Thursday, May 23, 2002

Silver Screen, Here I Come !

Ever since my success with Weight Watchers, I have discovered a self-confidence that I never had before. I've been reaching out and attempting new sports and activities that I never had the guts to try. One of these activities has been a latent passion of mine since I was a teenager - acting.

I've always loved acting, but never pursued it. I (mistakenly) thought that nobody would want a fat person on their TV screen. How wrong I was, but at the time, my low self-esteem would have sabotaged me anyway. Confidence anew, I started taking screen acting lessons in January.

The lessons are taught by a man by the name of Dennis Sakamoto ( He has been in the acting business for decades. His classes teach students how to be themselves in front of a camera, how to audition, how to give casting directors what they are looking for, and how to deal with stage fright. The focus is auditioning for commercials and other such TV spots. Although I've always loved theatre, TV is much more glamorous, and that was my choice.

To my surprise, he does not teach us how to 'act'. The biggest lesson I've learned is that acting is not about pretending that you feel happy, sad, angry or surprised. Acting is FEELING happy, sad, angry or surprised in front of a camera. It was a profound realization, but it makes so much sense. A very good actor is believable, because their work is from within themselves.

I am having the time of my life. While the lessons themselves are hard work, I don't feel intimidated by the camera or by being recorded and evaluated. Many of my classmates have found it very difficult to hang loose and let their personalities come out in front of the camera. Me, I'm always the first one to volunteer to do a new skill or present first. I was the one who busted out into dance moves in front of the camera, completely spontaneously and without prompting. When the others in the class saw me make an ass of myself, they were much more inclined to do so themselves. That made me proud.

For the first time since high school, I have had to buy makeup. Yes, MAKEUP !! (I can just see my mom in a dead faint right now !) I went into the makeup department at Macy's, feeling like a complete fish out of water. I went up to one of the blonde bombshell workers and simply said "I'm an absolute dunce with makeup, I know nothing about it, haven't worn it in a decade, can you help me ?!" She giggled and helped me pick out a zit concealer, lip balm, translucent powder and a makeup bag. My very first makeup bag. I didn't realize until I got home that it had a picture of a crazy woman and the words "Go Gabbi Go !" scrawled all over the front. Oh well.

Dennis' company will be putting up a website over the next few weeks which serves as a directory of local actors. Not only will our pictures and acting resumes be online, but a short video clip of urselves as well. This is a groundbreaking idea. All other actor directories just have headshots and resumes. Video clips allow casting directors and agencies to see the personality of the person they're looking at, as well as their face.

I participated in two video shoots for this website. On my way to the first one, I decided to take a different route, as I was coming from my house. (Normally I go there from my work). Wouldn't you have it, I got so hopelessly lost in Fremont. I eventually found my way there, over 40 minutes late, and got a bit of an earful from my instructor. After taking some time to calm down and cool off, I shot the video. I made the camera operator laugh out loud, when I said "Hi, I'm Andrea. I love cooking, I hate cilantro, and I love Brussel sprouts !"

Finally, with this ordeal over, I went out to my car and started to leave. Then I heard the most dreaded sound from any car's driver – WHOMP, WHOMP, WHOMP. I stopped the car and got out. Sure enough, there it was. Flat tire.

As IF this day couldn't get any more complicated !!! Here I was in my nice clothes, with a tire as flat as a pancake. But, Scott had taught me many years ago how to change a tire, and I never forgot that lesson. I started working on it.

One of the guys helping out with the video shoot heard the whomp of my tires and offered to help. We had an animated conversation while replacing my tire with the dinky donut small-sized spare. I am proud to say that I got dirt on my nice khakis (nothing some laundry soap couldn't fix), and a nice black smear of dirt right across my translucent-powdered face. More laughs from the camera crew when I went back in the studio to clean up.

There was just one more snag in my effort to get home. I was in Mountain View, a good 75 miles from my home. You can't go more than 55 miles/hour on a dinky donut spare. (Speed limit on the freeways here is 65, my cruising speed is 75). It was going to be a LONG drive home. So I used my 10 cents/minute long distance card and called my family from the cell phone, while driving 55 miles per hour, in the far right lane, with my hazard lights on.

Vasco Road is the road leading from the 580 freeway north. It is a 17-mile, winding mountain road with no cross streets for the first 15 miles. The speed limit is between 50 and 55 miles per hour. Most people (myself included) cruise around 65, and many others who do 70 or 80.

I HATE people that do 55 on Vasco. They piss me off. I have a name for them – 55ers. There are two passing zones in each direction, and whenever I get behind a 55er, I always, ALWAYS race past them. This day, I had to be a 55er.

What a blow to my ego ! How could I handle being the very thing that causes my blood to boil and my hands to grip the steering wheel until the knuckles turn white ? Oh, the agony !

I handled it the way I wish every lame-arsed 55er would handle it. When people started stacking up behind me, I PULLED OVER and let them pass. What a novel concept ! California regulations require huge shoulders on all major roads, and Vasco is no exception.

I was a 55er, for that one day, but there were no white knuckles on anyone who got behind me. I made sure of it.

But I digress. I have been taking acting lessons for a few months now. A couple of weeks ago, I got my first job !

The job was at the Sony headquarters located about 2 miles from my office. Once every few months, Sony holds professional writer/director/producer courses. People fly from all over the country to attend these classes. Over a one-week period, students write some scenes, then direct and produce them. When it came time to shoot the scenes, they needed actors. I was called by my acting coach to participate.

Strangely enough, I wasn't nervous in the least. Acting is not about faking or putting on a show. It's about being yourself, just in the context of the scene. The students talked to each of us actors for a while, then cast us in appropriate roles for our scenes. Would you believe that I was cast in every role that involved someone having either a strong personality or someone that got excited and happy ? I wonder why !!!

It was hard work. We had only a very short amount of time to memorize our lines, and were put on a very strict schedule. I believe I handled it well. A couple of times I blew my lines, but just kept on going and didn't let it get to me. It's kind of like taking a piano exam, except in acting, you can always cut and redo the scene.

I ended up giving one of the student directors my business card, and the instructor of the course said that I had 'spark', and that I would 'definitely' be back for future courses. And heck, I got a video of all the scenes, free lunch, and a small stipend to boot. What could be more fun ?

In the coming weeks, I plan to have professional headshots done and seek agency representation. This might end up being a fun and interesting hobby to take up some of my spare time. (Not that I have much of it to start off with, but what the heck !) Maybe someday I'll be coming to a commercial near you. Stay tuned.

[see next post]


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