In my little kid imagination, I would be one of those people you read about. While shopping at the grocery market for my weekly fruits and veggies, a casting guy or gal would happen to be shopping there too. They'd see my potential, talent, and movie star eyes. They would introduce themselves with a handshake and be totally encapsulated with my vibe and cast me in their epic film. Music would cue on the grocery market speakers and confetti would fall from the ceiling.
A great imagination helps conjure ideas and dreams; however, in my adult mind I know they DO need plans of action!
My first trip to LA was almost 11 years ago. After a work conference, I took a week of vacation to continue my stay in LA to learn to navigate the city and get information on film acting. I promised myself I would start doing the steps to make my dreams come into reality. Prior to leaving for that trip, I read Ivana Chubbick’s book, “The Power of the Actor.” I have long admired certain actors and actresses and researched to discover where they were coached or educated. Ivana’s studio was home to coaching Brad Pitt, Halle Berry, Charlize Theron, Sylvester Stallone, and of course, many others!
I got settled at the hostel, went down into the lobby to study the city map, and make a game plan of what I wanted to accomplish. Since there was no Google app at the time and all I had was a flip phone, I mapped out and wrote down all the streets I needed to take to get to her studio. I made an appointment to get my hair cut and colored since I wanted to look my best.
On the following day, with Ivana's book, the city map & my notes with the directions, a notebook, snacks, and water in my backpack, I headed to her studio. Timidly, I went in and talked with the receptionist about classes. She handed me the brochure and I sat down to read it. Classes were ongoing every week at the studio and of course, you had to be in LA. My heart dropped into my feet. I took a picture of the placard on the door of her studio and then went and sat in my car.
For the next two days, I took pictures on my old school camera and I wandered. As Ivana’s studio was on Melrose Street, I went back to the area to shop to ease my hurting heart. As I stared at price tags that had triple digits for a flimsy shirt or dress, I decided to pass on shopping. I went to Venice Beach. The bohemian vibe was an interesting culture shock as were the strange plumes of potpourri smelling smoke in places. I sat by the ocean in Santa Monica and watched the ocean waves and went to the carnival on the pier. I took pictures of palm trees. I drove to Hollywood. When I could muster up the courage, I asked random people at places I stopped regarding how someone got started being a film actress. The looks and answers I got were priceless ;) Slowly, it dawned on me how unprepared and ignorant I was for big city atmosphere along with the magnitude of what I needed to do. I felt so small.
By day four, I felt lost, SO alone, and began to realize that maybe I had been taking for granted people who cared about me back home. At a local coffee shop, I sat and reflected. I wrote in my journal, and combed through trade magazines looking for some sort of doable plan or clues as to what I could do to invent the plan I needed. From what I read, questions flooded my brain…How were other people doing things? Why were there so many "out of work" actors." Who did you have to know to get help making a plan? Did people like living in LA? What was it like to get along there? In the late afternoon I drove back to the hostel and got lost. I pulled over and parked on some random street. Staring out the windshield and sweating profusely from driving in LA traffic, I burst into tears. I found the number to Delta in my notebook and was going to change my ticket to go home early. Feeling pathetic, I stared morosely at the rain drops dancing on the hood of my rental car and felt defeated. There was just nothing I could do to even get my head wrapped around a plan of action. Somehow, I expected to devise a plan with ease.
Then I heard my grandma’s voice whisper in my head, “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Fighting back more tears, I resolved myself to stay, even if I didn‘t exactly know why. I felt like a silly, simple, jackass for thinking I could do anything in a city who‘s electric vibe swallows people like me whole for breakfast and uses it to power itself. I made a promise to myself and I was going to keep it.
I made a phone call to a friend who was living in LA. He had time to meet me for coffee on day six of my trip. So, on day five, I packed food for the day and went to ocean to think and write. When I saw him the next day, I tackled him with hugs and could hardly let go. I felt overwhelming joy to see one person that knew me, cared that I was even alive, and would have a conversation beyond a few passing sentences. He shared with me his experience and how he was making his way.
For a few weeks after getting back to Montana, I struggled to make sense of the few details I gathered and value my trip to LA when my former modeling coach, Lynette, popped into my mind. I was inspired by my trip to LA to make a starter plan. In calling Lynette and explaining what I wanted to do, she connected me with Tina Buckingham at the Montana Actor’s Studio in Bozeman. EUREKA! She was in Montana and connected to the film industry. After a phone conversation and a meeting, Tina gave me a list of things I needed to get started including getting headshots, composing a resume, and getting involved in local film production. Because the MT Actor's Studio was only an hour & a half away, ongoing monthly acting classes were doable! I began learning film acting and most importantly, the professionalism and business aspects I needed to market myself.
Looking back now, my first trip to LA was warmly laughable! I did not give up though!
When you are looking at creating something that feels so large you can’t get your head wrapped around it and your actions towards it feel frozen in being overwhelmed, consider making a starter plan. Of course, that plan will evolve and probably pretty quickly as you gain more clarity of what you want to accomplish and completing the first things on the starter plan! Focus on the starter plan can give you just enough tasks to get started to get traction moving in the direction you want to and settle down that damnable feeling of being overwhelmed :)
Blog by Mary Riitano...
I'm a Montana actress on a journey sharing my heart and growth through blogging, stories, and poetry, I have faith you'll find empowerment and inspiration to create like a champion in your own life!
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