What I Have Learned

What My Son’s Swim Class Taught me about Acting and Parenting!

I was very committed to getting my 4yr old to swim this summer. I loved swimming as a kid and would train with my swim club before or after school several times a week.   I signed my son up for a 2 week intensive swim class.  He had spent time in pools before but hadn’t really taken to it – I knew this summer would be different!

At the first class he wouldn’t even get in the pool.  At the second class he managed to get in the pool but hung onto the side in abject terror.  By the end of two weeks there was some progress.  He was in the water begrudgingly and even doing the occasional skill with the lifeguards, but he was far from comfortable and terrified of getting his hair wet.

It was so frustrating for me watching the other kids in the class making huge strides – jumping in, swimming, and going under water all with pure joy and exuberance.   Then I realized parenting is just like acting.  You research, make choices and form a plan but when “action” is called you throw it all away and just live in the moment. You have no idea what your scene partner will throw at you or where the scene will go.  You release control and go for the ride.  It’s “magic time” as Jack Lemmon used to say.

I was refusing to listen and be in the moment with my son.  I was holding tight to my plan and refusing to let go!  There was no point pushing for the results I wanted.  I needed to let go off my expectations and trust him.  He will swim when he is ready.  Comparing my son to other kids is a trap that can happen in my acting career too – “compare and despair.”  It reminded me of this fantastic article by Dallas Travers.

My son will not be swimming this year and I’m totally fine with it.  He is cautious kid who takes a while to warm up to things. He observes, gets the lay of the land (or the lay of the pool as the case may be) before jumping in. All I can do is continue to expose him to water and when he is ready he will jump in – literally and figuratively.

As I continue my parenting and acting journeys however, I have a feeling I will need to remind myself of both these lessons!

This Blog was first published on MsintheBiz.com

10 Things I Learned from being a TV/Movie Extra

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I’d only done extra work once in University, many years ago.  Then I was non-union and I did a huge high school prom scene with about 300+ extras and Rose McGowan. I hated every moment of it and swore I would never do it again.  However… two month ago we found ourselves short of money and I was looking into work I could do on a freelance basis, that didn’t require me to get another job.  And well… I found myself as a Central Casting Extra!  Was my experience artistically fulfilling?  No. Was it fun?  More than I thought it would be.  Here is what I learned from my 3 recent extra gigs.

10 things I learned from being a Central Casting Extra! In random order..

  1.  You are a number.  Literally. You no longer have a name.  You are assigned a number and everyone will constantly ask for it and refer to you as it.  From, “Hi.  What is your number? Here is your prop.” to “What is your number?  Make-up is ready for you.
  2. Act Fast if you want to book extra work.  I responded to postings on Casting Networks and only got responses if I submitted within 30minutes of the posting.
  3. Playing dress up is fun!  One of the films was a period piece and being put in full 60s wardrobe, hair and make-up was very fun.  I wish I could share a photo but I had to sign a confidentially agreement.
  4. Don’t bother spending $5 on a Starbucks latte to bring to set.  There will likely be a full cappuccino bar in craft service! See #5.
  5. Food on Big Sets is awesome! I mean really awesome!! Indie Film is my passion but wow the food cannot compare.  Even on the films I have produced, I was very diligent to feed crew and cast well. I’m committed to taking care of people but most indie budgets don’t allow for the gourmet spread on big blockbusters sets.  We’re talking fish, 3 different meats, a slew of veggie options, an expansive salad bar, pasta bar, dessert bar, cappuccino bar, and a juicer to make to-order juices.  I don’t exaggerate when I say they were some of the best meals I’ve had in the last 6+ months!
  6. I have never felt so protected by SAG-AFTRA. I love my union.  I got extra money for meal penalties when we went over 6hrs without a meal.  I got extra money for a nighttime premium when we shot later than 8pm.  I got extra money for bringing in 2 of my own outfits. I felt very taken care of.
  7. What did extras do pre smart phone?  Read books probably.  But you can’t squeeze a book in your 60s style purse!  You can’t squeeze your book into your pocket!  I  was remarkably productive on set – I responded to a lot of emails, checked social media and various Indiegogo campaigns,  watched several episode of Mildred Piece via HBO GO on my phone, I even did a rough draft of this blog!
  8. Don’t forget your phone charger! You will use your phone a lot.  See #7.
  9. Choose Extra Work Wisely.  I don’t submit for TV shows that I’m committed to getting co-stars/guest stars on as I don’t want to create a conflict in casting. Even in background casting they don’t want you working more than once a month, unless you are part of their core background – such as background actors you see frequently playing classmates in a high school class for example.  I certainly don’t want to be an extra today which then creates a problem when I’m up for a costar next week!  I also know that being an extra on a set of a show I really love, would make me feel depressed and defeated.  Films are a little different, as casting for background is usually very last-minute (generally the day or 2 days before) long after principal casting is finished.  As I’m not cast in the film anyway, I don’t mind doing extra work on it.
  10. Clint is cool! In the last month I have stood next to Clint Eastwood, Chris Rock and Peter Bogdanovich and watched them direct.  Watching their radically different style was very cool!

What are your thoughts on Extra Work?  Let me know in the comments below.

Talk soon,

The Mothering Actor Signature