A couple weeks ago I unveiled my new production company, JEM Pictures, LLC. Please forgive the website for the moment, it is still a work in progress, but it was important to me to get it out into the world. I started the company in the last months of 2013, but wanted it to incubate for a little bit before making any sort of debut.
You might ask, but Jess, you’re an actor, why would you start a production company? Good question. Starting any sort of business is not easy, what with licenses, taxes, forms, etc. I did not make my decision to start a production company lightly. It’s a lot of work, but these three questions led me to it:
1. What stories do I want to tell?
2. What roles do I want to play?
3. How do I want people to be treated on a film set?
I take my role as a storyteller very seriously. I think stories are integral to human existence, as are any form of entertainment. At a certain point in one’s career you have to ask yourself, what are the stories I want to tell? What moves me as an artist? What would I put my back into? Personally, I wanted a means for telling the stories that I don’t see out in the world but would like to. I try not to make a film I wouldn’t want to watch myself.
In addition to the story element, I started thinking about the characters I wanted to play. The other lives I want to live as an actor. Often they are roles I’m not normally cast as, or would be considered for. Also, as an actor you want to act. Crazy, I know, but jobs are very few and far between, thus creating my own company would give me some control and power over my own career.
But the most powerful motivator for starting the company was to change the status quo of how people are treated. I have been a lead actor, an extra, a stand-in, writer, producer, director, and in some cases I have been shocked at how people (myself included) are treated. Maybe it’s just how I was raised, but I don’t see any reason for it. I think there is a habit in this industry to write off bad behavior as “that’s just how it is”, but I think that is a cop out. Yes, filmmaking is an extremely stressful business, but everyone is there to create something special and magical and their talents should be valued.
JEM Pictures makes me accountable for my work as an actor, a storyteller, and a human being. If I’m going to make a film, I’m going to make sure it’s one I think is worth telling. If I’m going to make it my mission to change the culture on set, I have to be the first one to be a better and bigger person. I try to make everyone feel appreciated and valued, because I honestly am grateful for their work and their presence.
You could say that this is a selfish venture of mine to create a company to tell the stories I want and play the roles I want and have a set experience I want. You would be absolutely right. I made this company so I could be better. And I hope that by changing myself, other people will too and that this business may become more compassionate and inspired.
Thank you for reading about my reasons for creating this new venture, and please like JEM’s Facebook page to stay updated on upcoming projects.
Another inspired and fun photo shoot with Dawndra, and I think this one my be my favorite!
We started with an inspiration image and jumped in from there. We kept experimenting with movement, either with the camera or with me, and I think the results are pretty cool.
I’m always so grateful for my creative dates with Dawndra. It’s so important to do something different and play. Not to mention having her sweet dog Bruce sit at my feet while we shoot!
All photos copyright Dawndra Budd 2014
I’ve been going through old journals and found some thoughts I thought I’d share:
Network Upfronts were last week, in case you missed all of the hubbub in the trades.
…But a lot of actors don’t know what Upfronts are, what they do, or what they mean. Don’t worry! I’m going to help shed some light on the subject, and help you use the Upfront info to your benefit.
First of all, what are Upfronts? Here’s the definition from our dear friend, Wikipedia:
In the North American television industry, an upfront is a meeting hosted at the start of important advertising sales periods by television network executives, attended by the press and major advertisers. It is so named because of its main purpose, to allow marketers to buy television commercial airtime “up front”, or several months before the television season begins.
Right. For our purposes, all you really need to know is:
Upfronts are when there are big shindigs in New York announcing which shows have been renewed and which pilots were picked up.
I’m simplifying things a bit, but this is the info actors can understand and use.
To know the results of the Upfronts (and most other entertainment news), I go to Deadline. They are so kind and have made a nifty section dedicated specifically to the info you need. You also need to visit Casting About. You must subscribe to this service, but it is a requirement for any professional actor. They have also listed the returning shows and new pickups as well as the casting directors for each show. This is the actor’s informational jackpot.
Great. So now we know what shows will be airing, and who is casting them. What now? We return to our best friend the spreadsheet. This year, I have formatted mine a little differently so I can keep using it as shows are canceled and added.
There were specific pieces of info I wanted to be able to track:
1. If I have taken a casting workshop with that office
2. If I have auditioned for that office
3. The Network
4. The Show Title
5. The genre
6. The casting office
7. The Showrunner
8. When it airs
9. Where it shoots
The first row looks something like this:
In this format you can sort by column and manipulate the data easily. You can always add more columns if you would like to track additional info. I will probably add one to track which shows I have watched, that way I know what my homework is.
With the above spreadsheet you can eliminate shows from your target list that are shooting outside of your market, know roughly when things will be casting based off of the air date, target casting offices, and know what type of genre the show is to accurately prepare for your auditions. If you book a show, I recommend highlighting the whole dang row in a bright color like I have. That way you know and can see your progress!
Of course, you will have to check back in to update information. Per the example, Agent Carter has not disclosed their casting office (or many other details). As things are announced, pull up your file and input the info. This spreadsheet will be your guide until Upfronts next year.
If you know any casting directors, show runners, actors, or directors that are a part of a returning or newly picked up show, it is always a nice idea to send a card to congratulate them. It is no easy feat making it onto the fall schedule, so acknowledge people’s accomplishments.
