“We are driven by five genetic needs: survival, love and belonging, power, freedom, and fun.” ― William Glasser
I recently had an experience that reminded me a bit of what my clients go through with boudoir photography sessions. An experience that was exciting, made me nervous, tested my ability to take directions and acted as a mirror to my very soul. What I saw in that mirror was a vulnerable woman who is struggling with aging and sometimes feeling invisible or devalued as a result of it but who still yearns to “belong”. But, I also saw a woman who is talented, creative, fun and genuinely open and interested in others who shines from within and isn’t afraid to take chances. Finding a healthy balance between those two differing beliefs about oneself is always a challenge, isn’t it? Well, I’m happy to report that the experience I’m about to share with you left me feeling the more positive thoughts. Just like a boudoir session does for you!
In my 20’s I had a brief moment where I wanted to be an actress. At the time, I felt that acting was one of the only skills I had, after having studied it in school and private classes. I was so unsure of my future as a single Mom back then and thought I’d at least give it a try. So, I did what most people do in that situation and I signed up with a casting agency to become an extra. I figured it would be a bit of a steady income, would help me get enough vouchers to join the Screen Actor’s Guild to get speaking parts and would be fun! And, fun it was! I met so many amazing people and had so many cool experiences during that short period of time. From Al Pacino on the set of Heat making his way across a large banquet hall just to come say hello to me and ask how I’m doing, to Christopher Walken keeping his eye on me throughout the entire week of filming Nick of Time, to Johnny Depp tracing lines on my cleavage with his laser pen from a distance on the same set, to Woody Harrelson on the Money Train teasing me by saying, “Oh, you’re the one we wasted all that film on” after they had given me an impossible task to do on camera and we had to do take after take, to Neve Campbell coming out from her trailer on Party of Five to talk to me right after I had defended her (unbeknownst to her) when other extras were accusing her of being unfriendly because she wasn’t talking to them. Oh my goodness, there were so many fun stories. The Money Train ended up giving me all of the vouchers I needed to join the Screen Actor’s Guild (they were so incredibly nice to me) but I was struggling financially and was unable to come up with the money needed back then, so I packed it up and came back to Vegas, without a second thought. Life was pulling me in other directions. And, I’m glad it did because I absolutely love where it led me.
Flash forward about 20 years to now. One of my commercial photography clients is Sheri’s Ranch, a resort style brothel located in Pahrump, NV. I do regular photography assignments for them that usually consists of photographing their new ladies for their pages on the website and sometimes shoot for articles on their blog. Working with this particular client has not only been obviously very interesting but also very meaningful for me as a woman and as a photographer. They feel like a bit of a work family for me at this point, which is nice since I’m usually pretty isolated in what I do. Anyway, a few weeks ago they had a new project for me to work on. They needed to replace outdated photo displays on the exterior of their building so that Ray Donovan could film there soon. Ray Donovan!!!!!!
Ray Donovan just happens to be one of my all-time favorite shows. It ranks up there for me with House of Cards, Breaking Bad, The Affair, The Crown and several others. So, imagine my surprise and delight when I was invited onto the set while they were filming outside of Vegas. The marketing director mentioned I was welcome to come to Sheri’s on the day of filming. And, at first, this appealed to me. But, like I mentioned above, I’ve been on sets before and it was a long drive (an hour and a half) so I asked him the day before the show was scheduled to film, if I should really go or not. He said yes because “they” wanted to meet me. I wasn’t entirely sure who “they” were but I have to admit, it excited me and I agreed to come.
On the long ride to Sheri’s the next day, I reminisced on the past experiences I have had on movie or TV show sets and began to wonder if it would be different now that I’m older. I fully expected I would blend right in to the wallpaper now, especially since I would be surrounded by the gorgeous gals at Sheri’s. As a woman in my 40’s, I’m practically elderly by Hollywood standards, afterall. (wink, wink) But, that’s ok. As you get older you tend to sit back and watch the younger women shine. This is also true of my job as a photographer though. I have become quite good at doing whatever is necessary so that my clients can be the stars, as they should be! But, it’s become a habit now in real life too. But, there is nothing better than helping to build people up until you see them just radiate with confidence and joy.
Come to find out, my experience this time was different. Very different, in fact! It was so much better! The production crew made me feel truly valued and appreciated for my work on the building. My blood, sweat and tears are what got noticed this time! Talk about validating! Just having my artwork on the building was a pretty cool thing in and of itself, but to have the people responsible for one of my favorite shows gush over it, was simply amazing!
But, wait – it get’s better! They let me be an extra playing the bartender!!!! I couldn’t believe it! Suddenly, I felt like that 20 year old all over again. I was filled with excitement (and nerves) that not only would my photography be featured on this episode, but possibly even my actual face. Eeks! As a part of my “role” I had interaction with Live Schreiber, an actor I had great respect for. Crazy, right? Really hope I did a decent job, that a show of this caliber calls for. I guess I will find out in July, when the episode airs.
That scene was pretty much where I felt most like my boudoir clients. My heart was about to beat out of my chest leading up to filming it. I really was nervous leading up to when they called, “action”. I practiced tips I have given to my clients…breathe, use body language to make you feel confident (I likely looked like an idiot striking a power pose behind the bar with my feet separated and my arms outreached in a V above my head), but I didn’t care. I also remembered to think about adopting an alter ego. But, the strangest thing happened. As soon as the scene began, my nerves completely dropped away and I relaxed into it quite suddenly. I hope that’s what you all experience with me during your boudoir sessions because it was the most freeing feeling. Almost as if you agreed to go sky diving but while in the plane you struggle with this decision until you finally step off the plane into thin air and begin free falling, trusting the Universe has your back, and you drop your fears and just let yourself enjoy it.
