|2015 and 2016|
|Fri, 25 Nov 2016 20:00:00 +0000|
|For two years, you need a highlights reel (Mostly Brendan's career news):|
2015 - 2016
Jes and Lora (I play Jes): 21 Festivals, including several international, several awards, including Best Short Film, and a UK distribution deal!
Speedwriting (I support with a comically hapless waiter): Many festivals!
Catherine (I play Henry Tilney): well-received play at the 2015 Hollywood Fringe Festival. Stina wrote it!
Gift of the Magi (I play Narrator and Jim and all the minor roles.): Such fun to play every year at our favorite tea shop, Red Dragon Cafe. Boy, we really love that place.
Lazy Lyin' (Charlsey Miller and I!): hosted several open mics and are co-producing a couple projects, including Antidote, in which I'll get to dance, and (fingers crossed) Ghost Best Friend, in which I'll get to pretend to believe in ghosts (again).
Ghost Coppers: Oh geez, you probably haven't even heard of Ghost Coppers yet. Here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KW3p3wL8KUk
Beardy and the Beast: We won an episode of The Wrangle at The Clubhouse! (Improv, fyi)
Sunday Team: I'm on the Sunday Team at ComedySportz!
Florasoul: We're in post-production and getting very close to being ready to share this short film I co-wrote and star in with Kirsten Day with the world!
Up Down Stick Stuck (I play Brad, but that doesn't mean anything to you unless you've seen the play, and if you've seen the play, you've seen me play Brad.): We won an Encore award and were nominated for the Best Ensemble Theatre award.
Added a manager to my team, Almost Famous Talent Management. These are very kind people. I'm so glad to have them. And I continue to be repped by Pacific Talent!
Celebrity Name Game: Spoiler Alert Stina and I did not win. But we are delightful. So many of our friends have also been on that show. We're running in a very special crowd of people who are perfect contestants.
BookPALS! I've been a bookPAL for a while now! I get to read to kids in school!
Gentle Werewolf: submitted to a contest. I've never done that with this script before. Let's see if it's all that AND a bag of chips?
Comic Book Heroines and Cyberpunks: some projects for 2017 already! And I think, I hope, we'll be turning more of Stina's scripts into movies. Especially Camp and In for a Penny.
Why did you buy a new houseboat? For the Halibut. Really? No, my landlord changed the lox. Why? Because the neighbors complained about all the parties I was throwing on my perch!...
|Mon, 10 Nov 2014 04:53:00 +0000|
|After booking several SAG-AFTRA gigs in a row,|
Brendan joined and is now a proud union member!
He stars in Top Decking, a web series that's a hit
with players of Magic: the Gathering. He's had
guest appearances on a dozen other web series,
including some memorable naked ukelele playing
in Twentysomething and a heartwrenching turn in
Jane. He appears regularly in sketches for We Make
Movies and Daily Fiber Films, including festival
picks Sandals (LA Comedy Shorts) and What's
Inside (WMM Fest).
Within a month of joining SAGAFTRA, Brendan
played roles that couldn't have been more different
in two short films: Speedwriting, in which he
played a goofy, hapless waiter, and Euphoria, in
which he played a classic romantic leading man.
His next big role is as Jes. Living with a damaged
brain, Jes' trying to stay alive on a chaotic journey.
Brendan returned to the stage for Four Tree Plays,
a Hollywood Fringe Festival Nominee for Best
World Premiere. Riding that success, he's in Gift of
the Magi for the 2014 holiday season.
|Art and Money|
|Sat, 25 Oct 2014 19:49:00 +0000|
|I am now a member of two unions, SAG-AFTRA (One Union!) and AGVA (which is mainly for characters in theme parks). Yay for me, yay for them!|
I recently saw a tweet that included the line "Never work for money..." in the context of screenwriting. After a very short Twitter conversation, I was told that I was taking the line out of context and to get off my soapbox.
Here's the thing: in or out of context, I believe that this quotable quote, which we've heard before, was invented by the people who make money off of other people's work.
Now on its surface, it's pretty innocuous. Of COURSE we should make art because of almost any reason at all except for money. OF COURSE art made for the sake of money is less inspiring. (Not "of course", but that's not what this post is about.)
But that quote is really insidious. It makes the artist feel shame about demanding fair compensation for his or her labor. We are supposed to love what we do, to be doing what we do for the love of it, not the money, so why would we expect to be compensated for it? We're supposed to trust the corporations that monetize our art to compensate us fairly.
But the corporations have no such idealistic principles. Or... well, they do. They have a financial ideal. To create the greatest profit. And here's the thing:
If they can pay you less, they will.
None of this is earth-shattering. We know that's how capitalism works. I'm just adding to the conversation that this insidious little phrase, "Never work for money," in any context undermines the professional artist who is selling his or her labor for money. Thank goodness I have a union that can do the struggling for finances for me, because I'm too in love with doing my work to refuse to do it if I don't get paid. They protect me. (And so does my agent: Shoutout to Pacific Talent for their labor and how they look out for me)
But also, don't get into the arts for the money. There isn't much. There are many easier ways to make a living. I recommend you learn coding. It's fun and salable.
|Mon, 23 Jun 2014 22:23:00 +0000|
|A break from the career updates to talk about one of our favorite things: saving money.|
We've noticed a lot of people don't pay much attention to the price of groceries. This is always absurd, but especially here. I could be mistaken, and I don't have a large data set to back me up, but I would guess that L.A. is one of the places with the largest difference between high-priced groceries and low-priced groceries in the U.S. On the one hand we have what I'll call "health conscious wealthy" and on the other hand, we live in the midst of one of the most productive farming regions in the U.S., so supply is high.
All of this is to say: you can buy groceries for $$$$ or for $/5.
Here are our tips for L.A. Some of them can be generalized.
1. Know the lowest common price for things, and don't buy above that. Onions are a great example. Onions are frequently 5 or 6 lbs for $1. They are also frequently 1 lb for $1. Just wait.
L.A. specific knowledge (lowest common prices):
Produce (per pound)
Mangoes: $0.33 per each
Parsley: $0.33 per bunch
Grapefruit: $0.33/per each
Bread: $2/24oz loaf
2. Go to multiple stores. I don't mean waste your time (and gas/electricity, if you're one of the many death-machine drivers out there) visiting a bunch of different stores on each shopping trip. I mean, each time you go out for groceries, visit a different store, and buy the well-priced items.
Bread is over-priced at our neighborhood grocer, so we go to the Food4Less for bread. But the produce prices can't be beat at Edi and Peter's so we go there for that. And the 99 cent store has the best price on half-n-half. Trader Joes is good for... um... people that don't like to think about how much they're spending, but don't want to pay quite as much as they would at Whole Foods. Stina says I'm being unfair. There are a few things there that are comparable to elsewhere, like dairy. Vegetarian meat substitutes are better there. And they're slightly cheaper than a non-taco restaurant. And they sell Mochi Ice cream. So does California Market on Kingsley, though, and they have a lot of fun, cheap, uncommon produce too.
