LOOKING

“…[I am] always on a path, seeking, questing, looking for [my] special star to follow into a night of endless mystery.”

-The Magic Circle by Katherine Neville


In two months, my third year in LA will be over. In my last article, Questing, I ended the post with not booking a single commercial audition. There were several theatrical roles I shot, but for some reason advertisements were elusive. Why was this important? First, commercials are the bread and butter for actors. NAYO-107-50%blueIt is how we make most of our money in the beginning of our careers; however, that was not a big concern for me because I had acquired a new stable job in West Hollywood. Second, I signed with an agency and I had not made them a single dime for a whole year. Upfront, they already paid for my online subscriptions and spent the time getting me into rooms, but I had not garnered any income.

I felt discouraged, inadequate, and mopey. Predictably, I took a break from my acting school. My emotions were at the helm and they screamed, “Wallow in your misery!” However, I am also a workaholic and I could not completely separate myself from my ambition. In my “downtime,” I picked up classes at Playhouse West. I cannot quite logically explain how this made sense in my mind, but this was the best decision I ever made. I booked my first commercial after attending for a month. Playhouse West’s program is designed to instill confidence and discipline within their students. The more faith I had in myself, the more work I earned.

NAYO-153.jpg

The first commercial I booked was for Etsy, an e-commerce website designed for selling handmade knick-knacks and vintage items. It was my first time on a well-budgeted set. I arrived five minutes early and was immediately ushered into hair and makeup once I checked-in. Before I finished, they were calling for me. Side note: This is not unusual. Everything moves fast because thousands of dollars are being spent every minute.

On set, everyone hustled and bustled. The director commanded the performance of the crew. Eventually, he slowed down to give me guidance for my shots. Everyone settled into their positions, “Camera rolling” and “action.” The smoke detector went off. Unexpectedly, the fog machine used to create atmosphere awakened the screeching beast. The director stated, “It’s okay. Could someone figure out a way to turn that off? Let’s keep rolling.” (<–I am paraphrasing here). My first on-set experience was shot under the wailing of an inanimate protector. NBD.

NAYO-225.jpg

I shot three more commercials that year. Shortly after Etsy, I booked an Opal spot. Then I nailed a Walmart Christmas commercial; however, it never aired due to reasons unknown to me. Finally, I was selected by Amazon for their new product designed for their Prime Members, Amazon Key. I went from zero to four commercials within a five month period. Cool. My confidence was back baby! Haha.

What have I learned in the last three years? Too much. Not enough. Being an artist is a roll-coaster. At one moment, I am laughing. Another, I am screaming from joy and/or fear. In the other, vomiting. Obviously, this is an exaggerated metaphor; however, you get the point.

Year-three. Part three of a three part series.


Follow my blog for weekly updates. For more information on my theatrical projects, check out Sessions or Cookie Monster.

QUESTING

“…[I am] always on a path, seeking, questing, looking for [my] special star to follow into a night of endless mystery.”

-The Magic Circle by Katherine Neville


Year-two in Los Angeles, I cut my hair! Technically, I hacked it off in my first year; however, I forgot to mention it last article, so… After maintaining relaxed-hair for almost two decades, I grew out my natural texture for six months and chopped off my chemically straightened ends. Ta-da! Curly hair.

Nayo Howard__Theatrical_final_HIGHRES_version3_001.jpg

Second year, I was freshly  signed with my new agent, Clear Talent Group. Year-one was magical, so year-two had to be fantastic, right? So here is the thing, when you are beginning with an agent and new to the industry no one knows you or cares about you. The first month goes by, nothing. The second month, one audition. I was elated! It was for Kay’s Jewelers and I was playing a nurse. I strutted in with my head-shot and resume in hand. Side note: This is a sporadic, outdated requirement because most information is electronic. Only newbs bring them into auditions. If physical documents are needed, most places will request them beforehand within the original breakdown. However, it is best to always carry a few copies in your car because luck favors the prepared.

I signed in, offered my head-shot and resume only to be told they were not necessary, sat down and waited to be called.Nayo Howard__Commercial_final_HIGHRES_Version3_002.jpg I rehearsed with my  newly assigned scene-partner and shortly, we were benevolently ushered into the room. Audition-rooms are surprisingly anticlimactic. It is often an ordinary room with one person and a camera. He ordered us to stand on our mark, look into the lens for a photograph, and asked us to slate. Being new, I did not understand his request, so I monkey see, monkey do from my scene-partner. Best advice my mom ever gave me. “Hi. My name is Nayo Howard.” Short wave and smile. The audition ensued and I left that room beaming from adrenaline. I rode that audition-high home.