It’s great if you are a good actor. It’s even better if you’re a smart actor. Do your homework and you’ll be ahead of the pack!
Leave any questions or comments below!
Joss Whedon talks about it. Most creative geniuses and successful people do it. What, you ask?
Fill up the well.
What does that mean, exactly? When you have a demanding career or craft/art, you have to make sure you have plenty of your soul to offer to it. What happens when you run out? That’s when the burn out happens. Trust me. I’ve been there. And I still seem to find my way back, over and over.
So what’s an artist to do? Fill up that well. Discover or rediscover the things that inspire you. Read. Watch a film/play/sporting event. Listen to music. Go on a walk. Travel.
What helps me is getting out of my environment and experiencing art. No matter how much I watch on Netflix, I will never be as refueled or inspired as I am when I wander the halls of a museum. As my well has been greatly dwindling lately, I took a trip to some fantastic museums here in LA.
What a magnificent place. The whole time I was just grateful someone had the foresight to design, fund, and build such a museum for people to come and experience art for FREE.
The architecture and landscape design is breathtaking by themselves, but seeing Rembrandts, Millets, and Van Goghs is simply moving. For me, it’s important to return to the classics.
Annenberg Space for Photography
This small space has rotating exhibits of photographs, and currently they are showing National Geographic images. Powerful photos from the last 125 years line the walls. There was also an insightful film about several photographers playing in the central space of the gallery. One quotation that stuck with me from the film was:
“The photography is almost incidental to their mission.”
These photographers are so passionate about their area of specialty that they literally risk their life to capture an image.
Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust
This visit was, for obvious reasons, very affecting. Nothing puts things in perspective like seeing the human faces of one of histories biggest horrors. The museum is very well done with detailed exhibits and free audio guides. There’s not much you can say about such profound content without sounding trivial, so please just visit the museum yourself.
Whether inspiration, perspective, or just a change of scenery, it is important for creatives to make time for themselves and their spirit. You never know what may lead to an idea for a new project, or a solution to an artistic problem.
Fill up that well. In fact, your art my help to fill up someone else’s.
The day started out a winner because I got to spend it with my best friend Emily Oliver. We’re both so busy, it is special when we get to have a girl’s day together. Oh, and did I mention she is a celebrity makeup artist? She is. We had a great time getting ready and she worked her magic on my face. Then we met the Wrecked crew for the best pre-ceremony meal: Pizza!
I started the show backstage because fellow Washingtonian, Jonathan Holbrook, and I introduced the clips for our respective web series. I was nervous, but we made it across the stage without me JLawing (yes that is a verb). We quickly sat down after our clips and then something crazy happened.
I was seriously not expecting it. At. All.
There were so many wonderful performances in my category (Jessica DiGiovanni for 25, Swati Kapila for Bloomers, Darcie Siciliano for He’s With Me, Deidre Hall for Dating in the Middle Ages, and Katie Gill for My Synthesized Life). At first I thought they called someone else’s name. Then I realized they called my name and got really confused. Did they make a mistake? Emily was sitting next to me and grabbed my purse and gestured for me to get on the stage. I have never won or been nominated for my work for anything, and here I was winning and ISA! I was very happy with my performance as Maggie and proud of Wrecked, so it was a sweet sweet surprise.
I managed to sound somewhat coherent while accepting my award then I was swept backstage for photos and an interview. The rest of the evening was like I was in a dream and the after party was amazing. How was it amazing you ask? There were cupcakes. Delicious, chocolatey, plentiful cupcakes. You know I have a chocolate problem so that was my first stop. Oh and I also got to meet some amazing people. But really. Those cupcakes were unreal.
I am still checking the award to see if my name is really on it (it always seems to be), and it is fun seeing all of the photos from the evening. I have to say, the fine folks at the ISAs know how to do it up right. From the press line to the after party, everything was organized and flowed smoothly. Everyone looked amazing in their red carpet best and it was inspiring to see the leaders in web programming being recognized.
Still coming off my cloud,
I love getting emails from entrepreneur, life-coach, and general High Priestess Danielle LaPorte. Today she sent one that hit me in the feels. It was about a Stop Doing list. As she said,
“What you stop doing is just as important as the things you start doing.”
I have been so focused these last couple months on the things I can start doing, or continue doing, that I haven’t taken time to prune away the things I do that aren’t serving me. As I haven’t been able to see the forest for the trees lately, I promptly sat down and made my list. Here she be:
(Forgive me changing from first to third person, that just seems to be the way I refer to myself…) I have been taking other people’s opinions and perceptions of me and my talent as gospel. As you can imagine, I haven’t been feeling that great about myself and my skill as an actor.
But what if I just stopped doing that? Something tells me I would feel a lot better.
What would be on your Stop Doing List? I’m gonna try mine out for a while.
It really is the little things in life that can make your day. I have been loving my new place in California, but one of the pleasantly surprising things about it is the mysterious little visitor we get.
I have named him/her Peter O’Toole because of the wonderful blue eyes possessed by this kitty. Sometimes Peter hides in the plants under the stairs and I just see a little face poking out. Sometimes Peter lounges in the flower bed. Or sits by the mailboxes.
My building doesn’t allow pets, so I’m not sure who Peter belongs to, but I’m always glad for a visit!