Posts tagged: Andie Bottrell

Harnessing the Power of Fear to Generate Action

by Andie Bottrell

It’s been 9 months since I last blogged for LA FPI and the world feels like a drastically different place…a terrifyingly absurd place…the kind of place that I used to think only existed in dark, independent foreign films (a favorite to watch, though less favored to live in). Through all the political cacophony and “alternative facts,” one real, indisputable fact has emerged: Fear creates action like a motherf*cker. Advertisers, politicians, and religious zealots have harnessed this power for decades…but I’m not here to talk about any of that…I’m here to talk about creating.

It’s a story-line we’re all familiar with: A person has a near-death experience, survives and realizes what really matters to them. They quit their job, get out of that toxic relationship, sell the clutter, and live more simply in pursuit of their legacy. That may mean investing more time into your relationships with your family, or it could mean spending more time creating that masterpiece–or both! Or neither! Or something else entirely! Only your heart knows. The question is: If we all know the story, why aren’t we able to extrapolate the lesson of it without the near-death part?

Fear gets a negative connotation, some of which is justified, but fear is also adrenaline, it is motivation, and it can be the cold, hard hand of reality that slaps you across the face when you’ve tuned out on your life.

If you’re terrified of ending up as the person who always said, “I’m a _____,” or “I’m working on______,” or “I’m going to ________,” and then never became, never did, never got there…then you will do something. When the fear of not doing the thing becomes greater than the fear of trying and failing, you will do the thing. And when you do the thing, you’ll buck head-on with that fear of trying and failing like never before, and finally be forced to confront (ie. breakthrough) that fear. The good news is that the more times you breakthrough that fear, the further you’ll be able to go.

So, my advice? Be afraid, be very, very afraid. And do it anyway. Set yourself up to confront scary situations on the regular. Go take that stand-up routine you’ve got tucked in your pocket up on a stage in front of people and fill the space with your weird ass humor. Don’t just finish that book, put it out in the world–tell people, ask them to read it and tell you what they really think…then, send it to your idols–why not? Produce that play that you’re the most proud of but that no one has said, “yes” to yet. Start that business you’ve been dreaming about for 20 years.

In other words: LIVE LIKE YOU WERE DYING (because you are).

True: You might “fail.” You might fall flat on your face in the most humiliating way. Maybe no one laughs when they’re supposed to…maybe everyone laughs when they’re not. You will cry and there will be sleepless nights. You might go bankrupt. Maybe you go for it with all you’ve got and come up short. Maybe you’ll be forced to realize that you’re not capable of doing what you’ve always wanted to…yet. You could perish mid-pursuit…but, more terrifyingly, you could die never having tried at all–never having spoken your thoughts–never having shared your he(art)–never knowing what could have been…and then, you’ll have no one to blame but yourself.

It’s not hyperbole to say these decisions are life and death. Your life and your death…it’s your legacy in your hands, your decisions plotting your path. It’s a lot of responsibility to admit that to yourself. While “success” is a personally defined moving target–much of which involves timing and luck that is out of your hands…your effort, your output, and your action…well, that’s all on you, kid. Life is so, so weird and no one knows half of what they seem to know…rather than try to make sense of it, embrace the absurdity. Rather than wait for someone else’s validation, proclaim it for yourself: you belong. You’re voice, experience and perspective are the rarest, most valuable assets you have.

ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN! There’s just one catch: You have to try.

I promise you, if you let it, fear can be the biggest gift you give yourself (along with a hardy dose of kindness).

My Top 4 List of Scary Things From The Last 9 Months

1. True Confessions: Goldilocks & the Three Dildos

Back in September I had the opportunity (ie. volunteered) to get up on a mic in front of people and tell a true story from my life. True Confessions is a local storytelling event in the vein of The Moth and provided the perfect opportunity to scare myself shitless. It’s one thing going up in front of people under the illusion of character, costume and set, and another thing entirely to speak truthfully about truly embarrassing parts of your life that you think might be funny and poignant, but that could also just be quietly unacceptable to utter out-loud. I did it though (you can listen at the link above!) and the most surprising thing came from it…I was able to own my story in a way I never was before–always worried what others would think if I shared it…suddenly, that fear had no power over me anymore. I let go of shame and learned, by doing, how to be grateful for every odd, painful quirk of my story…for giving me such a great story to tell.

2. Art Hung on Gallery Walls

Art was always my Mom’s thing. She’s the professional artist. I was the artistic hippie who did all artistic things, but left the “serious” artistic pursuits in my Mom’s lane. I’ve always made art but rarely placed much value on it. It’s “my Mom’s thing.” As if my placing value on my work could in any way take anything away from my Mom–but I so clearly recall an incident in my childhood with a competitive friend when one of us crossed into the other’s artistic lanes and sparks flied. “Hey, that’s my thing!” To my Mom’s credit, she’s never been anything but supportive of my art. She’s even bought (ie. paid real dollar bills, yo) for my art (which is crazy to me–LOVE YOU, MOM). It’s completely my own neurosis. In the last two years, however, I’ve made more art than I have had space for and people started inquiring about buying, so I re-activated my Etsy shop and started reaching out to galleries to do shows. This makes me feel boarder-line legitimate artistically…and that means being vulnerable for my work to be judged through that lens as well…which is scary. In the last 9 months through to the next 9 months my work has shown at (for judgement and purchase) or will be shown at: BookMarx, Springfield Art Museum, Springfield Regional Arts Council, Tea Bar & Bites, and Arts & Letters.

