It’s not a secret that you’ll hear the word “no” a lot in this industry. Well, actually, you won’t, at least not outright. No one likes to actually say “no”, which can be confusing (especially for us east coasters who are used to people saying exactly what they mean).

So before I get to the point of this blog post, I’ve come up with a handy little cheat sheet to help those of us who don’t speak LA learn the different ways people say the word, “no”:

“You were so fantastic, but at the last minute they went with a name actor…”
“Sofia Vergara has been interested since day one so you have had, at most, a 0% chance of getting this part.”

“It’s just not the type of story we’re looking for right now…”
“Do yourself a favor and take a writing class.”

“Things are just so busy on my end…”
“I don’t even know you like that, so no, I’m not gonna take a meeting with you.”

*radio silence for three months*
“I am way too scared to pick up the phone and tell you we aren’t going to hire you for this job, even though I promised it to you verbally, because I truly do think you’re a great director but the actor the network just attached wants someone else to direct but I don’t want you to hate me because I’m actually pretty insecure, plus I’m worried my boss is gonna fire me because the company is going through some internal changes, and…”

And so on.

Once you carefully examine the evidence and determine that the answer is definitely a “no”, you’re faced with the stark reality that you have been denied- again. Yet again, someone has shut the door in your face. Yet again, the dream that brought you to LALA land has slipped that much further away.

This week, I heard a pretty big ‘no’ regarding a very promising project that was coming together. I won’t lie, it was a tough pill to swallow. But I’ve heard “no” in some form or another many, many times over the past few years, and while I’m not numb to it, it also doesn’t bother me as much as it used to. LA’s a little like the Hunger Games. I truly believe if you stick it out long enough, the odds will eventually be in your favor. 

So you’re allowed to feel sorry for yourself, eat a pint of ice cream and binge-watch the latest season of House of Cards when “that gig that was gonna change your life” doesn’t come to pass, but you shouldn’t stay there forever, or for even more than a few hours.

I called my dad yesterday, and as always, he had some words of wisdom for me:

“You know Kristen, you work really hard. If you worked as hard as you do in any other career, you’d have a full-time position by now. Just like your friend Christina at that tech start-up in San Francisco…”

(I pulled the phone away from my ear and counted to ten.)

“But it doesn’t matter. The word ‘no’ doesn’t work for you, right? So keep moving. You’re doing great kid, keep it up.”

I realized, he’s absolutely right (thanks, Dad). The word “no” doesn’t work for me. Because in my mind, when I hear “no”, all I really hear is “not now”, or “not yet” or, most importantly, “give me a reason to say ‘yes’”.

You’re probably wondering, if this is a blog about Hollywood, why do I suddenly feel like I’m reading a self-help book for salespeople? That’s because, if you decide to work in this industry, chances are you WILL have to sell something. Your skills, your ideas, your brand, your looks, your confidence. Yes, making movies can be wonderfully creative- but it’s also a business, and like any business, you’re going to hear a “no” or two (or five, or ten, or a hundred) from prospective buyers at some point. And you can’t take it personally, you can’t treat it like it’s the end of the world.

Instead, reassess, alter your battle plan, and carry on. That’s what I’m doing right now. May the odds be ever in your favor. 


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Identifying and Avoiding Fake People

There are a lot of them in Hollywood. Don’t become one. Interestingly, one hard and fast rule I’ve found is this: the people who complain endlessly about “all the fake people in Hollywood” tend to be fairly fake themselves. Or just really annoying.

Ugh, I’ve already wasted too much time on this topic, but if you’re new to town and you’re worried you’ll be suckered in by ‘one of those fake LA people’ New Yorkers love complaining about, here are a few warning signs:

  1. People who shamelessly name drop. A lot.
  2. People who say, “_____ is looking at my screenplay”, “_______ is probably going to star”, “We’re planning to get ________ to direct”. Any of those things may one day be true, but some folks assume that if something MIGHT happen, you get instant bragging rights. Stick to the facts, ma’am. Just because you know someone casting Clint Eastwood’s next film doesn’t mean you’re a shoe-in. And just because Johnny Depp drunkenly said he ‘really liked your idea’ at a party doesn’t mean he has endorsed your production. 
  3. People who try to make their uncredited extra gig on that one TV show sound like they had a guest star role and a personal friendship with the lead (thank God for IMDB! Makes it so much easier to fact check. Hot tip: IMDB pro is totally worth the cost. I use it ALL the time.)
  4. Someone who never gave you the time of day BEFORE something awesome happened for you, but who suddenly wants to be your bestie AFTER something great happened for you.

One thing I’ve noticed is that the term ‘fake’ can often be used interchangeably with the term ‘inexperienced’. That ‘fake person’ is overcompensating because on some level they are insecure about where they are at in their career.


Q. “I’m at a party and I’ve determined the person I’m talking to is one of those fake people you warned me about! What now??”

A. Treat them with the same amount of dignity and respect you would anyone else. Just be aware that you don’t want to work with this person. ‘Fake’ people suck because being fake is an awful lot like lying. No one likes being lied to, and you don’t want to work with someone who lies a lot.

Q. “I totally just name-dropped TWICE in one conversation. I think I’m becoming totally fake. Should I commit harakiri, end it all now before it gets worse? What should I do??”

A. Shh, it’s okay. Sometimes the Hollywood rubs off on you. I hate to say it, but I’ve definitely had a few fake moments in my life. The important thing is to call yourself out on it, repent, forgive yourself, and move on.

The bottom line:

Suffering from ‘Hollywood fakeness’ is an ailment I truly believe any person can overcome. Yes, it’s a long road back to the level of us plebes, but once you’re here you’ll finally be able to stop blowing up your own ego and focus on your work.

If you’re 100% real, great! Don’t get suckered. 


