Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Be grateful you can eat anything

Last night I cried at Pizza Rev in LA. This is not a usual occurrence-me crying in public. Especially not at a make-your-own-pizza-place. As the manager was fixing my pizza: gluten free crust, dairy free cheese (that I still shouldn’t be eating because it has coconut oil in it, which also makes me sick, but it’s my only cheese option), and a ton of other stuff that I hope will make it taste like real pizza, she starts telling me how her doctor suggested she go gluten-free because of eczema. My first thought was, “hey! Great doctor who knows that’s often a symptom of gluten sensitivity!” But then she said she could never go gluten free because she likes bread too much. I love bread. I miss bread. I grew up near a bakery and that was my favorite smell in NYC (the only GOOD smell in NYC). My gluten free pizza has less flavor, and is smaller. And costs more. I wish I could eat cheese.

 I wish, when I visited France, that I could walk into any store or restaurant and eat everything. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t eat ANYTHING. I walked into a candy store in France and said I was gluten free and the woman looked at me and, indicating everything in the store, said, “NO!” She also said that France was getting more educated about allergies and I should, “come back in a few years.” I walked outside and burst into tears. I’m in France NOW. I’m hungry. I already have a headache, and am exhausted and depressed because I simply cannot get waiters to stop giving me things without dairy and gluten in them, no matter how hard I try.

This is not a CHOICE people. Don’t you think I would love to go back to Fairway in NYC and taste my way in cheese around the world? Or have croissants from any bakery? Of course I do. Do I WANT to pay more for every sandwich I find (a rare find) to get bread that does NOT hold together at all and ends up as dust on my plate? No. I do not. So please. Think about what you say. And if you’re eating a slice of real NY pizza now, or a sandwich that was easy to find, or real ice cream, or can walk into any store and find lots of things to eat…be grateful. And don’t shame the rest of us just trying to make it through the day without pain, or falling asleep, or depression, or brain fog, or…

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Casting Actors: Color Blind. Gender Blind. Age Blind.

From Student Filmmakers Magazine June 2019. By Tamar Kummel


Color blind. Gender blind. Age blind.

By Tamar Kummel
Think about some recent movies or TV shows starring Meryl Streep, Melissa McCarthy, Sandra Oh, Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, Robin Williams or any other of your favorite actors. I bet you can’t picture that movie or TV show starring anyone else. They are perfect. But I will bet you that ½ those roles were not meant for them. They were written for someone younger, thinner, whiter, and possibly male. Each one is ridiculously talented, and also not a 25-year-old, white male.
I would like to propose a new thought process. A new way of thinking about characters and casting. And a new way of looking at the world. Not from your point of view, but from an inclusive, global way.
I want you to think outside the box. Think outside when writing. Think outside when casting. So many times, we pigeon-hole our thought process. We “write what we know.” But I bet you know a lot more diversity than you even realize.
Oftentimes as writers, we get restricted by what actually happened. We think, “I’m a 20-year-old male, so the character has to be too.” Or, “this is about a family, so they all have to look alike.” Or the worst thought, “Only males talk this way.” But I can assure you, women talk about everything, at all ages. We curse, we laugh, we talk about sex. And some of us, lots of us, don’t want kids, don’t think about kids, and are not just moms. And you know what, if we are moms, we still have names. It’s not just, “Mom.”
It’s 2019, people. Families look all kinds of ways. Two dads, two moms, light skin, dark skin, you name it. Their kids can be adopted from all over the world. People marry at all ages, even into their 90’s sometimes (I’ve seen it). They have kids at all ages. And best friends don’t have to be the same sex.
People of all ages still date. They still work. They still have hopes and dreams and experiences.
Just because you picture your scene with two men in their 20’s, may not mean you couldn’t cast two women in their 40’s. Think about it. Does it change the integrity of the scene? Not every male/female scene is subliminally about sex. They can be best friends, enemies, or strangers. Imagine you wrote a scene between two people sitting around talking. What did you picture? Twenty-five year old males? Fifty-year-old, black women? How about 60-year-old Asians, one male, and one female? Does the scene change? Does it get better? More interesting? Diversity is normal. It’s interesting. It’s easier to tell characters apart. It’s more reflective of our society. And it’s a good thing to do.
There are 100,000 actors in New York City. There are 400,000 actors in Los Angeles. These are actors of all ages, all types and sizes. Great actors with a wealth of experience and talent. They want to work. And they can make your project more interesting. Give them a chance.
Author Tamar Kummel
Tamar Kummel is an actress, writer, director, and producer in New York City and Los Angeles. She’s easily found on IMDB, social media, and anywhere that serves food. She’s usually wearing purple. She recently completed her first feature documentary, “Fighting For Allergy Free Food.” Along with 2 companion books. More information on current projects, clips, resumes, and books on her websites:
Photo Courtesy of Photography

Monday, September 24, 2018



High school: I only told my mom. But she didn’t suggest I tell others.  I was embarrassed.

