Being True

27 Nov

Being True

In this industry, staying true to who you are can be a bit of a task when you are constantly auditioning (for the most of us) to be someone else. How conflicting and contradictory. But we do it…and with such pride and honor.

Well, being “vulnerable”, staying “grounded” and “fit” are just some of the coping mechanisms to “being true”.

A few weeks back, I was submitted for a film that was to be shot in another country. I cannot tell you…I was so excited when I got word I got the audition after being submitted for it…I actually said the words…”I WANT THIS” role when being submitted.

The Casting director, one whom I have met with in the past, obliged; I was invited to audition. GREAT!  I was given the sides AND the script. EXCITING! For any actor, you know how exciting it is to get the sides (and have to learn them) and the script. Hello!?? This is just great! Its just provides a basis for allowing the actor to understand the character better. I think it can also ruin us, as we “know” more than we should about the character and the film and it destroys our sense of drawing from our own choices and experiences because we try to “Deliver” the character as portrayed in the script. IMO.

All text is ambiguous until YOU give it life.

How can I give this character my best “truths”? Staying available to vulnerability and emotion allows you to draw from your personal experiences and give this to the character. This is a truth.  These are only places YOU have been and these are only stories you can portray.

Every week, I try to audition at least 1-2 a week- depending on the work here in NY. Sometimes, I work with others on their projects just to keep myself in a good place. A grounded place so I never “lose my step”, so to speak. Going to a screening, hanging out with likeminded individuals, taking yourself out every once in a while, going to art gallery openings, or live theatrical performances keep you away from the “hard” part about this industry. They keep you grounded. You keep the fire lit. The passion burning. This is being true.

In this concrete jungle, it might be nervewracking, especially for the actress of color…the roles are far few and in between, its hard as heck to create your own projects without the right funds, the classes are astronomically priced, we must keep up on whats casting, we sometimes do menial background work- just to stay connected to being “on set”, we send out postcards and updates about ourselves to stay current and relevant, we gotta eat right and sometimes, the money doesn’t buy us the “best” food, we have to “look” the part- so looking right…all the time is important, we must PAY to meet people to want to “book” us or manage/represent us, we must spend money we don’t have in order to make money we pray we can get…there is so much more to mention, but…if you’re an actor in NY…you know what I am talking about…through all of this…you have to stay “Fit”.  Yes, EMOTIONALLY FIT!  Strong enough to stay….well…strong. In every aspect of the word.

I did get a call back for the film. That audition went even better. I even had a private one on one lunch session with the director. It was pretty great. I was happy to connect on a “person to person” level rather than actor-director level.

The choice was not his, to be final for the role. Since it was being shot in another country, the role was going to be made by another stakeholder. I was really happy with my work and my ability to be true. It came down to myself and another actress. Sadly, I was not chosen for the role, but I was still happy with myself for sticking it out and being truthful. This was ALL I knew how to be and it showed. I was given great feedback, nothing negative and the choice ultimately came from someone who did not have the pleasure of getting to know “me” in a “one on one” setting, but my passion was true and it showed in my taped audition performances.  Sometimes it does not matter how “True”, “grounded” or “fit” you are…not every role is yours to be had. But keeping those attributes in mind while auditioning, getting call backs and creating your own work are well worth the effort.

So get on out there…be true. True to you. No matter what your passion is…be true to it.
Visit http://www.tandamercer.com or Follow Tanda on Twitter- @TandaMercerActress

Give yourself permission

25 Nov

Recently, I had the pleasure of auditioning for a casting director I had been trying to get in front of for YEARS! Yes, years!

Although it seemed like I waited what seemed like for HOURS to see her in the audition room, the wait was well worth it.

I had been studying the character breakdown, making choices, giving my character some life experiences and I had been breathing life into this character.

Well, when I got in the room, I was given one note about the character…”Play”.

THIS is the MAGIC word for ANY actor/actress. (*jumping up and down in my head*) I think I was more psyched more to hear the casting director say that than anything. This also presented an internal conflict. Not for the character but for me as a human. It meant the casting office did not “know” what they wanted to see, but they figured if they went with enough improv they would eventually hit the right note.

