I’ve switched all my blogging over to my main site, www.brianahansen.com.
If you want more of these silly thoughts, catch ya over there.
I’ve switched all my blogging over to my main site, www.brianahansen.com.
If you want more of these silly thoughts, catch ya over there.
Networking in Hollywood is a gross concept. Usually, the people who say they’re “networking” are people you want to throw holy water on and say “THE POWER OF CHRIST COMPELS YOU!’
It’s a term that’s been bastardized, but it’s an awesome concept. Because the concept behind it is simple: Make lots of friends.
And I like friends! I like making friends! I like having friends! I enjoy hanging out with my friends! I try to make new ones all the time. If my friends are working on cool projects, I like to support them or be a part of them if possible. When I do cool projects, I like for my friends to be a part of them if possible.
I think it’s neat there are social media sites dedicated to bringing together like-minded people. I’ve started really utilizing a site called Stage 32. It’s dedicated to “networking” with like-minded people in the creative field. That’s pretty awesome. I actually met up with a real life contact because of that site. Not only is he working on a project I’m may be brought on board for (I found out about the audition because he asked me to come… that was easy!) but we’re also probably going to collaborate on some comedic project together in the future. That’s awesome! He’s a new friend in my field interested in doing what I’m doing who I may not have met otherwise. It’s very exciting to me.
I’ve been working on a number of projects with people I meet in strange scenarios. I got talking to a girl at an audition not long ago. We started talking comedy, exchanged numbers, and now we go to open mics together and have filmed a few sketches (and counting) together. She introduced me to other like-minded people who I can work with in the future. We’ve got a little female empowerment team going and I love it. And how did it all start? We got chit chatting outside an audition. (Let it be noted, too, that we were going in for the same role. There’s no reason to see the other people auditioning with you as your “competition” or your “enemy.” We’re all in this together, peeps.)
If you feel like it’s “work” to get yourself out there and “network,” you’re gross. It’s fun to meet new people. It’s awesome to find like-minded communities of people who can help you achieve your dreams and challenge you to push your boundaries. So get out there… and make new friendzzzzz!!!
Despite major blockbuster hits like “I Don’t Know How She Does It” lead you to believe, multitasking is not the most effective way to get anything done.
Please. Take it from me, a gold medalist in multitasking.
In the time it’s taken to write these three sentences, I’ve gotten up to do the dishes, made my breakfast toast, and responded to three emails. Eekgads.
I’m working on focusing more lately. It’s the nature of the path I’ve chosen to have multiple projects in motion at any given time, and that’s fine. I actually relish when there’s lots of work to do and lots of sillies to create. But I’m learning that my productivity can increase exponentially if I respect the fact that giving whatever task is in front of me my complete focus.
I’m taking time at the beginning of my week to outline the week’s goals and needs. Then I put each of those in their own time slot in my schedule. When it’s time to work on them, they get my total focus. When their time is up, I move on. That way, I’m not only doing a little of each thing and thinking I’m being much more productive. It helps me see more results- and especially more results I’m proud of.
When you have a lot on your plate, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. It’s also easy, when you’re multitasking, to convince yourself you’re getting more accomplished than you actually are. I fall into this trap often, and have found that when I’m proactive about my focus, it changes everything.
I now respect the fact that my schedule- if followed correctly- will allow me to get everything I want done in a day done properly. But I have to respect the fact that if it says “write stand up jokes” it doesn’t mean “check Facebook updates” or “read that snarky Jezebel article.” It means, “write stand up jokes.” So just do that. And afterwards, there will be plenty of time for mind numbing activities.
So turn off the TV. Turn down the pop music. Dare I say it- turn off your Wifi for a while (after you finish this post, of course). Focus. Be present in the moment with the task at hand. For me, it’s a relief to know there’s only one thing that I need to do right now. Everything else can wait. It’s not as important as you think. WARNING! MAJOR LIFE SECRET! Everything else can usually wait. In fact, the distracting tasks you’re so concerned about when you should be doing something else will be done much better if you just let them wait their turn.