3. LET’S TALK About My Poetry Book

I’ve been writing poetry as far back as I can remember, but like my art I never took it “seriously.” In the last few years, I have become more and more cognizant of the power of representation. The #BodyPositive movement, the #BlackGirlMagic movement, and #effyourbeautystandards among others are powerful because they provide much needed examples of strong, confident, successful, and beautiful that aren’t being shown as regularly in mainstream media and advertising. I’ve realized that my voice and perspective could add to the chorus of voices that have re-shaped my mind and my perspective on others and myself in monumental ways. And what if those people had never seen the value in their voices? My life, undoubtedly, would be vastly different today. This collection, LET’S TALK, has been in the works for the last 2 years and will be available on Amazon later this year through their self-publishing platform CreateSpace. It’s scary putting this book out there–it’s an expense–no, an investment. What if no one buys it? Or what if they do? What if they leave really awful reviews? But, more importantly, what if it helps? Anyone at all, even just a little…to feel less alone in life?

4. SEEK HELP & Seeking Funds

This was the biggest leap. This one was and is the scariest. No question. I wrote a web-series called Seek Help way back in 2012. It came out of me in a huge, easy burst of inspiration and I really loved it–which, if you write, you know how rarely that outcome occurs! I wanted to make it, but it required a specific set and a few other things that I didn’t have access to at the time. Every few years I would pull it out, re-read it and proclaim, “I want to make this!”

Then, this last year I was reading it with my friend Matt and it SPARKED. This was it. The time was now. We talked and decided to do a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to make it–and make it right. I was so scared to do a kickstarter…imagine asking for money for a project you really believe in and finding out just how many people find you or your he(art) project unworthy of giving to. But then I thought about all my friends who had had successful campaigns and how I had happily donated to many of them and I thought…okay, we can do this! People do this!

I made a plan, we made a video, we made a kickstarter, I researched, I submitted, I PR’d and I posted and posted and emailed…and then, I started to panic…like, dry-heaving, crying actual tears, out of my mind SCARED that because not enough people were responding that it meant that no one believed in me. I felt betrayed. I felt embarrassed for trying. I felt briefly like I was not worthwhile. Then, right in the middle of it, the election happened. To be clear, we were not on target for meeting our goal before the election happened, but once it happened, all progress slowed to a complete stop. Understandably people had bigger concerns–as did I.

In a weird sort of way, I found my perspective again. I stopped feeling sorry for myself and started feeling so grateful for everyone who did support me when there are so many other very worthy causes to support. When we failed to make our goal, I wasn’t yet ready to relinquish defeat. When I thought about making it any way we could scrape it together, I felt excitement and peace. When I thought about giving up, I felt depressed and incapable. So, it was simple. I didn’t want to feel depressed and incapable…I wanted to feel excitement and peace. Amazingly, some of the people who’d donated wanted to keep their pledges and help us make it. So, we reconfigured, re-cast, and re-committed. There have been no less than 5 major set-backs (all SCARY) since that decision was made, but this week I finished the rough cut of the first full episode which we shot this past weekend and I haven’t been able to sleep un-medicated since. I’m so incredibly giddy with excitement. I go to bed late and wake up early and don’t feel cranky about it…and this is the thing, guys…

THIS IS THE WHOLE ENCHILADA…

The joy you get from doing the thing? When it’s your thing–whatever that may be–is more than enough to absorb the fear and the setbacks. You only live once (probably)–SO GO FOR IT! And don’t hesitate to reach out to me in the comments if you want an accountability partner, or someone to bounce ideas off of. I love being an accountability and encouragement partner–especially for other strong, creative women! <3

 

PS. You can still donate to help us bring Seek Help to life and to release it out into the world with a bang at:   http://seekhelpthewebseries.weebly.com/about–donate.html

The Script of Life

by Andie Bottrell

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I had a thought today that maybe in the script of life your 20’s are the rough, first draft, and your 30’s (and beyond) are the re-writes. Maybe there is an age, though I’m sure it’s different for everyone, where you feel like the vision you had for yourself is fully realized, and maybe that age never arrives. This is the kind of introspection I’m sure most people face in the final inning (really? a sports metaphor? eh, sure) of their 29th year. That first decade of adulthood fading off into the sunset and the big 3-0 slapping you in the face with “like-whoa, I guess this adult thing is really happening.” It’s really sort of incredible all the different lives we lead…married, divorced, single (hello, again–I am), children, no-children, successful, struggling, etc. 30 looks so different on each of us, yet signifies, as all landmark birthdays do, that ever present passing of time.

It’s been an interesting and, as usual, utterly unpredicted few months since I blogged last. A break-up sparked an insane art binge that created well over 100 paintings in less than 3 months and just as many poems. The painting then evolved into ink line drawings, all of which, along with my paintings, are now for sale in my recently re-activated Etsy shop: www.andiebottrell.etsy.com Did not see that coming. I’m working on trying to get a handwritten and illustrated poetry book published (no idea how to do that, everything I’ve read has said basically “poetry is dead” “there is so little money in it no publishers will ever read your submission” “seriously, when’s the last time you bought a poetry book?”–actually, I bought, like, 5 last month, but I’m learning I’m more unusual than I ever expected). And I have my first art show coming up in May (my 30th Birthday month)…it’s called the “Break-up Art Show” (;

line draw copy 2

In June, I’ll be going back to Tent Theatre–I wrote about my first experience there on this blog. It was a momentous experience for me. It got me my EMC card. I am so excited to be a full-time actor for an entire month again! The play is Unnecessary Farce which not too many people seem to know about yet, but it’s hilarious and has a lot of great, quick, fast-paced wit and creative physical comedy (haha, I couldn’t think of the term “physical comedy” so I googled “body humor”).

