Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Olympic experience, week one

 OK. Let’s get a few things out of the way.

I’m sometimes easily disappointed. No matter how much I think, ‘don’t set yourself up with unrealistic expectations.” Or, “Whatever is supposed to happen, is what’s happening.” Or, ‘Sometimes the goals you reach, are not the goals you set.”. I’m still disappointed. 

I’m also reinventing my UK experience. I’ll explain more later.

Yesterday was a very good day. I adore my coworkers. The Physios I work with could not be any nicer or more welcoming, for which, I’m extremely grateful. My boss, Liz Nicholls, who’s in charge of the medical dept at the tennis venue (and a bunch others, but we’re lucky enough to have her with us our whole time) is sincerely one of the kindest, more generous, patient women I’ve ever met. I feel incredibly blessed to have her as my boss. She could have made my Olympic experience awful or wonderful, and she’s definitely doing her best to make it as good as possible. I got to see the first dress rehearsal of the opening ceremony last night because of her (2 physios, another massage therapist and myself) and I’ll be eternally grateful for that experience. The only thing I missed was the parade of nations. The rest was like Cirque Du Soleil on steroids and if you increased the budget by maybe 20 times.

My last Olympics, Athens 2004, I was stationed at Beach Volleyball. The way our schedules work out, I was usually the only massage therapist, and the only American on duty. My #1 memory of working there is of the first few days when the Greek medical staff would  gather about 10 feet from me, and talk in Greek all day, completely ignoring me (and not knowing I understood a little of what they said). It was a spectacularly lonely experience, and one I was scared to repeat. I know it surprises friends of mine to know that I’m incredibly shy, and I don’t easily introduce myself to others. So it took about 3 or more days to begin to make contact with the staff there. And even though in England, I was fairly certain that I would be better at 1) understanding what they were saying (still debatable to an extent) and 2) making friends. I didn’t want that to happen again. Sometimes, no matter how you attempt to convince yourself that you’ve grown up and changed, you still have old fears that creep into your psyche and doubt your abilities. My coworkers have been incredibly gracious and inclusive to me, both professionally and personally and I am very grateful for that. Plus, they’re genuinely lovely people to be around, and of course, tops at their craft and educational to be around, which is one of the perks of working the Olympics. Considering that after 4 days of work, I’ve only worked on 1 athlete, it was fun to spend several hours watching the physios practice their athletic taping skills.

That brings me to the source of bitterness, so forgive me for a short moment. I’ve worked for 4 days and massaged 1 athlete. There were no nets on the courts at Wimbledon until yesterday. When I arrived for my first day of work and found that no players had been seen yet, or probably would be seen for days, I was quietly seething. Each year, when I work at the US Open, we hit the pavement running. Our first days there are full practice days and packed with massages. I was a little nervous that I was working 9, 11ish hour days and how that much work might take a toll on my body. So having little work is definitely a blessing, but frustrating none-the-less. I’ve come a very far distance, at considerable expense, and I am clearly not needed yet. I have spent the past few days enjoying meeting my coworkers, wandering the incredibly beautiful grounds of Wimbledon, and eating too much. Again, very lucky. And yet, very frustrating. And actually incredibly exhausting for my body.

SIDE NOTE: I am shocked and horrified at the lack of accessibility for wheel chairs or mobility impaired people in this city. This metro system, although amazing and everywhere, is not ancient like New York and I think there is NO excuse for not having elevators and/or at least escalators at every station. Some of the trains have up to a foot of gap between the platform and the train, or a foot step up. Dangerous and disgraceful. And for the Olympic venues, they’ve made access nearly impossible. The walk portion of my commute is about 30 minutes because that’s as close as we could get. Last night the walk from the tube station to the Olympic Stadium was about the same, and then 3 flights of stairs to get to our seat. They just built that stadium. Where was the elevator? Was there an elevator? Unbelievable. My body is killing me these days. My knees, ankles and back are being beaten to death. But thank goodness I’m not on crutches or worse. I have no idea how I’d get around this city.

