Exception to the Rule

Today, on the opening of the New Orleans Film Festival, I must say that I have been stressed. Stressed about what you ask? My career.

For film industry folks, film festivals are a wonderful gathering place to celebrate achievements, network and opportunities seem to pop up around every corner. Film festivals are also a gathering place of the best and the most successful in the industry, and at the very least, currently in that area. For someone starting off, this feeling is thrilling, and also terrifying.

From the point of view of an industry newbie/recent college graduate like myself, the pressure is on. You stand in rooms and theaters, talking to people that are two kajillion times more successful than you presently are, just to tell them about the small short films you’ve worked on, as they recant that their most recent film won multiple academy awards. 2365b86d050db604864ddc36015fc42a.gif

You hope they won’t smell your desperation, that you’re trying so hard to hide. They’re wearing a designer outfit straight from the red carpet and you’re feeling guilty about the $40 you had to spend just to look like a presentable, totally not broke actor.

This is a special kind of hell for actors, only one step behind pilot season and live auditions. tell-me-im-1k2cej

They are where you want to be one day. In a perfect world, that day is today. In reality that day might be twenty years down the road. They tell you you’re doing great. You know you’re working your ass off, but it’s difficult not to get discouraged about your own inchworm-like progress. When you see great success, that in an industry like show business, people can achieve at any age, it can make self realization incredibly stressful.

Not to say that medical students don’t get stressed (we’ve all seen Grey’s Anatomy), but nobody became a top neurosurgeon at age 10; an age at which Tatum O’Neal won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Interject the voice of reason- my mother, “there will always be exceptions to the rule.” Though she is right, many of us see ourselves as exceptions to the rule too.friggen-10-years

To highlight the pompous nature of millennials, I will use none other than myself as a prime example. I have always believed that I am an exception to the rule. I do not believe this is the case in everything I do, for example, I cannot play volleyball or do math to save my life. When it comes to my passions and endeavors I pursue whole-heartedly though, I do believe this to be the case. I am not infallible or perfect, as many baby boomers think our generation believes, but I know where I excel.

Careers in the arts like to take this idea you have of yourself and dump all over it, just for fun. 

This doesn’t mean that you are incapable of reaching success tomorrow, but today feels like one hell of a mountain to climb and there is no guarantee of what tomorrow brings. You could end up being Sisyphus for Christ’s sake.  *Cue nerd joke.*
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The most challenging part of not knowing what tomorrow brings in this industry,  is that you can muster every ounce of effort and passion you’ve got in you, and get nothing in return. On the flip side, you can reach success after having just started off and have no clue what you’re doing; i.e. Charlize Theron. She was scooped up from a bank tellers office by big time agent John Crosby and within months starred in her first film, Children of the Corn III.

Surprisingly I am not Charlize Theron, nor am I just like her. Reality bites.

Adulting is hard (it’s a word, just go with it).

I CAN’T BE THE ONLY ONE WHO FEELS LIKE THIS! Rant over.

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Figuring this out by 23 took a pretty hard fall on my ass, right out of the gate.

After signing with my agency and booking a speaking role in my first few days on board, I became overly confident. I expected that everything would happen for me, if I just worked hard enough. I told myself that if I booked one more job or I worked another film, that the opportunities would come knocking. I believed that hard work necessitated success. This is not the rule in show business like it is with other industries. I was so hopelessly delusional that I believed the stars would align because I worked hard.

I would be the exception to the rule, and someone would descend from the film casting heavens with an incredible role and give it to me because I was dedicated.

Let me interject that the majority of actors take at least ten years working 15 to 20 hour days to “make it.” I also neglected to acknowledge the fact that TIMING IS EVERYTHING in show business.

Despite putting in even more effort and getting my bearings in the industry, things slowly stopped “happening” for me. I wasn’t booking gigs constantly, I was spending more and more time alone, I wasn’t socializing as much, and sure enough I fell into a rut. I was just like everyone else, not the exception to the rule. I hit a slump, nearly right out of the gate, just like tons of actors before me had warned might happen.