I had to have a “private moment” with myself. Not the private moment for the character, but for me…as a human.  After doing a few jedi mind tricks on myself, I decided…f*ck it! I am gonna throw everything OUT and just GO! I gave myself permission in a split second to just give the character something way left than what I already provided her with. The feedback was great.

I was kinda friggin impressed with myself…and I got some awesome notes in response. I wasn’t even given any corrections or anything. The casting director then gave me another note…or adjustment. She asked me to “be myself” (well, hell, I can be that person all damn day, that’s easy! LOL) the next time around; I did. After which, I got an even better response. Sh*t! I am on a roll…I thought to myself. For a split second I could see my name in the credits of this “docu-film”. Internally…STOKED!

Next time around, the casting director asked me to be “sexy, but nurturing.” (Huh?…with a “What the hell are your talking about lady?” sense of what she meant going on in my head) So, in no time…I delivered that. After patting myself on the back…and feeling like a champion…(Visions of Rocky running up the stairs to victory and my theme music playing) I just KNEW, I was all they were looking for.

I was happy to make this breakthrough.

Ahh…this may seem like a small fete, but on the contrary. It’s an emotional breakthrough to be able to deliver exactly what’s asked in that audition room and get the feedback to “prove” it.

As an actress giving myself permission to roll with my best interpretation of what a character is portrayed as, is all I can do. My job IS to audition….regularly.

Not sure why, but I did not get call back or anything…even after I sent the casting director a “thank you” note.

A few days later, I saw the breakdown again…for the same role…They even asked for “resubmissions” of prior actresses for this very same role. I was like…”WTF?” Clearly, these folks have no idea what they are looking for…and that cool.

Regardless of what happens or does not…I am happy to know that my training has allowed me to make the best choices and decisions to breathe life into a character. These set of very technical, yet creative choices are the permissions I set forth in every character I am submitted for and for whom I audition.

So…my advise here…just PLAY…and give yourself permission!  You’ll be so glad you did. I cannot say apply this to EVERYTHING in life, for there is a time and a place, but being able to decipher when to make the choice to “play” is apart of everyone’s process on Earth…and in life.

Break a leg my friends and enjoy life.

Visit http://www.tandamercer.com or Follow Tanda on Twitter- @TandaMercerActress

 

Are YOU prepared?

6 Sep

Were you prepared 2 weeks ago for the psuedo- Hurricane Irene? (LOL) If you, like almost everyone in the NYC area, braced for the worse, but instead saw alot of rain, wind and downed trees instead of what the meteorologists called for which was sheer havoc! Thankfully, most of us came out of it alive and others with some major issues that were eventually and thankfully resolved. Did you have everything you needed just in case it became the worse case scenario? How prepared were you?

A few weeks ago, after a huge audition for a new show, (episodic) the casting director gave me feedback. Feedback that I have heard a few times before from other auditions.

She said, “Thanks for coming in Tanda! That was WELL done! You are so well prepared.”  Standing there smiling on the outside, but on the inside, I was baffled.

I was not sure what to make of that? Did that mean, I did well on the character work? Was I great enough to get the part? What!?!? I took that compliment and began to think about where else in my life I am “well prepared”.

What is preparation? Are you prepared as an entertainer?

Am I prepared should I need to recite a monologue?

Are my headshots “prepared” and printed in the case of a pop up audition?

Are my skills and technique in the craft well enough to show that I am prepared? Am I taking classes or workshops?

Is my website up? Are my business/networking cards prepared? Am I prepared to “sell myself in 30 seconds”?

Have I been on IMDB lately to check out whats been going on? Whats in pre-production? What is shooting in my area? Am I going to the movies and am I watching some of the great actors of my time?

Have I checked in with my manager to see if he/she has submitted me for what might be on Breakdowns that I am fit for?

Am I staying prepared mentally? Positive thinking? Positive visualization? Prayer? Spirituality?

Am I prepared emotionally?…as this industry is a roller coaster of a ride! Am I obsessing over rejections and auditions? How am I preparing for roles? Am I connecting to the character? Im I believable?

