Trish and Harold's Weblog

News, information, and random thoughts from the busy lives of Trish Egan and Harold Phillips.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Back-To-Business: Managing Your Resources - Mailbox

The Back-to-Business Series: Index

I got a lot of response to Monday's article on managing resources in your acting business - and not all of it was grammatical (thanks again, Bostin!) I'm going to handle a couple of the "light" ones first, and then I'm going to get a little philosophical. Fair warning!

Oh come on... no one dreams of acting on screen with Kristin Stewart - she's awful! JC (Philadelphia, PA)

247 million trillion kagillion Twilight fans would disagree with you, JC... I didn't say YOUR dream was to act with her. The important thing is to know what your dream is - whatever it is!

I can't believe you campare actors and lawyers! Lawyers are the lowest bottom-feeding form of life. Are you saying we should all be like them? GA (Portland, OR)

No, GA, I'm not saying that all actors should be like lawyers (though, to be fair, some lawyers could probably benefit from acting lessons). I AM, however, saying that the business model lawyers employ isn't that different from an actor's business model.

Think about it for a few minutes... what does a lawyer do, when s/he isn't in court? S/he prepares for court (research, writing, practicing arguments... come on, you've seen Boston Legal) , s/he cultivates new business while keeping in touch with the current client-base (Denny Crane Denny Crane), and s/he does the work of running his or her business (bookkeeping, making the sure the license is paid up, training, getting the invoices out..)

Actually, Boston Legal is a terrible example (Denny Crane Denny Crane). That show - like most shows on TV - focuses on a big, expensive law firm. Think about the sole practitioner who DOESN'T have Candice Bergin around to run the store... how does s/he do all the things I mentioned above? S/he may have an office, or s/he may not. Clients still have to be met with, and new clients have to be wooed. The bills still have to be sent out, and the money has to be dealt with. Time has to be spent writing briefs, practicing opening statements, and researching... and s/he has to do it all him or herself.

And how is this different than what WE have to do as actors? We may have an office or we may not - but we still have to audition for new clients, and keep in touch with the contacts we already have. We have to do spend the time needed to run our businesses - depositing the checks... getting invoices out... We have to rehearse and research OUR work, too. And, unless we have a "team" to help us, we have to do all this ourselves.

When you think about it, the way we conduct business isn't all that different. Don't let the practice of law blind you to this, GA!

OK, here's the big one. I got a LOT of comments along the lines of this one:
How the HELL can you say that business isn't about making money? If you're not trying to make money, you shouldn't be in business - what's the point?
(Lafayette, LA)

So... I warned you that I was going to get a little philosophical today. So here it is...

Like I said in Monday's article, money has to be part of business. If you're not selling a product, an idea, a service, your expertise... whatever for some sort of reward, then you're not in business. You're running a charity, or you're engaged in a hobby... but if you're not making some money at it, then you're not in business.

That being said, the notion is business is about making leads us down the rabbit hole to the blackest part of human nature; it says that all we're about is getting as much for ourselves as we can, whatever the cost. Sorry, I just don't buy into that. Yes, I want to make money - I'm not anti-capitalist by any means... but I do recognize that the motive to just "make money" leads to avarice, greed, and (it's been argued by economic minds much smarter than I) the economic sink-hole we find ourselves in today.

Look, it's a question of perspective. Why do you do what you do? What is it that made you want to be in the business you're in? If you were to ask other business owners (in other fields), they'd have a variety of answers... but I don't think you'll find "getting rich" to be among them. They went into business to provide something for someone - either something that didn't exist yet, or a better quality "something" than was available... yes, they wanted to get paid for their efforts and yes, they hoped that their businesses would support not only them, but their families. It wasn't about money, though... it was about what they were providing.

When a business is all about money, it begins to fail. It's as simple as that... the consumers start to hate it, and don't mind looking to the competition for a better value. Look at the airline industry today - almost every carrier is charging their customers a per-bag fee. The airlines that don't, however, have seen their business surge - because the customer thinks of those that do charge per-bag fees as greedy... and no one wants to give their money to a greedy company.
By contrast, the couple that own the UPS Store I get my mail at go above and beyond the call of duty for me regularly. If I call them to see if a package I've been waiting on has been delivered, they go and check... they don't tell me I have to come in and look for myself. Heck, once, they told me the package I was waiting for wasn't in, then took the initiative to call me BACK 10 minutes later to tell me they'd found it. Strangely enough, I have no desire to give my business to their competitors... even though they're located across town from me. They realize that their business isn't about the money they can get from me - it's about the SERVICE they provide TO me, that brings my money to them.

Businesses aren't about money. They're about products, or services. Businesses are ways to get money, yes... but if you make them all about money, you're headed down the rabbit hole. And it's a long way back up.

We're going to talk some more about money next week... and about the other resources in the "Golden Triangle" that you, as a business owner, need to manage in order to be successful. Feel free to keep in contact via Email or Twitter... and between now and then...

Let's get to work!


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Monday, June 28, 2010

Back-To-Business: Managing Your Resources

The Back-To-Business Series: Index

*Note: I didn't have much time to proof-read this before posting; I dashed it off and then had to run off to my (cough cough grandson's cough cough) base ball game. Thanks go to Bostin Christopher for giving it once-over for me and catching some errors. It's greatly appreciated!

When I sit down with actors for their first Personal Career Coaching session, they're sometimes resistant to the idea of thinking of their careers as a business. I often hear them say, "I don't want my career to be all about the money." They want to create, they want to do the work... they don't want to focus so much on the money aspect of "the business" that they lose sight of what got them into "the business" to begin with.

Guess what - most small business owners feel the same way, whether they're actors or not. Let me tell you a little secret™: business isn't about making money.

Oh sure - money's a big part of business. You have to make a profit if you want to stay in business... and if there's no money exchanging hands, you can hardly call the goods you're producing or the service you're providing a business - if no money is exchanged (or you're spending the money but getting none in return) then you're engaged in a hobby, not a business.

Even with all that, though... business isn't about making money. There's lots of ways to make money out there - why would you go to all the trouble of running your own business JUST to make money?

Business is about making a product, or providing a service. That's where business starts - with the idea, with the skills, with the dream. Now, your dream might be to stand on the stage with Patrick Stewart... or your dream might be act on the screen with Kristin Stewart... or your dream might be to come up with the perfect product for Martha Stewart. It doesn't matter - at its core, business is about the product, or the service. The money comes after that.

Not much after, though. Once you've had the dream and you've decided to pursue it, you have to invest resources to make that dream a reality. As I mentioned at the end of last weeks "Aside," money is just ONE resource a business uses to make its product, its service... and a profit! There are lots of other resources that have to be cultivated, accumulated, and used to make any business run - and your acting business is no different.

