Thursday, November 27, 2014

Interrupting Steve Martin

Today is Thanksgiving and I am full of gratitude and thanks for so many things in my life. I am thankful for a family that loves and supports me, friends who are always there to give me advice or a great cocktail, and Steve Martin.

Yes, I am thankful for Steve Martin. And Martin Short. Sound confusing? Let me start from the beginning.

One of the several jobs I am lucky enough to have is called Live Talks LA. It's a wonderful company created and ran by a wonderful man with a not so wonderfully pronounced last name, Ted Habte-Gabr. Let's just call him Ted for the purposes of this story. Ted runs this unique company where interesting authors of all kinds (actors, directors, chefs, entrepreneurs, etc.) all sit down and do a live interview and Q&A event in Los Angeles for fans of their work and their book. It's really a cool thing-check them out here at!

Anyways, I was coming up the 5 freeway from a late night gig in San Diego where I sang "Dancing Queen" and "Thriller" till I was blue in the face. Just as I was starting to enjoy the drive, low and behold an insane freeway accident came out of nowhere (SHOCKER) and left an entire portion of the 5 freeway looking like an episode of The Walking Dead. After being parked on the freeway and eventually police escorted in the opposite direction for over two miles, I was lucky to make it to work that evening.

Six hours of traffic later, I someone managed to show up to work right on time with a full bladder, empty stomach, and less than impressive personal hygiene. Regardless, I was still excited for the opportunity to rub shoulders with two of the world's most beloved comedic geniuses, Martin Short and Steve Martin! Martin Short had written a fascinating autobiography entitled, "I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend", and his good ole chum Steve Martin had the honor of interviewing him at the beautiful Alex Theatre in Glendale.

Three hours of answering questions and putting out fires for a sold-out, excitable crowd of fans later, I was ready to find a humble spot in the back of the theatre and watch the comedy gold unveil before my eyes. I was also ready to pee.

Once I made sure I wouldn't wet myself with excitement in public, I headed into the theatre to try and catch the last few minutes of the interview. Though I wasn't able to hear much, I would highly recommend any Martin Short fans to head to your nearest bookstore and snag a copy of Short's work. He is an incredible human being with a tragic, powerful story. You will not be disappointed.

Alright, back to the super important zip-up vest-wearing me. So there I was soaking up all of the goodness, feeling all the feels, being told to please get out of the way by very posh looking photographers over and over again. I was hungry for nuggets of comedy wisdom and also for in-n-out burger.

The house lights came to half, the audience roared with genuine and thunderous applause, and my boss Ted boomed over the microphone that unfortunately the time of the interview had to come to a close. Hearing my cue to snap back into work mode and act like I owned the place, I walked down the theatre aisle, microphone in hand, to follow Ted's lead for the question and answer portion of the show.

Ted had put me in charge of picking a special chosen few fans from house left to ask Martin and Steve a question or two. Sounds simple enough in theory, but as I came to find out, keeping two comedic geniuses on task is no easy job. Ted asked the first question from his side of the stage and things got off to a great start. He motioned for me to ask the next question, and after I figured out how to interpret his hand gestures and passionate head nods from all the way across the half-lit theatre, I awkwardly shoved the microphone in the face of the poor unsuspecting man who wanted to ask a question. He nervously muttered his way through his question, and I was in the clear for the time being. A third question was asked from the balcony, a forth from Ted's house right section again, and then it was back to me. This time I was determined to take more command of my audience members and do my best to maybe not have such an awkward transition.

The answer to Ted's audience member question was starting to de-rail, as these things tend to do when you have two of the world's greatest improvisers live on stage together. Not to mention, the subject of the question was "What's your secret formula to a funny joke?". Did I mention how funny Martin Short and Steve Martin are?

So there we all are, laughing and enjoying the hilarious banter about Rush Limbaugh being a prick and Steve Martin is laying down the comedic timing laws, and I can start to sense that it's my time to transition to the next question. I mean after all I was wearing an official zip-up vest and all black. I was there to work. I was there to command the attention of thousands of people and keep us all on track. I was there because I had the balls to politely interrupt Steve Martin. I could feel Ted's laser-beam eyes looking to me to keep this ship afloat and I knew he meant business.

"Ok", I thought to myself, "Here I go...I have to jump in and interrupt Martin Short and Steve Martin. Two of the most famous comedians of all time. Just do it. Just interrupt them. For all the marbles. Or at least for $15/hour to pay for your cheeseburger tonight... "

And just as Martin Short was landing a brilliant and effortless joke about Rush Limbaugh and prostitutes, I went for it. I heard one second of awkward silence and I knew it was now or never. "Allllright our next question..." boomed over the mic as I awkwardly leaned over a couple of old ladies to hand the mic to a young boy, hoping I hadn't ruined their perfect timing.

Suddenly, laughter erupted from the entire theatre, including the boy who was about to ask a question. Confused, I stood up and looked around. Everyone was looking at me. I looked up over to the stage and saw Steve and Martin doubled over in laughter. "Oh shit", I thought. "I f*cked something up!".

Once the laughter died down a bit, Steve placed his hand on his forehead to see through the piercing stage lights, looking for the perpetrator who interrupted him. His eyes finally landed on me and I awkwardly raised my hand, half-expecting him to put me on blast. He looked at me, then looked to Martin, who was still laughing, then finally back to the audience. "Now that's comedic timing!", he said as he gestured to me. As if it was a planned moment to demonstrate the art of a one-two punch joke and answer the previous question.

