My name is Amanda Ball, and I am a musician, author and filmmaker. My mom calls me a professional juggler: I grab a project, work on it, throw it up in the air again, and grab another project. I wouldn't trade this life for anything. I write books under the names: Amanda Ball, Dayne Gearner, LeAnn Coston. My band and I make music under the name Ballroom Bruisers. My best friend, Don Krejsek and I make movies together. My mother Karen Ball is an artist and produces my book covers. On occasion, we co-write together. Living a life that is designed for creativity isn't easy, but it's always interesting. Thanks for letting me share my journey with you.
Posted in Uncategorized on September 20, 2021
Don has been working as an actor on a movie for the last five months. When that wrapped last week, we were on the hunt for the next acting gig.
We found a great project and put together a submission. And he was invited to make a video audition.
Now…it was late Friday when the notification came through. Deadline is 4pm Monday.
And we have to create this whole self-tape video audition from scratch.
If it was a matter of getting the sides, recording the vid on a phone, and uploading, that would be easy. But in this case, he had to choose a character, perform its sides, put together two improvs, edit all the segments into one vid, and then upload. That is gonna take some time.
Part of our equipment is at his house. Part of the equipment is at my house. He came by Saturday morning to pick up equipment, in case he got enough of the planning done in order to work Saturday night.
On the last movie he worked for, they shaved his moustache. I am like—can we go take some quick pics. Out the door we go. And the memory card wasn’t in the camera. I had less than 30 minutes before I had to leave for work. Needless to say…rushed photography didn’t give me too many good pics. But we got the one below.
Don mentioned trying to film at a bar that one of our friends owns. But I kinda freaked out. We are on such a tight deadline. And all the computer equipment is at my house, and who knows how this will go or what we will need. I said I wanted to work at my house. Could we meet 10am Sunday? He said that was fine.
All I can think about is – the limitations of my house. Small rooms. Bad lighting. Angles. Once we get vids, how much batch conversion am I gonna have to do? What output settings will work for the finished upload?
Don and I had a phone conversation somewhere in the middle of this rushed madness, and I asked what his plans were? He was working on the issues of…what character(s) to audition for? What monologue? How to play the monologue/set it up/perform it/sell it/nail that punchline.
And me…being on the technical side of this equation – since I am only the director of photography and editor…totally forgot what it is to prepare an acting performance.
Don has to do ALLLLLL the thinking on this one. He has to pick his improv monologues, write the lines, set the timing, get the props, rehearse it, revise it, ACT IT…and all in less than 48 hours.
I am exhausted even thinking about doing that amount of work in such a short turnaround.
5:30 am Sunday. I am wide awake, still computing angles, worrying about lighting, worrying about the computer settings for my responsibilities on this gig.
7:45 am Sunday. The power goes out!
We are on a deadline. Hopefully the power will come on soon. The wind is low. Could we possibly compensate by filming outdoors? At least I won’t have to worry about the lighting in my house!
So, I text Don, who texts back: “Crap!”
He gathers equipment and comes to my house.
And…luck was on our side…the power came back on before 10.
I had set up my music room to use as a possible studio. I go to hunting for my lighting rig. Can’t find it. I don’t remember seeing it for awhile. Don is already on his way. When he gets here, I ask if he happens to have our lighting rig at his place. Oh yeah…he does. Too late now!
I ask what is the plan?!?!?!
He likes to joke with me. There is a place when you are working at the top of your highest level of mental function – concentration is complete. And he can say words to me – things that have nothing to do with the project at hand – and I have no room for any outside distractions. He would say something like, “A bomb could go off next to Amanda, and she wouldn’t notice.”
But this time, the tables were turned. I was setting up camera and microphone and adjusting settings. And I said something to him, and he was all…”Shut up and let me think!” I had to chuckle.
We ended up turning my living room into a pseudo pub!
And it is showtime!
Every single take, he is a different character. He played six, count ’em, SIX characters in this audition. I have watched this man act in real life for the last couple of decades. He will tell a story and “become” that person in the story. Then he can switch it off, and go to a different tangent.
His acting talent floors me.
And here we are – doing this on camera – trying to get him a role in someone else’s movie. With less than 48 hours notice, he created six characters, figured out their motivations, speech patterns, timing, beats, and HE SOLD THEM ALL!
Then it is time to do my work.
I get the footage into the computer and into the editing software. And I start putting it together. And I realize I misjudged the sound. The video was reasonably okay – considering our location constraints and limited time. And you have to make a bunch of technical decisions very quickly.