3. It's okay to not buy things. I mean, you still need to eat, but if, for some reason, you find you're all out of milk, and you're at Edi and Peter's, consider yogurt instead, and do without milk for a few days. Also, is a protein bar really a better choice than a sandwich filled with produce? Is the Whole Foods salad bar ever a good choice? No. No it isn't. Get out of there! Or if you're really stuck starving and Whole Foods feels like your only option, opt for the minimum that will sate your immediate need. An overpriced loaf of bread for $5 is better than an overpriced salad bar for $15. You can get your nutrition elsewhere.
4. Eating out or ordering delivery is a special event. Except tacos. Tacos are cheap, nutritious and everywhere. Because salsa is a thing. If anyone wants to go out, always suggest tacos.
5. Don't fall for the hype. Warehouse stores like Walmart, Target, and even the much-lauded Costco rarely have the best prices on groceries. They often have loss leaders, like milk, for cheap, so you'll assume all their prices are good, but if you really total things, the above tips will save you money.
Aren't you glad you saved hundreds of dollars? Feel free to thank me with it.
|How to Act Like a Good Actor in a Kajillion (Sixteen) Easy Steps|
|Wed, 29 Jan 2014 08:53:00 +0000|
This is not acting 101. That's down the hall. This is acting 001. This is the class you should take before you approach the stage.
You probably know me in real life. Let's pretend you don't for a minute and I'll give you my qualifications.
I began my serious theatrical training as a kid at First Stage Milwaukee. It was also there that I began my professional career, working with directors and actors who were often the same actors that belonged to the Milwaukee Rep, the Spring Green Players, and other regional theaters. It must be understood that my early training came in the professional theatre, from those at the top of the game, and that I never knew that this wasn't the norm. The lessons I learned there should be the norm, and they're what you'll be learning today.
I have since gotten my B.A. at the University of Washington and been a professional actor in Los Angeles for the past 3 years. I also spent several years as a stage manager.
The following rules are so important that I would rather work with a pile of gloop who follows these rules than Meryl Streep if she didn't (though I'm sure she does). These rules are not made to be broken, they're made to create a safe space. Some call them etiquette, but that's not a strong enough word. These rules are fundamental to the trust necessary to make art.
In your professional life:
1. No touching (without permission)
We learn this in grade school. I know, your 101 teacher says, "Touch is communication." or something. Great! Grand! They aren't inherently wrong. Touch is powerful. BUT ASK PERMISSION.
Improv, for better or worse, is a huge part of the audition process now. I don't know how many times I see actors who have never met smack, kiss, push... LIFT... their scene partner.
First of all, if you don't ask permission, you don't know what's going on. MAYBE (and this isn't remotely unlikely) they have an ailment: recent surgery, chronic back pain, a compromised immune system. Maybe you even know them- know them well, even, but it just happened this morning that they twisted their ankle.
Listen. If you haven't asked permission of your fellow actor to touch them, and you feel compelled to, transform that frustration into something good for the scene without touching them.
DON'T TOUCH. Not gently, not harshly, not at all. Accidents happen, but they needn't happen as often as they do. Be spatially aware if you're flailing. Losing yourself in the scene is not a sign that you're really acting well... it's a sign that you're dangerous. It's why rehearsals exist. So you can lose yourself in a way that signals to your fellow actors that you're not truly lost and dangerous.
2. Is just a reiteration of 1. Listen, we're not soldiers or fire-fighters. Ability to overcome fear of physical danger should not be a part of our interview process. I should not walk into an audition and know that I'm going to have to list off my specific ailments because my scene partner might want to lift me, smack me, kiss me. If we're going in together, we should talk about whether or not any of those things might happen, and our level of comfort with them... and we still probably shouldn't because stage combat is choreographed by professionals to be exceptionally safe, and is not just a matter of "well, I like roughhousing with my buddies". Is two full rules dedicated to the NO TOUCHING rule enough? Probably not, but I can see there's a point of diminishing returns, so let's move on.
3. Take the note.
Listen to the note and try to incorporate the note into your performance. Take the note.
Don't argue with the note. Maybe later, if you're not feeling good, talk to the ASM, SM, AD, or Director about what's not working for you (but probably not), but don't ever waste everybody's time by arguing with the note while they're standing around listening and before you've even tried it.
MAYBE you have a clarifying question. Probably not. If you think you do, ask yourself, "Do I really?" and while you're taking the time to do that, they will have moved past you, and we will all be thankful that you didn't get to ask your question. Of course, if something feels unsafe, take it to an AD. If the note you got was "Slam your head into that wall made of glass shards harder."... talk to the ASM before you get to that scene. And call the police. All well and good. Though ideally, you can figure it out, and they can give you a new note if it's still not what they want.
Let's back up. What? This is 001. What's a note? There are many circumstances in which you get notes. The most obvious is when there's a notes session after a run-through. Then there's getting some sideline coaching: the director is talking to you as the scene goes along, pushing you towards some choices... or maybe it's some blocking direction. I DON'T KNOW; I'M NOT THERE IN THE ROOM WITH YOU. Or... I dunno, the writer has new lines. That's kind of like a note.
In the moment that you get the note, there is nothing to be gained by arguing. You haven't tried it yet. Plus, it's a waste of everybody's time. Take the damn note. And if you can at all avoid it, no questions. If you're unsure, make a strong choice with what the note might mean next time you do it. Now, if you're flabbergasted, and you've gotten the note a second time, find a time when it's just you and (preferably) the stage manager or (if necessary) the director, and ask your questions. But in the moment you get the note, the whole company is probably there. They don't all need the answer to your question. Only you do (probably). So leave it between you and the SM or note-giver.
BTW: notes are anything that would influence your performance, including suggestions, commands, hints, questions, leading questions, and gestures. Also other things. I hope you know a note when you see one, but only experience will teach you truly how to identify the wild and pernicious note in its natural habitat. I'm not entirely certain what pernicious means.
4. Keep your notes to yourself.
You have your own notes for another actor? Shut up. You want them to do X so you can do Y? Shut up. If you really really really really have a good idea... well, maybe you do. Let the SM, ASM or AD know. They'll take it to the director, and they'll decide if it's good and pass it on to whomever needs it.
UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHALL YOU GIVE NOTES TO ANOTHER ACTOR.
Under which circumstances? NONE. Nada. Nil. Not your f-ing job.
Why am I so angry? Because it's the internet. Shut up. I think it's funny when I tell imaginary people to shut up. I would never tell you real people to shut up. This is a thing I'm doing because it's the internet and all my subjects are imaginary. Shut up.
5. No one gives notes but the director (or Stage Manager, ASM or AD... you know).
Similar to 4, but don't take notes from someone whose job it isn't to give them. And by notes, I mean any suggestions or anything. See BTW of 3. I would even be wary of designers giving notes. Basically, any note you get, take it to your ASM as a question.
5.1 is "respect the chain of command", I guess. Director>Stage Manager (AD)>ASM>You
6. Be efficient.
I mean, seriously, don't follow my example in this blog. I haven't been remotely efficient. But you. You should be an efficient actor. I don't mean that as an acting note. I mean, that's often good advice, but it's not one of these etiquette rules. What I mean is: fine, you're late. That sucks. You shouldn't have been late. I should add that to the rules. But now that you're late, apologizing is just going to take up time. A quick, quiet, "I'm sorry" during a 5 minute break is considerate. Any more is a waste of time. Interrupting the work to apologize is inconsiderate. If you broke rules 1 and 2, stop breaking those rules, but leave it to the Stage Manager or Director to stop the scene. If you're working on your own, without an SM or D, I dunno. Stop? Hopefully you didn't break those rules. Hopefully your scene partner is confident enough to stop you and make sure they aren't more injured than they might be. But hope is for kids on Christmas Eve. So do stop, if you have touched someone in an unrehearsed way. Take it on yourself. You done f-ed up.
