Young People Doing Stuff | How to be a Freelance Photographer in LA

You see her all the time. Scrolling through Tumblr, or your favorite brand’s Instagram feed. Photos of hairy, bare chested men racking cocaine lines. Those photos where you ask yourself, “Damn, do I look that good lying on my bathroom floor?” Photos waiting to get reblogged because the composition rejects the usual ephemera.

Brooke Barone is the person taking those photos. And even sometimes behind the people taking those photos. Whether she’s shooting look books for small brands, snapping behind the scene photos for Vanity Fair, or making connections from her loft in Downtown LA, Brooke is on the move. Brooke shared with The Daily Twenties her grind as a freelance photographer, her style, and what she has planned next.

IMG_7111-EditAfter high school what did you end up doing?

After I graduated high school I had no freaking idea of what I was going to do but my parents were putting pressure on me to figure it out quick. So I started looking at schools with art and photography programs because it’s always something I’ve been interested in. I ended up at FIDM as a digital media major and two years later, ended up getting my AA there. Initially I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do but I learned about video editing, photography, other visual arts. The classes were pretty generic during that time, like how to use the various editing softwares and stuff, so I didn’t really know how to incorporate my inspiration with the things that I wanted to do. Once I started getting into my Bachelor of Science in Business Management, which is what I’m currently in at FIDM, I started getting more into photography and implementing the ideas that I’ve been inspired by and consistently creating my own work.

Yeah I don’t think FIDM teaches you how to create your own style of photography

Yeah that is something that definitely comes from within. A lot of the stuff that they teach in school has nothing to do with finding your own style and pace. It’s something that you have to pursue on your own and they make that clear that it’s part of your own discovery.

Where does your photo style come from and how would you describe it?

I like to go against the normal comforts and push the viewers boundaries in what they’re willing to accept. My style is a feeling that I get when I’m creating that’s wrapped up in this confrontation between my camera and the subject… Making the model feel as though they have the comfort to push their own boundaries, it creates a space for them to explore what they desire that meets an equivalence to what matches my vision. There’s rarely a time where this doesn’t work out for both of us.


And it shows. These women are not looking vulnerable at all. They are dominant subjects and actually the men look like the objects. A reversal of what one would usually see.

It’s not that I want to degrade anyone, I’m focused on the woman as the primary subject and so the men become an asset to the creation. There’s a space where masculine and feminine energy combine, and I’m exploring the grey area of that space.


So where does that idea come from within you?

Sexuality is just as important as eating food. Wouldn’t it feel terrible if our families made us feel shameful for having desires to eat certain foods? From my own experiences growing up I have learned that it is not in my nature to allow a lack of knowledge toward sexuality under any circumstances.

You have a bunch of different shoots and looks on here. Walk me through the process of coming up with a shoot.

I hit up most of the girls on Instagram, some will hit up me, and then I’ll just have them come over and we’ll shoot. Initially I used to send out concepts to models, but now I just freeform and it comes out pretty fucking well.


So it sounds like its just a natural flow of ideas and movements between the model and the camera?

Yeah and I think that’s where it’s always been at and what I had to realize. Like I wanted to have that sense of inspiration and have the models feel comfortable but I started to become comfortable within myself and my work and so I didn’t really need the conceptual stuff to rely on anymore and it was more spontaneous.

So I think I remember you telling me you worked with some brands. Tell me a little about that.

Well there wasn’t really a defining point where I was suddenly a brand photographer. It just kind of evolved. So initially I started to shoot for brands without their knowledge of who I was. It started with some girls that I knew who had a high following and I would shoot clothing that they had on that was more brand oriented.

At first the brand stuff I do has at one point been completely for free because it matches my vision. Now I am pretty firm in charging to shoot brands on models.

Other brands that I like shooting for is @omweekend, @y.r.u, @badwoodx, @mandalynnswim, @petalspeacocks, @memoricapparel and many others.

What’s on your gear list?

Sony A7, 25 film cameras and awesome lenses to go with them.


What advice do you have for small brands when hiring a photographer?

Trade is always a nice option if you can’t afford to pay someone.

So what do you want to eventually do?

As of now I’ve already made some great accomplishments that are outside of what I do. Most of the people that I’ve met in my professional career have been through Instagram, I’ve met some amazing people that have referred me to kickass jobs. I’ve worked for Milk Studios a couple times, I’m starting a job with YouTube tomorrow, like BTS stuff for them. And to just keep making awesome connections and collaborations where I get to continue to be creative.


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What are some of the drawbacks and pitfalls of what you’re doing?

There’s always hard moments, but the positive experiences outweigh the negatives and so as a whole, I see all as worth while.

