Monday, July 26, 2010

All Kinds of FUNNY!

I wanna be a Groundling.

When I got out to LA, I wanted to maximize my experience. Since I was already learning a lot about the television production at ET, I wanted to tap into my theatrical side! After seeing Chicago's Second City improv company perform at UNI, I became interested in professional improv...these people are smart, witty, and hilarious. After all, many who I look up to (Um..helLO, Tina Fey!!) got their start by studying at improv academies. So, I hit up the best of the best in Los Angeles--The Groundlings improv company on Melrose Avenue!

What the heck is GROUNDLINGS?!

The Groundlings has bred many notabl alumni, including Conan O'Brien, Jimmy Fallon, Will Ferrell, Kathy Griffin, Phil Hartman, and Paul Reubens--aka PeeWee Herman! Many alumni have moved on to become performers on Saturday Night Live! It is a four-level program, which consists of new sessions every 6 weeks: basic, intermediate, writing lab, and

advanced. Classes are by audition only and students must be recommended by instructor to move to the next level. Students who pass level 4 may be voted onto the "Sunday Company"--a group of stellar students who perform every Sunday. After spending a year and a half in the Sunday company, students are either released from the academy or moved up to become "A GROUNDLING" [cue trumpet fanfare]--the highest honor (and VERY hard to make).

My Audition

"I'm here because my agent told me I need to get comfortable with comedy."

I listened as each person gave their background story--everyone at the Groundlings audition had a different reason for being there. When I got there, I realized that I was the youngest one at my audition--most everyone was already a professional actor who was making a living doing commercials! After handing in our headshot and resume, we were given a series of characters to portray--from angry truck driver to worried physics professor. We were evaluated on our ability to pop into characters--to make skillful choices of physicalities, voices/accents, and our use of emotion. and our comfort level of performing in front of an audience. Even though I was

one of the only who had no formal improv experience already, I felt comfortable because of all of my past theatre experience--from high school speech to college radio to entertaining my family at the dinner table.

I know that Nick Chizek, my brother from community theatre, would EXCEL at Groundlings because he is skilled at physical comedy!

I didn't think I did too great--my professional ice skater impression could have been a bit better…but I ended up passing! Kristi Yamaguchi would be proud...


First off, may I say that my instructor, Ted Michaels, is a part-time Jim Henson

Muppeteer, and I think that is the MOST NEATO THING EVER!!!!!

I never thought I'd ever be pumped for a 3 and a half hour class. But I LOVE THIS--each day we go to class and crack each other up! Ted says that Groundlings is basically like "free therapy"--and he is right! From the moment we walk in the door to the moment we leave, we play games, act out scenes, and are as goofy--with semi-structured learning--as possible!

My classmates are all in their twenties or thirties (with the exception of Zack, the 18-year-

old runt). They come from different walks of life--one student just graduated from Stanford with a product design degree. Another came from a theatre conservatory in Texas. One guy, Aaron, already has spent two years with Second City in Chicago. One girl is an actress/model from Georgia, and she was on an episode of Thirty Rock! (I love this show-she got to do her make-up right next to Tina Fey! ) She also just got done filming an episode of Entourage where she played Bob Saget's girlfriend. I get really excited to get to know these people, that sometimes I feel like I am conducting an interview with them about their lives…they just all have such exciting stories to tell!

Dreamy Steamy Bobby...

in love with my classmate?


I have been to two of their shows already--after all, I can't just study at a place and not see what comes out of it! Needless to say, they are fabulous.

Some friends and me at a Friday night show!

Groundlings is known for their "character-based" school of improv; so, whereas Second City focuses on a lot of political satire and current events, Groundlings is heavy into character development and committing to a scene, no matter how absurd it is. My favorite skit was a parody on the author of Twilight. I will not detail the script as to not offend any Twihards...

OH, and you know that girl who plays "Flo" in the Progressive Commercial? She is a current Groundling.


When I come back to LA, I hope to pick back up at level two. If I pass Basic Level, that is. But I've showed up on time to each class and given it my all…the only downside? (And I'm not even kidding) We are not allowed to wear heels, because they are "not easy to move in".


Friday, July 16, 2010

Filming from the Fashion Closet!!!

In the Fashion Closet!! (where I was born to be...)

Racks and racks of jewelry in every curtains drenched in gems and jewels, one hanging sheet devoted to a single color and jewelry type. Blue bracelets, yellow earrings, green necklaces. And the SHOES! [gasp] I was like a girl in the candy shop who reaches a sugar high before she even takes a bite. But I couldn't take that precious bite, because 1) the shoes weren't my size, and 2) they are not mine. That would be frowned upon, now wouldn't it?

ET Production Assistant--the long-legged, dark-haired, beautiful Sonya--joined me in dressing mannequins and excitedly watching the crew film "You Choose Lara's Look."

What better a place to look
at fashion magazines than
the fashion department?

The Insider, which is ET's sister show, is a discussion panel-based celebrity news show. One of the four panelists, Miss Lara Spencer, gets to have her next day's outfit selected for her by viewers each day. It is called, fittingly, "You Choose Lara's Look". The fashion coordinator, Anya Sarre, picks out the options, determining Lara's fashion fate, and the viewers vote on the website between the two.

