Ready, Set, GO!

On the morning of December 4, 2016 I got a phone call at 8:30 AM telling me I booked a commercial that was shooting in Santiago, Chile and my flight was leaving at 7 AM the next day.

Exciting? Yes. Did I get all my shit together? No. Tomorrow a friend of mine is flying to Chile to shoot a commercial (lucky duck), so I thought I’d share some of my insights on traveling and working in there so others can learn from my experience of last minute work travel and shooting a non-union commercial abroad.

Before you get yourself into this situation here’s what you need to have:

  • A fantastic boss and coworkers at your day job/ joe job/ side hustle who get it and are able to help you out when an amazing opportunity comes your way. Remember to buy them booze and treat them nice throughout the year.
  • A passport. Duh. Well, you wouldn’t have booked the gig if your passport wasn’t valid.
  • A positive attitude because you’re in for an adventure.

Do Some Research:

You are going to a new country. If you can take a few minutes to research the city you’re going to, do it, even if it’s on your five hour layover in the Dallas Fort Worth airport. Check to see if there are any travel advisories. Worried about Zika virus? Don’t! It’s not in Chile.

Quick reads:

My Experience:

I found Santiago, Chile to be a modern city with a European feel. This is likely because I haven’t traveled to South America before and have mostly traveled in Europe and the only other Spanish speaking country I’ve been to was Spain. The people are friendly but most do not speak english. I had a funny relationship with my driver who didn’t speak a word of english but kept speaking to me in spanish, like I was going to magically pick it up over the five days I was there. Sorry Julio, I let you down.

Shooting the Commercial: 

Nearly everyone on the production spoke english. The director and the DP were American. The same goes for the agency and the client.  The crew were locals and they were pretty much all bilingual.

I had a great experience on set but I have heard from other actors I know that sometimes these non-union commercials shot outside of North America can ask actors to do some things they wouldn’t ask you to do at home – like carry a 50+ lbs fridge on your back while walking down stairs in heels (ya, that happened). Remember to speak up if you ever feel uncomfortable.

One of the things that excited me the most was how beautifully the table was set when we broke for lunch. There was a tablecloth and cutlery was set out; it felt so much more civilized than the plastic table with fold up chairs I’ve normally used on set.

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A beautiful table set for a crew and vegetarian food! I was so lucky!

What to Bring:

Pack light. You’re only going for a few days.

Here’s what I brought: two t-shirts, one pair of jeans, yoga pants (to wear on the plane, so I could be comfortable and “stylish”), a sweater, a denim, top, a dress, a skirt, a jacket (for Vancouver and Santiago weather – I chose my vegan ‘leather’ jacket), underwear (of course), a swimsuit (sadly I never used it), a gym top, a pair of sandals (wishful thinking about going to the beach – which I did use!), a pair of running shoes (wishful thinking about a hotel gym), and ankle booties. I put all of that plus my toiletries in my carry-on.

In my “personal bag” I always have the following for airplane travel:

Antibacterial wipes because they do not wipe down the arm rests, screen, seat belt etc. Gross.

EmergenC – It might be the placebo effect working but I always pour a package into my water bottle and drink it before my flight.

Nasal Spray – I keep flying with head colds and it hurts so much. Imagine the feeling of someone shoving a screwdriver into your ear. My doctor suggested I get some decongestant nasal spray, which was something I never tried before and it helped almost instantly. Also putting a hot compress outside of your ear will help to get things moving but that’s hard to do on a plane.

Lotion – I always get so dry on airplanes so I like to travel with heavy hand cream. Remember to keep it under 100 ml (or 3.4 oz) otherwise the TSA will take it away and you’ll be sad.

Water bottle – If you’re traveling in North America (except Flint, Michigan) the tap water is fine. Fill up your bottle once you’re through security. It’s important to stay hydrated and bottled water is a sham: it has less regulations than tap water and it’s horrible for the environment. Seriously, there’s no reason to buy bottled water.* Stop doing it. Please.

Except, I’m a jerkface. Once I had settled in my hotel room in Chile I brought a 6 litre bottle from the grocery store nearby because I didn’t want to risk getting the squirts.

Zopiclone – I suffer from insomnia and I’m so thankful to have discovered this magic pill. I was able to get a few hours sleep on the plane and a restful sleep the first night because of my little blue Z. I also brought melatonin to take at my new bedtime in Santiago. I think taking it helped with my jet lag.