If you had some advice for someone looking to get into this field, what would you say.

Stay humble – keep working.


You can follow Brooke on Instagram or Tumblr

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Need Some Quick Cash? Check Out These 10 Apps That Will Bump Up Your Bank Account

Let’s face it – we’ve all had that sinking feeling when you check your bank account in the morning and find out you spent more money on drinks the night before than you make in a single paycheck.

Not to worry!

Thanks to the on demand takeover, there are tons of ways to make extra cash in your free time. Try your hand at a couple of these apps and you’ll have your bank account at full strength in no time.

Uber | Lyft | Sidecar

Lyft + UberWhat You’ll Do: Let’s be real – if you don’t know how Uber or Lyft work, you probably don’t know how a smartphone works. If you don’t know how a smartphone works, this article probably isn’t for you.

What You’ll Need: A 4 door car registered in your name, a clean driving record, a smart phone, and an ability to wow passengers with your fascinating small talk topics.

What You’ll Make: Estimates vary, but realistically it likely ranges from $12-$20 an hour.


What You’ll Do: You’ll be renting out your residence to travelers in search of local experiences.

What You’ll Need: An empty room or house. If you live in an apartment complex, you’d likely need to check with your landlord and see if it’s ok.

What You’ll Make: Depending on the quality/location of your place, but you could make around $50-100 a night on the low end – with higher end places bringing in $300+ each night it gets booked.

Postmates | Favor


What You’ll Do: You’ll be delivering anything you could possibly think of. Eyedrops from CVS? Check. A burrito from Chipotle? Check. Pants from Nordstrom? You betcha!

What You’ll Need: A car (or a bike if you live in San Francisco), and the willpower to not take a few bites of the pad thai mid-delivery.

How Much You’ll Make: ~$10-$16/hour plus tips (usually 10-15% of the order)



What You’ll Do: You can be a grocery shopper, cashier, delivery driver, or you could do all three.

What You’ll Need: A car if you are a delivery driver. Bonus points if you love Whole Foods (let’s be honest though, who doesn’t love Whole Foods?).

How Much You’ll Make: $13-$19/hour


What You’ll Do: They essentially connect companies and people that are looking for short-term gigs lasting anywhere from a few hours to a full workday. Jobs typically involve tasks such as merchandising, loading/unloading equipment, and filling in data sheets. These jobs can be great for networking. I personally know of a few Wonoloers who have been offered full time positions from impressing their employer during Wonolo gigs.

What You’ll Need: A phone, and to do an exceptional job each time. Since these are real employers you’re working with, there’s very little tolerance for showing up late to work.

What You’ll Make: I’ve seen jobs range anywhere from $9/hour to $40/hour, and everything in between.

Seamless | Doordash

What You’ll Do: You’ll be delivering food from various restaurants to wannabe restaurant-goers.

What You’ll Need: A car and the willpower to not take a few bites of the pad thai mid-delivery.

What You’ll Make: Up to $25/hour.

Saucey | Drizly | Sqyre | Minibar

What You’ll Do: Delivering beer to thirsty frat bros, wine to sophisticated adults, and pretty much everything in between.

What You’ll Need: A car, and good eye for spotting the occasional fake ID.

What You’ll Make: ~$15-$20 an hour.


What You’ll Do: Mostly chore/errand related activities – but there’s a wide range of activities, ranging from cleaning ovens to building Ikea furniture.

What You’ll Need: To show basic competency and a clean record – Taskrabbit’s application process is the most intensive I’ve seen.

What You’ll Make: Set your own rates! You may need to start off with a lower rate initially, but some people’s rates have grown to $150/hour (not too shabby).

Amazon Flex

Amazon Flex

What You’ll Do: You’d be delivering anything and everything you’d find on their website to people’s doorstep.

What You’ll Need: Must be at least 21 years old, a car, and an Android phone (at least for now)

What You’ll Make: $18-$25/hour


What You’ll Do: You’ll be offering up professional services to buyers. This platform is great for gaining new skills and building up a portfolio – making you look even more attractive to potential employers.

What You’ll Need: A set of basic business skills.

What You’ll Make: $5 per gig plus add-ons, which vary depending on the service you want to provide.


What You’ll Do: I swear I’m not making this up. Surkus offers opportunities to become extras at different parties, music videos, and events. If you make it through the selection process, all you’d have to do is show up to the event and party like it was your job… which in this case it is.

What You’ll Need: A Facebook and Instagram account that shows how really, really, good looking you are.

