Cold Reading

I love cold reads. Ooooo boy I love em.

“But Jess, why would you like something that you have so little time to prepare for?” Well, the question is the answer. If you don’t have a lot of time, you don’t have time to get in your head about it. You have enough time to read the scene, find the technicals, and follow your instincts. In cold reads, I feel like my true voice and POV as an artist really comes through. With prepared sides, I get caught up in “being” the character and the great little Jess-isms get ironed out.

Here is my quick and easy guide to loving cold reads:

Read the Scene

And I mean all of it. If there is something crossed out, read that too. Stage directions, the page number, scene headings, etc. Read it as many times as you have time for.

Find the Technicals

These are our acting basics: Character, Relationship, Given Circumstances, Stage Directions, Transitions, etc. Basically your who, what, when, where, and why. Write them down. This helps you process them and remember them.

Let it all go and follow your instincts

Just take what you know about the scene and let that be your canvas. Now you can paint whatever you want on it. What is a small thing that interests you about the character? Maybe there is something in the stage directions that describers him or her, or maybe something he/she says, or the way they say it. These little clues are your entry point into the character. Take these little traits and run with them! Let your actor imagination use them to create a fuller character than just reciting the lines. I also highly recommend having a strong Moment Before. This is true of prepared sides, but having a moment before in a cold read helps to put you into the scene and starts you off with a committed choice.

Granted, always stay true to the scene- you can’t just decide your character is an ax murderer if it isn’t in the text. If you make educated acting choices and bring your personality, that is the best you can ask for in an audition!

If cold reads terrify you, just remember these little tips and hopefully you can find some freedom to play!

xo,

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That Little Voice

The past couple weeks, I have been proud of a lot of things. Successfully relocating to Los Angeles. Garnering press from three different newspapers. Updating my website and reel. And all of the little everyday things that go into being a self sufficient actress. But today I realized I am most proud of something a little more personal.

I’m most proud of the little voice that’s in my head that says, “You’re doing a great job, sweetie.”

Over the past five years or so I have cultivated this voice to talk me down, cheer me up, and keep me going. For most of my life there was another voice. One that said, “You’ll never be good enough.” “You’re not pretty enough.” “You can’t do this.” Granted, this voice is still there. I still hear it every day. But luckily I have a new voice in my head that says, “Ok, let’s take a break and eat something.” Or, “You’re having an anxiety attack, I need you to breathe.” And, “That was a really great audition, I’m proud of you.”

This new voice helps me navigate the negativity and rejection that is inherent in an artistic career. It also helps me fight and manage my clinical anxiety and depression. It has been a long and sometimes hard process to invent an eternally positive presence in my mind, but in tough moments, it’s made all of the difference. 

If you are someone who has that negative voice always talking to you, I encourage you to find a kinder version. Especially in light of the passing of Robin Williams, which I am still processing, if you need a little help finding that voice I recommend enlisting the help of a therapist or doctor. Or in an emergency calling the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255, or 911.

I’m proud of my little voice. And you know what? She’s proud of you too.

Much love,

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Screen Icons featured in the Queen Anne & Magnolia News!

Sarah Radmer, a staff reporter at the Queen Anne & Magnolia News, sat down with John and I to talk about our Screen Icons series. I don’t think we expected our chat to go for so long (over an hour!) but Sarah had some wonderful questions and we are so passionate about this project. You can read the article here.

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You can always see the rest of the Screen Icons photos in my gallery.

xo,

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The Last Ship

If you watch TNT’s The Last Ship, you may have seen me a couple weeks ago. I thought I was going to be in the 8/10 episode, but it was the 8/3!  Whoops!

It was a fantastic time on set- a gorgeous day on Long Beach, I was wearing designer clothes, and the team was so talented and fun to work with. You can watch the episode “SOS” on the TNT website, or purchase the episode on iTunes. I’m in the first five minutes.

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xo,

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Meeting Lil Bub

Sometimes, dreams do come true.

I have been a fan of Lil Bub for a while. As you may know, I’m a pretty huge cat lover, and few things bring me more joy than this magical kitty. When I saw she was coming to LA to support Kitty Bungalow, there was no way I wasn’t going to go!

Bub is much tinier in real life- I guess the camera does add 10 kitty pounds! She and her Dude were so cool. I got to kiss her little head and give her a quick pet. Bub is truly a mystical rockstar (the line to meet her was down the block). She is such an inspiration for overcoming adversity, and for adopting and helping animals with special needs.

Good job, Bub!

xo,

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Norma Jean Baker

When thinking about the next installment of our Screen Icons series, I kept coming back to Marilyn Monroe. I mean, how could you do a series called Screen Icons without doing Marilyn? I was kicking myself that we didn’t do it while I had my platinum hair, but then I remembered the sweet and youthful photos of her with her natural brown hair. Back when she was Norma Jean Baker.

On a relatively warm Seattle summer day, John, his lovely assistant Annie Rose, and I went to the beach to capture Norma Jean.

Norma Jean- Photo by John Ulman

Norma Jean- Photo by John Ulman

Norma Jean- Photo by John Ulman

Norma Jean- Photo by John Ulman

Norma Jean- Photo by John Ulman

Norma Jean- Photo by John Ulman

Norma Jean- Photo by John Ulman

Norma Jean- Photo by John Ulman

Norma Jean- Photo by John Ulman

Norma Jean- Photo by John Ulman

What a wonderful spirit she had. It’s no wonder that she became a legend.

John and I have had so much fun doing this series and are very excited to have been featured in the Ballard News Tribune!

Feel free to comment with your thoughts on Norma Jean. What is your favorite Marilyn moment?

xo,

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Why I Started a Production Company

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.

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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.

xo,

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