A Contest? Yes, please!

Open Ethnicity, a TV series currently in production that I’m very excited and happy to be part of, is holding a contest right now. If you submit a self-tape of a monologue or short scene, and the producer, Sunny Chen, picks it to be highlighted on Instagram TV, you’ll be entered into a competition to be a guest star in an upcoming episode.

I’m playing the part of Katherine Cage, a fictional casting director in the Lower Mainland. I am self taping my reactions to the submissions, editing them, and forwarding them to my director/producer. She gives me feedback and suggestions for interesting “slice of life” bits to let viewers see more about Katherine’s personal life.

It has been super fun, and a great way to motivate myself to commit myself to a regular work day schedule. I love being creative and making new things. It is a wonderful way to express myself and tell my own story while projecting myself into a different reality. Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot.

Wouldn’t you like to get away?

Ok, enough references to the TV shows of my formative years. I’m incredibly grateful to people like Sunny, who tell stories that resonate with me and my own experiences. Open Ethnicity’s main character has an arch nemesis, who is always at the same casting calls as she is. And she’s a little bit taller, a little bit more well known, and actually has creepy-stalker fans!

Lucky.

The Program comes for us all!

You’ll be hooked!

I recently had the very great pleasure to work with Ivan Mirko Senjanovic (known as IMS) on his podcast The Program. He describes it as, “a historical podcast set in a future in which Money, State, and God became fused into a single entity called the Program. Each episode is a self-contained story focusing on ordinary people inhabiting this extraordinary world. And for them, it is not this future that is terrifying – it is our present.” I describe it as awesome.

I got to voice one of my favourite styles of character: AI. There is something compelling to me about voicing characters that are not quite human. It enables an actor to comment on the human condition from an all-seeing perspective. I wonder sometimes if my understated irony (honestly earned from my British and Canadian heritage) finds its truest home in the world of AI. GladOS, for example, is one of my favourite all-time characters and has been an inspiration for me when I work tech.

Currently, I’m swamped with audiobook deadlines. I recently upgraded my lappy, and it’s no longer compatible with Audacity, so I have to record with Audition, export to wav, import to Audacity to edit (because >45 hate learn new software) and then export it for ACX. Somewhere in that process, one tiny setting got altered and I didn’t realize it until AFTER one of my books spent 3 weeks in ACX’s quality control. GAH! Soooooo, that book’s retail release is still delayed…

Directing live theatre over the internet is cray-cray!

Fun and games continue as I’m directing a beautiful, piercing, quick comedy/drama called 30 Minutes to Charlie by Nick Zagone for Theatre in the Country. We’re all in different homes, connecting with various streaming/meeting services and my wunderkind son is patching all the crazy together into one beautiful, seamless piece that, hopefully, will be easy for people to click on to watch. my actors, Gabriel, Matthew, Ashlyn, and June, have all been wonderfully patient with the crazy process, and I’m incredibly grateful. And totally don’t mind the confusing and angsty dreams. Not a bit. You know, those dreams where someone is supposed to be on stage, but they only just saw the script for the first time and no one really knows what scene we’re on? Those dreams.

But now, all I wanna do is go out on the river! Did you know spring run-off is freezing cold and really fast? I did.

OC-1 and Kayak, begging to be used

Audiobooks to walk your dog with

My mum with her dog Dax and my poodle, Simply Elegant

I think the best thing about being an audiobook producer is that you can work from home. This means that if you are feeling productive and your family is all off doing their school activities or work meetings, you can pop down to your studio and escape into a world you create for your audience for a couple of hours.

My closest colleague

Then, when your voice gets tired, or you start to freeze because you’ve turned off the furnace so your sound floor is practically infinite, you can pop back upstairs for a cup of tea and some binge watching whilst you edit.

It’s a good life if you can get it.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not making me a living yet. I’d love to get royalties on a fantastically successful series that gives me a passive income that I can live off! Right now, it’s a combination of “per finished hour” and royalty share from books on sale through iTunes and Audible. I am averaging one new novel a month, so I’m feeling productive, if not independent yet!

Another wonderful thing about audiobook producing is that it fits so neatly around the other million things I do as a professional actor and mother of a professional actor. Things I need to do to keep finding work: audition prep, driving into the city to the audition, self-taping auditions, updating resumes and websites and YouTube, networking, classes, SLIXER events, to name a few. True, sometimes the work of finding work takes too much of a front seat and then I find myself with 8hr editing days to try to meet my production deadline (which is dizzying, disorienting and deadly–hence the term “deadline”). Balance is key.

So having Spring Break as a staycation this year when our trip to Hawaii got cancelled is turning out to be an exercise in balance for my whole family. We are planning some at-home activity, visiting whatever businesses we can safely buy things from (grocery store, take-out, hobby store where we let the proprietor handle all our purchases), and trying not to grieve for too long over cancelled or suspended projects that we had booked.

Hopefully, rebooked in June!

Thankfully the weather where we are has been extremely co-operative and we’ve developed a very nice catio for my son and his cat Piper on our balcony!

Best wishes for a healthy spring.

❤ Jacq, Piper, Ellie and Mango

What a summer!