But otherwise: Be efficient.
7. Don't break.
Jimmy Fallon has made a career out of breaking. Wonderful. The outtakes on DVDs? Wonderful. Don't emulate them. It's part of 6, but also its own thing. Belief is... something we'll get to. But wait for "cut" to break. Even if you think the take is ruined because your scene partner broke, if they didn't say "cut", stay in it. This goes for stage work with sideline coaching in rehearsal, too. Or Whatever. I'm not saying "Method" or "Daniel Day-Lewis". I'm not not saying that, either, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm saying: Stay in the reality of the imaginary circumstances, even when that's difficult. That's kind of the point. Your director is yelling, "Pinker, pinker... I said PLAY IT PINKER!" because your director is kind of bad at directing, and your scene partner is cracking up, because they think this'll be a great DVD extra, even though it's just a read-through for a stage show... No Exit and the Beast (a Disney/Sartre mash-up), in fact- YOU STAY IN YOUR MOMENT. Screw them and their inability to make art. You are Gaston, and there is nothing funny about hell to you.
8. Be on time.
9. Always be willing to run lines.
This is less a rule than a personal preference. I, Brendan, get too few opportunities to be in the same room as my scene partners. So I like to use those opportunities to run lines. I get it. Everybody needs a break. So it's not a rule. But I certainly like running lines.
10. Know your lines.
11. Rehearsal is always good.
WTF is with people who are like "I don't want to over-rehearse"? That's not a thing. If you feel over-rehearsed, you haven't rehearsed enough. Get to a point where you can find new, exciting choices because you're so comfortable with the material, it's not holding you back. When you have rehearsed enough, you are always excited to do it again. If that isn't the case, consider a career in not-acting. There's no reason to be in this game if you don't love it. Even if you're making money at it, get out of the way of the people who love it. Rehearsing is acting (and auditioning is acting). Love it. Love it or leave it.
12. Leave it all outside (or inside).
Leave your magnificent morning or awful afternoon at the "there is a world outside of this" coat check. Or in your magical imaginary treasure box. Or whatever. This space you enter: the one where you make art? It is purely for that art. You have been shaped by your life. Your training prepared you to be here. But now that you're here? Trust that it's all there, and leave it all outside, including preconceived notions about your training. Beginner's mind is a thing. Look it up.
Also leave it inside. When you leave that pure art space, leave it. If you take it with you, you'll muddy it. Still, you know, do your work, but always exit the "other world" space... This has left the etiquette rules bit and moved into esoteric theory territory. Let's leave it as: to make sure everybody is comfortable and safe, don't talk about what happened in rehearsal outside of rehearsal, and don't talk about what happened outside in life in rehearsal.
Like, they're two separate thoughts, really. To clarify:
Getting there and complaining (or celebrating) about your life violates rule 6.
Talking about what happened in rehearsal outside of rehearsal violates rule 16. (What? I haven't written that yet? Untrue. You just haven't read it yet.)
13. Go to the stage manager first (or ASM ... or AD).
Just... their job is to be the go-between between actors and production. They know best when to bring up things with the director so it doesn't slow anything down. Respect that.
14. Take your problems to someone who can do something about them.
If you have a problem with your paycheck, talk to payroll. If you have a safety issue, go to the SM. If you have a problem with... anything else I can think of, go to the SM. But don't complain to your fellow actors about something they can't do anything about.
15. Speak up.
In an appropriate fashion, if something makes you uncomfortable, tell the ASM or AD... unless they're the ones making you uncomfortable. Really. For all my ranting and yelling at imaginary internet people, your safety is paramount. Your comfort. Your ability to trust. Without it, you can't make art. Seriously. I mean, I guess there are legends of those incredibly awful sets that made good art... Like Kubrick or whatever... you know, there's this idea out there that suffering produces greatness, and if people weren't suffering before, they should be suffering because then they'll act better. I throw my hands up. I think people are capable of tremendous things. I think people perform better on all tasks when they have an environment they can trust. So if people are doing things that make you uncomfortable, tell someone in charge (or if it's the in charge people, call your union... if you don't have one, weigh the pros and cons of being a part of this production. You might still want to do it, but know that you won't be as happy with the outcome as you would like. Seriously. If it doesn't get better on set, you're not going to be pleased later).
You know what makes you uncomfortable better than me, so I won't give examples. But know that your small discomfort is worth letting someone who can do something about it know about it.
16. Be trustworthy.
And respect boundaries. I mean for reals. Keep secrets. Scoff at no one and nothing. If you have an idea that someone doesn't like something you're doing, stop doing it. And people share deep down moments and beauty with you when they're in the safe space. Don't violate that safe space by assuming (even in praise) that they want that shared elsewhere.
|Stina talks about the 48 Hour Film Project|
|Sat, 17 Aug 2013 03:00:00 +0000|
|This is a blog that Stina wrote for the people who run the Los Angeles 48HFP:|
Our group, the Collaborative Group Ensemble Troupe Collective, has been meeting for more than a year, experimenting with collaborative storytelling and film-making.
Leading up to the 48HFP, we started practicing brainstorming techniques we might use the night of. We really liked something called Story Symphony, where people take turns making up a story. One person conducts the story by pointing at people. If you're being pointed at, you're telling the story, but as soon as the conductor points elsewhere, you stop, even if it's mid-word. The next person has to pick up exactly where the previous person left off.
We played around with Story Symphony at our weekly meetings, trying to set ourselves up as if it really were the night of the 48HFP by picking a genre, a character, a line and a prop.
So the evening of the 48HFP rolls around and we are eagerly awaiting a text from our producer with the details so we can jump into Story Symphony. We get the info and we go. And everyone realizes that we're kind of sick of Story Symphony. We'd used up the novelty of it in our practice sessions.
Ultimately our story idea came about through good old-fashioned brainstorming.
"Ooh, how about someone goes to their car and in its place, there's a present?"
"Yeah, and then . . ."
A could happen, or B could happen, or what if we go all crazy and jump to Z?
We brainstorm up until about 9pm, then I go off and write the first draft. I come back to the group a couple hours later and we don't like the ending, so we brainstorm again and come up with a new ending. Then we all go home so the rest of the group (which comprised of our director and actors) can squeeze in some sleep while I finish writing.
I write up until about 3:30am, then call it good, email it out, and crash. About an hour and a half later I get a phone call from our director, who's now working on the shot list with our DP and 1st AD. They think it's too short. Over the phone, we brainstorm some ways to increase the tension (we drew Crime/Gangster) and lengthen it. I get back to work and send out the final draft around 5:45am
48HFP is really all about collaboration, so it felt like the perfect opportunity for our group to put our skills to the test. Ultimately it didn't matter if we used Story Symphony the night of, because the technique had already benefited us as a group. We were ready to jump in with ideas and to build off one another's ideas. I wrote the story, but we built it together.
|Productivity and happiness|
|Tue, 06 Aug 2013 22:21:00 +0000|
|I don't want to BS you. As you read in my last post, I was feeling a little disheartened, and if I were writing this post last week, you'd get a similar tone. But now everything seems delightful.|
Even over the weekend, I waffled on the value of skill in acting. But that's the thing about art. There's not a right way every time.