There hasn’t been much writing aside from poetry. It’s been just poetry and painting and acting lately. Which at times I struggled with feeling guilty about–I should be writing a script. I should be re-writing that play. I need to make a feature film. But, you know what? Screw what every writing blog says about writing when you’re uninspired. I’ve hated almost everything I’ve written when I forced it. I feel blasphemous even saying that because I feel like that just becomes an excuse for the undisciplined, but I truly think you have to just listen to your heart/inspiration talking-piece when it comes to creativity. And there are other ways to access your creative geiser–sometimes being uninspired to write something just means you need to find another way in. At times I also feel a lot of pressure from people to do just ONE thing. To only focus on acting or only focus on writing, etc. When you split your focus among lots of different things, how can you ever get really great or successful at any of them? And I don’t disagree necessarily. It’s annoying saying all the hyphenates of my artistic endeavors (actor/writer/director/editor/artist/photographer). It sounds pompous and it takes a long time to list. But those ARE the things I do on a regular basis–those are the ways I express myself and use my voice as an artist.

I also started experimenting with using spray paint to create abstract paintings on canvas. This one is called "Il Cavallo" which is italian for "the horse."

I also started experimenting with using spray paint to create abstract paintings on canvas. This one is called “Il Cavallo” which is italian for “the horse.”

I’m learning that my personal artistic flow is cyclical and that my obsessive nature means that I often clamp down hard on one or two things for a time, while doing all the other things in smaller frequencies, and then rotate out to another skill set and do the same. I thrive when being surrounded by many tools to express myself and giving myself the freedom to go from one to the next as inspiration strikes. And I will no longer allow myself to feel bad or pigeonholed into “picking” just one thing when my heart demands the space to speak through several different instruments. I am an Artist. That is my life. My creations take many forms. That’s just who I am. I think part of turning 30 will be saying “That’s just who I am” a lot more. Not to say I’ll quit evolving (god, no, never!), but just that I’ll no longer feel bad about those few core parts of myself that I know to be true.

As I enter 30 I wonder if my art will ever sustain more than just the will to live, but become my actual livelihood. I’m struggling to figure out how to price my work, how to say that my art is valuable and you will have to pay me to have the privilege of using/seeing/working with it. At the same time as I’m struggling to tell others it’s worth paying for, I am also more confident than ever in my work. I can access things easier. I have more control over my skills. It doesn’t feel as hit-or-miss as it has for the majority of my 20’s. I have a lot more life experience to draw upon. My perspective is constantly expanding. I care less and less what I look like, but am working harder than ever to feel good in my body and take care of it as I have started noticing how quickly the body can start to deteriorate if you don’t. I’m more and more impressed at how resilient people are and their capacity to adapt to situations beyond their control–and the incredible things people have achieved. I see now, more than ever, the amount of work and sacrifices people make along the way to realize their dreams. I’m inspired by the massive guts (figuratively speaking) on so many people–and am constantly telling myself I’ve got to be even braver.

My new motto: Forward only, backward never.

Let’s go!

 

The Day the World Changed I Stood Still

by Andie Bottrell

I was reading an article about What to Do in an Active Shooter Situation the other week (because it’s now something so common it requires the same kind of practice drills as natural disasters)  and there was a concept explained in the article that resonated with me for multiple reasons. When people are in an emergency situation, many freeze up and don’t do anything because our brains are predisposed to to assume that things will be “normal,” so it takes us longer than it should to accept that things are not “business as usual” and that we need to react to the new circumstances and take action. This left me wondering, how often does it happen that our lives change in either subtle or very big ways while we carry on holding tightly to our last sense of normalcy?  Moreover, how does this impact (or hinder) the ways we are able to evolve as people and as creators?

The last two years have held both shocking, grandiose changes and subtle, little shifts in my life and in myself as a person–and yet, in many ways, my approach to the work has been the same…filled with the same old challenges, and similar results. On the same note, my approach to and expectations in personal relationships are also the same as they have been before and filled with the same old challenges, and similar results. If things have changed as much as they have (and they have–I’ll expound in a minute) then why am I still approaching it all with the mindset of a less experienced woman? Like updating your resume to include new jobs and skills, we need to update what we know about ourselves, others, life, and the world as we learn it and allow this to affect our output as creators and people.

In the last few months since I blogged some major things have occurred, I’ll name the two most positive: I fell in love, and I got cast in and shot the biggest movie I’ve been fortunate enough to have a large supporting role in. Both of these things were/are life changing and outside the normal loop of my what has, thus far, been my daily life. While I always hoped I’d work on a movie with the incredible quality of cast and crew as I enjoyed on The Weight, and always hoped I’d experience a deep, sincere, romantic relationship–as either had yet to happen, when they finally did (and almost simultaneously), my world changed, but I found myself standing still.  As an actor my M.O. has always been more on the side of over-prepping and going quasi-Method…a theatre actor first, I love rehearsing and multiple takes. The Director of this movie earned the nickname “One-Take Thomas” and I had to adjust to making choices in the moment and trusting the Director that it was working. This was terrifying–but ultimately, extremely beneficial as an actor to learn how to let go and work that way.