 I also said I was reinventing my England experience. The last time I was here, I was 25 years old. Major changes were happening in my life, and I took my savings to come to England and start studying massage, look at a school, see some shows, travel around, etc. As most of you know, I have no sense of direction. I’m lost almost every day of my life, in every city, GPS or not. The last time I was here, I did a fair amount of standing crying on street corners knowing, “I’m lost/I’ve missed the train/I’ve missed the store I needed/I might miss the show/I’ve missed meeting someone”. This time I was determined to NOT do that and actually ask for help (always a good rule that I’m still working on). Also, I was lonely and depressed last time, and I was afraid that would happen again. Traveling by yourself is just, simply, lonely. Anything cool, you want to share it. Anything that sucks, you wish you had someone to lean on. At 25, I wasn’t very good company for myself. These days, I hope I’ve improved. I still find myself on a lot of wrong street corners wondering where or if I've gone wrong. It took me 3 days coming home from work before I got home correctly. I even missed my town on the bus. Yes, my TOWN, not just my stop. But by the next day, I was giving other people directions. Let's hope they got where they were going.

So what’s the lesson? The experience to share? The point?
I don’t know. Ask for help. Enjoy your own company. Reinvent the experience. And get a good GPS.

All for now.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Resources for actors/filmmakers

Periodically I get asked by new actors and filmmakers for recommendations on resources especially in New York. So I thought I should let you all know my list of favorites. These are almost all friends of mine, or people I have experience with. So I highly recommend all of them for getting started, focusing on what you want, where to start, how to keep track, and how to keep motivated. And my blog's pretty good too!

There are SO many great places. So please comment and share your favorites for LA and NY too!

For business/marketing and learning about the business:
The Savvy Actor (Guy has a blog and workshops.)
Dallas Travers (marketing)
Act Outside The Box (marketing)
Actors Connection (NYC mostly. for classes, workshops, casting seminars)

For coaching:
The Creative Seed (Penelope Brackett)
Betsy Capes Coaching (Betsy Capes)
Creative Calling Coaching(Rahti Gorfien)

How to keep track of contacts and auditions and things
Organized Actor
Holdon Log

My favorite is, of course, Maverick Sean Photography (FACEBOOK, Website)

 Acting Teachers:
Jack Plotnick is mostly in LA, but he comes to NY periodically. You MUST check out his website and youtube channel. MUST.
Charles Tuthill in New York.

New York: Steps is still my favorite. Lynn Schwab, still the best tap teacher, (or any kind of teacher) ever.
Los Angeles: The Edge is the cheapest, with the most choices. But I find most of their teachers unreliable to show up. I also like the dance arts academy on La Brea. Nice for studio rental too. Favorite tap teachers; Garrett Minnitti and Steve Zee.

Listing online/finding auditions on your own:
Actors Access
mandy (also great for listing when you need crew/looking for crew jobs)
LA Casting
NY Casting

Who what's casting and the status of all of TV/Film:
Casting About 

How to run auditions:
Buy the book! 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Olympic Diaries part 1: Preparation, and a little history (mine and Olympic)

In 2004 I did massage at the Beach Volleyball venue of the Olympics.  During that time, I wrote an Olympic Diary for Massage Magazine (read it here) and 2 articles for the Valley News of New England. This go round, I haven’t found a place to publish…but now I have a blog! So I decided to write anyway, since people don’t know a lot about the work involved, and like to ask questions.

 First, some background. The Olympics is staffed by almost all volunteers. There will be 70,000 volunteers from around the world this time in London. The Para Olympics are always held in the same city, right after the Olympics. London was actually the first place to have the Para Olympics in 1948. London has hosted twice before, 1908 and 1948.

 I’ve worked at 2 Olympics before: 2002 Winter Olympics at Salt Lake City and 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. In 2002, all my shifts were before the Olympics started. I worked at the Olympic Village, the Olympic Family Hotel, and doing chair massage at the Main Media Center. I’d never been to Salt Lake before and I loved the diversity of being at 3 venues. I met amazing therapists from all over the world and I was hooked. In 2004, I sweated my butt off in Greece. That was a very different experience because I was stationed at Beach Volleyball and it was mostly an all Greek medical staff and myself. I’m not gonna lie, it was incredibly lonely and challenging for me. But I was treated to incredible generosity and got an amazing appreciation for life in another country…watching the US from afar.