Think about Toyota Motor Company for a second... they have to manage a lot of resources to make their products - and make a profit. They have to have the steel, glass, and rubber - the raw materials - make their products. They have to have human resources - people for the assembly line, managers, accountants, PR people (especially lately)... They have to have land for factories. They have to have the MONEY to pay for it all. You get the idea... the folks running this multi-national company have to manage a lot of resources to turn out a product they can sell, and then to turn a profit.

Actors aren't making a product, though, like Toyota. We provide a service - we sell our skills and our time to directors and producers (and by extension, to audiences.) the Toyota comparison doesn't quite work for us, does it?

Lets take a look at a service-based business, then. In fact, to make the comparison as close as we can, lets take a look at a one-person service-based business... lets look at a lawyer.

Ok, ok... get the lawyer jokes out of the way... I'll wait.

I know, they're not the most popular business out there... but their businesses are a lot closer to ours than you might think. They apply their skills to work for a client, who pays them. They have to appear before an audience (if you want to call a judge and jury "an audience.") They have to look for clients, maintain the clients they have, and invest money in their businesses in order to grow it. They can hire staff, but they can also do everything themselves.

So... what resources does a lawyer need to manage? Well, s/he has to manage money, obviously; until the client pays, our lawyer friend doesn't have much money to spend. S/he has to manage time - lawyers work under deadlines. Briefs and pleadings and such have to be filed by a certain time, or the case is lost. S/he has to manage his or her reputation - if s/he gets a bad rep, what's the chance that new clients are going to come his or her way? What's the chance that s/he'll get any help from his or her friends when it's needed?

Any of this sound familiar? We actors have to manage the same resources in order to be successful in our business... I call it the "Golden Triangle." These are the most important resources in our business - we have to keep them balanced, and we have to use one in order to gain more of another.

We're going to look a little more "in-depth" at the way these resources work next week, how they interact with each other and - most importantly, how managing them helps us turn a profit.

Not that that's all our business is about, of course... 'Til then,

Let's Get To Work!


Friday, June 25, 2010

Yesterday Didn't Go Quite As Planned...

... it went MUCH better!

If you're a regular reader, you know that my life is kind of a mercurial thing... I had the day all planned out, see. My first full day back in town after Trish and my trip to the coast to celebrate our anniversary was booked up, with a meeting in the morning, a day-job appointment in the afternoon, and a meeting with a director in the late-afternoon. And, of course, the usual errand running squeezed in-between... jaunts to the bank, the post office box, etc...

Well, like I said - my life's pretty mercurial. Things change in an instant. My morning meeting got called off. My client cancelled our appointment in the afternoon. Suddenly, my day was open until my director's meeting at around 4:30. In some ways, that wasn't a bad thing... Trish and I both picked up chest colds before we left for the coast - sadly, we hacked and coughed throughout our anniversary - and I'm still a little green-around-the-gills. I could have just stayed in bed... but nature abhors a vacuum. That open time got quickly filled!

First, there was the email I received from Jacqueline Gault, writer-director of the upcoming feature film Meet Jane Doe. I'd auditioned for a role in the film earlier this year and didn't get cast... but I've kept in touch with Jacqueline and other people working on the production. When it came time to cast the role of young Jane's father in the film... she thought of me! So, she sent the script over to me for a read and - wow. How could I refuse? I've been hearing people rave about this script for months... and now that I've read it, I can see why! Of course, I signed on. Filming begins in late Summer here in Portland.

Then it was time to prep for my meeting with Jon Garcia about his new film, The Falls. I'd auditioned last year for a part Jon's film Tandem Hearts; things didn't work out for us on that project, but he obviously remembered my audition - he sent me the script last week, before I headed out of town, and asked me to look at the role of the main character's father (yeah. You're right... ANOTHER father. Hey, look at those new headshots, folks... see that grey in the side-burns? I'm getting planted firmly in the "father type" these days... no reason to fight it - I might as well embrace it!)

I was pretty moved by Jon's script when I brought it with me to the coast. It's very personal, and deals with a subject that hasn't been examined too closely in popular films. Rather than try to explain it here, I'll leave it to the video on the film's Kickstarter Page. It pretty much says it all.

Needless to say, I was very interested to talk with Jon and see where he sees this story going... we had a great meeting at Portland's Doug Fir Lounge, and by the end I managed to talk him into letting me have the role :)

So, my day didn't go as planned. But I'm not complaining... the time filled up juuuust right! Looks like July and August are lining up to be VERY busy months!

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Back-To-Business: Mailbox (Or Not...)

Sorry everyone... no B-to-B Mailbox post today. Trish and I are driving back from the Oregon coast after a lovely little break... enjoy your Wednesday, and check back on Monday for the next entry in the Back-To-Business series!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

18 Years Later...

You know, Summer Stock romances aren't supposed to last.

18 years ago today, I went on a date with a woman I met while doing summer stock at Western Washington University. I could have sworn I'd met her somewhere before... but when we compared notes, we realized that we'd spent our lives barely missing each other; She was stationed in Germany just after I left... the one ACTF that she didn't attend in college was the one in Anchorage... there were lots of moments like that in our history.

17 years ago today (or there-abouts... I don't actually remember the exact date...) she convinced me it was silly to keep commuting down to Portland from Bellingham each weekend... that the money spent on gas would be better spent on rent - living with together (gulp!) Of course, that put the kibosh on my grandiose plan to finish my degree at Western and start working in the Seattle theater scene... but I'd come to find out that she was good at putting the kibosh on my grandiose plans - and she was pretty much always right when she did so.

14 years ago today (I definitely remember THIS exact date) we tied the knot. Made it official in front of family and friends... and since we were making a spectacle of ourselves, we encouraged everyone else to do the same. A wedding to remember - at an amusement park, where the guests were encouraged to come in costume. And they did... oh how they did.

Since then, we've had our share of adventures. We've worked together, bought and sold property... celebrated the good times and held each other during the bad times. I wouldn't trade these past 18 years for anything; not for fame and fortune; not for the world.

I love you Trish... happy anniversary. I'm looking forward to spending so many more with you!


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Monday, June 21, 2010

Back-To-Business Aside: Acting Is Believing

The Back-To-Business Series: Index

Hey everyone. You ever read this book? Maybe it was handed to you as a textbook for Theater 101 back in College... maybe you ran across it in a used book store.

Ok, wait - I know... I KNOW! At the end of last week's post, I said that this week I was going to talk about the resources - other than money - that we as actors need to manage. Before I get into that, though, I want to take and Aside.

Now, fair warning - I'm gonna to do this periodically throughout the Back-to-Business series... my series, my rules :) I've got my little "modules" I'm going to take you through - but every once in a while I'm going to "off topic" and discuss some things in more general terms.