Because I figured you kiss a lot of frogs before finding a prince.

Because I was manipulated so badly, I thought it was partially my fault. Many times.

Because it was my roommate’s boyfriend and didn’t want her to know. She'd be mad at me.

Because I didn’t know it was a crime. Just a jerk.

Because I stopped him from raping me. So I thought “nothing” happened.

Because I didn’t know who to tell. Many times.

Because I was mortified.

I called the police, but the police didn’t find them.

Because it happened so fast I couldn’t even process what happened.

Because it happened to my friend, and she didn’t call it “rape”. So it wasn’t my story to tell.

I told our mutual friend, and he told me to stay away from him. End of story.

Because this “first” felt like a violation. I didn’t know how it “should” feel.

#jamestoback Because it was just a “conversation”. I was lucky to never be alone with him.

Because I thought my situation was unique. It didn’t occur to me he was doing this to many others.

These are not hypothetical. These are mine. What are yours?

Friday, July 6, 2018

Why Women Have Meetings in Hotel Rooms and Other Paradoxes of Acting

The other day I was having a conversation with a regular person. A muggle. A real person. You know, not an actor. And he said, “I don’t understand the Harvey Weinstein thing, how is he having, ‘meetings’ with women in his hotel room? Who thinks that’s ok?” So I explained that a lot of business is done during festivals, events, awards, shoots. That’s when you meet people. I can’t audition for a film in a loud, public place like the hotel lobby lounge. You end up going to people’s hotel rooms. And no warning bells go off. Because this is normal. Often these are last minute invites. And you would never bring a friend, or bodyguard to an audition. It would seem you didn’t trust the person who invited you, and you’d seem unprofessional. I know that sounds completely insane to a “normal” person. But it’s true. I hope that is all changing. But there are or were a lot of things in the world of being an unemployed (or even often employed) actress that seemed, “normal” for many years.

Have you seen the original movie, “Fame” from 1980? Do you remember the scene of Coco (played by Irene Cara) having the audition where they ask her to take her shirt off? She resists, they insist, intimidate her, and, on tape, they watch her completely strip down, while crying. She is humiliated, and yet, she still does it, because you don’t say, “no” at an audition. You might think that scene would never happen in real life. But it happened all the time.

In fact, I had a whole series of experiences that I’m guessing would shock people who were never actresses.

  • Many times, guys would come up to me on the street, ask if I’m an actress, and give me their card stating they were a producer/director/agent. Those cards go in the trash. NO ONE finds talent that way. But if it didn’t work, they wouldn’t be doing it.
  • I had several auditions that I thought the address was taking me to an office, but they were people’s apartments. You don’t know who’s there, you don’t have friends with you, and you just hope there are other actresses there too.
  • I had interviews with several agencies that would say, “We love you, we want to represent you…you just need new photos and you need to go to MY guy to take them.” Those are illegal scams. Some took my money. One actually got me jobs and then never paid me (small claims court). One yelled at me when I turned down a nude photo shoot audition.
  • I had an audition for something that when I got there, they asked if I had a bathing suit with me (who carries a bathing suit, especially in New York City) and said they needed to see my body, and a bra and undies was fine. I’m sure they were just videotaping women all day changing clothes and in various stages of dress. To be honest, I think I did it. And of course never heard from them again.
  • I was freelancing with a famous agent (female) who would hire women to be at parties for corporate events. We didn’t have to kiss or touch anyone, but we were instructed to look sexy and flirt with all the men. I did one or 2 gigs, but flirting with 50 year old men when I was 25 was not my cup-of-tea.
  • I somehow made friends with an old press agent. He would take me to dinners and parties and introduce me to show biz folks. I’m sure he thought at some point I’d sleep with him or someone. I wouldn’t even hug them. I just remember having this conversation with him:
Tamar: I really want to be on Saturday Night Live.
PA: They only hire Unknowns.
Tamar: I’m unknown.
PA: You’re not successful enough to be an Unknown.
  • I do remember at some point, after years of this crap, having an interview with an agent in a weird place and they said it would cost me money to join them, and instead of being polite, I finally found my voice, stood up, told them they were a scam artist and walked out. I never stayed in an awkward situation ever again. At least professionally.
  • I also had a whole afternoon conversation (very luckily in public the whole time) with James Toback. I turned that into a short play, “The Seduction”. He had his whole pitch DOWN! Including carrying his birth certificate in his wallet to prove he was James Toback. He took me to the nearby Applause Bookstore on West 71st St. (no longer there, and this was before cell phones) to show me his listing in, “The Who’s Who of the Film Business”. Talk about being intimidating. The things he said to me would probably make a stripper blush. He suggested we go to a hotel for 48 hours. I did not go. If I had…would I be famous? Probably not. But he sure made a good case for it.