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The daily calls to my wonderfully patient mother came rolling in, full of crying, sadness and a whole slew of self deprecating tales about how stuck I felt. I should’ve prefaced that statement with the fact that I was never normally a crier.

Dramatic- yes, crier- no.

I never cried when I saw puppies, adorable proposal videos or The Notebook. I didn’t cry when I was happy, sad, stressed- you name it, but if 22 taught me anything it’s that I am now a crier. I constantly felt stressed and overwhelmed, like I was just barely staying afloat. Again, just like everyone said, that too did pass.
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Now I am a little over a year out of college, being an adult most of the time, and working my butt off in the film industry. I am only slightly more patient, some things take time, and I have reevaluated or adjusted some of my goals to account for reality.

I have come to learn that everything comes in waves; success, failure, happiness, sadness and the like.

Careers like mine aren’t easy and they aren’t for the faint-hearted. There is no security, no guarantee, but there is freedom. Freedom to find yourself and to create new things. You have to be proud of the progress you’ve made to date, because somewhere out there, is someone who is looking at you, wishing they had what you have, just like you once looked. If you keep working at it, someday you can define what success means to you and make your own, not what somebody else had.

For now though, enjoy the ride, because that’s the best part. 

Walk The Line

So your BFF asked you to help them out, again. “Can you help me with this? Please?” “I trust you the most.” “But you’re my best friend.”

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When does it get to the point that your friend might be taking advantage of you or your help? At what point do you tell your friend that you can only help them so much? You have to put yourself first sometimes, right?

Where do you draw the line?

There is no single, definitive right answer; there are definitely a few wrong answers. Setting boundaries can be tough, especially with the people that you’re closest to, i.e. boyfriend, girlfriend, family or best friends. Listing out boundaries can also have a way of creating tension or making things awkward.

To start, there are some questions you can ask yourself. First, are things balanced in your friendship or relationship? If they aren’t, is this acceptable or are you settling? Secondly, is this person asking for your help because they truly need it or because you’re willing to help habitually? Third of all, is your help vital or preferred?

When you separate necessity from preference you can ensure that you are helping your friends and loved ones when it is needed, rather than putting everyone in your life before yourself no matter what. Selflessness is a virtuous quality, but not when it results in undue suffering.

Prioritizing makes a world of difference.

Knowing when you need to put your foot down and say no will help establish boundaries too. It can be easy to be taken advantage of when you’re always willing to help others, and not even realize it’s happening.

Once you’ve determined these answers, if you have come to the conclusion that said relationship is unbalanced, how do you restore or create balance?

Set some damn boundaries.

I’m not talking about building up Trump-esque walls; I’m talking about lines in the sand that ought not to be crossed.

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Creating boundaries doesn’t mean you don’t care about your friends, it means that you care enough to let them know how you can best interact to make everyone happy.

What happens when someone crosses your boundaries?

If a boundary that you’ve set is important, don’t waiver. Enforcing boundaries and consequences can be the most difficult part. What do you do when your friend, that you helped out for the millionth time, won’t even chip in for gas or bails on plans you had together? Know what consequences should come as a result of overstepped boundaries.

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Be direct even if it sucks. Let’s be clear, that does NOT mean, be a jerk or self-righteous, but knowing how to clearly communicate your feelings about the issue is fundamental. Don’t let your feelings bubble up and explode in resentment later. Also, know when to let it go.

What happens when you’ve crossed a boundary?

Take a step back, practice self-awareness and be honest with yourself. Rather than dwelling in guilt, self-pity, or blaming another source for the mess up, take credit where it is due then move on. Nobody is perfect, so know how to deal with mistakes when you make them, because we all make them. Lying to yourself and your friends is a major no-no.

Overall, friendships and relationships are about give and take. To achieve a happy medium, you have to state what you want or need, and then be willing to do the same for the other person. Don’t forget to listen to the needs of your friends as well. Take with you the wise sayings of SpongeBob SquarePants and “compromise.”

