Focusing on the Positive

Lately, I have been feeling undervalued. So, I am writing about positive experiences these past few weeks that made me feel grateful and appreciated: filming Letters from Sam by Derek Lewis Gray, reading Erin Moughon’s new play at Mike Lesser’s The PlayGround Experiment and Sam Borowski’s acting class. I also want to take a moment at the end of this blog to remember a talented writer who passed away last week.

If you are following me on Facebook or Instagram, you have been hearing about Letters from Sam nonstop. The cast and crew for this film are so special. Derek and the team filmed the entire feature in 7 days! All the cast and crew were on top of their game and genuinely enjoyed working together. Some of the actors even helped score some of the top-notch locations or helped with scouting for talent. While I was on the bus to Baltimore, I thought about location scouting for indie films and how it seems so much harder to land locations like a pool bar or a luxurious home in larger cities. This distinction seems to be one of the advantages of living and/or filming in a small(er) town where people are more likely to know and trust you. When I was scouting for locations for Awkward Favors, I nearly dropped a couple of scenes because of location-induced frustration. I was particularly surprised at how hard it was to find a professional, cubical style office environment. Obviously, I eventually found an amazing location that was perfect for the sketch, but I got shut down several times beforehand by other businesses. I wonder if this would have been an issue had I gone to my hometown in Arkansas to shoot, instead of relying on my New York network to set me up with the right people. I also notice on my Facebook feed that many young filmmakers will post, asking for an “in” with certain locations like cafes, boardrooms and diners. Maybe this is an incentive to at least think about filming in suburbs. But, let me go back to Letters from Sam. The shoot was amazing. I hope that we are all able to work together again, and I have no doubt that I echo the hopes of the rest of the cast and crew. Below if a screenshot of my first scene for the film. Here is what Jake Simpson (DP) has to say about setting up for this shot.

“With long 16-hour days, we were constantly facing changes in light and had to plan our shooting days around the sun and weather. There were many times when we preferred shooting at night so that we could create consistent light by putting our film lights through gels, diffusion, and the windows to act as the type of light that we wanted. This often involved diffusing and gelling as many windows as we could and using all of the lights we had available.”

Erin Moughon is such a talented, funny and approachable playwright. Part of what makes her so talented is that she makes even the silliest of comedies relatable. For example, I performed with Kendra Augustin in one of Erin’s plays last year called For Mr. Cuddles. My character had an unhealthy attachment to her cat (the play was set at a formal pet funeral as if she was mourning a parent.) Erin was able to make this story engaging to audiences of all ages by underscoring the importance of communication in my character’s relationship with her sister and the feelings of loss and loneliness. The play that I read more recently for Erin was about a couple deciding on whether they should have kids or not. When Erin told me the premise of the play, my initial reaction was “oh so this is really somber.” Erin agreed but told me to have fun with some of the moments with my fellow actors. She wanted me to feel free to be more playful and comedic – I did. Aaron Johnson, who played my fiancé, and I were able to find moments throughout the excerpt that made us laugh (and almost cry.) I am going to continue supporting The PlayGround Experiment. I believe in their mission to support an inclusive environment for creatives, and I LOVED the pastries given to us at the end of the event. Check them out here.

On Saturday, I took Sam Borowski’s acting class in Linden, NJ. There were two new students, one regular student and one student who I don’t end up in class with very often. Sam assigned us several scenes that were original pieces (either he wrote alone or with a colleague.) The combination of the new students and material made the class feel fresh and kept me on top of my game. After all, I need to be able to perform with strangers (or just people who I don’t work with often) when I book film work or readings. Sam also has a reading coming of up one of this screenplays that he is producing with well-known actors. We were able to read some of these scenes for Sam in class, showing him our diversity as he continues casting the table read. Sam brought up the importance of social media. For many years I rebelled against social media. When I met Sam, I had never created a Facebook account. Ever. I ended up having to make an account for a short film that I was working on – they communicated with the cast through a private Facebook group. Sam convinced me to keep the account, and I have booked multiple gigs through connecting with other content creators. I develop this network by reaching out to filmmakers who I hit it off with at festivals, maintaining friendships with actors who I meet in classes and staying in touch with crew from films on which I work. If you are not comfortable putting much personal material on Facebook, that is fine. I limit how much personal information I display to the world. It is more important to promote your work, support your friends’ work and keep people up-to-date on what you have been doing to hone your craft.

This past week, one of my former castmates and friends passed away at 38. Purvi served in the military and was an amazing writer. She had been translating an old Indian epic into a sci-fi story in English. I was fortunate enough to hear some of this translation during one of our writing circles where we all brought in some of our work to be heard and gathered feedback. I met Purvi when we performed in Summer Dawn Reyes’s In Full Color show in Jersey City a little over a year ago (Summer is currently accepting submissions for this year’s show FYI.) Purvi read her poem called “A Clash Within a Culture.” After our closing performance, Purvi and I went to grab dinner. We talked about feminism, religion, our souls and how much we both love food. She was somebody who you would immediately feel comfortable opening to. I regret that I didn’t spend more time with her, and I wanted to take this opportunity to share her with you.

Until next time,