Am I prepared physically? What is my appearance looking like? Am I staying well groomed?  Physically fit? Am I camera ready?

Have I made sure the proper updates have been made to my website? Am I “following” the right people on Twitter?

Have I kept up on my mailings, in case of the preparation of a call to a “go see”?

Well…YES! YES! YES! But am I getting the call back?

What else can I do stay on my grind and on my game? What else can I do to remain relevant and prepared for an industry not designed exactly to keep YOU relevant.

In this industry staying prepared to keep one relevant in the business, is the key to longevity. Longevity speaks to how you roll with the tide, the ebbs and flows of this zany industry and your ability to show your resilience. It speaks to how you can grow and mold yourself into being the characters you’d like to portray. It defines how high you go and how low you’ll go. Prepare for Longevity! Prepare to stay in the game as long as your heart is in it!

I think for me the words “Well prepared” resonated…I will continue to be “Well prepared” and with all of the “Yes’s” I place in response to my questions above…YES…the Award Winning Role will always be in my  sights and within my reach!

Wishing you the best of luck and BE PREPARED!

“Luck is when Preparation meets opportunity” ~Oprah Winfrey

 

Visit Tanda’s Website at: http://www.tandamercer.com or Follow her on Twitter- @TandaMercer

 

 

The Reality of Reality

15 Jul

A few weeks ago, I had my very FIRST audition for a reality based show. (Mind you, I have been acting-chasing my dream for 11 years now) Yes,ya’ll…it had come to that! Ok, but actually, it wasn’t bad. It was a DOCUMENTARY Reality show. Now, what on Earth exactly is that? One that actually is a documentary, but shot in a “reality” based thematic. It was actually pretty cool! Well, come to find out there are several kinds of “Reality” based shows. There are reality shows that are of course, entertainment-variety based- i.e: American Idol, The Voice, America’s Got Talent, Dancing with the Stars,etc.; there are kinds we are are familiar with today that “make” people into celebrities by JUST watching them live and party- i.e: Jersey shore, Basketball Wives, The Housewives Series, Made, etc.; There are shows where we watch of celebrities or has-been celebrities or want to be celebrities or socialites…i.e- Kardashians, Sinbad, Braxton Family Values,  etc.; There are competition based reality shows- i.e: Big Brother, The Mole, Survivor; There is self help-improvement reality based shows- i.e: Cooking shows, HGTV shows, etc.; There are relationship/dating/marriage reality shows i.e: Khloe and Lamar The Bachelor(ette), etc.; There are plastic surgery based reality shows i.e: The Swan, Extreme Makeover, etc.; There are family based reality shows- i.e: The Little Couple, 19 Kids and Counting, etc…Oh MY goodness! Just too many to name! Come to think of it…these reality shows have taken a life of their own and have MANY genres. Some of them are even scripted! (gasp) How on Earth do you “script” reality? Why not just hire a real actor/actress!? There are TONS of other reality shows, some of which are disturbing, make NO sense to be on television, and a bunch of other ghastly things…But, you get my drift. But why are we choosing to watch shows like this when the shows we grew up watching are dropping like flies left and right!  What is our reality? What are we watching? Why does it fascinate us to watch reality than to watch something…written and fictitious?

Don’t even get me wrong here…There is nothing WRONG with reality shows! Nothing! They truly ARE our reality! It is what is actually happening to real people, everyday! I have to admit, there are few celebrity based shows that I truly adore watching. Some actually add some value to your life and provide more comic relief than that of a sit-com. As an actress, I feel a bit of guilt even turning my channel to watch some of these shows. However, In my defense, I am watching some of the “feel good” based reality shows (helping others in needs, some bridal shows, home improvement, real estate, etc.).  My guilt is from NOT watching some of the shows that ARE regularly on and that would show my SUPPORT for my fellow thespians. To this day, Law and Order by far is still one of my favorite shows on Earth! Of course, there are a few REALLY great primetime dramas that keep many of us working. But my point is, there are just a few! There are shows that come and as soon as they come…they go…sadly. As soon as we fall in love with a show…they leave…case in point- Ugly Betty. What a feel good show. Funny. Likable. Simple. Entertaining. Those attributes bring me to my bottom life…Entertainment. Most of these shows are chopped up (edited) so well that we are fed what we NEED to see so that we do exactly whats in our nature…we keep watching. Sadly, these shows DO bring the fame  and yes, the fortune to some people and they become…well, famous…I guess. (rolling eyes and sighing here).