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Don’t Tell Me What To Do

Life advice is a tricky topic. Everyone feels they have the right, or even the duty, to dole it out at will. People believe they are helping, but we all know that isn’t always the case. Then there are those people in your life that feel they should help direct your life choices and inform you on everything they believe you should do differently.

Like, hello… I’m not a car. Step off.

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These people don’t necessarily have all of the essential information to be criticizing the situation, or they have dissimilar views from your own. Growing up, my inner monologue would have responded with “screw you,” or “what do you know?” I have come to learn though, that there is a better way.

I am not going to tell you how to live your life. I will simply share a method that made my life a little bit easier and may potentially help you as well.

People don’t change, especially when it comes to sharing their opinions. This was a vital piece of information I had been missing; changing people’s minds isn’t the objective. They don’t have to change yours either.

A wise woman once said, (the wise woman is my mom 99% of the time), “you can’t change people; you can only change your response to them.”

After hearing this, I realized that instead of responding in a combative way, to an entitled person asserting their views on my situation, I could listen and absorb what they had to say. Then I would take away from it what I felt was useful and forget the rest, even if it was what not to do. If this fails, find a way to gracefully exit the conversation before you commit an unforgivable act Voldemort style.

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Before learning this, I spent too much time and effort correcting people or giving them my side of the story, when in reality, frequently they just don’t care. Giving your side of the story in all of its gory, detail-filled glory does not guarantee that you will change someone else’s opinion. Much of the time, it will just elevate your blood pressure or ruin your afternoon.

Not everyone will understand your life or your circumstances.

The key to this method is evaluating the worth of the source. Is the person speaking informed about my predicament or situation? Do I value their opinion? Will their advice change anything in a positive way? Is what they are suggesting best for me?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, then don’t waste your time, because LAWD KNOWS it could be better spent. Predominantly on Netflix, cuddling your pet or literally anything else. So next time your perfectly well meaning aunt rambles on about her advice for your career, when you work in environmental conservation and she works in marketing, take it with a grain of salt. Just because someone means well, doesn’t mean you have to follow their advice.

Only YOU can give someone the power to dictate what you should or shouldn’t do with your life.

Ignorant people will not disappear anytime soon, and often times they love to talk, but monitoring your reactions to these people can make your life a lot simpler. So let your freedom flag fly and make your own life decisions, because you’re a millennial dude!

It’s Okay Not To Be Okay

Life is hard. You don’t need me to have figured that out. Every person has their challenges and some hurdles are bigger than others. Some individuals jump over those hurdles alone and some receive support. Other people can’t seem to get past the hurdle in front of them and that’s fine too.

I am not going to tell you that all of the hurdles are worth it, that your struggles are blessings in disguise, or that everything will be okay. We both know that’s bull and promising smooth sailing ahead is something I can’t guarantee; it’s a bit naive and overly optimistic.

I am neither a convincing optimist nor pessimist. I, like my wonderful family, am a steadfast realist who believes that sometimes things will be okay, or they won’t, but to continue striving on, everyone could use a little support.

There is this idea in American society that we are always supposed to be okay, while also consistently at our highest rate of functioning. There are far too many instances of people in need of support, or at minimum the allowance of a bad day, pushing through their circumstances as if nothing is wrong, in both cerebral and physical capacities.

There is a feeling; pressure to act as if everything is dandy and that idea deserves some attention.

Anyone from new moms, to teens, to professionals in the workforce can suffer from the notion that we as individuals must be okay all of the time. We ought to hide from the world any suffering, pain, or loneliness, and solve our problems ourselves.

This makes asking for help even more trying for those suffering from anxiety, depression, or personal battles.

There are over 74 million Google results of articles telling readers why everything will be okay, or why you should be okay with whatever life has given you. Many of these articles lead to a notion of blind optimism, complacency, or simply moving on without dealing with the problem. Pretending that you are fine doesn’t resolve the issue. It just covers it, like a lid on a pot; sometimes you need to let out steam or things will boil over.

