight so often.  And so, a few songs can't necessarily be played on repeat.

Some of them, however...I mean, of COURSE you can, and should, and all the times.

ALL of them mean a great great deal to me, and I 100% urge you to instantaneously add them to your library OK ENOUGH OF ALL THAT HERE WE GO!!!

**Honorable Metions**

Sam Smith, “Money On My Mind”


25.  Spoon, "Inside Out"

24.  Sylvan Esso, "Coffee"

23.  TV on the Radio, "Careful You"

22.  alt-J, "Every Other Freckle"

21.  Ariana Grande feat. Iggy Azalea, "Problem"

20.  Tegan & Sara feat. The Lonely Island, "Everything is AWESOME!!!"

19.  The War on Drugs, "Under the Pressure"

18.  Lykke Li, "Gunshot"

17.  Charli XCX, "Boom Clap"

16.  Foster the People, "Coming of Age"

15.  tUnE-yArDs, "Water Fountain"

14.  Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars, "Uptown Funk"

13.  Ingrid Michaelson, "Girls Chase Boys"

12.  St. Paul & the Broken Bones, "Dixie Rothko"  (Friends, GO BUY THIS ALBUM!!!!)

11. Taylor Swift, "Blank Space"

Alright.  Now?  Let's talk.

10.  Bleachers, "I Wanna Get Better"

I heard this for the very first time the moment that we started our drive cross-country.   It was like "Here's the open road, here's the great unknown, here's a bunch of cymbals crashing and a man slamming the keys of a piano screaming at the top of his lungs about wanting a better life."  It felt exciting as hell.  And then, when shit got scary within my first couple of months of being in LA, this song seemed to come on the radio exactly when I needed it to every single time.  And it felt desperate, and manic, and like a call to get off of my ass.  And it became a kind of mantra.  And I miss the days of a life still permanent/Mourn the years before I got carried away/So now I'm staring at the interstate screaming at myself HEY/I wanna get better!   


9. Perfume Genius, "Queen"

My very first love was a boy named Alan Wyffels.  I first met him when I was 5, and we finally began a verrrrrrry serious year-long relationship in the fifth grade.  We would roller skate together, play the piano together (he had the longest skinniest fingers that I had ever seen), we had an award winning (!!!!) OM-team together, and we would hold hands and watch my mother make us french toast.  Together.  He felt epic and was everything to me.  Today, he and his long skinny fingers play the keys for his boyfriend, solo artist Mike Hadreas, aka Perfume Genius.  You don’t know Perfume Genius?  How ‘bout you go ahead and get on that train, and stat.  He is beautiful, and haunting, and wonderfully poetic, and just feels New.  “Queen” is his first ginormous single.  I don’t need to tell you why.  Just listen.

8.  Beck, “Waking Light”

Beck is brilliant.  Every album sounds wonderfully different yet appropriate and totally unbelievably exciting.  “Morning Phase” is, in my opinion, his best yet. It is such an obscenely stunning album it almost feels unfair, and it was released at just the right time in my life that I could never sit down and listen to it straight through.  I couldn’t make it, I would just fall into a puddle of myself.  “Waking Light” feels so deeply personal that I couldn’t understand how he hadn’t written it just for me.  No one sees you here, roots are all covered/There’s such a life to go and how much can you show?/Day is gone on a landslide of rhythm/It’s in your lamplight burning low/When the memory leaves you/Somewhere you can’t make it home/When the morning comes to meet you/Rest your eyes in waking light.  Ugh.

7.  Kendrick Lamar, “ i 

Kendrick. Lamar.  Kendrick Lamar, 27, genius-and-a-half times infinity.  The last musical guest ever on The Colbert Report.  I… ….I could talk about who he is and why he is so revolutionary and amazing and necessary and stupid exciting for a really really long time, but I will at least cite this much:  You cannot call Kendrick Lamar a “rapper”.  You can’t, because he doesn’t.  Kendrick Lamar is a writer and, incidentally, a masterful storyteller.  " i " was the only single that he dropped this year and, holy shit, it is damn near perfect.  We are told over and over and over again just how much we need to learn to love ourselves first, but actually putting that into practice?   It’s a fucking battle.  No one illustrates that bigness of that battle better than Kendrick Lamar.