Vega All In One – I mostly eat vegetarian and I wasn’t sure what the food situation would be so I brought a mason jar to use as a shaker and some of my favorite meal replacement/ protein powder in a plastic bag.

Plus a book and notepad, but I hardly leave my house without those supplies anyway.

Things To Do Before You Leave:

  • Don’t worry about exchanging your money before you go -you’re rushing to get on a plane to shoot a commercial – you don’t have time for that shit! It’s likely the production will give you a per diem in American cash when you arrive. If you need money go to a bank when you get there and take money out on your credit card.
  • Learn some spanish, at least the basics. Make notes or print out common phrases. Learn numbers (so you can find your hotel room) and please and thank you.
  • Pack your smartphone & charger. They’re going to have to get a hold of you somehow. It’s a wise idea to get some sort of travel plan. If you’re traveling for work you can write it off come tax time. Warning: if you’re with Fido and going to South America you’ll run through your data in one day. I did and I’m pretty good about turning my data off. Make a note to contact your MP when you get back to work on getting better cell phone plans in Canada.
  • Get a power adapter – Just make sure it works with your computer cord. I learnt this the hard way (see photo below). If this happens to you ask the hotel you’re staying at if they have one you can borrow/buy, they often have spares because you’re not the first person to go to Shoppers Drug Mart and buy the only adapter they have even though it’s a P.O.S.
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If I’d had more time I would have gone to London Drugs where I bet there would have been more options than this “stylize” garbage converter that killed my curling iron.

  • Don’t bring your curling iron or hair dryer. Your P.O.S. power adapter likely will kill it in some way. It’s not worth it. Someone will do your hair when you’re on set. Your hotel should have a hair dryer in the bathroom and you’re on vacation, let your frizz fly!
  • Buy sunblock, bug spray when you get there. Since you’re doing carry-on you need all the liquids for your regular stuff.
  • Don’t worry about what you’re going to say at customs. They didn’t even ask me what I was doing in the country.

Santiago Recommendations

I lucked out and had two and a half free days to explore the city. Here are some of the highlights.

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  • The food! All of it. So good. The desserts! The seafood! The beer! The wine!  I want to go back.
  • Barrio Bellavista, is a vibrant cultural district. I went to Pablo Neruda’s house, La Chascona and I’m kicking myself for not buying the salt and pepper shakers from the gift store. Also in that area is a mountain that takes about 50 minutes to walk up, Cerro San Cristobal. If you’re lucky enough to go up it on a clear day you can see the Andes and the entire city. I walked up it and took the funicular down, it was scary, fun and would never pass North American public safety inspections.
  • Also in Bellavista I paid the equivalent of $5 US to get my photo taken with a llama. WORTH IT.
  • Take the metro. It’s safe and a good exercise for your brain to navigate a new transit system. If you’ve been on the NYC subway or London tube, you’ll be fine. This is where I really got to test out my beginner spanish.
  • If your hotel is anywhere near Apumanque,where I was saying, be sure to check out Parque Arauco and the designer mall nearby – unless you have an allergy to scents, because every store was heavily perfumed.

Most of all have fun and enjoy how fortunate you are to be able to do this!

Everyone else get ready. The advertising agency I worked with said they’re likely going to keep booking non-union actors from Vancouver and shooting in Chile because it worked out so well.

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Even though I didn’t get all my shit together, I still managed to enjoy my time in Santiago, Chile. 

 

I Was On SNL! Well….

A few weeks ago my father emailed me to say that he was watching SNL and he saw me on TV. The Edible Arrangement commercial I was in aired during the first commercial break. The first commercial. Ya know, the one that’s sometimes a fake commercial. Well, that’s when this aired. So, in my proud father’s eyes I was on SNL. Kinda.

Improv

Screen shot 2014-04-11 at 1.56.27 PMWhat the heck is this?

This is a photo taken by Margret Nyfors of the cast of Rookie Night at Vancouver Theatre Sports a few weeks ago. Can you spot me? Yup, I’m the one in blue in a weird pose. I was dancing. I’m always dancing.

I’m performing in this Sunday’s show – April 13, 7:30pm, $8.