See, as I was going through responses to last week's post, I kept hearing the same thing over and over...

"There's no guarantee that you're going to make money in this business."
"How do I know I'm going to get a return on the money I invest?"
"Isn't it dumb to throw money at a business that has such a history of LOSING money?"

etc etc etc... Which brought to mind the title of this book, from the musty bygone days of my Acting 101 class - way way far away at the University of Alaska, Anchorage.

Acting is Believing. It's a pretty simple concept for we actors to get, isn't it? If we don't believe the moment, on stage or in front of the camera... if we don't believe that our character is actually addressing Parliament... or in prison... or taking arms against a sea of troubles (and by opposing end them!)... if we don't believe that moment then the audience won't, either. We will have failed in our tasks as actors. Simple as that.

Guess what... business is believing, too. You can do all the risk-assessment you want to... you can prepare, you can save, you can train and you can and you can track... but at when all is said and done, if you don't believe that you can be a success... if you don't believe that you can make more money than you can spend, then you won't. Simple as that.

Look folks, all business is speculative. It doesn't matter whether you're acting, or your selling pencils on the street corner... there's no guarantee. It's always a risk. You ever watch Dragon's Den, or the US equivalent Shark Tank? On every episode, people go up before the shows tribunal of venture capitalists (and the TV audience) and they ask them to believe in their idea. If the presenter him or herself doesn't believe in their product/ service/ business idea - it shows. And the presentation gets shot down. If the tribunal doesn't believe in the idea, it gets shot down.

On those rare occasions where the presenter believes and the tribunal believes (and the presenter has done his or her homework... and the business model is sound, and there's a market for the product, and... and...) and the product or business is funded - what's the guarantee that the business will succeed? How are those investors assured that they'll get their investment back?

They aren't. No matter how good the presentation, or how solid the numbers... there's no guarantee - for the investor or the business owner. They have to take the risk, though, to see that investment repaid. They have to believe that they will succeed. We actors are familiar with that term, aren't we? We're told that we have to take risks in our acting, or else our performance won't be interesting, right? Well, we have to take risks in our businesses. If we don't... honestly, why bother? Why decide you're going to fail, and then keep walking down that road to failure (since you've certainly directed your steps in that direction.)

Acting is believing. The acting business is believing. You have to believe that you're going to succeed... or all the tips and tricks and advice from people like me in the world will never help you succeed. Simple as that.

Ok, next week I'll get into resources (other than money) that we need to manage in our businesses... for now -

Let's get to work!


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Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Sense Of History...

Howdy folks

So, here we are again. Sunday. As I've mentioned several times before, Sunday is my day to kick back in the office and play my online video game. You know, I've wondered a bit to myself about why I have so much fun looking into the past... why cataloguing and chronicling the family history is of enough interest to me that I'd dedicate a day a week (ok, a little more some weeks, a little less other weeks) to uploading photos and poking through family stories.

Turns out it takes my Junior-High-School Girlfriend, the lovely Joanne, to tell me why. Jo and was my very first real-and-for-true girlfriend, back when I lived in White Bear Lake Minnesota (Go Bears) Over the years, we lost touch... you know how it is, boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy moves to Alaska... it's the classic story.

Recently, we re-connected... and I could not be happier to see where life has taken her! She actually runs a state park in Minnesota now, and she and her husband live on a firm out on the prairie. I've been following her blog 14 Acres ever since we "met" again online (she's got great tips on a lot of subjects... canning, separating lard, how best to buy meat from a farmer... seriously, check it out!)

I know, I know... I'm getting off the point. Jo added this post to her blog on the advent of her 39th birthday... and, in a funny kind of way, she explained why I spend my Sundays this way. It's all about history - our place in it is due to those who have come before, and what we do to make history now will inform the actions of those who come after us. A pretty simple concept, really... but comforting in a way too - the knowledge that we're part of something. A cog in a machine, a character in a story, a link in a chain... use whatever metaphor you want to.

And, besides, what the heck... it's cool to un-earth the dirt on people, anyway. Did I ever tell you about my ancestor who got shot in a land dispute...


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Saturday, June 19, 2010

And Now, Something NEW:!

So you remember this post from a couple weeks ago? It's actually gotten quite a bit of attention... it was even re-posted in The Oregonian's online "The Stump" section, and garnered a couple of comments (one of which was fairly critical of the Oregon Production Incentive Fund... I hope I didn't make an enemy at the Oregon Center for Public Policy with my response :) ).

As I mentioned in the article, a lot of states are scaling back or cutting their film incentive programs. Given the woeful state of Oregon's economy, our next governor (and legislature) might be tempted to do the same thing - it's a politically expedient thing to do, after all... many people see the OPIF as a "give-away to rich Hollywood filmmakers," without looking at the milions of dollars and thousands of jobs the program brings in to the state.

If we don't want to see that happen, we in the Film, TV and New Media industry need to raise our visibility... we need to keep reminding everyday Oregonians that this industry provides jobs to lots of people - not just actors and crew members, but drivers, carpenters, electricians, and so many more... we need to remind them that the money these productions pay filters throughout the entire state, not just the urban areas... we need to remind them that our industry is vital, growing, and providing opportunities to everyone state-wide.

So... I've started a new web site: As I say in the "About" section, there are lots of sites that talk about Oregon Film… this site is something different. It's focused on highlighting the economic benefit our industry brings to the state - we'll be re-posting news stories, writing editorials, and most importantly sharing the stories of people in Oregon who have benefitted from the money our Film, TV and New Media Industry brings to the state.

So... here's where I ask for your help, Oregonians. I'd really appreciate it if you could:

>> Spread the word - tell everyone you know about

>> Subscribe To The Site - In the upper-right of every page is a button to "subscribe" - clicking this button and registering will send you an email every time a new post is published. I promise I won't overdo it... hey, you see how often I post on this blog!

>> Send me your stories - Have you gotten money - even $1.00 - from the Film and TV Industry here in Oregon? We want to hear from you - visit the "Share Your Story" page and let us know about it! If you have a photo you'd like to attach to your story, feel free to email it to me. While you're there, scroll down and place a pin on the Oregon Film And TV Dollars Google Map - show everyone how Film and TV dollars filter through the entire state.

>> Show The State (and the World) You Support The Industry - Yeah, this one's gonna cost you a few bucks... but only a few! You'll notice a box in the upper-right corner of each page leading you to my Zazzle Store, where there's a variety of T-shirts, Caps, bumper stickers and bags (more products will be coming in the next week or so) telling everyone how you use Oregon Film and TV Dollars. Spend a few bucks and let everyone know that it's not just "rich Hollywood filmmakers" that benefit from Oregon Film and TV Dollars - YOU use them too!

