The Actor's Mom

The craziest job ever.

Witches and Fairies

I believe in the kid’s talent. He’s good. Plus, he’s gorgeous. Yeah, I’m a mom, but yes, he is. I also truly believe that acting is a good profession for him. He’s too smart, too imaginative, too dramatic to work in an office day in, day out.

And every now and then something he does or says (or someone else does or says) brings butterflies to my stomach. Just briefly, then it goes away. Could he one day make it big? Then I just brush it off and go on with the tasks at hand.

Reading Patti Smith’s Just Kids made me think of all the little premonitions and coincidences throughout my life and also when dealing with the kid’s work. Nothing is random, that’s for sure. And sometimes the feeling is too strong to deny it, or even doubt it.

I don’t believe in Destiny. If it did exist, life would be too easy. I believe some things are “likely” to happen, but I also believe in FREE WILL. We change things, all the time. We are free to do it. For better or worse.

Life is wonderful. Life is bigger. Make your best out of it.


Mrs. Mom and the new headshots

Kid just got new headshots. After all, it’s been 10 months and he looks older now. And how awesome it is to look at new ones! I’m a mom, no doubt about it. The baby pics make me smile (and he’ll always be a baby to me).

Besides sharing with grandma and grandpa and auntie and all, I find taking new headshots really invigorating. We need to update his website, and his profiles on Actors Access, LA Casting, IMDb. Will the new headshots work? Will they give CDs a proper idea of his presence and personality, will he get noticed? What auditions may come his way? Everything is shiny and new again. I absolutely love new beginnings, white paper, the possibilities, the unknown, the adventure… okay, those are just new headshots. *sigh*

The kid is a bit blasé about it (as with everything else, especially when mom is involved), but he does have his input on what to pick. I actually think he’s more excited about the new jacket I got him than about the headshots. Meanwhile… I’m indulging on being Mrs. Mom! 🙂

Is it going to be like that, over and over again? “I hope so!”

He just booked an AFI lead. He’s in every single scene, 4 days shooting. He’s excited. I’m in “here we go again” mode.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy for him. He really enjoys it. It just reminded me of that joke told by a lesbian comedian with a not-so-sympathizing mom. Her mom would ask her: “my dear, are you going to live your life like that, one woman after the other, after the other, after the other?” and she would look at her mom with a surprised smile and say: “I hope so!”

Parenting, anyone?

Parenting is hard no matter what. But after a while, some people take it for granted. When you first get that little baby in your arms, there might be that lingering thought of “do I know how to be a parent?” How to change a diaper, how to know why the baby is crying. Hah, if that was all you needed to know, life would be so much easier. By the time you get your second child, you go “pffffff, I know all that.” Riiiight.

Skip to parenting a child in the entertainment industry. Do you still question yourself about your parenting skills? Because you should. Because there’s no black and white regarding the subject. It’s very easy to spot the wrong parenting behaviors, but it’s difficult to find inspiring parenting models.

We just had the chance to meet very inspiring parents, Joanne Savage and Mahalia McKellar, mothers of Fred Savage and Danica McKellar (and Crystal McKellar) of The Wonder Years. They told us about their constant emphasis on family balance and on formal education, as their children were working in the “adult world”. And how they kept grounded on reality when the celebrity status hit.

As parents, we’re bombarded everyday from all sides: we’re pushed and pulled, lured and criticized. It’s not as easy as it may seem, but a parent needs to look through those things and understand their role in a child’s life. In the grand scheme of a child’s formation and happiness. It doesn’t matter if the child plays soccer, bakes cookies or acts in films.

Lessons from Patti Smith

I’m reading Patti Smith’s Just Kids. Awesome read. It reminds me the people and places I used to frequent when a kid, especially this one place where we all ended up going every single night. The “alternative and weirdos” corner, where everyone was involved with some kind of art – most just playing in a rock band, a bunch doing photography, some graphic artists, a bunch of actors, some writers. Our own version of Chelsea.

I have to highlight some pretty awesome lessons from Patti that are actually related to acting:

“Being an actor was like being a soldier: you had to sacrifice yourself to the greater good. You had to believe in the cause.” – After all, it’s a team effort. It’s someone else’s idea that you have to be inspired from and into.

“Crazy Horse believes that he will be victorious in battle, but if he stops to take spoils from the battlefield, he will be defeated.” – That’s deep, and so important to always keep in mind. You’re in it for the long run. Do not get lost in the small stuff, do not seek shortcuts and immediate gratification, do not be contented with the small stuff. Keep going. Look far.

“”What if I mess it up? What if I screw up the rhythm?” “You can’t,” he said. “It’s like drumming. If you miss a beat, you create another.” In this simple exchange, Sam taught me the secret of improvisation.” – That was Sam Shepard, by the way.

Late for audition?

You only have to be late once. There was this commercial CD that all of a sudden loved the kid and called him in a few times in a roll, always following with a callback.

Until one day we got to the audition really late.

To be or not to be – should I stay or should I go

Today is one of those questioning days. The question is always lingering in the back of my mind, but sometimes it comes to the center of my worries: should I call this whole acting thing off?

It happens when I read things like this:

There was a time when the boy would not blink, he would just say he was going to be an actor when he grows up. Now he’s saying he’ll do all this acting thing for now, but he really wants to be an astronaut. (Thinking of him flying tiny airplanes scare the heck out of me, and the perspective of him ever leaving Earth in some space shuttle is just beyond scary. And not many things scare me in this life. I trust my own strength and resilience to face anything I come accross, but having my son in some tiny airplane is beyond my control. This is actually scarier than to think he might have no income as an actor, or might be exposed to depression and drugs.)