(Also: it's catchy as hell.  Try to fight it.  You'll lose.)

6.  Iggy Azalea feat. Charli XCX, “Fancy”

…We don’t really need to talk about this, I don’t think.  Song of the Summer.  Makes everyone feel like a badass.  It's the funnest.  You got down to it, Jimmy Fallon got down to it, a dad and daughter became YouTube-sensations getting down to it, there were a hundred million spoofs…Whatever.  You alrea-dy know-ow.

5.  Sia, “Chandelier”

Remember Zero 7?  Wonderful super sexy act from the late 90s to mid-2000s?  Remember the awesome lady vocalist on so many of their tracks?  Sia.  Remember the devastating song that soundtracked the finale for “Six Feet Under”?  Sia.  Beyonce’s “Pretty Hurts”, Rihanna’s “Diamonds”?  Written by Sia.  This lady is and has been EVerything for years.  I have purchased every single album that she’s released since ’04 (admittedly, I’m missing her ’97 and ’02 releases) (admittedly, I'm a little embarrassed by that much) and thought to myself HOLY SHIT, WHY ISN’T THIS WOMAN CONQUERING THE WORLD YET?!?!  Apparently, because she needed to make this song first.  It’s easy to get lost in that insanely amazing music video and, fuck, just to get lost in that insanely amazing voice of hers and forget that this is a deeply personal story about her struggle with alcoholism.  But, don’t.  If Sia has ever done anything, it’s attacked her music and her musical storytelling with absolutely 100% of her heart.  This is the primest example of her approach, and of her passion, and of her.  And this song is the reason why Sia is going to be at the forefront of the music industry for a very very long time.

3 & 4. D’Angelo, “Sugah Daddy” & “Ain’t That Easy”

If we have been friends at any point since 1998, then you are probably well aware of my fascination slash pseudo obsession with this man.  I can rattle off about 8 albums that I have officially played into the ground throughout my life, and D’Angelo’s 2000-release of “Voodoo” is most certainly one of them; that is some perfect PERfect soulful and sexy shit from front to back, ON TOP of the fact that his voice is a miracle, ON TOP of the fact that he is a damn fine musician, ON TOP of the fact that he’s a DAMN fine storyteller…and yes yes yes, on top of the fact that he is just damn fine.  So, his silence over the past 14 years (14!) has been rough.  Stories came out regarding his going into rehab, his going to jail, his struggles with depression and being an absolute shy recluse, and I became disheartened over the very very real possibility that this amazing musician might never release another album.  And then, immediately before my birthday, there was a quick blurb online that an album was coming.  And then, days later, there it was.  If you have not sat down to listen to “Black Messiah” yet, you are missing out on a stunning actual work of art that, no shit, was well worth the 14 year wait.  It is sexy, it is funky, it is political and bold and inventive and goddamn timeless.  “Ain’t That Easy”, the opening track, is a fascinating way for D’Angelo to have broken his silence after a decade and a half.  You don’t think that it’s going to be a bombastic entrance, and then the vocals start; it’s like if old D’Angelo and George Clinton and TV on the Radio had a baby.  My boyfriend who, bless him, in no way shares my complete and utter fascination with this man, completely stopped what he was doing when this song came on and just said, "Holy shit," and I just sat there, grinning like a huge fucking idiot and swaying with all of the imaginary swagger I could muster.  “Sugah Daddy” (the first official single from the album), on the other hand, is vastly to the contrary of most of D’Angelo’s anthology, and it is FUN.  AS.  SHIT.  I mean, the lyrics are as sexy and filthy as you would hope, but sexy and filthy and ever-so-slightly jarring with the most fun and funky and plunky beat imaginable.  The song is as wonderfully complex as he is.  I could not be more psyched to have him back.

2. Hozier, "Take Me to Church"

I guess we were somewhere in the middle of Ohio when we first heard this song.  It was the first day of our trip, and I distinctly remember seeing that we were fast approaching a pretty nasty storm (Midwestern storms, for the record, are just the nastiest).   The song began, and we turned and actually made faces at one another.  This is awfully grim.  But then, the gospel kicked in.  And we were hooked.  This is the song that soundtracked our voyage cross-country, through that nasty fucking storm in Ohio (where I was CERTAIN that we were going to run into a tornado), past the vast plains and wind farms of Kansas, over the Rockies and through the San Rafael Swell, and through the desert, Vegas, and into California.   We are in no way religious, but that drive was, arguably, the most religious experience that either one of us have ever had.  No song could have been more perfect for the occasion.  And it was.