And I misjudged the sound. But you can still hear Don, and my mistake didn’t detract from his acting. I told him what I had done. (And I am pretty sure neither of us has the energy, nor internal fortitude to shoot this again.) We sure enough don’t have the time to work this another day. I ask him if he is okay with going ahead and using this footage, even with my sound mistake. And he said yes.
I edit as quickly as I can. At this point – when we know we are not going to shoot it again, I said that if he needed to leave, it was okay with me. I knew he had a ton of work to do in his personal job. (To the extent that I had asked, “Do you have time to do acting right now?” Short answer – yes he did.)
He stayed with me through the first render. Again, there are so many technical settings, and you try one thing, then try another.
I said I was going to tweak it and render it again.
Oh yeah…did I mention that we set this up on my day off? And I got called in to work at my day job Sunday evening? DP (cinematography) and editing takes ALL of my brain. When that day is done, my brain is done. And now I have to switch gears, switch modes, and switch personalities and go to my day job!??!?! Can we spell E-X-H-A-U-S-T-I-O-N?
Just what we needed. More reasons to rush. More opportunities to make mistakes!
I did the third render. Decided to use it.
Got the confirmation. Texted Don that it was done!
And we made it 23 hours ahead of deadline!
Now we play the waiting game…
Does he get the gig?
Just a few sky photographs. I can look at one of these and take a deep breath and enjoy the “wide open spaces”.
Creativity has been at a total standstill in my world and in my head. In fact, I had my still camera lost for about six months! Thank goodness I found it.
I miss creativity, but that part of my brain is taking a vacation. When it turns “on” again, then I will be back at it.
I hope you are all well and happy and safe!
This is the last movie we worked as actors.
July 1 starts the new fiscal year for the Oklahoma Film Commission rebate program.
That means, if you are an actor, July in Oklahoma means that there are lots of opportunities to get acting gigs.
So, Don and I start submitting. We knew that we had submitted for a gig for Wednesday. Tuesday I head off to my day job, planning on checking messages on my lunch break and again after work.
When I looked at my phone at 4:30ish, I had a ton of messages.
The casting office had texted us at 12:56pm that we had been cast for the gig. They were sending an email. You had to confirm the email by 2pm.
Yep – that was a whole whopping 64 minute window there.
Don had his phone with him the whole time, and got the text in time. But, the email never came through. And you needed to confirm via EMAIL and he never got it.
I went to my lunch break and contacted them back saying that we were available, and was the slot still open? (Yes, I know it was way later than the 2pm deadline, but I wanted to try.) At that point – (by now it’s after 5pm), we learned that the location was way, way, way further away than we knew.
Don still hadn’t gotten that first email. I contacted them after 5. We both figured that we can kiss this gig goodbye.
At 6:36, we got the confirmation text. We got the job!
We knew we had a massively long drive to get there. We can do it. But I am scared of an early call time, and I have done NOTHING to prepare. Haven’t checked over the car, haven’t gotten cash for the day, haven’t prepared snacks/water/drinks/emergency supplies, haven’t prepared wardrobe, etc.
After we are confirmed on the job, we get an email with instructions. It is all basic stuff, bring three outfits (they told the location of the film’s setting and what type of attire is desirable), no cameras on set, don’t approach the main actors, behave on set, etc. Just basic stuff. And luckily for us, the call time is 2:30pm.
Wednesday we have a time set when we are going to leave. Each of us has wardrobe, emergency supplies, and we each brought snacks/beverages. 99% of the time, production provides water &/or food. But having been stranded on a gig once, without basic supplies, I will do everything in my power to not go through that again.
We stop for lunch along this (very, very) long drive. At least we are fueled up – food-wise I mean. The weather is gorgeous. We have had days earlier this month with massive heat already, but lucky for us, a cool front on Monday took the temperature down by about 20* (F).
Since I couldn’t take pics on set, and I can’t share details, here is my one photograph:
We saw a whole lotta highway on the way to this gig! LOL
We got there early. We found a circle of folding chairs under shade trees. We asked if this was where we were supposed to be?
It turned out to be the best afternoon. Everyone on this production treated everyone with dignity and respect. That goes such a long way towards making an acting job be a good experience. At first they said they might get a trailer for us. But the weather was so nice, and it was pleasant, and our green room was a nice afternoon spent under shade trees. The on camera location was close by. They had great craft services. The business next door opened their restroom to the production. Our basic needs were taken care of.