As humans, its probably (and I am no scientist) in our “nature” to want to see how someone else lives, take a walk in THEIR shoes without actually doing so, live their life- without actually living it, its the “feeling” we feel when we get to see someone dealing with a “human” issue and I am sure there are loads of other feelings I have no comprehension of understanding which “make” us watch. This is all great…but why can’t we do that by watching traditional shows which would allow many of us to keep working?  Sorry, this is the actor in me talking here. What is our reality? As an actress working hard to find “Fitting” roles and to support some shows that I would LOVE (let me REPEAT- L-O-V-E) to appear on as a guest actress or series regular…I have to look at the reality of my own reality. Sadly there may not be that many roles that fit my type, but that’s why we continue to strive forth, keep the faith, get submitted, network, meet casting directors, train and invest in our careers and go to as many events as we can…so we can CREATE and LIVE our reality of being a working actor/actress!

Creating what WE want to see is just a step in the direction towards seeing and KEEPING shows on that help us live in the moment and not necessarily someone else’s real and private moments. Shows that bring forth “good vibrations” and positive energy. I know for me, I have given some thought to either being on, or creating a reality show. The thespian inside of me hates it! I know my fame and fortune will come from true, inspiring and motivating work in my craft that will leave a lasting impression. Wow…that was profound huh? (insert a hearty laugh) Actually, it truly is how I feel about the craft and what it means to be an artist…an actress.  Its just my…well, its my reality. What’s your reality?

“Do what you love and the money will follow.” ~Anon

Visit http://www.tandamercer.com or Follow Tanda on Twitter- @TandaMercerActress

Now is the time…

8 Jul

…for me to begin blogging. This has been a rather interesting journey, to say the very least. Journey? What journey? Uh duh, yeah…to the “blog side”.  For years folks have been encouraging me to “go for it” and “express yourself”…so…here goes.

I recently have been grappling with the idea of what to write about. Well, obviously I knew I was going to write about one of my LOVES…Acting…amongst other things! So, I am kind of amped to share with you all and take you on this journey as only an actor can tell it. I have been acting for about 12 years now and have been in love with performing arts, particularly, Dance since I was about age 10. When I decided to begin acting and make it a career, It HIT me like a ton of bricks. I was sitting at my desk, working a paper for one my Ph.D classes (yes, I was on my way to hell with another degree and more student debt) when I just became overwhelmed and began thinking about what I REALLY wanted in my heart to do. I think I balled for a good 20 mins- Boo-friggin hoo! I had called myself “leaving the performing arts world behind to focus on the typical 9-5 Corporate America thing and get paid” and I was kinda “pissy” about it. *arms folded, poked out lip and rolling my eyes*= “pissy”.  I wanted to forget the rejection, stereotypical situations/projects/activities and roles. I wanted to work on film/tv projects where I could be influential and inspiring, but they were NOT within reach. At that point, (with Law and Order on the Television in the background of the room) I thought about what my life would be like if I just “went for it”. I thought to myself…What the hell am I doing? I dont want this! I want to act! Now! NOW! Now is the time! So…I did just that. I took more classes, went to one-on-ones, honed my craft, went to events, read books, looked for an agent/manager, prayed and came more in tune with my “artsy” side, went back to dance class and fell in love all over again with the performing arts. It WAS THE TIME!

What a little happiness can do…That was 12 years ago.

