Business is booming baby!

It’s Friday February 27th and I’m chillin’ in my new apartment. YUPPPP!!!! NEW. art deco. (I LOVE art deco) studio apartment!!! Having lived in the one spot since arriving three years ago (Ardmore ave), I have ventured out on my own and am now in downtown Korea town, or K-town as the locals call it.

It was a weird transition, moving from a big 2 storey, 5 bedroom house with a yard, drive way and bunch of housemates, to a studio apartment of medium size, on-street parking that’s like a nightly competitive sport, and coming home to just little old me. I’ve never had my own place. Always found myself in share houses, or before that, living with my Mama.

There are sooooo many yummy places to eat in walking distance, it’s ridiculous! Mexican wood fire rotisserie chicken, Pho noodles, Malaysian, Japanese and more Korean BBQ houses and karaoke bars than you can poke a stick at. Not to mention the foot and body massage spots on every other corner…starting at $20 for a one hour session.

It’s a different feel from Harvard Heights – my old hood. It’s a real mash-up of Korean, Hispanic and young artsy peeps. This area is busier, more apartment buildings, beautiful historic architecture. One breathtaking building around the corner has great turrets that reminds me of something out of a Disney movie.

It’s been super nice decorating, setting everything up, and putting pot plants on my window sills. Slowly my tomatoes, lettuce, basil, eggplants, nasturtiums, swiss chard and various other flowers are growing. I’m taking on what feels like a more ‘adult life’. Creating a home exactly the way I want it. I’ve been here for 5 days and the initial state of disorientation has passed and I think I could get used to this arrangement. Now to work out the best parking ninja moves!? Hmmm.

Life in LA has grown and grown. It’s been a fierce journey my friends. But ultimately satisfying. Brilliant. Lots of lessons learned.

I have had a super busy last 6 months. In fact much of 2014 was ripe, and stuff started to sprout. I had more auditions and bookings last year than I have had EVER! So, that was great for a start.

I just wrapped a week ago an independent feature film, titled YOU based around the Sandy Hook, Connecticut 2012 shootings. Directed by dynamic Sri Lankan, Linton Semage, it was not your everyday kind of film making experience. We rehearsed over the course of 2 months every Saturday morning. It was like collaborating on a stage play. Very physical and theatrical. Our director only spoke basic English, so everything was translated back and forth adding an extra challenge to the equation, AND we were dealing with an abstract and symbolic story line, something non linear, with poetic sounding language. Ha! It was hard to get my head around at first. What does this all mean? But part of the process was trusting and allowing the director to show us his vision through rehearsals and the creation of this piece. And, it was fascinating!

The shoot went great. I played two roles – both the shooter’s mother, Nancy Lanza and a general symbolic representation of a mother who has lost her child.

20150220_073917One of my favourite days shooting was at The Big Sky Movie Ranch, where Little House on a Prairie, Django Unchained, Saving Mr.Banks and numerous other productions have been filmed. It was soooooo pretty and remarkably green, with wild flowering lupins as far as the eye could see. A 6000+ acreage of rolling hills and beauty.

We shot a very moving scene under a huge, lone, ancient oak tree. Under this tree was a shrine with candles and flowers in memory of the children who were killed. It was so quiet whilst shooting. Just the wind and us. It felt very powerful.

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Chillin’ with Bill Nye.

Now, back to 2014. I shot two ‘pilot’ projects that were super fun. One was with the ‘Science Guy’ Bill Nye,  playing a wacky intuitive. It was an NBC production called The Science of Attraction, that never came to light.

The other was a hilarious parody of ‘The Bachelor’ called Green Card for Love. I played the rural Russian hoare, naturally. This production didn’t make it beyond initial filming also (the nature of the beast). BUT! You can watch the trailer here.

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About to go on stage. The Vagina Monologues.

Then there was some theatre opportunities. I was a conservative British woman talking about the discovery of her clitoris in The Vagina Monologues, and in Suite V a free thinking and liberated mother with two mixed race sons in 1970’s Los Angeles. I did comedy, drama, and even got to have a boogie on stage. Voila! What more could you want?!

I shot a print and video commercial for Megafon – a Russian mobile carrier. It was a super easy days work; lying on a couch reading a magazine with my ‘boyfriend’. If only days like that rolled around more often!

I helped make a short film called Only on Mondays with some LA friends and was stoked when it was accepted into The Hollywood and Vine Film Festival and took out the Best Acting in a Short Film Award! It’s a cute and quirky film about a community of women who have alcoholic others and meet once a week to relax and get their drink on!