Gotta go. I’m three minutes behind schedule and I really want to make sure I have time to write that “HUNGRY! LOL!” Facebook status later.
That is the question.
Not long ago, I took a mini intro workshop with one of the major acting coaches in LA. It was really cool. I got to see this really experienced and extremely positive coach (and her TA sidekick/hype man) do what she does best. She took a room of total strangers coming from all different acting backgrounds and one by one watched us, coached us, and gave us specific, helpful feedback.
I was extremely impressed and excited after the experience.
I didn’t immediately sign up for classes because I can’t swing it financially at the moment. When I do get a little more cashflow coming my way (which I know is imminent) I’ll be using it to finish off classes at some of the major theaters I’ve already begun. Probably. We’ll see when the cashflow comes.
The point is, one thing I realized while I was in the coaching session is that I’m a producer type. I’m always creating and producing my own projects. I’ve been doing this for years. I don’t know what it feels like to sit around and wait for something to be handed to me. I try and create so many distractions in my own creative worlds and projects that I forget I’m waiting on some other opportunity to come around. That way, if something does pop up, it’s more of a pleasant surprise instead of an absolute need.
I realized this during the class as people went around and told sections of their bios- what they’ve been doing with their time and how they’ve been trained. With one notable exception, everyone in my workshop had maybe taken a couple classes and done not much else. I had to force myself to stop talking before I got to all the stuff I work on because the teacher was done listening. It was an odd feeling. I didn’t want to sell myself short on my accomplishments, but I also didn’t want to take up everyone’s time going through the amount of work I try and take on any given day.
Afterwards, as excited as I was about the prospect of taking classes with this coach and as positive of an experience as I had, something felt a little off. I talked to my good friend (who I met through comedy classes!) about it while on a little stroll in the neighborhood, and she offered awesome advice that just felt right. She said that for a personality like mine, I tend to create my own opportunities. I’m always working on lots of different projects and creating characters that simultaneously showcase my acting and writing abilities. Of course I would benefit from coaching- anyone would- but many times those classes are really great for people like my friend, who are just straight up actors. They want to hone in their craft and learn every element of it to make themselves better. They don’t write their own characters. They don’t produce their own shows. They don’t do nightly performances for the sake of trying to improve their voice as a performer. They act. They take other people’s words, embody that character, and make them reality. I do that- at least I want to do that- but not exclusively.
I began thinking about the difference between the two worlds. I’ve always been a bit of a floater personality, so it’s normal and natural for me to feel like I’m on the fence between several different worlds. I’m not exclusively an actor. If I were to take these coaching classes, I would have to put a number of really exciting projects on hold so that I could immerse myself completely in only acting. This could be good for me in the short run, but it ironically puts a bunch of acting projects on hold that could pan out as better showcases for my talent in the long run. These are projects I’ve been writing and working on for months to showcase my individual voice and acting style. And I’d be putting them on hold to learn how somebody else things I should be saying somebody else’s words.
So I finally decided this: I’d rather be Mindy Kaling than learn how to perfectly audition for The Mindy Project. Mindy is an extremely talented multi-performer (theatrical writer, TV writer, author, actress, stand up, etc). She’s created her own opportunities in this world. She has her own unique voice and style and has demanded the world beat a path to her door instead of trying to follow a bunch of other people’s already existing path.
It’s a longer shot, I realize, to be the woman with her own TV show than it is to have a bit part on an already existing one. But those are the people who’s careers I admire most. I adore Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling, Amy Shumer, Nick Kroll, Amy Poehler, Pete Holmes, Kristen Wiig, Will Ferrell (just to name a few). They’re all people who produce their own stuff. And have for years. And the world eventually responded.
I’m not saying I won’t continue to market and put myself out to already existing projects. I love hopping on other people’s bandwagons. I’m already on a few and hope to be on even more. But I won’t do it at the expense of what really makes my soul soar- which is writing and creating and producing my own projects.
Then again, I’m a creative. I could change my mind about this completely by tomorrow morning. Stay tuned right here, folks, to see what happens.
