Sunday, May 29, 2011


The sense of fullness and happiness is almost unbearable.

Belmont lies cuddled in Stina's arms, and I am about to write a blog about how wonderful it is to pursue your dreams, and, almost literally, live them.

My career is feeling gang-buster-ey. I had several auditions last week, and while I didn't get the job in any of them, I felt happy with how they went, saw room for improvement in myself, and got positive and constructive feedback from the people auditioning me. I'm meeting weekly with a group of actors in L.A., and have made contact and will be meeting with other groups of filmmakers and actors around L.A. I qualified for The Groundlings professional track courses, and plan to take them in a few weeks. A children's theater company is interested in my directing a show for them. Finally, the subject of today's blog is about the amazing experience Stina and I both had on the set of Transients yesterday, where we performed as featured, if silent, players in a visually stunning and socially powerful movie with a target release date later this year.

I haven't mentioned it to the blogosphere before, but I've had an occasional recurring dream theme since childhood in which I am working as an actor alongside actors I admire but only know from their work. In general, the dreams tend to focus on what I can or should say or do in a professional setting to interest my fellow artists in working with me again. When I was a child, it was almost always Billy Crystal. Since moving to L.A., it has been a number of different actors, including Felicia Day of The Guild fame.

Two weeks ago, I answered a Craigslist ad looking for a stiltwalker. I sent the poster a link to my newly created website: The director responded soon thereafter (while we were with Stina's mom on our Disneyland Vacation, actually. Thank you, mobile phone internet!), and was interested in using Stina as a stiltwalker and me as a Living Statue in a scene set in an art park. The shoot was on location in Redlands, CA, about an hour away from L.A. by car, so we could only do it if the film could provide transportation for us. Rhianon Gutierrez, the director, assured us she would find a way to get us out there and back, so we agreed.

Jordan and Ariel arrived a few days later, and we had a grand time playing games with them, and talking about the world, puppies, kittens, and internet memes. Stina worked and I had auditions and interviews, but they amused themselves and Belmont while we were away. On Thursday, we went to the Santa Monica Pier and beach, and while there Michael, our CS friend from NOLA and NYC, called to let us know he was going to be in Los Angeles that evening. Later that day, we also learned that the transportation Rhianon had arranged for us would pick us up the night before and take us to a hotel in Redlands so Stina could be on set for a 6:30AM call.

Momentarily panicked, we asked Jordan and Ariel if they could watch Belmont overnight. They said yes, and, as luck would have it, that left a bed available for Michael to spend the night, too.

We had a nice, busy apartment for a few hours Friday evening, catching up with Michael and saying goodbye to Jordan and Ariel, who left the next morning for San Francisco.

At 9:45pm, our ride, Eric, one of the producers of Transients, arrived to take us to the Howard Johnson in San Bernadino. I felt like Eric looked out for us while on set, making sure we knew when we would be needed and looking for opportunities for us to shine in the film. He's also a director, and we talked about future projects of his on the way down...some of which might have a place for me. Stina and I shared a room with another couple, one of whom was the ASL interpreter for one of the PAs and the other of whom was an extra. We awoke at 5AM, grabbed a couple bagels from the lobby, and headed out to the set with Eric, where we met Rhianon and the other cast and crew of the movie.

Coming up in a moment, you will see Stina and me flip out with excitement. Rhianon is a very welcoming and capable director. She made us feel valued, respected, and like a part of the team of filmmakers who had been working on this project for almost a year. Rhianon took us around and introduced us to the ADs, the PAs, the make-up artists, and the cast. The woman being made up at the moment looked tremendously like another actor we had seen. A few moments later, Stina and I compared notes. We both worried that some ableist idea had reared its head. We saw one female actor in a wheelchair, and our brains jumped to the conclusion that she was the same actor we had seen in a wheelchair before.

