Monday, September 1, 2014

Writing My Own Destiny

I am an artist who creates her own work. Until very recently, when I finally acquired quality management, I was indie. For years, I freelanced with various people and then threw in the towel. I once heard it described as sleeping with someone  and not having  a real commitment. That would be about apt. None stuck for various reasons. Some would just blindly submit me because I was blonde, and therefore for the girl next door roles. I wouldn’t book them because I am a character lead. So I would be an also ran, wasting their time, mine, and the auditioners. Or I would just be lost in the shuffle. Sometimes they would be crazy. Or they wouldn’t know what to do with a client who had a unique skill set, was quirky, and on top of that, was too young to play the roles she was good for.

I still remember that it looked as if 2008 was going to be my year. A green thumb in the audition world, I booked much of what came my way. A lot of it was that I had dumped the manager I had the year before, and began submitting myself. I booked a lot of the stuff I submitted myself for. Not to mention I scored my somewhat well, it was an appearance on Rachael Ray. Not to mention I appeared on Good Day NY and WE TV. I also filmed not one by two pilots. I submitted a third sketch for a pilot to Bravo. Things were taking off.

Then the unthinkable happened. The market popped, and people stopped wanting to pay for extras such as singing telegrams. While Rachael Ray had gotten me some visibility, I had established myself as a niche act and a shock comedian. Quality managers didn’t want to return my calls. The pilots I filmed were not sold. I was back to being another bozo on the bus. Semi-unemployed, I lived on my laundry money and worked promo jobs in the cold. Sometimes they would pay me, and sometimes I had to chase them down for the slimy quarters owed me. Weekends were spent on the road where I was hit and miss, and usually the booker or headliner would try to sleep with me. The hardest piece of humble pie to swallow was when I was forced to hand out fliers in the freezing cold outside a building I had filmed in only a year before.

What was worse was I saw some of my college classmates booking huge roles as guest stars, or commercials. Some graced Broadway. I had nothing. I thought about perhaps going back to school and changing paths. Then when I couldn’t think of anything I would rather do I thought of killing myself. My nights were spent pounding the pavement and being one of a herd of hundreds of comedy cattle. After an unsuccessful weekend on the road, a tour that ended in disaster, I knew things had to change.

There is an old saying. When opportunity knocks, open the door. Opportunity wasn’t knocking, and there was no door to open. However, there is also another old saying that if opportunity doesn’t knock, you can always build a door. The opportunity came for me to enter a contest. I had to make a video. So I used my costumes, puppets, and characters I did. I didn’t win the contest, but I got positive feedback on the video. My fellow comedians in my support network told me to make more videos, and pointed out that this was a strength I had. The video helped me score a hosting gig at an online television network. It also got me the chance to produce my own one woman shows where my following gained from my videos and TV spots here and there attended. For the first time in forever, I didn’t feel beaten down. Perhaps the answer had been in front of me all along, and I just had to stop feeling sorry for myself and take action.

As I took action, it occurred to me that the level of competition in New York was steep. However, there were a hundred of them and only one of me. No one was willing to work like I was. Not to mention I was a ventriloquist and a woman, that made me a rarity. Oh, and I had costumes and was quirky. Not to mention I had produced my own shows as a teenager on public access, and one was even aired worldwide on a shoe string budget on various community stations. This had helped garner interest from NYU, and I ultimately was admitted and attended the Tisch School. It worked then. So why wouldn’t it work again?

The creation of my own shows resulted in spots alongside respected headliners who began to guide me not only as a comedian, but as a person. Although the opportunity as a talking head dried up, it allowed me to write for a now defunct online rag, and do more with my writing. The editors of the online site saw my puppet videos, and encouraged me to put a video with each blog. So basically, my ability to create my own work enabled me to do two things I had always dreamed of doing, writing and puppets. 

From there, I made videos with my puppets as well. These included anything from sketches to interviewing celebrities. I didn’t know what I was doing, I just did it. I emailed drag queens and other LGBTQ luminaries. Sometimes the answer was yes, sometimes no. But I just kept going.

At the urging of my now deceased friend Joe Cannava, I wrote I Came, I Saw, I Sang. I still remember pounding it out in my apartment that had no air conditioning and putting my underwear in the refrigerator. I had no idea what I was doing. Yeah, I wrote blogs and short stories. I never wrote a book. I just kept writing every day, and sometimes into the night. I was on a mission. I knew I had to do this. Again, no idea what I was doing. I stopped acting questions and just did. I knew somehow, I had to get this out into the world.