Similarly, in my new romantic relationship, the ghosts of old aches and pains have started peaking out in very distracting ways. For most of my adult life the default of my heart was set to “unrequited longing.” Longing for closer relationships romantically, with family, with friends, people who have left for one reason or another or, more frustratingly, no known reason at all. To now have someone closing that gap, reaching back at me with arms wide open–this defies my perception of normalcy and my brain keeps trying to turn this new love into a rejection…because longing for it is more comfortable than having it.

Longing for it is more comfortable than having it. When you spend your whole life working toward a goal, either professionally or personally, and you start achieving it–be careful not to stand still, for action is what is required. When the world changes, you must change with it. I’m not the same actor that I was before this movie in many ways–I’m going to make a conscious effort to change my perception of myself, the way I approach the work, and the value I place on the work I do. I’ve been doing this a long time, I’ve trained hard and continuously, I’ve worked consistently, I am good at it and I’m going to mentally raise my own valuation of my work to force myself to only continue to do better, higher quality work that will build the kind of career I want to have. I’ll say “No” to projects with confidence and work harder to get opportunities at the “next level” while trusting myself to be able to handle the opportunity when it comes. And, in love, I’ll work harder to not let the pain people have caused me in the past negatively impact my ability to accept the love I’m receiving in the present.

My world has changed, and I’m not going to stand still.

Will you?

 

On the Backs of Two Dueling Dogs by Andie Bottrell

On the Backs of Two Dueling Dogs by Andie Bottrell

backs of dueling dogs

Here We Are Again, Another Year In

by Andie Bottrell

Landlocked Promo

It’s been five months since my last post back in April; I was talking about setbacks then. In October it will be 2 years since what I considered at the time to be my biggest setback…I moved back to Springfield, MO from Los Angeles, tail between my legs, and no money in my pockets. It is also 2 years since I started blogging for the LA FPI. These blogs have been rest stops for me that have forced me to be constantly taking stock of a bigger perspective, and by narrating my own story I’ve become more conscious of the good things that have happened and been tasked to find growth in the challenges. So, here we are again, another year in…

This Summer I created, wrote, directed, produced, starred in and edited a webseries called LANDLOCKED. You may recall I was taking lessons from my research on panic attacks and applying them to the creative process back in April while in pre-production for the series. We did 10 episodes shooting and airing one per week for ten weeks, juggling two sets in different time zones, directing over Skype, mailing footage back and forth, encountering a slew of frustrating technical difficulties, and finally, creating a season finale that has become the creation I am most proud of (so far). Here’s a four minute wrap up of the Season leading up to the finale:

And here is the series finale:

Watch all ten episodes and learn more about the series at www.landlockedthewebseries.com

I feel like, more than ever before, this last episode achieved the vision, tone, and quality I wanted, so I feel like whatever I do next needs to be BIG–balls to the wall, crewed up, funded, my soul on a platter stuffed into film…something I can take and show at prominent festivals that says, “I’m here. I’m ready. I’ve earned a spot at the table now.” Ultimately, my goal is to create a television show that I write and act in, so I am working to create a film that clearly shows my voice as a creator. It’s hard to create when you are putting so much pressure on yourself though, so it is important, I find, to actually not think about the big picture SO much and just try to enjoy each small moment, betting on yourself (instead of listening to the doubt) each step of the way.

Before we put away the big picture, however, I want to acknowledge something that 2 years ago me would never have believed…since moving back to Springfield, MO from Los Angeles I have worked constantly, become an EMC, and made more money from Acting in the past 2 years than I did from Acting in all 6 of my years in Los Angeles (not counting background work). That’s pretty insane to me. I never saw that coming. So, here we are again, another year in and I am getting ready to move out of my Mom’s house and into my own apartment here in Springfield. I’m still recovering financially and I’ve still got a long ways to go and even though a part of me feels anxious about having my own apartment here–feels like I’m settling in somehow into a place I never wanted to call “home”–the rest of me is able to acknowledge that maybe this is the best place for me to be right now. I can enjoy a lower cost of living and stay plenty busy taking advantage of all the acting opportunities afforded me while continuing to write and create my own projects with the hope that one day one of them will lead me back off to the big cities I know and love.

The important thing, I think, is to never stop; if you have a dream that beats through your heart daily and nightly, that makes you want to get up even when you’re dead tired, that puts a smile on your face even in your most trying times, then acknowledge that it’s there to be fulfilled, and whether or not you ever fulfill it in the way you think would be best, regardless of if anyone else thinks it’s what you should be doing with your life, no matter what circumstances you find yourself in…just never stop finding little and big ways to keep stepping closer to that dream, keep doing that thing that makes your heart swell. It’s there for a reason within you, and good things will be born of it.

Happy 5th Anniversary LA FPI Blog!

by Robin Byrd

Today is the 5th Anniversary for the LA FPI Blog.

My excitement over the diverse voices that frequent this blog never wanes.  Pick a few bloggers and read their articles.  Tell me what you think.