So on with the series called: How do you make it?: My Path
Alright, what's been going on?
Last weekend I directed my first fully-crewed film. The 48 Hour Film Project challenges teams to make a short movie from script and pre to screen in 48 hours. Our team met that challenge. And we used several collaborative exercises to make sure the whole collective's voice appeared in it. Then Stina wrote the final script, and BAM! We have a murder mystery.
People are asking me if I got bit by the directing bug. No. I did not. I enjoyed it, yes. I felt good about it. I was happy with it. But my passion lies in acting. I would certainly direct again, but there is no dearth of directors in L.A. and I don't want it as badly as they do. The acting. That I want badly.
So on to that. Mostly.
The quick stuff out of the way. My agents got me an audition for a feature film. This is the first time they've done that, but not the last I'm sure. I am thrilled. I had the audition last week and got a callback for tomorrow. Boo ya. Also had a delightful commercial audition that I just got home from. We were the third to last group before lunch, and the session runner acknowledged his own hunger-crankiness, but my group followed directions well and got in and out with positive energy, and it just felt nice to be making someone's day easier. And he was grateful and nice. PLEASANT EXPERIENCES WOOHOO!
That brings me to 2 weeks ago. I had two commercial auditions in a day. I arrived at the first one as I always do: early, so I could prepare strong choices (they hadn't given sides ahead of time). I enjoyed my waiting room time, as the CD's kid eagerly greeted each actor and told them where to go. I was feeling fully ready. Gave myself some time to breathe. When I was up, I was the first after the explanation. Everybody left the room. I got comfy in my position, and ... just felt blah. Hurried. Unable to breathe. Not literally, but... kind of literally. ("inspiration, respiration, perspiration"). The role was perfect for me. It was mine if only I acted "right" and that's where I got in my head. I thought, "There's a right way. I gotta find it and do it. And oh no! It's not what I thought it was." I censored myself, and tried to make new choices without breathing them through, and wound up kind of muddled, I thought.
Ultimately, I pushed through, of course. Tried to give the session runner what he was asking for, but I was lost. It wasn't awful by any means. But it was just... blah. I left with fine energy, I thought, but who knows. There was some self-doubt worming its way through me. Also, I was hungry. Good lord, food is important. Of course, if I had booked it, this would be a different story, wouldn't it?
But two in a day? I have a second chance. As I was sitting in the waiting room for the second one (for which I felt slightly more prepared because we had gotten sides ahead of time), I wondered what, within my control, I could have done differently for the first one. Take that time to breath if I feel rushed, of course. But I always remind myself of that, and it still flew out the window. Had a snack ready, is another one. I had eaten a decent breakfast, but I know waiting room times can be long, and that, coupled with travel and ... whatever I do between breakfast and audition, plus the energy burning nature of my warm-ups means... a sense of empty belly right when I need to feel satisfied by a candy bar or whatever. Or just feel anything other than that most primal of needs: the food-need. So, a snack.
What else? I know, logically, how important confidence is. I hear it. I observe it. I think I usually exude it. (Just as a note: confidence and cockiness are similar, but one (of several) key differences is that the confident person is prepared, and the cocky one isn't). But sometimes finding that confidence when... whatever... has awakened your internal censor is hard. So what could I do? And I happened upon something that worked for me. I thought to myself: Imagine your phone just buzzed with a new text. It says "NBC Comedy Pilot - YOU BOOKED IT! -Jeff"
Boom. Easy. This particular moment was key. I felt really good about that NBC audition. Booking it would change everything about where my career is. It gave me an exciting secret for that moment. And even if it had been true, I would do exactly what I was doing, except instead of being the only thing I booked that week, it would be another.
And I felt good walking away from that audition. I didn't book it either, but, you know, who knows why any given part goes to one person or another. Maybe - anything. Lots of stuff out of my control. But the one thing mostly under my control - my performance? I have no regrets.
But yeah. That's not even where we're coming to:
There's more. Three weeks ago, Daily Fiber Films contacted me and said (paraphrased), "We like your pitch, can you write a full script for your sketch? We'll shoot it in August." Whoop! Now, I'm not trying to be a writer. Again, that's not where my passion lies. I am best at acting, most experienced at acting, and most driven to act, but I also like working creatively in all fields. I liked directing last weekend, too, for example. I have been writing a lot since moving to LA, making my own stuff. And sure, I've contributed here and there to other people's projects. And shot my own projects (http://www.youtube.com/twowhitewines). But here was a new opportunity. Not me making my own stuff. Someone else making my stuff. And putting me in it. And we shot it yesterday. And I could not be happier. I felt strong, as an actor, AND as a writer. And I had so much fun... and Yes. OMG. just. I love Daily Fiber. And Mark And Raymond. And everybody who was in it.
And other people talked to me about playing a role in their webseries.
AND Gentle Werewolf is getting read: https://www.facebook.com/events/421861991264578/?ref=22
So... the rest of today will be spent studying the feature script, and tomorrow I'm reading at We Make Movies in Brian Gaskill's piece (something dramatic to balance all the comedy I've been doing recently) after my callback and, all in all, everything feels pretty darn good.
Because work begets work and feeling productive begets happiness.
And the push for money: https://www.webisodesnetwork.com/top-decking/campaign
We're making Top Decking, Season 2! We're 2/3 through our campaign and have raised 1/3 of the money necessary, so we need a big push. If you read this blog, consider making a donation. Any size, really. The $5 level is clearly the most affordable, but I'd like to ask you to consider the $25 level, since at that level, you get a DVD of the first season, and don't you want that?
|Social Media Angst|
|Mon, 01 Jul 2013 21:20:00 +0000|
|So a Time Magazine poll said 70+ percent of Americans surveyed think that other people make their lives seem better on social media than they actually are.|
Here's my conundrum.
When I began using social media (I mean LiveJournal in 2000. It counts!), it was full of angst. I only really used it when I was feeling angsty, so it's full of long blog posts about feeling ignored or misunderstood or about my obsessive sadness over girls who didn't want to date me... Stuff like that.
Now, yes. I use social media to talk about what I'm doing - in particular, professionally. And if I'm doing things, I'm glad I'm doing things. It's not doing things that makes me sad. But there's not really news in that. I suppose I could post daily: "Still not making a decent living out of acting. Bummer."
It's also a repository for photos. I take photos when I'm doing something that people take photos for. People don't think "I need a photo of this argument I'm having."
I suppose I occasionally use it for politics.
But is there a way to be honest with the world? Not that that's anybody's duty.
Well, to that end, here are the things that bum me out. Here's some circa 2000 angstiness:
Am I even remotely good enough? There's, like, layers of success. I feel old sometimes when I realize that other people are many strata above me and are younger. A year ago, I was okay telling myself, "I've made tremendous strides since moving to L.A., I'll definitely keep moving forward. And I'm ready." This year has felt more like "I hit a wall. I can do what I've done. My opportunities have caught up to my abilities. This is where I stand." I want to be on the layer that... Well, that's more than one above me. I haven't moved up any layers. And the opportunities are there. I've auditioned a few times for things that are the next level up. I'm not even booking as regularly in the level that I thought I had achieved. Maybe I even moved down a level. Gah!
