Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cooking the Bird

I'm about to prep my first turkey. In the past, I've roasted chickens, cooked stews, drizzled a balsamic reduction over a first seared then roasted chicken breast, pioneered countless ragouts and topped off the turkey with the finest of Thanksgiving Stuffing (my world famous cornbread, bacon and pecan stuffing). But I've never, ever prepped the turkey.

This is intense.

Alright, I'm off.

Happy Turkey Holocaust.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Business of Emails as an Artist

Google is sucking my life today. I've literally been on Gmail since 10 AM. It's now 2:30 PM. That's four and a half hours of Google. That's half of a conventional corporate workday. Where did all of the time go? It didn't go towards writing a short story, outside of the necessary content of each message. It wasn't spent dicking around on Facebook (okay, maybe like fifteen minutes were spent on Facebook). It wasn't consumed with Gchat (okay, maybe like another fifteen or twenty minutes were thrown away on Gchat). Still, if I'm being honest, I spent like three and a half hours in total on email.That's a lot!

I can't do that everyday and get my real work done.

Yet, I think you'd agree: in this day and age, it is necessary to send and receive emails. It's part of the business of being your own business. An excavation of today's emails would reveal that I set up a gig, I sent out questions regarding a talent agency, I communicated with my On-Camera Reel producer, and I even took the time to send a few thank you notes. That's not so bad, right?

Some days it's all business. Others, it's all art. I just can't let one dominate the other, that's all. Good fences make good neighbors, right?

Maybe tomorrow I'll set time aside for my art. That's not a bad idea, if I commit to it. And THAT'S the trick.

Relax, Sam: you done good today. You'll do good tomorrow too.

Monday, November 21, 2011

No Thanks, I'm Milwaukee

Today, I'm driving to Milwaukee to book another talent agency. A year ago, I was ignorant of this possibility. At the time I thought, "There's nothing outside of Chicago except New York and LA. The rest is corn fields."

My modus operandi was to continually mail packages to, what I assumed was, every talent house in town. My thinking again was, "well, I've done this before, but maybe this time will be different." The result was that I either didn't hearing anything or, from the more gracious places, I received a Not-at-this-Time letter. I decided to change my tactic: I took a class on Voice Over.

From here, I learned the logical next step was to make a demo of my sound. I couldn't wait to do it, so before I even stepped into my last class, I was already behind the mic making my recording. And the producer gave me some great advice.

"Look into these places. One's in Milwaukee," he said, as he handed me a list. I cold called them all at his recommendation.. "Best case scenario, you get an extra minute to promote yourself. Worst case scenario, they say, 'We're busy' and hang up. There's nothing to lose."

After I acquired a list and made the calls, I mailed all the agencies my CD. Within a week of my submissions, I had multiple auditions.

My first was for one of the best agencies in town! This was a sign for sure. So I got there early and was ready to make it just perfect. I grabbed the scripts from the receptionist and spent too much time preparing them. Finally, the agent found me. "Let's do this," she said. "We don't have all day."

We did about four takes each and then she asks me to follow her to her office.

"Look," she said, "you're good, but I'm not going to sign you." She then proceeded to tell me that I need more polish if I was going to compete with her other clients. She gave me the name of a coach, "he's an LA guy. He's one of the best. Work with him and come back to me in a year. Maybe someone else picks you up in the mean time and you never come back. That's just a risk I'm going to have to take."

I thank her for her time and, covering my embarrassment, left.

However, for the first time, this "no" was genuinely helpful.

Since then, I've worked with multiple coaches, booked multiple gigs and landed another agent. Now, I'm about to drive up to Milwaukee for a second one.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Nearly Doubling an Income - A Challenge

On October 14th, my last day of working in a corporate job, I wagered that I could make $1100 freelancing as an actor for the month of November. Setting out, I had a vague idea of how I was going to do this, but no assurance of security. Now that the month is nearly over, and, including a gig I have on December 1st, I will have manged to make a total of $1080.

I am calling this month a success. There are even a few uncounted possibilities still pending.

In the grand scheme of things, and while this is not much money -- significantly less than I made in my corporate job -- and while it won't be enough to live on in the long run, my work this month set up future opportunities. Plus, I grew as an artist as I built towards my overall objective of creating meaningful and relevant stories that inspire play, induce happiness and support healthy living.

To strengthen this conviction, in December, I'm challenge myself to double my November income through only work that fulfills my mission.

God speed, Sam Buti.

I have a vague idea of how I'm going to do this, but no assurance of security. With nothing set, I have everything to figure out. That's pretty exciting.