I went to an open mic last week where you get a little feedback afterwards. I find feedback can be super helpful. I’m lucky enough to get out in the comedy world enough that now many of my friends are comedians so they’ll give me ideas and feedback offstage even when it’s not considered part of the mic itself. Sometimes just a simple word choice can make a big difference in a joke. But sometimes it’s great to hear from strangers you don’t know at all what ideas they may have for your bits and how they perceived your act. Getting feedback is absolutely necessary in this world. Especially when you’re still hitting up open mics so the feedback you’d normally get of laughter (or not) isn’t as easy to elicit because it’s not a regular show with regular people.
I’m getting off my point.
So I went to this open mic and a person went up with their notes and did their set. I’m deliberately keeping this as neutral as possible because this is not an attack on the person itself. It’s an attack on the idea they represented-fairly or unfairly- in the small interaction we had. And their set was fine. It was pretty well structured, they had clearly taken the time to write their jokes out and put them in an order that fit well within the time limit they were given. It was pretty ok. They had some good ideas and some ok jokes.
I was not totally sold on the performance. The biggest reason being they were so practiced and so rigidly on their notes that it didn’t feel like a conversation. And as a person who has a solo show and who does stand up as well, I have learned to feel the difference as both a performer and an audience. No matter how structured and rigid the jokes may be for the best stand up comedian who has practiced them thousands of times for hours, most of them still deliver them like they’re in a conversation with you. The good ones at least. That’s what differentiates Bill Burr’s one hour stand up special from Jon Leguizamo’s one man solo show. Both are essentially one man talking onstage for a long ass time. But one feels like a conversation where you can jump in and participate at any time, and the other feels like a confession where you need to stay quiet and listen to take it all in. That’s the general difference.
So this person felt like they were performing a crafted jokey solo piece. They weren’t really making eye contact. They were choosing a point in the room to look at when they weren’t looking at their notes. They listened for laughter but seemed to expect it and didn’t enjoy it when it happened. They were present for themselves but not really for the audience.
And- like I said- they’re jokes were ok. But just that. OK.
Then they got feedback. And this is when they lost me. I didn’t say much because I didn’t really know them and I would have to see them a few more times to know their style and voice before I think I could say anything helpful. And there really is no wrong in this world so they could theoretically create a stand up voice that’s more rigid and solo showy. I could buy that. But some other people gave feedback. And the look on this persons face was so… cocky. Like “Yeah. I know. I’m pretty freaking awesome at this. I’m pretty freaking awesome at everything I do.”
Now don’t get me wrong- I love confidence. I’ll buy all day long if you’re selling to me that you’re confident. But I think a major part of being confident is being open to feedback. Or even just being open to the world around you. Not being closed off and so sure of yourself that the mere peasants around you can offer you no help. The King isn’t confident. He’s cocky. The warrior who has to lead the troops in battle- he’s confident. Because he’s present. And practiced. And willing to take risks.
I was ok with this performance until I realized this person thought their shit didn’t stink. Then they lost me. Their shit stinks. Everyone’s shit stinks. That’s the whole point of going and trying is to get out all the shit and let it stink. And then you find the least stinky part and try to make stink a little less. And maybe, eventually, you can get a small bit of shit that doesn’t stink as badly as when you first started shitting. And maybe eventually parts of it don’t stink at all. Until maybe you have a tiny amount of shit that smells like roses. And you go show that to people. And it’s taken lots of hours and work and years. And you’re proud of it. As you should be. It’s very impressive that you somehow shit roses. And roses smell better than shit.
I really got on a poop tangent there.
My point is this- you have to be open to the fact that not everything you do or create is going to be good immediately. As much fun as it is to hear “good job” and as necessary as it is once in a while, it’s much more helpful to hear feedback that actually makes your performance better. You’ll know you did a good job when you feel it. When people are laughing. When you look over your set and see that every word, phrase, and intonation are perfectly in place as a succinct set up or punchline and nothing is lost. If there are any wasted parts or parts that don’t get giant guffaws- you don’t have a perfect set yet. There’s room for improvement. Your shit still stinks.
The greatest of the great in any craft recognize that they have to continue to practice in order to maintain their skill level and get better. And in order to realize you need to practice, you need to be open to the fact that there is plenty of room for improvement.