An ever-growing obsession with social media, has made it even more impossible to have an off day. The pressure to have this Instagram perfect life that is idyllic, adventurous, but also cookie cutter is overwhelming. Pinterest features pages upon pages of memes displaying text such as “suck it up and pretend you’re okay,” and “smile, move on with your day and pretend everything is okay.”

How are we supposed to be imperfect humans when the world only sees our very best moments? Not only does the world only see our best moments, but also we are supposed to hide the imperfections. We are supposed to conceal our struggles.

What is with this trend of pretending?

Mental health is a subject matter that cannot be dealt with in pretend land. It requires hard work, support, and a lifetime of dealing with things I am sure we would all prefer not to. Everything might not always be okay, which IS okay.

It is okay to have a bad day, it is okay not to be okay and it is okay to ask for help.

It is acceptable to be overwhelmed, have a rough time, feel alone, want to scream and cry, or even drink too much wine after said crap-tastic day. Eat some chocolate, let yourself process the unfortunate circumstances, vent if that’s what makes you feel better, journal if you like to write, or confide in a friend, just get it out. Sometimes you have to say, “Today sucked!” The goal is to get through the bad days and hopefully have more good days than not. Nobody is perfect and life isn’t perfect.

The next time someone that really cares about you asks how you are, fight the urge to say, “fine” if you aren’t. Speak up because your loved ones aren’t mind readers, no matter how much we like to believe they can be. You are not alone, and if you are, you don’t have to be. Asking for help can be terrifying; it is not an easy task, but dealing with things alone is not always the best approach.

This is for my friends who have suffered, are suffering, and even for myself.


“Your story is not over.” Visit Project Semicolon for more information.

For those who are still struggling, seeking help is not only brave, it means you are strong. Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Smile Honey

You are having a perfectly fine day when someone says, “smile baby,” “you look upset,” or “are you okay?” Hearing phrases like these can be startling, confusing or maddening. You may also fall into a category of people who have a face, that when normally resting, does not appear particularly enthused.

I have been told I have one of those faces, ever so affectionately referred to in millennial media as “resting bitch face.” I have never understood this criticism personally, because my reaction has always been “this is just my face.”

I felt the need to expound upon the topic after a tweet made national news recently, released by RNC Chairman Reinhold “Reince” Priebus, which criticized Hillary Clinton’s appearance at a debate hosted by Matt Lauer. He was not the only male to write something to this affect.

The notion that a woman must smile in order to gain the approval of a man is not only unjust, it is sexist and condescending. A woman’s intellect and character should not be judged by a less than overjoyed or enthusiastic facial expression. Women are arbitrated when they aren’t actively smiling, with words such as “cold,” “unfeeling,” “upset,” “unfriendly,” even “bitchy.”

Have you ever heard of a man being criticized for not smiling?

Verbiage like the aforementioned would not be used to describe a man who wasn’t smiling. The idea that women have become an object, for others to admire, joyous and pleasant aesthetically, is inane and preposterous. Coming from a man, these types of comments are objectifying, and seem as if he is trying to control the actions of the woman he is speaking to.

When did it become our job as women to elevate the mood of men in our presence?

I never signed up for that.

The fact that the tweet received 4.3 thousand likes and 2.8 thousand retweets was even more concerning. Clinton was pictured with a business-like expression, focused and concentrated on the topics at hand. She was doing her job and giving it her complete attention. This is not a political statement. This is a statement about how women are addressed and judged based on their appearance and expression.

Female public figures receive the brunt of this criticism, such as actress Kristen Stewart and pro athlete Serena Williams. Both women were highly critiqued for not appearing “happy enough” during their respective press coverage events. Any male in their same position would never hear the same criticism, and historically they have not.