Worst case scenario, I learn something that makes me better off in the long run.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

If you Only do two Things...

Be happy and do what you love. Even if you don't know precisely what you love, do what you like and find the love within it. In a Voice Over session recently, my coach advised me to, "find the love spot in your body and groove on it. That's all Voice Over is." That's pretty cool, huh?

Anyway, you know what I'd love to hear? I'd love to hear what you do for love. For me, and at the moment, it's journaling, reading aloud into a microphone and playing imrpov. I also really love good conversations.

Alright, speaking of love, I'm off to celebrate my one year anniversary with my girlfriend. Peace out!

Friday, November 18, 2011

How My Grandmother Reaffirms my Conviction

When I waver in my conviction to create a life worth live, when I assume I should be working more conventionally and with all that entails -- working a nine-to-five, not enjoying my life, subjugating myself for a dollar, etc. -- I think about Gram, my grandmother, and I get back to my living. She's getting older now, and like many older people, she has experienced the death of some of her nearest and dearest friends and family.

My mother, in contrast, and who almost died once and has endured many major illnesses since, is not facing this reality as severely. As it now stands, she came out of it, and many of the people around her are still living. Gram, on the other hand, is watching the threshold approach. And no one is coming back from that

My grandmother has always been a charmer. Everyone takes to her. She's funny and kind, even flirty. I aspire to be so charismatic when I'm her age. But in the last few years, her attitude has turned a touch south. She now signs her emails, "Love and Prayers," where she never used to pray much.

Her husband died nearly 30 years ago, and I've heard her tell stories about spending her last days with friends as they passed. In all of this, she never made a fuss; it's unlike her to draw attention to pain. That is, until her neighbor died two months ago.

When her neighbor died, she lost her most frequent confidant and friend.

For someone who is so positive, the regret that follows this sadness astonishes me.

But, I'll leave that for another post.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Point of Perception

I don't want to do this tonight.

So, why am I still here?

Because I said I would be...

...and if I don't, I will have failed...myself.

What the fuck is that!? What is wrong with me? There's something very wrong with that thinking. This blog is something I decided to do for fun. This blog is something I decided to do to keep learning. This blog is something I decided to do to improve myself.

AH! There's the rub.

What if I didn't have anything left to improve? What if I was fine just as I am?

I...uh...sorry your Honor...can't imagine how that could ever be true.

If I just trusted myself, I'd probably fall back into some shitty life and mind sucking job. If I trusted myself, I'd probably be sold into 20th century slavery. If I trusted myself, I probably have no relationships with anyone!

Let's not get carried away, Sam. We're being a bit dramatic.

Your Honor...I'm not being dramatic, and please don't say "we". As the writer of this blog, I am singularly myself.

You're clearly talking to someone else.

Yes, to illustrate a point.

Which is...

That I don't trust myself.

Right...Most people don't trust themselves a 100% of the time.

Well...yes, I can't see how that's not true.

Of course it's true.

Well, fine. In that case...I don't want to do this anymore.

Then don't.



(::Ceiling Caves In::)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


As I tend to be a jack-of-all-trades sort of person with multiple endeavors on my buffet-style plate at any given time, I'm finding a trick to focusing my efforts: invoking the qualities of a person I admire.

Let me illustrate: Say, for instance, you want to swim like you're in the Olympics yet you haven't been in a pool for years. Where do you begin? Do you go to the weight room and pump irons or do you just get in the water and swim like a fish?

What do you do?

With so many different possibilities, what if you got some guidance first? Imagine the person you want to emulate is taking over your body. I don't mean in like some crazy way -- this isn't magic -- but rather by asking yourself, "what would that person do?"

Finding the right model can sometimes direct the action which, in turn, can become the form.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Jewels of Tension

Have you ever noticed that you tense up while checking out at Jewel (or your local grocery chain)?

Well, I do. I'll be standing inline between this young handsome couple with the frozen pizzas and this really cute brunette with Healthy Choice TV dinners, and I'll have no where to look. I could focus on the clerk, but she's clearly not paying attention to what she's doing, so I'd hate to pull any more of that valuable commodity by staring. I could comment on the cute girl's food choices, but something tells me that this may sound unintentionally condescending. I could look to the couple, but this seems weird and their really stiff which is only adding to my anxiety. So instead, I just try to relax and look for something to ease my mind.

Nothing comes and I'm still tensing. And that's when I realize I'm not breathing. Sigh.

Sometimes, nothing needs to be done. Standing in line can be enough.