I guess everything is related to that. The next section is titled, "Am I always going to be poor?" I guess we don't have to be as poor as we are. I could stop trying so hard to make a living as an actor and get a something-dollars-an-hour wage job. The way Stina and I live, even if we both just had part-time minimum wage jobs (30*2*52*$8=a lot more than we make now), we could start building our savings back up, and start dreaming realistically of our one and only financial goal: home ownership. We could even occasionally treat our friends to drinks. But the thought of giving up is super-duper depressing. We weren't happier in Seattle. We had more money, and in that way we were happier. I can't speak for Stina, but I get the chills - the good chills - sometimes here. The "If this works, I will achieve everything I've ever dreamed of" chills.
Section 3: WHAT HAVE I BECOME? Did I forget that I want to be an artist? That I'd always told myself I could be happy with no money, as long as I was making art I cared about? Was that ever true? Do I just like it when people tell me "good job"? Or when I feel like I deserve that? Both? Is this all self-indulgent tripe? Am I working on my craft? Am I resting on my laurels? If I love this so much, why do I spend any time playing stupid video games? Do I even care about my art/craft? Am I lazy? WHAT'S WRONG WITH ME?
And that, in a nutshell, is the angst. Back to our regularly scheduled, "Things are going super-well!" programming in just a bit, But first, a word from our sponsors:
Check out the Top Decking crowdfunding campaign on Webisodes Network! (It's not up yet, but it should be soon.)
And these guys paid me, plus I got to meet the man behind Avenue Q: Fresh and Easy
|Acting in 2013 so far|
|Mon, 13 May 2013 20:30:00 +0000|
So, it's been a couple months, and nothing's for sure. I think there's a lot to be said for imagining what the you of a year ago or two years ago or 10 years ago would think. From most of those perspectives, I'm doing just fine. I think the me of 10 years ago, would be satisfied. Maybe not thrilled, but satisfied. I'm spending my days rehearsing and writing and auditioning and acting (and bike riding and seeing movies and dancing and walking a puppy and loving my wife and reading books). I think I hoped that this is what I'd be doing now. I suppose I'd always imagined theatre more than anything, and probably would have hoped I'd be a part of a repertory company. There might be more political action and inspiring others in my life. But all-in-all, I'd be pleased to see myself getting regular work (played a juggling farmer in a commercial last Wednesday, and a homeless man in a short last weekend) and building a community.
I'm thrilled with the number of auditions I've been going out on. I added extra photos to the various casting websites about 2 months ago, and starting about a month ago, I've been going on 3 times as many auditions as I had been previously. The fact that the numbers don't line up exactly makes me wonder how related they the circumstances are, but in any case, I've made it up to 6 commercial auditions in a week (once) and regularly 2 or 3 per week.
At the beginning of that 6 audition week (which is also the week I auditioned for the juggling farmer commercial I mentioned), I kind of switched gears in my brain... So, last year, as you may know, I got my agent. And the very first call he sent me on I booked (as you may also know). I was going on ~1 audition/week for them. Some weeks none, some weeks many. And a few months later, I booked another commercial. (And a few months later I was offered an avail for another one that I had to turn down... and a few months later, I was put on avail for another, but nothing ever happened from that one)... The point being - last year, I booked a ton of work considering the number of auditions I went on. This year, I've been going on way more auditions, and have been booking way less. And I know there are always droughts, but I was trying to figure out if anything I was doing was different. Another thing that happened last year at auditions was I was getting the note a lot to "tone it down". That I was "theater acting" or just... I dunno, being to big. Presumably they that I was unreal. Now commercials are a strange beast, because, and I hope this doesn't sound unfair, but - they see you for many minutes and ask you to do a whole variety of things in the auditions and callbacks, and then you wind up doing something for a couple seconds that they probably could have hired an extra to do. Not all of them. But a lot of the auditions are like this. Really, they want to give the job to the person they like the most. I think I just realized this now. Sure they want competence... but measuring competence is HARD. I'm super competent, but showing that in an audition is... I mean, there are lots of ways to show you're not competent, but so long as you avoid showing up late/drunk/angry (and even then...) you're off to as good a start as all those other people who aren't jerks. So likability is a factor. Back to the original point. Last year I got the "You're overacting" note from the session runners a lot. This year I haven't gotten it at all. I also haven't really booked much this year. I suspect (/decided) that that enthusiasm that makes people think you're overacting is actually key to booking. So I went into one audition as the character (didn't book, but got lots of great feedback) and this other with just the giantest smile you can imagine. And just said "* it". And it's feeling better. Hope I'll be back on track to buying a house in 2015 soon.
The me of 2 (or 3) years ago (just moved to LA) would be okay with things, too. Again, not thrilled. I'm not shooting every day nor making a living wage, but we're not destitute: we still have our buffer and Stina only has to work part time. I have an agent. I have friends who put me in things. I have things I'm proud of. I'm excited to make more things.
I guess the most disappointed would be the me of a year ago... but maybe not. A year ago, I had just gotten paid for the big commercial and I was imagining booking one of those every other month, and having plenty. But I knew my imaginings were a bit out there, and I hadn't shot Top Decking yet, nor knew what a big deal it would be. So I'd be pretty happy with how that was turning out.
So in conclusion - Hello, summer.
|2012 in review|
|Mon, 14 Jan 2013 04:18:00 +0000|
It's me, Brendan, and since I'm an actor and all, but don't yet have a publicist, it's up to me to make sure you know about everything I did in 2012.
Let's bookend it in one. I did this in Summer of 2011, and it was released today: http://www.youtube.com/watch?
That's a production of We Make Movies. We're a free, fun resource for filmmakers. Every Wednesday, about a hundred of us get together to read each others' scripts, improvise, or interview other industry folks. BUT THAT'S NOT ALL! We also make movies - like Forget You, Way Down in Chinatown, Dead North, Descending Harmony and Hunt the Maguffin - We make more than that, but those are the ones I've been in since starting with We Make Movies in 2011. You can find the full movie for Dead North on my imdb page: http://www.imdb.com/name/
If you're confused about both of those videos, it's because I didn't have a beard a year ago.
But never fear! Newer works feature my beard - like the Top Decking series! In early 2012, I was in a commercial with a woman who was in a web series that needed me. Its name... Oops, I already spilled the beans on that. Watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?
Here's my biggest brag of the post: I can now sign autographs un-ironically.
It's also brought me exposure in ways I wasn't dreaming of when I started this path, like interviews and Q-and-As. Stina thinks I'm especially lovable and clever in the longer version of this (link in the comments on the link; this is a link to reddit): http://www.reddit.com/r/
There have been a bunch of other projects this year, too - some of them are videos available online, others have titles on imdb, but are lingering in post, others I just don't know about. GO! Explore the internet. Search my name. Maybe you'll find things I haven't yet. If you want to know about them when I do, let me know, and I'll put you on a list somewhere.
But come on, Brendan - independent films and web series are a lot of work for very little pay, where's the life of luxury you so richly deserve?
Ah, yes, acting is known far and wide for it's reliability. "C'mon, kid - music is nice, but you gotta have a fall-back plan. How about acting?"