There ya go, folks... start spreading the word, and start sending me material for the site. With your help, we can keep the film and TV industry here in Oregon first-and-foremost in people's mind when they're looking at ways to heal Oregon's ailing economy. You and I know that the film industry, one of the few industries growing in Oregon, has a lot to offer the state's economy... now it's time to let everyone else know about it!

Hope you're all doing well...


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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Back-To-Business: The Right Time To Invest In Your Business - Mailbox

The Back-to-Business Series: Index

Howdy folks

Well, I got a lot of email and more than a few Twitter comments about Monday's post about investing in your acting business... let's dive right in!

... What you said about investing in my career sounds good, but I need that money I make from my theater jobs to pay my rent. I'm not GM or Apple - I can't afford to be spending my hard-earned dollars on fancy software programs. GA (Baton Rouge, LA)

I get what you're saying, GA - believe me, I do! If you're pursuing acting as a profession, rather than a hobby, then you're using the money you get to pay your bills, eat, put gas in your tank... etc. No one's arguing that those needs have to come first.

That being said, to get ahead we have to do more than just subsist on what we earn - we have to use our money wisely, and put some aside for when things are slow... or for those unexpected "emergency" costs... or for investments in our business. This is why I encourage my career coaching clients to set up a separate bank account for their acting businesses - and to hold back whatever they can afford in that account to pay their business-related expenses.

Trust me, I'm not saying holding funds back is an easy thing - like you say, we've all got expenses that need taken care of. With a little forethought, planning and frugality (cutting back on our purchases of things we want instead of things we need, for instance... or making your own coffee instead of buying it, fewer trips to the bar after the show... that kind of thing) actors can save up a little cash to reinvest in their business. It's not necessarily easy - but it's possible.

PerformerTrack calls this little savings fund the Performer Trust account (once again, remember you can save 20% off a 1-year subscription with coupon code PORTLAND9). After a few months of holding 5%, 10%, or 20% of your pay checks back you might be surprised at how much cash you can accumulate to invest in your business!

... Sorry, but it is a job - actors should always be paid as employees, and congress agrees: so you'd better be wondering where that next "job" is coming from. SD (Seattle, WA)

I'm not saying actors should or shouldn't be paid as employees, SD. As I've said in the past, until every actor gets paid for every project as a W-2 employee, it's important for us to know how to operate as both 1099 "independent contractors" and W-2 employees. If you don't want to work as an independent contractor, that's fine - but plenty of other actors are accepting 1099-based contracts.

Whether you're working as an employee or a contractor, though, I'd suggest always treating your career a business. It's a question of focus and perspective - a lot of actors I've known approach their careers with the perspective that they're "working a job," so they put all their focus on doing that job (nothing wrong with that, right?) When that job ends, though (as all acting jobs eventually do), their focus is fully on finding a new boss to give them their next "job."

Businesses don't work this way - they have a range of clients or customers, and they work on cultivating more of them even as they're doing work for their existing clients and customers. Their perspective is that they're selling a product or providing a service to a group of people, and their focus isn't solely on the work they do for one client, but all the work they do for all of them (including those they haven't met yet.) Consequently, when work for one client ends, they don't panic and run around looking for work - they simply shift into work for their next client.

W2 or 1099 aside, mentally it's to an actor's advantage to emulate the way that business.. well, does business. Following that model is what allows us to build a sustainable career... as opposed to waiting for one job to end before we frantically look for the next one.

I don't disagree with what you are advocating, however, there is one major aspect of an acting career that differs from big business. ROI. Return On Investment....The annual income statistics that the unions put out continue to be pitiful. And let's remember that's averaging in all those gazillion dollar salaries of the major stars. It's simply a fact that the ROI of most actors will be a negative number. BC (Studio City, CA)

ROI is important, BC. I don't agree that "the ROI of most actors will be zero" (my emphasis, not his), but it's important to keep ROI in mind when considering investments in your business.

Before we go much further, lets get one thing out of the way - the term "ROI" is more of that "Nightly Business Report" language that a lot of actors' eyes glaze over at. It's a simple enough concept: You spend money (investment.) You want to make at least as much money as you've spent (the return) as a result of that investment. How much money you make (or don't) beyond what you've spent is the return on investment. Of course, most of you readers have probably already figured that out... but I figured it was a good idea to define the term for my "special" cousin Eustace (Auntie-Norma-Jean got him one a' them there computer machines fer his birthday, ya know...)

(Great, now I'm going to get hate mail from all you readers named Norma Jean and Eustace. Sigh... moving on...)

Like I said above, ROI is important. If we're going to lay out money on something, we want to see a positive result from what we spend. If we pay to get new headshots taken and printed, for instance, we want to see more auditions and booked projects (and therefore more income) as a result of that cash outlay. The question is... how do you know whether you've got a positive or negative ROI on what you spent?

This is one of the many reasons why I use PerformerTrack. Unless you're tracking what you've spent and what you've brought in, there's no way to know what the ROI on those headshots was. By entering my income and expenses into PerformerTrack, I can print out an Income Report and an Expense Report, and I can see if I'm making a profit this year or not (if I'm making a profit, I'm getting a positive ROI - everything I've invested in has cost me less than I've brought in, after all...)

If I'm not making a profit, then I have to look at what I've invested in and see what's working or what's not. I might need to spend more money to balance things out (those headshots I paid for? Not working? Ok... I guess I need different ones), or I might need to reduce the amount I spend on memberships... or subscriptions to breakdown services... or...

The point is, we should never assume that we're going to have a negative ROI. We should invest expecting a positive ROI - and then we should pay attention to be sure that our expectations are met. If they're not, then it's time to make a correction of some type or another. Our income level doesn't necessarily factor into this - if we know how much we're making, then we know how much we can spend.

Expecting not to get a positive ROI, though, just becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. Why invest in something that could make us more successful if it's never going to pay off, right? Like I said to SD, it's about perspective and focus - focusing on the "fact" that actors "will" have a negative ROI just allows that to happen... focusing on making wise investments to be sure you have a positive ROI, on the other hand, just prompts you to keep track of things. And keeping track of your business is what allows you to grow your business.

That's it for now... more on managing your resources in Monday's post. For now...

Let's get to work!


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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Livre de Visage

Hey, are you my "friend" on Facebook? Or, do you "like" me? Or both?

If it's one and not the other, you're missing out on around half the information (ok, maybe 1/3) that I post on Ye Olde Facebook... then, on the other hand, that might be ok depending on what you're looking for.

See, I set up my "Like page" (back then it was called a "Fan" page) when I first set up my Facebook account. I quickly realized that the Fan page wasn't quite what I was looking for. So, I set up my personal Facebook page (the "Friend" one most of you Facebook buddies are hooked into), and went on my merry way.