Astounded, I got a callback which I soon learned was a second audition. I showed up confident. Once warmly greeted, checked-in and assigned a different scene-partner, I waited buzzing with enthusiasm. Ten minutes later, we were called into the room. As I entered, I was taken aback by the six new people relaxing on the couch. Nervously, I stood shoulder to shoulder on my mark next to my scene-partner. We slated and the audition commenced. I left that room deflated and rode that audition-despondency home.

I wrote my agent, “Just finished up. I was super nervous. There was a panel this time. So we’ll see. I tried to make you proud lol :)” I knew I did not get it, but I was keeping a stiff upper lip. My agent responded brilliantly and instilled gumption encouraging me forward. I went on 31 auditions that year. I took a couple of commercial workshops and began classes at Ivana Chubbuck studios for scene study. I garnered many callbacks and AVAILS (a temporary hold, when the role is being considered between you and one other person), but did not book a single job. I felt humbled and humiliated flying by the seat of my pants.

End of year two, a three-part series.


Follow my blog to read about year-three.

SEEKING

“…[I am] always on a path, seeking, questing, looking for [my] special star to follow into a night of endless mystery.”

-The Magic Circle by Katherine Neville


I know what you are wondering. How is acting going Nayo? A question I frequently receive whenever anyone hears about my occupation. Some ask with genuine curiosity, while others in snobbish jest. Well, I am about to celebrate my three-year anniversary in Los Angeles (LA) this upcoming June and I would say it is going well. Time has flown and plenty has happened since that first day:

When I originally moved to LA, I was sleeping at Hustler’s place. He was on tour for a year in Asia, flying back and forth. Conveniently, while I was transitioning into the city, he was gone for a month, so he let me crash. It was a chill place in Noho (North Hollywood) with his super chill roommate. It was perfect. I used that time to find a place of my own.

What was I doing for work? Background-acting on set. You heard me. I was one of many people blending into the background of some of your favorite television shows. If you squint, you can see me, haha. Seriously, background was fun for a newb! I met cool peeps, got some great food and I spoke with several well-known actors. Plus, I learned a copious amount about on-set production.

Side note: I recommend this transient experience to all beginning actors.

nayo_final_001.jpg

I was a background-actor for nine months. After the first four months, I acquired my Screen Actors Guild (SAG)-eligibility, meaning, I was able to join the union. This is a significant step in any actor’s career. It symbolizes that you are officially a professional actor; however, meeting all of the qualifications can be difficult and it can sometimes take years… I stumbled upon it with pure luck.

One day in Santa Clarita while heading to set, I met this amiable guy. He was lost and we were going to the same location. I worked there the day prior so I knew where to go and park without getting towed. I voluntarily provided him with directions. On set, we ran into each other again while standing in the wardrobe-line waiting to be checked-in. It was then, he offered to put me in his upcoming project, ANIMAL NEWS. He was already a SAG member and the project was union. He wanted to give me the opportunity to be “Taft Hartley-ed” into SAG. There are multiple ways to enter the union, but this is how I acquired it. Loophole! Being so new to the industry, little did I know how important this was at the time. Of course I accepted the role and long story short I now have a chance to enroll. I still have not, but that is a story (business strategy) for a different day. I guess, a good-deed never goes unnoticed.

Working background was a way to test the waters into acting. After nine months, I decided to rip off the band aid and fully pursued it as a career. I listened to more than two hundred podcast-collections of actor-interviews and there were definitive reoccurring themes: hard-work, take risks and perfect your craft. My first task was to begin classes. There were hundreds of places to train, but not all of them were legitimate. On top of that, I did not know which techniques to study first; Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler, Uta Hagen, or maybe Sandford Meisner. Who the heck was Constantin Stanislovski? Side note: If you are an actor, you should know this. On set, everyone talked about “Improv…” I started there. There were multiple Improvisation schools, but there were three that stood out among the crowd; Second City, Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) and The Groundlings. I selected the later.