We asked Melanie, the AC and an actor in the film (and UW SoD alum! We're going to her creativity jam on Wednesday.), if our brains could possibly be telling us we were, in fact, not ableist, and rather in the presence of unexpected awesome.

Turns out, we were in the presence of unexpected awesome. Stina jumped up and down a few times while I smiled broadly and gasped for air. Teal Sherer of The Guild fame had just shaken our hands, plays the lead in Transients, and was about to be in scenes with us. I immediately turned to the education my dreams had given me, preparing for this opportunity of a lifetime.

Between takes in the scene where my living statue character tells her Sandrine character "make your own story" with his eyes, I managed to overcome my shyness, tell Teal what fans we are of her work, and tell her how excited we were to be on the set with her. She responded with such openness and friendliness that we became friends. She told me a little about her production company and the work it does. I learned a little about a project her company did, which she called a "devised" project: essentially an original, ensemble-created work.

I think every serious theatre artist wants to do the same thing. Melanie talked about creativity jams; the Tiles project, before it was scrapped, was all about collaboration; all of Nikki's and Alissa's shows have varying degrees of original, ensembly goodness; and you know it's why I make theatre.

After my scene finished shooting, I visited Stina at one of the picnic tables, where she and the body artist working on her had been at it for three hours already. Tracy Kiggen and her assistant, Braidy Connolly, transformed Stina's upper body into a garden of flowers over the course of nine hours.Eric came by to let me know that the film would like me to walk on my stilts in the scene as well, and they'd be careful not to film my face so that no one can tell I'm the same actor as the red man from earlier in the scene. Poor Rhianon could do nothing about the fact that there was no costume for my stilt-ness, and we made do with my plain, old, un-artsy jeans.

Ali arrived and told me about Pazookies, a cookie covered in ice cream that everyone seems to agree is a must-try. Ali was Teal's umbrella holder and jacket placement expert. Yep, she had an umbrella holder. Such a diva. He's also her boyfriend.

Stina strode regally across the set. She waved her magic bubble wand and led the audience around the art park. Folks enjoying a day in the park asked for pictures with her. She hugged trees and maneuvered around sculptures as if she were born on stilts. You'll have to watch Transients to see it.

After a 12 hour day of being on set, we met Rhianon's family, and then Stina and I were driven home by Rhianon and Alex, the film's editor. Rhianon treated us to some In-N-Out burger. It was our first time at the legendary Californian restaurant. We talked about our visions for theater and film, and made indefinite plans to play games in the not-too-distant future. We made movie magic yesterday, and I'm sure we'll do it again sometime. I'm sure.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Traipsing has its consequences, a blog about Lyme Disease (Yay for doctor friends)

So, I have Lyme Disease.

On the Saturday of the Grilled Cheese Invitational (at which we took 4th), they put wristbands on us to signify our participant status. A few minutes afterwards, I noticed a welt on the palmside of my wrist. I blamed skin irritation from the wristband and ignored it.
By Monday, a few more hives had appeared and we worried that Belmont had fleas or I was having an allergic reaction to something.

By Saturday, I had lots of hives, and we were trying to eliminate allergens from my environment. I bought Benadryl and anti-itch ointment, but it wasn't having any effect on the hives.

On Tuesday I noticed the classic bullseye rash.

I worried. I read internet articles about Lyme disease. I contacted Jocelyn (our friend who just finished med school in New Orleans). I told Stina my fears via text. I sent a picture of the rash to Jocelyn. After seeing it, she agreed it was suspicious, verging on pathognomic (my new favorite word, look it up!).

On Jocelyn's advice, I sought a medical practitioner in my area. There's a low-cost clinic about a quarter mile from our house, so I walked down there.

The clinic only accepts new patients at 7AM, so, reassured by Jocelyn that a few hours wouldn't make too much difference, I waited until the next morning and arrived at 6:45 AM. I stood at the end of the already 40 person long line waiting for the doors to open. Once the line started moving, I soon came to a person who asked my name and wrote it on a list.