The "Fan" page languished for a bit, while my "friends list" has grown and grown. Here's the thing, though - I've come to realize that a lot of my "Friends" are more interested in news on my acting career (the status of projects I'm working on, trailers and press, behind-the-scenes photos... that sort of thing) than the more personal and behind-the-scenes-business information I post on my personal page.

So, I've started adding more project-related content to "Fan" page, and I've stopped putting it on my personal page. Do you "like" that kind of information? Then be sure to pop over to my "Fan" page and "Like" me (you Like me! You really like me!!)

Unless, you know... you don't. Like me. It's ok... I won't take it personally... sniff... sniff...

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Tony's Schmony's

Forget Broadway... tonight was the 31st annual Drammy Awards!

Ok, ok... so maybe those of you who don't live in Portland are more interested in the year's best on the "Great White Way..." If you live in Portland and attend live theater in our fair city (and weren't following me on Twitter as I "live tweeted" - until the service went down, that is...) you might want to know who won the awards tonight! Here's a run-down of the event:

The Crystal Ballroom was packed, as it is every year on Drammy night. Steve Smith kicked things off by welcoming everyone to the ceremony, and then handed things over to the Master of Ceremonies for the evening, Michael O'Connell. O'Connell's opening was reminiscent of Stephen Colbert's "The Word" segment on his nightly show; as Michael went through some of the high points of the past season (such as Portland Playhouse's explosion onto the theater scene) and the low points (like the closing of IFCC; Adrienne Flagg got a special round of applause from the room for her running of the facility) the screen behind him displayed commentary on what he was saying - to hilarious effect. Finally, closing with "Tonight we celebrate our hard work, and we celebrate each other," Michael handed things over to the awards presenters, and we were off!

(In case you're unaware of the way the Drammies work, the committee presents up to four awards per category. The number of awards varies from year to year, as do the number and types of categories. The Drammy Committee doesn't present “best of” awards, but rather awards for “outstanding” achievement; they believe identifying “outstanding” theatre – rather than simply the best of what was offered – better promotes excellence while preserving the integrity, value and meaningfulness of the award. You can find out more about the principles behind the awards by clicking here)

Margaret Chapman started things off by presenting the Portland Civic Theatre Guild's Youth Scholarships - awards of $750 to two young actors to help them continue their theatre education. The awards were given to Rafe Larson & Madeline Rogers.

Outstanding Performance by a Young Performer: Lea Zawada for Pinnocchio (NW Childrens Theater)

Outstanding Achievement in Lighting Design: Diane Ferry Williams for Snow Falling on Cedars (Portland Center Stage)

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design: Richard E. Moore for 4.48 Psychosis (defunkt theater)

Outstanding Supporting Actor (4 winners):
David Margulies for The Chosen (Portland Center Stage)
Kevin Jones for Radio Golf (Portland Playhouse / BaseRoots)
Spencer Conway for Fool For Love (CoHo)
Victor Mack for Radio Golf (Portland Playhouse / BaseRoots)

Kimberly Howard couldn't make the prsentation by the Oregon Cultural Trust, so Tim DuRoche stepped up instead to remind us that anyone - with any means - can make a donation to a cultural organization and a matching gift to the Cultural Trust - which results in a tax CREDIT for the amount of the matching gift. A great way to support Oregon arts and culture, and help yourself at tax-time!

Outstanding Original Music: Ashia Grzesik for The Gray Sisters (Third Rail Rep)

Outstanding Original Score: McKinley For Gracie and the Atom (Artists Rep)

Outstanding Original Script (2 winners):
Joseph Sousa for Teeth of the Sons (Re-Theater Instument)
Hunt Holman for Willow Jade (Portland Playhouse)

Outstanding Supporting Actress (2 winners):
Laura Faye Smith for The Trip To Bountiful (Profile Theater)
Amy Newman for God's Ear (Theatre Vertigo)

Andrew Edwards then presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to Lakewood Theater's very own Kay Vega. I can't begin to ecapsulate all that was said here... but she deserved all the praise she received!

Outstanding Supporting Performer in a Musical (3 winners):
Danny Rothman for Ragtime
(Portland Center Stage)
Debbie Hunter for A Little Night Music (Mock's Crest) *
Amy Beth Frankel for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Broadway Rose)
*A little side-note here: in her acceptance speech, Debbie mentioned that Roger Doyle, the man behind Mock's Crest Productions, has been diagnosed with ALS, and A Little Night Music will likely be his final show as conductor for the production company.

Outstanding Costume Design (4 winners):
Darrin Puffar for A Little Night Music (
Mock's Crest)
Mary Rochon for Pinnocchio (
NW Children's Theater)
Rachelle Waldie for East of the Sun , West of the Moon (
Shaking The Tree)
Sarah Gahagan for both El Quijote (
Miracle Theater)
and Trojan Woman (Classic Greek Theater)

At this point, Matt Haynes and Bruce Hostetler presented the
PATA Spotlight Awards for outstanding achievement by the people who work behind the scenes.
Stage Manager: Carol Ann Wohlmut
Crew: Kenichi Hillis
Production Management: Annalise Albright
Matt also took a moment to acknowlege the hard work of Jen Raynak, PATA's former President, in bringing professional standards to the organization.

Outstanding Choreography: Jessica Wallenfels for Gracie and the Atom (Artists Rep)

Outstanding Musical Actor: Gavin Gregory for Ragtime (Portland Center Stage)

Outstanding Musical Director (2 winners):
Rick Lewis for Ragtime (Portland Center Stage)
Kurt Crowley for Forbidden Broadway (Broadway Rose)
Outstanding Scenic Design (2 winners):
Mark Haacke for El Quijote (Miracle Theater)
Tim Stapleton for This Lime Tree Bower (CoHo / Our Shoes Are Red)

Outstanding Ensemble: the cast of 4.48 Pyschosis (defunkt theater)

Outstanding Producer (the first time this award has been handed out): Greg Tamblyn for Disney's Beauty and the Beast (Pixie-dust Productions)

Outstanding Director (2 winners):
Grace Carter for 4.48 Psychosis (defunkt theater)
Chris Coleman for Ragtime (Portland Center Stage)

At this point Sue-Ellen Christianson presented the Portland Civic Theater Guild's awards to theaters for infrastructure - two grants of $1500 went to Live On Stage for the purchase of new sound equipment, and to Miracle Theater for the purchase of sound and communications equipment. Sue-Ellen also presented the Guild's Leslie O. Fulton award - two grants of $5000 went to Sarah Lean Foster to pay for her to study and teach for six months, and to Tim Krause for a trip to a theater conference in Chile.