Two! (count 'em) Two national commercials in the past 9 months! It's not 20, but it's enough. And the callbacks and on avails keep rolling in, so it's just a matter of time. Here's my second biggest brag: The first commercial audition I went out on - The FIRST! - booked me on my biggest job of the year. Statistically, that no longer means anything. I'm booking around 8% of my auditions now... but for a day, I was booking 100%
The biggest news of the year, fingers crossed, is what's yet to come. In late 2011, I brought half a dozen people together to talk about creating films collaboratively. In early 2012, I began welcoming people to join me for writing and improv days twice a week. Eventually, that coalesced and then metamorphosed into a stable group of 10 individuals known collectively as the Collaborative Group Ensemble Troupe Collective (CGETC - or "See-get-see"). We work together each week developing our process, our company, and a script. By the end of 2013, we will not only have a unique script in hand - but if everything goes as planned, a finished product ready to share with the world. A little more information about us is holding our place on the site: cgetc.org
I'll probably be asking some of you for money to help fund it in a few months... so start squirreling it away. I know that's what you want to do with your money.
|Compiling information to help actors new to L.A.|
|Tue, 24 Jul 2012 21:49:00 +0000|
|What I'm doing, Dramatically - Late May 2012|
|Wed, 30 May 2012 01:56:00 +0000|
|Inspired to blog some more by the blog of a new friend (here).|
I shot that commercial you heard about in the last post. Amazing feeling, feeling like a professional. The set was wonderful, and being a principal actor in a shoot where the DP had been the 2nd unit DP on LOTR in a barn used by True Blood just felt geektastic.
Was asked by a friend to be in his film - Way Down in Chinatown. Nice little cameo for me there.
Had to miss an audition for really fun sounding (and paying) project - with a WMM friend who had especially requested me - because I was on set for a second day of shooting the commercial - so that was a bummer, but it's nice to feel wanted.
Was asked by another friend to cameo in his Web Series. (I like saying cameo more than co-star. It makes me feel already famous. Don't judge.)
My acting studio, Lifebook, is hosting 2 showcases coming soon. Lifebook showcases are always free to be in (which is apparently a pretty big deal). I auditioned for spots in both and got them, so soon many casting directors will see me doing my thing.
CGETC is taking off. If you don't know what that is, keep your eyes on cgetc.org. CGETC is my passion project (and the passion project of all the other company members). I'm thrilled with how it's turning out. Making movies!
Randy and I have been sharing Shared Kitchen with our Lifebook classmates, and it's been getting good feedback. We have another script in the Gerard and Esteban series ready, and we're looking for a time to shoot it.
I'm getting along well with my agents. It's been a couple weeks since I've auditioned, but I was out of town for a bit and then shooting the commercial, so it's understandable. I called them today to touch base, so hopefully things will start revving up again to pre-NOLA trip regularity.
|What I'm Doing, Dramatically - Spring 2012, or Who has two thumbs and booked a national commercial? This guy!|
|Sat, 05 May 2012 16:50:00 +0000|
|So, yeah. I haven't arrived, exactly, but I feel pretty on track. Considering how successful I feel, I think I can look back at the past year and a half and talk about what's worked for me, and what I think truly works best.|
Friends. It's what people call networking out here, and I think that's a terrible name for it, because you can't do it if that's what you're calling it. Nobody cares, nor should they, about supporting and helping their acquaintances who they met while "networking". Hyperbole, but sufficiently true. But friends? Friends help each other. Friends share in each others' success. Friends offer each other things that aren't necessarily career advancement.
What am I saying?
I'm saying, be yourself. Hopefully, yourself is friendly. If you're mean and not a fan of other human beings, this probably isn't the career for you.
Why is making friends important? Well, for me, I can point to a week a couple months ago when I was looking back and thinking "Terrible. I have done nothing for my career this week. I haven't been to any auditions. I haven't shot anything or written anything or anything anything."
That was the week I met C. G. F.
And CGF is the fellow who recommended me to his agent.
And that agent got me the booking on the national commercial.
So, really, that was a very productive week.
|What I'm doing, dramatically, Late Winter 2012|
|Fri, 09 Mar 2012 08:47:00 +0000|
|Forget You screened very successfully at the Downtown Independent! Now it's being submitted to festivals.|
Am continuing work on Zombie Jesus with Stina as my Co-Writer.
Will shoot an episode of a web series next week written by Melissa Ciesla of We Make Movies.
Taking classes at Lifebook, writing and rehearsing many scenes. Just met Andy Dick. He said I was funny.
Turned down an agency.
Booked a role in the feature: Hunt the Maguffin
Heard Descending Harmony is getting a new cut.
Still going to every We Make Movies Event.
Reinvigorating CGETC(.org) with Writing meetings and Improv days.
Now living with Cassi Jerkins, a friend from my Groundlings class last year. Maybe will get involved with making movies together. Also talking with Randy about restarting TWW.
|What I'm doing, dramatically, Early Fall 2011|
|Thu, 13 Oct 2011 23:28:00 +0000|
|Call and Response's real title became Descending Harmony. It's been submitted. We are waiting.|
Am trying to get some fundraising going for BHF.
Still attending classes at Lifebook.
Still going to Daniel Hoff in hopes of getting him to be a commercial agent for me.
Started Groundlings classes with Jordan Black. I recognize him from TV. *geek snort*
Did an industrial: conversations in English for people learning English as a second language to listen to.
Updated website, trying to organize CGETC.
Hm. I don't think I'm doing enough.
Oh! I'll be shooting a short film, Forget You, in December.
Still working on scripts, etc. I want to be doing less of that and more acting. Where are the auditions?
|What I'm doing, dramatically, Summer 2011|
|Mon, 12 Sep 2011 06:50:00 +0000|
|Let's see, when last we spoke, I was preparing for the 48 hour film festival.|
That happened. Our film can be seen if you look around the website at www.deadnorthfilm.com.
Since then, that group has made another film, the working title of which is Call and Response. We will be submitting it for consideration to Sundance.
I continue to produce the web series Bureau of Home Furnishings.
Several writers from WMM have approached me to ask about my being in their movies, but no dates have been set.
My acting class at Lifebook is going well. I'm preparing to audition for the showcase.
I've submitted myself to an agency where I have a reference, and gone to an open call for another.
I plan to take Groundlings classes as soon as I can.
This making movies thing is really pretty cool. Next step, get paid for it.
|What I'm doing, dramatically|
|Fri, 22 Jul 2011 15:57:00 +0000|
|And I'll try to keep you all up to date when new things arrive:|
Joined the We Make Movies 48 Hour Film Festival Team as an Actor/Writer/Production Manager
Writing (and now editing) 3 scripts for the We Make Movies short film contest (winner gets $2000 to make their film): Zombie Jesus, Part 1; Who Are You?; and Hitchhiking for Kids
Stage Managing and attending classes taught by Allen Levin at Lifebook.
Writing and producing Bureau of Home Furnishings with Struggling Actors Productions.