We sat on the sidelines while Anya filmed her segment! I shouted in the background when Anya mentioned the interns, "YES OF COURSE!!!"
My excited outburst is at 1:16 :)

Each Piece of Glitter Matters.

Besides helping out backstage...what were some other treats of the fashion closet???
UM HEL-LO CHRISTIAN LOUBOUTINS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Alrighty, so this dog wasn't in the closet, but ET's Executive Producer, Linda Bell, brought her dog into the news room, and Sonya was quite delighted. :)

Anya's pink suede pumps.

"Do you ever get desensitized to all the glitter and glam since you do this every day?" I asked Anya, somewhat fearing the answer.

"No, and that's why I love what I do. Each piece of glittery jewelry is always different and exciting to me."

Now this woman knows how to speak my language.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Behind the Scenes on the set of ET!

So far on our internship, the Entertainment Tonight stage had been "dark". In the summer, the ET set is not always used (similar to many shows that go on summer hiatus), and many shots are filmed from the control room. However, starting last week, we got to see the GLITZ and GLAMOUR of the real set in action!

The Set

The stage is HUGE, bright orange, and revolves like a showy amusement park ride. The Entertainment Tonight hosts must walk across the revolving stage while delivering the lines from the teleprompter, stopping at the exact marked spot so the light hits them just so. No stumbling, and no time to rehearse. You might think..."psshh, all they do is smile and read the script!" OK--it's not that easy, you'll just have to trust me. That thing spins around and shakes like a CA earthquake, (WHICH--by the way, I experienced last week! 5.7 on the Richter scale, baby!!).

If anything goes wrong in this process of elaborate choreography, they must film the take again.

I always thought it looked simple, but I did not know that there was an exact art!!


The people who get to show their PURDY FACES on camera are called the "talent". For ET, this includes Mark--THE MAN--host of ET and internship mentor!--Kevin Frazier, Samantha Harris, and Mary Hart. One of the perks to being talent is that they have professional hair and make-up artists, constantly on-call during filming! The make-up and hair crew watch their prides and joy on a huge HD monitor while filming to make sure that they can catch anything that the audience might catch--a smudged area of eyeliner, or a needed hairspray patdown!

One must weigh the costs and benefits of being would you like to be constantly scrutinized by the public eye? People commenting on your face from their living rooms. Would make-up service from experts, and professional stylists picking your wardrobe make the ordeal worth it?? Hmmm...

(I DO think so, actually.)

Meeting a WOMAN ET Host--Beautiful Samantha Harris!

I met Samantha Harris, an ET co-anchor and correspondent. (She co-hosted "Dancing with the Stars" for eight seasons! Her bio is on her website here) Samantha Harris is beautiful, and so down-to-earth! Partially due to the fact that she is from Minnesota--best from the midwest, baby!!! When I met her she was wearing a pretty, fitted plum dress and Cole Haan shoes.

I felt bad after I realized I took a picture of just her shoes before I took a picture of her face, but she just laughed.

She talked about how she got her start in broadcast journalism. She went to Northwestern University in Chicago, renowned for its journalism program.

It is really nice to hear about how other people got their start. Often times, I find myself asking, "What is the next step? HOW do I get there?" But the truth is, there is no clear-cut way. It takes practice, experience, hard work, and connections.
When emmy-award winning editor (and UNI Alum) Josh Bodnar came to UNI to speak last semester, he told me something that stuck with me.
"You might think that people in LA have an industry advantage because they've lived there for their entire lives, but that's not always true...People from the Midwest get noticed because of their strong work ethic. That's what gets you places."

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Hollywood? Holly-WORK!!

A Budding College Graduate's Career Indecision.

So far, I have been sharing happy happy happy!! :D And yes...I am a happy person. And I do LOVE it here! But I also do have anxieties. So, if you would indulge me, I will vent for a teensy bit.

Do you ever have SO MANY IDEAS that your mind is BUZZING!?!? Like you have a gallon bucket filled with zillions of creative seeds, and you don't have enough water for all of them? And everything you see inspires you to write a stupid song, or make a video, or design a piece of art. That is me when I wake up in the morning. And when I am in the shower. And when I am clipping my nails. And--most ANNOYINGLY--when I go to bed.

I guess some people would consider this to be a blessing and not a curse. But I am going to be flat-out honest--it is stinking annoying sometimes. Because then all I want to do is create, create, create...and then I don't prioritize "relaxation". Or sleep...(what is that, anyway?) There's a saying, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." But I think...if I'm having fun while working, isn't it win-win? So I need to take this "curse" and put it into an industry in which my buzzing ideas can find homes.


Hollywood? Holly-WORK!

This internship has been a constant process of learning. Not only about technical skills and the inner workings of the entertainment industry, but about myself --what I want for my future. I am around real people in the business everyday, through their good and bad days. News flash, Eva--just because it's "**HOLLYWOOD!**" doesn't at all mean that it's all-fun, all-games, and all glam. I would be a liar if I said that was the case! I guess I knew that coming in, but seeing it up close helps me internalize this. I witness the same job stress--the same good days, the same bad days, the same anxieties. So maybe Zac Efron is down the street and Dr. Phil is a door knock's still a life here or there!