Completely in shock of the words that just spilled out of his mouth, I proceeded to laugh uncomfortably and do one of those weird acknowledging head-nod things, you know the kind where you humbly lift your shoulders and your hand and act all innocent and chum at the same time? Ya, I did that.

Needless to say, the rest of the evening I was floating on air. Steve Martin, THE Father of the Bride, THE Jerk, one of the ORIGINAL Three Amigos, had told me I was funny. ME. Regular old Lauren Ellen Thompson, wearer of sleeveless work vests and dirty-haired ponytails, had good comedic timing.

I felt like I could do anything. The reality of a rent check-bouncing, stressful week of non-stop 16 hour work days and rejected auditions suddenly didn't feel so heavy and hopeless. Steve Martin and Martin Short thought I was funny and I could tell my grandkids this story one day while watching "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles"on Thanksgiving or old SNL re-runs late at night.

So thanks Steve and Martin. One off-handed joke and several moments of laughter later, you have lifted the spirits of one more struggling actor in Los Angeles, and for that I am forever thankful.

Thursday, July 3, 2014


Hi my name is Lauren and I have a fear of falling through the cracks in a casting office. There I said it. 

When it comes to acting, I'll be honest: I have this constant fear that I am not perfectly one type of character or stereotype and because of that, I will never be cast. I also worry that I should be trying to change something about my appearance or personalty to make sure I easily slide into one of the female pigeon holes that were so thoughtfully placed before me in Hollywood. 

Ah yes, pigeon holes, otherwise known in the land of the rich and famous as "types". While normally it is a celebrated thing when an actor isn't pigeon holed into playing the same type of character in all his/her films or projects (i.e. Zooey Deschanel as the "quirky girl next door" or Johnny Depp as the "oddball mysterious weirdo"), when you are young and just starting out, many casting directors/agents/managers/industry professionals will tell you it's best to be a stereotype for a while. According to them, you will work more and be more successful if everyone in the industry can see you as just that one thing you do very well. Then, hopefully you can break out of that stereotype eventually and have a flourishing career filled with all different roles and types. 

Now being an educated person who is aware of the ins and outs of this industry, I would be stupid not to believe the people who have been doing this for years. Trust me, I completely understand the logic behind casting directors and producers wanting a simple formula for success not only in casting, but at the box office. But if I am being honest, sometimes this concept infuriates me...and by sometimes I mean all the time. Maybe it's because I am not easily put into a stereotype in real life or on the screen, or maybe it's because I have this crazy belief that human beings are complex individuals who are so much more than a a few choice words in a character description. It also could be that I firmly believe that you shouldn’t have to be a Victoria Secret model to be a leading lady or 200 lbs overweight to play a funny female role. 

While I am very aware of the type of industry I find myself surrounded by and the demands that it brings upon my life, I just want to take a minute and validate all of you actors out there who might feel like me. Male or female, young or old, tall or short, skinny or fat, you are unique, and you are enough! You are worthy of working and being an artist even if you don’t fit perfectly into a typecast or stock character (thanks a lot ancient Greece). You are sexy and funny and smart and dumb and weak and strong all at the same time if you want to be! That’s what we are as humans: every possible emotion and contradiction in the book-that’s what makes us unique. Screw having more “strong female roles”, why don’t we just have MORE female roles? (Don’t get me wrong I love me a good ass-kicking female fatal, but I don’t think all women have to kick-ass, I think the ratio of male:female roles needs to be equal or at the very least increased...but that’s a whole other can of worms). 

I don’t know about you but I feel pretty damn proud of my uniqueness and the fact that when I walk into a room casting directors don’t know what the HELL to do with me. Tall pretty blonde girl or average jane with a chip on her shoulder? Athletic sporty young mom or manly lesbian sidekick? Angry abused woman with a past or sweet innocent girl next door? Though it might hinder me in actually getting cast all the time as one particular type, I am learning to be okay with that. I am learning that I should celebrate my uniqueness and the fact that I am versatile. I am learning that it is okay that I can belt out Hit Me With Your Best Shot to a crowd of drunk groomsmen with attitude and sass and sweetly serenade the young newlywed couple with an operatic soprano flair as they take their first bites into their overly priced and dry chicken. (Did I mention I am a wedding singer?). I am okay with the fact that I get called in to read for a 35 year old lesbian sassy sister and a 21 year old blonde bimbo grocery store clerk back to back. WHO FREAKING CARES that I don’t fit into just one type of role!? I mean other than my manager who wants to make money off of me booking roles and the fact that I need to pay my rent....awkward silence...I am pretty much aware that my career path is going to be a little different. It’s going to take a while for people to figure me out-heck I am still figuring me out. And you know what? That’s okay. I need to make the choice that I am who I am and I look how I look and in my short yet simultaneously long 25 years of life, I have experienced a lot more than the sum of a “girl next door” or “blonde bombshell” descriptor. 

I’ve ridden on a camel in the dessert of Morocco, almost drowned in the ocean at Monterey Bay, served the poor and hungry Indian population in southern Nellore, travelled up the coast of California and all throughout the US, sang in a castle in London, taught a foster kid how to swim, walked alongside my brothers and sisters during a messy divorce, taken copious amounts of tap dancing classes, got lost in Yosemite National Park, been mortified that the guy I fell for wasn’t interested in at all..., met Clint Eastwood, ran away from home, confronted sexual harassment from a boss,  landed myself in the hospital for a third degree burn, learned to love and protect my brother with downs syndrome, swam with stingrays in the Caribbean, gone through the ups and downs of love and heartache, punched a kid in the face, broke the hearts of a few boys (sorry about that), skinny dipped off the coast of Spain, learned what it truly meant to be a big sister and a good friend, and miraculously somehow still never seen any of the Star Wars movies. SHOCKING I know...most people say I am a stunted human being because of it but it still makes a great fact in the classic ice breaker party game “Two Truths and a Lie”. 