And if you’re a stand up comedian and you bring up notes, cool, but still make me feel like we’re in a conversation with each other. Make eye contact. Be present in the moment. Enjoy telling your jokes as much as we enjoy hearing them. Enjoy screwing up if it happens. The audience is always doing you the bigger favor, so treat them with the respect they deserve and be present with them while you’re on the mic.
Enjoy bombing. And get used to it. Maybe at this mic with your friends you felt like you were awesome. Great. Good for you. Those feelings will keep you coming back for more and keep your hope alive when you do a dozen rooms filled with strangers the rest of the week who don’t care about you at all. Come do some of the other rooms in LA and you’ll feel what it is to bomb with material you thought was amazing. You’ll be humbled. You’ll realize you need to work more. You’ll have thicker skin in every aspect of your life. You’ll appreciate your friends and the nights when you’re on so much more. You’ll realize that this is all part of a journey of self discovery to find your voice onstage and off. And you can appreciate the ups and downs equally while on that journey because they both serve you. And you’ll be a better person because of it.
Your shit stinks. And that’s ok. Everyone’s does. Recognize it then get to work.
I have this theory on nail polish. I don’t know that it applies to everyone, but it certainly has proved true in my life. The theory is this:
When my nails are painted with nail polish, I’m taking better care of myself overall. When they are not painted, I’m probably not spending enough time on my own care.
The first time I realized and started sharing this theory was in high school. I would rarely take the time to paint my nails- even though I love it- because I very rarely had the time to sit down and do it. Even if I did have the time to do it, they wouldn’t last very long and I certainly didn’t have time for maintenance.
So I would keep them painted sometimes. But usually not. It was a treat. Once in a blue moon (my favorite beer…) I would get a manicure and then they would really last a long time (like a week!).
I didn’t think much of it until a few years ago when I was living in Chicago. I had a few life changes go down and decided to start taking better care of myself. I put on more lotion every night and I took the time to make sure my nails were always nice (or at least relatively presentable). Then I met a guy who noted that when I talked to him. I proceeded to date that guy for over two years. I would make it a goal to keep my nails polished not because he insisted on it, but because it was a neat thing he would notice. And it made me feel feminine. And reminded me to take time to balance.
That relationship has ended. I tried to keep up with the nail polish on my own. I love nail polish on people. I notice it on my friends. I really do love when my nails are done. But I’ll be honest, the past few weeks, I’ve been shitty about keeping my them painted. I did it a little bit for a Vegas weekend, but they immediately chipped and I got annoyed with them and they’re naked again.
I’m not spending money on manicures right now. I don’t have the money to spend on those frivolities. Every little bit that comes in that doesn’t go towards basic life maintenance (rent, groceries, car, gas, etc.) gets spent on career. Parking, drink minimums, classes, headshots, workshops, video and show production, festival entrance fees… you name it. There’s always something else I’d rather spend the money on.
And here’s why… I’m not worried about balance right now. I’m not being very balanced. I’m in a phase of my life where I have a one-track mind. I’m constantly working and focusing on all things creative that could help me be funnier and a better comedy package to market and share with the world. I’m still taking time for myself at the gym (because that’s helpful for both my mind and career) and I’m still trying to get plenty of sleep.
Other than that, I’m not spending very much time at home. I don’t have a lot of downtime for non-productive things. I don’t have a lot of interest in balance right now. I’m ok with the nails because at this very precious very rare time in my life, I can spend every waking hour working on forwarding my career. And- although nails are great when I have time- I’m ok with not having the time for it right now.
I’ve spent big chunks of my life in good balance. And big chunks of my life focusing on people, places, and things that were not “productive” to my career. I wouldn’t change those times for anything because they very much inform who I am now. And I look forward to the future when I have more time for those places, hobbies, and people again. But right now… I’m in focus mode. And nothing- not even gorgeous nail polish- is going to distract me from that.
And I’m ok with it.
Though…if I see a really cute color or style and have an excuse for a party or even to wear it to, I may splurge. We’ll see.