This judgment also happens on a daily basis to women all over the world, most especially in the form of street harassment. “Smile honey,” from an unfamiliar man is not only aggressive, it’s a phrase many men say in an attempt to establish dominance. The fear of potential physical aggression has forced the majority of women to tailor their answers as not to provoke the man catcalling.

Women should not have to live in fear of judgment, harassment, violence or critique when they refuse to go out of their way to look happy to appease men around them.

Their well-being, careers and safety should not be jeopardized by the lack of a smile on their faces. This apparent sexism is something we as women confront every day, but hopefully will see less of in the future, because nobody wants to be commanded to smile.

For projects and articles that cover or combat this issue, check out http://stoptellingwomentosmile.com,  The Guardian, or 27 Of The Best Responses For When Random Guys Tell You To Smile.

Balancing Act

I would like to start this post off with some of the most basic advice you may have ever received. You probably first heard it from your parents. In my case, I first heard it from my super rad Granny. Well, really it’s two pieces of advice that I prefer to combine into one golden nugget. The first is to take what people say with a grain of salt. The second is don’t listen to mean/stupid people. In summation, ignore the haters.

When you’re young, these actions can be as simple as choosing to discount the harsh words of the school bully or to tune out the annoying know-it-all kid in class. As an adult, this advice becomes more challenging to follow. The situations evolve from ignoring the rude kid in class, with minimal consequences, to receiving an unjust verbal whooping from your boss, which carries a slew of potential real life consequences.

So how do you walk the adult world tightrope?

When it comes to your responses/reactions to situations in your life, there are two ways to fall off this tightrope. On one side, let’s say the left, a fall results in passiveness or getting walked on, while the right results in insubordination or aggression. Whether it is with friends, their children, your parents, a colleague, a boss, the plumber, or your bitchy soon to be sister-in-law, when it comes to a response, a misstep can lead to a fall.

Whatever you do though, don’t piss off your plumber, especially in New Orleans. Do whatever he asks, or else you will be shitting in your backyard until he decides to forgive you.

Being an adult, in my mind, is being able to delicately balance on this tightrope.

My mother (may she be hailed and praised forever) has always preached that life is about balance. Too much of any one thing and you’ve tipped the scales. At some point things will have to realign to neutral. Having a response that teeters too far to one side of the scale will not help anyone and most often makes the situation worse. This is not to say that you should remain a neutral peon or be a sheep.

Kudos if you caught my second reference to people being sheep. Bahhhh.

In the world we live in, balance is essential. With the presence of social media, a 24-hour work cycle and America’s obsession with having it all, balance and prioritization is key. Right about now, this is where some of my readers who know me all too well are thinking, “…the irony that Elise is writing about balance.”

That’s not the point. I know I’m not the best at the balancing act, but the goal is to try.

If everyone were the best at enacting the advice they doled out, the Internet would be a much less interesting place.

So remember that it’s not the exactness of the response that matters most, it’s the effort to create a response that leads to the most balanced end result. All we can do in life is try our best.

Life is a balancing act, but don’t forget to look up and enjoy the view. 

 

Life In Increments of Four

Have you ever looked at your life and wondered, “What am I doing?” Have you felt confused, lost, or distraught for seemingly no reason, but you still can’t seem to shake it? Have you ever felt stuck in a rut with no way out?

Welcome to your 20s.

Land of the (hopefully not eternally), lost and confused.

Coming from a former know-it-all, overachiever, before my post-graduate life started I could have positively told you that I had never experienced any of the aforementioned feelings. How lucky I was, blissfully trapped in my perfect, pristine, little bubble. My biggest concerns consisted of landing big name internships and believing I was more accomplished than everyone else. Yes, I was that person. I just didn’t know it.

My life then, seems so far away now. Even though it’s only been a year, I recall it like the memory of a thirteenth birthday. You know the one. You had a super cool pool party, everyone came, but alas some awful girl, probably named Danielle or Jessica, stole your crush right in front of you, at your own party!

You’ve got feelings about it still, but presently they seem trivial and distant. Plus you probably realized later that people couldn’t be stolen.