  1. Jessica Abrams (past blogger)
  2. Tiffany Antone
  3. Erica Bennett
  4. Nancy Beverly (past blogger)
  5. Jenn Bobiwash
  6. Andie Bottrell
  7. Robin Byrd
  8. Korama Danquah
  9. Kitty Felde
  10. Diane Grant
  11. Jen Huszcza (past blogger)
  12. Sara Israel (past blogger)
  13. Cindy Marie Jenkins (past blogger)
  14. Sue May (video blogger)
  15. Anna Nicholas (guest series blogger)
  16. Analyn Revilla
  17. Laura Shamas
  18. Madhuri Shekar
  19. Kimberly Shelby-Szyszko
  20. Cynthia Wands

 LAFPI Blog 3

 

 

Work in Progress

by Andie Bottrell

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My workspace

Welcome to 2015 LAFPI! The start of a new year is when a lot of us take stock of where we are at and where we want to be, re-evaluate our habits and try to kick things into a higher gear because gosh-darnit if we aren’t all full of untapped potential, right? haha. The key to these resolutions, I think, is not letting yourself get swept up in the hype of self-improvement and burn out too fast amidst impossible expectations (there’s that word again). At the same time, it’s a great time to verbalize those way-big dreams and create solid, realistic, chewable bite-sized steps that you can do each day to make them happen. We’re all works in progress, all the time- and in case you weren’t aware- we always will be. The scaffolding never goes down completely, just like in New York City, it simply pops up on another building down the block.

I am extremely fortunate in that I got a super exciting, head-start boost before my New Years reflections started. A new job! No longer confined to my cubical prison from 8-5 collecting money, I am instead working part time for a financial planning and investments firm as their client relations manager. I make virtually the same amount of money working less hours, doing a much a more enjoyable job with really great people. This has been HUGE for me. As evidenced by my last year of blogs on here, things had been kinda… down for me. I wasn’t able to create as much as my artsty soul requires to feel alive and kicking. I am incredibly grateful.

When I started thinking about my New Years resolutions this year, I really took the time to consider where I am at, what I want and what I can do to get there. I am not someone who has a high a success rate at keeping promises I make to myself- I may banish all chips from my diet one day, only to have them as the main course the next. I may promise myself to complete 7 screenplays & plays by January 2014, and by January 2014 have completed none. So, it’s all good and well to say to yourself on December 31st, “Self, tomorrow is a whole new day in a whole new year and I am going to be a whole new me,” but the truth is, you won’t be. You’ll still be you. With the same hang-ups and quirks and anxieties that caused you to do those things that kept you from getting closer to achieving your goals last year. So a better thing to say to yourself on December 31st, or any day is, “What haven’t I tried yet?”

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My “Works in Progress”

 

I decided to only look one month ahead this year, picking two goals and specific deadlines for them throughout the month. This month my goal is to write 50,000 words in my novel (1613/day) and to do a cardio workout 5x a week with yoga 3x a week. I made mini-deadlines every week throughout the month and if I don’t hit those then there are consequences like cleaning my mom’s car or cooking a meal of her choice for her. I talked to my mom about these goals and asked her to help keep me accountable. She also has set goals for this month and if at the end of the month we have achieved our goals, we are treating ourselves to a spa day.

My plan is to do this every month this year. I’ve made up a list of exciting rewards and not-so-fun consequences. For me, it’s important to have both these negative and positive reinforcements, as well as the accountability and encouragement of a support-buddy (I’m trying to rope my friends into joining us as well!) So far it’s really working and I feel so much more at peace with my “work in progress” self because I’m not letting my potential go to waste; I’m working it like clay between my hands every single day. This also means that I am more in touch with where I am at in my process, more attuned to my short-comings, more able to see the glints of my progress and less stuck in between the fantasy of where I expect myself to be, the memories of where I’ve once been, and the exaggerated depression of how it feels when reality hits.

I hope this post is of encouragement and inspiration to you as you start off the new year. I think it is also important to remember, as you look inside and outside of yourself for things you want to improve, that you are exactly, perfectly acceptable just the way you are right at this very minute. Stomach rolls, incomplete drafts, messy house, unwashed hair, etc. You are a beautiful, unique, pre-war historic home with the capacity to provide for other humans. You stand on a gorgeous plot of land, planted on our incredible earth for a finite amount of time. You get to experience and witness millions of tiny and monumental things. You will love and are loved. You are enough. But… if would like to, if you feel so inclined and compelled, you may refurbish the floors, recondition the walls, renovate the exterior. These acts may ad value to your home monetarily, may ad a sense of accomplishment you can carry in your step, may help you become more aware of your own strength and capabilities- all good things!- but always remember, today, tomorrow, next January, you are who you are, where you are, and as you are- and that is perfectly enough.

 

The One Year Anniversary

by Andie Bottrell

Andie Bottrell

One year. 365 days. How can something that begins with so much potential end with so few achievements to show for it? I suppose perhaps I am not being fair. After all I have managed to pay down some of my debt, and my taxes. I was cast in my first equity play and become an EMC cardholder, performing for my biggest audiences yet. One of my plays got its first public reading in LA, I started teaching a young adults writers group that makes me feel really inspired, I did some commercials, won an award for a commercial I made, and have made some real nice friends. That’s not nothing. So, why do I feel so discouraged? It all goes back to expectations, doesn’t it? There are the expectations we fail due to our own lack of discipline and planning and there are the expectations we fail, though no fault of our own, simply due to how things shake out and the millions of variables that go in to anything that happens in life.