AND #1!!!!!!!

1.  Future Islands, “Seasons (Waiting on You)”

This.  This goddamn perfect, weird, stunningly beautiful song.  I remember hearing it earlier this Spring and just thinking Ohhh, myyy god, this is just gorgeous.  But then, a few months later, I got it on a mix-tape.  (Mix-tapes, friends.)  And then, I actually got it.  And I was floored.  There is something incredibly universal at the center: People change/You know but some people never do/You know when people change/They gain a piece but they lose one too.  And then, there’s this: As it breaks, the summer will wake/But the winter will wash what is left of the taste/As it breaks, the summer will warm/But the winter will crave what is gone/Will crave what is gone/Will crave what has all... gone away.  To say that it hurts is an understatement, and then you add the score behind the lyrics, and it's just fucking devastating, and then you add the desperation of Samuel T. Herring's vocals and your gut is wrenched beyond all possible comprehension.  And yet?  The song ends on this note with the faintest shred of hope in it, and it is absolutely everything.  This song is so damn beautiful and yet so simple and beyond relatable that you can’t help but be grabbed by it.  I was more moved by this song than anything else this year.  Still aren’t quite sure?  Click on the link above and watch the performance on Letterman.   I was reading SPIN a couple of days ago and they were citing their case for this being Song of the Year, claiming that it was as complete and satiating as any pop song and that, even if you don’t watch their ridiculously perfect performance on Letterman, “ ‘Seasons’ would stand alone as the most purely satisfying song of 2014, not a second or word wasted, and utterly impossible to get sick of.”  I could not possibly agree more.

When I think about my year or, really, my life in terms of music, it's tough to get down.  It's tough to look back and think about what a bitch this moment was and that moment was, difficult to linger on regrets, moments wasted, chances not taken.  When I think about my life in terms of music, regardless of the pitfalls, I can only see it as full, well-lived, epic, sweeping, & beautiful.

Oh dear, what goodies might 2015 bring?


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Starving Artist on Hanging Up Her Apron

I was raised in an uber-compassionate albeit pseudo-strict household.

PS, Regarding the second half of that statement: my brother, I'm sure, feels entirely otherwise.  Being the youngest and a GIRL, I had to call home to check in with my folks whenever I was out for more than a few hours at a time, had a curfew until I was 20--that's a real thing, and I never drank more than two drops of likker until I was safely in college and away from the parent phone-chain that my mother was a proud member of, tracking any and all of the shenanigans that my wonderful and relatively do-gooder friends and I might be (see "definitely were not") getting into.

My brother, meanwhile, would stay out until whenever, no questions asked, and have sex with girls in swimming pools.  It's fine.

...I digress. (Ugh.)

My parents' rules weren't necessarily plentiful, but, boy, were they steadfast.

The rules of thumb, however, and ways of achieving world domination/"this is how you get by"s of my childhood home, these were plentiful and abounding and were as repeated and resounding in our household as "Put your dishes away!"  Three highlights being:

1)  Work.  You have to work.  You have to earn your living, and you have to understand what that means, and you have to work hard and continually in order to not just survive, but make the best of your situation.  Some people have things handed to them, the rest of us don't.  (This, of course, was never stated in these precise terms.  I think my parents' actual phraseology was always something more along the lines of "Gotta work, Ange!",  said with a smile and a "Go get 'em, Tiger!"-enthusiasm.)

2) Stick to your guns.  (Which is another way of saying "Stand up for yourself and for your beliefs, and don't ever ever back down.")

3) Know when enough is enough.  (Self-explanatory.)

The first of these rules was first instilled in me pretty much when I started growing boobs, and I became fairly obsessed with keeping it in practice until OHHHwaitIstillam.

The latter two:  these were also first instilled in me around the the same time.  I have been struggling with them ever since.

Marrying these three rules of thumb tends to be fairly tricky and difficult.  I mean, for me, anyway, a relentlessly energetic overachieving Yes-girl.  But I am coming to realize exactly how clutch it is to do precisely that.

