Louisiana is number 2 in the nation for filming, second only to California, and I just had my most interesting week as an actor here. I’ve worked fairly steadily since arriving and have had to sacrifice only my ego to make enough to stay afloat and keep my health insurance. But this week was a journey for me from an L.A. working actor to a N.O.LA working actor.
The good news? I booked a film last week without even auditioning – a dream come true. The bad news? It was one line, 2 scenes, and not much room to create a character. My first day of work went well, but I only had to stand in a pretty dress and laugh at someone’s jokes. I’m not complaining so much as adjusting.
The next day, I went to see a movie I’d shot here last year. It was the first time I’d ever been hired without meeting the director. I worked for a couple weeks but, in the end, my credit has more screen time than I do. It’s officially the smallest part of my entire career. I’d seen the movie with another woman who’d worked a couple weeks and she was whittled down to one line. And the man who had just played my husband the day before, and had also worked a couple weeks on that film last year, was cut entirely.
I left feeling disheartened. I thought, “So, this is what it is to be a NOLA actor, get cast by someone you never met to do a part that was leftover after the L.A. casting then wait to see if you escaped the cutting room floor?” But, I came home and worked on my one line for the next scene of the second movie I got cast in without meeting the director and went back to work with a smile on my face and hope in my heart that I would continue to find dignity in what I do and be given opportunities to do it well.
I ended up having a great day at work. I felt beautiful and the amazing director let my fellow actors and I to come up with a pretty great scene and I was given the room to create a little moment and feel good at my job. I left feeling proud of the project and thrilled to have been a part of it. And I left feeling like maybe I wouldn’t have to give up as much as I thought I would. I like big parts as much as any actor but I value most just being given the opportunity to do what I do well.
After shooting until the sun was threatening to rise, I took a long nap and went to an audition. Then I got a call from my agent asking about my height and weight. She called again later for more specific measurements. Though I was thrilled to be getting another call about work, it was beginning to sound like the part would go to whomever fit the dress. The good news? I even had the right hair color. The bad news? One day of work with no lines, just a big wordless moment with the star. The totally awesome news? It was my first period film. I’d done plenty of plays set throughout history, but this was my first film in a corset and petticoats. The even cooler news? Abraham Lincoln threatens me with an ax.
It was the third time I was hired without meeting the director and the second time getting a part without auditioning but for over 15 years in L.A., I prayed to audition less and work more. I now audition far less, but I’m working. I even got home and saw my commercial during a network show after I thought they’d stopped running it. Overall, it was a remarkable week for any working actor. A blockbuster in theatres everywhere, a national commercial running, two acting gigs and an audition.
I keep saying that it’s been humbling, but not humiliating, to work here. Gone are the big trailers, the gift baskets and the access to the better parts. The line between some of my parts and background work is sometimes perilously thin. People here don’t know me from my work and I almost never get to talk about “the industry” here. But, I’m infinitely happier here. The only thing I’m really being asked to sacrifice is my ego about my work. Well, good riddance. I’m one of the few lucky people who gets to do something I love for a living.
To those considering a Southern career move, this is not a place to become a star. Luckily, fame isn’t a big value here. This isn’t a place to get rich. Luckily, it costs less to live here and people here don’t care what I drive or who I wear. This isn’t a place for premieres and paparazzi. Luckily, I’ve experienced enough of both to know I’d rather be at Wednesday at the Square watching Cyril Neville and Big Chief Monk Boudreaux. This place isn’t for everyone, but it’s my home.