“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.” ― Brené Brown
I cannot stress enough how impressed I was with the crew and cast. The crew truly treated me like a million bucks. The actors were great too. I observed them with the ladies at Sheri’s and was so impressed by their interesting kindness in them. Liev was incredibly handsome (even more so in real life!), tall, laid back, had an air of confidence about him, and was maybe a bit introverted or perhaps on the more serious side…obviously an actor who takes his role seriously anyway. Ladies, he really does seem like the strong, silent type that we lust over in the role he plays as Ray. Very sexy and quite mysterious. Obviously an intellectual. But, I found Paula Malcomson (she plays Ray’s wife) to be especially impressive. She was not only immensely talented and beautiful, but strong, confident, open, feisty and funny – and more importantly, incredibly kind. I’ve been on lots of sets in the past and cannot recall seeing such generosity and interest towards others (crew and extras) by one of the stars as I observed in her yesterday.
Basically, I was walking on clouds most of the day. Although, at the very end of the long day, I had a rather strange moment that I’m compelled to share with you. I sat down in the only available spot during a break where everyone was seated waiting for the next scene. Liev was using someones phone to take photos of his costar with the other two girls on the couch to the left of me, when he said, “Okay, let’s do a group shot. Move in close together.” I thought that was odd because I had thought they had been doing group shots which is why I had been perched on the tiny corner edge of the couch so as not to intrude on them, but the girl next to me turned to me and said to get in it too. She wasn’t a stranger to me. She is someone I know and adore from Sheri’s so I thought maybe she was sharing in the moment with me or just being gracious since we all thought it was pretty cool that we got to share this whole experience together. They seemed genuinely delighted when they found out I would be in one of the scenes! So, even though I absolutely detest being in front of a camera, I obliged. We sat there smiling like dorks for a minute when Liev tells us that we have a photobomber. We all turn and look around. But, nobody is there. It very quickly dawned on me – and everyone else seated at the couch with me and surrounding us – that I was the photobomber. ME!!!! I felt like the biggest creep ever. So embarrassing.
You can see how much I hate being in front of the camera in this photo below, taken pretty early in the day before I knew I would get to be in the show. Grateful to have the memory of the day even though this may be the worst photo of me ever. But, Liev was so generous to let us all bother him for photos like that. Seriously. It must be so annoying for them.
But, wait – it gets worst! Paula was being so generous letting the girls take selfies with her but I could hear her saying she wasn’t liking the shots they were getting at one point. I knew why. I’m a photographer, afterall. Of course i knew why! It had to be bad lighting and sure enough, it was. So, I offered to light her up with my Lumee iPhone case so she didn’t have unflattering photos of her floating around on the internet. She thought the case was awesome and pointed it out to Liev, who proceeded to smugly say something about it being very “Kardashian-like” then abruptly stood up and walked away. Hmmph. But, I’m a photographer. Of course I have lighting options handy. And, weirdly enough, I’ve only used this light for similar situations and not for selfies at all.
He must have thought I was so full of myself. Sigh. Or he was playfully giving me a hard time but, unfortunately, I didn’t get the joke. Like I mentioned above, Woody Harrelson also took jabs at me in the past and a few other actors as well, so that wasn’t too unusual, and I can usually play right along with the jabs. Strangely, I once ended up dating an actor who had started off our conversation by saying I reminded him of someone he never would give the time of day to in high school. Gasp! But, he and I ended up verbally sparring, which I found to be intellectually exhilarating, to be honest. This particular situation threw me though. Granted, I realize people quite often enjoy getting me riled up. I know it can be pretty funny seeing me flustered. I just hope I hadn’t pissed him off somehow throughout the day. Yikes. Oh well.
Thankfully my other interactions were simply delightful and incredibly meaningful for me. I absolutely adored their Location Manager. I had such a great conversation with him about his job. I was fascinated! And, the Executive Producer waved me over to sit with him for lunch and I thoroughly enjoyed our talk. He was funny, had a calming demeanor and was so kind to me in showing an interest in what I do. I truly appreciated that. And, the Production Assistants were awesome. As was some other guy who gave me directions in the scenes and called me Nancy. Ha! The Boom guy was cool too, and so was one of the drivers I had a conversation with early in the day. I was absolutely mesmerized by the Prop guys and all that their job entails, including ensuring I didn’t accidentally switch the drinks between scene changes. Whew!
I have always felt this indescribable energy that I seem to thrive off of on movie sets or even my own sets for photography or when we filmed our sizzle reels for a reality show of our own, and this time was no different. So many talented, creative and ambitious people (like 150 of them!) all working together to create something amazing. (Kinda wanted to join their circus!) And, that energy, that sense of family, that coordinated effort towards the greater good is absolutely infectious to me! I feel most alive in those situations and I now need to intentionally set out to find more of that.
So, let’s do your boudoir shoot next so you can experience a bit of the excitement that comes from being vulnerable by stepping outside of your comfort zone, being creative and making art together!
You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald
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