What You’ll Make: $8-$50 per event + free booze (you read that right)

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How to Bounce Back After You Get Laid Off

Tuesday October 22nd 2013 started off like any other day. I had my morning egg whites, packed my lunch, hit the gym, showered and headed to the Law Firm. Chats in the kitchen over coffee, stacks of paperwork on the desk, cute pictures and calendars in my cubicle, nothing new. At around 10 o’clock, I got a memo to go to the conference room, so like every ambitious employee looking to advance their career, I grabbed my pen and notepad and skipped on over. I walked in to 9 women and the HR lady sitting around the table. Since we had a social committee at work, my naïve and overly optimistic self thought perhaps we are starting a women’s support network, wouldn’t that be lovely. I was beaming. I had a seat and in came two of the Firm’s Partners to deliver the news. We had just lost a major client and had to make major cuts. With their “deepest sympathy” and “heavy hearts,” we were being let go.

My entire world came crashing down. As I signed the paperwork, a stream of worrisome thoughts flooded my mind. I had no family in the city, no family in the country, I had just spent $2000 on a coach to start training for a fitness competition, I barely had enough savings, my gym membership was going up. I thought this only happened to people at the end of their career? Older people? This was my first real job My predictable, structured, balanced life had been turned upside-down.

Leaving the office, I overheard people calling their boyfriends, wives, cousins to come pick them up and that is when it hit me. I had no one. I was making my way to the bus stop on a cold October morning all alone, with boxes of supplies and eyes full of tears. It was one of the most heartbreaking and devastating moments of my life. The tears that rolled down my cheeks were tears of anger, betrayal, and most importantly fear. Fear of uncertainty. The future had never seemed so pitch black.

“Getting laid off, It will happen in your life time” – Warner Brothers Pictures Vice President of Integrated Marketing, Jill Benscoter

Earlier last month, Warner Brothers Pictures Vice President of Integrated Marketing, Jill Benscoter participated in a luncheon on campus, discussing her career path. The crowd was shocked to learn that she too had been laid off earlier in her career. What would she have done differently? We wanted to know. Lived. She responded. She would have lived, seized the free time to explore the things she loved and do them. Here is what I would have done differently and note to my future self, should I ever get laid off again.

What I would have done differently, I would:

Ask for space

Recounting the story to concerned friends, family and loved ones only revives the feelings of anger and confusion. Most loved ones bombard you with unsolicited advice and questions that you too are seeking answers to. Some times for your own sanity and stress management, you must say “I love you, but please do not call me every day asking me how I am, what I did today, what I plan to do, etc”

Know that not everyone will get it

The weekend I got laid off, a friend of mine called me to go out. After ignoring calls and texts that night and for days to come, I finally responded to one of her messages, clarifying that it was nothing personal and I had lost my job. She proceeded to tell me how bad of a friend I was for not picking up her calls. How can you be mad right now, I’m the one who lost my job! I thought. Unfortunately, I was so frustrated, I let that friendship go down the drain. Know that not everyone gets it or gets the depth of your fear and anger. Also understand that under such stress and anxiety, you may be snappy, emotional and sensitive. Don’t lose friendships over it.

Map out a new, or revised career plan that leaves me buzzing with passion

Playing the last 11 months at the firm in my mind over and over again, I realized I was neither interested in Law nor politics. I dug deep to the core of who I am and what I have always wanted to do and decided to apply for a Master’s in Global Media and Communications. Eventually I moved to LA, and couldn’t be happier with my decision.

Take conscious steps in the direction of you new exciting career

While I did use the time wisely to re-plan my life, I fell in the same patterns when it came to job applications. Funds were running low, and my previous internships and experience revolved around law, politics and customer service. About a week after my lay off, I found myself in training for a job at a call center. They say it’s easier to get a job when you have a job, but jobs consume time, energy and mental capital, so make sure you are making a wise investment of your resources. In this case, I wasn’t. I had worked at a call center throughout undergrad, and knew I hated it but hey, it was money. On day 1, I quit and received my luxurious check of $14.72 two weeks later.

Not everything has to change all at once

If you are lucky enough to have already paid your rent and recurring bills for that month, realize that contrary to popular belief, your entire world isn’t turned upside down. The only difference between today and yesterday is that today you aren’t waking up at 6 to prep for work. Most of the other things can remain the same for a few weeks before you have to be concerned with this life adjustment. Hopefully in that time, you can prepare yourself accordingly.

Go at your own pace

I was in such a rush to “get back out there” and while it is important not to let yourself get comfortable and sit back in a downward spiral, it is equally important to listen to your body. Cry when you need to cry, sleep in when facing the world may seem like one more task you aren’t quite ready for. What worked for me may not work for you and vice versa. Do not feel the need to abide by any timeline or routine. Your journey is different.