Allow me to explain:

I started babysitting in sixth grade, like you do. Sporadically, sure, but enough for me to understand what a job kinda sorta felt like.

(Sidebar:  I would like to apologize to both the Riciotti and Dombrowski families for what I'm sure was a white knuckling-experience having me, an awkward awkward preteen, watch over your children, your boys, nonetheless.  ...AND eat all of your pizza.  Every single time.)  (Ugh.)

Within months, I had my first paper route.  It was a weekend gazette and my particular route was in a fairly ritzy part of town, which meant that I spent a lot more time unsubtly peering into the homes of rich people as opposed to, you know, doing my job.  What my parents actually did sitting in the car each weekend for the nearly four hours that it took me to drop a newspaper in front of 80 homes, I will never ever know.

And then, just shy of my 13th birthday, my mother approached me with a proposition:

"Hey, Ange!  Patty's diner needs a busser on Sunday mornings for breakfast.  Wanna try that?!"

What's a busser? I asked.

It was over.

I've been in restaurants ever since. And what I've found in the wayyyyyyyyyyy too many years that I've been in and out of the restaurant biz is...god.  A lot.  For one, it's easyWELL.  OK.  It's not "easy", so to speak, not at all.  You get yelled at and ordered around by an awful lot of people who like to play bully in their professional lives and JUST WANT A GODDAMN MEDIUM RARE BURGER WITH SOME FUCKING SWISS CHEESE ON IT, NOT THIS GRUYERE SHIT!! in their down time. GOD!

Your back and your feet turn to shit out of what feels like absolutely nowhere.  And then, you have to buy Crocs.  And then, you throw them away to maintain some semblance of dignity about yourself.

And then, you get a Costco card just to grab bath salts, heating pads, & some black market-like Excedrin in bulk.

Your work hours are the exact opposite from everyone else's, and, the kicker:  your job is To Serve which means that, essentially, you are getting paid to be someone's bitch.  (To a degree.)  Occasionally, you're the bitch to 40 different someones at once.


It's "easy" in that I don't need a PhD to do it.  It's "easy" in that, depending on what business is like that day, I can phone my performance in.  It's "easy" because it's flexible, it's cash in hand, it moves quickly, and, frankly, I'm good at it (if I'm not in a corporate restaurant and I can lean on your table and get away with winking at you and turning your table as opposed to wining and dining you).

It's easy because I've been doing it for wayyyyyyyy too many years.

However, there was a point during my last 6 months in New York in which I was deeply evaluating essentially EVerything about myself?  I guess?  Like.  Which life choices I'd been making that I'd actually want to stick with post this move out west? And I started to look at my life as a Server.

And I started to hate that I had a "life as a Server".

And I started to realize that I was nearing the end.  That I'd almost had it.  That, soon enough, I was going to have to throw my hands in the air and say Fuck it, I'm done.

But, I knew that that time hadn't quite approached.  So, I made a pact with myself:

I'm giving myself a year, quoth I.  I'm giving myself a year in Los Angeles to do this and buckle down and make some money.  Then?  Then I'm done.

I don't know what will be next, but I know that I'll be done.

I made that promise with myself, and I believed in it.

And so, then, I moved to Los Angeles.

And so, then, I COULD NOT FIND A JOB.  NOT EVEN SORT OF.  And I hunted like a fucking crazy person applying to every single restaurant that I could while every single person in Los Angeles was doing the precisely same thing blah blah blee blah blahhhhhhh until THEN.  LIKE A HAPPY LITTLE BEACON IN THE SMOGGY SMOGGY NIGHTTIME SKY.  I saw this happy little light shining just for me and only me and I.  Got.  A job.  And I fucking jumped on it.

(And then, I landed two other ones, too, one getting film permits signed, and the other, catering.  And then I promptly dropped the catering gig because it would require me to drive 70 miles roundtrip on the regular and only paid $10/hour.)

(Hey, Friends:  don't ever get a job that requires you to drive more than 6 miles roundtrip if it's only going to pay you $10/hour.)  (Ever.)  (Ugh.)


Here's what I would suggest about accepting job offers:  Even if you're desperate for a job, even if you think that this particular job looks shiny and exciting and particularly so because it's a 4-minute drive away from your house, ask up front what you're likely to make each week, and ask things straight away like, Hey.  So.  This is the dead season, yeah?  When does it start to pick up around here?