Yet, I’m feeling discouraged. A year here was all I expected it to take to be financially bounced back enough to return to LA. It’s not. It looks like at least one more year here is going to be necessary. I had this timeline of scripts (plays and screenplays) I wanted to get done and I haven’t finished any of them. I desperately have been trying to find a new job because for the last year I’ve worked 60+ hours a week, and written 30,000+ words per month (of medical blog posts), between my jobs in collections and as a freelance writer. The last thing this struggling actor/writer wants to do after all that is sit at her computer and write- but still, I have- not the big goals I expected myself to complete, but small bites of poems, short stories, one acts and short films. What I do want to do after all that, what I crave doing after all that, is ACT. My heart breaks everyday I don’t have a script to chew through, a stage to mount. Recently I auditioned for a play by my favorite playwright in the most beautiful theatre in town. Ever since they had announced it in their season last year I’ve been dreaming about it, though I doubted I would still be here to audition. Then, when it became clear I would be here, I started preparing for the audition. I prepared for a month, even though the audition was a cold read for a community theatre production. It felt terrific. I fought my way into this character that I had never understood fully before and I lived in that space until it became authentic to me. I visualized myself on that stage, as her. The audition could not have gone better. I lived it. Each time. I am almost never happy or confident with my work. This time I was. She was inside me. And I knew it was going to happen. I went home feeling utterly exhausted and fulfilled. I could rest. I could go to my crappy job, I could live in Missouri, I could make it to Christmas- it was all bearable if it meant getting to live in that world, finding all the beautiful nuances of her beating heart and bringing them life for others to behold and come to understand.

But, I didn’t get it. How? Why? I tailspinned. Hard. I had been great, they said, but it was my height that wasn’t; one of those one million uncontrollable variables. I didn’t want anything to do with the world anymore. I had given everything, but it still wasn’t enough. I guess a part of me sort of thought going out of the professional theatre scene and “deigning” to enter back into the community scene, one plus would be avoiding some that “looks” nonsense. It hurt finding out I was wrong, that even in community theatre, you can still be knocking up against those immovable walls beyond your control. I retreated, hid, slept, ate, slept, worked, shouted, cried, slept. Here I am, I thought, stuck in Missouri. Working a job I hate. Two years shy of 30. Single. With the same goal and passion I had at 5, at 15, at 25- to be a working actress/writer. I feel like I’m drowning a bit in quicksand, like life is passing by so quickly and how will I ever reach the place I’ve dreamed of all my life? I don’t like living in a small town in the mid-west. It is not “home” to me. In truth, nowhere feels like home any more. Not LA, not New York, not here. I don’t know where it is or when I’ll get there. And that’s a little scary to admit. The closest feeling to “home” these days is in that magical place- in character. Home is being able to do that work every day. But that is not a place you can move to. You have to build it or be asked in. For now I have less lofty goals to focus on- to pay off my debt, and build up savings so I can venture back out and find my next home. And I do think that is an important goal. Just terribly slow going, and not particularly fun or fulfilling at this time.

I’m sorry this anniversary is so blue to read. I guess, in truth, I just feel sort of lost and I’m having a hard time navigating my way out of it. What routes haven’t I tried? I know I won’t give up, there really is nothing else for me. It’s all I want. Recently I asked my friend if she thought it was better to know what you want in life and never get it or to never know. She said to never know is worse. I’m not sure I believe her, but then, I’ve never known what that feels like. You got any advise? Is it all really just a matter of reigning in expectations, keeping your head down, and plowing on come hell or high water, hoping one day enough things stick to the wall to keep you from drowning?

The inner Mom-alogue my Mom programed into my brain growing up wont let me post this “woe-so-sorry-for-myself” tail of clinging to my loses, without searching inside high and low and coming to terms with the positives. And there are always positives. The truth is I know that I am still very fortunate. Things don’t always/or even usually work out how we want and hope they do, BUT sometimes they do, and when they do- boy, then you know the real meaning of the words “grateful,” “fulfilled,” and “stupid-giddy-HAPPY”! And the story isn’t over when the girl loses her dream in the Second Act- No, every day you have a second chance/a fresh page to do better, improve skill, try harder, try different, learn how to try smarter, grow perspective, gain maturity, practice humility, and always keep fighting to stay grateful for the new day you’ve been given to try and try again.

I’ll leave you with this pep talk I wrote for myself on my lunch break only two months into moving back to Missouri. I hope you find some sunlight in your struggles today. And remember the sad/frustrated/depressed feelings are important and valid too- not to be clung to and dwelled upon, but to observe as a sign of what’s important to you and to keep getting up every day and fighting for what you want. Thanks for letting me share my year with you.

Pep Talk

Did You Have Fun? One Step At A Time

by Andie Bottrell

Andie Bottrell

As Gay Wellington in Tent Theatre’s You Can’t Take it With You

These posts have become a sort of check-in, reflect and documentation of my journey of being broke, moving back home, and trying to survive while still moving my career forward. It’s not really what I thought I would be writing about when the incredible Jennie Webb asked if I would be interested- I had high hopes of theatrical and playwriting insights and dissections, but these were quickly ousted by the avalanche of upheaval I experienced and my own inability to do anything but focus on it. I’m grateful for that and as hard as some of these days are to live and to document, I hope at some point and in some way it can be read as an encouragement of sorts for others in similar positions of trial and teeth sharpening.

I can’t know how much longer my Missourian exile will last, other than to say it will be much longer than I thought and hoped. And I can’t know what highs may be on the horizon for me here, but feel I can say with some confidence that one of the highest of those peaks has already come. Last month I got to take a few weeks off from my cubical prison to be a part of Tent Theatre’s You Can’t Take it with You. Instead of sitting in a cubical 8-5 Monday through Friday calling, emailing, doing math, collecting, making spreadsheets, getting headaches and giving credit meetings, I got to go to rehearsal. I got to play with incredibly talented people from all over the United States. I got work on my Russian accent. I got to pretend to be drunk and sing “I Wanna Be Loved By You” while fellating my cast-mate’s nose.  I got to laugh and make other people laugh. And, I got paid for it. Let me say the obvious here: THERE IS NOTHING GREATER THAN THIS ON EARTH.