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In the studio with Chuckii Booker.

I even had the opportunity to record with producer/singer/songwriter Chuckii Booker. This cat is crazy talented and has been Lionel Richie’s musical director for eons. I was introduced to Chuckii through a friend who asked if I’d write and sing a hook for his track that is still in development. I also wrote, rapped and sang on a hip hop track with my old housemate, Marty. We’ve got a film clip coming soon.

And just to round things out nicely – I was training twice a week for 16 months at Playhouse West in the Meisner technique. It was unlike anything I’ve studied before and I LOVED it. Created by an American man named Sandy Meisner, the school breeds a superb work ethic and emphasis on living and breathing your craft every day, reading plays, educating yourself, rehearsing and remaining inspired.

I got to flex lots of creative muscles in 2014.This here is an incomplete log, but some of the highlights! I’ve had truly wonderful experiences, met some great people and collaborated on exactly the kinds of fun, fulfilling and interesting projects I’ve dreamt of.

Right now I’m sitting on a wide open slather.

It’s time to rise and shine!

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MY HOOD: Harvard Heights

A huge part of what I love about traveling and living in a new country and city is exploring – discovering the cultural differences, the never seeDSC00311 (2)n before, having my senses brought to attention by images, sounds, smells and tastes that are different to what I know, experiencing a new style of life, finding excitement and inspiration. It’s both rich and rewarding to thirst for the new, to weave colorful pathways and vivid stories into the life journey. This to me is worth its weight in gold.

Harvard Heights – the little pocket of neighborhood with roots back to the turn of the 18th century where I live, speaks my language for this very reason. Located in the deep south of Korea town, near downtown LA, the area is like a mash up of Central America, and then just up the road, Korea.

DSC01707IMG_20130522_105325Once, one of the wealthiest districts in Los Angeles – it was an area that in the early 1900’s was home to a large Greek American population. A little east of here they now call the Byzantine-Hispanic district and there is still some distinct Greek presence. ‘Craftsman’ homes and a grand variety of architectural styles were built – beautiful double and triple storied, lofty, detailed looking gems. So many of the DSC01710surrounding streets are a vision, like West Adams, another little pocket (formerly known as Sugar Hill) a few blocks up the road. From the 1920’s – 50’s this area became the hot spot for the wealthiest of African-Americans; many entertainers and celebrities lived here, including Ray Charles. Seduced by the stunning mansions and properties. Interesting huh? IMG_20130528_123736 (2)

This influx of residents seemed to really establish the neighborhood, until the second world war hit. Post war the Greeks started relocating to West LA, a large working-middle class African-American population came and went, and over the decades the Hispanic community developed and never left.

Harvard Heights is definitely not Beverly Hills! It has a somewhat dilapidated feel, but then so does a lot of LA. Beautiful old homes in need of a lick of paint or some that have been separated into 2 – 4 apartments.

Sometimes when I walk around my neighborhood I feel like I’m in another country, somewhere south of the US border. IMG_20120225_155108 (2)The largest billboard for McDonalds at the end of our street is in Spanish. There’s a huge cemetery close by with rolling lawns and some interesting pyramid like catacombs. A beautiful Jesuit school (the oldest of it’s kind in California) is a local highlight, as well as a great Greek Orthodox cathedral with an incredibly ornate interior named St Sophia. Tom Hanks and his wife have donated huge amounts of money to this church I discovered recently at the local Greek Festival. During the day Mexican traders wheel by with food trolleys ringing bells or honking a horn selling corn, drinks and other Mexican goodness. It’s such a novelty!!!

Eenie meenie minee mo! Ice cream truck decisions!

Eenie meenie minee mo! Ice cream truck decisions!

The ice cream truck cruises the streets daily playing tinny electronic sounding theme songs (La Cucaracha is the main stay), men on the corner at the Uhaul truck hire gather outside whistling, hissing and greeting you as you pass by, mobile food sellers hang at the bus stops with bacon wrapped hot dogs sizzling, fruit sellers can be found on random corners, with mangoes and avocados stacked neatly, or there are those that have ice chests with a range of peeled and ready fruit to be chopped into a bag with a sprinkle of chilli on top.