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Finding the Best Day Job

When I made the decision to move to LA (I’d just graduated from college and decided anywhere had to be cheaper to live than NYC) (I was right), I had this notion that I’d somehow find steady commercial work within the first three months, book a role in the next hit indie film and be well on my way to becoming the next Jennifer Lawrence by the time I was 23. I know this was delusional. I honestly just think the idea of moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career in entertainment was so ludicrous and impractical that my brain had to invent fantasies just to keep me moving forward. Kind of like how POWs endure extreme torture, I imagine. Numb the pain. Shhh. Don’t think too much.

Anyway, I’m sure you can guess that my A plan didn’t exactly pan out. And so, after two months, when the little money I’d saved was starting to dry up, I realized I needed to suck it up and find a day job.

Now, I’m fully aware that you aren’t like those other sad actors who move to Hollywood who end up waiting tables. I know you are way more talented than those wannabe directors who have to take PA gigs on internet promo shoots that only pay $75/day. But, look at it this way- although this blog post won’t be useful to you, you can read it and then impart your newfound wisdom to your girlfriend’s talentless schmuck of a brother who’s moving to LA to become the next alt. indie rock star, because he will definitely need to get a day job (or three), right?

Glad you decided to keep reading.

In my mind, the best kind of day job should accomplish 1 of 2 things. Either it should allow you the flexibility to go to auditions/take meetings/jump on board shooting your friend’s short film last minute OR 2. it should feed into the career you are pursuing, directly or indirectly.

If your day job doesn’t afford you one or both of those things, your ‘day’ job can very quickly become your ‘main and only’ job, and you will resent it.

These days, I work as a producer or coordinator whenever funds are low. It’s not acting, writing or directing- which is what I really want to be doing- but it gives me immensely valuable experience learning other aspects of production. If you can’t find a job that gets you on film sets and you must work at a restaurant, apply to a location near a studio or big production company. A friend of mine was a Starbucks barista right next to one of the studio lots and became friendly with several of the studio execs and name talent who came in for morning coffee, including an accomplished director who is now a fan of the webseries she writes and directs. Stay tuned to see if that connection pays off some day. 

And now, a cautionary tale:

My friend Jill moved to LA 10 years ago to become an actress. By most standards, she’s doing pretty well for herself- she has a nice-sized apartment in Hollywood (no roommates!) and she generally can afford the things she wants. Her secret? Her awesome job as a bartender at a hopping bar in H’wood. She rakes in a ton of money. She also has to work REALLY late nights, and can never summon the energy to get up in the morning for auditions. She once confided to me that she feels stuck. She wants to pursue her dream but it’s just not feasible with her lifestyle. Cutting her hours or getting a more-flexible-but-lesser-paying day job is hard for her to imagine. She’s comfortable- but at the same time, she hates her job for making her so comfortable.  

She gave me some advice: keep your expenses low. If you can keep your expenses low, you won’t settle for a time-sucking survival job just because you need the funds.

A friend of mine later hooked me up with a job as a paperwork filer at Media Services Production Accounting, where I could make my own hours. It was only part-time, the pay rate was only so-so, and it was a 45 minute commute from my apartment– BUT I never had to turn down an audition while working there. It was that filing job that, a week before the Project Greenlight deadline, allowed me to take three days off to make the short film that got us to the final round of the competition. A competition that, ultimately, would allow me to leave my day job and work full-time as a writer. Full circle, see? 

I think I’ve done a pretty good job of following Jill’s advice about keeping my expenses low: rent a tiny bachelor studio or find a place with a couple roommates, go grocery shopping instead of ordering takeout, get comfortable shopping at Goodwill or not at all, skip the daily Starbucks, don’t get cable, cut yourself off after one drink (or, better yet, stick to ginger ale on ice), become friendly with the local mechanic so he doesn’t charge as much when a UPS van hits your car in Koreatown when you were on your way to a friend’s birthday party, etc. 

The main reason this lifestyle was (let’s be real, still is) do-able for me was the knowledge that I wouldn’t be stuck living paycheck to paycheck- so below the poverty line it was ridiculous- for forever. I had to believe that all my networking, auditioning, guerilla filmmaking and self-promotion would someday pay off.

And you know what? It’s starting to. Last April, as a result of events that transpired after Project Greenlight and me scoring my first line producing job on a high-profile web show, I was able to quit my day job. 



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Here’s what people around town are saying- about Kristen, not this blog.
No one reads this blog. 

“EXCELLENT!!” – Aaron Sorkin, after reading Kristen for a guest star role on The Newsroom. Kristen did not book the role.

“You have great energy!”-Nancy Meyers, after reading Kristen for a role in The Intern. Kristen did not book the role.

“You’re actually a really good actress.” -Matt Damon, with a tone of surprise, after watching Kristen in a short film for HBO’s Project Greenlight. Kristen did not win the competition.

“Please scroll [the teleprompter] slower. (pause) Thank you.” -Arnold Schwarzenegger to Kristen on the set of Terminator: YouTube Chronicles, a webseries Kristen line produced. 

So, I lied. Apparently there are a few folks out there who DO read this blog, and here’s what they’ve been saying:

“That blog is raw in its truthfulness and a great motivator for dealing with ‘no’.” -Chrissy Kane Shepherd, my friend’s cousin (aunt? step-aunt? Somehow they’re related)

“Brilliant!” – some girl I don’t know who commented on my Facebook post

“A great read for anyone who is deciding to make a move to try and live and succeed in the entertainment business written by an intelligent and observant woman who has been living the experience…” -Someone ELSE I don’t know who shared my Facebook post

“Read this, read this now! Like click the link and read away! Like I said she is brilliant, so why are you still reading this? Go! Go now!” – Kelsey Michel, my friend from college

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