Once again, showing up for myself and creating my own work opened up more doors. I got some television and radio spots, and these were the same spots I secretly wanted to covet from my college classmates. Instead of being jealous, I was now being positive, proactive, and joining the party. I scored another more lucrative talking head gig, and entertained people all over the world. I also began to dabble in modelling and music. In that time, I also returned to acting and made a horror movie, something I have always wanted to do. So far, Death of a Dummy is in several festivals in Europe. I had always feared I would be nothing more than a niche performer, and there I was acting.

Publishing my book also opened up the doors with my writing. I was asked to submit pieces to The Huffington Post, xoJane, Elite Daily, The Good Men Project, and many others. Not to mention my book and other writings have been front and center on several television show proposals. While none have come to fruition quite yet, I had a way in that many others did not.

I will admit this past year I became complacent and lazy. Some of it was opportunities had come my way as a result of my door building, and I didn’t feel the need to do much else except wait. Yet the waiting made me sicker than anything in the world. I obsessed, agonized, and made myself ill. I spent time over the toilet, and then depressed in bed. I felt powerless and no longer able to control my destiny. Around the end of March, I felt like throwing in the towel again. That is when I knew I had to take action.

I had always wanted to film a DVD. So the opportunity came to film it at the Metropolitan Room. I had also dreamed of headlining a theatre. So the weekend before Memorial Day, I booked two days. Lastly, I wanted a book signing in NYC, and it had been postponed because of Sandy. I booked that at Don’t Tell Mama. The taping was a success, and now Broke and Semi-Famous has not only sold overseas but now sells online. The headlining has put me in a whole new level of comedy, and now I am looking to headline more theatres. The book signing was also a success, and my coworkers from the telegram company performed. Each shined, and my boss was the biggest star of all.

My events were also featured in publications that previously snubbed me. Others who did not know my name now knew who I was. I walked into venues Liza Minelli and Joan Rivers stop into for fun as a paid headliner, and it was all because I took control of my own destiny. What’s more, is now I am beginning to grow into some of the roles I am good for. Directors are scouting me, and are looking at my resume mightily impressed. While I have not booked the roles yet, they are amazed at the level of experience I have. 

That lends itself to my next point. Being an artist who creates her own work has made me better on projects where I am not in the drivers seat. I respect the script in a way I never had, because I know first hand the writer wrote those words for a reason. After all, I picked the words and sentences in my book with great care, right?  I make sure to show up on a timely manner, lines memorized, to save time and money. It also shows my fellow do it yourself creator that I respect their project, and I truly do because I know how hard they worked. I say please and thank you. I take direction well, and try my damnest to do it right on the first try. Again, having been on the other side I know how important these things are. I know the people on the other side of the audition table are on my side, they have a deadline and want you to be the one. I also know editors want positive and fun content, things that are solution oriented. Oh and spell check please.  So basically, this has made me not just a better artist but a better person. 

This summer has been rewarding and good on so many levels, both personally and workwise. Creating my own events nearly killed me, but those who didn’t know about my book did. Those who didn’t know what the telegram company did now are aware we exist. My fans now have a way to watch me via DVD and online. A few weeks ago I was accidentally the poster girl for EBay online. I also booked the other opportunities through my self-starting that were amazing. Yes, my work load was exhausting, but I enjoyed every second of it. It paid off artistically and financially, because this summer the rent paid itself doing what I loved most, making others smile.

My career ebbs and flows, and August is an ebb. While I caught some good news on a puppet project I did this summer, the phone has not been ringing as much. There have been emails informing me that I am under consideration for various projects and they will let me know soon. In a way it is kind they are considering me, yet it is somewhat of a cocktease. Either tell me yes or no. The pit forms in my stomach and I want to vomit all over again. When will this vicious cycle end?

That is when I begin to plan the next group of things I will self-create. For one, there is another book in the works. I am also guiding my own mother as she writes her book on infant swimming. Additionally, I am writing a musical based on my book, and am working with a Julliard trained composer. Add in a photo shoot for my calendar, and a new music video and song premiering. Not to mention I want to film another DVD, this time for children.

So whatever happens next is unknown, and the unknown is scary. Whatever those in charge do is out of my control. However, I will continue to build my own doors. As they open, the rooms they reveal are well beyond my wildest dreams and imagination. Good luck catching up, because so far no one can stop me. 

Check out my book I Came, I Saw, I Sang on Amazon and Barnes and Noble
Check out my DVD Broke and Semi Famous on EBay and

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