On Friday nights and the weekend there’s Mexican style bbqs outside the stores, DSC00410delicious aromas wafting down the street, the sound of Pentecostal prayers, whooping and congressional praise and cars honking, the Hollywood sign hangs like a halo from the hills and some days there’s a great mist that rolls in from the ocean and clears the vista to grey. Nightly great lights beam into the sky from the Staples centre, Downtown,  and when there’s a game on there’s a great blimp that hovers above with a gigantic movie screen on it’s belly! On weekends Latino dance music pumps from neighbors yards, often jumping castles are erected for celebrations and glimpsed between houses, young and old hang out on their stoops chatting, drinking, smoking, listening to the radio and bbqing. Packs of young boys skateboard and fixie bike it around the streets with studded and plugged ear lobes and great Bieberesque sweeping fringes. I practice my basic Spanish greetings daily and have a number of trader friends that share a wave when out and about. I love the sense of community.

DSC00412DSC00407I am an avid lover of Mexican food and have been all my life. Everyday in LA is like paradise because I know, should I need a taco fix, I won’t have to go far, no matter what area I’m in. My local Tacos Loco DSC00401serves up delicious $2.50 chicken tostadas with salsa so good I’d write home about it. There’s an amazing Greek Tavera/Deli with Papa Christo running the ship – a man knee high to a grasshopper with a moustache so great it’s wider than his very own face. The cheese and olive selection alone in this joint results in serious  salivation. There are Nicaraguan, Guatemalan, Ecuadorian, Ethiopian, and Japanese restaurants, plus the regular plethora of take out outlets all in a ten minute stroll – burgers, chicken, donuts, burgers, donuts, smoothies, bagels, etc.

The minute you start heading north from my area the gallerias as they’re called – small to large style malls – start popping up everywhere in between Korean bbq houses,IMG_20120413_224601 Pho kitchens, Korean style cafes with interesting names like ‘Cafe Toe Bang’, massage places, acupuncturists, and a distinctly Korean population. The streets that span off from the main street hold some of the most beautiful art deco and French chateau style, mouth opening homes. The architecture draws me off track, just for another little look or to show a friend whilst I ooowoo and ahhhh, isn’t it beautiful?

IMG_20120605_201542IMG_20120408_161959DSC00051A trip to the local Korean mart is almost a weekly outing. Since my recent time in China I’ve become TOTALLY obsessed with dumplings! Thank goodness I can feed my devotion so easily! Aisles of foreign produce, frozen goodies, pickled fern fronds and exotic looking delights tempt me. If you time it right at the end of each aisle some days you’ll find a lady cooking daily specials – steaming delicious parcels or wee cups of broth with chopped fishballs. Inspiration for the next meal!

Welcome to my hood, Harvard Heights and it’s wonderfully diverse surrounds. Come pay me a visit some time… I’m a superb tour guide!

Riding the rollercoaster

5th of March, 2012

What an absolutely mental week. Almost 5 weeks into living in LA and I’m hanging on by the skin of my teeth. I know the adventure has only just begun, but it’s feeling like the hardest move EVER. Bonkers, with a capital B.

It’s a balmy eve, the first after a week of wearing jumpers, taking a wheat bag to bed and cranking the heater to full. But not today. Today was summery, and gees it felt good.

From the end of my street I can see both snow-capped mountains and the Hollywood sign. Palms trees and beautiful craftsman houses line the street. I’ve settled into my new abode. It’s a big old house in Korea town, or K town as us locals call it. Built in 1917, it’s wonderfully airy and spacious.

I finally have a desk after weeks being parked up on the floor trying to get ‘business’ rolling. I’ve grown accustomed to my slippery polyester bed sheets, picked and eaten an avocado from a huge tree in our splendid backyard, witnessed a hummingbird collect nectar as I sip my morning coffee, night watched the curiously blind resident opossums navigate the yard, and run excited to the window as the daily ice-cream truck playing La Cucaracha wheels by. Taken morning walks and met Papa Christo at the local Greek taverna and discovered the local church is called Saint Sophia. I’ve been taken aback and infuriated by my housemates – one who talks to himself, another who paces the hallway to think, and a household practise of each housemate having their own toilet paper every time they need to go to the loo. I’ve wanted to bash my head against the wall with the daily challenges and frustrations that peak and fall. The stories I tell from one perspective are so out there, they become hilarious, on another hand I’ve returned home on some days and felt the heaviness and struggle of creating a new life.

