Sleepless Self Tape
I am going to bed early tonight. No exceptions.
I pulled another all-nighter last night, deep in an epic self tape editing hole. It couldn't be helped. When a new streaming show produced by Lorne Michaels (boundary-pushing creator of Saturday Night Live and producer of many films and stand up specials) and choreographed by Christopher Gatelli (legend with a dozen Broadway choreography credits including Newsies! and Spongebob, also the film Hail Caesar, and a long career as a Broadway performer before that) hits you up, you drop everything for that self tape.
I needed this self tape. I had just submitted a rushed, mediocre audition for a plain old industrial gig that I should have booked but didn't. I was fried after 16 hours of weekend memoir class over Zoom in which 10 people let fly their deepest vulnerabilities, wrapped in clever verbiage. The last thing I wanted to do was feign enthusiasm for corporate instructional copy (copy = written script to be filmed). The director asked me to resubmit a take (take = filmed attempt) more 'conversational' and less 'actor-y'. I felt bad for stealing Shane away from his woodworking and simultaneous film editing to make him read for my audition. As a writer, my disdain for the script's uninspired (in my opinion) writing was palpable through my attempts to say the lines. I was not proud of what I submitted, and in hindsight I should have reshot it, but instead I uploaded it and sat in the discomfort of sending objectively mediocre work. This resulted in a lot of swearing in the hours it took to upload, a lot of whining to Shane, and a self indulgent trip to the Del Taco on our street corner (in loud defiance of not wanting to deal with the 'messy kitchen') It was my first drive thru in years: 3 vegan tacos with avocado and extra hot sauce. I unpacked all the layers of thin waxed paper under the early evening stars, with my legs dangling over the roof of the carport. I used my phone flashlight to navigate my tub of extra pico. The food was salty and oily and the iceberg shreds reminded me of foam packing peanuts--how I imagine they taste but haven't confirmed, redeemed only by the lukewarm peppery sauce packets, squeezed over everything including accidentally my jeans. The 'Beyond Meat' tacos sat in my stomach, along with my self-frustration, unmoving, until I fell asleep, curled up in a defeated fetal position with my shoulders practically in my ears.
Being asked to submit for a high budget TV series, filming in Vancouver in the fall, felt like redemption. It had mostly been crickets from my agent in LA since the lockdown started in March, and I was surprised to hear from her. "A song and dance tape in the style of the Christopher Gatelli 'Broadway/Jazz world'", the email read, with no time restrictions or specific, sterilized instructions. No script, just "sing and dance for us if you can legally work in Vancouver". Thank you, I prayed to my concept of God (Source, the Universe, my highest self, all of it). I needed to redeem myself for being such a crappy commercial actor.
I pulled out tap shoes, leather La Duca heels, and makeup brushes. I printed out the lyrics to a jazzy standard and practiced singing it, sitting atop the bathroom counter and smudging my eyelids and lips with color. Shane helped me set up his camera rig, with all its component parts that I'm still learning about and intimidated by ("What are the two memory cards for?", "How do I turn on the Ronin?", "How do I evenly reflect light onto my face at such a tight angle?"). He was busy again but he'd much rather help the technical side then interrupt his woodworking flow to read sh*tty lines. He checked in on me a few times, always sweet and attentive, always covered in sawdust, cobwebs, and paint spatter.
I sang to the plants in my bedroom window, powdering my sweaty face and adjusting sweaty hairs intermittently (the heat was and is still pretty intense) but I truly enjoyed the chance to sing. I tapped for an hour on a rough sheet of plywood, slinked around in heels for a few song plays, then used the last of my energy to bust some jazzy Newsies!-esque leaps and pirouettes in sneakers. The sweat rolled off of me like those heroic old Gatorade commercials. I felt accomplished and broke to make/eat dinner with Shane. The work, however, had only begun.
Around 10pm, I sat down to edit. I weaved my way around unexpected changes and improvisational clips that didn't really hold up on their own (you could see the rise and fall of my energy and inspiration). It ended up being more like a reel. But I was still proud to have come up with what I did, 6 months into a dance-class-less pandemic without much of a warmup or choreographic practice. I messed with transitions, external audio clips, and music ordering for hours. I pushed to merge my initial vision with a different set of source material, and a fast approaching deadline. The editing hole, unsurprisingly, warped my concept of time--I got so involved with the process that I lost track of everything else going on. I blocked out bodily sensations until they poked me sharply in the ribs, like having to pee or stretch out a sore muscle or shift positions because my foot was numb. Hunger and thirst and sleepiness sort of faded away into white noise, like optional suggestions. I began to color grade at 430am, exported around 5, then watched for 30 minutes as the transfer to an online file for my agent crawled along like a sad, bloated caterpillar. I crossed my fingers that the transfer would finish on its own--"43 minutes remaining" was the last caption I saw before numbly making my way to bed.
I woke, deliriously, at 7am to a successful transfer message and the most coveted bowl of cereal I may have ever eaten. Coffee and a sense of accomplishment fueled my drive to Pasadena where my physical therapist listened to me ramble on about my week while breaking up scar tissue in my right hamstring (I tore it in Malaysia 5 years ago). The well-intentioned healing tissue had begun to mess with the nerves around my right S.I. joint and I'd been feeling achey in my hips, glutes, and groin for months. Like most bodily things, it wasn't painful so much as annoyingly persistent. An hour with my excellent PT is like a tall, fresh squeezed orange juice on a hungover morning--never not satisfying and exactly what I need.
On the drive back through the San Fernando Valley--28 miles on shifting freeways--I remembered that I completely forgot to write a blog yesterday. Given the circumstances of my week so far, I forgave myself with ease. No, I didn't write a Monday blog, but I've been writing nonstop, dancing nonstop, singing nonstop, driving and cooking and gardening and coming back to a better version of myself, nonstop. Just because I didn't create a blog didn't mean I wasn't endlessly creating all sorts of things. I'll write a double blog feature another day. For now, here's the audition submission I made. Watch it and then enjoy a visual of me folding up into bed like a tired kitten.