The best part was the other actors that day. We met some great people. It was fun to hang out and share stories (both acting and non-acting stories). We exchanged contact info. It is great to meet like-minded people who do what we do.
We all laughed – a lot!
For privacy reasons, and to comply with our instructions, I won’t reveal any specific details about the gig. We were released a lot earlier than I thought we would be. It would have been fine if we had had to work late. I was expecting to get home about 4 am. Getting home any time before that would have been nice, and we got home well before that time.
That being said, I was still pretty tired. Don drove all the way there, and most of the way back. (Thank you!)
I hope everyone out there is doing great – and I send you all best wishes as you are out there, too, in pursuit of your dreams!
Photography has been back burner lately – very back burner.
But we have had interesting (and scary) weather, and one day I was out with the camera.
Something about this just haunts me. It makes me want to look and see if Robert Johnson is sitting on this corner, guitar at his feet.
Mother Nature has the power. We are helpless to change it.
But if you pay attention, sometimes she hands you a reward. If you are paying attention. For something so rare, will be fleeting….then gone…
There is one thing that I didn’t anticipate about being a playwright.
The theatre is all about acceptance. It is a safe space. It is about sharing. It is…a community.
Being accepted into this group, fills one with warmth.
I didn’t anticipate this. It is enough to have someone select your play for performance. It is wonderful to be invited to see this performance. It is astounding to know that a whole group of strangers have volunteered their time and efforts to work on your play, and memorize, and practice, and rehearse, and on and on. There are cues for them to learn. They have to set up lighting and sound cues. The stage managers have to set up the stage in seconds – and they have to get it right. The actors have very limited time in the performance venue to get used to the ins and outs, work their blocking, work with their scene partner, and still “sell the performance”.
I am only the playwright. In a sense – I have the easiest job. I sit – (probably in my pajamas) – in my easy chair – with my laptop on my lap. And I write. I can do this at my leisure. On my own time. I can take as long as I want to craft the play. I can rewrite. I can throw out the elements that don’t work. I coordinate back and forth with my writing partner. We bounce ideas off of each other.
It is a thrill when we, as playwrights, get to go to a theatre and see our play performed.
I had such an honor this past weekend at the 2019 Stillwater Short Play Festival. They utilize blind selection, and I consider it an honor that they have chosen our play to be performed. This is the fourth time they have chosen us.
Our play this year is a comedy called “Speed Dating” by playwrights Amanda Ball and Karen Ball. It has four speaking parts – one male and three female.
I had the opportunity to meet two of the performers in the lobby,
Klayton Valega and Veronica Allen.
The other performers in the play with speaking roles were, Sharyl Pickens and Courtney Octoo-Lee. Extras were Jacob Boyd and Archibald Octoo-Lee. The play was directed by Debbie Sutton.
It was fun. I laughed out loud! So did the rest of the audience.
What fun! To see something that began as a seed of an idea, to be brought to full fruition by a group of strangers…strangers who become a group-with-a-purpose and accept me as one of them!
I thank you!
Out of this community, like a spiderweb, lines grow between other plays, groups, peoples, projects, and theatres.
Mr. Valega and Ms. Allen (pictured above) told me that they met because of our play. And because of that, they ended up doing another play in the festival called “Last Dance” by playwright Len Cuthbert.
And, in my humble opinion, this play “Last Dance” was the best play of the night. I had tears in my eyes.
Whether you laugh or whether ‘your eyes commence to puddling up’ – it is The Theatre that brings us together!
Thank you all for including us.
Below are some photos of the day:
We are thrilled and honored that one of our plays has been chosen for the Stillwater Short Play Festival.
The play is a comedy written by myself and my writing partner, Karen Ball.
The festival will be held the weekend of May 4 and 5, 2019 at the Town and Gown Theatre in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
When you choose to live this creative life (or rather – when it chooses you) inspiration can come in many forms. Sometimes inspiration is something that starts as a little spark inside of you.
But sometimes, someone else’s creativity is a tremendous inspiration.
Our longtime family friend BK Dennis is a painter, and her work inspires me. That word doesn’t even encompass enough. Awes. Floors. Whammos! Some people are so very talented in their fields. When a person like that is kind enough to share his or her work and stories and inspirations, then that has the effect of elevating us all.
Sometimes as she paints, she shares a snapshot with me of her current project. Below is a snapshot (not a full professional photo as would be on her webpage) of a scene from the cattle drive movie that we recently produced.
For the last twenty years, I have been the proud owner of one of BK’s paintings. It hangs on my wall in the dining room, where I can see it every day.