INCOMING!

I am so grateful for my opportunities this summer! I started two new audiobooks: Gabby, which is the first of a ten book series, and A Pirate at Pembroke, which combines an Austen-style Regency era novel with dialect voice acting!

I was also invited to direct The Comedy of Errors in the park for Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows and got to present our production to City Hall (which was at once nerve-wracking and gratifying). I was originally flustered about how I was going to get my heart and soul behind this story, which has some very challenging moments of double standard spouse behaviour in it. Fortunately, I had the inspiration to cross gender cast it, and the results were a celebration of the female spirit of adventure and strength! Directing is the outward expression of my art. Narration is such an isolated experience, it is energizing and heartwarming to take my love of storytelling to live theatre.

And to top off the season, I was cast in a Vancouver Fringe show! I get to create my favourite kind of character, which is not quite human, but still understands empathy. I am the God Machine! I love characters that know more than the others on stage, because the audience is bound to sympathise with the poor humans in the story. Vampire Business Magnate and Disappointed Angel both fall into that category.

I am very much looking forward to the fall, as I submit myself for more indies, more books and (hopefully) more paid on-camera gigs!

I love Indies!

Networking in the Lower Mainland

Having worked on four indie projects so far, the thing I’ve noticed most is: everyone knows each other! One of the first things we do when we get on set is to link up through Insta. You start to see people you met on one shoot commenting on the trailer that just came out for your other project and you realize they’re already friends.

It is a crazy small world.

One of the most pleasant surprises I had lately was when I received a notification that my web series director / producer saw me in a preview of my thriller indie film (I couldn’t go to the screening, as it was closing night for Noises Off!) and that she liked my performance. I felt so proud and grateful that she took the time to acknowledge me. I know from watching her work and seeing from her posts how busy she is, so I really appreciated it.

I’m starting to realize that if you want to work, you really just need to put yourself out there. There’s a fantastic web of professionals who aren’t waiting to be discovered. They’re making their own opportunities and building their own crews. While it’s true, I’m not making a living doing this, my creative soul is flourishing and I’m loving every minute of it, and I’m learning so much that it’s inspiring me to take even more risks.

The sources I’ve been using to self-submit for jobs are the Vancouver Actors Guide and Actors Access . VAG is always free, but you have to check it regularly. Actors Access is free also, but if you want it to send you notifications of jobs you’re eligible for, submit yourself for an unlimited number of jobs, have demos you can send, submit self tapes, etc. you can subscribe to the paid service.

So, while you’re waiting for that big break that your agent finds for you on Casting Workbook, you can keep busy and hone your skills. Build up your resume and show that you have experience on set.

And have FUN!

The Next Big Step

I know I’m not the only one.

There are plenty of women my age who are looking around at all their accomplishments, achievements, healthy, happy family members and thinking: Ok, what’s next?

Well, this year, I decided to really go for it. I put my name up on Casting Workbook, went out for some auditions, failed terribly at one of the first on-camera student film auditions I went out for and decided that theatre doesn’t instantly translate to film.

That’s when I realized I needed more training. Yes, I had about 30 years’ worth of theatre experience, I’d done a wonderful Voice Over course, and I was becoming a pretty frequently working director. But, um…where was I supposed to look when I was talking to more than one character and the camera was fixed? I hadn’t a clue.

Fortunately, I found a wonderful auditioning class full of other student professionals, and led by a fantastically experienced teacher and local actor at a supportive and welcoming school. After the first class, I was 50/50 between, “I’m terrible at this, I should definitely quit” and “the teacher said everyone in her class improves, and let’s face it, things can only go up from here.”

And, to be honest, once you’re past 40, what is there to be afraid of, really? So, with the understanding of what it means to be prepared is a lot different from any of my previous expectations, that knowing your lines and character and motivations means nothing if you haven’t stood on your feet in front of someone and delivered the lines to a tiny cone of audience while not moving out of your tiny rectangle. Well, let’s just say, I didn’t keep the first week’s tape.

I was seriously impressed at how quickly I was able to see myself on tape without cringing. I can’t say I’ve got a totally objective eye. I often liked my initial, pre-coached performances and had to trust my teacher that she was coaching me towards something better. Of course, when I watched the two contrasting performances back afterwards, I could totally see what she meant.

So, learning new skills when you’re at your most vulnerable is hard. It’s emotional, and is so much more life-changing when you’re in a roomful of supportive colleagues. And it’s sad when you go off into the world and leave them behind.

But it’s also fully awesome when you get on set in an indie that is passionate, edgy and visceral. I’ve had wonderful, intense and cathartic experiences because I put myself out there. I found where I was weak, took classes to bolster my skills and then self-submitted for everything that moved me. I’ve been so grateful that there are women out there writing, producing and directing fantastic content that has really drawn me in. I have yet to see the finished products, but the process of creation has already fed my artistic soul and driven me to keep at it.

So, while I’m not in anything you can see on Netflix yet, I’m growing as an industry professional. I’m defining myself differently. I’m saying to the border guard, “I’m an actor and director” instead of “I don’t work”. And I’m starting to say it confidently.

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