Andie Bottrell

As Olga Katrina in Tent Theatre’s You Can’t Take it With You

One day some of the cast and myself went up to Branson to go zip lining. I had never been before but thought it looked fun. It was fun. Then, it wasn’t. After you zip line you reach this 100 foot tower and the only way off is to jump/fall straight down. I was trying very hard to maintain a head-space of fun and adventure and when the other woman with me began panicking at the edge. I was able to confidently summon up, “You got this! It’s gonna be so much fun! You can do it! Whoo!” And over she went along with four screams of “Oh my God!”

But then it was my turn and as I stepped the 6 inches forward to the edge, I suddenly saw what she’d seen. Imminent death. There was no way to survive. And to call it “fun” was psychotic. All the brakes inside my body locked down and I looked back at the one remaining cast mate to go after me and said, “I can’t do this.” The guide kept saying, “Let go of the edge. Take a step forward. Let go of the edge. Take a step forward.” You are still attached to this line that is supposedly going to slow your fall as your reach the ground, where a man stands yelling at you to “Land on your feet!” There is no resistance felt at the top, though, so it just feels like you decided to jump off a tower and commit suicide.

I have no idea how or when the switch occurred in my brain from red light to green, but at some point, squatting into almost a fetal position I managed to teeter myself over the edge, losing all control of my body on the way down. “Land on your feet! Get your feet out!” the man at the bottom screamed, but it was futile. For all practical purposes, I had resigned myself to death. Then, my butt hit the ground and I realized I was still alive. “Did you have fun?” He asked. I looked at him and laughed maniacally, “NO!”

Branson Zip Lining Free Fall

Branson Zip Lining Free Fall

I thought about that moment, looking down, every night during the show while I waited under the hot blanket for my cue to jump up, the forgotten Gay suddenly animated and locked in on the rigid guest Mr. Kirby, “Now, listen! Big boy….” It’s not in the script, but it was an improvisation they let me keep. Every night from the first rehearsal to the last performance I worried they wouldn’t laugh. It felt like jumping off that tower. It would either be a fun adventure or the stupidest way to die. I am happy to report that every night was a fun adventure.

And I think about that moment today and how moving back here felt that way too. While there have been moments of fun, if the whole of my experience were a summary I was forced to answer about, I feel my answer would also be, “NO.” I’m exhausted. I work constantly and still am no where close to being financially able to move back to a land of greater opportunity for my career and living my own independent life. I have not been writing as much as I want/need/expect myself to because after working all day and night on a computer, my eyes/head/hand/neck/shoulders/will are knotted with tension. I see friends getting together, going places, having adventures and I wish I could be out having fun with them, but I have to work and I don’t have money. I dream about love, romance, partnership, and sex- and that’s about as close as I get to a dating life. There’s no time.

It’s hard to move at the pace life hands you. I’ve been behind schedule since I was about 8, but then I’ve always had pretty big expectations for my life. All I can do right now is focus on one moment at a time, because the big picture is too overwhelming. I am grateful for acting for many reasons but in particular because it taught me about moments- living in them and appreciating the hell out of them. I remember playing Emily in Our Town at 16 and listing all the things she was saying goodbye to and realizing the grand depth of comfort and beauty in the little things. It’s overwhelming in it’s own way- the simple beauty of a bath, a look, a touch, a flower, a breeze, coffee.

On the horizon is a series of one-acts I’m acting in, some sketches for a local TV station, lots of work work and hopefully some pen to paper story development because goddammit I’m itching to make something and I’ve got about a million story’s sketched down waiting to be fleshed out. Right now, however, I want to take a small moment to be grateful for this moment:

My EMC card!

12 years after playing Emily in Our Town at the Avenue Theatre in West Plains, MO, 7 years after graduating from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City, after 5 years and 4 plays and three days worth of sitting at Equity Open Calls for plays I never got seen for because I was non-union in Los Angeles, and 7 months after arriving back in Springfield, MO… I got my Equity Membership Candidacy card. It’s a small step, that took many years. It’s a piece of paper that takes me one step closer to doors of bigger opportunities. One step at a time.

Doing Theatre in Missouri

by Andie Bottrell

When I was getting ready to move back to Missouri last October, I remember crying to my Mom about how I was scared that this financially forced hiatus would be a huge backtrack in my struggling career as an actor/writer/filmmaker. My Mom tried to comfort me by telling me I could do community theatre. I scoffed and later laughed about the possibility to my professional theatre friends. I couldn’t imagine going back to small-town community theatre after working with people who’s whole lives were the theatre. I was being a through and through theatre snob.

