Sunday, March 4, 2012

156: I'm Fine, Thanks: Part Two (Filming Day)

(This is Part Two of my experience with I'm Fine, Thanks (a documentary about the pervasive problem of complacency in America). Click HERE for Part One.)

The following events took place in New York, NY on March 1, 2012:

Baker and Grant rented a studio at Ripley-Grier on 8th Ave & 55th St. (on my recommendation as a suitable venue). Though we we were concerned about the "city noise" being overpowering...Ripley-Grier is a quintessential New York "actor" setting. Many, many, many auditions and rehearsals are held in studios just like these all over the city every day. So it seemed like the perfect venue to interview an aspiring New York actor...LOL!... me.

I showed up at the studio at 8pm, as we had agreed via email. I'd never met Baker or Grant or the rest of the team and really didn't know what to expect.

I came around the corner and there they were! Five handsome young men...with massive amounts of camera and lighting equipment strewn about them in the hallway.

I approached and one of them glanced over and noticed me standing nearby...quietly observing them.

"Hi. Are you Virginia?"

"Yup. Hi."

"Nice to meet you, I'm Bryan...This is John...and Dustin...and..."

And then there he was!!!! ADAM BAKER of Man Vs. Debt! Real. Live. IN PERSON.


I totally had a nervous "I'm-meeting-a-celebrity" moment as I shook his hand. I mean, he's not FAMOUS in the traditional sense, I suppose...but because I follow his blog and have read so many of his stories/words/thoughts...and I LOVE, LOvE, LOvE how he's shared his whole journey online and I have such deep respect for all the good he's doing in the world. And how he's not some privileged person...or some PhD with tons of degrees or something...he's just a normal guy who is passionate about helping people and inspiring them to know that anyone can do what he's done...follow their dreams.

He's sooooooo awesome! He's creating the kind of life that feels meaningful and successful to him...according to his own definition of success and his own personal values. He's no longer buying into "scripted life" that society has been spouting...of consumerism and conformity. And by blogging about his journey online he's created a community of like-minded people to rally around him and support him in his he inspires and supports them.

Sound familiar?

It's people like Adam Baker that inspired me to create the Acceptance Project Blog. Soooo THANK YOU, Baker! You've already changed this girl's life...and you didn't even KNOW it.

Of course, I didn't actually SAY any of that to his face. I was actually quite "cool" and "calm" and said, "Hi. Nice to meet you. Um, thanks for letting me be a part of your film. This is really a thrill."

Baker was very warm and down-to-Earth and seemed genuinely excited to meet me too! He was very complimentary about my blog...which, of course, made me feel like a million bucks!!! Soooooo nice of him to say!!!

Then I got to meet Grant, the director, who also has a theatre naturally, we got along instantaneously. He's livin' his dream right now, making this documentary. So it was super fun to get to see him in his element...Having the TIME OF HIS LIFE making this film happen. Very inspirational!

Here's the Team:
Grant (the director)
Adam (the producer)
Dustin (production assistant)
Bryan (first cameraman)
John (second cameraman)

The rest of the evening sped by lightening-fast. So much awesomeness in just four short hours!!!

Here's how it went:

8pm - 8:20pm
We got into the studio and the team started setting up. Baker and I sat and chatted a bit. Though not toooooo much, because he wanted to save the "meaty" conversation for the on-camera interview. I was sooooo super happy just to be hanging out with these guys, watching them all making the magic happen, and getting to chill with Baker and hear about their filming experiences thus far. They've only just begun their travels across the meet lots of folks who are pursuing their dreams and have agreed to share their stories with Baker and Grant. It all sounds very exciting... and it's veeeery different from the office-day-job-world...where I spend most of my time now-a-days.

8:20pm - 9:30pm
Camera is on me. Lights are in my face. Wired for sound. Seated on a stool and ready to bear my soul to Adam Baker and hopefully share some of what I've learned from these months of blogging and years of failing to get into grad school. He asked me all sorts of questions...What were my childhood dreams? How did I know I wanted to act? Where there people in my life that didn't support my career choice? How do I deal with rejection?...That kind of thing.

Dude. It was sooo crazy/awesome to get to sit there and share my story. I mean, the fact that they even CARED about my perspective on any of this stuff was really profoundly strange to me. LOL! My life truly isn't very noteworthy. I guess it's interesting in the fact that I am a quintessentially ordinary person...being extraordinarily transparent in my blog...and perhaps extraordinarily stubborn in my desire to create a sustainable career as an actor.