Outstanding Actress (4 winners):
Malanya Helene for Hopeless (Brooklyn Bay)
Maureen Porter for The Gray Sisters (Third Rail Rep)
Valerie Stevens for The Gray Sisters (Third Rail Rep)
Heidi Hunter for Kindertransport (Jewish Theater Collaborative)

Outstanding Actor (3 winners):
Joseph Sousa for Teeth of the Son (Re-Theater Instrument)
Dennis Kelly for This Lime Tree Bower (CoHo / Our Shoes Are Red)
Michael O'Connell for The Lying Kind (Third Rail Rep)

Outstanding Production (2 winners):
4.48 Psychosis (defunkt theater)

So... there ya go! A good time was had by all - especially the winners :) No, really, we all had a good time.
Now that Followspot is gone, I'll expect you all to be snarky amongst yourselves...

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Back To Business: The Right Time To Invest In Your Business

**Note: And we're back! Thanks for hanging with me, folks... I'm re-starting my regular Monday series today; feel free to email or Twitter me questions and/or comments; I'll respond to those messages each Wednesday!

The Back-To-Business Series: Index

If you can remember back that far, you may recall that I didn't follow my last Back-to-Business post about using PerformerTrack (remember - you can save 20% off a one-year subscription to PerformerTrack by using the coupon-code PORTLAND9 at check-out) with my usual Wednesday "Mailbox" post. That's because, for the most part, all the responses I got went something like this:

It sounds like a good system. Maybe once I start making money I'll buy-into-it. (Ft. Washington, MD)
Once I get more auditions to track, I'll think about using something to track them. (Miami, FL)
Maybe once my career really takes off, I'll set PT up. (Richmond, VA)

I responded to each of these folks individually (and the 20 or 30 others who said essentially the same thing) with the following note:

Hi ______! Thanks very much for your response. I certainly understand your need to watch your spending - we're all poor actors, trying to save whatever money we can! I might suggest, though, that you're looking at things the wrong way. Is the right time to invest in your business after you've become successful? I don't think many businesses can make that equation work - they have to invest in their business to become successful! We'll talk more about this in next week's post.

Of course, "next week's post" was a bit misleading :) My little vacation aside, though, think about the logic of what these people were saying... Did General Motors say they'd hire people to make cars once they'd sold some cars? Did Coke say they'd buy a case of bottles after they'd sold a few bottles of soda? Of course not... those businesses had to invest some money to start up, and once they'd sold a few products they had to invest the money they'd brought in to make more and better products.

That doesn't mean these businesses had to drop a million dollars at the beginning, of course - they were small businesses run by individuals, just like we actors are. They had to keep their costs down to maximize their profit and build the funds they needed for re-investment.

Ok, hold on there... I actually felt your eyes glaze over as I wrote that - that "Nightly Business Report" language tends to make actors - and, indeed, most Americans- blood pressure go up, I know... take a breath. All I'm saying up there is that these businesses - and we, in our acting businesses - need to keep costs down, so they - and we - make more money when we get paid. (ok, you probably got that part...) The toughie, though, is that once you - and they - get paid, some of the money brought in needs to be re-invested to make your business grow.

Here, let's take a look at the proto-typical American "garage business" - Apple computers. A group of friends literally started building computers in Steve Jobs' garage (That's a picture of "The Woz" working away in the upper-left of this post!) Once they'd sold a few computers, though - they didn't stay in the garage! They re-invested their earnings in the business they were building and moved out to larger facilities... and started making Apple into the giant it is today.
Sadly, a lot of business owners - and a lot of actors - never mentally move out of the garage. Their businesses might grow beyond their garage, but their mind-set doesn't. Let me tell you a little secret™: most Americans are afraid of money. It's a hard truth - but a truth nonetheless. We're trained to worry about money from an early age. When we don't have it, we're desperate to get it; when we do get it, we don't want to part with it - OR, on the other side of the spectrum, we spend it on things we want (as opposed to the things we need) as quickly as possible - thinking we'll never get any again!

Actors are even more fearful when it comes to their money than most Americans - because our income comes in sporadically. We're never sure when the next job is coming, so we hold on to our shekels with a tight fist... and then, when we get cash in our hands, we're even more extreme about holding onto it... or we enjoy it a little too much.

We've had this attitude towards money drilled into us because Americans have come depend on "the steady paycheck." It's part of what we were brought up with - this 1950's ideal that we're going to work for a single company our entire life - a company that will keep us employed, pay our benefits, and take care of us into retirement. It's a nice ideal, and certainly one I'd like to see the country to strive to rebuild - but lets be honest, we don't see many jobs like that in this day and age and haven't for a good long while.

The acting profession doesn't work that way. Sure, maybe it used to for the lucky few who were put under contract in the "Studio Era" of Hollywood... but those days are long gone. We actors get paid on a per-project basis; we're hired on to a project, do the work, and then we move on to the next project to start the cycle over. The only way to make a sustainable living from this model is think ahead - to manage our resources (and believe me, money is just one of those resources) so we can line up a number of projects to fill out our yearly income. In essence, we need to have a certain number of "sales" (the contracts we sign with various production companies) in a given year to make a living.

And here's the thing... if you think about it, there's not much difference between that and the way GM, Coke, and Apple make their livings. These companies don't have a "steady paycheck," either. Like we actors, they don't a number of guaranteed sales each year; they have to produce their product, market it, make the sale, and then manage the money that comes in so that some goes to profit and some goes back into the business to help it grow. Just like we want to grow our careers. It's that simple.

This is what I was talking about in my video post last week - we can run around chasing our tails looking for a "job" to do until the work runs out - and then run around looking for the next "job - " or we can run our careers like GM, Coke and Apple do. We can manage our resources - money included - to grow our businesses, and increase the number of projects we work.

I've talked a lot in the past few Back-To-Business posts about the expenses related to an acting career. There are things you have to spend your money on - such as head shots and training - and there are things you can spend your money on - like a car, a web site, or the commission you pay to an agent. You can get by without spending money on those "can" things I just mentioned... but what are you giving up by doing so? How many opportunities to book that next project - and fill out your income for the year - are you giving up by NOT having a car, web site, or agent? When thinking about places to invest your acting money, that's the question you need to answer. Not "what will I get for my money," but "what will I lose out on by NOT spending the money.
Like I said above, money's just one resource that we as actors - and any business person - needs to manage. I'll get into some of those other resources in next week's post. As always, feel free to email or Twitter your comments and questions. For now...
Let's get to work!

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Wednesday, June 09, 2010

What Can The Oregon Film Industry Expect From A New Governor?

Well, someone out there gets it! Take a look at what showed up in my change yesterday when I bought a Viso at my corner mini-mart!