Realize it is not personal

If Jill Benscoter could get laid off and now be a VP at Warner Bros, I don’t think getting laid off speaks much to your individual abilities as an employee. I later found out that both men and women had been laid off, both white and nonwhite employees, and both new and veteran employees. In fact, one guy I know had been at the firm 8 years! There is little to nothing you could have done to prevent it from happening.

Four months later, as I got ready to start my new job at an international school, the firm reached out to rehire me. Walking back into the building, what I looked forward to the most was seeing my old friends. That was my confirmation that I had outgrown the work and it was time to move on. However, it made me happy to know that it wasn’t me and in fact, they wanted me back. I could give you a list of things to do: calm down, breathe, live, smile, volunteer and you can choose to apply them or not, but the reality is that getting laid off sucks. However, as much as it sucks, you will make it through, we all did.

The Undeclared Life: Goal-Setting for the Undecided

Goals, the magic word that pops up when our generation talks about what it means to be an adult. From an early age the idea of striving towards something is instilled in us as a necessity. At each phase of our life we have goals to work toward, and by the time we graduate from school, we’re supposed to have this bright shiny elevator pitch prepared when your relative asks what our “plan” is.

Everyone needs to be working towards something, right? Going into a job interview with zero goals is basically asking for unemployment, right? If you don’t have any goals, you’re a failure, right?  Well, to hell with that.

Surprise: Failure doesn’t mean you’re wrong. It just means you’re not right yet.

There are a million reasons to remain undecided, and absolutely none of them mean “failure.” You’re worried enough to read an article about it on the internet, so you’re obviously doing something about it. And that is everything.

So why does indecision feel like failure?

Our generation was raised on failure; or rather, the fear of it. It’s not about survival, anymore. It’s about validation from others.

“Failure” starts by comparing ourselves to an outdated model.

What Grandpa doesn’t know is…if he were in your shoes, he probably wouldn’t have his own house, either.

People today are so enamored by achievement, that we don’t have time to incubate our ideas anymore. Why bother, when we can just share our half-formed notions in 140 characters or less?

As humans, we are designed to change our minds.

Adapting to this change is what made us as advanced as we are today. The last time we had one, singular purpose was in Prehistoric times. What was our “goal” then? Survival. And now, humans have more freedom than ever. We have more time. We have more food. We have more knowledge. And it’s a lot to process.

So: you’re out of college, but remain Undeclared. What do you do?

You were hoping for a list of tips for an easy way out, weren’t you? Too bad.

Because if you embrace your circumstance, you’re going to give yourself something better than the momentary misery of indecision or lack of direction.

Indecision is the most under-appreciated creativity hack in existence. Here are some famous examples.

Ever heard of James Joyce? You better have.


Writing was something he enjoyed, but didn’t necessarily plan as a career. He happened to be a talented singer, so music was his main gig. It wasn’t until he was 32 that his first book was published.

His writing was better, from having lived it. Imagine if James Joyce spent his entire adult life doing nothing other than writing? Without failure, indecision, confusion, and wandering, he’d have nothing interesting to say.

Without those years of indecision, James Joyce may not have become one of the most celebrated authors of all time, publishing some of the most famous stories in the world including The Dubliners, Ulysses, and The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

Suze Orman

201106-omag-suze-orman-949x534She is now one of the world’s top personal finance experts, with millions of fans. But she didn’t graduate college with plans to become a money maven. In fact, she had no idea what she wanted. But because she was “supposed” to, Orman settled on a goal: opening a café.

That was when it all went to shit. After a friend invested $50,000 into her business, Suze Orman lost it. Every single penny.

Realizing how poorly she managed her money, Suze Orman decided to get better at it. This led to her finally finding her niche, well into her 30s.

Now tell me, was her life before finance a waste of time?

“But what about finding your passion?”

The word “passion” is just another single-minded box to put your potential in. Your career does not depend on passion.

If Harrison Ford stuck with his “passion,” Han Solo would not be Han Solo.

han-solo-mainHarrison Ford was actually a carpenter for 15 years. And he loved it. His only real “goal” was to be financially stable, and make cool stuff. (Yeah, he made sets for The Doors on tour. NBD.)

One day, George Lucas (a no-name producer at the time,) offered him a tiny role on a set he had been building. He said yes, out of sheer curiosity. This was the beginning of a surprise career change for Ford, which would eventually lead him to Star Wars.

Yes, your passion can (and will) change.

Kalpen Modi (he played Kumar Patel in Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle) recently came to the realization that his true calling wasn’t Hollywood. It was Washington.

After spending years building his acting career, Modi changed his mind – big time. He actually had his character on House commit suicide, just so that he could quit and join the Obama administration. He now works at the White House Office of Public Engagement.