Inside, I and the 3 dozen other people took our seats while the woman who was writing down names explained the procedure for getting to see a doctor and what to expect in Spanish. She did not translate it into English. I was the only person in the room who did not speak Spanish. I went up to the counter afterwards, and she explained in English that I would wait until 11AM, then, if they thought they would be able to see me in the afternoon, they would ask me to come back at 1PM to continue waiting. There were no guarantees that I would be seen, and if I couldn't be seen after waiting all day, I could come back the next morning at 7AM to wait again.

I thanked her and re-took my seat and texted with Stina and Jocelyn about how I was feeling and what was happening. There were at least 60 people in the waiting room above the door to which read a sign "Maximum Occupancy: 40 Persons", and another 20 in the children's play area. I worried I wouldn't be seen. After 2 hours, another lady behind a desk (I don't know if they were nurses. I assume so.) called me up, and asked me for the reason for my visit today. I told her about the rash, and then went back to my seat. After 2 more hours, the original lady called me up and told me to come back at 1PM.

I went home, took Belmont out, re-charged my phone, half-heartedly looked for work on Craigslist (What if I were still waiting at the clinic tomorrow?), and ate lunch. Then I went back to the clinic. This time I brought a book (no magazines in the waiting room, sadly).

I went up to the lady behind the desk and told her I was back. She politely but disinterestedly waved me back to a chair. I read my book and texted with Stina and Jocelyn. I told Jocelyn I realized more medical professionals were needed. She responded that I could probably finish my first year of med school while waiting in this clinic. True.

Around 3:30, the desk lady called me up and handed me some papers, promising there was a space available for me if I could fill out the paperwork really quickly. So I did. Faster than she expected, I think. And by 4, I was talking to a nurse practitioner.

First a nurse or orderly or volunteer or intern or something took my blood pressure (fine), weight (50 lbs more than I'd like it to be), and checked my blood sugar (86 - not diabetic).

Then came the moment I'd been waiting for. I told my medical caretaker about my symptoms: the progression of the hives, and the appearance of the bullseye rash. She took one look at it, said yep, Lyme, then asked me about a host of other symptoms. I had none of the other symptoms. She told me she was going to check on what the United States recommended dosage was of Doxycycline for Lyme (from which I inferred that she was from ... somewhere south of the U.S. Mexico, perhaps).

I thanked her, waited for the pharmacy, etc. Got the Doxy.

I took the first pill that evening around 6pm, making sure not to have any food in the 2 hours before or one hour after. Thursday I took my pills in the morning and evening. Then Friday morning I took my second dose at 8:30 AM. Friday night, I took a pill around 11PM.

During this time, we worried about whether Belmont might have Lyme disease and what we should do. Stina remembered that we had gone traipsing through an overgrown stairway between streets two weeks ago. We decided it was most likely I had picked up the tick there. Stina was carrying Belmont through the growth, so it was no more likely that he'd get Lyme than Stina, and neither of them have any symptoms, so we decided not to worry, and make sure to have him tested at his next regular vet visit.

This morning (Saturday) I awoke around 8:30AM after a fitful night's rest. I kept dreaming that I was crushing Belmont in my sleep. He was fine, and very happy to be firmly snuggled between Stina and me.

My right thumb felt mildly swollen. It also looked mildly swollen. I started to worry. One of the things the doctor had said was that if I felt muscle pain or joint pain, then the antibiotics weren't working, and I should go to the emergency room. Was this what joint pain felt like? I took my pill at 9AM and emailed and texted Jocelyn, then searched the web. The search turned up plenty of stories people told about how the dosage of Doxycycline I was being given wasn't nearly enough and other such worrisome horror stories. I do my best to trust the medical professionals rather than the internet, so I decided not to worry about that. I couldn't figure out whether my slightly swollen hand was something to send me to the ER or not.