I could go on and on. The number of odd situations that you find yourself in is endless. There are a ton of eccentric people that suddenly decide to make movies. And a ton of scam artists that realize that young women are so desperate to get their big break that they can convince them to do almost anything if they think it’ll lead to a role in a film or tv show. And since there are no real guidelines, no HR department, no union rep for non-union jobs, and no chaperones, these people get away with a ton of sketchy stuff.

If I wanted, I could go into the whole lineup of guys who’ve also sexually harassed me. Manipulated me into extremely uncomfortable situations in every way in countless places. From Grand Central Station to my own apartment. Conversations that start out flattering will suddenly turn to, “I’m not leaving until you…” and then you start negotiating with them. It’s a lose lose situation. I always felt I had to kiss a lot of lots of frogs before finding my prince. Were these punishable offenses? I have no idea. Who would I have reported them to? There was no internet. Could I call the police and say, “this guy grabbed my boob and got on top of me, but I grabbed his hair and threw him across the room so he left.” I don’t think so. Although the time that a bunch of kids riding their bikes on the sidewalk grabbed up my butt so much that it lifted me up off the ground and they kept riding, I did call the police. Just to feel like I’d done SOMETHING.

I wish I was leading to something. An answer. A solution. A promise. But there isn’t one. We just need to talk to each other. Tell someone. When crap like this happens, spread the word. It is NOT an isolated incident. It’s not your fault. It’s not acceptable. Also, take self-defense class. Don’t walk around in an unaware (drunk, looking at your phone, in shoes you can’t run in, on dark back streets late at night) state. If you have auditions or interviews in odd places, bring a friend. At this point, you don’t need an excuse to have someone with you. And if someone asks you to do anything you’re not comfortable with, don’t do it. Period. End of story.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Puerto Rico Jan 2018

A few weeks ago my boyfriend and I were in Puerto Rico for my cousin’s wedding. And everyone has been asking me the same questions I was asking her, prior to our going.
Is PR still there?
Can they still have a wedding?
How is the island doing?

Hearing reports on the news is not the same as going there and talking to the people to hear their stories. We were in Puerto Rico for 4 nights. We talked to every cab and Uber driver, and every person we met along the way. And let me start by saying that everyone was incredibly nice, generous, strong, resilient, and hopeful. All qualities that I can’t imagine I would have in the same situation as them. They were all inspiring.

Flying in, you can see tons of homes covered in blue FEMA tarps where the roofs are very damaged. So you start to see the effects of the hurricanes before you even land.

As of Jan 11th, 30-40% of the island still didn’t have power. But what the news doesn’t say, is that even the parts that have power, don’t have it consistently. The power grids become overloaded very quickly as they are repairing them. So people would get power for a few days, then off a few days, or hours, etc. So they couldn’t depend on it.

Evidently, the US government approved the rebuilding of the original infrastructure, but not improvements. So instead of making a more stable power grid, or burying the power lines, they can only put them back up the way they were, which seems counter-intuitive for the future.

The rain forest is still not open for tourism. But the wedding was in the rain forest (and yes, we got rained out of having the ceremony outdoors) and driving through the hills, you see that all the houses have no power, and all the power lines are falling down. I was actually shocked that we, in large busses, were allowed to drive through at all. The place where the wedding was, Hacienda Siesta Alegre was running on a generator. It’s a beautiful place, high upon the hill. I don’t know what it was like before the hurricanes, but the roof was so damaged (not enough for a FEMA blue tarp though) that shelter from the rain was challenging, since it was still raining on us inside.