And sometimes, maybe saying something, however silly it may sound in my head, might be worth it. Who knows, maybe she'd find my judgment of her food choices endearing. I certainly thought it was funny.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Visualization and Disappearing Doubts

As I've often expressed in this blog, I have lots of doubts. So many, in fact, I easily slip from happy action to fearful stasis.

I have decided, however, that, once and for all, I will crush this thinking...

...Or, at least, significantly undermine it into insignificance.

Today, I woke up early in preparation for an audition. In turn, I arrived and was seen early at the audition, elicited a hearty laugh from my auditors and nabbed an additional audition from those very auditors tomorrow.

And I almost didn't go because of my doubts.

To overcome, I slowed down. I took 20 minutes this morning to imagine the outcome of my day's major events. Then, allowing for the will of the future--which is certainly much larger and more powerful than I--I let these images go. I had calibrated my focus toward my objective but then willingly opened myself to whatever might come.

As my old acting teacher, Audrey Francis, use to say, "do your imagination homework and then kick it to the curb. You can't carry it with you on stage. If you allow it, your partner's behavior will fuel your circumstances and bring your homework back to bite you in the ass."

As for my ass, another audition bit me. I couldn't have asked for more.

Maybe tomorrow I'll visualize disappearing doubts.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Second Person Lesson

I left this till the last minute today. It's 10:48 PM and I'm just now sitting down to write. What's wrong with me?

Nothing, Sam; you're living your life.

I find it strangely soothing to talk to myself in the second person. It's oddly satisfying when I'm being kind. Believe it or not, I'm often not.

Not as kind as my grandmother, anyway. Yesterday, I received a lovely package in the mail from her of two newspaper clippings, one about Steven Spielberg and one about a Santa Rosa high school graduate who just finished making his first independent film. Perhaps this is why I'm suddenly interested in movie-making again. Or, perhaps that's what I really want. At the moment, I can't tell.

I'm terrified. What if I fuck this all up? This being my life.

See, I told you I'm not so kind...

I don't have much to say today. There's no real lesson.

Maybe the lesson is to be kinder to yourself. And I just said that in the second person.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

I Think I Want to Make Films...

I think I want to make films.

Eventually, I want to be a writer/improviser/actor version of Steven Spielberg. And I want to execute each facet (writing/improvising/acting) exceptionally well.

I want to create movies, not just direct them.

But what does this mean?! Does this mean I'm doing something wrong? Should I throw my current work of learning exceptional Voice Over, Improv, Acting and Writing away? In any one area, I'm still not yet fantastically enough!

Alright, Sam, let's slow down and ask this: do you, my dearest reader, feel the same? Like, you're not in your early twenties anymore and you're ready to make a change for something greater, a go big or go home sort of game changing switch in your career, but you don't have all the skills or equipment or the exact know how you need to make the next step? What would you do?

Let me simplify it and ask you this instead: would you just trust your vision and continue to keep doing what you're currently doing or would you make bold changes to bring your field of vision into action? Or, better yet, would you combine the last two question into one, trusting your vision while making smaller changes to augment your path?

I think I've just answered my own question.

I'll tell you what: I'm not in a rush anymore (at least, I don't think I am). I'm ready to move at my own pace. I'm ready to walk a little slower and learn things in my own time. I will no longer sacrifice my happiness for an idea because I'm not that young. BUT, and this is a big but, if that idea, along with my action, generates happiness, then I will go after it, in my own time, with minimal fear and abounding love.

In an article about his upcoming film, "Tintin," Spielberg commented that he started making movies because he was depressed. He made a short film, watched it, and felt, suddenly, better. He was happy. But not for long. He quickly became depressed again, so he made another short film. Happiness followed. So he made another and another and another until he became the Steven we know today.

I wouldn't mind copying the heart of that story.

Right now, I'm dealing with a ton of uncertainty in my life. I'm freelancing, yet I feel like I'm doing something monumentally wrong. It's unconventional, dangerous, risky and without the benefits of insurance. That's HUGE. But, if I sit quietly with myself, I know this to be true: I'm happier now that I'm doing work that I love. All of it is still growing and refining and developing, with all the uncertainty that those characteristics entail, but I'm learning to trust that my focused efforts will be worthwhile.

Perhaps, what I'm really doing, is starting to live my life. That's better than any film.

Friday, November 11, 2011

This might be cheesy...

This might be cheesy, but I’m learning that before I do anything else, I have to accept myself.

For instance, I always feel pressed for time when writing these entries. But you don’t mind that, do you? I mean, you wouldn’t even know I felt this way if I didn’t tell you.