During time, I was eating beans and rice for almost every meal, so my second task was to find a new job because my employment was not cutting it financially. Moreover, the retirement money I took out to live off of was low. My next occupation needed to be flexible with weekdays open for auditions, but also bringing in the cash. I bounced around, but eventually, I tapped into my background-friends network. Luck! One of them started a job a few months ago serving tables in a fancy Beverly Hills restaurant. I was hired through a glowing recommendation from him… I never waited a table in my life.

nayo_samsherdelphoto_final002_2

My third task was to get head shots. It can be argued that they are one of the most important items to an actor, especially when starting out. With nothing on your resume, it literally is only thing to get you through the door of an audition-room. I hit my computer hard researching local, affordable, quality photographers. Thank goodness I took a class in High School so I could identify solid work. Those hours sitting in a dark room paid off. I guess I did learn something back then. The photographer I worked with was great. She was polite, did not treat me like a dollar-sign and was genuinely open to hearing my input and concerns. The photos in this blog are some of the head shots she took.

The year was almost up and I still had one more goal to accomplish. My fourth task was to find an agent. I think this topic is brought up among actors the most, representation. I went to this nifty book shop I heard about on set, Samuel French. Side note: If you are an actor in LA and do not know about this place, shame. I bought “Actor’s Guide to Agents” for 20 bucks and I still use it to this day. It was worth the investment. Then, I scoured the internet with many weeks of research. I marked which agencies I was interested in, then I goggled them on multiple platforms. I asked questions like, did they use social media? What did their talent think of them? Were their actors working? Eventually, I landed three interviews; however, I only went with one, Clear Talent Group.

End of year-one, a three part series.


Follow my blog to read about year-two.

SESSIONS

Last Friday I finished a new project! 

I have been working with a friend… I don’t know if you remember my nickname system from my last post, COOKIE MONSTER, but this film was with The Kid, A.K.A. Marissa McCoy. Do not worry, I asked if I could use her name.IMG_9185.JPG Anyway, I have worked off and on with Marissa for the last three years. I met her during my very first speaking-role in Los Angeles. On that production, we were both actors; however, since then she has transitioned into writing and shooting her own projects.

I believe, it was two years ago that Marissa asked me to work on her first production, Aftermath. Side note: It is great, watch it when you get the chance. My part in her film was minuscule. I was a supporting-actor, I had three lines and because Marissa is amazing, I said, “Sure.” I showed up to set bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, nailed my lines, took some photos, said thank you and that was that.

Less than a year later, Marissa hit me up again. Randomly, she sent me a text:

“Hey Nayo! I hope everything’s is going well! I wanted to reach out and see if you may be interested in a project I’ve written. Let me know…”

Once again, Marissa is amazing, so I said, “Sure” (I’m paraphrasing here).

Marissa wrote a mini-web-series titled SESSIONS. There were five different episodes, each about five to ten minutes long. Meet detective Taylor:IMG_9178.JPG

  • Strong
  • Smart
  • Independent
  • Confident
  • Ambitious
  • Kick-ass
  • Workaholic
  • Sassy
  • Short-Tempered
  • Insecure
  • Questionable Self-esteem
  • Hard-drinker
  • Great detective

 

We shot this over the course of six months. There were three other people attached to the project; another actor and the crew. The time frame ended up being longer than expected due to conflicting schedules, but we eventually finished.

Unfortunately, I did not get to spend as much time as I wanted with the script. Since acting is not my only job I have to balance it between work and classes. IMG_9108Side note: For those of you not in the entertainment industry, most actors have a flexible part-time job(s) to pay our bills. We often work nights and weekends while leaving our week-days free for auditions… especially if you have an agent. Furthermore, I am also a perfectionist; meaning I will always feel there is not enough time to prepare for a role.

To date, this is the longest project I worked on. If I am being honest, I am a little somber about it being over. It is always fun becoming intertwined with a new life and story. Although it is over, I am antsy about seeing the final product because I spent a solid amount of hours in preparation. The anticipation is overwhelming.

 

IMG_9186.JPG


Follow my blog to keep track of the release dates for SESSIONS.

COOKIE MONSTER

First, thank you to anyone who stumbles upon this page. I appreciate your interest and time.


For all the actors out there, I will always recommend a film competition…

A couple of weekends ago, a friend… Let’s give her the nickname “Sandy.” Sandy approached me with a crazy idea. Our school holds an annual film festival. As an opening to the event, they conduct a 120-Hour Film competition where the winner’s work will premier opening-night in front of a large audience.