Performing Monday nights at 7 with Opera del Espacio at sites around L.A.
|Things to be thankful for|
|Wed, 13 Jul 2011 20:38:00 +0000|
|It's easy to feel overwhelmed. I'm fighting off a wave of it right now. I don't have a job, I'm about to begin a ten-day medical study for which I will be paid $1,980, I interviewed at Barnes and Noble for a position that pays $8.50 an hour and starts at 20 hours a week, and I've got a 6-month window to start a job as a telemarketer. And I just keep thinking things, unhelpful things, negative things, and I don't want to go there.|
Instead I want to find the things I'm thankful for, and find the humor in all of this.
Being a lab rat might just be an awesome experience. I'll have loads of time to read and write, and at the end of it we'll have replenished our savings a little.
It may not be an exciting job, but darn it, there is a job waiting for me.
I can say no to a part-time job that pays crap.
I have an amazing husband who makes delicious meals for me, and he's a great actor.
We own so many awesome games.
I have no shortage of clothes because I keep finding them for free!
I am almost finished with the first edit of my book--I will finish during this ten-day study.
We live close to beaches. Real beaches.
We won tickets not only to the aquarium, but also to the Tim Burton exhibit at LACMA.
We have the most adorable dog in the world.
And those are just a few things.
|Sun, 29 May 2011 17:42:00 +0000|
The sense of fullness and happiness is almost unbearable.
Belmont lies cuddled in Stina's arms, and I am about to write a blog about how wonderful it is to pursue your dreams, and, almost literally, live them.
My career is feeling gang-buster-ey. I had several auditions last week, and while I didn't get the job in any of them, I felt happy with how they went, saw room for improvement in myself, and got positive and constructive feedback from the people auditioning me. I'm meeting weekly with a group of actors in L.A., and have made contact and will be meeting with other groups of filmmakers and actors around L.A. I qualified for The Groundlings professional track courses, and plan to take them in a few weeks. A children's theater company is interested in my directing a show for them. Finally, the subject of today's blog is about the amazing experience Stina and I both had on the set of Transients yesterday, where we performed as featured, if silent, players in a visually stunning and socially powerful movie with a target release date later this year.
I haven't mentioned it to the blogosphere before, but I've had an occasional recurring dream theme since childhood in which I am working as an actor alongside actors I admire but only know from their work. In general, the dreams tend to focus on what I can or should say or do in a professional setting to interest my fellow artists in working with me again. When I was a child, it was almost always Billy Crystal. Since moving to L.A., it has been a number of different actors, including Felicia Day of The Guild fame.
Two weeks ago, I answered a Craigslist ad looking for a stiltwalker. I sent the poster a link to my newly created website: www.andjuggling.com/brendan. The director responded soon thereafter (while we were with Stina's mom on our Disneyland Vacation, actually. Thank you, mobile phone internet!), and was interested in using Stina as a stiltwalker and me as a Living Statue in a scene set in an art park. The shoot was on location in Redlands, CA, about an hour away from L.A. by car, so we could only do it if the film could provide transportation for us. Rhianon Gutierrez, the director, assured us she would find a way to get us out there and back, so we agreed.
Jordan and Ariel arrived a few days later, and we had a grand time playing games with them, and talking about the world, puppies, kittens, and internet memes. Stina worked and I had auditions and interviews, but they amused themselves and Belmont while we were away. On Thursday, we went to the Santa Monica Pier and beach, and while there Michael, our CS friend from NOLA and NYC, called to let us know he was going to be in Los Angeles that evening. Later that day, we also learned that the transportation Rhianon had arranged for us would pick us up the night before and take us to a hotel in Redlands so Stina could be on set for a 6:30AM call.
Momentarily panicked, we asked Jordan and Ariel if they could watch Belmont overnight. They said yes, and, as luck would have it, that left a bed available for Michael to spend the night, too.
We had a nice, busy apartment for a few hours Friday evening, catching up with Michael and saying goodbye to Jordan and Ariel, who left the next morning for San Francisco.
At 9:45pm, our ride, Eric, one of the producers of Transients, arrived to take us to the Howard Johnson in San Bernadino. I felt like Eric looked out for us while on set, making sure we knew when we would be needed and looking for opportunities for us to shine in the film. He's also a director, and we talked about future projects of his on the way down...some of which might have a place for me. Stina and I shared a room with another couple, one of whom was the ASL interpreter for one of the PAs and the other of whom was an extra. We awoke at 5AM, grabbed a couple bagels from the lobby, and headed out to the set with Eric, where we met Rhianon and the other cast and crew of the movie.
Coming up in a moment, you will see Stina and me flip out with excitement. Rhianon is a very welcoming and capable director. She made us feel valued, respected, and like a part of the team of filmmakers who had been working on this project for almost a year. Rhianon took us around and introduced us to the ADs, the PAs, the make-up artists, and the cast. The woman being made up at the moment looked tremendously like another actor we had seen. A few moments later, Stina and I compared notes. We both worried that some ableist idea had reared its head. We saw one female actor in a wheelchair, and our brains jumped to the conclusion that she was the same actor we had seen in a wheelchair before.
We asked Melanie, the AC and an actor in the film (and UW SoD alum! We're going to her creativity jam on Wednesday.), if our brains could possibly be telling us we were, in fact, not ableist, and rather in the presence of unexpected awesome.
Turns out, we were in the presence of unexpected awesome. Stina jumped up and down a few times while I smiled broadly and gasped for air. Teal Sherer of The Guild fame had just shaken our hands, plays the lead in Transients, and was about to be in scenes with us. I immediately turned to the education my dreams had given me, preparing for this opportunity of a lifetime.
Between takes in the scene where my living statue character tells her Sandrine character "make your own story" with his eyes, I managed to overcome my shyness, tell Teal what fans we are of her work, and tell her how excited we were to be on the set with her. She responded with such openness and friendliness that we became friends. She told me a little about her production company and the work it does. I learned a little about a project her company did, which she called a "devised" project: essentially an original, ensemble-created work.
I think every serious theatre artist wants to do the same thing. Melanie talked about creativity jams; the Tiles project, before it was scrapped, was all about collaboration; all of Nikki's and Alissa's shows have varying degrees of original, ensembly goodness; and you know it's why I make theatre.
After my scene finished shooting, I visited Stina at one of the picnic tables, where she and the body artist working on her had been at it for three hours already. Tracy Kiggen and her assistant, Braidy Connolly, transformed Stina's upper body into a garden of flowers over the course of nine hours.Eric came by to let me know that the film would like me to walk on my stilts in the scene as well, and they'd be careful not to film my face so that no one can tell I'm the same actor as the red man from earlier in the scene. Poor Rhianon could do nothing about the fact that there was no costume for my stilt-ness, and we made do with my plain, old, un-artsy jeans.
Ali arrived and told me about Pazookies, a cookie covered in ice cream that everyone seems to agree is a must-try. Ali was Teal's umbrella holder and jacket placement expert. Yep, she had an umbrella holder. Such a diva. He's also her boyfriend.
Stina strode regally across the set. She waved her magic bubble wand and led the audience around the art park. Folks enjoying a day in the park asked for pictures with her. She hugged trees and maneuvered around sculptures as if she were born on stilts. You'll have to watch Transients to see it.