But maybe you can see it in my writing. Regardless, whatever your opinions may be, I want you to know: I’m working on changing this.

Change my mind, change my life. That’s what I’m after. 

The only reasons I can think not to do this is because I “shouldn’t”. And that word is inevitably followed by any number of excuses: because it’s not right, it’s not perfect, it’s a waste of time, people will think it’s dumb, because it won’t yield any results, I can’t predict what the results will be, because it’s not customary, right, normal, real, important, good enough, etc.

I think you get my point.

I know I shouldn’t think this way (that word again!), but I can’t just knock it. I’ve tried. I’ve told myself to knock it off, to relax, to stop it and any number of interchangeable phrases, but all of them essentially lead me back to “should” or “shouldn’t”. And then I’m back to square one.

What I’m still learning is this: I have to acknowledge whatever I’m feeling; I have to accept it as me first. I even have to respect my feelings! If I don’t, it’s back to should/shouldn’t. 

I know that’s cheesy, but if you can get to success while living happily and healthily without acceptance, I’d love to know your secret.

Until then, I’m sticking with my cheese.


Sometimes pieces just fall into place. Today was that day.

Needless to say, it was a very good day. A piece of my imagined life—making a living as an actor and an artist—came to me in reality.

Here’s the kicker: most of it occurred without explicit action. Forces beyond my direct will came to my aid. I was Theseus furnished with the yarn necessary to slay the Minotaur.

I had a Voice Over gig in the suburbs that, without the aid of a car, would have been nearly impossible to meet. Yet, this never occurred to me. I presumed that I could easily use the Metra to get to my destination. 

However, still ignorant of the problem, yesterday morning (and only one day before the actual gig in the burbs), my girlfriend insisted I join she and her family for dinner, stay in their Northbrook home (merely a short jaunt by car to my job), and barrow their minivan the next morning.

Incredible. Her whole family came to my aid. The result: today went off without a hitch and I worked as a professional Voice talent.

Today was a very good day.

Here’s another example of the same phenomenon: Over the last few years, I’ve been talking about blogging. Usually, I said this in passing, wishfully and with a subtext of “if only I were so lucky.” Today, my father, a very practical man not known for his wild support of the arts—there’s no money in it, after all—sent me an email lead on credible blogs that pay. 

Incredible still! I didn’t ask for this. He did it of his own accord.

On one hand, and in both cases, I’m a very blessed by someone or something out there. On the other, I attribute this success to a new addition to my life: active positive thinking.

Now, you can picture this way of thinking through the old saying, “if you put your mind to it, you can do anything.” However, by substituting the word “mind” for “imagination”, you move from an object to the object of an object. In other words, mind is a thing, imagination is a result.

If you can imagine it, you can make it happen. It may not occur in the exact same way, but somehow either that picture, or something different yet as good or better, will, along with the how, manifest. I guarantee it.
Just be sure to go with the flow. And, like Joseph Campbell says, “follow your bliss.”

I understand that’s not always easy. I’m really still learning this myself. But, if there’s anything you can learn from me, do it, follow it and see what happens. And you too, can be like Theseus.

Why my Mission Statement helps me Make a better Living

Today, I was Mario (as in Super Mario) and I hated it.

Admittedly, it was my choice to do it and I did it for the cash.

I wasn’t alone. There were 90 bad Halloween-costumed Mario’s in flight mode with a raccoon’s tail and ears roaming Michigan Avenue. It was ridiculous.

There is nothing about this that resembles what I want to be doing with my life—except maybe “entertaining” in the broadest sense of the word. There is nothing about this that shares the qualities of my mission: human interest, play, storytelling, acting or truth. There is nothing about this that I want to do!

However, here the good: in knowing my objective now, I can at least point to the incongruities and, hopefully, avoid such distracting jobs in the future.

What I did today was unnecessarily scramble for some dough out of fear.

This is okay. Sometimes I do things I don’t want to do in order to have cash to eat or live under a good roof.

Yet, more often than not, I’m finding when I “flow my bliss” (Joseph Campbell) the rewards are much more lucrative. 

Tomorrow, I have a Voice Over job that pays, in one hour of work, over three-times more than I made as Mario in four hours of work. Even better, I like what I’m doing!

I don’t have to sell my soul to do something that pays well. I don’t have to sell anything at all.

Is making a living really this simple?

Post Script: one hour in total where I mainly edited out sentences to make a story.