Sure we can’t just drop everything overnight – not if we might want to be back the day after. He has agent, manager, classes. There’s an audition scheduled, there are new headshots paid for, there’s that awesome film going to festivals. And it’s not like he’s showing any sign of getting tired of it – that’s just me thinking “what are we doing all this for? what am I driving like gas was cheap? why don’t I have time to myself?”

But I know why – *sighs*. It’s because nothing, nothing we’ve ever done had him hooked so completely and for so long. And even if he says he wants to be an astronaut, he will still (by his own accord) turn off a videogame on a Saturday to go to a class or an audition. One day, when I was putting him to bed, he told me: “do you know what’s my favorite day of the week? Sunday. Do you know why? Because I go to my acting class.”

If that’s what he wants

We’ve worked in projects that were not worth our time (not many), and I really try to assess what it’s going to be so that we avoid another one of those. But in the end, I am aware it should be whatever our actor wants: if he has fun doing it, then it is worth it (my problem is that sometimes the kid himself realizes a project was not as fun as he expected).

So pretty soon we learned to be picky, but I’m always surprised with the boy’s decisions. Yes, this one seems like a very cool project: escaping from Earth while aliens attack, facing unfairness because there’s limited space available in the run-away vessel, lots of action and visual effects (and great technical people to work on those), and then the ultimate sacrifice of a hero dad. The kid came out of the first callback very excited and confident. Then there was a “chemistry read” with the actor auditioning for the role of dad, and I didn’t sense much confidence after that one (even before they walked in, I could feel there was no “chemistry” – the dad felt to me like a black cloud of frustration for some reason). So a couple of days later, the casting director told me they cast another boy for the main role but they loved the kid and wanted him to do a secondary role. With no lines. I didn’t think the boy would want to do it and almost answered right away, good thing I waited until he came home from school.

Oh, well. I guess he just likes being on the set. It’s initially scheduled for a one-day shoot on a Sunday, I really hope he doesn’t have to miss school for this. I’m such an irresponsible parent – but hey, you’re only a kid once. Life is short.

Organize, organize

Happy Monday. That’s one of my favorite oxymorons.

Since I started this second full-time job of “actor’s mom”, I realized I needed more organization and less procrastination. WHAAAAAAAA BUT I TRUST MY AWESOME MEMORY FOR EVERYTHING! And that’s a bad thing. My memory can let me down, and it has done it a few times before.

I’m usually good with appointments and deadlines (I’m good with dates and numbers). I can remember what clothes the kid was wearing during an audition (even if I didn’t remember to take note, in case there’s a callback). I’m not so good with to-do items (especially if involving talking on the phone – I hate phones and I don’t like talking). I’m terrible with people’s names. So how can that be helpful for my actor son? It isn’t.

So I got a little notebook (the paper kind) and keep it in my purse. I love buying writing/drawing stuff. But I haven’t used it as much as I should. And that Show Bible app I started to write in the computer… ha. It would be nice to remember the name of that young director we just met, not just remember how nervous she was that she almost crushed my hand twice.

There’s much to be done, in many areas. So, in an effort to improve my actor’s-mom-process, on this lovely Monday, I’ll list the items that should be in an “actor’s kit” to be kept (and that means “maintained”) in each car (ha! I sound so rich!):

  • clean short sleeved t-shirt
  • clean button-down shirt
  • hair brush
  • tooth brush and toothpaste
  • chapstick
  • stapler
  • resumes and headshots
  • copy of work permit and union card
  • copy of Casting Frontier’s barcode
  • dry snacks
  • old Kindle (with cord)

Wow, I haven’t kept a suitcase like that in the car since I was pregnant! 🙂

Everything, and more

That is the image I want to place on the walls of my office, so I remember why I’m doing this: the kid’s face during that so expected screening. Beaming.

This is a very smart boy, critical, passionate, and difficult to manage. He has loved books since baby. I would read to him every night since he was born until he was 4 or 5 when I finally let him do the reading alone – he learned to read by himself when he was 3 years old. He is definitely the drama king, creative and full of imagination, self-assured and inquisitive, and a challenge to a parent.

We tried different sports and arts, and with everything he would be interested at first and then forget it. But then, through friends, he discovered acting, and he would do anything for it. It stuck. I got books in the library, I looked for information online, I educated both him and myself as much as I could on what we were getting into. He was 10 years old then. The community theater was not exactly what worked for him – he loved doing it, but there was a clique vibe that put us both off (and we kept on it for 3 seasons until he finally called it off, thankgod).

So I dusted off my photographic skills, learned a bit about headshots and took a stab a it. We started self-submitting through LA Casting and Actors Access. We also got started with training – first at a local place that ended up not being so great, but after some research we got him into South Coast Repertory and Second City (and he absolutely loved both). And then we found his long-standing teacher, he’s been with her since then and has grown a lot.

The boy started auditioning for student films, worked in some and, as luck would have it, the perfect role came along. This was for the lead in a graduation project film, from someone that had already experience in the industry, and it was as if written for him. It was the longest audition session ever, and at the end the director came out to talk to me and offered the role right there. He said he had seen so many, many actors for this role and could not find the right one, to the point he was losing hope of ever finding it, and that he finally found the perfect match.

We grew to love the project, and after production got over a few problems that came along, the kid finally got to shoot for 4 days straight. Long days, and he was in every scene, but he was not tired; he was having fun.

It has been about one year since that audition, and eight months since shooting, and we finally got to see the results at the screening a month ago or so. My all-so-critical son was enthralled. His intensity was similar to the first screening he went to, of one of his first student films, but this one was much more important to him. When it was over, he told me: “it was everything I expected, and more.”

I rest my case.

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