 This summer is, again, completely different. I’m going to London, where I’ve been before. They speak English (kinda). And I’ve been assigned to the tennis event, held at Wimbledon. I work at the US Open tennis event in New York every year. So I’ll actually be working on the same players I see every year…except, I may also be working on male players. My shifts are almost all before the Olympics start. So I will see plenty of athletes, but not a lot of matches unfortunately. And there will only be 2 massage therapists on duty at a time, so meeting a lot of International therapists won’t be too possible either. I’m working 9 shifts, about 9-11 hour shifts potentially.


What’s the application process?

 I apply to the Olympics the day after the last Olympics ends. So right after Vancouver was over, was when the volunteer part of opened up. It’s a lengthy process of filling out forms, getting vetted, being interviewed, etc. And if I’d been a local, there would have been lots of training, more volunteering and other warm up events to work. As it was, a lot of my training was online and a little more will happen after I arrive. I’ve been getting updates for the past 2 years about where they were in the selection process, but I didn’t officially get accepted until, I think, early in 2012. I got my schedule/venue position maybe in April, and details were still coming in up til about June. Little scary trying to plan.

What do you get? Money? Housing? Free tickets?

 Nope. None of the above. I had to book and pay for my own travel and housing. The Olympics did not help at all. I get free local travel around London with my work pass. I get a uniform (which, in this case, seems to include a bag, hat, jacket and umbrella! Hello London). I get a meal on my work day. I hope I can eat it! (see Things I don’t like to talk about, Food Allergies blog). And hopefully I’ll get to see some tennis for free while walking around.  We don’t get any tickets to events. I know everyone thinks that’s unfair, but there are 70,000 volunteers and about 200,000 folks on staff. So giving out 400,000 free tickets seems like a bad idea to me, who used to do ticketing!

You get nothing?! Why on Earth do you do this?

  Well, that’s a good question! I grew up with the Olympics. I jumped around the living room shadow boxing with Mohammad Ali. I did gymnastics on my coffee table with Olga Korbut. I crushed on swimmer Mark Spitz. I wanted to be an Olympian and be part of a team. I wanted to represent the USA. I love seeing all countries from around the world together and not fighting. Everyone competes on an even playing field and everyone gets along. I love seeing athletes who’ve spent their entire lives training for 1 moment, achieve their goals. As humans, when do we EVER get to see the exact moment and reaction when someone’s dreams come true? I find it incredibly moving every time. Every time. Watching athletes with gold medals listen to their national anthem played and seeing the moment they fully realize that that anthem is being heard by millions because of THEM. It’s priceless. There’s just nothing like the Olympics and getting to work on athletes that are the best in the world. In the world. Not the best volleyball player in your school, or the county, but THE WORLD. Talking to them a little about their life, their habits, their journey. It’s an honor and a blessing to be there and support them. I know I couldn’t do it. Not in any way, shape or form.

You’ve been losing your mind recently, preparing for the journey. Why?

 Oi. Well. I was watching the cost of airline tickets rise while waiting for my schedule to be listed. I got my work schedule about a month before getting the dates for my training…which I can’t attend because I will have already started my job 5 days before!
 I’m going from doing about 10 hours of massage a week, to 10 hours of massage a DAY…for 9 days (almost) straight.
 I’m trying to book tickets, travel, fun stuff to do, and a lot more, without knowing what anything means, because English in America is not English in England! I’m very much a planner, and then adjust accordingly. I like to do a ton of research beforehand. Eg: when I was preparing for Greece, I studied Greek for 4 months before I went. I’m SO glad I did. But it didn’t stop me from still getting horribly lost all the time (an almost daily occurrence in my life).
 The last time I went to England was 18 years ago. No internet, no cell phones, and no clue. I went to study Shiatsu at the European Shiatsu school in Devon, England and then travelled all over the UK, mostly by myself. I was really, really sad and lonely. I had some of the worst, “getting lost” experiences of my life. I don’t want to repeat that. So I’m thrilled that this time I have people to stay with, play with, and internet to help. But it also means I put a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself to do better this time.

 If you have more questions, I’m happy to answer them. Otherwise, my next entry may appear after I’m in England starting July 13th. Send good thoughts!