In addition to being a talented painter, BK (and her husband and family) are longtime family friends of ours. We met when we lived in West Texas. BK and her husband have been as good of friends throughout my entire creative journey as one could ever hope to find. They celebrate my highs (and listen to me complain about the lows). Their support has been consistent and strong. It really makes a difference when you think “Why did I ever think it was a good idea to do this?” — no matter what the “this” might be.
Creativity begets creativity.
Thank you, BK, for sharing your work with the rest of us.
I got a call on Tuesday night. One of my plays was going to be performed as a staged reading on Saturday night.
I did some rearranging and on Saturday, I was prepared to go to the theatre.
So, I get in my little car and off I go to Oklahoma City. I have not been to this particular theatre before. There is an element of the unknown on these situations: you don’t know where you are going, or what you are getting into, or what the event will be, or who the people will be, or how the play will be performed.
As a playwright, I put words to paper. I create a story. I build the *start* of each character.
It takes a theatre troupe to make a play happen, and it takes real actors to bring the play to life.
On this night, October 13, 2018, I had the experience of seeing REAL actors, inhabit these characters that I had dreamed up, while they performed my play.
I must confess…I made a total fool of myself, gushing over these actors. I probably gushed at them three times each. It was over the top and it was too much. I am used to limiting my behavior when something is bad (not letting on that I am disappointed, etc, not showing criticism in how a play goes down)…but I need to practice some form of restraint when things are too good.
The event was at Carpenter Square Theatre.
There was a reception at 7:10. They had a large offering of international foods in the lobby. While there, they were having a silent auction. The lobby had a showing from a local artist. Already the evening is off to a good start.
The theatre had reserved table seating for the playwrights. This was something I had not seen before, but to have a seat reserved up front. Wow!
The theatre itself is small. The audience is close to the action. As a result, the audience response is immediate. It is right there. The actors have a feedback to play off of.
Five plays had been selected for this play festival. Out of 45 that were submitted, one of my plays was chosen?!? One of my plays that I have submitted EVERYWHERE and has been rejected EVERYWHERE? It has been rejected so much, that I was starting to get a complex. Maybe it wasn’t any good? Maybe I should shelve it. Maybe it didn’t “Translate”. Maybe it was too depressing.
But part of being an artist (part of being a writer) is to say: I have a voice. I have something to say. There is a story here. Let me tell it!
So, with trepidation…I had submitted this play to Carpenter Square Theatre.
Imagine my surprise when a play that has been rejected dozens of times….finally gets…Accepted? Gulp!
I had made arrangements to be free on Saturday. Saturday rolls around. I don’t want to get out of bed. My stomach is upset. I trundle out to my easy chair and put on a Netflix video so that I don’t have to think about the world.
In general, nerves are not a part of my creative experience. If I am performing, be it musically, singing, acting or emceeing, I don’t get nervous. Try as I might, I don’t understand stage fright. I wish could understand it (to help others who do suffer), but I don’t.
The only things that have made me nervous in show business (so far) are playing music at weddings (I freaking hate weddings!) and…being a playwright. That seems to be such an odd situation. Playwright, nerves? I mean…I am not producing. I am not acting in the play. When we had our play performed in May (which also had great acting – 2018 has been the year of good acting) I didn’t have the nerves. I figured….great! I have conquered that issue. Onto the next issue.
But, nope! All I wanted to do on Saturday was to go hide under the covers.
I didn’t want to gas up the car. Didn’t want to check the tires before the long drive. Didn’t feel like eating. But you need to eat, and then what is that going to do to your stomach? I had one last can of chicken noodle soup and I was panicked thinking I didn’t have any.
But you go. You put on your ritziest outfit and you get your cameras and you go. Because this is what you wanted to do. You wanted to be a playwright, so go be a damn playwright!
Once you are there, in the moment, you get your plate of food, and you sit at your lonely table, apart from the crowd – who all seem to know each other, and you kind of go….”I shouldn’t be here. I’m too small-time. Have I paid enough dues?”
Then people start coming over. This was one of the most welcoming theatre troupes I have experienced. The sense of community in the theatre warms my heart. Because the theatre is not about cliques and exclusion. The theatre is about inclusion.
And…to my extreme surprise…the people in this theatre embraced me. I have spent my whole life as an outsider (mostly by choice). When people include me as a part of them…and welcome me with open arms…THAT is something!
Actor Richard Ridley, Playwright Amanda Ball, Actor Al Bostick.
The play is entitled: The Girl on the Tractor.