All that to say, I find it difficult to package myself up into a nice little neat bow and hand it over to casting directors, and I know so many fellow actors who feel the same way. While I know realistically I need to try and find one or two types of roles I can play well and nail them in order to work more in the industry, I think I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that no matter what I am seen as in a casting room or on an 8x10 photo, I am always going to be hard to peg and that's okay. I am open to so many more opportunities and as I get older I will be able to have a career that lives longer than year 30 because I will have had a wealth of life experience and lessons under my belt. It also doesn't hurt that I am 5'9'' and will be able to play moms till my dying day. Yay mom jeans and tall girls! 

One of my acting mentors and coaches put my fears and worries into words for me recently. He looked at me and said "Lauren, I can see why that would be a worry for you, but just continue to be great and work hard and eventually it will click for you. Someone will recognize you for your talent, personality, and hard work ethic". Now I don't bring this up to pat myself on the back (man this post seems very self-centric), but merely to point out a truth that I am working hard to believe and live out in my life and I want to encourage all of you to do the same. While I am perfectly content with my appearance and look and strongly encourage everyone to accept their own appearance, it is so refreshing to believe that we as artists are acting, writing, producing, singing, or whatever it is that we do, because we love to do it. Because it was what we were born to do and we feel alive when we create, not because we happen to physically fit a character description. So what if casting directors or directors brush you aside or you struggle with finding your place in big bad Los Angeles? If you want to be working on your craft and telling stories then go right on ahead. Write unique roles for yourself and your fellow actors, produce and cast diverse projects that challenge stereotypes and gender roles, and continue to work hard and stay humble. The right roles will come along when they are meant to come along and for once you will be cast because you have something unique and exhilarating to bring to the table instead of looking the part of bikini girl number two or jock McGee on TV.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Decisions, Decisions

Ever feel like you can't make up your mind? Do you feel like the good ole pros and cons list falls pretty flat? Or maybe you feel like you aren't 100% certain about something so instead of choosing one thing over another you don't make a decision at all, paralyzed in fear of regret? (If you answered no to any of those questions, you aren't human and you probably lie to yourself daily about how awesome your life is and smear those lies all over social media like moldy cream cheese). But seriously, indecisiveness can be such a huge problem with us twenty-somethingers...heck it's a problem for everyone! Indecisiveness is contagious, or at least it feels like it is, and I think I have come down with a severe case of the can't-make-up-my-mind-avoid-reality-or-too-many-big-scary-decisions-disease and it needs to be stat.

Tonight as I sat in my theatre companies' business meeting - and I hold that term business loosely - I started to feel another wave of symptoms caused by the indecisive disease. My mind was wandering about a million other things, like where the HELL was the box of silverware that I couldn't find unpacking today, should I be blonde or brunette, where was my next big paycheck going to come from, what was I going to throw together enough to call dinner when I got home,  and several other extremely intelligent and dire things. It came time in the meeting to nominate people from the company to step up and be on the leadership for the next year and as per usual protocol, someone had to nominate you-either yourself or another member of the company.

The first woman had been nominated by a friend in the company who knew she would be great for the position. She had spent several weeks thinking about whether or not it would be something she would like to be a part of and if so how she would go about it. Once she stood up to accept the nomination, she began to share with the rest of the company why she thought she would be a good fit to help lead the next year's season. Armed with extensive knowledge of plays, musicals, dates, facts, authors, language, and time periods, she was your typical straight-A student, overly prepared and 100% certain of every word coming out of her mouth. Not only had she met the criteria and expectation for what was asked of her as a potential leader, she had gone above and beyond and decided to show us how passionate and certain she was of herself on the leadership team. I have to say I was impressed! I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about her hard work and research, her planning and preparation, and though several of the current leadership members struggled to rein her in to a humane time limit, I didn't mind. For one moment in my pathetic indifferent, indecisive illness I was able to see what it must look and feel like to be healthy again-even just for a few minutes. I saw a woman who was passionate about something and wasn't afraid to make bold choices. I saw someone who had made up her mind about something she loved and wasn't intimidated by the hard work and preparation it took to make that decision a reality.

As she sat back down in her chair with all of us regular slackers, a lull of silence hit the room. It was time to nominate a second person to run for leadership and quite frankly that was a tough act to follow. After a brief period of silence, people started to look around the room inquisitively. Eyebrows raised at each other as if to say "you should run" or "don't even think about nominating me!" or my personal favorite the "no eye contact with anyone until you possibly can't avoid it anymore" look. Oh man, so much eyebrow subtext. I started to nervously make weird faces across the room to my roommate to conceal my uncomfortable guilt rising up inside me- and then suddenly, just before things started getting really awkward, a man sitting in the very back row quietly raised his hand. He announced to the room that he would like to nominate himself for the position and a sigh of relief, shock, and curiosity filled the room. To be honest I had barely spoken to the guy so I was kind of shocked to see him volunteer, but nevertheless excited to see what he had prepared as well.