I can’t guarantee I’ll be funny, but I can guarantee I’ll be the best dancer on stage. If you can’t spot me by my smooth moves I’m likely to be the only person wearing any colour besides black or grey.

The Young & Spontaneous Series

522104_583420238335169_485045649_nI’m a part of something (that’s me on the left!) that I’m not producing! Huzzah!

Here are the details.

The Young & Spontaneous Series
Four nights of amazing directed improvisation.

The Road Trip
A group of twenty somethings are about to take the trip of their lives. They’ll learn about the country, and themselves as they travel from coast to coast for a very important reason. Tensions will be high, lives will be changed, secrets revealed and fun will be had!
Featuring: Erin Weber, Tyler Weber, Jeff Sanders, Jameison Rafter and Maddy Rafter.
Directed by Shawn Norman

Star Alliance 557
The intergalactic space highway is long and tiring for the crew of the Star Alliance 557. Our crew of Navigator Scott Bucket (Andrew Chen), Captain Dartagnan Ganymede (Shawn Norman) and Robotic Unit B.I.L.L. (Warren Bates) travel through space doing the lowest priority jobs for StarCorp (a subsidiary of the Star Alliance of Companies). Sometimes they accidentally have adventures.
Directed by Alistair Cook

The Feud
A cast of six improvisors will explore a feud that divides a community. Based on two suggestions, this improvised play will showcase how a polarizing issue affects relationships, between enemies and allies, family and neighbours.
Featuring: Brent Hirose, Kyle P. Fines, Tristan MacKinlay, Michael Unger, Jenna Briscoe and Kiera Floor.
Directed by Lauren McGibbon

GRIT
Sex. Crime. Intrigue. 
This 1950’s pulp-style crime fiction piece will knock you off your feet with its gritty characters and thrilling story. Based on the dark heroes, seductive dames, and sleazy criminals of classic Mickey Spillane works, this show draws heavily on the genre to explore the ins and outs of a seedy criminal world. Crimes will be solved, lies will be exposed, hearts will be broken, and audiences will be left wanting more.
Featuring: Ayma Letang, Joel Cottingham, Julianne Hoyak, Mathieson McCrae, Peter John Prinsloo and Sara Bynoe
Directed by Nicole Passmore

Down the Rabbit Hole
Witness two characters in one location explore their relationship only to find their secrets unfold layer after layer of their reality. Join Zach Wolfman and Sarah Thompson in this character driven improvised one act play.

Daddy’s Lamborghini
Jim Miller and Nadiya Chettiar dive deeply into a world of Duo style improv. Inspired by long scenes, enchanting characters and maybe even a little Tarantino.
Directed by Alistair Cook

Cameron MacLeod’s NIGHTMARE ON HALLOWEEN FRIDAY
In this one man horror film Cameron will improvise a 25 minute slasher film involving an abomination of horrific proportions and the teens he prays upon.
Featuring: Cameron MacLeod
Directed by Mostly Cam with some help from Alistair Cook

Let’s Make a SCENE!
It is time for you to COME ON DOWN and join our cast for a Gameshow that will test your mental and comedic strengths! Instant Theatre Company member Brian Cook hosts as two teams battle to help their audience member win prizes and cash!
Featuring: Brian Cook, Brad MacNeil, Nicole Passmore, Tim Carlson, Kim Yip, Ryan Chaput, Peter Carlone and Louis Deschner.
Directed by: Alistair Cook

The Schedule:

Sunday: April 28th
7:30 –Road Trip / Nightmare on Halloween Friday
9:00 – The Feud / Star Alliance 557

Monday: April 29th
7:30 — Let’s Make a SCENE! / Daddy’s Lamborghini
9:00 – Down The Rabbit Hole / GRIT

Tuesday: April 30th
7:30 — Let’s Make a SCENE! / The Feud
9:00 — Daddy’s Lamborghini / GRIT 

Wednesday: May 1st
7:30 – Cam MacLeod’s Nightmare on Halloween Friday / Down the Rabbit Hole
9:00 — Road Trip / Star Alliance 557

DATES: April 28th to May 1st (7:30 and 9:00 shows)
Where: Havana Theatre (1212 Commercial Drive)
Tickets: $5 online $10 at the door ($15 for both shows)
More Info and tickets at www.instanttheatre.com

Schmacting

Sometimes I act. Hey, it’s what I was trained to do. I don’t get cast too often, probably because there’s something about my face producers don’t like. Probably my profile, which is so wonderfully displayed in the screen grab below.