After a 12 hour day of being on set, we met Rhianon's family, and then Stina and I were driven home by Rhianon and Alex, the film's editor. Rhianon treated us to some In-N-Out burger. It was our first time at the legendary Californian restaurant. We talked about our visions for theater and film, and made indefinite plans to play games in the not-too-distant future. We made movie magic yesterday, and I'm sure we'll do it again sometime. I'm sure.
|Traipsing has its consequences, a blog about Lyme Disease (Yay for doctor friends)|
|Sat, 07 May 2011 22:31:00 +0000|
|So, I have Lyme Disease.|
On the Saturday of the Grilled Cheese Invitational (at which we took 4th), they put wristbands on us to signify our participant status. A few minutes afterwards, I noticed a welt on the palmside of my wrist. I blamed skin irritation from the wristband and ignored it.
By Monday, a few more hives had appeared and we worried that Belmont had fleas or I was having an allergic reaction to something.
By Saturday, I had lots of hives, and we were trying to eliminate allergens from my environment. I bought Benadryl and anti-itch ointment, but it wasn't having any effect on the hives.
On Tuesday I noticed the classic bullseye rash.
I worried. I read internet articles about Lyme disease. I contacted Jocelyn (our friend who just finished med school in New Orleans). I told Stina my fears via text. I sent a picture of the rash to Jocelyn. After seeing it, she agreed it was suspicious, verging on pathognomic (my new favorite word, look it up!).
On Jocelyn's advice, I sought a medical practitioner in my area. There's a low-cost clinic about a quarter mile from our house, so I walked down there.
The clinic only accepts new patients at 7AM, so, reassured by Jocelyn that a few hours wouldn't make too much difference, I waited until the next morning and arrived at 6:45 AM. I stood at the end of the already 40 person long line waiting for the doors to open. Once the line started moving, I soon came to a person who asked my name and wrote it on a list.
Inside, I and the 3 dozen other people took our seats while the woman who was writing down names explained the procedure for getting to see a doctor and what to expect in Spanish. She did not translate it into English. I was the only person in the room who did not speak Spanish. I went up to the counter afterwards, and she explained in English that I would wait until 11AM, then, if they thought they would be able to see me in the afternoon, they would ask me to come back at 1PM to continue waiting. There were no guarantees that I would be seen, and if I couldn't be seen after waiting all day, I could come back the next morning at 7AM to wait again.
I thanked her and re-took my seat and texted with Stina and Jocelyn about how I was feeling and what was happening. There were at least 60 people in the waiting room above the door to which read a sign "Maximum Occupancy: 40 Persons", and another 20 in the children's play area. I worried I wouldn't be seen. After 2 hours, another lady behind a desk (I don't know if they were nurses. I assume so.) called me up, and asked me for the reason for my visit today. I told her about the rash, and then went back to my seat. After 2 more hours, the original lady called me up and told me to come back at 1PM.
I went home, took Belmont out, re-charged my phone, half-heartedly looked for work on Craigslist (What if I were still waiting at the clinic tomorrow?), and ate lunch. Then I went back to the clinic. This time I brought a book (no magazines in the waiting room, sadly).
I went up to the lady behind the desk and told her I was back. She politely but disinterestedly waved me back to a chair. I read my book and texted with Stina and Jocelyn. I told Jocelyn I realized more medical professionals were needed. She responded that I could probably finish my first year of med school while waiting in this clinic. True.
Around 3:30, the desk lady called me up and handed me some papers, promising there was a space available for me if I could fill out the paperwork really quickly. So I did. Faster than she expected, I think. And by 4, I was talking to a nurse practitioner.
First a nurse or orderly or volunteer or intern or something took my blood pressure (fine), weight (50 lbs more than I'd like it to be), and checked my blood sugar (86 - not diabetic).
Then came the moment I'd been waiting for. I told my medical caretaker about my symptoms: the progression of the hives, and the appearance of the bullseye rash. She took one look at it, said yep, Lyme, then asked me about a host of other symptoms. I had none of the other symptoms. She told me she was going to check on what the United States recommended dosage was of Doxycycline for Lyme (from which I inferred that she was from ... somewhere south of the U.S. Mexico, perhaps).
I thanked her, waited for the pharmacy, etc. Got the Doxy.
I took the first pill that evening around 6pm, making sure not to have any food in the 2 hours before or one hour after. Thursday I took my pills in the morning and evening. Then Friday morning I took my second dose at 8:30 AM. Friday night, I took a pill around 11PM.
During this time, we worried about whether Belmont might have Lyme disease and what we should do. Stina remembered that we had gone traipsing through an overgrown stairway between streets two weeks ago. We decided it was most likely I had picked up the tick there. Stina was carrying Belmont through the growth, so it was no more likely that he'd get Lyme than Stina, and neither of them have any symptoms, so we decided not to worry, and make sure to have him tested at his next regular vet visit.
This morning (Saturday) I awoke around 8:30AM after a fitful night's rest. I kept dreaming that I was crushing Belmont in my sleep. He was fine, and very happy to be firmly snuggled between Stina and me.
My right thumb felt mildly swollen. It also looked mildly swollen. I started to worry. One of the things the doctor had said was that if I felt muscle pain or joint pain, then the antibiotics weren't working, and I should go to the emergency room. Was this what joint pain felt like? I took my pill at 9AM and emailed and texted Jocelyn, then searched the web. The search turned up plenty of stories people told about how the dosage of Doxycycline I was being given wasn't nearly enough and other such worrisome horror stories. I do my best to trust the medical professionals rather than the internet, so I decided not to worry about that. I couldn't figure out whether my slightly swollen hand was something to send me to the ER or not.
So, we looked up a medical hotline. The lady at the other end told us to tell the doctor treating me about the new symptom. I told her the doctor treating me was at the free clinic and I couldn't get ahold of her. She told me to go to Urgent Care. Hmm. I called the free clinic, which is open until noon on Saturdays. The lady at the other end said they couldn't see me today, but that I should stop taking the Doxycycline and come in on Monday. No, they don't do appointments, but she can transfer me. She transferred me to a voicemail that said, and I quote "Hello, the party you have reached is not available. Please leave a message for at the tone." No name or otherwise helpful information. I left a detailed message. Maybe they'll return my call.
Alright, time to tap in a new doctor friend. Britt, Stina's Cousin's Wife, also just finished med school. After explaining the situation, she thought the swelling was within the realm of normal. The way I understand it (all factual errors are mine, not Britt's), the Doxycycline builds up in your body. Now, after I've taken 4 doses of it, it's finally starting to work. It breaks open the bacteria, and my immune system attacks the bacteria. The swelling is because of what my immune system is doing. It's expected. There's not a lot of swelling (no pitting), and the pain when I press it is just a two (On the scale of one to ten, but my scale is more reasonable than this guy's. My ten is the appendicitis of August 2008, May 2009, August 2009, and October 2010.)
Jocelyn agrees with Britt's diagnosis. Yay for friends who are docs. I want to be a doc, too. So, I will continue to take the Doxy, and if the swelling isn't better on Monday, I'll go in to the clinic and see what they can tell me.
It's obnoxious, and I hate the hives that I'm still getting, but cross your fingers for me (or, you religious folk out there can do your equivalent of that if you want) that all will be well.
My elbow is feeling a little tender, much like my ring finger (though not my thumb). The spots are warm, but not super-hot, and the swelling is minor, pain is minimal, itchiness is perseverant.
Check in with me on Monday and see if it has all gotten better.
P.S. It has all gotten better.