Four months after moving back, I auditioned for play at a local community theatre. The show was Love, Loss, And What I Wore by Nora and Delia Ephron put on by the Springfield Contemporary Theatre – which is a terrific theatre that puts on satisfyingly well-rounded seasons and had just moved into its new home, one that would make many of LA’s 99 Seat Theaters jealous. I would say the day I found out I was cast in the show, my snob immediately began to shrink. After the first week of rehearsals, it was all but disappeared, and by opening weekend, I had fallen in love with the show and my cast and the whole experience. For one, because I got to be an actress again- JUST an actress. I wasn’t a producer/social media/photographer/videographer/editor/actress, I wasn’t expected to bring in a certain amount of audience, I wasn’t expected to do anything but be the best actress I could be and it was utterly liberating. I got to fall in love with the experience and challenge myself and experiment and PLAY. 10003502_10152357462399122_972772685_n The play, if you are unfamiliar, is kind of a Vagina Monologue type of show, if you substitute vagina’s with clothes. It tells the stories of several women and the things they experienced in their lives. While I had a blast with my more comedic pieces and playing with accents, mannerisms and facial expressions; my favorite scene was the one I played closest to myself. The character’s name was even Amanda, my birth name, and she is talking about her wedding day. On the other side of the stage my cast mate, Adie, playing a butch lesbian, talks about her wedding. As the scene goes on, you start to realize they are talking about the same wedding and we turn to each other to say our vows and kiss. This scene performed in Los Angeles or New York City does not have the same type of impact it does performing it in the Bible belt for a white haired, post-church matinee. There were nights where the audience mostly awwwed with wet eyes as Adie’s Mother asks “Why did they have to do this?” and Amanda’s Mother answers “To honor their relationship.” There were also nights were you could feel disgust and eye averting, and those nights felt the most important.

This same theatre company is putting up The Normal Heart this season- 25 years after it was first produced here in 1989, where there were protests enough to get National Coverage and one of the actor’s houses was burnt down. It’s this kind of passion and bravery that has me excited about doing more theatre here- audiences here need it more than they do in Los Angeles and New York. To identify with characters in a play when you are stuck in a dark theatre and realize you are more like them than you could ever have known in the light of day, is one of the magical, transformative powers of theatre.

What’s more, my second theatre audition here was for Tent Theare’s 2014 Summer Season. Tent Theatre is a Summer Tradition held outside on the Missouri State University campus with seating capacity in the 300’s. They present two musicals and a comedy playing in repertory for six weeks with a specially selected company of students and guest artists. Notable Tent Theatre performers include John Goodman and Kathleen Turner. And I was cast in You Can’t Take It With You, which will be my first Equity Show! For the month of June, I’ll get to leave my cubicle prison and be a full-time, paid actor and I couldn’t be happier or more impatient for June to get here!

I would say the LA theatre snob in me has been rightly put in her place and while my finances are still struggling to recover from yet another punch in the gut tax season, at least one of my goals has come true- I’m falling in love with acting again.

The LA FPI Blog Celebrates 4-Year Anniversary!

Happy Anniversary to the LA FPI Person of Interest Blog!  Today we celebrate four years of blogging.

by Robin Byrd

I have enjoyed our diverse group of voices.  I have enjoyed the moments when after reading these ladies or watching a video or film, I break out into laughter or tears – those moments when I am found….  There is nothing like being in a funk and have someone write “Oink! Oink!” or having to leave my desk to shake myself after reading “When Playwrights Get Old” which came about after “Too old?” left me numb and very contemplative.  When I look in the mirror, I see me and have to remind myself that the first set of students at the university where I work my day job have graduated and are in their thirties now.  The few that have stayed on in employment shock me when I run into them yet when I look in the mirror I don’t see age — I see me.  One wonders if after all the “Taking Stock” we do if a change is gonna come – ever – but we keep hoping and pushing and fighting for that “Stillness” that drives us.

Drive, She Said“.

How much more drive does it take for a woman to succeed than a man?  Can it even be measured?   Who cares?  Trying to keep myself moving.  No time to research how a man does it unless it helps me.

Writers are always “On a new path…” to stay motivated and to be able to encourage oneself to do one’s art which is supposed to lead to “When you hear your words in someone else’s mouth…”  You hope.  One hopes.

The goal is to be a working artist.  By that I mean, you don’t have to have a day job to pay the rent, pay for submission fees, or afford you food while you write.  Living in near poverty to be an artist should be against the law especially because that same art could end up being a national treasure; the following terms are not interchangeable:  “Working Artist – Donating Artist – Surviving Artist“.

 

Zora Neale Hurston author of  Their Eyes Were Watching God died in poverty; her work was rescued from a fire after her death (Florida had a habit of burning the belongings of the dead).  Zora Neale Hurston’s life work is a national treasure…

 

There should be no limitations or rules on where or in what form a writer creates story as there are no rules to who can be “The Happiest Person in America” or one of the happiest people – let us do our art and we are there…   Gender does not dictate what shared work will change the world in some way — “And The Female Play at the Tonys was…” and it should not dictate who has access to the stage, the screen or the bookshelf.  Great stories all start the say way — with words and the “Voice…” of the writer.  All are needed, each soprano, alto, tenor and bass…   There should not have to be “The Bechdel Test for the Stage“; there should not have to be a Bechdel test at all – why can’t all stories worth telling be treated equal?  Why can’t the journey be easier?  Why can’t handling “Our Expectations, Our Fears”  as artists be easier?  Perhaps even this tug-of-war on gender parity fits into the “Everything Is A Creative Act” category; it is, after all, fodder.

I especially like what Pulitzer Prize Finalist playwright Lisa Kron said at the last Dramatists Guild Conference “Having Our Say: Our History, Our Future” about what she does when something rubs her the wrong way “I’m going to write a play about this” — The Veri**on Play is what resulted.

 

Just wondering, do you have any favorite LA FPI blog articles?

 

Bloggers Past and Present:

Jessica Abrams, Tiffany Antone, Erica Bennett, Nancy Beverly, Andie Bottrell, Robin Byrd, Kitty Felde, Diane Grant, Jen Huszcza, Sara Israel, Cindy Marie Jenkins, Sue May, Analyn Revilla, Cynthia Wands and special input by Laura Shamas and Jennie Webb.

 

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