He walked up to the front of the stage and stood there honestly, vulnerably. He told us he didn't have an elaborate plan or a plethora of research already started, or even that he hadn't given it much thought at all. In fact, he confessed that he had just now, literally in that moment raised his hand and decided to put himself up for consideration. He confessed that a month ago when the elections were announced he heard a tiny voice in the back of his head urging him to step up and run, but he had ignored it. Over the next several minutes he shared his heart with the group sincerely about how he has been feeling like he needs to take on more responsibility and commitment in his life. He told us that by adding this new responsibility to his day to day life he would have to force himself to try new things, read new plays, see more live theatre, have conversations with new people in new ways, and hold himself more accountable to others- even in tough situations. He let us in to the fact that no he hadn't really thought this thing through all the way, but he had a gut feeling and wanted to make a bold choice. No matter what the outcome he was now going to have a responsibility to committing to that choice for a period of time and he was going to make the most of it.

Wow, a real life lesson in decision making right before my eyes. Of course! How did I not see it before!? It's not about how you make the decision, it's about having the courage to make the decision in the first place! Moment of silence for that to sink in.

There are always going to be a million ways to make decisions: pros and cons that you factor in, endless research to be done, personal feelings, other people's feelings, places, finances, family, locations...the list goes on and on. Sometimes the decisions you have to make are easy. Sometimes they aren't that black and white. They aren't as simple as charting out a pros and cons list or reading a few articles online, they're about following your heart...and that's a lot easier said than done. But there's hope! Following your heart, or as I like to call it, your gut, isn't really as hard as we think. If we are really honest with ourselves, it's not making up our minds that is the hard part, it's following through with the consequences of that decision- whatever they might be. Maybe you are trying to decide how you feel in a relationship, or what career path to try next, or maybe it's a question of what city you should live in (hint: the Buzzfeed quizzes don't count). These decisions are ALWAYS going to be coming up in life- period. There's no way around it- I checked. So maybe what we should be focusing on is after we have come to terms with what our gut is telling us to do- we stick to it. We don't waiver from side to side and make ourselves sick. We stick to our guns even when it's hard or even when we don't feel like it. Don't get me wrong- if you realize right away that you made the wrong decision and there is still time to fix it, by all means go for it! But if you find yourself in a constant state of turmoil, contemplation, avoidance, or indifference, you need to stop, take a moment, and remember what brought you to that decision or lack of decision in the first place. Trust yourself. You know what you want deep down, you just have to work on tuning out all the other voices inside your head that are telling you otherwise. Listen to yourself and spend some quality time alone to contemplate your thoughts and desires. We shouldn't live in constant fear or anxiety that one bad decision will ruin the rest of our lives, because let's face it- we are human, we all make bad decisions from time to time. It's not the bad decisions that make us feel stuck, it's the lack of commitment to truly listening to our heart's desires and not being afraid to stick it out, even when it's tough.

And hey, if all else fails you can always play Phoebe's game from Friends and rapid fire question yourself with two different choices until you finally just say one...that works too.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Surviving Self Pity

So it's a pretty typical night. Here I sit hunched over my precious macbook, a glass of two-buck-chuck in hand, head throbbing from scrolling through endless Craigslist part time job postings, stomach aching from consuming pizza for the third time in a row this week, and yes I'll admit it...I'm starting to feel pretty sorry for myself. Sorry that I can't seem to find an affordable apartment without having to move to Lancaster, sorry that all of the well paying flexible jobs for young woman aged 18-28 require several "full body shots", and sorry that no matter how much time and effort I put into trying to think up the perfect LA living-working-acting-writing situation, I keep coming up short.

Moment of silence for a middle class white girl  who thinks she has it hard. Annnnnd we're done. Suck it up Thompson and do something productive! Ok well I don't know how productive this one will be, but let's at least try and have some fun. After all, I am sitting in a full size bed with clean sheets, a roof over my head, typing on a laptop I was able to afford to put on a credit card three years ago that I still haven't fully paid off. Life can't be all that bad right? 

So, here goes. A list inspired by my current search for better employment and affordable living in Los Angeles. A list of things that got me through the last three years. A list of my practical survival tips if you will....and I think you will. 

1. Chocolate. All chocolate is great, but especially the impulsive bar you grab while standing in line at the grocery store hoping you have enough money to pay for the frozen taquitos, eggs, and cheap wine you are clinging to. This chocolate bar will be the reason you plead with the cashier, "no don't put that in the bag, I'll take it!" so you can cram it into your mouth in a hungry-nervous fluster as you drag all your bags to the car, drive home and wonder if your card will overdraft. Or chocolate Cadbury eggs, damn those are good.

2. A Sense of Humor. Now this one can seem pretty obvious, but it's incredibly important. It's most essential when your car breaks down in the middle of the 405 and you have to somehow pull over in four lanes of rush hour traffic without harming yourself, your passenger, or any other innocent bystander. It's also very essential when the towing and mechanic companies call you with a number that you only ever associated with your entire credit card limit so you can laugh out loud and let them know with confidence and swag to just "put it on my tab". 

3. A Strong Junk Mail Deleting Finger. Yup, this one gets more important as you get older, as I am pretty certain that every year you age your junk mail intake increases proportionately. It's best to figure out some fancy means to cut the junk mail off at the pass and avoid it all together, but let's be honest-sometimes things slip and we end up with several hundred emails to delete. Hence, the strong finger. I recommend finger dancing exercises to really stretch and keep your deleting finger of choice agile and ready for battle. Also, a thiz face helps with this too.

4. Eminem. He's got some great inspiring jams to really kick your ass into gear if you don't mind a few clever expletives here and there. It will make you feel like the king of your crappy valley apartment. Put on a hoodie and belt it out and you'd be surprised how your day will start to look up. Also, it's funny to throw up your sweatshirt hood in public, start a slow jog, maybe throw in a one-two punch and scream MOMS SPAGHETTI to the unsuspecting people around you.