So basically, that's the kind of stuff we talked about. I have no idea if any of it will actually make it into the final cut of the film...But, honestly? That doesn't really matter to me. I got to meet Adam Baker and tell him my story...and no matter what...that's one of the coolest things I've ever had the privilege to do!

9:30pm - 10pm
Monologue time!!! We changed the camera set up and I got three glorious takes performing my monologue for the camera. AHHHHHHHHH!!!! This was sooooooo fun. It was like I got to pretend to be the leading lady in a film for a little while. "All right, Mr. Demille. I'm ready for my close-up!" And the guys were sooooo supportive. It really felt wonderful to be able to work with them.

I did two takes straight into the camera...And THEN, I asked Grant to be my scene partner (off-camera) for the third take...And he's an actor he gave me an improvised line to respond to. And WOW. He was totally GIVING IT back to me the whole time I was doing the monologue. Just sooo present, reacting to me, facial expressions, right with me the WHOLE TIME. It was so FUN! Gave me tons of great inspiration to work with in-the-moment.

When we were all done, I said, "Grant! I bet you didn't know you were actually going to be required to ACT in your own film did you?" He laughed joyously. Once an actor...always an actor.

10pm - 10:30pm
Time is up!!! The studio was closing up, so we quickly moved all the equipment out into the hallway and packed everything up. Laughing. Joking. Glowing from all the fun. Said goodbye to Bryan, Dustin and Baker. But not before a little photo op!

Look! Photographic proof! This REALLY happened!
(Grant, me, Baker)

10:30pm - 11:45pm
B-roll time. Grant wanted to get some shots of me walking around Times Square, with all the lights on Broadway. Sooooo sterotypically NYC. Ya gotta do it. Ya just gotta. So there I was...walking around Times Square at blue scarf...and my BIG DREAMS lighting up Broadway. Grant and John were trailing me with two cameras and capturing shots of me and all the tourists and all the crazies.


Every moment of this was totally surreal and fantastical for me. Even John was like, "You are loving every minute of this, aren't you?"

Yes. Yes. Yes.

I mean, just to give you some context...Soon after I moved to NY, there was a particular day when I was walking through Times Square at dusk and crying. I was exhausted from auditioning for months and never getting callbacks... I was broke... I was heading off to a promotional job where I'd be standing behind a table at a corporate event...getting paid like $10 an hour...and I missed my family back in CA...I was like..."What am I doing here? I don't belong in this place. No one cares if I live or die here."...and I felt like I had noooo prospects of NY life changing any time soon...and as I looked up at the lights and the billboards mocking me with all of their false promises of opportunity, I thought to myself..."I wonder how hard it is to get a prescription for anti-depressants in this town?" I felt completely invisible, unwanted, and unnecessary.

So now... walking through Times Square with two camera men setting up shots of me staring hopefully up at the lights on those billboards...only THIS time I had made the opportunities possible by my sheer commitment to sticking-with-it...

"Oh, New York...You can try to crush me...But I will not be crushed. I will survive!!!!"

Yeah. This Times Square experience was totally relish-worthy.

(Photo by John Cropper)


11:45pm - Midnight
All done. Said good night to Grant and John. Thanked them again for this wonderful opportunity., FLOATED to the subway at 42nd St. Just as the clock struck midnight...and the N train barreled into the station...I realized that the enchantment had ended. I was Cinderella again. But I had just gotten to go to the BALL! And no one would ever be able to take that experience away from me.


Dude, all I did was start a blog about FAILING to get into grad school and trying to become a successful actress in spite of the obstacles. And what happened? I got to be a part of an AMAZING documentary like I'm Fine, Thanks!!!

I mean... WOWZERS! I am very fortunate, indeed.

Soooooo happy to know that by sharing about my unwavering and passionate commitment to acting...and by opening myself up to failing publicly... that other people have found value in the process. That makes the sting of not being accepted to one of the grad-schools-of-my-dreams this year...a little bit easier to bear.

If failing is this good. Success is going to BLOW MY MIND.


P.S. There will be a Kickstarter campaign launching in April to help finance I'm Fine, Thanks. If you're interested in supporting the film and/or would like to get updates on how to SEE the film when it's finished...PLEASE CLICK HERE TO JOIN THE CRANK TANK STREET TEAM MAILING LIST...and you can also "like" Crank Tank on FaceBook! Thanks for all your support, guys!

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