Recently, I have been at a crossroads so to speak. Wondering where I go from here. For the last 2 years I have been bi-coastal. Living in NYC and traveling back and forth weeks at a time to Los Angeles. I spent last Pilot season in LA and due to financial circumstances, I missed out this year. It broke my heart to say the least. I actually was looking forward to making another “dent” in the acting world by auditioning again in LA. When that didn’t happen, I refused to let it defeat me. I said to myself…”Well…we are going to make the MOST of this in NY from January through May!” Sure enough…I did! “Now is the time!” But is it? With roles opening up in Atlanta now and in other areas on the East coast…where should one go and when do say “Now is the time”? How much land does one continue to till over and over before you reap the real harvest? How do we know that NOW is the time?

This winter and early Spring, although not as exciting as Pilot Season in LA, was rather interesting here in NY! I did not go out THAT much, but I did go out enough for folks to remember MY name! (I hope they remember it- LOL) I went out for a couple “Untitled” feature films, Exit Strategy- a Pilot, Girls- A pilot for HBO, Are We There Yet, A Verizon Ad and Commercial, CollegeHumor.com skit, A short short film, A South African Feature- The Warrior and The Savior(I think its going to be GREAT- Sort of like Slum Dog Millionaire), a Documentary based Reality show and few go-sees for products, a music video (ugh!), I even did some background work. Ahh…the (un)joys of background work. Hey, I needed the $. The work/auditions were not consistent, and trust me, I was submitted to damn near everything I was “eligible”  for (we’ll chat about that in a few mins) but I kept holding on to the notion of “Now is the time”, in my head.

Of the auditions mentioned, I booked a couple of them and although the pay never is very much for smaller projects, the feeling and exhilaration in knowing that every little step makes you even hungrier and is even more gratifying. I am truly grateful for every opportunity to flex my acting muscles. I try to stay in that “grateful place” even when things are slow and the roles are FAR few and in between. Where are the bigger roles for the actress of color in NY? I have been swimming in the kiddie pond for quite some time now. I am ready for the bigger and better roles and to swim with the bigger fish. But I definitely am at a crossroads (A Bermuda Triangle if you will) as I stated earlier. How does an actor “know” when to take the plunge to LA. “LA, LA City of Dreams….” well, you know how the jingle goes. I keep saying to myself, “Now is the time.” But is it? Do we ever really know? How do we define our successes, when we really never know when to move ahead? How do we know we will get our “fair shot” in a saturated market? When do we take the plunge and take the risk and walk out on faith and let the Universe bring us what we have been asking (some of us are begging) for? Now IS the time!

Funny how you go around town and see many of the same “types” in the audition waiting room with you. I actually bumped into a few of my fellow thespians while at these auditions. This brings me to another “issue” I will continue to address throughout my blogging. Who are we? Why do we have to have “types”? (Actors of color KNOW what I am talking about). Where is the diversity in the scripts and roles? Will Hollywood ever really give the actress of color some real shine? Don’t get me wrong…There are MANY actresses of color who are doing well and working consistently (God bless them)…but there are many who are NOT and cannot be seen and who never get a shot. Can I get a shot? I do feel some unity amongst some of my fellow thespians when we do see each other at auditions. We exchange hugs, exchange formalities, catch up even…but at the end of the audition, we leave wondering WHO actually got the part. Sometimes, we never find out. Sometimes, the part gets “Changed” at the last minute and NONE of us get the role! WTH? Either way, its nice to know that there are still a “couple” and I DO mean a “couple” of viable roles out there for us. We keep on grinding,we keep on praying (for ourselves and one another) and we keep moving on…why? Well, because “Now is the time.”

Now is the time for us to take plunges! Now is the time for us to keep encouraging one another and STAY encouraged for ourselves! Now is the time to CREATE roles WE CAN STAR in! Now is the time for us to NETWORK our butts off and invest in our careers (classes, events, screenings, etc.) Now is the time for inspiring, influential, motivating roles! Now is the time to go after and GET submitted for NON Traditional roles- huh, WE CAN PLAY/ACT in ANY role…GIVE US A CHANCE! Now is the time to go against the grain…because the road LESS traveled is the road of the greater victories and not the norm. Now is the time…are you ready?

Visit Tanda’s Website at: http://www.tandamercer.com or Follow her on Twitter- @TandaMercer

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