5. A Facebook Inception. Yes that is what I am talking about. When you have gotten yourself into a deep, deep, embarrassing social media rabbit hole (I have found that Facebook tends to be the worst kind) and you feel as if things are starting to become dark, scary, and pathetic, you MUST be able to remember you are living a real life in real time and that precious time is ticking by, and SNAP OUT OF IT. Slam your laptop closed, slap yourself in the face, immediately stand up and pretend you were doing yoga the whole time, whatever it is that works for you-DO IT. No one wants to walk into your room to find you hunched over your computer on photo 2,347 of a total stranger. No one. You're better than that.

6. A Few Great Pandora Stations. Ok so maybe I am a little out of touch with the coolest music website or stations or whatever (Songza, Spotify, Mahogony Sessions), but you get what I mean. Have a couple great, inspiring music stations that will allow you to be introduced to new, interesting music. I know I have discovered some awesome and unique jams because of Pandora and great international YouTube music channels. Put it on when you are doing menial tasks or sitting around feeling sorry for yourself and you might be surprised how new, great music inspires you. Or change it to 90's Pop Hits and burn a few calories while you do laundry. 

7. The Ability to Figure It Out. I truly believe one of the most important skills you can have to be successful in anything that you do is self-assurance. The ability to say to yourself or to someone else, "You know what, no, I don't know how to do that but I will figure it out", or at the very least Google something. Research it. Read a book for crying out loud. We live in a time where literally any piece of knowledge is at our fingertips. Use that. Educate yourself on new things daily and weekly. Challenge yourself to learn new skills and don't ever be that lame person that uses the excuse "Oh I can't, I don't know how to do that". That's fine if you don't know how to do something, but you are more than capable to learn. I promise. Of course it's ok to ask for help, but I bet if you pushed yourself even more than you thought possible-you could gain new skills that you never realized you had. 

8. Perspective. Ahh, one of my all time favorites. Just the other day I was sitting in my car watching the horror that was a minor fender bender unfold before my eyes in the lane next to me. The way this "man" chose to deal with the very minor, normal mistake was incredibly selfish, mean-spirited, and unnecessarily dramatic. Look man, I get it, it's annoying, someone else accidentally tapped your moving piece of plastic and metal with theirs, but the reality is that no matter how important it was to get to Chipotle right this second, or how much money you paid to have your crappy 1984 Chevy be painted that dull baby poop brown color-you know the kind of paint that takes all the shine out (what is UP with that stuff anyways?!) was it really worth yelling and degrading an elderly woman in front of your son so he sees how much hate and anger you have living inside you for everyone and everything? I would like to think not, and I think you should be ashamed of yourself for being such a horrible example of patience and manhood in front of your son, and for what- a tiny scratch on the back of a car you probably spend more time and attention on than your own children? Perspective man, perspective. 

9. A Great Friend..or Two or Three. This one speaks for itself. If you are lucky enough to have a friend in your life that is honest with you, supports you no matter what, lifts you up when you feel lower than low, drinks cheap wine with you and entertains your long nonsensical whining rants about life and relationships, hold on tight to that person. Hold on with dear life and don't let go. Also, if you have two or three of this caliber of quality friends, you should consider yourself a very rich person. Stop whining and go do something nice for them.

10. A Mentor. I have come to learn that asking for help can be really hard, but also really rewarding. Finding an older, wiser, more experienced person who you can look up to and follow in their footsteps in certain ways is a huge blessing. Find someone who you can engage in great conversations with about your life, your career goals, and your desires and take them out to coffee or dinner. Write them thank you cards and study how they live their life. Don't copy them of course, but strive to replicate the success and great reputation they have created for themselves. Learn from their patience, hard work, expertise, and be patient for your own path. It will come when it's supposed to come and continuing to look up and outwards to people you admire will help you stop looking down and only focusing on your short comings. 

11. A Cheap Happy Hour. Cheap alcohol. Need I say more? Whatever your poison is in this department- smooth gin, a great margarita, or a rich glass of cabernet, drink up! It's ok to enjoy yourself once in a while. Especially if it's a two-for-one special in the middle of the afternoon with great friends. So you may have to put a round or two on your credit card once in a while, so what? If you work too hard and never stop to enjoy the day to day-regardless of your work or financial situation, then what's the point? I have a strong belief that all work and no play makes a very dull jane. 

12. An Open Mind. I can't tell you how many times I have spoken these words to my friends and to myself: "Just try it, you never know if you will like it or not..if it doesn't work out at least you know it wasn't for you". Now obviously this advice needs to be taken with a grain of salt-and definitely needs to be in the right context, but I think it is IMPERATIVE to not immediately shut down new ideas or new opportunities, or even new relationships. Of course don't put yourself through something you hate or think is un-healthy for you, but in the same breath how do you know if you don't TRY? Different is scary. Change is scary. Challenge is scary. You know what else is really scary? Never trying or changing or challenging anything about yourself or your life. THAT'S  scary. 

13. A Great Black Blazer. Ah, the "oh shit I just woke up hungover and I have two back to back job interviews and an audition today on the other side of the hill" predicament. Enter the classic, well-fitted, black blazer. Boys and girls LISTEN UP. I don't care WHO you are or WHAT you do with your life, as long as you own a nice, simple black blazer, everything is going to be ok. Reach for it in your time of need, take care of it, roll a lint roller over it from time to time, and make sure when you put it on leave your self-doubt and insecurities at the door. Watch out world! You have your black blazer on and you can accomplish anything! Dark grey or navy blue blazers could work too...but I'm not promising anything. 