Nevertheless, I was asked by my friend Jereme Watt to play a Mom to a 20-year-old kid in this short film for VFS (that means I would have had him when I was 10). I’m glad he did because I had a great time improvising with my husband for the day -the rest of the cast was fun too.

Ah, acting. Good times. Now if only I got cast more often in work that paid me I could get that nose job. Wait a minute …

Actor Schmactor

2

Slashy Awards – Actor/ Writers. We’re not just puppets!

A few months ago I went to a workshop.  It was one of those build your career, find your edge, life and career workshops for entertainment industry people. The coach was from L.A. and has been doing this for far too many years, at least that’s what I got from her auto pilot ramblings over the two day workshop. I had decided to go because a good friend highly recommended it and I wanted to kick start my career and get help marketing myself as a creative package – which seemed to be the point of the workshop.

The first day the ‘career coach’ -whose shirt was inside out until our break when someone pointed it out to her- and I did not click. When I told her I was an actor who just got an MA in creative writing and was writing a novel she said, “actors don’t write novels.” (She also later told me that I needed to get a better haircut.)

Coming from a woman who said she’d be our personal champion and wanted to inspire us to have the personal and professional careers of our dreams, I felt this was very limiting statement- the one about actors not being writers. For the rest of the day I was guarded and cynical about her ‘advice’ which mostly consisted of stories about how she’s friends with John Travolta and was in the first Broadway production of a famous musical.

However this experience did get me thinking – am I totally off my rocker wanting to do both writing AND acting? The answer: Hells No! And to prove my point here’s a list of actors who also write and do other amazing things and do them well -not like Ethan Hawke whose novel got panned by critics.

Stephen Fry – This man does everything! He’s played Oscar Wilde. Hosted the quiz show QI. He’s done theatre – he’s even hosted the BAFTAs. He’s written four novels, an autobiography, non-fiction books AND he writes a weekly tech column for The Guardian. He is the epitome of a Renaissance man. Don’t try to tell this man that actors don’t write novels, host radio shows or travel America in a black cab.

Hugh Laurie – The comedy partner of Stephen Fry has recently come to great acclaim in the US playing the lead on House. Before his television success Laurie appeared on the Blackadder, in mulitple films, and wrote a BEST SELLING novel. Apparently he’s written a second one but the publication date has been held back. He has a band and oh,  he’s won a SAG and Golden Globe award.

Amy Sedaris – Sister of the humorist David Sedaris (who is a fine writer/performer himself), Amy has created a TV Series, co-written several plays, worked as a sketch comedian, done  voice over and she has her own baking company out of her apartment. Don’t try to put Amy in a corner by saying actors can’t write, voice or bake!

James Franco – This future boyfriend of mine just got an MFA from Columbia University’s Writing Program (see- we’d have lots to talk about on our first date being fellow Masters).  James dropped out of UCLA (English Major) to study acting and got his break shortly after in a role on Freaks and Geeks. Since then he’s appeared in several high profile flicks like Spiderman playing Spidy’s BFF. He’s done hilarious work with Funny or Die and apparently he’s going to Yale this fall to get a PhD in English. A Ph-fricking-D! Booya!

Miranda July- Although she puts most of her work under the umbrella of Performance Art, Miranda July is an accomplished performer and writer. Her short stories have been published in the Paris Review, The New Yorker, and Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern. She wrote, directed and acted in her first film You Me and Everyone We Know which won the Caméra d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. She’s a musician whose music was released on Kill Rock Stars. Basically there is nothing this woman can’t do. She hasn’t even had a day job since she was 23!

The list goes on. Essentially all comedians are actor/writer since they write their own material. Look at Tina Fey! A few members of the Office ensemble cast are also writers for the show! And then there’s the biggest actor/ writer of them all Shakespeare! I learned a lot from this workshop and the limiting statement Mrs Wannabe-Tony-Robins made. Mostly I’ve learned that I should spend my money more wisely.
NOTE: If you want to know who the woman was that taught this terrible workshop please e-mail me. I’m not about to stoop to internet slander.