While the legality of writing on US currency is a bit questionable, the message is clear - the Film and TV industry in Oregon is bringing money into the economy! Film and TV dollars aren't just going to rent equipment and cater the craft services tables on the set of Leverage... they're going into the pockets of people who spend those dollars at the corner store, keeping local merchants in business.

This is a message that needs to be repeated often, especially in light of the upcoming governors' race here in Oregon. Whether John Kitzhaber or Chris Dudley moves into the Governor's Mansion this November, they're going to have a lot of hard work to do. Oregon's economy is still in trouble, and our current budget shortfall has brought proposals for a 9% across-the-board cut in state agencies - bringing drastic cuts to Oregon schools, health services, and other programs. Add to this an 11% unemployment rate, and whomever the new Governor is... he's going to face some challenges.

The problem here is revenue; most industries in the state have seen their income drop - and the taxes they pay on that income have dropped as well - which has reduced the amount the state has to spend on services it provides. This is a pretty simple formula, right? When Oregon industry does well, the state gets lots of money in tax revenue... when Oregon industry does poorly, the state doesn't have as much money to spend.

In an environment like this, it would seem logical to shore up the industries bringing jobs and revenue into the state - yet, to date, both Dudley and Kitzhaber have been silent when it comes to their support of one of the few industries actually growing here in Oregon - the film and TV industry.

According to Susan Haley at the Governor's Office of Film and Television, this industry brought $62,000,000.00 into the state in "direct spending" last year (Portland AFTRA president and SAG National Board member Mary McDonald-Lewis points out that "indirect spending" has a conservative multiplier of 2 - by industry standards - which makes the actual total brought in more like $124,000,000.00).

As of February of this year, TNT's hit show Leverage - just ONE project in this industry - had hired over 900 Oregonians to appear on camera - and many more to work behind-the-scenes as carpenters, grips, drivers... you name it (sadly, I don't have any figures on crew positions at this point.)

Now, there's been a lot of negative buzz lately about the "worth" of film incentive programs throughout the country... as this recent article in Parade Magazine points out, several states are suspending or reducing their incentive funds in the quest to balance their own budgets. Looking at the numbers above, it's patently obvious that Oregon would be mistaken to follow this trend. When Ms. Haley at the GOFTV gave me last year's revenue figures, she also gave me another figure - the amount the state spent as an incentive to bring outside projects in to shoot (the Oregon Production Incentive Fund gives producers a rebate - up to 20% - on what they spend here in Oregon when they shoot... unlike many other film incentive programs, though, producers have to spend their dollars in the state before they see any return). That figure? $7.8 million.

So, lets do a little math here... the Oregon film and television industry spent $7.8 million to bring production into Oregon... and that production brought at least $62 million into the state (or, if you factor in "indirect spending" - the hotel rooms and restaurants cast and crew eat at, the rental cars, the cell phones... etc, perhaps as much as $124 million.)

And at least one of those dollars ended up at my corner store. We can only wonder how many more have filtered into the rest of the Oregon economy at-large. So the question to the candidates for Oregon's governor is clear - what are you going to do continue this industry's growth, and continue bringing the jobs and revenue our state so desperately needs?

We're still waiting for their answer...


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Monday, June 07, 2010

Back-To-Business is Back Next Week (Video)

The Back-To-Business Series: Index

Hey folks

You might remember my last entry in the Back-to-Business series wasn't so much an entry, as a video of me taking a break.

Well, break's over... and it seemed like the appropriate way to start up again would be...

(Ok, so maybe I didn't yammer on TOO much... but I still think Mercedes Rose's videos are better!)

So, check back next Monday for the next entry in the Back-To-Business series... and for now...

Lets get to work!


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Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Pilgramage Part II: The Return!

And we're back!

Of course, you know that we've been back for a couple weeks now. It's Memorial day, though - a time to remember those who've come before... and it's the weekend, when I generally spend time in the office playing my online video game. It seemed like a good time to update you all on my recent trip to Arizona with my family.

Besides... I have to do something while the software is loading on my new computer... oi! Ya spend six years getting the box juuuust right... and then you have to get a new one set up just like it in a day? I tell ya...

Anyway, what follows is a mixture of travelogue, photo show, and a bit of insight into the things I learned on my little pilgrimage back to the land of my ancestors. You might be interested in some of the photos, a video or two... or you might not care a whit about what I learned on the trip. Really, this post is more for me, my friends, and family who want to see what I saw on my journey to explore my familial past. Don't worry, I'll get back to letting you know about my current and upcoming projects soon enough (as if I hadn't already :) ). For now, though... lets head back a couple of weeks to the land of sun and - snow?

Day 1 (Click here for a slide-show) We landed in Phoenix in the early evening and got the rental car situation taken care of (we drove a Chevy HHR all over the state, and were very impressed with the car! Great gas mileage, a solid ride... maybe Detroit is starting to "get it" finally!). It was late enough that we didn't want to head too far - so we grabbed dinner at an Old Spaghetti Factory in Phoenix and then found a Holiday Inn for the night. Not too much to tell!

Day 2 (Click here for a slide-show) We set out for Flagstaff, which was to be our "home base" for the next couple of days. On the way we stopped in Black Rock Springs - a spot my Dad lived in while my Grandfather was working on the Black Rock Highway (Grandpa was a road engineer for most of his life... he worked on most of the major roads going through the state of Arizona at one time or another...). We got to Flagstaff in the early afternoon, found lodging at the Canyon Inn, and then visited the Lowell Observatory when the sun went down. Fun fact about Flagstaff: It's the world's first Dark Sky City - and that makes the sky AMAZING at night (not that my camera really did it justice...)

Day 3 (Click here for a slide-show) We headed to the Grand Canyon... in the SNOW! Now, Flagstaff has a higher elevation than Phoenix, so we were expecting the temperature to be lower than "shorts and t-shirt weather..." but none of us expected THIS! I could write more about the drive, but this video tells the story just fine... and the photos in the slide show give you a good idea of what we saw when we finally made it to the canyon!
On Day 4 (Click here for a slide-show) we headed East to see Dad's cousins in St. Johns. On the way we passed through Holbrook - the town my grandmother was born in. This isn't in-and-of-itself a major distinction; she didn't spend a lot of time in Holbrook, to the best of my knowledge. We had a pleasant surprise waiting for us when we stopped, though... at an honest-to-god "Wigwam Hotel," we found a Studebaker pickup truck like my grandfather's. Mom and I spent quite a few minutes by the truck, while she told stories of being picked up from the bus stop in one like this, playing in it, and generally re-living old memories. Then it was back on the road. Once we hit St. Johns we spent some time with Dad's cousins John Dale and Bobby Lee, and then it was back down the road. We were planning on making it down to Phoenix that night... but it'd been a pretty full day, so we ended up holing up for the night in Show Low (there's a funny story behind the name of that town... click here!)