14. Other Hobbies. GET A LIFE. Seriously, seriously. Pick up a fun hobby, go on a hike, plan a trip to a place you have never been before. Learn to play the guitar. Write a blog. Bake a cake. Just do SOMETHING. Sitting around and over-thinking what you should be or could be doing is taking two steps backwards and adding a lot of unnecessary stress in your life. As long as you don't get a life just to turn back around and Instagram the shit out of it so you can prove to everyone how much your life rocks. Do something you love because you love to do it and it excites and inspires you. Do something and live in the moment and don't worry about taking the perfect photo of the sun streaming in behind that perfectly placed smoothie. I promise you if you find yourself feeling stuck and not having the opportunities you want to have, keep doing. Do something else for a little while to get your mind off of it and you will feel a million times better. 

15. A Bigger Picture. No, I am not talking about using Cropic to make sure you get your whole sizzling hot body in your Instagram photo. I am talking about a mature and profound realization that your life isn't the center of the universe. Your life is meaningful and great, yes of course, but there is a greater story at work. If you are a spiritual person or a person of faith like myself, I can rest assured that in the moments I feel small and weak and insignificant I know there is a bigger story and a greater good that is constantly at work and moving even if I feel like a pathetic stagnate loser. Open your eyes to what is around you. Volunteer nearby at a shelter or a half-way house. Call your family and tell them you love and appreciate all they have done for you. Write a letter to your grandparents. Make a care package for soldiers overseas. Visit a children's hospital and tell stupid jokes. Constantly remind yourself that yes you may be feeling lost and alone and frustrated in life, but I have found the moment I am starting to hate myself for being selfish or ungrateful, all I  need to do is lift up my head, open my eyes, take a step back, and walk in another direction for a bit. Give a little of your precious time and thought to someone else or something bigger than yourself, and let yourself be surprised at the sense of satisfaction and peace it will bring. 

So there you have it. Go forth and be of good cheer. Nothing is ever as bad as it seems in this moment. You're gonna be just fine, you'll see.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Quotes for Days

We've all heard the cheesy, semi-inspiring cliche quote about things happening at the right time in your life. "Right time right place", "It will happen when it's supposed to", or my personal favorite "Everything happens for a reason". 

Though these quotes usually come from a good place and are told to someone in a genuine moment of encouragement, let's face it-they can be pretty annoying. For instance: hearing that 'everything happens for a reason' when you have $25 in your bank account and feeding yourself has become a challenge of will power and creativity, and every morning you wake up more tired and confused about what the actual f*ck you are doing with your life- half-hearted vague inspirational quotes can feel more like an aggravation than words of wisdom. Of course, being the contradictory and hypocritical human beings that we are, I would be lying if I didn't confess to having spewed a few of these phrases in a friend's moment of weakness when I didn't know what else to say. 

That's the thing about life quotes and phrases, they tend to pop up when we don't know what to say. The danger with that is they can be empty words. Hollow words that look better with a trendy Instagram filter or in an affordable Ikea frame at a dentist's office rather then spoken over someone in a time of need. So where did they come from? Why do we say them, and is there really any meaning to them? 

Well, that's where life comes in...and another cheesy life phrase, "You never know until you try". Yup, I just did that, I went there. 

No matter how many times I have yearned to not admit that my parents, teachers and older, wiser friends were right, they were. You just aren't going to understand or see the reasons for the things that they tell you or the words of caution they give you until you've lived through it for yourself, period. No amount of understanding a concept in your head or thinking about a life lesson will teach it thoroughly to you. You have to experience life on your own, go through a tough season, struggle for a little while-or a long while, learn a lesson the hard way, look really stupid, and come to terms with the fact that no, you will not always understand why things are happening and that's okay. We weren't created to know everything and we certainly weren't created to be perfect. Let's stop trying to pretend like we have it all together and just live through the times that we feel like Sandra Bullock in Gravity-alone and terrified. Get it Sandy. 

There will be a time down the road that you can look back and reflect on tough and confusing times in your life and have ultimate, peaceful clarity. At least, that's what I tell myself. It might happen sooner than you think, or it might take a really long time to understand things about yourself or your life. Fortunately, I have begun to see the fruit of that, and it tastes good...or maybe it just means I am getting old enough to actually have enough life to "look back on" things. Either way, I promise clarity will come and the more life you live, pieces will fall into place. No, they are not going to be perfect or exactly how you imagined them, sometimes worse, sometimes better. Sometimes it will feel like you aren't making any type of movement or progress in life, in your job, in your career, or in your relationships. That simply just isn't true. Logically, if you think about it, there's really no way you aren't constantly changing and moving towards something new and different. Unless you are literally trying to stay completely the same every day, which I don't think is even possible, you are moving. 

Like my dear old chum C.S. Lewis likes to say, "Isn't it funny how day by day nothing changes but when you look back everything is different..." 

You are discovering more and more each day about who you are and what you want. Yes, it may seem like you are taking two steps forward and one giant step backwards. Yes your steps might be so minuscule you can't even feel or see them, but the important thing is that you are moving. You are trying your best to keep going and some day things will click and you will be able to tangibly feel and see how far you've come. 