Yup, this guy works in the White House now.

So what does this mean for you?

Most success stories don’t follow the Hollywood Timeline.

Success is not a straight line. It might look like a zig-zag. Or a circle. Maybe it’s a series of unconnected dots. Some of the richest, most famous, and brightest people out there are still waiting for that moment where they’ve “made it.” Unfortunately, this moment only exists when you let it.

Your only “goal” is to find a goal. Here’s how.

1. Spend a day pretending that money doesn’t matter, time doesn’t matter, and what other people think doesn’t matter. Just pretend. I know… it’s hard.

2. Then, make a point to see what excites you most about your normal, boring day. Follow that glimmer of excitement and see where it leads you.

All it takes is one hour

Is making breakfast fun? Cool. Spend an hour trying to invent a new dish.

Do you love doing your makeup? Sweet. Experiment with it and see how many looks you can create in one hour.

Are you constantly on social media? If it makes you happy, explore it. Maybe take an hour to check out social media promotion gigs.

If you really enjoy yourself, decide to spend an hour on it tomorrow. Maybe next week, it’ll be two hours a day. Keep going, if it feels good – and in a year, you’ll have mad skills.

But what if I don’t like doing this in a year?

Chances are, you won’t like it the same as you did when you started. But moving in one direction – any direction – is better than standing still. It doesn’t matter if it’s your “calling.” You’re in your twenties. The skills you develop now will ultimately benefit you, no matter where you end up.

The most important decision to make right now – the one that will have the largest impact on the next 5 years of your life, is this:

Enjoy the process.

unbreakable kimmy schmidt ellie kemper

Play. Try something you’ll never be good at. Get better at something you already know. Focus on activities, not results.

Living undeclared is actually a gift. By not knowing, you are open to more possibilities than you would be if you just “decided.”

You don’t win an Oscar for writing your acceptance speech. Why should life be any different?

Adulthood is not a school. There are no A’s and B’s. There is no pass or fail. It’s really just a giant study hall.

…So, what would you like to work on, today?

How Actors Survive Hearing ‘No’ & Still Fight for the Spotlight

I once had a girl pick up the phone and call me to let me know that she wasn’t going to cast me in her student film. I had been expecting her to get in touch, after a successful audition and a very chummy callback, but in a million years I wouldn’t have guessed she’d try to get me on the line just to say, “Thanks anyway!” Her bait-and-switch tactic ended up stinging worse and weirder than most other kinds of rejection, but it got me thinking.  Almost every day I hear some version of “you have crazy-person goals” and the following are among the most popular flavors of rejection that I’ve experienced, from acquaintances and industry people alike:

The Overt Belittling

“Let me guess, you’re an ACTOR?”

In the waitressing world, I’ve encountered more than my fair share of smirking wise-guys who can’t wait to call me out for having a far-reaching dream. Usually, they’re holding the menu I just handed them to begin our time together as server and customer. Now our ensuing interactions, far from over, will consist of my nodding and laughing and unwittingly acknowledging that my ambitions sound stupid.

The judgmental quality of the question coerces an apology out of me, because it’s socially easier than turning on this person to say, “Yes. I am.” How did he/she know I’m an actor? Probably because my opening spiel as I approached the breakfast table was plucky and charming and fun and I look way too happy to be juggling a tray of eight ice waters. But before ever giving my smarts and commitment the benefit of the doubt, this person has rejected me.

no stop annoyed enough eva green

To cope

In order to keep the subtextual implication that I’m somehow delusional or chasing a pipe dream from seeping into my psyche, I usually turn to the concrete list of things I can do for my career. I submit to acting projects online, order more prints of headshots, send the email I’ve been putting off to my scary agent, sign up for a workshop, even just watch a great movie (this last one alone isn’t actually enough to stick it to menu-guy, so I tend to use it as bonus to-do material only).

I can’t exactly track down every slanderer and show him/her my list of achievements, but I did achieve them. That can only help my chances of booking work, and further prove that I’m not someone’s eye-rolling idea of an actor, I’m a real one.

The Vague Snub

“Thank you for coming in.”

I can’t even count the number of audition rooms I’ve walked out of, knowing to my core that I didn’t book the role.  Even if the casting director feigned sincerity, the polite, impersonal goodbyes usually mean I failed to blow anyone away with my two-sentence audition for the part of Office Receptionist. “The doctor will see nou yow.”…FUCK. 