In which Direction Should I funnel this need to create?

As I am nearing graduation, I am going crazy--what is the RIGHT way to go? Do I want to live in NYC, LA? Iowa?! Now, later? Do I go to grad school or jump right into the industry? Do I want to go the musical route or more TV oriented? Performance or production? And WHAT do I DO when it ALL interests me??! Too many choices! Can someone just pick it for me!

Look in the mirror, Eva--it's called growing up. All people have to face the big, scary "Real World" sometimes. And sometimes it's filled with as many challenges as the MTV show with the same name, yet with many less innuendos and fabricated drama. It's legit. Sometimes I just need to take things slowly as they come, and appreciate the journey. I am thankful to be around patient, loving people who are willing to assist in any way possible, and I take advantage of this. I guess (knock on wood) the rest will fall into place.


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Package from Home!!

Let it be known that I successfully packed my 2-month life into two perfectly 50-lb bags. (Okay, one was 50.4 and the other was 50.9, but the airport guy let it slide…)

However, once I got to Cali, I realized that I had--in all the excitement and rush to Hollywood--left some VERY critical items at home. I called my parents and gave them a list, and they spared no time in sending me the emergency package of forgotten items. Inside?


These are my go-to pink patent leather pumps. I hadn't brought any

pink close-toed shoes to Cali! Crime!!

My staple accessory and room decoration.

Thankfully, I had bought temporary glitter glue for the
first two weeks to tide me over. But my original bottles have character!
And the LA bottles are puny, and a JOKE!
ESSENTIAL for crafts, cards,
and many, many other things.

(Top: My Iowan Glue
Bottom: Cali Glue)
Really, California--REALLY?

Rose evening purse!
What is a diva to do without a rhinestone-clasp clutch to
take out on the town??

My 2nd Bible.
The apostles of editing and filming have created a masterpiece!
Old Testament--35mm film; New Testament, HD

Ziplocs and washcloths...
because they don't sell them here? AND....

I knew my mom was bound to throw a random item in there.

I love California, but...
I miss my family, and I love them more than anything!!!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

I knew her not by name, but by shoes.

Even if I don't aspire to be a writer, I aspire to be the one woman in the office about whom others say, "Did you see her shoes?"

So the past two days, when I shadowed Heidi Clements--the head writer at Entertainment Tonight--were a dream come true. Heidi is a firecracker. She works fast, is extremely talented, and has a feisty personality with red hair to match.

To me, this woman does it all.

Her Blackberry constantly buzzing, she works at her desk--on the phone, writing emails, and assigning stories to directors knocking at her door. In the meantime, she cranks out lead-ins to stories and organizes the show's opening sequence, all at the same time, and in Christian Louboutins. On the side, she writes sit-coms and screenplays. In her spare time, of course.

She dials an extension, "We have a new photo of them sitting on a log and they have wedding bands on!"

I felt like a bit of an annoying bumble bee (in a dress), popping up at her side. Don't get me wrong--I love moving fast-paced and am notorious for flying through things at presto tempo…but I did not want to disrupt her flow! The thing is, she answered my questions without missing a beat.

powerful woman, powerful shoes.

I learned so much from her about "writing copy"--the script that the hosts on the show will read, either on camera or through voiceover. Punchy, bold, and concise. I asked for some writing exercises, so she gave me some of the show topics and I was actually able to write some intros used on the show!

I wrote the intros for the segments on Toddlers in Tiaras and former cocaine addict and Playboy Playmate-turned-mother, Kendra Wilkinson.

It was a really cool feeling to know that the words I wrote were to be read by talent, matched with

graphics, and viewed and heard by millions of people! When I went back to Mark's office a few hours later, he had already been given the script and recorded my lines. When the show fed through CBS at 12:30 PM, I hopped up and said to him, "I wrote that!!" When it comes to writing about anything with the word "Tiara" in it, I must be a natural…


When I used to picture grown-ups in cubicles, I imagined a mundane atmosphere where people sit quietly typing, with the occasional office-gabber stopping at others' doors to chat with a coffee.

This place? The EPICENTER of celebrity news, and it is constantly buzzing.

Production meetings start at 6AM, where the directors, writers, executive producers, music producer, and media assistant meet and decide what is worthy of being deemed Entertainment Tonight material.

"Pictures! Do we have pictures of them?"

"Yes! And we have exclusive interview footage from his ex."

"Great, that's a lead story."

I totally get a kick out of it because it reminds me of high school…where girls sit at

the lunch table and hungrily soak up the latest on who-kissed-who, where, and for how long. But this is a conference room with a table full of professional adults who are great at what they do…they know what people want and how to deliver it.

I don't know exactly what I want to do for a living yet, but I do know I want it to be creative, fast-paced, and performance-based. I am learning so much, as each person at Entertainment Tonight has a wealth of information to share. My mind is basically EXPLODING! But when it does, at least confetti comes out…and as we all know, it ain't a party without confetti.