How to Trust that you don’t Need Much and How to go with Precisely Enough

While I accomplished a lot today – booking another agency, a small Voice Over gig, mind-writing and Bikram Yoga – I still don’t feel like I’ve done enough. 

Maybe, then, this should be my new goal: to conquer this fear of lacking, or if not to conquer it, to tame it into a manageable place. Mark Twain said something about courageous not equaling fearless, but rather that courage is continuing to act in spite of what’s treacherous.

So why am I still afraid? I’m continuing to move forward. My actions are being met with success in spite of my doubts. But there’s still this: the uncertainty of freelancing. Essentially, in regards to money, will I make enough?

I read a version of the Theseus myth last night (from Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”). In the story, Theseus, the hero, arrives to Crete as one of a group of men to be sacrificed to the half-bull half-man monster, the Minotaur. No one has ever survived the Minotaur before. Worse, even if one did somehow beat the odds and slay the beast, the monster resides in a maze so dangerous, there’s no getting out. It was built without a map.

Now, as he’s walking down the gangway of the boat, the daughter of the king sees him and falls deeply in love. Knowing that his life is hanging by the thinnest of threads, she summons the man responsible for creating the maze. She begs him for help. Unfortunately, the maze was so complex when the creator finished it, he nearly didn’t get out himself.  Without anything like a compass or markers to offer, he, instead, comes up with an incredibly simple gift: a ball of yarn.

Upon entering the labyrinth, Theseus ties the yarn to the doorway. Unwinding it to the center of the maze, he slays the Minotaur and follows the thread back out to life again.

While he didn’t have much, he had precisely enough.

Maybe it’s time to trust that my own thread will get me into the heart of the cave and out again. Either that, or maybe it’s time to go after my own yarn.

Post Script: Nearly an hour in total. Maybe I should change my guidelines. This seems more manageable. Even when I aim for less editing, I still end up doing more.

Then again, I love the restriction. I never worry that this is going to take my long because  I only set out to sit for 30 minutes, no more.


I am very strict with myself. I work terribly hard to get things done.

So in response to this knowledge, I’ve been focusing on developing plans and setting goals in order to operate from a place of relaxation, freedom and ease. I feel like I’m beginning a transitional period in my life and everyone I speak to about this reaffirms my feelings. They say, “You’re 26? Ah, yes, well…that’s when life starts changing.”

I can feel the change coming, but I don’t know exactly what it is. I’m circling around my purpose and GOD BELIEVE ME I want to tack it down. I’ve often thought of myself as someone with a clearer purpose than most, but then, whenever I’m asked what is my goal, I often respond with something like, “Well, I’m an actor sort-of—I mean, I went to school for it—and I’m doing some theatre and a little improve…and I write…and well, I like movies but…I don’t know, I’m in a sketch comedy show right now and that’s fun, but not everything I hoped it would be and there’s maybe, well, another sorta film I might be doing but I’m not sure yet cuz I’m kinda sorta in this place of trying to figure out what’s next, ya know?”

And then, just as Bryan Cohen, friend and author of the book “The Post-College Guide to Happiness,” put it, my audience is passed out on the floor from boredom. With an answer like that, I cannot blame them.

Thanks to the help of Bryan’s book, I’ve strengthened and rearticulated my purpose. So the next time someone asks me, “So, what do you do?” or, “What’s your Goal?” I can confidently say something like:

“Well, my purpose is to play, act, love, and develop deeply meaningful experiences that change and free the world.”

It’s a bit lofty. And it’s also a bit vague, but for the time being, this is deliberate. It’s easy to get bogged down by a title, letting it dictate the course of decisions without real consideration of my true values. Like, by saying I’m an actor, I box myself it to a category of perceived actions that may or may not be accurate. As a result, I exhaust myself without my desired level of achievement.

Play is super important to me. It’s always been a large part of my life. However, it easily slips away through the palpable power of work, a product of my staunch middle class upbringing. If you’re not working you’re being lazy, wasteful, or even dangerous. However, if you make play work, it’s ceases to be both and strictly becomes the latter.

“Deeply meaningful experience” is an object that is beginning to sit right with me. I’ve always been a Jack-of-all-trades kind of person, loving the many different types of storytelling equally. However, I feel like I’ve been trying to force myself into a storefront theatre box when my ambitions are really wider and multifaceted.

I think what I’m about to do is to create a better platform for myself. This is what is meant by deeply meaningful experiences: that I’m opening myself up to the endless possibilities of my love. That’s why I like that phrasing.

Post Script: 20 minutes of writing and a once-through 30 minute sweep of editing.