Participants are given 120 consecutive hours to write, shoot and edit a project under specific requirements. This is a very stressful window. Producing a film can sometimes take months or even years and we are squishing it into five days. Back to my friend, Sandy turned to me in class, held the flier towards me and asked, “Hey, do you want to do this?” I paused with apprehension and reluctantly replied, “Sure.”

IMG_9168.JPG

I hesitated because I participated in the Los Angeles 48-Hour film festival two years ago and still remember the trauma. Staying up all night memorizing lines for an early call time, shooting in a tight window, only to watch the panic as we edited footage while shooting each scene. However, I thought, “We are getting an extra three days in comparison to that experience.”

Sandy and I texted and called each other over the following week:

She said, “So we’ll need a cameraman.”

I said, “We only know actors, but I know So-And-So has gotten into photography. So he might be good.”

She replied, “Oh awesome. I don’t know him that well so maybe you should hit him up. We also need an editor.”

I replied, “Let me ask around. I have some friends that might be into doing it.”

(^I’m paraphrasing)

This back and forth continued until we built our team. Somehow we acquired a cameraman, director, editor, beat-mixer and a grip.

Thursday 4:00 P.M, the competition officially began. Only three of us (me, Sandy and So-And-So) attended the mandatory film-meeting to receive our log-line. It is common for most competitions to provide the writing-topic a couple of minutes prior to the start time. That way, no one can cheat or begin before any other team.

THE RULES:

  • Must be a comedy.
  • All creative work must take place during the “Official 120 Hour Time Period.” Creative work includes, but is not limited to: writing the script, rehearsing, costume/set design, shooting, editing, sound design, rendering.
  • However, work that can begin prior to is organizing, crew, organizing cast, securing equipment, scouting/securing locations.
  • IMG_9162.JPGFilm length cannot exceed more than a maximum of five minutes in duration and be a minimum of three minutes in duration.
  • The ending-credits may be no longer than a maximum of one minute in length. Allowing a total of six minutes for the production. Ending-credits can only be displayed on a black screen with white text. No superimposed ending-credits.
  • The final line of the film must be, “I have found my creative family!” or a close variation of it, for example, “We have found our creative family!” Do not add words or alter the line.

The rules were simple in comparison to other competitions.

After the meeting, we huddled our heads together because I already conceived an idea. Everyone agreed with the concept. We each took our individual tasks and dispersed. I ran home to write the script and secure a location. After about two hours I accomplished both errands. I proceeded to send everyone the script, printed copies, organized for the next day by creating a shooting board with the cameraman/director and learned my lines. By the end of the night I relayed to everyone their call times, characters/jobs and the shooting-location.

Friday 7:30 A.M., we met at the shooting location. We were all tired and I am not a morning person.IMG_9161.JPG It’s the three of us again before everyone else arrived at 8:45 A.M. We woke our dear friend, “Blender,” to let us into his place and dressed the set. We forgot a few items, but because I decided everyone should wake up stupid early for a fun project we had an extra 30 minutes for breakfast and time to grab those last things. The actors began to arrive and it was a slow start, but eventually we were up and running. We finished most of the shots by 1:00 P.M. Half of the group departed the other half stopped for an hour lunch. We ended the day by 3:30 P.M. I said, “Thanks guys. I appreciate all of you.”

Saturday 6:00 P.M. I waited nervously in a random Starbucks for my editor, “The Kid,” because I am carrying the most precious treasure I have ever possessed, an external hard-drive containing all of our footage. It was raining cats and dogs. I thought, “Isn’t this Los Angeles?” The Kid eventually arrived. We then proceeded to go through each shot one by one on her laptop, picking out the strongest choices. We departed. She ventured off with instructions to make a master piece.

Sunday morning, I received the first edited footage. It was nothing like I envisioned, haha. Some of the shots were weird angles, a few of the transitions were jarring, IMG_9166.JPGwe did not have enough master-shots and we were over the time limit by 34 seconds. The most worrisome thing… it was not funny. It was not funny and it was suppose to be a comedy. Over the next few days The Kid and I reviewed the footage pulling shots and adding inserts/reactions. 

Tuesday morning, I handed the final footage for music to “Hustler” (also my oldest friend). However, due to a brilliant idea from another friend, “Bookworm,” we dropped the sound on the awkward parts to emphasize the moments, hoping to increase the comedy of the footage. By 2:00 P.M. I acquired the finished footage and left the house to drop it off.

Fingers crossed.


Check out: Cookie Monster

IMG_9175.JPG