1 Year in LA: Somewhere Over the Rainbow

1 Year in LA: Somewhere Over the Rainbow

“Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high
There’s a land that I heard of once in a lullaby
Somewhere over the rainbow, Skies are blue,
And the dreams that you dare to dream, really do come true.”


A year ago, I packed the last few items in my 2003 ruby red Corolla, said goodbye to my mom and Michael and hit the yellow lined highway to LA.

I made a “strategic” decision to drive through Kansas vs. Nebraska because I thought driving through Nebraska would be boring. Can’t speak for driving through Nebraska, but driving through Kansas was…boring. And the last place I had a freshly brewed cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee. I need to get out to Santa Monica.

While zipping across highway 70, I saw a sign for the Oz Museum. I decided to take the 15 mile detour to check it out.

Oz Museum

The Wizard of Oz terrified me as a kid. The flying monkeys tearing apart the Scarecrow. The marching guards. And the Wicked Witch, “I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog too.” As an adult, I have a deeper appreciation.

They’re touching on the key lesson of childhood, which is that someday the child will not be a child, that home will no longer exist, that adults will be no help because now the child is an adult and must face the challenges of life alone. But that you can ask friends to help you. And that even the Wizard of Oz is only human, and has problems of his own.

-Roger Ebert

Leaving Chicago wasn’t easy. I grew up there. The only other place I called home was Dubuque, IA, for college and Mt. Rainier, Md., as an 11-year old. Pursuing an acting career after spending years in corporate America wasn’t easy either. The salary, 401k and benefits sure were nice. But sometimes there’s something calling you so hard, you have to listen.

Tin Man

Here’s what I learned in my first year:

Everyone’s road to Oz is different. I spent the first year focused on breaking into commercials because I figured it was the path of least resistance. I know others that have gone the movie/tv route or wrote their own show.

Separately, I look forward to uncorking this $28 bottle of wine from the Oz Winery after my first national commercial.

Oz Wine

Focus less on Oz and more on the yellow brick road. Set goals. Aim high. And remember the only thing you can really control is your performance, so focus on constantly improving and giving your best performance every time and the rest will take care of itself.

Your timeline to Oz and the universe’s timeline may differ. It’s going to take time. Even if you write, shoot and sell your own show, it’s going to take time. See above.

You can’t make it on your own. Special thanks to my Scarecrow, Rob Adler, for helping me get out of my head and focusing my brain, for my Tin Man, Chris Game, for giving my commercials life (and heart), for my Lion, Killian McHugh, for giving me the courage, and for my Toto, Calliope Porter, who helped me get through an early meltdown when I was overwhelmed with the sheer volume of information regarding agents and casting directors.

Don’t pay attention to the man behind the curtain. Follow your yellow brick road. And fly where the bluebirds fly.

 Oz Balloon




Killan’s Commercial Workshop/Chris Game

Killan’s Commercial Workshop/Chris Game

I focused the first half of 2014 honing my commercial technique. I completed Killian’s Commercial Workshop and Chris Game’s commercial technique classes, which took me from hoping/thinking I could book commercials to knowing I can.

In terms of personalities, Killian is like Bob Knight and Chris is like John Wooden. Both demand excellence, but have polar opposite teaching styles. Killian’s is like a boot camp and he acts as such. It’s a cold room. He’s not warm and fuzzy. Don’t expect a lot of positive feedback. The rationale is by teaching you all the audition traps in the classroom, actual auditions will be easy in comparison. He also forces you to step up to the plate and bring everything you have to the table in every audition.

Chris is the opposite. He’s warm and supportive. Chris takes what you have and teaches you how to build on it. He provides you with a toolbox full of techniques to manipulate the camera so your audition pops off the screen. He teaches you how to get noticed. He often says, I teach you how to deliver an audition with more impact.

I took both classes at the same time. I’d recommend going that route if you can because you can apply lessons from both in their classes the following week.

Let’s book.