Your twenties can be a terrifying and unsettled time. They can also be exhilarating and tons of fun. The most important thing is that you are aware of the imperfections and open to what opportunities may come your way. Come to terms with the fact that your parents and teachers were probably right, and thank them when you finally understand what they are talking about. Thank your friends who support you and listen to you complain about your crappy auditions and parking tickets. Read a good book about being in your twenties and humble and educate yourself by listening to wiser, older citizens' stories. Be aware that no matter how much you accomplish and brag about on Facebook, your friends and family are what really matter. Without them, you would have no one to celebrate with and no one to talk you through the confusing and tough times. (Cue Bridesmaids quote from Helen: "And we just sat and drank wine and ate peanut brittle and I shared things with you that I've never shared with anyone"). 

Though I certainly don't have all the answers, I do know that there probably is a reason why most things happen to us...and why these cheesy life phrases have stuck around for so long. Even if we don't understand the why, we need to be patient and trust ourselves.  Let life breath a little and cherish the sweet moments in your day to day life that get you through all the messy stuff. 

Oh, and I also know for sure that I can't be friends with anyone who has a "Live, Laugh, Love" quote framed anywhere in their home. Nope. 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Intern or Burn

A few weeks before graduating college I created this sort of mental checklist of what I thought I had to do to "be successful", or at the very least make some sort of slick transition into "the real world". Ah yes, the real world. Unlike the wildly popular display of substance abuse and personality disorders on MTV, if Googled simply, the definition of the real world used as a phrase is this: 

real world: the practical world as opposed to the academic world; "a good consultant must have a lot of experience in the real world" 

Practical experience in the real world. Sounds simple enough, right? Graduate college, land a job in the field of your expertise and live happily ever after. If only this was 1979. Enter the Internship. The ultimate catch 22 of Generation Y. 

Ironically enough, the Googled definition of Internship is extremely vague.

An internship can be a method of on-the-job training for white-collar and professional careers, yet there are no formal standards defining them as such.

Ok so 1) graduate college, 2) obtain an "internship" and then 3) land a real world job. Boom. Plan made, straight to the top, BRING IT ON LOS ANGELES! * Cue Ludacris's song "Move B*tch!" *

Well...not so fast. Obtaining a professional, great internship doesn't happen overnight, let alone obtaining an internship that actually teaches you skills and practical application to anything remotely related to what you want to pursue. So then where does that leave 22 year old wide eyed and bushy-tailed Lauren ready to chomp down on this whole real world thing? 

That's where my advice begins. Advice on finding an internship (or several internships) that will actually bring you useful knowledge and help prepare you for whatever it is that you decide you want to spend all your precious time doing. 

For me, it was the 'cast the net wide and see what comes back to you' theory that taught me a lot about applying for internships. I had heard about this great internship website for the Arts through a college professor and spent the better part of three days applying online and sending out cover letters and emails. Internships for Theatres, internships for working with under-privileged youth, internships for playwrighting, stage management, set design, graphic design, you name it, I applied for it.  It wasn't until about email number eight or nine that I realized I wasn't even sending out a readable format for my resume, let alone writing a sufficient cover letter. After fixing my over eager mistakes and researching proper cover letters, resume formats, professional email etiquette, and the complex task of exporting pdf files, I was beginning to feel confident that I was getting the hang of it. I even received several replies of 'thanks but no thanks' and three whole interviews. Three. After applying to well over fifty internships in the greater LA area. I mean, come on! Didn't they know I had a college education AND a great personality to boot?  I could hardly bare the disappointment and injustice that had been made against me.  

Alas, I attended all three internship interviews with my head held high in the best professional attire I could muster up. All three internships happened to be Theatre related. The first was to work for an up and coming company that was more or less the parallel of IMDB in the Theatre world. The second, a teaching position for an inner-city arts program for youth, and the third, to assist at a high profile regional theatre as a graphic designer. Clearly I was extremely qualified for all three positions with my degree in Theatre Arts from a private Christian School. Opposite day. To my shock and horror, I wasn't chosen for any of the positions.  (I will say that I had one hell of a time getting to my first interview in downtown LA. The story involves a gas station car accident and a phone sex prank call at 9am, but alas that is a story for another time).  

So there I was, three interviews later and no internship to write home about. I had failed miserably, time to move in with mom. Well, not exactly. I ended up getting a  job serving at a BJs in Century City for the time being to pay my rent in Studio City, and quickly learned that I knew absolutely nothing about driving in Los Angeles. Once I figured out that getting a job in Century City when I lived in the valley was financial suicide and personal torture (it took me about two months to put the pieces together), I felt I was ready to give the internship thing another shot. I set out to find more opportunities and had heard from a creepy yet informative lunch patron at BJs about a website where internship postings were abundant. Naturally, I applied to whatever I could get my hands on and I learned quickly to try my hardest for opportunities near where I lived so as not to commit murder on the 405 freeway. Dozens of emails, cover letters, and interesting interviews later, I landed an internship at a production company in Studio City, five minutes from where I lived. YES. Life crisis averted, I am going to be okay. I even landed a second internship position the next week and had the very real world task of juggling two schedules at once. I decided to give the production company my Mondays and the talent agency, which was a little more intriguing to me at the time, my Tuesdays and Thursdays. Okay, I thought to myself, I am really cooking now...I can do this. Move over Harvey Weinstein! 