Ask these things directly up front, like normal people do, and you can avoid the surprise of "I don't think I understand what you're asking me right now," coming at you 2 months in.

I mean, I just presumed that this was our dead season?  So.  I didn't know when we were going to start picking up business-wise.  Ish.

You ask these things up front, then "Oh, Honey.  It always looks like this," won't smart quite as much.  And you won't feel like quite as much of an asshole.  And you won't panic and desperately scramble to find yet another job to cover your ass and help you afford the world.  

There are few instances in which I've ever felt more foolish or generally floored in my life.

Fucking hell, I have to start this whole search all over again and I cannot afford to start this search all over again fucking. hell. puking. jesus. criminy biscuits oh my-lan-ta god. DAMmit.

And I jumped back on Craigslist, rehighlighted the "food / bev / hosp"-section, and proceeded to tear out approximately 17 clumps of my hair.

Fortunately, it (somehow) took me only 72 hours to be saved from myself.

After eventually sending out a slew of hyper-panicked "I'm gonna try to play it reeeeeeal cool, though"-texts to a large handful of folks who had various Ins to various serving opportunities here in LA, SUDDENLY.  LIKE A HAPPY LITTLE BEACON IN THE SMOGGY SMOGGY NIGHTTIME SKY.   My dear sweet friend informed about an opening at his badass, crazy busy, crazy LUcrative all-steak-all-the-time-restaurant.  They had an obscene wine selection, they had LOBters, LOTS of them, and they were located directly across the street from the Staples Center, which meant all the Lakers and Clippers and Kings games I could handle and it was Corporate?  But.  Whatever.   In other words, this new restaurant looked something like this:

$$$!  $$$! $$$$$$$$$$$$$$ $ $ $ $ $!!!!!!

And I was psyched.  I GET TO LIVVVVVVVVVVVVE, and presumably, live WELL!!!! SWEET JESUS CHRISTO!!!!

And I screamed like an ecstatic little banshee in thanks and praise for this dear sweet friend of mine, and then, I got an INTERVIEW, and THEN!   I got HIRED!!

Sort of.  Rather, I got "hired" to train.  For a month.

(... ... ...That's a reeeal lonnng time.)

"We suggest that you hang onto your current restaurant job while you're training."


"I only say that just because, I don't know, you might not like it."  (Pfft, well, THAT won't happen.)  "Or, you know, we might not feel like you're a great fit.  ...THAT won't happen."

I mean, that won't.  But, sure.  THANK you!

"Thank YOU!" 


And I thought, Sure.  I can vacillate between two restaurants for a month.  And, do this third job.  And, hopefully, audition, and, maybe, have a life.  ...It's only a month, yeah?  It's totally fine, it'll all be worth it.

And why?  Because $$$$$$$$$$$$$$ $ $ $ $ $!!!!!!


And I began making plans as to how many credit cards I was going to pay off at once and whether to get a pair of Frye's or make a substantial run to IKEA first.  Aw god, I HAVE been wanting to go to Brazil...Are Frye's cheaper there? Huh.

First day:  GREAT!  Great fun!  Cute little lunch shift, 5 hours long, busy enough, we sold a nice bottle of wine, and then a second one (Yessssssss $! $! $!).  And then, I got yelled at.

"You need new pants.  You need a new shirt.  You need new shoes, you need to tie a better double windsor, and you need to do something about your hair."

About...?  About this bun?  (I regularly pile my hair on top of my head with an arsenal of bobby pins, just to...I mean, just to do SOMEthing about it.  Bitch has a crazy head of hair.)

"Yeah, it's too much.  Too crazy."

Oh.  (Oh.  Well, this feels shitty.)

"It's off-putting.  You have to learn to be presentable."  (Oh.  Wow.)  "And study this."  And I was handed a packet of steak info/lobster facts/liquor list/wine/beer, and sent out the door, fairly shamed.  I began my hour-long drive home, stopped to drop $100 on my new work wardrobe, and then, drove straight to my other restaurant.

This is fine, thought I.  Par for the course, I'm sure.  And it's allllll gonna be worth it.