Little did I know how complicated life would get when I had to be a “real person.” From the days of thirteenth birthday parties, to late night parties off campus and all-nighters in the library, it all seems so simple looking back.

After graduating last May, great things started happening very quickly for me. I decided I wanted to be an actor. You’re probably thinking, ‘oh how tragic.’ No, that’s not the great thing that happened.

Thanks for the support… really.

I immediately got signed to a top agency that believed in me, wanted to see me achieve, and said that things would happen for me. I felt invincible at first. Industry professionals started telling me how talented I was and how I was “going places.”For a semi-neurotic, chronic overachiever, this was the greatest drug of all time… until the pace of adult life set in.

Nobody tells you about how life seems to slow down when you no longer have achievements marked in increments of one to six months.

I was holding my expectations higher and higher, not realizing that I was beginning to set the bar at unrealistically high heights. I didn’t stop to think that the higher I set this bar, the further I could be thrown when things eventually took a left turn. The hard left I experienced was a necessary turn that took me in a more positive direction, but it was one I did not see coming and I wasn’t holding on tight enough.

Lesson of the year: life never happens according to your plans.

The difference between the life I knew then, and the life I now lead, is that in school I was given a platform and pathways, created to help me achieve. Every goal and achievement was compared to others immediately, and measured in semesters.

What I had not realized is that when you enter “the real world,” that job is left entirely up to you, especially if you pursue a career that has no pre-determined roadmap. You determine the timeline of events, congratulating yourself on the small successes and larger ones alike, in addition to staying on track.

Once I realized that these were now my responsibilities, everything started to balance out again, and I regained control of the car. In your early to mid 20s that car feels more like a go-cart with one rickety, derailed wheel, but eventually you figure out how exactly to drive the damn thing and you can more easily stay on course.

Your 20s are also a time for passion, freedom, minimal commitment and exploration! Despite all of the stress, confusion and figuring it out, make sure to leave room for fun and trying new things.

Enjoy the ride!

New Orleans Film Festival Starts Next Week

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Sign up to volunteer at the New Orleans Film Festival now! The festivities start this Wednesday, October 14, and go through October 22. This is the first year the festival is a big time qualifier, so filmmakers worldwide will be coming in. Make some friends, network and see some great filmmaking in action!

For every shift you work you get a FREE TICKET/ENTRY into a film screening!!! So if shelling out for a festival pass this year makes your bank account sad, get in to see the films and attend the events FOR FREE. Shifts are generally three hours in length, super easy, and you can work as many or as few as you like- the choice is up to you!

http://www.volunteerspot.com/group/797612638065

Bravo Network Internship with NBCU

As I have finished up my summer internship, I look back and see how quickly my time in NYC flew by! In what seems like an instant or the blink of an eye, my summer has come and gone, then just like that I am starting my senior year at Loyola.
I learned an incredible amount by working with SVP Aimee Viles’ Emmy Award-winning Emerging Media Team at Bravo Network. I was given the opportunity to work with Andy Cohen and Zach Bechtel in production as well as editing, worked on marketing in creating the new technology product deck and so much more. I even presented an end of the semester media research product to my Emerging Team in addition to creating, then presenting a television pitch to the Senior Vice Presidents of Bravo and Oxygen networks.
To think that all of this happened in one seemingly short summer is mind bottling and I am grateful for all of the learning experiences I had through NBCU. I have truly been living the #NBCUdream

Summer Intern @ NBCU in the Big Apple

It has been a busy month since classes in New Orleans ended. Starting three summer classes online, getting a call from NBC saying I had three weeks to move to New York City and getting all of it organized has been quite time consuming.
Now I have moved in to the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan for my summer stay, am preparing for intern orientation tomorrow and am getting to know NYC a little better each day.
I will be working with Bravo Emerging Media, Bravo & Oxygen Network, as well as Andy Cohen.
I can’t wait to see what the Big Apple has in store for me and am excited to start working for NBCUniversal at 30 Rock!