I’ve slowly been setting up shop – a house, bedroom, looking into buying a car and putting the acting wheels in motion. I’m living with 4 others – a Brit actor, a Chinese girl working in events, an older American who came to town to be a comedian and now works as a security guard and a Russian real estate agent who owns the house. They are the most eclectic bunch of people I’ve ever known or lived with. Coming from an amazing share house in Brixton, London, this home is somewhat more segregated, everyone kind of does their own thing. The Russian seems to play chess online a lot, but is a Buddhist with a full shrine complete with fruit offerings and incense burning daily, the American seems engaged in a perpetual monologue whilst holed up in his room so chock full of belongings one might assume he’s a hoarder, the Chinese girl has just returned from spending the New year period in her home city of Beijing and the Brit has been incredibly supportive and full of advice after 3 years in the big smoke of LA.

I think I’ve pretty much been in culture shock – little things – words, acting expressions, manners, plastic cups and plates at restaurants, the smell of weed and marijuana clinics everywhere, people’s stories, even shopping for bed linen with bed sizes being different and a mind-boggling variety of options – quilts, comforters, coverlets. Can I just get a regular duvae please?

I’ve been here before – 4 times. Yet living here and really feeling the reality of life/survival, doing the basics; has been testing. In moments I’ve felt the rich poor divide like no other city I’ve lived in. As if I’m in a third world witnessing a little man at the traffic lights selling bags of chopped pineapple, or seeing Ramona (who lives on my street and must be 70 plus) pushing her trolley round the neighbourhood selling flowers. I’ve seen more young people begging with signs reading; starving and in need of a dollar, or simply, wanna get high, than ever before. It’s in your face, there’s no escaping the brutal nature of a town – where dreams run rife and you’re either the hunter or the hunted. Scams and crooks run deep. The vulnerable sit waiting on every corner for their moment to shine and be elevated. Daily, people are spun into the web of disaster or promise. A town where anything could happen, seduction licks like a sticky trap and you can be whoever you want to be. If you want to dress like a woman but you’re a man and dance the cha-cha at the traffic lights whilst waving an American flag, no problem. Or get kitted out like Lady Liberty and kung fu kick street lamps, no problem. Climb fences and pretend you’re Superman, no problem. Pierce and tattoo your face to oblivion, no problem! It’s a land of La-de-da. Of fakers and makers, takers and money shakers, believers and preachers, leeches and teachers, dreamers and hopers, ethnic mash-up and brokers, creative heads and the walking dead. It’s raw, it’s alive, bubbling and full of dives. It’s one of a kind and I’m blown away by LA like no other land ever trodden.

In two weeks I’ve had 1600 bucks accidentally withdrawn from my bank account. I’ve auditioned for a variety of projects and been cast in a play with the most sketchy theater company (that’s a whole nother blog) and bailed out once I’d fully detected the madness. Been assigned a talent scout job that sounded oh so glam, only to find out three days later from the guy that hired me, that the place is a big scam. Apparently Denise – the creative directors name is actually Vanessa and they’ve been posing under numerous company names over a period of time and are pretty much breaking the law. I’ve been for hospitality job interviews that you’d think would be a breeze and felt no love. I’ve been offered a restaurant position for $8.50 an hour with no tips and wondered how anyone could survive or pay rent on such a dismal wage. I’ve learnt to be humble, that I’m starting again, but starting in a city so competitive, so full of illegal immigrants and people willing to work for minimum wage that my experience seems to count for nothing.

Today alone I’ve heard stories of a guy working for Sam Worthington’s agent – a wee aggressive Asian lady that was fond of throwing her stapler at him, of a girl working for the Armenian mob in a medical weed clinic and her fear of being raided and not asking questions when dodgy men come through with great stuffed duffel bags, of the dating scene and psycho girls sending explicit pictures, of holistic dentistry, a new friend stealing a girls belongings when she invited them over, of a guy working for one of the biggest management companies in town and earning less than 400 a week, of people in his company fake signing celeb client fan mail and photos and sending them back to fans with condoms enclosed ‘for a laugh’. Real and shocking, I know.

It’s a strange and hopeless feeling when you compare everything you know to your current situation, and when you do, it somehow doesn’t quite match up. When it is all so foreign, the way people talk, the food, the taxes, tipping, the products in the supermarket, the bus routes, the surroundings. Don’t get me wrong – it is all exciting in its newness, but also very challenging. When you want to run, but only seem able to manage a crawl. Sitting on Facebook looking for something familiar – some connection with home – both homes of Melbourne and London. Feeling like that alien they described me as on my visa (:

I think what’s happening is called transitioning. A rebirth, a changing of cloaks. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step (Lao Tzu) and this is the road I am on.