When the powerful person behind the desk has chosen not to work with me on the lines, or direct me to move around differently, it either means I showed no talent, or they were hoping for a redhead. That happens, and it’s a tough pill to swallow after I’ve spent the entire week researching the project and making sure my shift is covered for the entirety of Thursday.

snl no kristen wiig bill hader nope

To cope

It really helps to jog or do something meditative. It can take a little bit of time to nurse my ego back to health, but that part comes easier when I’m set up for clear-minded thinking. I consider what might’ve gone better, but also pat myself on the back for the little things I did right. It was definitely funny when I talked about the wind outside and put “weather” in air quotes. They really liked that, probably. When all is reviewed and considered, I find that it’s best to then let it all go. Auditioning is my job, and even though I can’t ever change a bad audition, at least I showed up for work.

The Delayed Punch

“REALLY great job. Thank you SO much. WOW.”

Having an incredible audition experience, I’ve grimly concluded, bears no correlation to my probability of getting the job. When a director is gushing with compliments and laughing out loud at well-timed moments, there’s an inevitable swell of promise.  I’ll be lulled into thinking it’s safe to call home because I’ve finally got an update for my parents that isn’t, “I was actually able to get two loads done earlier so…yeah, now I have stuff to wear, like, all month.”

Unfortunately, the real sting comes a week or so later, when my initial enthusiasm morphs into a paranoid theory that I spelled my email address wrong on the contact sheet. I didn’t get the part. I would have heard by now. This particular brand of rejection can be the most torturous, because it’s tricky to know when, exactly, to move on from that false hope and go back to ignoring calls from unknown numbers. It’s probably not Spielberg after all.

tv music television nbc christina aguilera

To cope

I send a thank-you email for the audition, and then forget about it completely. That way, any news I receive will either be a pleasant surprise or closure. If the casting director is someone I hope to audition for again, I’ll see if they do workshops and then sign up. It’s hugely beneficial to follow up on relationships that feel positive, especially when I have the opportunity to wow the casting director with my talents once more. I may never find out why they didn’t call me, but a strong (tactful) follow-up will ensure they don’t forget me.

The Unintentional Vote of No Confidence

“So…what’s your plan B?”

A lot of people mean well, even as they circumvent telling me that they don’t think being an actor is smart. Acquaintances will be excited for me, even impressed at my moxie, meanwhile knowing privately that winning the genetic and cosmic lottery is the real prerequisite for Hollywood success.

I try to forgive people who ask about my plans post-acting (unless it’s the same menu-holding schmuck from earlier, in which case I forget to offer him refills and let him suck on ice for a while). This person might be precluded from knowing that literally every role on TV comes with a paycheck. 

The base assumption is that I’m putting all my eggs in the basket labeled “NOTE TO SELF: BECOME NEXT JENNIFER LAWRENCE,” when, in fact, I’m just grinding to pay my bills doing something I’m passionate about.

jennifer lawrence snow sunglasses badass joy

To cope

I don’t have a plan B, so it helps to write a little letter to myself. I include the reasons I’m an actor, the obstacles I’ve overcome already, things I’ve achieved, challenges I look forward to ahead. I write down my strengths and assets. I ask myself if there’s any alternative in the world that sounds more tempting than what I’m doing right now. Most of the time, there isn’t. (Being a professional dog-walker is one hell of a fantasy, though.)

The Reality Check

“Your father and I are wondering what you’re planning to do about health care?”

Touché, Mom.

hbo crying college cry veep

To cope

Red wine.

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Amy Adams, Renee Zellweger, and Jon Hamm Waited Tables (So I Do Too)

Today I was lectured by a man about free refills, and I couldn’t do a thing about it. Standing there helplessly in my ketchup stained apron, a uniform that I tote bleakly from work to my overpriced, Los Angeles duplex and back, day after day., I listened to this man’s unsolicited (and glaringly uninformed) two cents about the extra cups of coffee he was entitled to.  I stood there and nodded— much the same way I used to let hot guys in high school be mean to me— not because I’m a doormat, but because I’m far too image-conscious to let myself appear publicly flustered. I apologized several times for the inconvenience this man was experiencing at the hands of someone else’s rule, and let him know that I’d send his message up the ladder. Another treasure for our suggestion box.  

It’s moments like this one, among countless others, that remind me just how crucial it is that I find a way to make money doing what I love. That’s laughable, and a little obvious at this juncture in my infant career, but it can’t be overstated just how badly I need to book a role on a goddamn TV show.  Contrary to the adventure stories of cliché adolescent runaways, I didn’t road trip all the way to Hollywood for the palm trees, or any kind of upgrade in lifestyle because hey, I really want to know what yoga and kale are all about.