Day 5 (Click here for a slide-show) We headed for Phoenix by the way of Pine (where my parents got married) and Payson (where my Dad, Grandparents - and I! - lived for a while). After taking a look at the church my parents were married in, my great-grandmother Alice's house, and a couple other spots along the way, we finally made it to Scottsdale and the Sheraton Desert Oasis, which was to be our home base for the rest of the trip. It was a welcome stop (especially for Trish!)

On Day 6 (Click here for a slide-show) we headed to Miami (the old-timers call it "Mi-ammah") and Globe - sort of the ancestral home of the Phillips side of the family. My great grandfather Joseph Alva Phillips worked for the copper mining company there, and my Grandfather's whole generation was raised there. We met up with some of Dad's relations at his cousin Frank's house, sat about and had a good time, and then headed out for Mexican food in Globe (apparently, a Phillips family get-together tradition... who knew?) Outside the Mexican restaurant was a reminder of Arizona's... tough-on-crime attitude.

Day 7 was a "down day" for Trish and I... Dad and mom went to visit some friends from High School while Trish and I hung in the condo for a bit... and then, that evening, we went over to Dad's cousin Bob's house for dinner. While we were there I got to see something of a family heirloom... Dad's cousin Linda showed me her copy of the autobiography of Christopher Layton (now out of print) - Layton was probably one of our more famous relatives (at least in the Mormon Church... but hey, we've got Davy Crockett on our side, too! :) )

On Day 8 (Click here for a Slide-show) Mom, Dad and I set out to visit Kingman, where they first met. Along the way we passed through Wikeup (where Mom's family lived for a time) and the Big Sandy Valley. We couldn't get down to the farms my Mom lived in in Wikeup - but one of them had a collection of farm equipment spread out over the property - many of which were similar to the equipment my grandfather used. My grandfather Harold owned a farm somewhere in the Big Sandy valley, but we weren't able to find the site no matter how hard we looked (and believe me, we looked!) Kingman - when we finally got there - was interesting... all the remains of the high school my Mom and Dad went to is the band room (where they spent most of their time), and after much looking, we were able to find the house my Mom lived in (she was amazed it was still standing). On the way out of town we stopped by a restaurant that my dad worked at when he was about 16 years old (it was called "The Platter" back then... now it's under a new name and closed).

On Day 9 (Click here for a Slide-show) we stayed in the Phoenix area and met up with some relatives. The morning started with a visit to Dad's cousin Patsy, then we had lunch with my aunt Bonnie and uncle Charlie (and his awesome wife Marcia, who we just fell in love with). That evening, we had dinner with Dad's half-sister Melva and her daughter Jan, who had a TON of family records for us - and were nice enough to go to Kinko's with us to copy them.

Day 10 (Click here for a Slide-show) was largely spent at with my Aunt Bonnie and her husband Steve at their house in Chandler. Mom and Bonnie don't get the chance to see each other that often, and it was great to see them hang out and share stories about growing up. After a very nice lunch, we visited the house Mom lived in while she was was in Tempe. When we went around the back, we got a nice surprise - my grandmother planted a pecan tree in the back yard the year she, Mom, and her sisters moved in... but the tree never yielded any nuts while Mom lived there. She got to eat a nut from the tree for the first time. A nice moment!

Day 11 (Click here for a Slide-show) was our last day in Arizona - and it turned out to be a real adventure! The goal was to meet our cousin Sharon Hinton in Geronimo - she was to show us the private cemetery where my great grandfather is buried. Seems like it should have been simple enough, right? That was before Dad said, "Aw, what the hell... lets take the Apache Trail!" Now, the Apache Trail is scenic - with lots of saguaro cacti, some water along the way, a fair amount of wildlife... and 22 miles of unpaved road! What could have been a couple hours' drive ended up taking about 5 as we crept up and down hill. It was gorgeous country, to be sure... but I'm glad I didn't tell Enterprise about the trip before I turned the car in :) We finally got off the unpaved road at Roosevelt dam - a dam my grandfather helped to build the roads in and out of. We finally met up with Sharon in the bustling town of Geronimo late in the day, and she took us up to the cemetery. While we were there she passed on a wealth of information about my great grandfather's side of the family - in fact, she's written several books about it! On the way back, we stopped in Globe again to check the county offices for some records... and then it was back to Scottsdale to pack for our trip home. Not too much sleep later... and we were back on our way back to the Northwest!

So... what did I learn on this little Odyssey of mine? Well, I learned a few things...

- I learned about the fluid nature of memory... everyone at these family gatherings had memories of the past... but that didn't mean they had the same memories about the people, places, and things that they shared with others in the room. My aunt Bonnie remembers my grandfather in an entirely different way than my mother does... my Dad's grandfather had a lot of secrets he wasn't privy to until this trip. This is one of the reasons I'm so driven to document my family's history; somewhere down the line someone is going to what know what happened to bring them to the place they are in time... and the more we record this stuff, the easier it'll be for my nephew, or his kids, or whomever to figure that out.

- I learned that about the power of objects... I never knew my Mother's father; he died before I was born. I can't tell you what it meant to me to see things like the ones he used in his life... a tractor... a pickup truck; I will never have known him, but imagining working the land, hauling a rake behind his tractor... that makes me feel closer to him than I can describe.

- I learned that the places people have lived help put their lives in perspective... if you've been lucky enough to meet my parents, you know that they're quirky people. They make an impression on anyone who meets them... it's just who they are, and how they make their way in the world. It's something I love them for - but like any offspring, I've had my moments of embarasment at some of those parental quirks. It's just one of those parents-and-kids kinda things. Seeing where they lived growing up... how they lived... gives me a deeper understanding of what shaped them into the people they are today; and it helps me understand how they shaped me into who I am today!

- And I learned that everyone's got a story... but then, I already knew that! Still... it's a variation on the theme above. The people who shaped my parents were shaped by the people before them - and those before them. And each one of those people have tales to be told about them - stories as big as a Shakespearean history, and as small as Willie Loman in Death of a Salesman. When you sit down and listen to people talk about their parents, or their parents' parents, you begin to see the big picture - the drama of each individual life that, when put together with the other lives in your family, make up the saga you yourself are part of.

It was a long time to be out of town... it maybe wasn't the most restful vacation I might have taken... but for those things, for the people I met, and the quiet conversations with my parents, I'll always be glad I took this trip with my family. It's definitely made my life richer.

I might suggest, if your parents are still with you, that you consider doing the same. You might be surprised what you find out - and you'll always look back on the time you spent with them with relish!

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