Three weeks, two work shirt/three hairstyles/fifteen double windsor-failures later, I found myself sitting down to take four tests in the manager's office, the first two of which were redos that I had failed miserably the first time around.  When has there been any kind of time to study?, I thought.  And I was anxious.

"You have to know the steaks," the GM had said.  "You have to know what's in casino butter.  You have to know what garnishes all of the different fish and what's in each salad and, you're a really sweet girl, but you have to care.  And if you can't pass, and if you can't care, then I don't think we can continue together."

So, I sat there.  Filling out factoid after factoid about steak cuts and molting and French-service, and answering each and every question completely and thoroughly and perfectly and, simultaneously, asking myself Fuck.  Do I care?  Do I care this much?

And I walked out into the dining room in a haze, and was passed off to my trainer, a lovely Argentinian lady who smiled at me all tired-like.  "You ready, Mami?  Let's go."  

And as we paraded around the room, water pitchers and pepper mills in hand, I looked around the room at all of the other servers on the floor.   They were all of varying ages, but all in these identical, pristinely pressed jackets with their names embroidered on the front, and a different number embroidered on each person's right sleeve:  8, 9, 12, 15.  These numbers stood for the number of years that they'd been with the company.

My trainer had been with the company for 9 years.  9.  Years.

And I realized, Oh god.  This is a career.  And, suddenly, an entirely new kind of panic flared up inside of me.

I understood that I needed to live, and I understood that I needed to make substantially more money than I had been, but, I also understood that I had not moved to Los Angeles to start a career as a Server, and I didn't want to fake my way around that.  And, then, I thought back to the promise that I had made myself months ago while still in New York.

And I thought about the grander reason why we had moved out west.  It wasn't just to find a place to make a good and decent living as an actor, although, certainly, that was an enormous part of it.  Really, at the heart of it all, we packed up our lives and moved out west to live in a place where the living could be incrementally better.

I didn't want a life as a Server, not anymore, so what was the sense in starting in somewhere new?  Why not start a new thing altogether?  A thing that I could be proud of.

Oh god, I thought.   It's not just that I don't care.  I don't think that I can do this.

"Mami.  Careful with that table.  They're very nice, but they get fresh with the ladies when they've been drinking.  And.  They're in the you-know-what.  Their bookie is over in the bar."

(I can't do this.)

And I went home, stewed, and secretly started looking at other jobs (because I couldn't tell my boyfriend yet, HE'LL BE DESTROYED).  And then, continued to debate with myself whether or not I was doing a stupid thing.

Two days later, I ran home from restaurant job #1 with 20 minutes to change and depart for the train and head 40 minutes downtown to start my last week of training at restaurant #2 and I just stood there.  And something snapped.

And then, underneath the wide-eyed and confused (and horrified) gaze of my boyfriend, I quit.

"I mean, Angie, this is entirely up to you, this is your call, this is your job, but.  I mean.  You're almost done training, and this is, uh, this is a lot of money."

I know.

But, I was done. 

Money, suddenly, wasn't as important as...as, well, everything else.   I'll figure it out, we'll figure it out, I told him, We always always doLet's just get happy first, and find something fulfilling to do instead of this.


And we went to the movies.

And the next day, I picked up more film permit-gigs.  AND had a particularly busy day at the restaurant (that really isn't terrible and it's only up the street and is fine as supplemental income.  And definitely isn't forever.)

And, the next day, out of nowhere, I giddily became a tutor.  And, suddenly, I felt like an adult.

I understand that to most people, this won't sound like much of anything.  "Yeah, great, way to almost not be a waitress anymore, Lady."  First of all, eff yourself, the correct term is 'Server'.   Secondly, listen:

It's about breaking away from a certain way of life.  Breaking away from a thing that you have come to know, and have since decided that you are better off without.  It's about finding a day-job that will help you grow as opposed to remaining grossly stagnant (and perpetually smelling like steak).

(As long as you need a day-job, that is.)

It's about finding something else that will bring you joy.

And it's about understanding when enough is enough, understanding that you and your own convictions are far more important than acquiring a jacket with some numbers embroidered on the sleeve.  I mean, unless that's your particular end goal, in which case, that's awesome.
It's about recognizing that the key to achieving world domination, or, at the very least, just getting by & with a flourish, is by working hard, and not compromising ourselves.