I moved here to be an actress. Sometimes when you’re lost, or stumbling through life, a job in food service can really build character. But when you’re a determined (albeit credit-less) artist, and wearing low-cut shirts to the auto shop because you’re not sure how much it’s going to cost to make that rumbling noise under your car stop and you desperately need to save money to get new headshots and drink heavily this weekend, a restaurant job can wear your character down. I can feel mine weakening.

The crazy thing is, I love where I work. My coworkers are my friends, many of the café regulars are endearing and complex, and the food leaves my ever-growing stomach with zero complaints.  And this is exactly my problem. I feel myself melting into the comfortable routine of performing a job that requires no critical thought or ambition. I can memorize food orders from a table of four people or more, and meanwhile be thinking about the game-crushing snapchat I’m going to send later. Should I also send it to my ex? Is that too much?  I can leave work at the “office” and go to bed without ever feeling like I’m behind on anything. Anything but my acting grind, that is.

There’s a reason why actors from all walks of life flock to the food industry, and that’s flexibility. If an audition comes up, we can hand our shifts over to the next zombie who performs the exact same tasks in the exact same manner. We don’t let anybody down when we disappear, we can work all night, audition all day, and sometimes even pull off working only 3-4 days a week. The caveat is that we sacrifice precious hours of our lives handing sandwiches to people who don’t give a damn how well received our production of Macbeth was in college, they just need another napkin. That hurts.  

When I moved to LA to pursue acting, I envisioned a lot of challenges. I pictured greasy industry professionals who would tell me to lose weight, or try to trick me into doing porn in a dingy apartment. I even pictured turning down blockbusters because I would take a chance on an indie flick that would end up flopping. Far from my spectrum of worry was the thought that I might land a waitressing job that was both mind-numbing and addictively comfortable. I appear to be at a crossroads.

Back behind the register I fantasize about the dramatic way I might have quit, if only the coffee-refill-idiot had been so foolhardy as to pat me on the butt or call me a dirty word. In the fantasy I deliver a generous smack to his face and a rousing speech about the respect I demand as a human being. I win an Oscar in the fantasy. There’s no telling when or how I’ll leave this place, but of course I can’t serve muffins forever. I’m an actress! A storyteller! And the palm trees outside do look inviting.

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3 Keys to Success for Scoring an Interview at Your Dream Job

Over the last years, between full and part time positions, I have been called in for dozens of interviews, my first being with Google, after graduation (I got to the final round and they picked someone else. It still hurts.) and earlier today with Warner Bros. Now, I cannot tell you how to land the job or internship, because I haven’t always done so myself, but given my experience landing phone, Skype and in-person interviews with some dream companies, law firms and, I can tell you a thing or two about securing your foot in the door.

1. Have a stellar resume

BDR – Brief, Direct and Relevant. I was given a rule of thumb to have 1 page for every 10 years of experience. Go straight to the point, with approximately 2-3 bullet points per position, highlighting the professional traits most relevant to the position in question. A company like Google sees over 1000 applicants a day, you want to stand out, but more importantly you want them to actually read it, and not gloss over because it is too wordy. Avoid silly errors such as typos and inconsistency in font or format. Go to the career center on campus, have them critique it, then revise it yourself again and again and again. Compare it to others, but know there is no one-size-fits-all template.

2. Go in cold

You know the saying “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”? Well hold that thought. When I moved to California in August 2015, I had zero network. Neither personally nor professionally and certainly not in entertainment. Within two weeks I was a publicity intern at Paramount Pictures. How? I made a list of the top 10 studios and applied for every open internship. With my stellar resume (see step 1) I caught recruiters’ attention. Do not be intimidated if you know no one, and most certainly do not let anyone tell you you are wasting your time. You have nothing to lose, but 10-15 extra minutes on a cover letter. Let your resume make a case for you.

3. Keep a Spreadsheet

My brother does this and I always thought it was a bit neurotic. Keeping a spreadsheet of what companies and what positions you applied for, while noting when you applied and key points that drew you to the position? Ain’t nobody got time for that! But you should make time, for it. I had just walked in from the gym last week when Warner Bros. called me for a phone interview. “Is it a good time?” she asked after having mentioned the need to fill the position ASAP. “Of course!” I responded, scrambling to turn on my laptop. Fortunately, when I pulled up the spreadsheet, I knew exactly what position I had applied for and had a link to the description, so I could engage in the conversation. A few days later, I got called in for a face-to-face! (fingers crossed).

Of course what is on your resume is what would most likely attract any recruiter to you, so be sure that you are keeping it fresh. If in school, join related clubs and organizations, volunteer, get online certifications, read about your field and become an expert in it!