Tourism is still up and flourishing. The cruise ships never stopped coming, which was a big blessing to PR. However, the increase in the number of ships has been a challenge for the tiny island, already crowded in the Old San Juan area. We were told that normally, there are always 3 cruise ships there. The max was 6. And the week after we left, Marti Gras there, they were expecting 12. We could not MOVE in our Uber in the area, so I can’t imagine there being 9 more ships there at once. But they’re very grateful for the business, because it’s the only thing keeping them going. One driver said that right after the hurricane, drivers would sit at the airport for sometimes 12 hours just hoping to get even one ride during the day.

Driving around the island was definitely a challenge. Almost all of the stop lights were out. So cars have to use the honor system to merge and turn. Very slow process, but they’re certainly used to it after 4 months. I will say, Uber is not welcomed there by cab drivers (understandable) and since the hotels have agreements with the cab companies, you can’t call an Uber at the hotel. You have to walk a few blocks away. And if you’re too close, the cab drivers start screaming at you. Our Uber got EGGED by a cab driver. And our driver didn’t even flinch. And, how’s this for synchronicity, when we called an Uber home maybe 6 hours later…we had the same driver.

We had a discussion with people about Puerto Rico becoming a state. They said it might have been more likely before the hurricanes. But with most of the natural resources being destroyed, it wouldn’t be financially beneficial to mainland USA for PR to be accepted as a state. So their chances lessened, just when they needed it the most. A huge percentage of pharmaceuticals and IV drips are produced in PR. And now that the plants have been damaged, the US is running extremely low on necessary supplies. Ask any hospital. And yet, our government doesn’t seem to understand the value, or basic decency of helping our territory. They think they’re doing a great job of getting things back to normal. But there will never be a return to normal. Only a new normal. And think about how YOU would feel without phone, TV, a computer, internet, or a refrigerator for 4 months or more. I don’t think anyone could work fast enough.

My hats and heart go out to you Puerto Rico. Thank you for letting me visit. 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Massage Safety advice

This week over 100 allegations of sexual misconduct came to light at Massage Envy, a national chain of massage locations. They kept all the allegations quiet, instead of reporting to the police. I’m not going to comment on what Massage Envy should or should not have done, and I’ve never worked at a Massage Envy. 

But it does bring me to contemplate any past experiences I’ve had getting massages, or that I’ve heard about from others, and some advice to give people wanting to get a massage. 

I’m extremely saddened and worried about the number of suits brought against Massage Envy, and about how ME handled it. There is already tremendous discrepancy between what people think about massage, or think they know about massage all over the country, and the world. Licensing and certification for massage therapy is different from US state to state, and from country to country. In the US, currently 43 states have some sort of regulation. But states like Vermont, still have NO regulation at all. Meaning you could simply call yourself a massage therapist and start practicing, with zero training. Compare that to states like NY that have over 1000 hours of training requirement before taking the state exam. And NY also require a certain amount of continuing education every 3 years (including Ethics) just like any other medical license. No wonder massage is respected in some areas, but not in others. No wonder most insurances don’t cover massage therapy, even though sometimes it’s THE BEST treatment for certain muscle conditions. And no wonder that massage has always been the butt of many jokes that cross lines about ethics, decency, morality, and sexuality. Until we have a national basis of training requirements and ethics, those lines will always be blurred. 

That said, if you’re in a state that has licensing or certification for massage therapy. I highly recommend that you go to licensed massage therapists. I’d say 100% of my clients have never asked if I’m licensed, although it clearly shows all my certifications on my website and business card. There are plenty of massage therapists that are talented bodyworkers, intuitive and considerate without being licensed. But I would not go to them. Ask them, before you book a massage, where they trained, what their specialties are, etc. Because you want to know that they know when to NOT give you a massage. That they know how to drape you to protect your privacy. That they speak your language and can communicate well with you about your comfort level and what you want to focus on. And if, God forbid, there was an inappropriate incident, you can report them to police, the American Massage Therapy Association, or with any other massage union which they might be affiliated. 