So, we looked up a medical hotline. The lady at the other end told us to tell the doctor treating me about the new symptom. I told her the doctor treating me was at the free clinic and I couldn't get ahold of her. She told me to go to Urgent Care. Hmm. I called the free clinic, which is open until noon on Saturdays. The lady at the other end said they couldn't see me today, but that I should stop taking the Doxycycline and come in on Monday. No, they don't do appointments, but she can transfer me. She transferred me to a voicemail that said, and I quote "Hello, the party you have reached is not available. Please leave a message for at the tone." No name or otherwise helpful information. I left a detailed message. Maybe they'll return my call.

Alright, time to tap in a new doctor friend. Britt, Stina's Cousin's Wife, also just finished med school. After explaining the situation, she thought the swelling was within the realm of normal. The way I understand it (all factual errors are mine, not Britt's), the Doxycycline builds up in your body. Now, after I've taken 4 doses of it, it's finally starting to work. It breaks open the bacteria, and my immune system attacks the bacteria. The swelling is because of what my immune system is doing. It's expected. There's not a lot of swelling (no pitting), and the pain when I press it is just a two (On the scale of one to ten, but my scale is more reasonable than this guy's. My ten is the appendicitis of August 2008, May 2009, August 2009, and October 2010.)

Jocelyn agrees with Britt's diagnosis. Yay for friends who are docs. I want to be a doc, too. So, I will continue to take the Doxy, and if the swelling isn't better on Monday, I'll go in to the clinic and see what they can tell me.

It's obnoxious, and I hate the hives that I'm still getting, but cross your fingers for me (or, you religious folk out there can do your equivalent of that if you want) that all will be well.

My elbow is feeling a little tender, much like my ring finger (though not my thumb). The spots are warm, but not super-hot, and the swelling is minor, pain is minimal, itchiness is perseverant.

Check in with me on Monday and see if it has all gotten better.

Weird Sicky

P.S. It has all gotten better.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Everybody Agrees.

Everybody agrees, there's a way in.
Or at least the people looking for the way in agree there must be some way in. There are a number of different camps.

Most commonly, you have the camp that swears by Or, okay, not swears by, but thinks you, the fellow actor, are doing yourself a tremendous disservice if you aren't subscribed to their services. Into this camp also fall the people who swear by, and, to a lesser degree, and

Second most commonly, the "work your way through agents" camp believes that it doesn't matter which agent you get at first, just get an agent (or manager) right away, and simply ditch them once you can get the interest of a better agent. They think the best way to break into this business is to send your kit out to everybody on the list of agents, and see who bites.

Thirdly, the casting workshops camp accepts that it's just a part of the biz that you pay to get seen. They'll dish out several hundred bucks to attend seminars or workshops taught by casting directors so that the casting director will know who you are and cast you in something. This camp is generally aware that "legit" actors and organizations, like the Screen Actors Guild and the columnists for disapprove of this practice, but respond, "Hey, it's the way things are done."

Fourthly, the work NEAR the biz camp seeks jobs near the entertainment biz, hoping to break in that way. Ideally, they find a job with a major studio, say, as a production assistant, but waiting tables at places industry professionals frequent will do in a pinch. This camp is being proactive about waiting to be discovered.

Fifthly, the make-your-own-work camp makes movies and theater on a shoestring budget, hoping someone will notice. Hey, at least they're doing what they want to do while they wait to get paid to do what they want to do!

Sixthly, the I-Don't-Have-A-Freakin'-Clue-How-To-Break-In camp scours Craigslist for auditions, tries to make friends with everybody on the off chance that person might be a go-getter, and calls the Central Casting hotline several times an hour.

I fall in the sixth camp. I made half-hearted attempts at following the advice of the second camp, and promise to redouble my efforts once I get an adequate reel together, am on the verge of following the advice of the first camp, am actively seeking jobs like the fourth camp, and am doing my best to be a part of the fifth camp.

Industry folks, are there more camps? Which camp do you belong to? Non-industry folks, are we crazy?