All that to say, the days and weeks passed and the magic of having real life LA internships faded away quickly. The majority of my time was spent fetching gluten free salads, re-stocking paper supplies, making Folgers coffee, and sitting by a phone waiting for it to ring so I could pretend for one brief moment that I was important. Now, don't get me wrong-I learned quite a lot from both of my internship opportunities, and even landed a pretty swell part-time job from one, but looking back I realize now the true lessons learned from this stage in my life. The point in getting an internship was never to actually obtain a "real job" or find my perfect career path at age 22, though some can find success that way. The whole point was to practice putting myself out there. To learn what types of opportunities were to be found in the first place and how much time and effort goes into each of them. To learn lingo and terminology used in the industry and in professional emails and why words like "pin" and "avail" and "watch and advise" are so incredibly exciting and frustrating at the same time. To learn the best streets to take at eight AM rush hour in the canyon or to find a perfect spot to sit and have a cup of coffee while you people watch and unwind. To learn what you don't want to do just as much as what you want to do, and to observe miserable people in their jobs so you can do everything you can to avoid ending up like them. 

Sure, I still have my printed and signed letter of recommendation from my very first fancy internship on hand just in case it saves my life one day, but deep down I know it won't. The stale words on my perfectly printed resume don't matter. What matters are the experiences I chose to enter into. Researching, applying, interviewing, failing, succeeding, listening, observing, reading, getting frustrated, getting interested, getting yelled at, talking with people about their career paths, cheesy email pleasantries, traffic survival routes, and what business casual attire actual means. Those are the things I remember and cherish and will bring with me into the real world. That is my definition of practical experience, and I am so thankful to have had it. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

There's a First Time for Everything

I remember my first experience writing an "industry advice" email very clearly. I had been interning for several months part time for a talent agency in Studio City and had been one of the fortunate few in my generation to actually become a paid assistant after months of free labor. As I was shuffling through the morning onslaught of emails, cheap office coffee in hand, I stumbled upon something different. I could sense the innocence and excitement in the all caps subject line with three exclamation points and clicked on it right away. Instead of another desperate plea for representation by some annoying hollywood wannabe, I discovered a spunky, determined twelve year old girl from the mid-west.

For her own protection and the purposes of this post I will refer to her as Annie. Annie was very mature for her age and had contacted me all on her own in hopes of obtaining representation in Los Angeles...and becoming a big star. She was honest about her lack of experience and was candid about her parents not approving of moving out to LA so young. But, despite her naive sense of self and zero experience, she had spirit. She clearly knew she had fallen in love with this crazy idea of playing pretend for the rest of her life and she was determined to do whatever it took.

I remember casually mentioning the email to my boss that morning as he walked past me to the hallway murmuring some snarky comment about her dreams being crushed before she even got out of high school. I nodded my head, spun back around to my gleaming PC screen and thought to myself, yeah, he's probably right. She's better off finishing up school in Simpleton, Middle of Nowhere and finding a nice stable career like marrying rich or computer software programming. Then I heard myself and realized, who the hell am I to think these things about a sweet, smart, dedicated young girl?  It probably took her all afternoon to research enough about this talent agency to draft a semi-professional email and send it before her parents could catch her. That takes guts, and frankly I love a gal with guts. Also, I would be lying if I didn't say she reminded me of another 12 year old girl with big dreams, a little training bra, and nothing to lose.

So I decided I would reply to her. Not right then and there, because obviously I had a lot of really important emails to filter through and ignore (i.e. the half-naked guy wearing only pots and pans in a unique attempt to be discovered as a serious "artist"), and I only had until four o'clock to accomplish this task. Thus, I forwarded her email to my personal email account and took my time responding to her inquiry carefully and thoughtfully.

In all honesty, I don't remember a lot of the specifics of the email, but I do know this. I told her she was brave. I told her I admired her gumption and that no matter what happened or who tells her she can't or won't or shouldn't, she can and she will and she should. I told her to stay in school and finish her education because educating yourself is important, not only for life but even for her goals of being an actress. Acting is hard work, but more importantly it is intelligent work, and no one wants to work with a stupid actor. I told her to keep taking class and doing her research about what it is like to live out here in big bad Los Angeles and how much work, money, and effort that really takes. I told her to listen a lot and learn from anyone and everyone and read like crazy. Of course I also told her to we don't represent anyone under the age of 18 that isn't SAG but to research other agencies in her own state that she could potentially start relationships with. I told her to keep dreaming big because if she is already willing to put herself out there at age 12, well shoot girl, you already won half the battle.

A few days went by and I found myself quietly wondering about little orphan Annie. Had she received my email? What did she think of it? Did her parents catch her secretly emailing big important glorified interns across the country? Then finally, about a week later she replied, and I must admit I was so excited to hear from her again I almost forgot to be discrete about constantly checking my personal email at work.

Annie had read my email and she wanted to let me know how helpful it was for me to take the time to write such a long and detailed reply. She told me about how many people she had emailed in the past few months and how I was the first person to even reply back to her. No matter what, she said, she would always remember the nice assistant from Los Angeles named Lauren who took the time to tell her that she mattered. She went on to tell me she felt better knowing that even just one person-one seemingly meaningless stranger far, far away from her -was able to relate to her big dreams in a small way, and for that, she would be forever grateful.

Well, at this point I was feeling so darn warm and fuzzy all over that I didn't even feel my boss hovering over my shoulder with his raised eyebrow. I quickly clicked out of my gmail account and made a stupid joke under my breath to ease the tension, but I didn't care. I had made little Annie's day better for one brief moment and who knows, maybe that email will be the very thing that reminds her on a tough day that she matters and she can do it. Maybe she will be a better actress and more importantly a better person because a bored assistant at an office decided to reply to her email.

Go get em' tiger.

         "Never give up, for that is just the place and time when the tide will turn"                                                                                                         

          -Harriet Beecher Stowe