If you go to get a massage. The therapist should go over health history and current complaints with you first. They should make sure you don’t have open wounds, broken bones, contagious conditions, a fever, or a whole host of other conditions that would prevent you from having a massage. They should NEVER undrape private parts or breasts (unless you have specifically discussed this ahead of time for special conditions). If they brush against something they should not have (and I think in over 20 years of working this has NEVER happened by me), they should immediately acknowledge and apologize. Because if they don’t, they’re either clueless, or inappropriate. And either way, say you’d like to STOP the massage and GET OUT. 

I believe massage should feel GOOD. I believe you should feel cared for, relaxed, and safe. You should not be in real pain at any point. Not physically, and certainly not emotionally. So many clients say, “just do what you do. I trust you. You work as hard as you need to.” Etc. But it’s YOUR body, YOUR massage, YOUR money, YOUR time. You should walk out feeling better. You might be a little sore for a day or 2 depending on the treatment. But you should absolutely not feel worse. 

Even I have received bad massages. Massages where I was touched inappropriately. Massage where I was undraped inappropriately. Massages where I was massaged too hard, for too long. And it’s definitely challenging to say, “STOP.” You want to trust your therapist. You want to not be thinking, “Wow, that’s weird/uncomfortable/unnerving.” If you do. GET OUT. And tell someone. Anyone and everyone. Because if they’re doing it to you, they’re doing it to others. And they need to be held accountable. 

I feel badly that I never complained, or reported people that I probably should have. You want to be, “nice” you second guess yourself. You convince yourself that it’s not a big deal. And you don’t want to over react. Especially as women, I think we have a people-pleaser personality a lot. And I think many people prey on that and use it against us. Don’t let that happen. Stand up for yourself. Walk out. 
But please don’t stop getting massages. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Cannes, Final Day and merci!

Wed May 18, Day 3 of Cannes

Read travel, day 1 and day 2  first!

Wed morning I thought, screw it, we brought a bunch of dressy outfits here and haven’t used them. We CAN walk around in jeans all day. But we can just as easily wear a ball gown and tiara and fit in. So we picked something fun to wear and headed right to the red carpet. Well, the street in FRONT of the red carpet, and took a few photos. Here’s the secret about Cannes, you have to apply to attend the biggest screenings. We tried to apply, but probably did it wrong, and/or didn’t get any tickets. So we didn’t get to go. And, other than our own film, we hadn’t seen any other films. And so we tried to go to a screening of an upcoming American film, and didn’t get in. So we tried plan B and got into a collection of short films. I won’t say which ones. But as I’ve always said, seeing horrible films or performances inspire me more than brilliant ones. I certainly don’t seek them out, but when it happens that I see something dreadful, I KNOW I can do better. And these shorts were…inspiring.

After that, we had the weirdest dining experience of the week. A kebab shop on the side street, totally packed. And reminded me of the restaurants on restaurant row in NYC where the guys stand outside and practically wrestle you into their business to keep you away from the other places. The service was startling. I watched them move a pair of women, in the MIDDLE of their eating, to a smaller table to be able to seat a trio. I had food served to me OVER another table (because the tables all abutted each other). I asked for more sauce, and they brought a giant squeeze bottle out, leaned over someone else, and just squirted a whole ½ cup of it onto my plate. Not gently. No asking. And they were NICE about it, but it scared the crap out of me and made me laugh very hard.

In the afternoon, we took in 2 more panels. A live podcast of Screen Talk, and a panel on fundraising for short films. Which didn’t really talk about fundraising, but did talk about producing short films and was interesting.

Our last meal, we met up with Karolina again and slowly walked home wandering through streets of shops we never saw open. Tomorrow morning we eat breakfast and leave Cannes.

Did I achieve everything I’d hoped? Nope. Not even close. My favorite lecture (David Lyman) always talked about how to set goals at the start of a week such as this. That before you come, you set goals. Day 1 you realize half those goals won’t be achieved, and you create new ones. But really, the best weeks are ones that inspire you to make a list of what to do AFTER that week. I came home with a stack of business cards, new contacts. A stack of flyers of my film to send to people. And enough inspiration to create more films and get to go back to Cannes, bigger and better. I’m glad I went. I’m proud of myself for all the French I spoke. I didn’t have nearly as bad luck with eating as I did last summer. 

It was an honor to be invited. Thank you all for the tips, the support, and reading my travel log!
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