Now that you’ve got it, good luck with the interview!

laugh emily blunt devil wears prada

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Keys to Writing a Great Speech

I was recently asked to provide the Valedictorian Address at my graduation ceremony, and I began a journey to find the best way to write a great speech. Through this and other presentations I have given, I have picked up a few techniques to doing it well. Using my Valedictorian Address, I will attempt to pass on those few lessons I learned.

Create an outline

Like everything you write, it needs to be structured in a clear and concise way, weaving one main thread from the beginning to the end. It’s much harder to start writing without a road map, so creating an outline will provide a nice visual for the direction of the speech and give you the confidence you need.

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin.

Target market: Who are you talking to?

This one comes back to my marketing classes, and trying to sell products effectively. Before even considering writing anything, in all aspects of life, we need to know who it is for. I wouldn’t present a six hundred page business textbook to an infant, but for a University student studying a commerce it would be suitable.

For my address, I looked at the possible audience members. I would have young graduates like me who would already be bored from sitting in the hot hall for two hours. So, anything too deep or philosophical would be out of the question. But, in saying that, there would also be senior academics including the Chancellor and my own Dean attending. Thus, any speech being presented required elements of formality.

So, young graduates and distinguished guests: two very different crowds with conflicting needs. This meant a balance between the light-hearted jovialness of humour and academic reflection might be a requirement.

Purpose: What are you saying?

The next step is working out the purpose of the speech. This is usually not too hard to work out, as it is usually in the description for it. A Valedictorian Address is designed to give advice to their fellow graduate cohort by reflecting on their last few years of University. Just like a Best Man’s speech should talk the groom down, thank the bride for taking him off everyone’s hands and command a few laughs.

I find it is easier if I organize my speech into goals, and ensure I tick the right boxes:

  1. Reflect on the past few years as a student
  2. Make the graduates laugh a few times
  3. Provide some kind of advice

Once you’ve established who you are speaking to, and what you are planning to say, it is time to begin putting words to paper. Take a look at the second part of this piece where I’ll give you some tips and strategies to organizing a speech.

 “I believe we all have a lot to say, but finding ways to say it is more than half the battle.” – Criss Jami.

Here’s a few great speeches from some regular people. Anybody can do it.

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What it Means to be a Good Leader

We all hear the motivational videos on YouTube and inspiring occasional addresses which tell us to be a leader.

Don’t follow the herd like a lost sheep, they say. Forge your own path, and walk down it with confidence.

The question is usually how, and to what extent.

Being a good leader though is something that can confuse even the most intelligent of minds. The vast number of leadership books, blogs, essayists, and development programs exemplifies that.

For me, I find there are four dimensions to being a good leader (perhaps even a great one). These attributes with being an authentic leader.


People who are self-aware are able to understand what makes them a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ person. They understand their strengths and their limitations, and are capable of overcoming these weaknesses through effective strategy. Having a deep understanding of strengths and weaknesses allows leaders to capitalise on what makes them ‘good’, and mitigate the effects of what makes them ‘bad’.

Being self-aware also means understanding those things around us, and not being isolated in only thinking of ourselves. We can begin with our own strengths and weaknesses, and we can continue with evaluating and improving the strengths and weaknesses of those around us. After all, a leaders job is more than goal achievement, it is also to develop and make followers better people too.


Relational authenticity

This one sounds a bit technical, but don’t be concerned as it is a lot simpler than it looks. Being authentic in relationships means being open and honest. A transparent person that others understand doesn’t get gossiped about at the water cooler, because their peers do not need to fill in the gaps in their leader’s life. When we are the same true person all the time, we do not arouse unnecessary suspicion and we can be seen as trustworthy and perhaps loyal.

We’ve all had bosses that we have not liked. They might have been somewhat friendly, but they seemed like they were only there out of necessity. They might have been hoping for a promotion to get off that floor, or maybe they were just having difficulty dealing with their teenage daughter. The point is, if we don’t know, we might be likely to make it up or make guesses, and that doesn’t make us want to like or trust someone.

Balanced processing

Again, technical jargon. This one is about the old maxim ‘think before you act’. When we process ideas and information in a balanced way, we consider all the possible information we have before making decisions. We consider our own biases, acknowledge them and try to factor them into our decisions.

Positive morals

This one seems simple, but it is sometimes difficult. We use the other three components to work this one out. After we consider information in a balanced manner, we have to develop our own moral framework. This is different for everyone, but necessarily so. Deciding what we think is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ is not always easy, and we have to use our own skills to understand what we think is the best thing to do.

From this, we have a toolkit of four dimensions which allow us to be better than we were. These skills and attributes provide a necessary framework to make the normal human into a good leader.

tv parks and recreation excited yes amy poehler

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